Posted on: January 8, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: January 8, 2011 12:39 pm
Though the BBVA Compass Bowl may not rival the Cotton or Sugar Bowl in terms of notoriety, there are certainly some future NFL prospects to keep an eye on this morning.
There is plenty of senior talent to watch. Pitt boasts the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in pass rusher Jabaal Sheard and one of the better offensive linemen that no one seems to be talking about in left tackle Jason Pinkston. Kentucky's talent is largely on the offensive side of the football. Senior running back Derrick Locke is a 5-08, 190 dynamo capable of beating teams with his speed and elusiveness as a runner and receiver.
For both teams, however, the greater talent lies with their underclassmen -- the top three of which are reportedly strongly considering making today's bowl game their final collegiate contest.
Pitt WR Jon Baldwin told NFLDraftScout.com's Chris Steuber weeks ago that he was going to go pro . Though he's since retracted his statement, scouts fully expect the 6-5, 230 pound athletic phenom to indeed leave Pitt early for a chance at the NFL. Baldwin hasn't been as spectacular this season (52 catches for 810 yards and 5 TDs) as he was in a breakout 2009 campaign (57-1,111-8) but much of this has to do with the Panthers incorporating a new quarterback (Tino Sunseri) who was unable to develop the same rapport with the playmaking Baldwin as Bill Stull did a year ago.
The more surprising news out of Pitt is that redshirt sophomore Dion Lewis is also considering leaving early. On the one hand, it is difficult to fault Lewis - or any running back, for that matter - for wanting to get paid as soon as possible for the wear and tear they'll absorb running the football, but Lewis, like Baldwin, is coming off a disappointing season.
The 5-08, 195 pound Lewis earned All-American honors as a redshirt freshman in 2009, rushing for an eye-popping 1,799 yards and 17 TDs. This year, however, he found the sledding much tougher, rushing for "only" 956 yards and 12 touchdowns through the regular season. Lewis should be able to run all over a Wildcat defense that ranks 79th in the country, giving up 170.31 yards a game, however, extending his strong finish to the year.
The most exciting prospect to watch in this game is clearly Kentucky wideout Randall Cobb, perhaps the most versatile player in the country. He leads the SEC with 2,192 all-purpose yards and has scored touchdowns in nearly every form imaginable this year -- as a runner, receiver, passer and returner. The 5-11, 190 pound Cobb's versatility is reminiscent of the Jets' Brad Smith and the Steelers' Antwaan Randle El. Should Cobb elect to come out this season, he'd likely get a bit lost in the shuffle of all the prototypical 6-3, 210 pound wideouts likely to be available, but if he slipped into the late second or third round, could prove a huge steal.
As spectacular as Cobb is, however, he faces a tough opponent in this Pittsburgh defense. Former head coach Dave Wannstedt and former defensive coordinator Phil Bennett (serving as interim head coach in this game) have done a great job defensively with this team. The Panthers ranked 9th in the nation in total defense this season.
This game begins at 12:00 pm EST and will be televised on ESPN.
As always, for the very best in NFL draft coverage, the place to go is N FLDraftScout.com.
Posted on: October 15, 2010 1:46 pm
Each weekend I list the five senior prospects I'll be focusing on. These are players who appear to have challenging matchups that will help determine how well they'll be able to make the transition to the pro game.
A noteworthy performance (either positive or negative) can result in the player being profiled in our upcoming edition of Draft Slant, NFLDraftScout.com's weekly PDF file for premium subscribers.
Last week I profiled Michigan State inside linebacker Greg Jones, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller, LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis and UCLA defensive tackle David Carter. Nevis enjoyed a spectacular game against Florida and earned my Prospect of the Week honors. Miller wasn't as impressive as his statline would lead you to believe -- something I went over in detail in the current issue of Draft Slant.
Here are this week's Five to Watch:
OLB Mark Herzlich, Boston College: One could make the argument that Herzlich should be a focus each and every week, considering his amazing recovery from Ewing's Sarcoma. I'm particularly interested in how he does in this game considering the versatility of the Florida State offense and the weather. On the one hand, considering Herzlich's recovery, it may not be realistic to expect that he'll handle the heat and humidity of this game as well as his teammates. However, with the regular season halfway over, scouts have to be sure that Herzlich is getting back into real football shape. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.
RB Delone Carter, Syracuse: Carter has been impressive this season, rushing for 524 yards and five touchdowns so far. That said, his opponents have been less than impressive -- Akron, Washington, Maine, Colgate, South Florida. Without Greg Romeus, this Pitt defense isn't as dominant as we may have expected heading into the season, but Dave Wannestadt will have this team crowing the line of scrimmage to slow down the Orange rushing attack. How Carter handles the extra attention will be key. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.
OT Lee Ziemba, Auburn: Tiger quarterback Cam Newton has been as impressive as any young passer in the country so far this season, but his veteran offensive line, including Ziemba, have been a major contributor to his success. The biggest difference I've noted in the success this year of the Razorbacks hasn't been the improvement of their talented passer, Ryan Mallett, but greater speed and physicality of the Arkansas defense -- especially in the front seven. Ziemba, who isn't a great athlete and may have to move to OG in the NFL, will have his hands full in this contest. How he and his linemates hold up could be the determining factor in one of the best games of the week. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.
WR Niles Paul, Nebraska: Paul is one of the nation's top senior receivers. In fact, I'm convinced that the versatile athlete (WR/RS) would contend for All-American honors if he played on an offense that featured him. Instead, he's relegated to only a few receptions a game for a Cornhuskers team that has been able to beat teams only running the ball and playing their typical stellar defense. This is a proud Texas Longhorn defense that Paul and his teammates will be facing, so the running may be tough. Paul won't face a better secondary all season long (well, except in practice) than this one -- at least until he earns an invitation to the Senior Bowl. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.
OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin: It is only because I list the games in chronological order that I have Carimi placed this low in the post. In reality, his one on one showdown against Ohio State's Cameron Heyward is far and away the best individual matchup of the weekend. If the Badgers can successfully run on the Buckeyes and keep Terrelle Pryor on the sideline, they have a chance to pull off the upset against Ohio State. Heyward will often line up against Carimi. At other times, he'll slide inside a bit and line up against senior guard John Moffitt, himself a solid NFL prospect. It should make for an excellent scouting opportunity for all three prospects, which is why this game is expected to have a dozen or more NFL scouts on hand. This game begins at 7:00 pm EST and will be telvised by ABC/ESPN.
Posted on: September 20, 2010 6:43 pm
As I mentioned in my last post, we thought that the Player of the Week and Diamond in the Rough deserved more acknowledgement than they received in the past as part of our Draft Slant coverage. Thus, each Monday I'll highlight the award recipients here on the blog.
Player of the Week, along with The Diamond in the Rough (small school prospect), used to be features of Draft Slant . This PDF file can be purchased as an individual issue or one can purchase the entire year (16 issues). Or, if you just want to see an example, you can download this free sample of Week One here .
I considered several prospects for Diamond in the Rough this week, but with so many of the prolific senior quarterback prospects struggling, I couldn't look past the opportunity to review California (PA) signal-caller Josh Portis, who only a few years ago was expected to be the heir apparent to one Tim Tebow at the University of Florida.
Diamond in the Rough -- September 18, 2010
QB Josh Portis, California (PA) 6-4 / 208 / 4.67 -- opponent East Stroudsburg State
Portis, the cousin of Washington Redskins' running back Clinton Portis, was a prep star at William Howard Taft high school in California who was recruited by many of the biggest schools in the country as a quarterback and multi-purpose athlete. He signed with Florida, but only lasted with Urban Meyers team one year. He saw action immediately, however, playing in six of 11 games and completing six of 11 passes during that time for 81 yards and no touchdowns (one interception). Portis elected to transfer to the University of Maryland following his first season and was forced to sit out the 2006 season per NCAA regulations. He was allowed to practice with his Terp teammates, however, and was credited with the Scout Offensive Player of the Year honors following the season. Portis was expected to compete for the starting role a year later, but was suspended for academics (reportedly for cheating on a quiz). He struggled to get playing time with the Terps and ultimately elected to transfer again, this time to California (PA). It didn't take him long to establish himself as a man among boys at this level. Portis broke school records on his way to completing 224 of 407 passes for 3,421 yards and 36 touchdowns. Perhaps not surprisingly, it didn't take Portis long to impress against East Stroudsburg State Saturday, either. The lanky senior quarterback completed a 43-yard bomb down the left sideline on his first pass -- correctly recognizing that he had single coverage on that side. The ball, thrown with good trajectory and accuracy, was completed despite tight coverage. Only a few players later, Portis, dropping back from center, looked off the safety and drilled a crossing route over the middle for his first touchdown of the day. There has been a knock on Portis throughout his career that he's relied on his athleticism, rather than focusing on the little things that quaterbacks need to be successful in the NFL -- especially considering the jump he'll be making from the D-II level. Throughout this contest at least, Portis showed enough natural throwing ability to strongly consider for senior all-star games. He has worked under some heavy hitters in Urban Meyer, Ralph Friedgen and even former Pitt and Stanford head coach Walt Harris, who now serves as California's offensive coordinator. Any kind of endorsement from these coaches and NFL scouts will certainly be taking a peek at this talented passer. If given an opportunity in a senior all-star game or the Combine, Portis could rise into one of the more intriguing developmental passers in the 2011 draft.
Posted on: September 8, 2010 1:06 pm
Subscribers of NFLDraftScout.com's weekly PDF file on the latest happenings in the world of college football and the NFL draft will be receiving their first premium issue of Draft Slant today.
Posted on: September 4, 2010 11:26 pm
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: August 18, 2010 2:16 pm
New Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly made waves yesterday with his candid first impressions of junior wideout Michael Floyd, considered by some to be among the country's very best wide receivers.
Said Kelly, "“I thought Michael Floyd was overhyped. I thought he was, at times, average.”
Asked to explain further, Kelly provided plenty of details.
"He wasn't a precision route runner," Kelly told the media, including Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune . "[Floyd] wasn't asked to be. He was a match-up guy. Bodied people, caught the ball — sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't. If you watched him, were evaluating him, you go, ‘OK, he's got a big body, he runs down the field. If they throw it up there, there's a good chance he's going to get it. You never saw him in positions to run the dig or drive, be one-on-one, beat coverage on a quick slant on fourth down and snap his hands. All those things that go to winning football games, I didn't see that. Maybe it's because they had Golden Tate, and he did all that for him. So my evaluation of Mike was based upon the film I had.”
While Floyd's film may not have made a favorable first impression on his head coach, his work ethic throughout spring and summer, on the other hand, certainly has.
"In 20 years, I have not had a player who has worked as hard as Michael Floyd has worked,” Kelly said. “And I mean that. He has out-worked everybody on the offensive side of the ball to the point where he has single-handedly set the bar for where everybody else needs to bring their play.
“When we've gone in the last couple of days, situational live if you will, he's been dominant. Believe me, I'm not easily impressed. ... Michael Floyd can do more. He's capable of doing a lot more. He's shown to me that he can be that guy that is a complete wide receiver.”
Floyd, 6-3, 220 pounds, was one of the nation's most dangerous big play threats under Charlie Weis. Though Floyd only played in seven games last year due to a broken collarbone suffered against Michigan State, when he was on the field, he was virtually unstoppable. Floyd posted 44 receptions for 795 yards (18.1 average) and nine touchdowns. He scored at least one touchdown in six of the seven games in which he played. The one game in which he didn't score a touchdown -- Pittsburgh -- Floyd caught 7 passes for 107 yards.
With quarterback Jimmy Clausen and fellow wideout Golden Tate having left early for the NFL, Kelly's comments could be aimed at lighting a fire under Floyd, who is expected to be the Irish's primary weapon on offense in 2010.
Posted on: February 27, 2010 4:47 pm
Dorin Dickerson and Jimmy Graham will get most of the attention, but small schooler Clay Harbor from Missouri State stole the show during Saturday's tight end drills.
Harbor, a shade under 6-3 and 252 pounds, was timed at a very respectable 4.69 seconds in the 40-yard dash and was the surprise leader at the position in the bench press, putting up the bar 30 times -- the most from any tight end since 2007 (Daniel Coats). The former All-American had impressed scouts at the East-West Shrine and Texas vs. Nation games in January. At his size, some teams feel he projects best at fullback (which is where NFLDraftScout.com currently has him), but considering the strength he proved today and his uncommon tenacity as a blocker, Harbor is a legitimate tight end candidate, as well.
Former Miami basketball player Jimmy Graham showcased the fluidity that had so impressed Chad Reuter and I last month at the Senior Bowl by running a 4.56 40-yard dash today. Graham moves remarkably well for a man with his 6-6, 260 frame, showing good agility and balance while running routes, as well.
Former Pittsburgh Panther tight end/h-back Dickerson blazed the track with a 4.40 second running in the 40-yard dash, according to NFL.com. Considering that he weighed in at only 6-1, 226 pounds, however, teams will have to determine if he can hold up at the point of attack -- which is why his strength (24 reps) could be the more important result to scouts.
Posted on: March 17, 2009 5:30 pm
Junior running back LeSean "Shady" McCoy was the big name among the dozen or so former Pitt Panthers who worked out for an estimated 20-25 teams at Pitt's Pro Day Tuesday morning.
McCoy, who was unable to workout at the Combine due to a bout with the flu, characterized himself as "a little disappointed" in his 4.48-4.53 times in the 40-yard dash, according to Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
McCoy, according to scouts in attendance, was healthy and weighed in at 204 pounds, up 6 pounds from the 198 he weighed in at in Indianapolis. McCoy battled with the decision to leave Pitt after only two seasons with the program. He had previously spent a year at Milford Academy out of high school. McCoy earned First-team All-Big East accolades after each of his two seasons with the Panthers and left with 2,816 yards and 35 touchdowns rushing while adding 65 receptions for 549 yards.
McCoy is battling with Donald Brown of Connecticut to be the third running back behind Georgia's Knowshon Moreno and Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells. He is viewed as a potential first round prospect, though his inconsistency and lack of prototype size could push him into the middle of the second round.