The week four review will be published tomorrow. For now, here’s tape from last week’s Notre Dame vs Michigan State game featuring potential top-15 pick Manti Te’o. He might not be quite the same athlete as Luke Kuechly, but he might be a better all-round player.
Archive for September, 2012
There are five games on this week’s schedule: Clemson at Florida State, Arizona at Oregon, Oregon State at UCLA, LSU at Auburn and Vanderbilt at Georgia. I’m most looking forward to seeing Clemson’s offensive talent (DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Ellington) versus the Florida State defense (Bjoern Werner, deep secondary). I think overall the Seminoles are a little overrated and their defense is going to need to keep them in this one. I’m not sold on E.J. Manuel as a passer and they’re going to need to rely on the defense to keep things tight. Last year Clemson out-gunned a lot of teams and Manuel isn’t the type of player who can win a shoot-out. Bjoern Werner is going to need to keep a lid on Tajh Boyd and the Tigers passing game – and keeping him blocked could be Clemson’s greatest test. Werner has 6.5 sacks in three games.
To be more specific on Manuel, I’ve never been impressed with his tape. He looks the part physically, but he never developed into a polished college passer. He had a lot of hype when he joined the college ranks (same years as Landry Jones) but he still looks like more of an athlete than a quarterback. Against Wake Forest last week he was barely tested – but there were still some concerning moments. At one point he threw blind from his own red zone -almost giving away a pick six. He has no restrictions from a physical standpoint, but on a technical level he’ll struggle to make the middle rounds.
The Seahawks also have some interest in the game, according to Chris Steuber:
— Chris Steuber (@ChrisSteuber) September 21, 2012
In the other games I’m interested to see how defensive end Dion Jordan is progressing at Oregon. It’s also my first opportunity to look at Arizona’s senior quarterback Matt Scott – he’s had a productive start after replacing Nick Foles. UCLA has also had a good start this year and Jonathan Franklin will be hoping to keep up his mass production against Oregon State. The Beavers kept Montee Ball in check when they played Wisconsin, so this’ll be Franklin’s toughest test so far. After three games he’s averaging over eight yards per carry with 541 total yards and I’m interested to see if the first round hype is justified.
This will be my second look at LSU’s top defensive talent – they didn’t really need to get out of second gear against Washington and I doubt Auburn will provide much more of a test. Even so, it’s another loaded class with plenty of 2013 talent. Vanderbilt at Georgia will be an interesting one – Georgia have flashed the potential to be BCS title contenders this year, but there’s also a lot of average tape so far. They need to be convincing against Vandy and I’ll be mainly focusing on Jonathan Jenkins, Jarvis Jones and Aaron Murray – plus we could get a first look at Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree in this game.
Expect a review after Saturday’s games. In the meantime, take a look at the Jonathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State) tape that we posted on the blog today. His display vs California is the best performance I’ve seen from him so far.
ESPN’s Mike Sando wrote something this week that got me thinking…
“The receiver position hasn’t worked out the way Seattle would have drawn it up. Sidney Rice has had injury problems. Kris Durham never developed. Ricardo Lockette has not taken the next step. The more Seattle has to rely on receivers such as Mike Williams (since released) and Braylon Edwards, the clearer it is that the Seahawks need to address that position in the offseason.”
It’s a statement most people would agree with. The Seahawks lack one of the three types of receiver that have been most productive in the modern NFL:
1. Physical freak (Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones) – usually drafted within the first ten picks, this is the type of once-in-a-generation receiver that is capable of dominating in any situation. Even with Arizona’s horrendous quarterback issues the last two seasons, Larry Fitzgerald has posted over 2500 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Seattle is unlikely to find one of these any time soon, especially in the 2013 draft class.
2. Production machine (Wes Welker, Steve Smith, Victor Cruz) – almost the polar opposite of the physical freak. The likes of Welker, Smith and Cruz don’t have great physical characteristics, but they have a knack of getting open and have developed into their quarterbacks best friend. You don’t need a high draft pick to find one of these, you just need a good scout and a little bit of luck. It’s worth noting that this type of receiver usually comes with an elite (or very good) quarterback.
3. The modern tight end (Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski) – two tight ends appeared among last year’s top-10 receiver list for yardage. The position is evolving and with the success of Graham and Gronkowski, it’s likely a lot of teams in the NFL are going to be copycatting the Patriots and Saints. Expect more than two tight ends to be in the top-10 receiver list in a few years time if the trend sticks.
Singling out three ‘types’ of receiver is a bit vague. Obviously there are many varieties of receiver and this is a very basic ways of looking at it. There are also justifiable reasons why the Seahawks don’t have a dominating target on their offense. The draft hasn’t brought any answers – no receiver went in the top-25 picks in 2010, the Seahawks were out of range for A.J. Green or Julio Jones in 2011 and Justin Blackmon in 2012. They’ve lacked a productive quarterback who can turn a relatively modest receiver into a production machine – although they hope they’ve found the answer with Russell Wilson (and maybe Doug Baldwin). And despite the production of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski – there just aren’t that many elite tight ends entering the league these days.
Even so, the team is lacking some fundamental needs for an offense. They haven’t got a reliable red-zone target, they don’t have a go-to-guy for their young quarterback, they don’t have a receiver who will consistently warrant double coverage and they don’t have a dominating physical presence you can trust to win a jump-ball. So what is the solution? How can they address this going forward?
The 2013 draft won’t have an A.J. Green or Julio Jones type talent, but there is some depth. Cordarrelle Patterson is developing into a big-time playmaker for Tennessee and he might be the closest thing to a ‘physical freak’ – but so far he’s only played three games of college football in his life. Keenan Allen, Robert Woods, Justin Hunter and others could emerge into productive receivers, but they’ll all enter the league with some question marks.
Free agency could provide some answers, but it’ll be a costly exercise. Having already pumped millions into Sidney Rice without a major return, the Seahawks might be cautious of trying to sign Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings or Wes Welker if they hit the open market.
It’s an issue that could linger for the Seahawks but they do need more playmakers on offense to be successful. Despite finding multiple starters at other positions in the later rounds of the draft or with modest free agents, nearly everything they’ve tried at receiver hasn’t worked. They made big investments in Rice and Zach Miller without big production. They drafted Golden Tate in round two, but he still has a lot to prove. They’ve taken guys in the later rounds or UDFA without finding an equivalent to Kam Chancellor or Richard Sherman. The biggest success story so far has been Doug Baldwin – but he’s still working towards 100% health this year after missing all of pre-season through injury. Can he build from a solid rookie season?
Generally this regime has been aggressive filling key needs. They were aggressive in repairing the offensive line – going for big name coaches and two first round picks at offensive tackle. They quickly rebuilt an entire defense. Despite not spending a first round pick on a quarterback, I’d argue the multiple moves at the position could be considered ‘aggressive’.
And let’s not forget – getting a top-end receiver appeared to be one of Pete Carroll’s big aims when he was appointed Head Coach. He entertained Brandon Marshall with a view to bringing him to Seattle via trade. Had the Broncos been willing to deal for the teams 2010 second round pick, he probably would’ve been a Seahawk. They looked into a deal with San Diego for Vincent Jackson. They drafted Golden Tate. That was just in the first year. Since then, they’ve spent a ton of money on Sidney Rice and Zach Miller. In fact 2012 is the first year where they’ve been quite modest at the position, looking at guys on the street such as Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards.
The Seahawks won’t panic because it’s not in the nature of Carroll and Schneider. That doesn’t mean they won’t be aggressive. They’ve shown a willingness to target needs in the draft and that could be the case here. They’ve also shown they’re prepared to go after big name free agents if they fit the criteria. It’s probably safe to assume something will be done to address this issue unless Rice, Miller, McCoy, Baldwin and Tate all break-out in the remaining 14 games. Working out what they’re going to do is the hard part.
Receivers with the potential to go in rounds 1/2 in 2013: Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee), Robert Woods (WR, USC), Keenan Allen (WR, California), Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee), Marquess Wilson (WR, Washington State), Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia), Aaron Dobson (WR, Marshall), Da’Rick Rogers (WR, Tennessee Tech), Kenny Stills (WR, Oklahoma), Levine Toilolo (TE, Stanford), Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford), Dion Sims (TE, Michigan State), Joseph Fauria (TE, UCLA), Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
Last week we published a ‘mock draft’. Although it wasn’t really a mock, not this early in the process. It was more an attempt to identify potential first round picks we can monitor during the college season. I won’t be starting the usual Wednesday mocks until later in the season, but that doesn’t stop us looking at who helped or hurt their stock in week three.
Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
He was the best player on the field in the Alabama vs Arkansas game. Warmack’s run blocking sparked Eddie Lacy for three rushing touchdowns, including a key goal-line push where he pulled to the right and took out two defenders. We already knew he was a great run blocker, but it was the athleticism, footwork and pass protection skills that really boosted his stock this week. He can do it all, and that boosts the range where he could go in the draft. Warmack looked like the complete package and if he keeps up this form, he’s going to be a high pick next April. He could be a top-fifteen pick, which is rare for an offensive guard. I’ve not see a left guard that’s looked as good as Warmack in college.
Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
After recording another 1.5 sacks against Wake Forest, Werner has taken his total to 6.5 in three games. He’s lost weight this year and it’s improved his speed rush – he looks dynamic off the edge and took a wide angle on the solo sack to round the tackle and close on the quarterback. In all honesty he didn’t need to lose the weight, but it seems to be having an impact on his production. He’s already well on his way to 10-15 sacks and he’ll take a lot of good tape into the draft. When he enters the league he’ll probably add the weight again and act as a more orthodox defensive end. You can see all of his snaps vs Wake Forest in the video above.
Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
This has nothing to do with the computer-game numbers Smith has posted so far (he has the same number of touchdown passes – nine – as he has incompletions). He has much tougher games on the horizon that’ll be a greater test of his progress. The reason Smith’s stock is rising, is purely down to the performances of other quarterbacks. Matt Barkley had his worst game in a long time against Stanford, Tyler Wilson didn’t feature against Alabama because of a concussion and Logan Thomas had three interceptions in a bad defeat to Pittsburgh. If Smith keeps putting up big numbers, and if other quarterbacks continue to struggle, needy teams are going to look at this guy very closely.
Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
An all-round, brilliant middle linebacker. Intangibles off the chart, he’s going to go very early next April if he tests well at the combine. Luke Kuechly really boosted his stock by pairing athleticism with intangibles, and that’s going to be a key test for Te’o too. If he can show above average athletic qualities at the combine, he’s going to go in the top-15. He’s not a tackling machine like Kuechly, but he makes impact plays – not just multiple tackles 5-10 yards downfield. He played against Michigan State just days after the death of his grandmother and girlfriend – and somehow held himself together. He’s a guy you want on your team and 32 clubs will probably feel that way next year.
Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech)
He’s received a lot of criticism, some of it unfair. Just because he hasn’t lived up to some people’s expectations, it seems a lot of people are getting on the negativity bandwagon. I don’t think that’s particularly fair, not for a guy who’s only actually played 1.3 seasons as a starting quarterback. Thomas will probably return to Virginia Tech for his senior year unless things change for the better. I see that as the most likely scenario right now so while his stock is down in a big way at the moment, he’s a good enough talent to hit back. He might not be able to do that before the 2013 draft, but he has time on his side. There aren’t many QB’s with his physical potential.
Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
It’s kind of a weird situation for Hunter. He’s still working hard to get back to 100% after suffering a very serious knee injury last year. He’s been through a lot of pain, a lot of time in the gym and a lot of moments where he probably questioned whether he could get back to his best. It’s a credit to Justin Hunter that he’s on the field to start the 2012 season and making plays. However, the emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson is drawing attention away from the guy most people expected to be Tennessee’s top draft prospect this year. And with Patterson playing so well, it’s hard not to compare the two. Especially with Hunter having two bad drops against Florida.
Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
It was bad enough that Wilson missed the game he’s been waiting all year for, but watching Arkansas get blown away by Alabama must’ve hurt. Even so, you don’t throw your teammates under the bus after the game – accusing them of quitting in a press conference. If he gets healthy and leads the team back from a dark place, people may look back and say there were some positives to a ‘home truths’ interview. But until that happens, he just looks like an over-emotional quarterback who needs to let his coaches coach the team. Health worries are also obvious given he missed a key game with a concussion and has suffered some injury issues in the past.
Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
Harsh to put him on this list? I think it’s maybe a little harsh. Barkley suffered against Stanford because his offensive line couldn’t cope. He had barely any time to set and throw, the pressure was relentless. The thing is, until Khaled Holmes can get back and other members of the offensive line step up, there might be more games like this. And although it won’t be Barkley’s fault alone, some teams may over analyse his senior year – something we’ve seen many times with quarterbacks who chose not to return to the college ranks. It’s worth pointing out that as bad as USC’s line was last weekend, Barkley wasn’t faultless. He’s still on track to be the #1 pick next year, but he has to hope the Stanford experience isn’t repeated too many times this season.
We’ve talked a lot about Chance Warmack (G, Alabama) over the last few days, so this is an opportunity to take a look at the tape. The video shows Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama) running the ball, but it also shows Warmack – wearing #65 – run blocking. Which he’s pretty good at. The tape against Arkansas is a master class – watch Lacy’s three scores against the Razorbacks and Warmack’s role in each. I like Lacy as a powerful runner, his physical style is perfect for Alabama. But he benefits so much from an elite offensive line filled with future NFL talent – led by Warmack and Barrett Jones.
The tape above features the Tennessee passing offense vs Florida from Saturday. The three guys to focus on are quarterback Tyler Bray (#8) and receivers Justin Hunter (#11) and Cordarrelle Patterson (#84). For the most part Bray looked inconsistent – which is the story of his short career. He has quite a slingy release but it generates decent velocity and he’s quite capable of making some big plays. The touch pass at 6:04 for a touchdown is a perfect example of what’s good about Bray’s game.
Unfortunately, there are many negatives too. He looks a mistake waiting to happen – his first interception at 0:37 was just flat out careless. He doesn’t recognise the defensive end has dropped into coverage, he forces a pass under pressure and turns it over. I think the best way to describe him is a shorter, less efficient version of Brock Osweiler. I much preferred Osweiler, who received a lot of unnecessary criticism despite a lot of good tape. Clearly John Elway saw something in the guy, as he’s the heir apparent to Peyton Manning in Denver as long as he does enough to impress behind the scenes as a backup. Bray has a similar release, similar velocity. But he’s less of a technical passer and he makes mistakes every week that Osweiler only made at his worst (see: Boise State).
You can probably sum up Bray perfectly with two plays. At 8:44, he shows great poise in the pocket to let a Justin Hunter route develop, double pump and throw on a slant for a 15-yard gain on 3rd and 10. On the very next play, he lazily throws downfield into double coverage for an easy interception. The second play was as awful as the first was excellent.
Bray is unlikely to ever be a first round pick and will probably go to a team in that round 2-4 range as a project. He has a lot of the tools to interest teams, but he needs to be more consistent. In the Florida game he had spells where the offense was moving the ball and appeared to be on track for a key victory. Then they’d collapse and couldn’t make a play. A lot of the minor errors and turnovers could be avoided with a greater understanding of the position and more time spent honing his craft. Reports suggest he still has a bit of maturing to do and he may never live up the hype he generated as a freshman. Bray needs to work hard and play football – it wouldn’t be advisable for him to declare for 2013 having spent so little time on the field in his college career. He needs to return to Tennessee next year.
Justin Hunter gets a good press for a guy still working his way back to 100%. He missed most of last season with a serious knee injury and had to work extremely hard to return for the start of the 2012 college season. Mel Kiper has Hunter at #5 on his big board – ahead of Chance Warmach, Star Lotulelei and Dee Milliner. I cannot agree with that. Todd McShay has him at #7, which also seems a bit high – but it’s McShay’s description of Hunter which is most surprising: “Hunter is still recovering from a knee injury that ended his 2011 season, but he’s a smooth route-runner with a lean frame, body control and ball skills reminiscent of A.J. Green.” I see that as a generous comparison. We may never see a player like Green in college football again – he was so smooth with his route running pretty much from day one, he was ultra competitive in college and he consistently made incredible plays. He was the most natural receiver you’ll ever see. Not only is A.J. Green having a great start to his NFL career, he’s dragging along Andy Dalton’s NFL career for the ride.
Hunter does have a similar frame but he isn’t anywhere close to Green’s level of potential. The knee injury hasn’t helped matters and it will linger until he’s completed a full season and shown no side-effects. He had five catches for 42 yards against Florida – but crucially he had two sloppy drops. You also want to see him fighting to the ball a little better – something Green did so well. At 1:32 you can see a defensive back break for the ball and pretty much run through Hunter to almost make an interception. In each of Tennessee’s two ‘serious’ games so far (Georgia State was a blow out where Hunter recorded massive numbers) Tyler Bray has looked for Cordarrelle Patterson early rather than Hunter. I want to see if that trait continues, because it may just be teams are blanketing Hunter and Patterson is getting a more favorable 1 vs 1 match-up. Or maybe Bray just trusts Patterson more at this stage?
So what about Patterson? He didn’t make the huge back-breaking play we’d seen in each of his first two games, but this was a more measured performance. He has a tendency to body catch which you don’t want to see – but there’s room for optimism given the fine diving catch at 9:18. He was being obstructed by the cornerback, but Bray threw just to the back-shoulder – Patterson locates the ball and makes a superb catch. It’s the kind of play you want to see – it’s OK running a reverse for 45-yards and showing what a great athlete you are, but you also need to be able to prove you can do the basics.
I’ve said it a few times now, but Patterson might be the best eligible receiver for 2013. He has the size, the speed, the playmaking ability and he showed at times in this game he can run good routes and make simple catches. If Patterson had been a big recruit with an extra year’s experience at a big programme people wouldn’t stop talking about this guy. He’d be a top-five projection. Instead he’s a JUCO transfer – which always creates some unfair scepticism – and the hype isn’t really building so far. He’s not the most mature guy, as evidenced by his post-game interview against NC State where he furiously chews gum, struggles to answer questions and comes across a little awkward. Hey – maybe he’s just not a natural talker in front of the camera? He doesn’t have to be a great interview, he just has to be a great football player. Yet teams are going to test Cordarrelle come draft time and they’re going to need to be able to invest their faith in him. A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Justin Blackmon were naturals here and probably aced their interviews. Patterson will need to prepare for that if he opts to declare for 2013.
You can see Cordarrelle Patterson’s JUCO tape below:
Last week’s defeat to Arizona was tough, but with hindsight doesn’t look quite as bad seven days later. The Cardinals defeated New England on the road today, playing the same brand of football that beat Seattle. The Seahawks were a play or two from winning last week, and today’s beat-down of Dallas proves the team is on the right path.
The offensive line was much improved, with Frank Omiyale doing a good job stepping in for the injured Russell Okung. The unit handled DeMarcus Ware and with Okung and James Carpenter set to return, it could turn from a negative in week one back into a positive. The Seahawks dominated in the second half, soaking up the clock and running all over the Cowboys.
Russell Wilson was efficient, which is all he needs to be as a rookie. In the future he will need to have a 300-yard passing game, but that’s for another time. Today he needed to avoid mistakes. Apart from a high throw and a near interception in the first half, he looked comfortable. I like the fact Seattle was prepared to shorten the field in the second half, throw underneath and use the tight ends. When he was afforded time in the pocket, Wilson took full advantage.
Defensively it was the same old solid run defense, but there were some frustrations on third down. Dallas repeatedly extended drives on third and long, with the Seahawks using a pretty vanilla three-man rush and blanket coverage. In the second half they were more exotic, throwing in an extra lineman and letting a linebacker blitz. Romo was a different quarterback under pressure and once again second half adjustments paid dividends.
If the Seahawks play this brand of football at home they’ll be a tough team to beat. Can they slow down the Packers on MNF in week three, as they did with Romo and the Cowboys? It’s harder to stamp your authority on a road game and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the next two road trips against St. Louis and Carolina. The NFC West is rock solid this year and might be the most physical division in the conference. The Packers, Cowboys, Patriots and Redskins have all lost to NFC West opponents already, while the Detroit Lions were pushed very close. It’ll make life difficult for all the teams in the NFC West – it looks like all four will be scrapping around for wins. But as we’ve seen in the past, playing in an ultra competitive division can help come playoff time. And the way this division is shaping up, nobody will fancy visiting a NFC West opponent in the off-season. You’ve just got to make sure you’re in there.
If you thought that was looking too far ahead (I know it’s only week two), well this is a draft blog and we try to dissect what Seattle’s needs might be on a week-to-week basis. Wilson threw to six different receivers – with Anthony McCoy coming out on top with five catches for 41 yards. It’s hard to single out receivers after a game where Seattle dominated with the run and the quarterback only threw 20 passes. However, there’s still room for a playmaker in this offense. Sidney Rice is earning the kind of money that should make him a fantasy starter every week, but he only had three catches for 33 yards and ended the game hurt. For Wilson to fulfil his potential it’s easy to assume he’s going to need greater threats outside, guys he can rely on. We considered Cordarrelle Patterson in the week – a receiver from Tennessee with big play potential, downfield speed and YAC ability. He might be the best receiver eligible for the 2013 draft. But he has some maturing to do, on and off the field.
After yesterday’s piece it was easy to imagine Chance Warmack lining up on that Seahawks offense, creating big holes for Marshawn Lynch. I can imagine the Seahawks showing a lot of interest there. And there’s still room for a quality interior lineman – this draft could be rich in that department with Jonathan Jenkins, Sylvester Williams, Jonathan Hankins and Kawann Short. But tonight’s all about enjoying the teams first victory. A great victory against Dallas. We can talk draft later in the week.
Alabama vs Arkansas
We touted the possibility of Alabama vs Arkansas turning into a beat-down, but I’m not sure anyone expected 52-0. ‘Bama knocked the soul out of Arkansas, you could see it visibly leaving the Razorbacks as the game progressed. Tyler Wilson watched on from the sidelines, helpless, and then called out his teammates for quitting in the post-game press conference. It’s hard to tell how that’ll impact his stock. If it inspires Arkansas to hit back after two bad defeats, people will say Wilson was right to criticise. If they continue to struggle, it could be seen as a black mark. Whatever the situation, Wilson will be sitting at home tonight wondering if he made the right choice not to turn pro this year.
The game turned into an exhibition of everything that makes Alabama a great football team – dominating ground game, unforgiving defense and economical passing. It was also a platform for Chance Warmack to show why he might be the best overall talent eligible for the 2013 draft. He was immense today. In fact, ‘immense’ may be too weak to describe what he did to the Arkansas defensive line. Time and time again he would handle an opponent, turning a lineman towards his own goal posts to create a huge running lane. It’s not just that he’s a powerful guy who can out-muscle even the biggest lineman, the technical quality on show was of the highest level. Leverage, hand placement, assignment. He’s mastered the Alabama blocking scheme and he has the physical tools to dominate.
One of the things I was sceptical about with Warmack was pass protection compared to pure straight line run blocking. Well, no issues today. His footwork was just as good as the power up top, and he handled everything Arkansas threw at him. One play stood out – with 3:01 left in the half, he pulls from left guard to right side – hammering two defenders into each other and springing Eddie Lacy for an easy touchdown. Athleticism, technique and power. Chance Warmack is going to walk into the NFL and be one of the best guards in the league straight away. Within a year, he could be the best guard in the league. Alongside UNC’s Jonathan Cooper, two of the best prospects for next year’s draft are interior offensive lineman. Teams should not be afraid to draft them as early as the talent warrants – they deserve to go in the top 10-15 picks.
If you want to dominate on the ground, play tough and use the run game to control the clock – you need a guard like Warmack. He’s right up there with Jarvis Jones and Matt Barkley. He doesn’t play a position as important as quarterback or pass rusher, but he might be the best overall 2013 prospect.
Cornerback Dee Milliner also showed why he’s going to be a top-15 pick with 3:48 left in the first quarter. Arkansas went for a double-pass trick play, with a receiver wide open on the right hand side. The Alabama defense bought the fake, but Milliner reacted immediately and sprinted across the field to break it up. Recovery speed is probably the most important quality in a cornerback and Milliner flashed his range on that play. He’s got the size, he’s got the ability to play run support at a high level. The play highlighted here showed speed and quick reactions. He’s the complete package. He almost had an interception on the very next play – plus a return into the red zone – but the play was called back upon review with the nose of the ball just touching the ground. Make no mistake – Milliner is a top 2013 prospect.
It was a bad day for Arkansas overall and unfortunately Knile Davis isn’t the player we once knew. Not yet anyway. He has time to find some form, but he’s far from the dynamic playmaker we saw prior to a season ending ankle injury last year. Things could get ugly for the Razorbacks after this setback today and last week’s loss against U-L Monroe. Tyler Wilson needs to lift this team.
California vs Ohio State
Ohio State defensive end John Simon had a quiet first half, usually absorbing double team blocks and struggling to have an impact. He hit back in the second half and got a big sack on third down with 5:48 left in the third – just flat out beating the left tackle off the edge, closing on the quarterback and finishing. Simon flashed superb dip and balance to round the corner. He’s not a dominating athlete and he’s not going to blow anyone with size/speed. He’s a pure football player – reliable, full of effort and he has production. A good team will draft John Simon and they won’t regret it.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins looked good anchoring the run up the middle and had an impressive day for the most part. He leans into the guard, tempts the back into the created hole and fills the gap quickly. There were times where he tried to attack the edge and it was too easy for the tackle – he needs to stay in the middle where he has much more success. He had a big sack towards the end of the game, beating his man for speed with a nice swim move thrown in for good measure. He closed brilliantly and looks like a great athlete for his size. I liked him today. He impressed me more than he had in any other game I’d seen so far. There’s a decent group of defensive tackles this year along with Jonathan Jenkins, Sylvester Williams and Kawann Short.
California receiver Keenan Allen only seemed effective on underneath routes or running short/across. He ended with 80 yards from nine catches, which emphasises how he was used. He doesn’t have a quarterback capable of getting it downfield consistently so he wasn’t able to be much of a playmaker. The biggest play he made was a pass back to the quarterback on a double-throw. He drew a pass interference on 3rd and 20 with the game on the line and 2:06 on the clock, but the drive ended with an interception. Allen was covered by three defensive backs and still drew the flag on a throw-and-hope. Allen’s stock will be determined by his combine work out. He’s big – but can he run a quick time? And will teams buy into the potential if he can? He’s a tough player to judge based on college performance.
Washington State vs UNLV
Receiver Marquess Wilson had a mixed night, but most of it was positive. He got his first touchdown on a crossing route from close in, with the quarterback flipping a well judged pass to the back of the end zone. He’d earlier found separation on a deep ball during the first drive but the quarterback Halliday threw too high. He’s smooth running routes, he gets open. At times he looked really polished. He made a second score for an 81-yard strike. It’s a 3rd and 16 play so difficult to get deep and create separation, but he still managed it. Wilson adjusted to the ball, made the catch and took it home – out-running the defense. He also had a couple of sloppy dropped passes – both could’ve led to touchdowns. There’s enough talent to make Wilson an intriguing prospect, but I do wonder if he’ll end up being a second or third round value pick rather than the top-32 first rounder.
Defensive end Travis Long had a sack on the first UNLV drive, leaping over a blocker to make the tackle. On his second sack, he dipped inside and took on two blockers to get to the quarterback. Long has a knack of making plays and he’s a player I want to see more of. He has four sacks in the two Washington State games I’ve seen this year. Like Wilson, he could end up being a value pick.
Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner had another sack against Wake Forest, taking his total to six in three games. I’m going to review the tape on Sunday, but he’s an exciting prospect who should be a high pick next year should he declare.
I’ve said several times on this blog that I didn’t expect Logan Thomas to declare for the 2013 draft. He didn’t attend the Manning Passing Academy this year, and I just had a feeling he’d last the distance at Virginia Tech. If he has many more games like today, that will become a certainty. He threw three interceptions in a poor defeat to struggling Pittsburgh. He ended with a stat line of 14/31 passing, 265 yards, one touchdown and three turnovers. Virginia Tech are traditionally slow starters and there’s still time to turn things around. Yet Thomas just isn’t doing a good enough job right now and it might be time to scratch him off the list of 2013 prospects. He doesn’t look ready for the NFL and he’ll know that.
Tennessee faded badly against Florida, losing 37-20 despite leading 14-10 at half time. Tyler Bray was, well, Tyler Bray. At times he threw some pretty passes – he scored two touchdowns and registered 257 yards. He also completed just 50% passing and had two interceptions. Receiver Justin Hunter had two bad drops, but also a smart 42-yard play downfield adjusting to the ball after creating initial separation. Cordarrelle Patterson had another big day – eight catches, 75-yards and a touchdown. Patterson could be the best receiver prospect eligible for the draft. He looks every bit a #1 NFL receiver – tall, lean, strong and fast. And because he’s new to college football, you get the feeling he’s only scratching the surface of his potential. I asked Kevin Wiedl of Scouts Inc and ESPN about Patterson – he believes he has a chance to be big time, describing him as “physically a special talent”. He’s a player Seahawks fans should monitor. The one concern I have is maturity.
DeAndre Hopkins had another big day for Clemson – notching seven catches for 95 yards. His production hasn’t suffered despite the return of Sammy Watkins from injury. Hopkins will be generating some interest after his fast start to the new season. Andre Ellington also had another good day at running back, rushing for 59 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
It’ll be interesting to see Geno Smith against tougher opponents in weeks to come. In his first two games he’s barely been tested – and the numbers show that. Against James Madison he scored five touchdowns, connected on 34/39 passing and recorded 411 passing yards. Receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin caught 24 of those 34 passes – Bailey had 173 yards and three scores, Austin 113 and one touchdown. The Dana Holgorsen offense is working smoothly to start the year. If Geno Smith can keep winning, he’ll be a Heisman contender. And he’ll boost his stock.
It turns out Smith was the only big-name quarterback to boost his stock today. We’ve touched on Logan Thomas and Tyler Wilson, but Matt Barkley also had a tough day. USC’s pass protection was superb last year – but against Stanford it was terrible. Barkley barely had any time in the pocket and he struggled as a consequence – he had no touchdowns and was intercepted twice in a gutting 21-14 defeat. He completed less than 50% passing with 253 yards. The Trojans had big ambitions this year, as did Barkley. This’ll be a tough one to take. Robert Woods had five catches for 45 yards.
Wisconsin are struggling this season and they just about edged Utah State 16-14 thanks to a missed field goal with the last kick of the game. Montee Ball again had a heavy workload – and an average below four-yards per carry. He had 37 attempts for the night for 139 yards and a key touchdown. He had a lot of tread on the tires before deciding not to turn pro this year. Running nearly 40 times a game for a bad Wisconsin offense isn’t helping his stock in any way at all.
Manti Te’o lost his grandmother and girlfriend this week, but still played for Notre Dame tonight in a relatively easy win over Michigan State 20-3. Just think about that for a second. Te’o was excellent, all over the field and having an impact. He deserves complete respect for the manner in which he played and conducted himself. There were emotional scenes at the end of the game. He spoke after the game and held himself together. How? He’s a credit to his football team and 32 GM’s tonight want Te’o on their roster next year.