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Tag:Utah
Posted on: October 21, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 12:23 pm
 

Mano-a-Mano, Week Eight

In addition to the prospects Senior Analyst Rob Rang wrote about in his "five players to watch" blog post, take a look at these memorable ten one-on-one match-ups (plus a slew of honorable mention selections) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.

Because players move around based on different formations and what coaches see as favorable match-ups, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.

All times Eastern.
"*" Denotes an underclassman.

1. Wisconsin Interior OL at Michigan State DT *Jerel Worthy
8:00 pm, ESPN

It is not surprising that a Big Ten conference battle features some of the top offensive line prospects in the country. Worthy (#99/6-3/310/5.04) has the initial quickness and power to earn first round grades should be enter the draft early, but he'll have a tough time beating Badgers' mobile but strong junior center Peter Konz (#66/6-5/315/5.16), tough RG Kevin Zeitler (#70/6-4/318/5.26), and stout redshirt sophomore LG Travis Frederick (6-4/330/5.27). If he manages to get through that near half-ton wall of future NFL linemen off the snap with consistent hand usage, and proves capable of chasing down Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson or junior RB Montee Ball outside the box, his draft stock will spike.

2. Wisconsin WR Nick Toon at Michigan State CB *Johnny Adams
8:00 pm, ESPN

This prime-time affair also features some very good match-ups on the outside, with a potential first round pick in Toon (#1/6-2/220/4.52) taking on Adams (#5/5-11/175/4.42) when the Badgers have the ball. Toon missed last week's blowout of Indiana with a foot injury, but is expected to be healthy enough to run by and shield Adams from the ball on vertical routes. Adams is not contact-shy, so look for him to challenge Toon on jump balls and 50/50 situations. He can't peek into the backfield, though, because of Wilson's ability to find Toon downfield on bootlegs off stretch plays to the left.

Don't change the channel when likely top 75 pick MSU QB Kirk Cousins is throwing the ball around, either. He'll look for thick WR B.J. Cunningham (#3/6-2/216/4.59) and quick, elusive Keshawn Martin (#82/5-10/190/4.44) and try to avoid Wisconsin's diminutive-but feisty Antonio Fenelus (#26/5-8/190/4.49) and junior Marcus Cromartie (#14/6-0/182/4.52). Cunningham and Martin troubles holding onto the ball in the wind last week vs. Michigan, so they'll need to do better to beat the Badgers.

3. Oklahoma State LT Levy Adcock at Missouri DE *Brad Madison
12:00 pm, FX

Adcock (#73/6-5/322/5.23) has successfully switched from right to left tackle, though his body type and movement will probably keep him on the strong side of the formation in the NFL. He faces yet another tough test, however, in Madison (#57/6-4/265/4.76), a junior pass rusher who plays with power but needs to impress scouts with hustle after his initial movement because Adcock is strong enough to withstand his bullish moves. OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden generally gets rid of the ball quickly but is not very mobile so Madison may have a chance to reach him if he uses his hands to disengage from Adcock.

4. Texas A&M Outside Linebackers vs. Iowa State LT Kelechi Osemele
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Massive Cylcones left tackle Osemele (#72/6-5/347/5.40) has the wide body and strong hands to take care of the Aggies' big five-techniques, but bigger challenges may come when needing to stop quick pass rushers in junior Sean Porter (#10/6-2/230/4.62) and budding star sophomore Damontre Moore coming off the edge. If Osemele (pronounced oh-sem-AH-lee) can latch onto Porter and Moore and escort them around the pocket, as well as sustain the block so they don't bring down quarterback Steele Jantz on secondary rushes, scouts may be forced to admit that he possesses more athleticism than they previously believed.

5. North Carolina DTs *Sylvester Williams/Tydreke Powell at Clemson RG Antoine McClain
12:00 pm, ESPN

The Tars' Heels talented defensive ends received most of the pub heading into the season, but Williams (#92/6-3/320/5.19) and Powell (#91/6-3/310/5.22) are trying to make their own names with their play. Williams is the more intriguing prospect, with his combination of size and agility sometimes stunning scouts. Powell was a highly-recruited prospect, but hasn't found the ball often enough to be a big playmaker. Both tackles will challenge the agility of McClain (#74/6-5/335/5.34), who can control defenders with long arms and strong hands but also overextend off the snap and be out-quicked in pass protection.

6. Utah OTs John Cullen/Tony Bergstrom at California DEs Ernest Owusu/Trevor Guyton
7:00 pm, Comcast Sports - Bay Area 

Utah's tackles aren't big names in the national college football consciousness, but scouts believe they will both contribute at the next level. Cullen (#77/6-4/300/5.23) mans the left side of the line and Bergstrom (#70/6-5/315/5.29) the right. Cal's two starting five-technique ends aren't as hyped as past first-round picks Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan, but Guyton (#92/6-3/280/4.86) packs a punch for Bergstrom to handle on the strong side while Owusu (#95/6-4/270/4.87) provides more of a combination of strength and quickness for which Cullen must prepare.

7. Cincinnati DT Derek Wolfe vs. South Florida LG Jeremiah Warren
12:00 pm, SNY/MASN/ESPN3.com

Wolfe (#95/6-5/300/5.16) has been using his length and agility to swim past guards and centers with enough regularity to rank in the top ten in tackles for loss (12.5) and the top 20 in sacks (five). Warren (#55/6-3/330/5.34) may be his toughest opponent yet this year, however, because he is trying to prove to NFL folks that he is difficult to move yet still has enough athleticism to redirect Wolfe away from quarterback B.J. Daniels. Wolfe's challenge will be to hold his ground when Warren comes off the ball hard in the run game, as the team wants to ride junior Colorado transfer running back Darrell Scott as often as possible.

8. Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller at Iowa State CB Leonard Johnson
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Neither Fuller (#8/6-3/220/4.52) nor Johnson (#23/5-10/202/4.49) has made as many plays as scouts expected they would when reviewing their junior tape over the summer. But Johnson has 20 tackles over the past two weeks and Fuller appeared a bit healthier (five catches for 71 yards) in the Aggies' win over Baylor last Saturday. Even though Johnson gives up height to Fuller on the outside, he can prove to scouts he can fight for 50/50 balls and wrestle down larger receivers after the catch. Fuller, on the other hand, must not only shed Johnson and show more agility and acceleration with the ball in his hands to be considered a second-round prospect.

9. Utah DE Derrick Shelby at California LT Mitchell Schwartz
7:00 pm, Comcast Sports - Bay Area

Shelby (#90/6-3/271/4.86) was the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week after making seven tackles, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and a fourth-quarter interception that he returned 21 yards for the game-clinching touchdown against Pitt last week. Schwartz (#72/6-5/318/5.36), however, is one of the most underappreciated tackles in this year's class due to his agility, length, and strength as a pass protector on the left side (whether left-handed junior Zach Maynard or righty sophomore Allan Bridgford is the quarterback).

10. Tulsa LT Tyler Holmes at Rice DE Scott Solomon
7:00 pm, FSN

Before the higher-profile USC-Notre Dame and Wisconsin-Michigan State games begin Saturday night, check out Rice's high-motor Solomon (#35/6-3/270/4.79) against All-Conference USA left tackle Holmes (#78/6-4/302/5.29). Neither has the size or athleticism to hear their names called in the first five rounds of the draft, but impressive performances in a game shown across the country could earn them an invitation to a January all-star game -- which gives them a chance to show their stuff in front of NFL scouts.

Honorable Mention 

Oklahoma State C Grant Garner (#74/6-2/292/5.36) at Missouri DT Dominique Hamilton (#90/6-5/305/5.24)
12:00 pm, FX

Arkansas DE Jake Bequette (#91/6-5/271/4.62) at Ole Miss RT *Bobby Massie (#79/6-6/325/5.17
12:21 pm, SEC Network

Wake Forest CB *Kenny Okoro (#6/6-0/190/4.49) at Duke WRs Donovan Varner (#26/5-8/175/4.53), *Conner Vernon (#2/6-1/195/4.53)
12:30 pm, ACC Network/ESPN3.com

North Carolina State WR T.J. Graham (#6/5-11/180/4.36) at Virginia CB Chase Minnifield (#13/6-0/185/4.49)
3:30 pm, ESPNU

Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard (#15/5-10/205/4.49) at Minnesota WR Da'Jon McKnight (#6/6-1/212/4.54)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Auburn OT A.J. Greene (#77/6-5/298/5.18)/ OT Brandon Mosley (#75/6-5/305/5.22) at LSU DE Kendrick Adams (#94/6-5/255/4.87)
3:30 pm, CBS

Texas A&M CBs Coryell Judie (#5/5-11/190/4.48), Terrence Frederick (#7/5-10/187/4.52) at Iowa State WR Darius Reynolds (#7/6-1/208/4.54)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Penn State DE Jack Crawford (#81/6-5/273/4.79) at Northwestern LT Al Netter (#75/6-4/310/5.26)
7:00 pm, Big Ten Network

Tennessee DE/DT Malik Jackson (#97/6-5/270/4.82) at Alabama C William Vlachos (#73/6-1/295/5.25)
7:15 pm, ESPN2

USC DTs DaJohn Harris (#98/6-4/310/5.16) and Christian Tupou (#44/6-2/300/5.06) at Notre Dame RG Trevor Robinson (#78/6-5/312/5.27)
7:30 pm, NBC

Washington CB *Desmond Trufant (#6/6-0/185/4.49) at Stanford WR Chris Owusu (#81/6-0/200/4.48)/ WR Griff Whalen (#17/6-0/187)
8:00 pm, ABC

 

--Contributed by Senior Analyst Chad Reuter  Follow him on Twitter at @ChadReuter
Posted on: October 15, 2011 11:16 am
 

Mano-a-Mano, Week Seven

Mano-a-Mano, Week Seven

Although this week may not have a true blockbuster match-up, there are plenty of good scouting opportunities that NFL teams can use to evaluate potential draft picks.

If you want to see what scouts see, take a look at these memorable ten one-on-one 2012 NFL Draft prospect match-ups (plus a slew of honorable mention selections) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.

Because players move around based on different formations, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.

All times Eastern.
"*" Denotes an underclassman.

South Carolina WR *Alshon Jeffery at Mississippi State CB *Johnthan Banks
12:21 pm, SEC Network/ESPN3.com

NFL teams looking for a difference-making receiver in the top five of this year's draft are spending a lot of time evaluating Jeffery, who seems likely to enter the draft a season early. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Jeffery faces possibly his toughest task of the year when he lines up against Banks outside in Starkville. Banks has the height (listed at 6-1) and ball skills (11 interceptions in three years) to be competitive in jump-ball situations if aware enough to turn with Jeffery downfield. Jeffery does line up in the slot on occasion, so it will be interesting to see if MSU coaches shadow him with Banks or trust their other corners to make plays against the All-American candidate.

Miami LT *Brandon Washington at North Carolina Defensive Ends
12:30 pm, ACC Network/ESPN3.com

Miami's stud lineman has moved from guard to right tackle to left tackle this season, and so far has graded out well in each spot. He'll be facing three excellent UNC ends today, however, in top senior Quinton Coples, junior Donte Paige-Moss, and sophomore Kareem Martin. All three ends have NFL size and will get to quarterbacks and ballcarriers with strong hands or by running through unprepared linemen. Coples and Paige-Moss have only combined for 3.5 sacks this year, however, as they've not been able to consistently turn the corner to get to passers' blind sides. They will all have a tough task to beat the 6-foot-4, 320-pound (at least) Washington off the edge, as his size belies the agility that scouts love in their linemen.

Michigan C David Molk at Michigan State DT *Jerel Worthy
12:00 pm, ESPN

At 6-foot-2, 288 pounds, some NFL offensive coordinators will consider him too small to play in their system. But anchoring proficiently against Worthy in one-on-one situations, and showing scouts he has enough arm length to redirect the Spartans' three-technique outside the pocket or running lane can help his cause. Worthy, on the other hand, needs to prove to NFL general managers that he can win a hand battle at the line of scrimmage with a technically-sound pivot man like Molk.

Baylor WR Kendall Wright at Texas A&M CBs Coryell Judie/Terrence Frederick
12:00 pm, FX

The Bears do a nice job moving Wright, who ranks in the top four in the FBS in both receptions and receiving yards, around to get him the best match-up possible. A&M has two solid corners, however, in Judie and Frederick. Judie has similar size to Wright on the outside, and has the speed and hands to knock away passes thrown in their direction. Frederick typically plays inside, and he also is willing to mix it up with Wright down the field -- but he needs to prove he has the agility to stay with Baylor's star receiver.

Iowa State LT Kelechi Osemele at Missouri DEs *Brad Madison
2:00 pm, TBA

Osemele is a 6-foot-5, 350-pound behemoth at left tackle, but faces a strong challenge in hustling and strong junior Brad Madison. Madison caught the eyes of scouts last year while aiding Aldon Smith pass the rusher, but most of his production (six tackles for loss and three sacks) came against lesser competition. He'll need to step it up against Osemele, whose strong hands and long arms simply do not let go of his man once engaged. Missouri's other starting defensive end, Jacquies Smith, is not related to Aldon but his build is quite similar. Though not as explosive to the Niners' first round selection, Smith would also test Osemele's ability to hold the edge if moved to the weak side during the game.

Alabama Defensive Ends at Ole Miss OTs *Bobby Massie/Bradley Sowell
6:00 pm, ESPN2

The Crimson Tide have one of the deepest front lines in college football, and scouts are interested to see how two intriguing offensive tackle prospects in Sowell and Massie can handle the oncoming pressure. Sowell's svelte 6-foot-7 build gives him the length to handle rushers like 'Bama's versatile end/linebacker Courtney Upshaw, but he needs to prove he has the anchor and overall athleticism to stand up to bull rushes and take blitzers around the edge. Massie also has NFL size (6-6, 325) and length on the right side, but his agility will be tested with 'Bama bringing junior hybrid Dont'a Hightower after junior quarterback Randall Mackey.

Ohio State LT Mike Adams/RT J.B. Shugarts at Illinois DE *Whitney Mercilus
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN

Mercilus leads the country with 8.5 sacks, including three against Indiana last weekend. His job gets a bit tougher lining up across from Ohio State's pair of tackles, as long 6-foot-8 LT Mike Adams had a successful return from suspension against Nebraska and Shugarts is a battle-tested veteran on the right side. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Mercilus isn't as fluid as many edge rushers, and Illini coaches will want him to contain Buckeyes' freshman quarterback Braxton Miller instead of opening running lanes. But even if he doesn't rack up sacks, disengaging from either OSU tackle to make plays against the run (or a scrambling Miller) will move Mercilus up draft boards across the NFL.

Utah OTs Joe Cullen/Tony Bergstrom at Pittsburgh DE/OLB Brandon Lindsey
12:00 pm, ESPNU 

New Pittsburgh head coach uses Lindsey as a defensive end in the 3-3-5 defense, which does not exactly show scouts what the 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior would do as an edge rusher at the next level. Rutgers prevented Lindsey from making a single tackle last week because he simply lacks the bulk to take on bigger linemen on an every-down basis from the five-technique spot. But he could redeem himself with a strong performance against two Utah tackles on NFL teams' radars by using his violent hands and closing speed outside. He'll most often line up against Bergstrom on the strong side, who has an athletic build for a right tackle but is both tough to run through and run around. Cullen is not the biggest left tackle but always seems to prevent rushers like Lindsey from turning the corner with strong footwork. Good reps vs. Lindsey in that role would help Cullen earn draftable grades from more teams.

Miami CB *Brandon McGee at North Carolina WR Dwight Jones
12:30 pm, ACC Network/ESPN3.com 

The Hurricanes will probably throw three or four different corners against Jones Saturday afternoon, but McGee has the potential to be a top prospect because of his fair size (6-0, 190) and sub 4.4-speed. Jones presents a tough ask for any of the 'Canes defensive backs, however, because while not possessing great speed, his NFL-sized body (6-4, 225), strong hands, and long strides on vertical routes make him difficult to stay with downfield. Louisville's smaller defenders discovered last week that he's also difficult to bring down once he makes the catch. UNC's highly-touted redshirt sophomore QB Bryn Renner can also find juniors Erik Highsmith and Jheranie Boyd if Jones isn't available, however, so McGee and seniors Mike Williams and Lee Chambers won't be able to take a play off.

Oklahoma DE *Ronnell Lewis at Kansas RT *Tanner Hawkinson
9:15 pm, ESPN2

Two of the more underappreciated players in the country will butt heads throughout this afternoon's Big 12 contest in Lawrence. Lewis is a bit shorter than most NFL teams prefer when looking for a 4-3 defensive end, but some teams don't mind having 6-foot-2 ends if they play with leverage and can get under the pads of taller lineman as a rusher. The Sooners also stand him up at times, and scouts like the way he moves in coverage and rushes the quarterback as a 3-4 linebacker. Hawkinson flies under the radar playing for a poor Jayhawks' squad, but could prove to scouts he is a legitimate top 100 prospect if displaying the toughness and agility to hold off Lewis and any other Sooner end that Bob Stoops brings off the strong side.

 

Honorable Mention 

Michigan DEs Craig Roh/Ryan Van Bergen vs. Michigan State LG Joel Foreman
Michigan WR Junior Hemingway at Michigan State CB *Johnny Adams
Michigan CBs Troy Woolfolk/*J.T. Floyd vs. Michigan State WRs B.J. Cunningham/Keshawn Martin
12:00 pm, ESPN

Virginia Tech OTs Andrew Lanier/Blake DeChristopher at Wake Forest DE/OLB Kyle Wilber 
6:30 pm, ESPN3.com

Toledo CB Desmond Marrow at Bowling Green WR Kamar Jorden
12:00 pm, ESPN3.com

Utah DT *Dave Kruger at Pittsburgh RG Lucas Nix
12:00 pm, ESPNU

Baylor C Phillip Blake at Texas A&M DT Eddie Brown
12:00 pm, FX

Purdue DT *Kawann Short at Penn State LG Johnnie Troutman
12:00 pm, Big Ten Network

South Carolina DT Travian Robertson at Mississippi State C Quinton Saulsberry
12:21 pm, SEC Network/ESPN3.com

Iowa State CB Leonard Johnson at Missouri WRs Jerrell Jackson/Wes Kemp
2:00 pm, TBA

UNLV WR Phillip Payne at Wyoming CB Tashuan Gipson
2:00 pm, CBS Sports Network

Florida State CBs *Xavier Rhodes at Duke WR *Conner Vernon
3:00 pm, FSN

USF LG Jeremiah Warren at Connecticut DT Kendall Reyes
3:30 pm, SNY/MASN/ESPN3.com

Oklahoma State RT Levy Adcock at Texas DE *Alex Okafor
Oklahoma State C Grant Garner at Texas DT Kheeston Randall
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN

Colorado OG Ryan Miller at Washington DT Alameda Ta'amu
3:30 pm, RSNW

LSU RT *Alex Hurst at Tennessee DE/DT Malik Jackson
3:30 pm, CBS

Boise State DEs Shea McClellin/Tyrone Crawford at Colorado State OT Paul Madsen
6:00 pm, MTN

Northwestern CB Jordan Mabin at Iowa WR Marvin McNutt
Northwestern DE Vincent Browne at Iowa LT *Riley Reiff/Markus Zusevics
7:00 pm, Big 10 Network


--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter   (Follow Chad on Twitter  @ChadReuter)  
   

Posted on: December 23, 2010 1:11 pm
 

Bowl standouts so far

We've only just begun the bowl season and yet already there have been several noteworthy performances from NFL hopefuls. Here is a quick run down of five prospects who have caught my eye with their impressive play.

OT Matt Reynolds, BYU --
The junior left tackle may lack the elite athleticism to remain at the blindside position in the NFL, but his balance, lateral agility and strong upper body impressed me Saturday in the Cougars' win over UTEP. At 6-6 and 322 pounds I love his size and toughness as a right tackle and feel he projects just as well inside at guard. That versatility and Reynolds' durability (started all 39 games of his career) should make him a top 50 pick should he elect to leave early, as expected. Reynolds is expected to leave BYU early as he, like many BYU players, is an older prospect having served two years on a LDS mission.

RB Chad Spann, Northern Illinois --
Fresno State entered the Humanitarian Bowl with all the hype, but it was Spann and the Huskies who dominated this contest. Spann, 5-08 and a 198 pounds, showcased better power than you'd expect for a back of his size. His vision, elusiveness and acceleration are, of course, the characteristics that scouts expect from him. The combination resulted in 95 yards (a 6.3 yard average) and two touchdowns against an athletic Bulldog defense.

CB Johnny Patrick, Louisville --
I've been impressed enough with Patrick this season that I've highlighted him on the blog on numerous occasions , including earlier this week . After reviewing Patrick's performance against Southern Miss in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl again, I can't help but mention him again as he's been as good as any corner I've scouted in this early bowl season. Patrick boasts quick feet, loose hips, physicality against the run and a swagger about him that I feel will help him translate his game quickly to the NFL. He did surrender an early touchdown against Southern Miss (good coverage, but got turned around on a jump ball and was late in locating the very accurate pass), but showed off his competitiveness with a blocked kick, forced fumble, tackle for loss and pass broken up.

WR Austin Pettis, Boise State -- Matched up for much of the night against Utah's talented corner Brandon Burton, Pettis showed off his combination of size, route-running and reliable hands to catch 12 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Pettis should have had another score, but had the ball stripped away from him at the one yard line by Utah safety Brian Blechen. Burton provided tough, physical coverage on several of Pettis' receptions but the Boise star's 6-3, 201 pound frame and strong hands helped him snatch the ball out of the air and protect it from Burton's attempts to knock it free.

QB Pat Devlin, Delaware
-- Ok, so Devlin's Blue Hens aren't part of the FBS and the bowl system, but I've been impressed enough with the former Penn State quarterback's mobility inside the pocket, poise under pressure and accuracy to all levels that he deserves mentioning here. I've spoken to several teams regarding Devlin and there are a number of clubs who feel he could jump ahead of Florida State's Christian Ponder as the No. 2 senior quarterback (behind Washington's Jake Locker) if he is as impressive in a senior all-star game capacity.

I mention Devlin for another reason. Unlike the others on this list, you have one more opportunity to see Devlin play for Delaware. He and his teammates take on No. 1 rated Eastern Washington tomorrow for the FCS Championship.

Remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here. 
Posted on: November 12, 2010 8:59 pm
 

Five Prospects I'll Be Scouting Closely Saturday

Each week I list the five prospects that I'll be focusing on. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

As a side note, I initially planned to include Auburn junior quarterback Cam Newton (heard of him?) on this list. With speculation Friday evening that he may not play, I elected to leave him off this list of five. Needless to say, he's among the prospects I'll be scouting closely if he plays Saturday (and any future games).

Those interested in scouting "alongside" me can follow me on Twitter @RobRang.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.
TE Luke Stocker, Tennessee: Entering the season the Volunteer receiver I expected to be highlighting so far this season would have been Stocker and not wideout Denarius Moore. The Vols simply haven't passed the ball enough to Stocker (24 grabs for 264 yards and one TD) for him to post the type of numbers that generate much media attention, but at 6-5, 253 pounds and possessing good hands and feet for the position, he remains one of the better senior prospects at tight end. There are several highly touted, but so far disappointing prospects on the Tennessee and Ole Miss rosters. I'm looking forward to this game to see which of them (if any) can shake out of their season-long funk. This game begins at 12:00 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri*: Though he's only a junior, scouts are starting to take a long look at Gabbert and the rest of the underclassmen quarterbacks simply because this year's seniors at the position have been so underwhelming. Gabbert has the production (2,193 passing yards, 12 TDs-3 INTs), size (6-5, 240), and efficient delivery that scouts are looking for in a high-ranking prospect, but after a hot start to the season, he (and Missouri, as a whole) has struggled over the past two weeks, suffering losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech. Scouts want to see if Gabbert can bounce back this week against a quality opponent in Kansas State. This game begins at 12:30 pm EST and will be regionally televised by the FOX Sports Network.  

CB Brandon Burton, Utah*: Burton, only a junior, is considered by some scouts to be the best draft-eligible cornerback in the west. While he's played very well throughout his career with the Utes, Burton was beaten for a 93-yard touchdown reception by wideout Josh Boyce last week in the humbling 47-7 home loss to TCU. Scouts like Burton's size (6'0, 185) and speed (estimated at 4.45), but want to see if he can come back with a strong performance this week. That will be tougher than it sounds, as at times he'll match up with Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, himself highly touted NFL prospect (though also only a junior) who at 6-3, 225 pounds is a much different assignment than Boyce and the rest of the Horned Frog receivers were last week. This game begins at 2:30 pm EST and will be televised by NBC.

OT Danny Watkins, Baylor: Quarterback Robert Griffin III and even defensive tackle Phil Taylor have each received their share of media attention as a result of Baylor's 7-3 season. It was Watkins, however, whose draft stock has risen the most this season. Draft Slant readers know full well how high Watkins' stock has risen as I wrote about his performance in last week's game against Oklahoma State. This week, however, Watkins will be facing an entirely different opponent in Texas A&M pass rusher Von Miller, my reigning Prospect of the Week. Watkins' quick feet and use of leverage have been impressive this season, but he'll be sorely tested by Miller. This game begins at 7:00 pm EST and will be regionally televised by Fox Sports Network.

DE Cameron Jordan, California: Those surprised with how high former Cal Golden Bear Tyson Alualu was drafted last year may want to start paying attention to Jordan, who, himself is earning top 20 grades from some talent evaluators. Jordan won't beat No. 1 Oregon on his own, but he and his Cal teammates will present the Ducks with a different look, considering that they are one of the few teams that operates out of a base 3-4 defense. Jordan has always been productive for Cal, earning all-conference recognition after each of the past two seasons. He enjoyed arguably his best game to date last week against an overmatched Washington State club, totaling 12 tackles, including four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Scouts love his size (6-4, 285), versatility and blood lines. His father, Steve Jordan, played in six Pro Bowls in 13 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. This game begins at 7:30 pm EST and will be televised by Versus.


Posted on: November 9, 2010 6:07 pm
 

Pitt DE Greg Romeus near return to field

NFL scouts may finally get their chance to see Pittsburgh defensive end Greg Romeus healthy this season.

The reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year has been out of the lineup since playing in the season opener against Utah on September 2nd. Back pain made Romeus a shadow of his former self in that contest. He underwent surgery to repair a disk in his lower back approximately two weeks later.  

Though Pitt head coach Dave Wannestadt informed the media that Romeus has been medically cleared to play, the former NFL head coach isn't likely to rush Romeus back onto the field -- especially with the Panthers' next game so soon. Pitt travels to play Connecticut on Thursday.

With only one game played in the past 11 months, Romeus won't be in true football shape and the Panthers are fortunate to have had Jabaal Sheard and junior Brandon Lindsey step up in their play since Romeus was sidelined.

Sheard leads the Big East with nine sacks and Lindsey is right behind him with eight -- the same number Romeus had in 2009.

When healthy, Romeus has proven himself to be one of the top defensive ends in the country. At 6-5, 268 pounds he has the prototypical height, length and strength that teams are looking for and is capable of contributing early in his pro career as a true three-down right end. Romeus' return to health is especially important due to the fact that he remains a relatively raw prospect. Romeus only played one season of football in high school.

Following the Connecticut game, the Panthers have three more regular season games this season. At 5-3, including 3-0 in the Big East thus far, the Panthers are only one win away from guaranteeing a bowl berth. The only undefeated team in the Big East, Pitt is the favorite to win the conference and play in a BCS game.

With as many as five more games left to scout Romeus this season, NFL teams should have ample opportunity to determine if he is back to full strength and worthy of high round consideration.




Posted on: November 5, 2010 9:59 pm
 

Five Prospects I'll Be Focusing On Saturday

Each week I list the five prospects that I'll be focusing on. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

Those interested in scouting "alongside" me can follow me on Twitter @RobRang.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

WR Julio Jones, Alabama : For some, the one on one showdown between Randy Moss and Darrelle Revis was the best wide receiver-cornerback battle of the year. For me, this is the matchup I've been waiting to see. Jones and Peterson each played well in their matchup last year. Jones may have had the more impressive statistics (four catches for 102 yards, including a 73 yard touchdown), but none of these grabs came against Peterson, who finished with three tackles and three passes broken up despite battling cramps. The fact that I have Peterson going No. 2 overall in my first round mock draft (higher than any cornerback has ever gone) gives you an ideal as to how high the LSU corner ranks on my board. That said, I'm higher than most on Jones, as well. He isn't as polished as some of the other highly touted wideouts due to Alabama's reliance on the running game, but I've seen improvements in his route-running this season and I love the size, strength and toughness he brings to the position. The toughest adjustment most collegiate receivers have to make when going to the NFL is handling the added physicality of the pro grame. I characterized Hakeen Nicks (over the more highly touted Crabtree, Maclin, Harvin, etc.) as the rookie wideout likeliest to have the greatest immediate impact two years ago due to his physicality and body control. I see a similiar skill set in Jones. This game will be televised by CBS and will begin at 3:30 pm EST.

QB Andy Dalton, TCU
: The fact that No. 3 TCU is heading to No. 5 Utah for a game with legitimate BCS implications and yet only minimal television coverage is precisely what is wrong with the inequity of today's college football system. If this were a showdown among two undefeated teams in an automatic qualifier conference like the Big Ten, ACC or SEC this would unquestionably be the biggest game of the weekend. Instead, only those of us fortunate enough to have CBS' College Sports channel will get to watch what could be an instant classic. TCU has based a great deal of their success over the years on their defense, but if they are to win this game, Dalton will have to play well. He didn't last year in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State. This game is particularly interesting for Dalton due to the fact that his favorite receiver, senior Jeremy Kerley will often be covered by Utah junior cornerback Brandon Burton -- one of the best, if underrated young corners in the country. This game will be televised by CBS College Sports and will begin at 3:30 pm EST.

SS Shiloh Keo, Idaho: Some questioned our sanity when NFLDraftScout.com rated former Vandal guard Mike Iupati as a potential first round pick before last season even began. Their safety, Shiloh Keo also popped off the tape and began this year among our top five prospects at the position. Like many of you, I haven't seen much of Keo thus far this season. That is because I've been waiting to see him in coverage against a dynamic offense. With Colin Kaepernick and the No. 3 nationally rated Nevada offense coming to town, Keo will have the opportunity to answer questions about his coverage skills. This game won't get mentioned by many, but in terms of a player's stock, few games will be bigger than this one is for Keo. This game will be televised by televised by ESPN and will begin at 5:00 pm EST.

OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA:
At 6-4, 254 pounds, Bruins' junior outside linebacker Akeem Ayers is as gifted an outside linebacker prospect as there is in the entire country. The Bruins have struggled with consistency this season, but Ayers has been one of the few bright spots. His numbers (45 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks) aren't eye-popping, but scouts love his versatility and upside. I'm very interested to see how Ayers performs against Oregon State this weekend. The Beavers may lack the big play offense of their arch rival Ducks, but their pro-style offense and the excellent running of junior back Jacquizz Rodgers will be a truer test of Ayers' talents. This game will be televised by Versus and will begin at 7:00 pm EST.

QB Nick Foles, Arizona: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will get all of the hype leading up to this contest and for good reason. However, I've spoken to NFL scouts that are very intrigued with Foles, as well. Foles, a junior, was leading the Pac-10 in passing yards per game before sustaining the knee injury that kept him sidelined for the past two weeks. Like most quarterbacks operating out of the spread offense, most of Foles' passes are in the short to intermediate range -- precisely the areas that Stanford's 3-4 defense is designed to counter. If Arizona is going to beat Stanford this week, Foles will have to play well and he may have to attack downfield. How he performs in that test may determine if he is a legitimate top 50 prospect or just another product of the spread offense. This game will be televised by ABC/ESPN and will begin at 8:00 pm EST.


Posted on: September 4, 2010 11:26 pm
 

Ponder spectacular, Locker merely good today

Completing 12 of 14 passes for 167 yards and 4 touchdowns in only a half of play today, Florida State's Christian Ponder may have narrowed whatever gap Washington's Jake Locker had above him as the top senior quarterback prospect in the country. 

Ponder did throw an interception, but he showed a live arm, as well as good accuracy in the short to intermediate range. Ponder commanded the offense efficiently and showed off his underrated mobility by completing passes, including his first touchdown pass of the year, while on the move. His four touchdowns went for 4, 15, 8 and 11 yards. One area in which he fared better than Locker on this day was the recognition of when to rifle passes and when to throw with touch.

In losing to BYU, Locker's realistic chances at the Heisman might be over. His NFL grade may not drop based on his play today, but it certainly wasn't strengthened.

In Locker's defense, there is a significant difference in the quality of defense that he and Ponder faced Saturday.

Ponder was playing FCS Samford at home. Locker was facing BYU on the road. Any question about how tough Mountain West teams at home were answered with Pitt and Oregon State losing to Utah and TCU.

And to be fair, Locker played a solid game. He completed 20 of 37 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He also ran for another 29 yards and a score.

Locker's trademark mobility, arm strength, quick release and, unfortunately, inconsistent accuracy were on display today. When he missed, he often missed high. Locker did show improved accuracy on the move, often drilling passes through tight windows when rolling to the right. He also drilled a few post-routes, giving his receivers plenty of open field with which to generate yardage after the catch.

However, too often in short yardage situations Locker elected to throw the ball downfield rather than check down to easier options. One such play came on 4th and 2 in the fourth quarter. Rolling right, Locker elected to throw the ball into the endzone, where a well-positioned defender broke up the pass. Locker released the ball just as his running back, Chris Polk, running a few yards ahead of him, appeared to be breaking free of his defender. Had Locker throttled down and thrown the ball over Polk's shoulder, it could have for an easier completion and a likely first down.

The opening game of the season is hardly enough to grade these two quarterbacks. Their race to be the first senior QB drafted (and perhaps the first quarterback, overall) will be every bit the marathon, rather than the sprint.

There is no denying Locker's upside. But there is also no denying that Ponder made the better, more consistent plays to help his team win Saturday.


Posted on: April 15, 2010 12:34 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2010 2:08 pm
 

Five mock-busters who could make the 1st Round

In a previous post I mentioned a few players that league sources are characterizing as overrated and could slip out of the first round entirely.

Just as important when predicting what will take place one week from today, however, is identifying players who have earned very little first round hype but could sneak in late.

There are several "bubble" players that could make the first round that I'm not discussing in this post -- Carlos Dunlap, Brian Price, Kareem Jackson, Golden Tate, some QB from Florida... You've seen them in first round mocks before and, perhaps, wouldn't be surprised if their names were called next Thursday.

This post is dedicated to the truer surprise names.

Among the biggest surprises over the past few years? Former East Carolina running back Chris Johnson, former Virginia Tech offensive tackle Duane Brown (both in 2008), former LSU wideout Craig Davis (2007), former NC State defensive tackle John McCargo (2006), former Ole Miss center Chris Spencer and former Fresno State guard Logan Mankins (both 2005).

Chris Johnson and Logan Mankins have since emerged as Pro Bowl talents for the Titans and Patriots, respectively. While Brown (Houston) and Spencer (Seattle) have developed into solid starters, Davis (San Diego) and McCargo (Buffalo) haven't met expectations.

According to scouts and front office executives throughout the league here are five players who could sneak into the 2010 first round and surprise many.

(Players listed alphabetically)

DL Tyson Alualu, California: An established force as a defensive end in the 3-4 and projecting nicely as a 4-3 defensive tackle, Alualu is scheme-versatile and a high-effort player. He lacks the athletic upside of some of the other defensive linemen of this class, but he's viewed as one of the safer players in the draft. The Steelers made a similar selection with Ziggy Hood last year.

RB Jahvid Best, California: Considering his explosiveness, Best should hardly be viewed as a surprise first round pick. However, his durability concerns are enough that most teams feel he'll be available in the second round. Considering the dramatic drop off in explosive running backs after Spiller and Best, however, a team looking for true big play potential from a 2010 rookie running back might have to gamble earlier than they'd like.

OT Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts: I expect there to be a run on offensive linemen in the first round similar to the one seen in 2007 -- when a league record eight offensive tackles were taken. If this were to occur, Ducasse, projected by most teams to go anywhere from 35-55, could sneak in late, just as Duane Brown did with the Houston Texans in 2008.

OLB Koa Misi, Utah: Roughly half of the NFL is now planning on operating primarily out of the 3-4 alignment. That fact makes established pass rushers like Misi ones to watch on draft day. Possessing an explosive first step as a defensive end for the Utes, the 6-3, 251 pound Misi impressed scouts in linebacker drills in workouts. Both he and Virginia Tech's Jason Worilds are viewed as locks for the second round, but an early run on the position could push either into the first round.

OLB Daryl Washington, TCU: As deep and talented as the 3-4 rush linebacker class is, there are few highly rated traditional outside linebackers in this class for the 4-3 alignment. Washington played inside for the Horned Frogs, but his 6-2, 230 pound frame makes him an ideal fit on the weakside. The explosive Washington is rated higher on some boards than Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon.

 
 
 
 
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