Tag:Tennessee
Posted on: July 12, 2010 12:40 pm
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Luck, Kaepernick, others wow at Manning QB Camp

Each year the Mannings (Archie and sons Petyon, Eli and Cooper) hold their Manning Passing Academy for high school and collegiate "skill position" football players. Though running backs, wide receivers and tight ends are also invited to the camp, the quarterbacks always receive the most attention.

For the fifth consecutive year this year's camp was held on the Nicholls State University campus; the former home of the New Orleans Saints' training camp. This is the 14th year the Mannings have been holding their camp.

This year the collegiate quarterbacks invited read like a Who's Who of the game. Washington's Jake Locker was invited, but couldn't attend. Miami's Jacory Harris, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor were other high profile passers also unable to participate.

Among the more high profile players who did participate, however, included:

Jordan Jefferson - LSU
Jerrod Johnson - Texas A&M
Colin Kaepernick - Nevada
Case Keenum - Houston
Andrew Luck - Stanford
Greg McElroy - Alabama
Kellen Moore - Boise State
Christian Ponder - Florida State
Taylor Potts - Texas Tech
Matt Simms - Tennessee
Nathan Stanley - Mississippi
Brandon Weeden - Oklahoma State
Tyler Wolfe - Northwestern State (La.)
T.J. Yates - North Carolina

Much of the clinic is open to the public. According to sources in attendance, Stanford redshirt sophomore Andrew Luck is clearly the most gifted of the group. He showed a strong NFL-caliber arm and the accuracy to attack all levels of the field. Luck recently went on the record stating that he planned to graduate from Stanford before pursuing professional football.

Another young talent, Tennessee's Matt Simms (son of Phil, brother of Chris) also impressed, I'm told.

Kaepernick surprised some with his velocity. The 6-6, 220 pound Wolfpack quarterback is well known for his production (20 TDs/6 INTs, as well as 1,183 rushing yards, 16 TDs last year), but is viewed by many scouts as a product of coach Chris Ault's "pistol" offense.

FSU's Christian Ponder, who tied with Locker for the highest QB grade given by National scouts, was characterized as being good, but not spectacular. In Ponder's defense, he underwent shoulder surgery in the off-season and may have been still working out some of the kinks.


Posted on: April 22, 2010 5:50 pm
 

Philly "on the phone with everyone" to move up

The Philadelphia Eagles are actively searching for trade up opportunities, contacting several teams in the top half of the draft, according to various league sources.

The belief by many is that the team is considering a monster package to move into the top six to get Tennessee safety Eric Berry.

The Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks have all been tied to Berry. I've been told that Berry's former defensive coordinator at Tennessee, Monte Kiffin, has been calling teams signing Berry's praises.

It is easy to see why the Eagles would want Berry. The team missed Brian Dawkins' ability on the field and his leadership off it last year. Berry, in my opinion rates behind only Ndamukong Suh as the safest pick in this draft.

The concern for teams drafting him -- or any other safety -- this high, however, is not only financial, but potentially physical.

Berry has been durable throughout his three seasons at Tennessee, but the the undersized safeties he's often compared to -- Baltimore's Ed Reed, Pittsburgh's Troy Polamaula and Indianapolis' Bob Sanders -- all struggled with injuries last year. In fact, the three missed a combined 27 games just last season.

Posted on: April 2, 2010 9:56 am
 

Economics could push Berry down the board

Tennessee safety Eric Berry is currently NFLDraftScout.com's 4th rated prospect for the 2010 NFL Draft. I've spoken to NFL scouts and front office executives who feel we have him rated too low, claiming that with the exception of perhaps Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Berry is the surest thing of this year's class.

What those same league personnel have told me, however, is that Berry is likely to fall past these rankings in the draft, itself. He'll fall strictly because teams do not want to give a safety the money that goes with a top five pick -- or perhaps even money that goes with a top eight pick.

Take into consideration the contracts signed by players drafted with the No. 5-9 picks last year. Remember that contracts generally increase year to year, meaning that the first (or 50th) overall pick in 2010 is likely to sign a deal for more money than the man who was drafted with the same pick last year. 

Mark Sanchez, the fifth overall pick, signed last year a contract of five years for 50 million dollars, including 28 million in guarantees. By hitting certain incentives, Sanchez's contract could reach nearly 60 million. Sanchez's yearly average would be -- at minimum -- 10 million.

Andre Smith, taken a pick later by Cincinnati, signed a six year deal worth a maximum of 42 million, with 21 million guaranteed. Smith's yearly average is seven million. 

The seventh overall pick, Darrius Heyward-Bey, agreed to terms with the Raiders of a five year deal of 38.25 million with 23.5 million guaranteed. Heyward-Bey's yearly average is 7.65 million.

Eugene Monroe, the 8th overall pick, signed with Jacksonville for five years and 35.4 million, a yearly average of 7.08 million.

BJ Raji, drafted by Green Bay 9th overall, signed a five year, 28.5 million dollar contract. His year average is 5.7 million.

Each of these players -- a quarterback, two offensive tackles, a wide receiver and defensive tackle --  signed rich deals, but ones under the 2010 Franchise Tag tenders. This means that these rookies, while very well paid, would not earn more than the average of the top five current NFL players at their respective positions in average salary per year.

The problem for Eric Berry is that safety is the third lowest tendered position (ahead of only tight ends and kickers/punters) and has a franchise tag tender of 6.45 million dollars.

If Berry was to be drafted by a team earlier than the 9th pick, at least according to the deals from last year's draft, he'd be slotted to earn more money than the best at his position. Looking past the obvious question of fairness to established stars like Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, the problem is that whichever team drafted Berry would find itself in a very difficult position five years later -- when Berry, assuming he played well, would likely be expecting a raise for his second contract. If drafted earlier than 9th overall, Berry's rookie contract would potentially be worth more than any deal a team would be willing to give him as a free agent. Unless the Franchise tender for safeties suddenly exploded, Berry's NFL team would likely be able to slap the franchise tag on him, guaranteeing him less than he'd earned in his original rookie contract.

I made the point in the introduction paragraphs of my mock draft  that NFL teams can use the cliche of taking the best available player as much as they'd like; the reality is that position value dictates many selections.

For Eric Berry, an unquestioned top five talent, the perceived value of his position could keep him out of the top eight in the 2010 draft.

Posted on: March 7, 2010 7:39 pm
 

NG Ferguson suspended, Dan Williams for Fins?


Veteran nose guard Jason Ferguson, a free agent, has been suspended for eight games, making it quite likely that his former team -- the Miami Dolphins -- will be in the market for a new nose guard.
Howard Balzer of The Sports XChange and St. Louis Press-Democrat broke the story here , noting that not only Ferguson, but veteran offensive tackle Ryan Tucker had been suspended. According to Balzer's story, the belief was that each player was being suspended due to a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. Ferguson had previously been busted for marijuana when entering the draft in 1997 and was suspended for four games in 1999 for steroids.

Though Ferguson, 35, was a free agent, there had been some talk that the Dolphins would attempt to re-sign him. Ferguson has long been a Bill Parcells' favorite, playing for him with the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Miami.

The Dolphins plugged veterans Tony McDaniel and Paul Solai in at the nose guard position last year when Ferguson went down with a torn triceps, but it is thought that the team would like to upgrade -- and that was with Ferguson being an option.

With Ferguson not an option for at least half of the season, the club could look to trade for Shaun Rogers, who the Browns reportedly have placed on the market, or look to the draft.

If they look to the draft, former Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams might be the perfect solution. Selecting a nose guard with the 12th overall pick might seem too rich, but considering how many clubs are switching to the 3-4 scheme and the number of nose guards this year who have been franchised, the position is clearly gaining in value. 

Williams, 6-2, 329 pounds, was the most dominant lineman in the SEC this past season, despite being miscast as a defensive tackle in the 4-3. He is precisely the type of squatty, powerful two-gap fire hydrant teams are looking for in a nose guard...

Considering Miami's gaping hole at the position, Williams could be the perfect fit.
Posted on: September 2, 2009 1:02 pm
 

Tennessee C McNeil's career "probably over"

Despite starting 35 consecutive games for the Volunteers, center Josh McNeil's recurring knee injuries are expected to keep him off the team this year, and according to head coach Lane Kiffin, may prematurely end his career.

Kiffin made the announcement to media Tuesday after it was discovered that McNeil would once again have to undergo surgery on his knees. The preseason second-team All-SEC pick and preseason Outland Trophy prospect had his knee scoped last week and doctors found his knee to be in such poor shape that according to Kiffin "...Now they're looking at a longer surgery to go back and do some more stuff - a surgery that would take a long time to even have because the things they'd have to get to have the surgery done."

"There's a good chance Josh won't be playing for us, and probably won't play football ever again, unfortunately," Kiffin said.

Specifics of the MRI were not released. However, the finality of Kiffin's comments certainly make it appear that McNeil has a long way to go before there is any chance of his playing in the NFL.

The fall from NFL graces for McNeil has been both quick and steep. McNeil had petitioned the NFL Advisory Committee after last year for an early prognosis of his grade (reportedly earning a 5th-7th round grade) and signed with Tennessee as the top-ranked center prospect in the country amid great fanfare.

Posted on: March 30, 2009 3:29 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2009 3:39 pm
 

Vols DE Ayers "Most Polarizing Defender..."

With the draft less than a month away most teams are settling their draft boards. One player whose stock remains very much in flux is Tennessee defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Ayers.

There appear to be two camps when it comes to Ayers. Some teams view him as a top ten prospect. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, whose opinion I respect, recently ranked Ayers as the 5th best player in the entire 2009 draft. Other teams, however, view Ayers as a second round prospect -- and a marginal one at that.

I contacted four teams about Ayers -- two AFC teams and two NFC teams. Two of the clubs operate primarily out of the 4-3, two primarily out of the 3-4 defense. The reviews were stunningly mixed. One 3-4 team loves him. The other ranks him as the 8th best pass rushing OLB prospect of the draft. Similar results came from the 4-3 teams. Each viewed him strictly as a 4-3 defensive end in their scheme.

I respect the opinions of my contacts in the league, but ultimately, I trust my own eyes more than anyone else's. Therefore, I went back to the film. I own game-film of 6 Tennessee games (UCLA, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Wyoming, Kentucky), as well as the Senior Bowl. After two days of reviewing these tapes, I feel comfortable with my current grade of a late first round to early second round grade.

Ayers, 6-3 (3/8), 272 pounds, primarily lined up as the right defensive end out of the 4-3 alignment in the 6 UT games viewed. This is the position he lined up throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl, as well. I have detailed notes from those practices, as well as the Senior Bowl, itself, in which Ayers earned Defensive MVP honors with 3 tackles, including 1.5 sacks. I thought that Ayers was arguably the most impressive player early in the week of practice in Mobile and wrote as much in my Monday and Tuesday reviews of the South practices.

Monday: The surprise was vs. Oher was Ayers, whose quickness off the snap, strength to anchor and dizzying array of counter moves enabled him to beat Oher at times and consistently proved too much for lesser pass blockers. If he can build upon his initial showing with a strong week of practice, Ayers could be the latest example of players catapulting up draft boards with a strong performance in Mobile.

Tuesday: Perhaps due to the colossal battles waged between Oher and Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers on Monday, the two were rarely matched up against each other for this second practice. After an eye-opening initial practice, Ayers struggled with lesser blockers early Tuesday. He picked up his play as the one on ones heated up, however, and finished practice playing with the fervor he’d shown a day earlier. His final snaps of the scrimmage Tuesday, in fact, were spent bull-rushing Tulane tackle Troy Kropog onto his back during one play and using a beautiful swim move to cleanly get past the Green Wave blocker and into the backfield on the next.

 

The concern I and others have with Ayers is twofold. For one, he didn't establish himself as even a starting caliber player until his senior season despite signing with the Vols as one of the most highly touted preps in the country. Until this season, he was viewed by many as a bit of a bust. Secondly, even though he was as good as any defensive lineman in the SEC this season (and that is saying something) and absolutely deserved the 1st team conference honors he received this year (49 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss), he finished with only 3 sacks.

Based on the film, Ayers consistently plays to his level of competition. His most dominant game (statistically-speaking) was against Georgia, which unfortunately, I don't have film of. Against Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith, Ayers showed good burst, impressive strength to shed, good agility and vision when redirecting and hustle. These were the same attributes I saw against Oher in the Senior Bowl practices.

Against lesser talent in the Wyoming and UCLA losses, however, Ayers disappeared too long for my taste.

Ayers' fluidity improved so dramatically from his Combine performance and Pro Day, that I can understand why some are very excited about him. Those close to the Tennessee program rave about his emergence as a senior leader and there is no denying his athleticism. While he predominately lined up at right defensive end, he also moved inside to defensive tackle, at times, to the left defensive end and was a standup pass rusher from either side, as well. He is not truly explosive off the snap, but can bend under the tackle and has very good lateral quickness to "get skinny" and beat the offensive tackle back inside after a jab-step to the outside to tackle runners for loss.

He has the versatility that every team is looking for and the opinion that he could be an ascending talent will likely push him into the first round -- but there is significant boom or bust potential here.

For these reasons, Ayers was characterized to me by a high ranking official of one of the four teams as "the most polarizing defender who's gonna go in the top 50. Some love him. Some are only luke-warm on him. He's moving up though..."

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com