Posted on: October 29, 2010 5:01 pm

5 "other" prospects I'll be focusing on Saturday

As I mentioned in the previous post, I'll be attending the Stanford-Washington game Saturday afternoon primarily to scout quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Jake Locker.

That said, while gone, the DVDs will be burning away on the games featuring these five "other" intriguing prospects, as well.

WR Denarius Moore, Tennessee: True sophomore wideout Alshon Jeffrey for the Gamecocks will receive most of the attention (as well he should), but scouts are intrigued by the flashes from Moore. The 6-1, 195 pounder with 4.4 speed has impressed in the past with his playmaking ability and has emerged in this, his senior season, just as former Vols Montario Hardesty and Dan Williams did last year. Moore was knocked out of the Alabama game last week after taking a wicked hit, but is expected to be fine for this matchup. I'm interested to see how he does against a typically stingy and athletic South Carolina secondary. This game begins at 12:20 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.

QB Ricky Stanzi, Iowa: I pointed out the improved play of Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins earlier in the week, but his counterpart in this contest deserves every bit as much acknowledgement. Stanzi has always flashed the skill set scouts were looking for, but the strong-armed quarterback had been besieged with costly turnovers. Last year Stanzi completed 56.3% of his passes and threw for an unacceptable 17-15 TD to INT ratio. This season Stanzi's improved play (68.1% completion rate, 16/2 TD-INT ratio) is a major factor in Iowa's 5-2 beginning. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.

CB Janoris Jenkins, Florida*
: I typically only highlight senior prospects in this preview, but this is the game I've circled all year long in grading Jenkins. At times, he'll be matched up against Georgia star A.J. Green and that pairing offers scouts an opportunity to see how the playmaking, but undersized Jenkins might hold up in the NFL. Jenkins started off the season with a huge interception and return for a score in the opener against an overmatched Miami (Ohio) club, but hasn't done nearly as well since. If he is to consider leaving early for the NFL, as is the belief among many scouts, he'll need to step up his game soon. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska : In case you missed it, Amukamara was beaten up a bit by sophomore Justin Blackmon during last weekend's showdown against Oklahoma State. Blackmon, the nation's leading receiver with 62 grabs for 1,112 yards and 14 TDs already caught five passes for 157 yards and two scores, including a dazzling 80-yard score matched up one on one against Amukamara. I pointed out Cornhusker Niles Paul last week as a player who enjoyed a strong bounce-back performance after a prime-time meltdown. Scouts would like to see how Amukamara reacts Saturday after his uncharacteristic struggles. Amukamara and the rest of the 'Huskers will certainly have their hands full against a dynamic Mizzou offense led by junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.

DL Brandon Bair, Oregon: With the Ducks' offense seemingly scoring points at will, it has been hard for any Oregon defender to gain much attention, but with a conference-leading 13 tackles for loss, the 6-6 268 pound Bair certainly deserves it. Bair, who sees action at both defensive end and defensive tackle for the Ducks, could prove key in the big Pac-10 matchup Saturday night against USC. Several are just tuning into Bair's play now. I noticed Bair's play during preseason film review of last year, but as I mentioned then, Bair will have a hard time moving up boards too much considering his age. Bair, who will turn 27 in November, spent two years on an LDS mission prior to beginning his play with the Ducks. This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised by ABC. 

Posted on: October 10, 2010 10:39 pm

Dazzling/dreary weekend for young pass-catchers

Many of the most interesting NFL and NCAA games over the weekend featured spectacular individual efforts from some of today's best and most athletic pass-catchers.

Unfortunately, there were also some tough injuries to good young pass-catchers that ultimately could take some of the polish from their position-mates' great performances.

In the NFL, standout games from the Giants' Hakeem Nicks (12 receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans), the Chargers' Malcolm Floyd (eight catches for 213 yards and a score against the Raiders), the Cowboys' Miles Austin (nine receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown against the Titans) and the Broncos' Brandon Lloyd (five catches for 135 yards and two scores against Baltimore) put an exclamation point to a Saturday full of big plays by some of the nation's best young receiver prospects.

Among the highligths, was South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery catching seven passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns to help the Gamecocks upset Alabama. LSU's Terrance Toliver -- who needed a strong game to save his falling stock -- responded with a six-catch, 111 yard, two touchdown (including the game-winner with six seconds left) to beat the Gators. Eighteen year-old true freshman Robert Woods was even more productive in USC's loss to Stanford, hauling in 12 passes for 224 yards and three scores.

That was the good news. The bad -- and we won't know just how bad we're talking until Monday's MRIs -- could prove just as newsworthy.

For all of the spectacular plays made by pass-catchers over the weekend, there were troubling injuries to some of the NFL's most intriguing breakout stars and college football's best senior prospects.

St. Louis' Mark Bradley, who had developed a quick rapport with rookie Sam Bradley, was carted off the field in Detroit after sustaining a knee injury that is expected to knock him out for the season. Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, an emerging superstar, went down with what the Packers' official site is characterizing as a "hamstring ligament" injury, but certainly looked bad.  Denver first round pick Demaryius Thomas was sidelined with head and neck injuries after a big hit against Baltimore. Peyton Mannings' newest toy, undrafted free agent Blair White, also suffered neck injuries in the Colts' win over the Chiefs. In each case, the young breakout players never returned to the game after sustaining their injury.

The injury front could prove equally bad if the early reports across the college landscape are correct. Oregon State's James Rodgers and Cecil Shorts III of Mount Union each went down Saturday with injuries. Rodgers, rated by NFLDraftScout.com as a potential 3rd round pick prior to injury, suffered an ugly injury to his left knee as he scored a touchdown against Arizona. Even worse for Beaver fans, Rodgers' score was called back due to a penalty.

Few fans have heard of Shorts III, but scouts certainly know of him. He was viewed by some as the elite "small school" prospect entering the year and caught 100 passes for 1,736 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. Shorts III was held out of the second half of undefeated OAC power Mount Union's 28-14 victory over Marietta after sustaining an injury on  punt return in the second quarter.

Posted on: October 4, 2010 1:10 pm

Locker bests WR, DE for Player of the Week

There were several noteworthy performances on Saturday that deserved recognition. In fact, I changed my mind on this award three times over the course of the day of scouting.

Miami wideout Leonard Hankerson deserves acknowledgement. The 6-3, 215 pound senior caught seven passes for a career-high 145 yards and tied the school record with three touchdown receptions against Clemson. Hankerson beat a tough Tiger defense deep on long scores twice, showing off better vertical speed than some have credited him with in the past. He also used his big body and much-improved hands to snatch a quick slant for his third touchdown. Perhaps the catch that was most important, was a 10-yard reception on third down that allowed the 'Canes to kick an easy field goal midway through the fourth quarter. That score, which extended Miami's lead to nine points, was critical as the Tigers were building momentum. As I noted on Twitter , Leonard Hankerson was a favorite to earn Player of the Week following his performance.

Two other performances later in the day, however, overtook him.

Adrian Clayborn provided the production against the Nittany Lions we've been expecting to see all season long, notching a game-high ten tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack in a key Big Ten showdown. The effort, which earned Clayborn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week accolades, was a resounding bounceback for Clayborn as his numbers previous to this game have been rather pedestrian (15 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss). Most opponents have elected to double-team Clayborn. Penn State did, as well, on multiple occasions. When they didn't -- and often when they did -- he made them pay.

Following Clayborn's effort, I was convinced he'd be my choice as Player of the Week. A "legendary" performance, however, changed my mind.

Considering the horrific game he'd had against Nebraska two weeks ago, Washington quarterback Jake Locker needed a strong performance against USC to right the ship. Locker certainly delivered, leading the Huskies to a comeback win that was eerily similar to the one he engineered last year to upset the Trojans in Seattle. Locker wasn't perfect on the night. He lost a fumble that went through the back of the end zone for a USC touchback and, again, missed some wide open receivers. However, he completed 24 of 40 passes for 310 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another 110 yards in the game and made the big plays when the Huskies desperately needed them. His best play made have been an 18-yard completion to WR D'Andre Goodwin on 4th and 10 in the closing seconds that put UW in position to kick the winning field goal. On the play, Locker stepped up in the pocket, considered scrambling for, saw Goodwin clear the defender and fired a strike. It is this type of poise and accuracy in the clutch that scouts have been waiting to see from Locker. Husky coach Steve Sarkisian, in fact, characterized Locker's effort Saturday night as "legendary."

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: August 7, 2010 2:25 pm

Top-rated fullback Havili banned at USC

A few days ago I noted that the talent level at USC had dropped so much that arguably their best senior prospect was fullback Stanley Havili.

Lane Kiffin's Trojans are that much less talented now with the news that Havili has been banned from USC practices and other team activities indefinitely after punching teammate T.J. Bryant during a fight at practice.

Havili reportedly apologized "profusely" to his teammates and the coaching staff for the incident. Bryant, a junior cornerback competing for a starting role this fall, was forced to undergo surgery Thursday after x-rays revealed more significant damage had been done than originally thought. Despite the injury and his expected month-long rehabilitation putting him behind in his quest for playing time, Bryant reportedly "begged" the USC coaching staff to not discipline Havili.

Kiffin, however, felt he had no choice but to ban Havili, a three year starter who currently ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated fullback and a potential mid-round selection.

"I continue to be very disappointed in Stanley's decision-making," Kiffin said. "We talk about protecting this team, and it's just very disappointing from somebody I don't know if I've ever been disappointed in. I've been so disappointed because it's so unexpected."

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. 
Posted on: April 26, 2010 11:50 pm

My all undrafted lineup -- offense

Each year there are players who slip through the cracks into undrafted free agency that, quite frankly, I'm stunned aren't drafted.

Here is my list of players who were undrafted but I feel could find a roster spot in the NFL.

Today I'm highlighting the offensive players (as well as their NFL franchise). Tomorrow I'll list the defensive players.

QB: Jarrett Brown, West Virginia (signed with San Francisco)
RB: Keiland Williams, LSU (signed with Washington)
FB: Rashawn Jackson, Virginia (signed with Carolina)
TE: Colin Peek, Alabama (signed with Atlanta)
WR: Blair White, Michigan State (signed with Indianapolis)
WR: Seyi Ajirotutu, Fresno State (signed with San Diego)
OT: Casey Knips, South Dakota State (signed with Arizona)
OG: Ciron Black, LSU (signed with Pittsburgh)
C: Kenny Alfred, Washington State (signed with Tennessee)
OG: Jeff Byers, USC (signed with Seattle)
OT: Levi Horn, Montana (signed with Chicago)
Posted on: April 24, 2010 10:12 am
Edited on: April 24, 2010 10:36 am

4th is where workout warriors make sense

I'll admit that I was one of the media members who bought a little into the hype with workout warriors Everson Griffen and Bruce Campbell, the defensive end and offensive tackle from USC and Maryland, respectively.

Based on the film, however, I've steadily argued that they were being overrated and that some team was going to be disappointed if they invested a top 50 pick in them.

Griffen, in particular, is likely to disappoint. He signed with USC as one of the truly elite prep talents in the country, but had been a significant disappointment until this past season. Even this year, it was obvious that his motor ran hot and cold.

With Campbell, the classic "Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane" description applies.

Both, however, are well worth a 4th round pick, as they have the prerequisite athleticism and build to play in the NFL.

And after earning so much media hype throughout their respective careers, dropping to the fourth round could provide a very effective serving of humble pie.

Motivated, both players could develop into starters. Considering we're 100 picks into the draft (99, technically, with the selection of Mardy Gilyard by the Rams), the timing is right.

EDIT --- The Minnesota Vikings must have thought so too, taking Griffen with the 100th pick.
EDIT 2 --- The Oakland Raiders used the 106th pick on Campbell.

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