Posted on: December 27, 2011 11:42 am

Stoops' "gut feeling" changing on Landry Jones?

Oklahoma Sooners head coach verbalized to the media earlier in the week what many in the scouting community have been whispering behind closed doors -- that junior quarterback Landry Jones was likely to bypass the NFL and return for his senior season.

According to Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World, Stoops told him via a telephone interview that his "gut feeling" was that Jones would return in 2012.

"My gut feeling is that he'll stay," Stoops was quoted as saying in a Christmas Eve story. Later, when asked by Sittler if Matt Barkley's decision to return for his senior season might influence Jones' thought process, Stoops reportedly said, "I don't think that will matter. Landry's not sitting there basing his decision off what (other QBs) decide."

Stoops sounded like a man who got a peek at the presents under the tree and thought he'd seen his top choice. A few days later, however, and Stoops doesn't sound nearly as sure.

“What I feel doesn't matter,” Stoops is quoted by Travis Haney of the Daily Oklahoman following practice Monday evening “It's what [Jones] thinks about it, and right now he is far from making that decision.

“So, right now he's absolutely uncertain what he's going to do. He has plenty of time after the game to analyze it more.”

Stoops went so far as to question the source of the earlier Tulsa World report.

"I don't know where that came from," Stoops said when asked about the Sittler's story.

Whether Stoops is now simply exercising caution or has had a conversation with his quarterback that has forced him to take back his words is something that obviously only the head coach knows.

It would be easy to understand why Jones would come out early for the draft. At 6-4, 230 pounds and possessing a rocket for a right arm he certainly has the critical physical skills required to earn a first round pick. Having played in 38 games over the past three seasons, his statistics are impressive. Jones has passed for 12,218 yards and has a career touchdown to interception ratio of 92-40. He's broken virtually every game, season and career passing record at Oklahoma and, of course, potentially has another season to go to further distance himself from the top Sooner quarterbacks of the past.

Jones, however, has been plagued by inconsistent accuracy throughout his career especially when forced to move his feet. Considering that he's rarely pressured due to Oklahoma's reliance on the spread offense and the talent blocking up front for him, Jones' relative lack of composure in a muddied pocket is drawing red flags from scouts. So too is the fact that Jones hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since his star receiver Ryan Broyles went down with a season-ending knee injury November 5. Though he has the upcoming Insight Bowl against Iowa Friday to erase some bad memories, some have suggested that Jones wouldn't want to leave Oklahoma after having a poor showing against rival Oklahoma State in his final regular season game wearing a Sooner uniform. In that contest Jones completed just 27 of his 50 passes for 250 yards for zero scores and two interceptions. He also fumbled twice, one of which was returned for a Cowboys' touchdown. 

Jones is currently graded as a first round value by NFLDraftScout.com behind Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III. He is not among my top 32 prospects for the 2012 draft, however, and I rank Texas A&M senior quarterback Ryan Tannehill ahead of him along with Luck and Griffin. 
Posted on: December 26, 2011 11:13 am

QB Moore among 4 from Boise St invited to Sr Bowl

Quarterback Kellen Moore finished his career at Boise State with a 50-3 record. He'll get an opportunity to play in one more game with the familiar blue and orange Broncos helmet, as he and three other Boise State standouts have been invited to play in the 2012 Senior Bowl.

Running back Doug Martin, defensive lineman Billy Winn and safety George Iloka will join Moore in Mobile, Alabama for the nation's premier college football all-star game, according to a report from Chad Cripe of the Idaho Statesman.

While everyday college football fans might be surprised to see so many Broncos represented in this game, those paying attention are not. This senior class of Broncos enjoyed a spectacular run of 50 wins over the past four years, including a sparkling 6-0 record against automatic qualifying BCS teams like Oregon (twice), Oregon State, Georgia, Virginia Tech and Arizona State. Boise State finished ranked in the top 11 after each of these players' four seasons.

Kellen Moore gets all of the fanfare and rightfully so considering his gaudy statistics. He leaves Boise ranked first in wins (50) and interception percentage in college football history. Just 1.69% of Moore's 1,628 career passes were intercepted, compared to 142 passing touchdowns -- the second most in NCAA history.

At 6-0, 195 pounds, however, and possessing an adequate arm (at best), Moore is generally regarded as a late round or free agent NFL prospect. NFLDraftScout.com rates him as the 15th best quarterback likely to be available in the 2012 draft, in fact. My personal evaluation of Moore can be read here.

While Moore gets the hype, it will be Martin and Winn competing to be the first Bronco selected in the 2012 draft.

NFLDraftScout.com has ranked the 5-09, 210 pound Martin among the elite senior running back prospects in the country the entire season. I've given him a second round grade, but with the lower value most teams are now placing on running backs, NFLDraftScout.com is projecting him to go in the third. Martin, a hard-running back with arguably the most lethal spin move in college football, racked up an eye-popping 3,431 yards and 43 touchdowns over his Boise State career. Seeking a spark against Arizona State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas last Thursday the coaches put him back to receive kickoffs, something he'd done only 26 times previously in his career. Martin promptly returned the opening kickoff 100 for a score against the Sun Devils.

Winn lined up at defensive end and defensive tackle for the Broncos and scouts are projecting the 6-3, 300 pounder to provide similar versatility in the NFL. Winn only posted one sack this season among his 30 tackles (including six tackles for loss) so it isn't fair to expect him to attack the edge, but his size and power make him a natural run defender capable of lining up outside in the 3-4 and inside in the 4-3. Scouts would have liked to see more consistency out of Winn throughout his career, but he did have a tendency to enjoy some of his best games against top competition. Considering the relative lack of top-flight defensive linemen in the 2012 senior class, some believe he has a chance to parlay his Senior Bowl opportunity into a top 40 grade. Winn is currently graded by NFLDraftScout.com as the 53rd overall prospect and sixth among defensive ends.

Of the four prospects Iloka has received the least amount of fanfare, but Boise State has consistently churned out NFL-caliber defensive backs over the past several seasons, highlighted by the New York Jets making Kyle Wilson (another Senior Bowl standout) a first round pick two years ago. Bigger and potentially faster than some of the so-called "elite" safety prospects in the country, the 6-3, 213 pound Iloka has long been a standout at free safety for the Broncos and even slid to cornerback for a few games this season as Boise State was hit hard by injuries at the position. He was held without an interception in 2011 but finished second on the team with 57 tackles and has the fluidity and size combination to project as either a strong or free safety in the NFL. Iloka is currently ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 overall free safety prospect and third among seniors.

These four prospects could be joined by several other Boise State players to hear their name called out on draft weekend four months now. Pass rusher Shea McClellin and offensive tackle Nate Potter, in particular, are considered likely candidates to get drafted and could wind up with all-star invitations of their own shortly.

Posted on: December 24, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:44 pm

Utah State RB Turbin heading to NFL

Utah State running back Robert Turbin, who rushed for 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, is parlaying his monster 2011 campaign into an early entry into the NFL.

Largely due to Turbin's strong running, Utah State went to their first bowl game since 1997. For his exploits Turbin was voted the WAC's Offensive Player of the Year.

Turbin continued the recent trend of athletes breaking news via their Twitter accounts by announcing the news Friday.

Turbin, operating under the handle @RobT_33wrote:
Id like to Thank all the fans of Utah state for all ur support thru wins n losses, and thru injuries and health.. some of u already kno but after going back and forth with my decision I've decided that its best for me n my family to take the next n go pro.. I appreciate everyone who's helped me along the way and who has supported.. Utah state will continue to grow and hopefully I've left something new guys can improve on when they go in and get their opportunity..

For those who haven't seen Turbin, he's a virtual pinball of muscle. Possessing as impressive an upper body physique as any running back in the country (well, perhaps excluding Alabama's Trent Richardson), Turbin uses his strong arms and good leg drive to plow through defenders. He's hardly just a power runner, however, possessing surprising agility and acceleration for such a powerful back.

Turbin's decision wasn't a surprising one, considering the relatively short shelf life of running backs and the fact that Turbin missed the 2010 season with a torn ACL.

Rated by NFLDraftScout.com as a likely fourth round pick and the No. 11 running back overall, Turbin rushed for 3,315  yards and 40 touchdowns over his Aggie career. He's also a reliable receiver out of the backfield, having caught 67 passes for 845 yards and 11 more scores and is among the stouter pass blockers of this year's running back class.

Posted on: December 23, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:45 pm

Memphis DT Poe announces that he's heading to NFL

In the history of Memphis Tigers football there have been only two first round picks. The Carolina Panthers selected running back DeAngelo Williams 27th overall in 2006. The Kansas City Chiefs a decade earlier used the 28th overall pick on safety Jerome Woods.

Junior defensive tackle Dontari Poe is hoping to join these former Tigers as soon as possible, announcing via Twitter Friday that he is foregoing his senior season to enter the 2012 NFL draft.

Wrote Poe, under the handle @bigpoe74, "Big decision know I chose right.... NFL here I come."

The news, initially reported by John Taylor of CollegeFootballTalk.com, does not come as a surprise. Listed at 6-5, 350 pounds, Poe had emerged as one of the elite defensive line prospects in the entire country this season and was prominently featured in both my own first round projection, as well as that of NFLDraftScout.com's new analyst, Dane Brugler. Each of us, in fact, are projecting the Houston Texans to make Poe the 26th overall pick.

Despite being constantly double-teamed whether he played inside or out, Poe registered 33 tackles, including eight tackles for loss this season for the Tigers. He was voted the team's defensive MVP following the season and was known in scouting circles to be strongly considering taking advantage of the relative lack of top senior defensive tackles available this year.

With his incredible size, Poe is an obvious candidate for 3-4 teams looking for nose guards, thus Dane and I's projection with the Houston Texans. Poe, however, is remarkably light on his feet for a man of his huge size and therefore will also be strongly scouted by teams using the more traditional four man front, as well.

Poe is currently listed No. 19 on my Big Board rankings. The Second Team All-Conference USA pick is currently ranked fourth among defensive tackles graded by NFLDraftScout.com and the No. 32 player, overall.

Posted on: December 23, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:45 pm

Video of Matt Barkley's press conference

Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley announced Thursday that he will be returning for his senior season.

Below is a video of his announcement, complete with USC cheerleaders and members of the marching band trumpeting his decision.

Barkley's decision, coupled with the other returning players they have, would appear to put USC back into the national title conversation for 2012. It also sets him up for a run at the Heisman Trophy and perhaps the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft.

As my colleague Mike Freeman points out, however, Barkley's decision is a risky one. One scout Freeman spoke to, in fact, called the move a "foolish business decision." From my perspective, having a strong understanding of the quarterback talent thought likely to be returning to school with Barkley, it certainly sets up for an exciting battle between the USC quarterback, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Florida State's E.J. Manuel, among others, for to be the top senior rated passer heading into the 2011-12 season... assuming, of course, that they do decide to return, after all.

While scouts love the 6-2, 220 pound Barkley's readiness for the NFL, there is no denying that the strong arms and size of the 6-4, 230 pound Jones and 6-4, 245 pound Manuel are more physically impressive.

Posted on: December 22, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 22, 2011 11:02 am

Senior Bowl adds QB Tannehill, LB Wagner

Over the next few weeks there will be announcements from dozens of players accepting invitations to the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and the mutlitude of other all-star games this winter.

Few players, however, will have more on the line than Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner, each of whom NFLDraftScout.com has learned will be playing in the January 28 contest.

A year ago it seemed unlikely that Florida State's Chrstian Ponder (or Washington's Jake Locker, for that matter) had a chance at the first round. Tannehill, blessed with even better physical skills that Ponder could also enjoy a signficant rise up draft boards with a strong showing in Mobile. As I pointed out in our current cover article, the 6-4, 225 pound Tannehill has the arm strength, mobility and upside to entice teams despite the fact that Tannehill and Texas A&M, as a whole, struggled mightily late in games this season.

Wagner, on the other hand, stood out throughout the season but scouts will want to see how he performs against the elite competition 2012 has to offer. Though he was a three-year all-conference pick at Utah State, the WAC is far from the SEC in terms of week-in and week-out competition. Also, at 6-0, 235 pounds Wagner lacks the bulk scouts prefer at inside linebacker, where he played the majority of his snaps for the Aggies. Any thoughts on moving Wagner outside full-time will be tested against the speed he's likely to face in Mobile. As such, an impressive performance there could vault the linebacker NFLDraftScout.com currently grades as a solid second round prospect, even higher.

Wagner has been creating a great deal of buzz in recent weeks in the scouting community. Though no television feed can accurately portray a linebacker's full range of responsibilities, the following YouTube video capturing Wagner against Auburn in the season-opener does give you an idea as to why. The video comes courtesy of BrownsOrBust.

Posted on: December 21, 2011 8:06 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:46 pm

T.J. McDonald returning to USC for senior season

The Trojans may have lost offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry early to the NFL, but they can take solace in the fact that junior free safety T.J. McDonald will be returning for his senior campaign.

McDonald, the son of former Southern Cal All-American and San Francisco 49er Tim McDonald, announced via an interview at  USCTrojans.com the news Wednesday afternoon.

The video, which can be seen below and by following this link, as well, shows McDonald in full USC regalia answering various questions about his decision, the role his father and head coach Lane Kiffin played in the decision and what, if any, impact T.J.'s choice may have on Southern Cal's other prominent junior known to be considering making the NFL leap, junior quarterback Matt Barkley.

McDonald cites both team and personal goals as seasons why he made the choice to return. The potential to play in a bowl game as well as match his father's All-American pedigree, compete for the Thorpe Award and get his degree are specifically mentioned.

Though McDonald is rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 free safety potentially available for the 2012 draft, the decision is a sound one. McDonald, who like former USC standout Taylor Mays, is at his best driving downhill towards the line of scrimmage, would be challenging a relatively strong class of senior safeties and is likely to enter next year as the elite prospect at his position.

McDonald finished 2011 with 67 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. The 6-2, 205 pound junior led the team with three interceptions and also blocked a kick and recovered a fumble in earning First Team All-Pac-12 honors this season.

Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:52 pm

UNC WR Dwight Jones cleared to play in bowl game

After being suspended by his team Tuesday, North Carolina wide receiver Dwight Jones was reinstated this morning by the NCAA and will be allowed to participate in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl December 26 against Missouri, according to Tar Heels' head coach Everett Whithers.

The Tar Heels suspended Jones, the ACC's leading receiver, yesterday after a flyer surfaced online advertising a New Year's Eve birthday party honoring Jones were discovered. The flyer, shown below, identifies Jones by name and uses a picture of him in his North Carolina uniform. The NCAA prohibits athletes from using their name and likeness as part of a for-profit venture.

Upon discovering the flyer, UNC officials decided to suspend Jones and ask the NCAA to considering reinstating him after investigating the matter further.

 1st Annual Dwight Jones New Years Birthday Celebration

Jones, upon hearing of his suspension, apologized. 

"I apologize to my teammates, the coaching staff, and the university for the poor decision I made to allow my likeness to be used in the promotion of a party given by a family member while still a part of the Carolina football team," Jones said in a prepared statement. "I should have asked the coaching staff or administration before allowing this to happen."

From an NFL draft perspective, the suspension and subsequent reinstatement isn't likely to mean much. Jones was never accused of any criminal acts. Had he advertised the party in the days after his final game rather than before, this wouldn't be a story. Jones, after all, as a senior has no eligibility remaining.

Jones led the ACC in both receptions (79) and receiving touchdowns (11) this season. He finished third in receiving yardage (1,119) and has emerged as one of the more intriguing senior receiver prospects in the country. Blessed with surprising speed and after-the-catch skills for a receiver of his size (6-4, 225 pounds), Jones is currently rated by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 5 senior receiver in the draft.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com