Posted on: October 15, 2010 1:46 pm
Each weekend I list the five senior prospects I'll be focusing on. These are players who appear to have challenging matchups that will help determine how well they'll be able to make the transition to the pro game.
A noteworthy performance (either positive or negative) can result in the player being profiled in our upcoming edition of Draft Slant, NFLDraftScout.com's weekly PDF file for premium subscribers.
Last week I profiled Michigan State inside linebacker Greg Jones, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller, LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis and UCLA defensive tackle David Carter. Nevis enjoyed a spectacular game against Florida and earned my Prospect of the Week honors. Miller wasn't as impressive as his statline would lead you to believe -- something I went over in detail in the current issue of Draft Slant.
Here are this week's Five to Watch:
OLB Mark Herzlich, Boston College: One could make the argument that Herzlich should be a focus each and every week, considering his amazing recovery from Ewing's Sarcoma. I'm particularly interested in how he does in this game considering the versatility of the Florida State offense and the weather. On the one hand, considering Herzlich's recovery, it may not be realistic to expect that he'll handle the heat and humidity of this game as well as his teammates. However, with the regular season halfway over, scouts have to be sure that Herzlich is getting back into real football shape. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.
RB Delone Carter, Syracuse: Carter has been impressive this season, rushing for 524 yards and five touchdowns so far. That said, his opponents have been less than impressive -- Akron, Washington, Maine, Colgate, South Florida. Without Greg Romeus, this Pitt defense isn't as dominant as we may have expected heading into the season, but Dave Wannestadt will have this team crowing the line of scrimmage to slow down the Orange rushing attack. How Carter handles the extra attention will be key. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.
OT Lee Ziemba, Auburn: Tiger quarterback Cam Newton has been as impressive as any young passer in the country so far this season, but his veteran offensive line, including Ziemba, have been a major contributor to his success. The biggest difference I've noted in the success this year of the Razorbacks hasn't been the improvement of their talented passer, Ryan Mallett, but greater speed and physicality of the Arkansas defense -- especially in the front seven. Ziemba, who isn't a great athlete and may have to move to OG in the NFL, will have his hands full in this contest. How he and his linemates hold up could be the determining factor in one of the best games of the week. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.
WR Niles Paul, Nebraska: Paul is one of the nation's top senior receivers. In fact, I'm convinced that the versatile athlete (WR/RS) would contend for All-American honors if he played on an offense that featured him. Instead, he's relegated to only a few receptions a game for a Cornhuskers team that has been able to beat teams only running the ball and playing their typical stellar defense. This is a proud Texas Longhorn defense that Paul and his teammates will be facing, so the running may be tough. Paul won't face a better secondary all season long (well, except in practice) than this one -- at least until he earns an invitation to the Senior Bowl. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.
OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin: It is only because I list the games in chronological order that I have Carimi placed this low in the post. In reality, his one on one showdown against Ohio State's Cameron Heyward is far and away the best individual matchup of the weekend. If the Badgers can successfully run on the Buckeyes and keep Terrelle Pryor on the sideline, they have a chance to pull off the upset against Ohio State. Heyward will often line up against Carimi. At other times, he'll slide inside a bit and line up against senior guard John Moffitt, himself a solid NFL prospect. It should make for an excellent scouting opportunity for all three prospects, which is why this game is expected to have a dozen or more NFL scouts on hand. This game begins at 7:00 pm EST and will be telvised by ABC/ESPN.
Posted on: September 12, 2010 11:31 am
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
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: September 8, 2010 1:06 pm
Subscribers of NFLDraftScout.com's weekly PDF file on the latest happenings in the world of college football and the NFL draft will be receiving their first premium issue of Draft Slant today.
Posted on: July 12, 2010 12:40 pm
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.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Alabama, Andrew Luck, Archie Manning, Arkansas, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Case Keenum, Chris Simms, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Eli Manning, Florida State, Greg McElroy, Houston, Jacory Harris, Jake Locker, Jerrod Johnson, Jordan Jefferson, Kellen Moore, LSU, Matt Simms, Miami, Mississippi, Nathan Stanley, Nevada, Nicholls State University, North Carolina, Northwestern State, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Peyton Manning, Phil Simms, Ryan Mallett, Stanford, T.J. Yates, Taylor Potts, Tennessee, Terrelle Pryor, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tyler Wolfe, Washington
Posted on: June 7, 2010 7:25 pm
The two scouting organizations that most NFL teams rely on for off-season scouting of college prospects -- National Scouting and BLESTO -- held their annual spring meetings just a few weeks ago. From these meetings come the rankings of senior prospects which NFL teams then use as a "starting point" from which to narrow the field of tens of thousands of collegiate players who would love an opportunity to play professional football to the relatively low number of 1,000 (or so) senior players who actually have enough athleticism and size to warrant taking a closer look.
Though much will be made of the player(s) who earn the highest preseason grades, take the cautionary tales of former top-rated prospects Michael Johnson (3rd round), Greg Hardy (6th round), Quentin Moses (3rd round) -- athletic pass rushers who slipped to mid rounds or later after disappointing senior campaigns.
The 2010-11 reports haven't yet made the rounds. However, after a beginning my scouting of senior prospects for the 2011 draft, there are only four players that I feel deserve consideration for the right to be called the "best senior prospect" entering next season.
Considering that the first eight players selected in the 2010 draft came from the Big 12 or SEC, these traditional powerhouse conferences could take a step back this year.... at least in terms of producing extremely highly rated preseason senior prospects.
Washington quarterback Jake Locker is my highest rated prospect. As I mentioned in this introductory 2011 article , however, Locker is far from the sure thing he's been labeled by some. We all know that quarterbacks often end up being selected No. 1 overall due to the value of the position, but for the National and BLESTO rankings, position value isn't necessarily taken into account. I'd be surprised, quite honestly, if Locker is the top-rated senior prospect for either organization.
The most NFL-ready of the top prospects and the player I believe to be the likeliest to have earned the top billing is Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward . Explosive enough to play defensive end and large enough to project inside at defensive tackle, the late Ironhead Heyward's son really came on down the stretch last season and due to his size and athleticism will be viewed by some as possessing unparalled upside.
It would be a bit ironic if Heyward earned the top mark in either list as another Big Ten defensive lineman, Iowa's Adrian Clayborn was unquestionably the better, more consistent player in 2010. At 6-3, 285, however, Clayborn may lack the size and upside NFL scouts require for a supremely high grade at this time. History has proven that the National and BLESTO scouts have often been more interested in elite athletes with a high upside rather than consistent football players.
Due to the upside conversation, yet another Big Ten standout has a chance to be the surprise top senior prospect. Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi has been compared to Joe Thomas since he arrived on campus. Though he's prone to mental lapses, there is no denying the 6-8, 315 pound Carimi has the athleticism to handle the blindside in the NFL. His fluidity and aggression could result in a high grade -- though he'll need to play with more consistency to ultimately earn this high of a draft selection.
Posted on: February 26, 2010 4:51 pm
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: April 8, 2009 3:34 pm
With only 2 1/2 weeks until the draft, two of this classes' biggest names are going in opposite directions -- and their stock fluctuation could prove to be one of the real stories of the draft.
Anyone who has watched Beanie Wells throughout his career with the Buckeyes knows of his talent. Physically-speaking, he is clearly the best RB in this class, though questions about his consistency and toughness have caused many (including me) to rank Georgia's Knowshon Moreno as this year's best back.Wells, frankly, was disappointing even before the mysterious leg injury that robbed him of his effectiveness last season.
Scouts diligently reviewing Well's 2007 film, however, see a different back. A Larry Johnson, perhaps even Adrian Peterson-like combination of size and power. I've taken some angry comments from Packers' fans due to my projecting Wells to Green Bay in my latest mock draft. Certainly the team has other, greater needs, but there are many teams within the top ten considering Wells. His physical tools are just so great that some team, scouts tell me, is likely to pull the trigger earlier than most are anticipating.
On the flipside, Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo seems to be slipping down boards. I've spoken to scouts who operate for teams using the 4-3 and 3-4 alignments and each club is souring on the Longhorn pass-rusher. The more film teams do on Orakpo, the more they are left wondering if he is explosive and persistent enough to consistently generate a pass rush against NFL left tackles or, for that matter, agile enough to drop back into coverage. Orakpo's imposing build is impressive to look at, but belies his career-long struggles with durability, as well; another element that scouts are mentioning as a reason he could slip out of the top ten -- and perhaps considerably farther than that.