Tag:Arkansas
Posted on: August 31, 2010 10:49 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2010 11:50 pm
 

Five breakout NFL players

On draft day each year, amid the excitement and bustle, I always find one aspect of scouting to be, well, bittersweet.

Follow along with me a moment.

It is impossible in this business to not develop favorite prospects through the course of a year. Often, I've characterized some of these favorites in an article that we, NFLDraftScout.com, affectionately refer to as Rang's Gang .

The players featured in Rang's Gang aren't supposed to be the best. In fact, the only real rule is that they aren't supposed to be first round prospects. Considering I write each year's article a month or so before the draft, sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised that a club feels as highly about the player as I do and my "rule" is broken.

Typically, however, these are mid-round players who have legitimate NFL talent and have demonstrated some intangible (e.g., instincts, determination, physicality, technique, etc.) that caused them to stand out (at least to me) from their peers.

Now the bittersweet part.

Unfortunately, on draft day, I sometimes see these "favorites" placed into tough situations. There are prospects, for example, who I feel are best suited to one scheme but are drafted into another. Or, talented players drafted behind starters in their primes, potentially meaning limited playing time. Or, players, who after interviewing them, I've felt might do best working for a "player-friendly" coach -- and then are drafted into a team with a strict disciplinarian.

Some players are so talented all they need is an opportunity.

Others, toll in relative anonymity until a change in scenery, scheme, coaching staff or a veteran moving on give them a freer lane to NFL success.

Here are 5 players I think find that lane this year.

CB Josh Wilson, Ravens: A second round pick by the Seahawks in 2007, Wilson has started 23 games the past two seasons, demonstrating true playmaking ability on a struggling defense. His lack of height (5-09) made him an immediate tough fit in Pete Carroll's scheme that prefers taller corners, so his trade to the Ravens, however, wasn't shocking. Wilson has returned three of his six INTs the past two years for touchdowns and is the Seahawks' all-time leader in kickoff return average (25.76) with a TD scored his rookie year. His height is obviously an issue -- especially considering the big receivers of the AFC North. Wilson plays bigger than his height due to physicality and pure speed. He was "officially" clocked at 4.39 seconds at the 2007 Combine. Here's the thing. If Wilson was able to make this many plays for the Seahawks' anemic pass rush (more on this later), imagine how much more effective he could be with the Ravens' defense around him. 

RB Peyton Hillis, Browns: Characterized by some as little more than a throw-in for the Browns in the trade that made Brady Quinn a Denver Bronco, Hillis, I believe, will emerge as one of the league's best young fullbacks this year. Hillis' overall athleticism and versatility intrigued me back when he played at Arkansas. This guy played fullback, tailback, H-back, tight end and wide receiver in the SEC. Not only that, the 6-2, 250 pounder was the Razorbacks' punt returner at a time when Darren McFadden and Felix Jones were the supposed future NFL stars. In fact, Hillis already has seven touchdowns in only two NFL seasons. Seven not so impressive, you say? Jones has scored six touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys, thus far. McFadden, for the Raiders, has only five.

DE Chris Clemons, Seahawks: Clemons, entering his seventh NFL season, is older than the others on this list. He is an example of a player whose new environment is going to help him tremendously. Clemons, originally an undrafted free agent out of Georgia who signed with the Redskins, has flashed as an outside pass rusher with the Raiders and Eagles. Those two defenses featured other talented pass rushers during Clemons' tenure, limiting his opportunities for production. He was fast off the edge; just not fast enough on teams featuring Derrick Burgess, Warren Sapp and Trent Cole. Clemons has had success before. He, opposite Burgess in 2007 with the Raiders, collected 8 sacks. He's never topped four any other year of his career. Unless injured, he should have no problem rejuvenating his career this season with Seattle. Clemons is quicker upfield than anyone else on Seattle's front four. With the noise generated at Qwest Field, Clemons could push his career numbers simply because someone, sometime has to register a pass rush for the Seahawks.

WR Jacoby Jones, Texans: Some of you will claim I'm jumping on the bandwagon with Jones, as it is no secret he's been a preseason star this year for the Texans. In reality, I've been driving the bandwagon (as well as changing the oil and fixing the brakes ) with Jones long before he ever teamed up with Matt Schaub. Jones has been making big plays as the Texans' third wideout, but his production this year could rival most team's No. 2.

QB Kevin Kolb, Eagles: This is what it comes down to for me in regards to Kolb. Sure, it was a risk by Andy Reid to trade Donovan McNabb, but consider this. Mike Holmgren, who was Bill Walsh's QB coach from 1986-1988, knew Matt Hasselbeck could run his offense when he left Brett Favre and Green Bay for Seattle. Andy Reid, Holmgren's QB coach in Green Bay in 1997-1998, obviously feels that it is Kolb's time. That's good enough for me -- (especially when I scouted Kolb in the preseason ). Kolb's poise, accuracy and quick release could make him a quick star in this offense.




Posted on: August 9, 2010 8:24 pm
 

DT Powe "very excited" Masoli coming to Ole Miss

NFLDraftScout.com will soon be continuing our series of articles previewing the top ten prospects for each of the major conferences. My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter began the process by listing the top ten prospects of non-BCS conferences in an article here.

I drew the SEC among my four conference previews. As part of the previews, we decided to do a feature article on one senior prospect from each conference that we felt were not only potentially top prospects for the 2011 NFL draft, but interesting stories, as well. Chad featured Troy wideout Jernell Jernigan , a quality slot receiver prospect with verified 4.3 speed, for the non-BCS story.

The supremely talented SEC is always fertile grounds for quality prospects. I considered LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, as well as offensive tackles Demarcus Love (Arkansas) and Derrek Sherrod (Mississippi State), but instead elected to go with the player I felt was the most physically dominant prospect in the conference -- Mississippi defensive tackle Jerrell Powe.

The 6-2, 313 pound (weighed yesterday) Powe was an entertaining interview. His enthusiasm for improving his own game and that of the Ole Miss football team, as a whole, was obvious and clearly heart-felt.

I can't give away all of the details of the story here. His past academic and weight struggles, relationships with former Ole Miss stars Michael Oher, Peria Jerry and Jamarca Sanford and why he elected to come back for his senior season are all covered in the story.

Perhaps the most interesting element of the interview, however, came when I asked him about former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli signing with Ole Miss. Some have questioned Houston Nutt's decision to add Masoli. Some believe Masoli's checkered past will be just another distraction for a team that struggled last year amid big expectations.

Powe, however, could hardly contain his excitement.

"I'm excited. Very excited," he told me in a phone interview this morning prior to practice. "We just got done with a team run and some of the other guys on the team had been on Twitter and Facebook and all that mess and they were saying that Jeremiah Masoli was going to be coming here. I got a chance last year a couple of times to watch him play and I've never seen anyone run the zone-read the way he runs it. So me and some of the other seniors, went to the coaches like, 'Hey, we've got to go get this guy.'"

The articles -- my SEC preview and the feature on Powe -- are currently scheduled to run on NFLDraftScout.com Thursday.
Posted on: July 27, 2010 10:19 am
Edited on: July 27, 2010 6:35 pm
 

As promised, my SEC notes after film review

After a short hiatus to the coast of Washington State to chase the elusive chinook salmon, here are the SEC film room notes I had promised.

Again, I fully recognize that there have been many off-field stories that have broken recently -- the ongoing NCAA investigations , important rookie signings and, unfortunately, the terrible accident that fractured the skull of Baltimore pass rusher Sergio Kindle, thereby endangering his rookie season and perhaps even his NFL career. 
There are so many off-field news stories right now that I am trying to focus on the action that takes places between the white lines. I posted my thoughts on what surprised/disappointed/impressed me after my initial review of ACC prospects a few days ago.

Here are my thoughts after scouting the top senior prospects in the SEC.

  • In the opinion of many NFL scouts, the essential difference between the SEC and the rest of college football is the different talent and depth the Southeastern Conference boasts along the defensive line. Though a few teams have narrowed the gap (North Carolina and Pittsburgh chief among them), the SEC again is loaded up front with run-stuffers and pass-rushers. Mississippi nose guard Jerrell Powe is currently our top-ranked prospect from the conference. He is quickly followed by pass rushers Pernell McPhee (Mississippi State) and Cliff Saunders (South Carolina). Powe has been often compared to former Boston College standout (and current Green Bay Packer) B.J. Raji for his stout presence in the middle. Like Raji, who missed the 2007 season due to academic suspension, Powe has struggled to keep his grades in check. In fact, he was deemed ineligible three consecutive years from 2005-2007. NFL teams will no doubt take Powe's academic struggles in mind when determining his final grade. What is obvious on film, however, is that he is a talented player who could physically compete immediately in the NFL.
  • The defensive line is typically what the SEC is known for, but this year the unique talent in the conference comes along the offensive line and at tight end. My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter broke down the conference's depth up front in a feature article here . No fewer than eight senior SEC offensive linemen are currently viewed as potential draft-worhty prospects. The conference also boasts NFLDraftScout.com's top three rated senior tight ends in South Carolina's Weslye Saunders, Tennessee's Luke Stocker and Arkansas' D.J. Williams. I was a bit underwhelmed with each of them, quite frankly. Saunders (6-5, 272) has incredible size and surprising overall athleticism, but isn't the speed threat most of today's NFL teams are looking for. Williams, at 6-2, 244 pounds, has some speed and is a tenacious blocker considering his size, but simply lacks the bulk for most clubs. The most well-rounded of the bunch is the 6-5, 252 pound Stocker, though he doesn't possess any skills on film that left me wowed, either.
  • Considering that they're the defending National Champions, it might surprise you to learn how few of the SEC's highly rated prospects play for Alabama. In defense of the Crimson Tide, many of their top-rated prospects who would be seniors this year elected to leave early (ILB Rolando McClain, CB Kareem Jackson, etc.). Furthermore, their depth and coaching is so good that some seniors seeing the field extensively for the first time in 2010 will no doubt emerge as legitimate prospects. However, at this point, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior Crimson Tide prospect is left tackle James Carpenter, currently viewed as a 3rd-4th round prospect -- and one likely to have make the transition inside to guard. Quarterback Greg McElroy, rated as a 6th-7th round prospect is next. Of course, considering the draft-eligible underclassmen on this team (Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Marcel Dareus, etc.), the Tide rolls on.
  • Speaking of Alabama, with all due respect to Heisman winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson is a fabulous NFL prospect in his own right. One that I feel could have been similarly productive in Alabama's offense had been given Ingram's attempts. Luckily for Nick Saban and Tide fans, as a true sophomore, Richardson has at least two more seasons in Tuscaloosa. He flashed first round talent as a true freshman...
  • Though I wouldn't rank them among the elite prospects in the conference just yet, a few players did flash on film that haven't generated a lot national attention just yet. I mentioned Alabama's Carpenter earlier. Auburn running back Mario Fannin is a terrific receiver who has popped off the tape throughout his career, but has never been able to string together the dominant season his skill-set seems capable of producing. Fannin has struggled with fumbles and injuries early in his career, but, if over both, could enjoy a breakout campaign in 2010. Kentucky wide receiver Chris Matthews, at 6-5, 222 pounds, surprised me with good body control and enough acceleration to think he could surprise, as well.
  • 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... 

Posted on: July 12, 2010 12:40 pm
 

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: March 1, 2010 1:44 pm
 

Georgia DT Jeff Owens posts 44 reps

Former SEC standout Mitch Petrus, a guard from Arkansas, tied the Combine record with 45 repetitions of 225 pounds late last week.

An old foe, Georgia defensive tackle Jeff Owens, nearly matched him Monday, lifting the bar 44 times.

Owens' prowess in the weight room is no surprise. While not blessed with great quickness, his strength at the point of attack has made him one of the better run stuffers in the conference over his career.

East Carolina defensive tackle Linval Joseph (39) and Owens' former teammate, Geno Atkins (34) and UCLA's Brian Price (34) also were quite impressive in the weight room.
Posted on: February 26, 2010 4:51 pm
 

Arkansas OG Petrus ties record with 45 reps

Considering that he's a former walk-on tight end whose only scholarship offer out of high school was a partial to Arkansas Tech, Razorback guard Mitch Petrus certainly is taking advantage of his opportunity to impress scouts this week.

Petrus, who had been moved to fullback for the 2006 season before switching back to guard, tied the Combine record with 45 repetitions of 225 pounds this afternoon.

Petrus told me his previous career high had been 35 repetitions, which he had hit "three or four weeks ago." He characterized his sudden explosion to 45 repetitions as a mixture of adrenaline and the can-do attitude that he'd learned as a walk-on.

"It's not luck, I can tell you that," Petrus said... "Not being the biggest, baddest guy on the field, I had to be the hardest working guy on the field. It is what got me through the 45 today. I didn't wake up this morning feeling like a totally different person. I'm not a freak of nature. I weighed 230 in high school. I weigh 310 now. I do whatever it takes. You reap what you sow."

Perhaps I'm a pessimist, but the eye-popping jump in his bench press and comment that he'd do "whatever it takes" led me to question just how valid Petrus' bench press total was. The last player to hit this mark was Ohio State's Mike Kudla in 2006. Kudla was not drafted.

So, I asked Petrus the question some of my fellow pessimists were thinking...

Petrus liked to scan the room as he answered previous questions, but he looked me straight in the eyes and smiled confidently with this answer.

"I'm clean. I just took a drug test (laughing). We'll soon find out."




Posted on: November 28, 2009 11:12 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2009 11:54 pm
 

LSU wins game, but loses LaFell?

LSU won an overtime thriller against a gutty Arkansas team, but may have lost the best senior receiver in the country in doing so.

One play before LSU kicker Josh Jasper hit the 36-yard field goal that would ultimately be the game-winner, LaFell dropped to one knee to try to make the catch of a poor pass from Jordan Jefferson. With his left knee bent behind him, LaFell was hit on his right side by Arkansas linebacker Jerry Franklin. The hit hyperextended LaFell's left knee, causing him to lie on his back for several moments in obvious pain. LaFell was able to walk off the field under his own power, but he had Tiger medical staff on either side of him in support and he was limping badly. With the game ending so soon after LaFell's injury, no news about the actual extent of LaFell's injury is likely to be released until Sunday, at the earliest.

The 6-3, 205 pound receiver had been highlighted as NFLDraftScout.com's Player of the Week after LSU's loss to Ole Miss last Saturday. There are few receivers of his size with the quick feet and feel for tight quarters to be used outside and in the slot. This versatility, along with his great strength after the catch, has made him one of the more highly touted receivers in the country over the past two seasons. 

Despite a largely inconsistent offense around him, LaFell has been a headliner. He leads the Tigers with 52 receptions for 703 yards and is tied for the SEC-lead with 10 touchdowns. LaFell caught 4 passes for 68 yards and a score against Arkansas, Saturday.



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