Tag:Nebraska
Posted on: October 15, 2010 1:46 pm
 

5 Senior Prospects to Focus On Saturday

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: October 1, 2010 10:50 pm
 

Five prospects I'll be focusing on Saturday

Each week, in preparation for Draft Slant and the handing out of my weekly awards for Prospect of the Week and Diamond in the Rough, I list five prospects on the blog that I'll be focusing on.

This week is no different -- though with such a huge slate of games -- I can go back to my customary role of focusing on just senior players, rather than dabbling with some underclassmen last week.

Because I'm spending the entire day scouting, I typically don't post more than once or twice on the blog on Saturdays. I do, however, invite you to scout "alongside" me by following me on Twitter.

Without any further adieu, here are this week's big five senior prospects:

CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia: Dowling entered the year as one of NFLDraftScout.com's top 32 seniors and I yet I elected not to include him in my recent mock draft . The reason is that Dowling has been hobbled by a nagging hamstring injury and was only able to see his first playing time of the season last week against Virginia Military Institute. Dowling was not his typically dominant self, getting beaten deep on a long pass, as well as getting flagged for pass interference. And that was against VMI. Don't put it past Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder and his aggressive head coach Jimbo Fisher to test Dowling early. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.

RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma: Murray has earned NFLDraftScout.com's top grade among senior running backs, but if he is to legitimize his standing as a potential first round pick, this is the type of game where he'll need to show up big. This game may lack the sizzle of Red River Rivalries of the past, but even with Mack Brown's Longhorns struggle offensively, they typically play stout defense -- and this year's squad looks no different. Murray's ability to break outside for long gains, as well as his reliable hands out of the backfield, should make him the focus of the Texas defensive game plan, not stopping the Sooner passing game. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.

OT Marcus Gilbert, Florida: Florida linemate Mike Pouncey has generated most of the buzz (both good and bad) thus far this season, but Gilbert's play in this SEC Championship rematch against Alabama could play a key role in determining the winner. Gilbert, the Gators' right tackle, will be matched up against talented junior Marcell Dareus. Dareus struggled last week against Arkansas with a sprained ankle, but is a legitimate first round talent when healthy. If Gilbert (6-5, 320) is able to handle Dareus, the Gators chances of moving the ball against this talented Crimson Tide defense grow significantly. This game begins at 8 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

QB Jake Locker, Washington:
Admittedly I could justify putting Locker on here every weekend but I'm betting that you're just as curious as I am as to how he performs in this, his first game since the Nebraska debacle. Locker doesn't have to win this game to right the ship in terms of his own slipping draft grade. He does, however, have to show improved accuracy and decision-making against a Trojan team looking for revenge. Remember, it was Locker and the Huskies' upset over the Trojans last year that some say led to the "fall of Troy." With the Huskies desperate to prove that the Nebraska game was a fluke and USC just as desperate to prove they remain among the Pac-10's elite, this game has all of the drama, but so much less of the hype of the day's monster showdowns. This game begins at 8 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN2.

DT/NG Sione Pua, Stanford: The young and dynamic skill position prospects in the Oregon-Stanford will get all of the attention and rightfully so. Pua, however, is one of the draft's more underrated run stuffers. If he can control the middle of the line of scrimmage and force Oregon running back LaMichael James outside, the Cardinal could force young Duck quarterback Darron Thomas to beat them. The last two defenses that were as physical as Stanford's gave the Ducks plenty of trouble -- Arizona State gave Oregon quite a scare last week and Ohio State beat the Ducks in the Rose Bowl. The winner of this game, I believe, becomes the odds on favorite to represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl this year.  This game begins at 8 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.
Posted on: September 25, 2010 9:11 pm
 

Mallett a talent, but not an elite one

Just like how it became en vogue to tee off on Washington's Jake Locker after his struggles against a talented Nebraska defense, don't be surprised when every talking head out there jumps on the back of Arkansas' Ryan Mallett after a tough second half against the Tide, Saturday.

Just like they would have jumped on his bandwagon had he been able to engineer the upset.

Last week was a perfect example. Mallett made some legitimate NFL throws in the comeback victory over Georgia, but the same concerns that I (and more importantly, NFL scouts) have voiced about him in the past were evident when one breaks down the film rather than just peek at the box score.

Those same issues were even more evident against the Tide.

Mallett, despite what some commentators might tell you, has the marginal footwork most passers of his height have. His first of three interceptions against the Tide showed him throwing flat-footed, rather than stepping into the throw. His second was arguably his worst throw of the game -- high and behind his intended target. His third, off of his back foot, was an inexcusably lazy toss that he tried to throw away. Some quarterbacks don't have the arm strength to throw it out of bounds 40 yards away. Mallett could do it from 70. And he'd tell you the same.

As Alabama turned up the pressure in the second half, Mallett was forced to move his feet to either step up in the pocket or avoid a pass rush. When he did so, his accuracy plummeted. And that was predictable.

Now, before you claim that I'm simply jumping on Mallett now after his struggles against what likely will be the toughest defense he faces this season, know that I've been grading Mallett the same way for a long time now.

Here is what I said during my preview of the SEC in July :
One final note on the SEC prospects... I typically reserve comments for senior prospects, but Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett is an obvious NFL prospect regardless of when he leaves the Razorbacks. However, I wasn't as wowed by Mallett as some apparently are. His 6-6, 238 pound frame is considered a positive by most, though his long legs and only moderate foot speed/balance concern me. Mallett has a gun and can make some dazzling throws, but at least some of his success has to be attributed to Bobby Petrino's wide-open offense. Remember, this is the same offense that convinced many of us that former Louisville standout Brian Brohm was one day going to be an NFL star. With two years of remaining eligibility, Mallett has plenty of time to iron out some wrinkles to his game, but I, for one, feel he's being a bit overrated right now...

Mallett is a talented passer with a big arm. When he's protected, he's go the intermediate and long accuracy to shred defenses just like Drew Bledsoe did for the Washington State Cougars and early in his NFL career with the New England Patriots. That said, this is a different NFL than the one Bledsoe did his damage. Defenses force quarterbacks to move their feet and adjust quickly in today's game. I haven't yet seen that or the short range accuracy Mallett will need to be consistently successful.

Is he talented? Sure. Any quarterback with his arm strength and the ability to complete 75% of his passes in the first three quarters (for 313 yards and TD) against Alabama certainly is talented.

But, he's not the elite prospect some have characterized him as. And it didn't take 4-10 passing for 44 yards and two terrible interceptions in the 4th quarter to prove it.
Posted on: September 18, 2010 11:22 pm
 

Question isn't if Locker slips, but how much?

Following a mediocre performance in his Huskies' season opening loss at BYU, I argued that whatever gap there may have been in the pro grades of Washington's Jake Locker and Florida State's Christian Ponder as the top senior quarterback was narrowing .

With a historically poor performance at home Saturday against Nebraska, Ponder will overtake Locker on most boards.

In all fairness to Locker, Nebraska may have the country's best secondary. The Cornhuskers' Prince Amukamara was rated by NFL scouts as the elite senior prospect in the country heading into this season. His counterpart, junior Alfonzo Dennard, has been characterized by Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini as being every bit as good as Amukamara. Dennard certainly looked worthy of his coach's high praise with stready coverage, including an interception and 33-yard return for a touchdown.

Locker completed only 4 of 20 passes for 71 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against the Cornhuskers. His QB rating of 46.3% -- his worst in 31 career games -- is the third lowest QB-rating by a FBS quarterback since 2003.

Take away the 45-yard touchdown pass thrown to receiver Jermaine Kearse in the third quarter and Locker threw for only 26 yards in a game in which the Huskies trailed for all but the first two minutes (technically, 2:11).

But, forget the final statistics for a moment.

Locker's first throw of the game demonstrated exactly why scouts will be dropping him.

Dropping back, Locker surveyed the field and with solid protection he calmly lofted a deep pass over the middle into double coverage. The throw was easily intercepted by safety Eric Hagg.

It was a throw that never should have been made. Not by a fifth-year senior. Certainly not by one projected to be the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft.

Unless Locker turns around his season -- and quickly -- he won't have to worry about being the first pick.

He'll need to show improvement just to make the first round.
Posted on: September 18, 2010 12:05 pm
 

Five seniors I'll be scouting closely today

Each Saturday I list here five seniors I'll be scouting closely. Prospects in the past I've listed include Washington quarterback Jake Locker, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, San Jose State safety Duke Ihenacho, Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan and NFLDraftScout.com's current lead story , Florida center Mike Pouncey, among others.

Players I'm focusing on aren't necessarily the elite prospects, but those who have legitimate NFL hopes, are playing in an intriguing matchup and, of course, are being televised.

For those that would like to scout alongside me today, you can follow me on Twitter @RobRang.

These are the five seniors I'll be keying in on tday (and a brief explanation as to why)...

CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska : In the game I certainly believe to be the biggest matchup of the weekend, Amukamara has the task of controlling Washington quarterback Jake Locker's favorite target, junior wideout Jermaine Kearse. Kearse, the reigning Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week after catching nine passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns last week in a win over Syracuse. If Amukamara, who entered the year rated by NFL scouts as the elite senior prospect in the entire country , can force Locker to look elsewhere, the Huskers will have a great shot at defeating the Huskies in Seattle.

OT DeMarcus Love, Arkansas: Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallett has already generated plenty of Heisman and early NFL draft talk. If he is to continue to earn rave reviews, he'll need a strong effort from his blindside protector, Love, in Arkansas' SEC opener against Georgia, today. The contest is a particularly intriguing one as Georgia enters this game needing a win following last week's loss to South Carolina and presents Arkansas with matchup dilemmas, considering they now use a 3-4 alignment. How Love handles Georgia's speed off the edge will go a long way in scouts eyes of determining whether the second-year starting LT has the athleticism and recognition to remain here in the NFL.

ILB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina: For all of the negativity going on around the North Carolina program right now, some might be surprised to learn that they're actually still playing football. The Tar Heels host Georgia Tech in one of the key conference matchups of the weekend. While his athletically superior Bruce Carter gets most of the headlines, Sturdivant is among the more instinctive linebackers in the country. How he reacts to Georgia Tech's triple option offense will go a long way in determining who wins this ACC showdown.

OT Jonathan Barksdale, LSU: Though the Bulldogs enter this game 1-1, I've been more impressed with them so far in the early season than I have the 2-0 and hosting Tigers. Barksdale will be in charge of protecting LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson against Pernell McPhee, an immediate impact (and all-conference) performer last year for Mississippi State. Barksdale, 6-6 and 320 pounds, played well at right tackle in the past, but with four-year starter Ciron Black attempting to find a niche in the NFL, it will be up to Barksdale to control the left tackle position this year.  

CB Johnny Patrick, Louisville: Patrick doesn't get a lot of recognition outside of Conference USA, but he boasts an underrated combination of size (5-11, 190), quick feet and speed (4.47). Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers gets most of the attention, but his older brother, wideout James, broke the school record last year with 2,328 all-purpose yards. Patrick is the Cardinals' most talented and experienced defensive back. He got nicked up last week against Eastern Kentucky, but is expected to play. This should make for an intriguing and nationally underrated showdown between two very good athletes. 
Posted on: September 12, 2010 11:31 am
 

Tough day for top QB prospects

A simple scan of the box scores of the Washington-Syracuse, Stanford-UCLA, Ohio State-Miami and Arkansas-Louisiana (Monroe) games yesterday might be enough to tell you that the winnning quarterbacks in these games enjoyed their Saturday far more than the losing quarterbacks in the Florida State-Oklahoma and Idaho-Nebraska games.

Stat lines rarely tell the whole story, however, and they certainly don't in this case.

Despite impressive stat lines, I can tell you, after spending much of day and night Saturday reviewing their work, that nearly all of the QB prospects potentially available for the 2011 NFL draft struggled. And that none of them showed the consistent accuracy, pocket awareness or poise in a hostile environment (or all three) to lead an NFL team right now.

Which is good, because all of them obviously are collegiate prospects with at least a full calendar year until they'll be asked to do so.

In terms of numbers, one might say that Jake Locker (22/33, 289 yards, 4 TDs/0 INTs, 12 rushing yards) was the most impressive in the Huskies' 41-20 win over Syracuse.

Despite his impressive totals, however, the same accuracy issues that plagued Locker against BYU a week earlier were still there. His receivers, largely junior wideout Jermaine Kearse (9 receptions for 179 yards, 3 TDs) simply turned short and intermediate routes into big plays with good vision, tough running and underrated speed.

Still, for Locker, it was the second mediocre game of the season -- and the Huskies host Nebraska next Saturday.

Fellow senior prospect Christian Ponder (11/28, 113 yards, 0 TDs/2 INTs, 23 rushing yards) much more obviously struggled Saturday in front of a raucous crowd in Norman, Oklahoma. He had little time and was hurt by several drops from his receivers, but as the game slipped away in the second and third quarters, Ponder began to press. He threw the ball into coverage and, at times, allowed himself to peek at the rush rather than keeping his eyes downfield. With the weakest of this group's arms (though still plenty strong for the NFL), these mistakes only added to Florida State's struggles.

Of course, the senior quarterback prospect who struggled the most was Idaho's Nathan Enderle . As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Enderle was among the five senior prospects I was closely scouting yesterday. No one expected the Vandals to walk into Lincoln and shock the Cornhuskers, but Enderle clearly struggled with the speed and physicality of his opponent. He finished 16/31, 141 yards, 1 TD/5 INTs -- including two 40+ yard INTs returned for TDs on back to back drives in the second quarter.

The play from the underclassmen was certainly better than Enderle's, but, like Locker's statistics can be deceiving.

Arkansas' Ryan Mallett had an apparent field day against Louisiana-Monroe (28/43, 400 yards, 3 TDs/1 INT), but the same issues that concerned me before remain. Mallett has a tendency to not set his feet, relying on his admittedly very strong arm to thread the needle. Against this caliber of defense he can get away it. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers or Green Bay Packers? Not so much. Don't let his numbers fool you. Remember, Bobby Petrino's offense helped Brian Brohm (Packers) get drafted in the second round.

Even Heisman favorite (at least mine) Terrelle Pryor (12/27, 233 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, 113 rushing yards, 1 TD) wasn't as dazzling throughout the game as the highlights you may have seen would indicate. Pryor, like Mallett, is inconsistent in setting his feet before he throws. Like Locker, he simply isn't accurate enough at this point to consistently complete tough throws in the NFL. Too many of his passes sailed over the head or bounced a yard in front of his receivers. In Pryor's (and Locker's) defense, the threat of his running allows him to be less accurate a passer.

Because the game didn't start until 10:30 pm EST, many didn't see any of redshirt sophomore Andrew Luck's performance against UCLA. Luck was his typical efficient (11/24, 152 yards, 2 TDs/0 INTs, 63 rushing yards) self and his Cardinal team thoroughly dominated the Bruins on their way to a 35-0 shellacking in the Rose Bowl.

Even still, while protected by a stout offensive line and an underrated receiving corps, Luck missed several wide open targets, including going 0-3 on some easy passes in the Cardinals' first offensive series. His two touchdown throws were easy tosses that any quarterback with a hope of making the NFL would make.

And so what does the collective struggles of these talented quarterbacks prove?

That - newsflash - playing quarterback at the BCS level is very difficult.

And that there is still plenty of work to be done by all six prospects before they are ready for the NFL.

Posted on: September 10, 2010 9:49 pm
 

Five seniors I'll be scouting closely Saturday

With three DVD burners running around the clock, I'll be recording nearly every televised college football game throughout the year. There is only so much time in the day, so I have to put some careful thought into picking the games (and more specifically, the prospects) each Saturday in which to scout live.

For most of the football-watching world, this weekend will be all about the NFL. I understand that. I'm as excited as anyone for the rest of the beginning of the opening weekend -- especially after the Saints and Vikings looked a bit rusty on Thursday night.

The NCAA season really amps up this weekend, however, with some of the more exciting matchups of the season scheduled. I'm particularly intrigued by the Ohio State-Miami, Florida State-Oklahoma, Penn State-Alabama matchups. A couple of others that haven't received the national hype they normally would due to the "Big Three" but that I'm verrrry interested to scout include Georgia at South Carolina, Colorado at California, Oregon at Tennessee and Stanford at UCLA.

Each Friday night/Saturday morning throughout the rest of the season I'll put up a similar post as this one. Should you like to scout "alongside" me, follow me on Twitter @ RobRang

These are five senior prospects I'll be watching closely:

QB Christian Ponder, Florida State: Ponder looked every bit the part of a high first round pick last Saturday, completing 14 of 16 passes for 169 yards and four touchdowns in the season opener. That, however, was against Samford. Needless to say, he might find the going a bit tougher in Norman, Saturday. Considering that the Sooners struggled defensively against a weaker opponent (Utah State), themselves, Ponder will certainly have Oklahoma's undivided attention. With a win and a strong performance, Ponder could move into the upper echelon of Heisman contenders. How he handles the noise and pressure of Oklahoma's aggressive defense will go a long way in proving to scouts that he's progressed from the poor decisions that ended his last road game. In that contest, at Clemson last year, Ponder threw four interceptions (he'd thrown only three in his previous eight games) and hurt his shoulder making a tackle of safety DeAndre McDaniel (on an interception return), ending Ponder's 2009 season. 

QB Nathan Enderle, Idaho:
Enderle entered the year as one of the more intriguing senior quarterbacks in the country. Long prior to scouts buzzing about former Vandal Mike Iupati, there were whispers that the Vandals had a legitimate NFL passing prospect. I'm certainly not expecting to see Enderle lead Idaho to an upset of Nebraska in Lincoln, but if the 6-4, 234 pound Enderle is to prove to NFL scouts that he has the moxie and arm strength to handle the pro game, he'll need to show something Saturday. The Cornhuskers are a bit of a step up in competition from last week's opponent, North Dakota. In that game, Enderle completed 24 of 37 passes for 311 yards, two TDs and an INT.

ILB Colin McCarthy, Miami: The great Miami teams of the past all seemingly boasted instinctive, athletic linebackers. In McCarthy, the 'Canes have one of the more intriguing and versatile linebackers in the ACC -- and that is saying something considering the talent in this conference. Wearing the same No. 44 that the legendary Dan Morgan starred with, McCarthy will have to enjoy a strong game against Ohio State if his defense is going to handle this multi-faceted offense. McCarthy doesn't necessarily have to post Morgan-like eye-popping statistics to help his grade in my eyes. He will, however, have to show great instincts and athleticism to contain Terrelle Pryor's running. That, in reality, might be the tougher assignment.

OC/OG Stefen Wisniewksi, Penn State: The play of Heisman-winner Mark Ingram and wideout Julio Jones might have earned many of the headlines, but anyone who watched the Tide throughout last year knows that Nick Saban's bunch won the National Championship based largely on the physicality and depth of their defense. Wisniewksi, the nephew of former Raider great, Steve, will have his hands full with this defensive line. He'll start at right guard, but we currently view his best pro position at center.

OT Nate Solder, Colorado: The Buffs have struggled through some lean years recently, but with Solder, the team boasts its highest rated offensive prospect since tight end Daniel Graham was the 21st overall pick of the 2002 draft (Patriots). Solder, who despite the presence of No. 4 and No. 6 overall picks Trent Williams and Russell Okung, earned First Team All-Big 12 honors from conference coaches last year, is currently rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 senior offensive tackle. The veteran of 29 starts, Solder possesses rare size (6-8, 302) and yet is still quite nimble. He'd be better be Saturday, considering the variety of pass rushers he'll face against California's unique (at least for college) 3-4 scheme. Among those pass rushers is Cal's Cameron Jordan. Their individual battle could be one of the country's best, if most unheralded, of the day.


Posted on: August 5, 2010 4:03 pm
 

Pac-10 film room notes

Over the past few weeks I've posted notes on my impressions of the senior talent in the ACC and SEC. Perenially two of the "power" conferences, I wasn't surprised at all to see that each group boasted a high number of legitimate top 100 senior prospects.

With the exception of Washington quarterback Jake Locker and Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea, the Pac-10, however, appears relatively weak -- at least in terms of senior NFL prospects.

Here are my preseason thoughts based on watching last year's film on every team in the conference.

  • Considering the sanctions levied by the NCAA and the relatively weak senior talent, Lane Kiffin is going to have his hands full at USC attempting to replace Pete Carroll. Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley looks like a future first round prospect and, of course, quarterback is the game's most critical position. The difference in talent between USC's second string and some of the other top schools in the Pac-10 (Oregon, for example) had always been an underrated component in the Trojans' success. Sure, USC boasted first round talent at nearly every position on the field at one time or another, but it was their depth at every position that really stood out. When USC sent a Reggie Bush or Sedrick Ellis to the NFL, they had a Joe McKnight or Fili Moala there to pick up the slack. That, however, doesn't appear to be the case this year. One of the more intriguing USC athletes this season who could break out is senior outside linebacker Michael Morgan, a 6-4, 230 pounder with obvious athleticism. Playing time has been tough to come by considering the talent USC had at linebacker, but Morgan, like many of USC's highly rated young talent, flashes on film, but appears to be a better athlete than football player. Let me put it this way -- I'm being asked to write a Pac-10 preview soon. In the article I'll feature the top ten senior prospects in the conference. USC has more of those players than any other school -- but I wouldn't rate any of them (RBs Allen Bradford, CJ Gable, WR Ronald Johnson, C Kristopher O'Dowd, Morgan) as a top 50 prospect. Cornerback Shareece Wright may end up the highest drafted senior Trojan -- as he's a talented player -- but he's missed virtually the past two years due to injury and academic suspension. Stanley Havili is my top-rated fullback in the country, but where has USC gone if their top-rated prospect plays fullback...?
  • The face of the conference -- and perhaps the Heisman race -- is clearly Locker. Possessing a combination of arm strength, running ability and guts that have led to comparisons to John Elway, Locker simply needs to continue to develop the intricacies of the position to earn his place as NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior prospect. Locker isn't there yet, but he is capable of making the "wow" play that can't be coached. I don't actually expect Locker to win the Heisman. He's got too many things working against him -- not the least of which is a porous offensive line that will be sorely tested against Nebraska in September. But Locker is the conference's best player. And folks, it ain't even close.
  • One of the more underrated prospects in the Pac-10 is California defensive end Cameron Jordan. With Cal playing in the 3-4, Jordan (6-4, 285) didn't rack up the numbers last year (43 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 5 sacks) to warrant a great deal of national acclaim -- especially considering the attention that his teammate Tyson Alualu earned. Jordan, however, is a good athlete and possesses good strength at the point of attack, which makes him an ideal fit for this scheme. If Jordan played in the Big 12 or SEC, he'd be earning a great deal more attention. In fact, I'd rate Jordan as a very similar prospect to South Carolina's Cliff Matthews, who is earning some All-American hype.
  • There is bound to be a great deal of attention this season on Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews, considering the success of his older brother Clay Jr. with the Green Bay Packers and, of course, the earlier success of father (Clay) and uncle (Bruce Mathews). Unless Casey is able to duplicate the remarkable one-year turnaround of his older brother (who came to USC as a walk-on and turned himself into a first round pick), the lack of attention -- at least from NFL scouts -- may be surprising. Voted a Second-team All-Pac-10 choice last year with 81 tackles, Matthews breaks down well in space, but doesn't fight through blocks well enough yet to play inside and lacks the straight-line speed to beat backs to the edge. Oregon, which has often historically relied on athleticism rather than size and strength on the defensive line, is surprisingly stout up front. Senior defensive lineman Brandon Bair flashed some intriguing pass rush ability given his size (6-6, 268) and the fact that Oregon often lined him up inside, but he's older than most prospects given the fact that he took two years off for an LDS mission prior to playing for the Ducks. 
  • I typically reserve judgement on players until they are at least entering their senior season. However, with all of the attention surrounding the underclassmen quarterbacks I posted some thoughts on Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and thus, here are my thoughts after having time to scout Stanford's Andrew Luck. Some of the areas in which concerned me about Mallett (footwork, ability to read defenses) I found Luck to be surprisingly effective given his lack of experience. He certainly has the arm-strength and accuracy scouts are looking for and he has a terrific coach in Jim Harbaugh. If Luck is able to string together another season like 2009, he is a definite first round prospect and quite possibly competes with Locker, Ponder and Mallett (among others) to be the first passer selected. That said, Luck had the great fortune of playing second fiddle to Toby Gerhart last year. He's an extremely talented player, but don't count me among the shocked if there is a bit of a sophomore slump this season as defenses focus more on stopping the passing game. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com