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Posted on: December 20, 2011 12:27 pm
 

Bob Stoops: suspended Lewis should go pro

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops made a rather surprising admission Monday.

He thinks his star junior defensive end/outside linebacker Ronnell Lewis should leave school early and head to the NFL.

Stoops, speaking to the media for the first time since the Sooners lost to Oklahoma State on December 3, said that Lewis had been academically disqualified from playing in the Sooners' upcoming Insight Bowl against Iowa and that he fully expected Lewis to go pro.

According to The Oklahomans' Travis Haney (who provides a video of the press conference with his story) Stoops said:

“We've talked, and I feel it's in his best interest to go on to the NFL. It hasn't been formalized yet, but we expect that to happen. And I'm all for it. He needs to do that. We're hopeful that will all go the right way.”

The 6-2, 244 pound Lewis recorded 59 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2011 mainly as a defensive end. He was also dropped back into coverage as a linebacker, on occasion and was a consistent standout on special teams, as well. Lewis, in fact, first caught the eye of many scouts when he tied for the team lead in special teams tackles (11) as a true freshman in 2009.

Despite his obvious athletic talents, all has not gone the "right way" for Lewis throughout his Oklahoma career. Signed as a highly touted prep prospect despite playing eight-man football in high school, Lewis has consistently flashed but wasn't able to emerge as even a full-time starter for the Sooners until this past season. In fact, Lewis had started just five games total before his breakout junior campaign. 

Lewis is currently graded by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 6 outside linebacker prospect potentially available in 2012 and a second round value.
While certainly raw, with a relatively weak class of traditional outside linebacker prospects from the class of 2012, Lewis could move quickly up the draft board -- especially if he works out as well as expected. Some believe Lewis could run in the mid 4.5s to low 4.6s for the clock. Should he do so, a move into the first round is certainly possible.
Posted on: December 17, 2011 12:17 pm
 

ACC grants Tate, Harris, Ramsey medical redshirts

Randy Edsall and Frank Spaziani, the head coaches for the Maryland Terrapins and Boston College Eagles, respectively, are breathing a little easier after news that each would be getting back star players next year.

On Friday, the ACC announced its list of players granted medical redshirts. Four Maryland players were on the list, including outside linebacker Kenny Tate, a 2010 First Team all-conference pick. Five Boston College players were granted another season of eligibility, including the preseason ACC Offensive Player of the Year, running back Montel Harris and key defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey.

All three players were graded by NFLDraftScout.com heading into the season as possible top 100 selections in the 2012 draft.

The 6-4, 220 pound Tate earned his all-conference selection in 2010 while playing at free safety. When Edsall became head coach he asked the senior to make the move to the "Star" linebacker position. Tate took to the position quickly, registering 35 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss in just four games before a leg injury ended his season prematurely. Tate also intercepted two passes and forced a fumble in his brief 2011 season.

Harris, an instinctive 5-09, 216 pound back, was held out of the first three games of the season as he attempted to recover from a knee injury suffered in November of the previous season. He played in the next two, but wasn't able to finish against Wake Forest. Though he "only" rushed for 135 yards on the season, it was enough to put him at the top of school's all-time rusher list with 3,725 career yards.

The 6-3, 305 pound Ramsey suffered through a variety of injuries in 2011, missing time due to his back and shoulder, as well as the foot injury which ultimately cost him the season. Projected by some to enjoy the type of breakout senior season that helped BJ Raji and Ron Brace emerge as highly regarded prospects, Ramsey instead logged just two tackles on the season.

The injuries dropped all three players from NFLDraftScout.com's player rankings for the 2012 draft. A return to health, however, could make all three prospects factors for the class of 2013.
Posted on: December 16, 2011 3:45 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:47 pm
 

Miami loses two more to NFL

A couple of weeks ago I predicted that the first underclassment to declare early for the NFL draft might come from Miami and Southern California. This was not only because of the fact that both programs are consistent producers of talent but also because neither was going to be playing in a bowl game this year.

I anticipated a few 'Canes and Trojans might leave early. Instead, it is quickly proving to be a case of mass exodus from both programs -- which continued on Friday with the news that offensive tackle Brandon Washington and defensive end Olivier Vernon were leaving Miami for the NFL.

They join redshirt sophomore running back Lamar Miller, wide receiver Tommy Streeter and defensive tackle Marcus Forston in former 'Canes leaving Al Golden's program for the NFL since the end of the season.

Southern Cal, likewise has already seen two prospects leave early -- offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry. Quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald are also known to be strongly considering making the leap.

Of the two newest underclassmen leaving Coral Gables, Washington is the more highly regarded pro prospect. The 6-4, 320 pound Washington has starred for the Hurricanes at left tackle and left guard. Though he played well outside at tackle this season, most project him back inside at guard in the NFL. Washington has a short, stock build. He is surprisingly light on his feet and plays with intensity and physicality. The feeling among scouts is that Washington could play outside at the next level, but he could become a Pro Bowl caliber guard.

Washington had previously told members of the media that he was returning to school, explaining that he had not even petitioned the NFL for a grade, was excited about the progress Miami was making and was committed to earning the college degree that no one else in his family had previously attained.

The lure of NFL dollars, however, must have proven too much for Washington. He is currently behind only Stanford's David DeCastro (who also is leaving school early) among NFLDraftScout.com's 2013 guard prospects.

Vernon is a very surprising choice to leave early considering that he was suspended for the first six games of the season due to taking accepting innappropriate benefits from a booster and registered just 18 tackles on the season. The 6-3, 265 pound true junior had flashed earlier in his career, recording 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks a year ago. Vernon has an explosive burst off the snap but still needs a lot of technical work to earn consistent playing time at the pro level. He is viewed as a prospect potentially capable of making the switch to outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, which does help his cause.

At this early point, however, Vernon is only ranked 29th among defensive ends in the 2013 class and thus not even a surely draftable commodity.
Posted on: December 16, 2011 9:13 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:48 pm
 

Kalil confirms he's off to NFL. Is Barkley next?

As it turns out, Matt Kalil is heading off to the NFL early, after all.

Beginning with a tweet from ESPN's Chris Mortensen and later confirmed by direct quotes from Kalil to the Los Angeles Times, Kalil erased any doubt about his future intentions.

The AP All-American told Gary Klein of the Times that "It was definitely a tough decision because I love SC. But, it's a special opportunity. It's time to move on."

It had been widely presumed that Kalil -- rated by NFLDraftScout.com as a potential top ten pick since September -- would strongly consider making the leap. He'd proven himself in two starting seasons as the Trojans' left tackle, keeping the Dallas Cowboys' 2010 first round pick Tyron Smith on the right side and earning comparisons to the great Tony Boselli along the way.

As such, when I heard rumbling a week ago that Kalil was "set to return" to USC I was as surprised as anyone. Upon hearing news of Kalil's confirmed intent to file early for the draft, I contacted my source again.

"I am surprised he is coming out," the source said, "especially with so much time before [the January 15] deadline. The impression I had was that [Kalil's] decision was going to take into account strongly whatever the quarterback decided to do. It almost seemed like the quarterback was looking for an excuse to come back. He loves it there. So, there was talk that he might come back and in doing so convince Kalil to do the same. The fact that [USC] would be past the bowl ban next year was a pretty big motivator for some of the guys."

Lane Kiffin's bunch is talented enough to once again be a primetime player in the Pac-12 conference even without their latest Morris Trophy winner, but with the offensive tackle and defensive end Nick Perry both leaving the Trojans early for the NFL, it will certainly be made more difficult.

It also puts the spotlight directly on quarterback Matt Barkley, who hasn't yet made a formal decision about his intentions.

Posted on: December 15, 2011 5:14 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:48 pm
 

To surprise of no one, USC DE Perry heads to NFL

'Tis the season for underclassmen to leave college early for a chance at the NFL.

While NFL teams will certainly be pleased with the pass-rushing "present" they're set to receive from Southern California, they certaintly won't be surprised by the gift. It has been common knowledge for quite some time that junior defensive end Nick Perry would be parlaying his breakout 2011 season into a shot at NFL millions. 

Last week I had a source tell me that another Trojan, junior left tackle Matt Kalil, was "set to return" to USC. Since, Kalil has told reporters that he hasn't made an official decision. I've had numerous other sources tell me since my initial report that Kalil is almost certainly going to leave school early, as many had originally assumed he would. Kalil, after all, is considered by most to be the elite offensive tackle potentially available for the 2012 draft and thus, a likely top ten pick. Not many players are willing to forfeit such an opportunity. 

Similarly, I've heard that USC quarterback Matt Barkley is also carefully weighing his options. Like his blindside protector, Kalil, Barkley looks the part of a top ten pick. Therefore, some would consider him foolish to even consider returning for his senior season and risking injury or poor play that could send his stock crashing. Barkley and Kalil, however, each seem very happy at USC and may relish the opportunity to help take USC back to bowl game next year, as the university's bowl ban ends after this season. 

It had been well known in scouting circles, however, that Perry had been actively shopping for agents since December 1, when agents abiding by NCAA rules could contact underclassmen. Perry, sources tell me, has signed with the firm Lock, Metz and Malinovic. LMM&P represents Tyron Smith, whom the Dallas Cowboys selected ninth overall in April, a former teammate of Perry's at USC.  

Many believe that the the 6-3, 255 pound Perry is ultimately likely to be rewarded for his decision with a first round draft pick. Perry emerged as a First Team All-Pac-12 player this season, leading the Trojans in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (13) as well as leading the team's defensive linemen with 54 stops.  Perry is a good football player but a great athlete. As such, many feel that he is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Perry's upside, therefore, could lead to a rapid rise up the board. 

Perry is currently the No. 25 player on my Big Board. He's going even higher on my current mock draft, however.


Posted on: December 14, 2011 8:51 am
 

FCS All-American team features NFL talent

Much is made of the household names that appear each season on the FBS All-American team.

Not enough attention, however, goes to those men recognized as All-Americans at the lower levels of college football.

Yesterday, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) released their choices for the FCS All-American team. For those sick of acronyms, FCS stands for Football Championship Subdivision, which replaced the long-held moniker Division I-AA. Not surprisingly, on this list are the names of several incredibly productive collegiate players who will struggle to repeat their success at the professional level -- just like the FBS All-American team.

There are, however, several NFL-caliber prospects, including three players who I believe could prove top 100 selections in the 2012 draft: Appalachian State wide receiver Brian Quick, Furman cornerback Ryan Steed and Montana cornerback Trumanine Johnson.

Of the three, I am personally highest on Quick, a 6-4, 216 pounder who caught 71 passes this season for 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns. This total helped make Quick the school’s all-time career leader with 202 receptions, 3,418 yards and 31 touchdown catches. 

Quick's height is obviously a "large" part of his success. He also possesses surprising overall athleticism and acceleration for such a big man. Quick was the one Mountaineer who really showed well when Appalachian State took on FBS standout Virginia Tech to open the season. proving to scouts that he has the talent to play with the big boys. Quick is currently rated as NFLDraftScout.com's 15th best receiver for the 2012 draft -- though I believe he could boost this grade once he answers concerns about his speed.

If Steed's name sounds familliar it should. He was the focus of a blog post just yesterday when his university, Furman, announced that he would be attending this year's Senior Bowl.

Steed may have taken the small school cornerback spot the Senior Bowl tries to annually feature. Some believed that prior to a run-in with the police, Montana's Johnson may have been the favorite for this honor.

Johnson, 6-2 and 204 pounds, had been steadily rising up scouts' boards. An all-conference selection after each of the past three seasons, Johnson was recognized as an All-American in 2011, posting 44 tackles, seven passes broken up and four interceptions -- including two he returned for touchdowns. A year earlier, Johnson was even more productive, totaling five picks and 11 passes broken up.

This year opponents had largely stayed away from him. Of his 31 tackles thus far, 24 were of the solo variety. He had not recorded his first interception of the season, but had posted six pass breakups and forced a fumble. For his career, Johnson has 13 career interceptions.

The rest of the FCS All-American team is here:


2011 AFCA Football Championship Subdivision Coaches’ All-America Team
Offense
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. School Coach Hometown (High School)
WR Ryan Spadola 6-3 205 Jr. Lehigh Andy Coen Howell, N.J. (Freehold Township)
WR Brian Quick 6-5 220 Sr. Appalachian St. Jerry Moore Columbia, S.C. (Ridge View)
WR Nicholas Edwards 6-3 200 Jr. Eastern Washington Beau Baldwin Tacoma, Wash. (Foss)
OL Gino Gradkowski 6-4 295 Sr. Delaware K.C. Keeler Pittsburgh, Pa. (Seton-LaSalle)
OL Brett Moore 6-3 255 Sr. Georgia Southern Jeff Monken Warner Robins, Ga. (Northside)
C Bryan Boemer 6-2 317 Sr. Southern Illinois Dale Lennon St. Louis, Mo. (St. John Vianney)
OL Paul Cornick 6-6 309 Sr. North Dakota St. Craig Bohl Orono, Minn. (Orono)
OL J.C. Oram 6-4 300 Sr. Weber St. Ron McBride Marriott-Slaterville, Utah (Fremont)
QB Bo Levi Mitchell 6-2 210 Sr. Eastern Washington Beau Baldwin Katy, Texas (Katy)
RB Shakir Bell 5-8 185 So. Indiana St. Trent Miles Indianapolis, Ind. (Warren Central)
RB Tim Flanders 5-9 210 So. Sam Houston St. Willie Fritz Midwest City, Okla. (Midwest City)


Defense

Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. School Coach Hometown (High School)
DL Ronnie Cameron 6-2 295 Sr. Old Dominion Bobby Wilder Westbury, N.Y. (Holy Trinity)
DL Andrew Schaetzke 6-4 245 Sr. Georgetown Kevin Kelly Toledo, Ohio (St. John’s Jesuit)
DL Ben Boothby 6-0 280 Sr. Northern Iowa Mark Farley Clinton, Iowa (Clinton)
DL Zack Nash 6-4 260 Sr. Sacramento St. Marshall Sperbeck Vacaville, Calif. (Vacaville)
LB Tyler Holmes* 6-0 224 Sr. Massachusetts Kevin Morris Blacksburg, Va. (Blacksburg)
LB Kadarron Anderson 6-1 234 Sr. Furman Bruce Fowler Greenwood, S.C. (Emerald)
LB Caleb McSurdy 6-1 242 Sr. Montana Robin Pflugrad Boise, Idaho (Borah)
DB Josh Norman 6-2 190 Sr. Coastal Carolina David Bennett Greenwood, S.C. (Greenwood)
DB Ryan Steed 5-11 188 Sr. Furman Bruce Fowler Mt. Pleasant, S.C. (Pinewood Prep)
DB Darnell Taylor 6-0 195 Jr. Sam Houston St. Willie Fritz Mesquite, Texas (Mesquite)
DB Trumaine Johnson* 6-3 210 Sr. Montana Robin Pflugrad Stockton, Calif. (Edison)


Specialists

Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. School Coach Hometown (High School)
P David Harrington 6-2 185 Sr. Idaho St. Mike Kramer Marina, Calif. (Marina)
PK Zach Brown 6-1 200 Jr. Portland St. Nigel Burton Keizer, Ore. (McNary)
AP Brock Jackolski 5-10 198 Sr. Stony Brook Chuck Priore Shirley, N.Y. (William Floyd)

*-2010 All-American


Posted on: December 13, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 10:46 am
 

Senior Bowl invites small school CB Steed

Getting invited to the prestigious Senior Bowl is perhaps the best opportunity any small school player can get on his road to the NFL.

As such Furman cornerback Ryan Steed just got a jump on the competition as he was officially invited and expects to play in this  year's game, according to release from the Paladins' official website.

The 5-11, 190 pound Steed was recently named to the FCS All-American team having totaled 46 tackles, four interceptions and four pass breakups this season. Steed, a three-time All-SoCon selection, finished his career at Furman with 180 tackles and 38 passes defensed. He returned three of his 14 career interceptions for touchdowns, forced four fumbles, and recovered three fumbles, returning one this season for a  48 yard touchdown against Elon. Steed also recorded a sack and blocked three kicks in his career.

The Senior Bowl has traditionally featured intriguing small school cornerbacks. Some of the top prospects have included Curtis Marsh (2011, Utah State), Leotis McKelvin (2008, Troy) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (2008, Tennessee State), among others. 

Steed is currently viewed by NFLDraftScout.com as a 4th round value and the No. 19 rated cornerback potentially available for the 2012 draft.

The Senior Bowl typically begins sending out invitations throughout December. The game is scheduled to take place on January 28 and though Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry has reportedly already accepted an invitation, as well, no one is currently listed on the Senior Bowl's official roster for the 2012 game.
Posted on: December 12, 2011 5:58 pm
 

Kalil, Lotulelei win Pac-12's Morris Trophy

One of the earliest lessons I learned as an NFL scout was to ask players for their opinions of their peers. They know, perhaps better than anyone else, who can really play and who is being overrated.

The Pac-12 is unique in that it is the only conference in BCS football that appears to agree with this rationale. As such, they give the conference's offensive lineman an opportunity to vote for the league's most dominant defensive lineman. The Pac-12's defensive linemen get the same treatment. Their opinions are the only ones that matter in recognizing the conference's elite offensive lineman. The top vote-getter is rewarded with the Morris Trophy.

Though the Pac-12 hasn't officially announced the winners yet for this season, NFLDraftScout.com has learned their identities.

The winners this year couldn't be much different.

To no one surprise, the Pac-12's defensive linemen voted Southern California junior left tackle Matt Kalil as the dominant offensive lineman in the conference. While overshadowed by USC's talent at the skill positions, savvy followers of the program know that the 6-6, 295 pound Kalil played a critical role in the Trojans' averaging an eye-popping 35.8 points per contest. That number may pale in comparison to many of the spread schemes proliferating the country, but for a ball-control offense playing against the caliber of competition USC faced this season, the production is very impressive. The younger brother of former USC standout (and current Carolina Panthers' Pro Bowler) Ryan Kalil, Matt could elect to leave after his junior season and be a likely a top ten pick. Kalil currently ranks No. 4 on my Big Board and is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated offensive tackle potentially available for the 2012 draft.

The defensive winner, on the other hand, is a name that few outside of the Pac-12 will recognize. In fact, many inside of the conference likely don't know much about Utah junior defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. The conference's offensive linemen, however, obviously think quite highly of the 6-3, 325 pound defensive tackle.

Lotulelei signed with Utah from Snow Junior College just last year but emerged as a starter by season's end. This season, he's been virtually unstoppable despite the fact that he's often double-teamed. Lotulelei, who was named a First Team all-conference pick by the league's coaches, registered 38 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss on the season. His combination of size and power could make him a highly valued commodity -- especially for NFL teams looking for a potential nose guard. As such, Lotulelei is quickly rising up NFL draft boards. He is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 8 rated defensive tackle in the class of 2013.

Just as they likely are doing with Kalil, Pac-12 opponents can only hope the NFL proves so enticing that Lotulelei -- who is married and has a little girl -- elects to leave school early. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com