Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is one to watch this year. He’s listed at 6-1, around 200lbs and plays like a Pete Carroll corner – physical, willing to play run support and he makes plays. He had an interception against Michigan in a comfortable win, adding to the three he had last year. Nick Saban regularly churns out talented corners and Milliner may be the next off the production line. See above for 2011 game tape. He could be the top 2013 corner.
I was also impressed – again – by linebacker CJ Mosley. He read the eyes of Denard Robinson and returned an interception for a touchdown – his third career pick-six which ties a school record. He has the mobility to play coverage at a high level but also the physical capacity you’d expect from a Crimson Tide linebacker. Again, he’d be a good fit in Seattle’s scheme and another player to keep an eye on this year. T.J. Yeldon is going to be some player to watch over the next few years – he’s a 6-2, 216lbs freshman running back who can move.
Bjoern Werner is a big-time prospect who isn’t generating enough hype. He has a little J.J. Watt to his game but I think he’s a better pass rusher. The week one stat line is somewhat influenced by Florida State’s weak opponent (Murray State), but he had four sacks, five tackles for a loss and a pass deflection. It’s a great start for a player who could be a top-15 pick next year. Another player destined to be an early pick – Jarvis Jones – also started fast with 1.5 sacks for Georgia against Buffalo.
Matt Barkley launched his Heisman campaign with 372 yards, four touchdowns and zero turnovers in a 49-10 win over Hawaii. Marqise Lee isn’t eligible for the 2013 draft but should be a top pick in 2014 – he has all the physical tools and playmaking potential you’d want from a #1 receiver. He also had a big kick-off return for a touchdown. Lee’s emergence as a dominating wide-out won’t help Robert Woods if he’s looking to enter the NFL next year. Twelve months ago Barkley was looking for Woods pretty much every snap. Now Lee is recording the 10-catch, 202-yard stat-line and Woods is generating 6-catches for just 42-yards. He did have a couple of scores against Hawaii, but it sums up Woods’ future role in the league. He’s probably always going to be at his best as a #2 or slot receiver to a physically superior #1.
Keenan Allen had a losing start at California as he tries to cement his position as one of the top draft-eligible receivers for 2013. He scored on a juking 39-yard end-around and also had a nice reception/run down the middle for 32-yards. He finished with five catches for 69-yards but will suffer this year for not playing in the kind of productive offense that has boosted AJ Green, Julio Jones and Justin Blackman.
West Virginia took most of last season to really fire in Dana Holgorsen’s offense, but they look set for a big year in 2012. The Mountaineers won 69-34 against Marshall thanks to 32-36 passing from Geno Smith, four touchdowns and 323 yards. Smith also added 65 yards rushing and a further touchdown from eight carries. It helps having a playmaker like Tavon Austin, who rushed three times for 66 yards and caught ten passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Smith could really push his stock upwards playing in this offense and he has the tools to interest NFL scouts.
Jutin Hunter had nine catches for 73 yards on his return from a knee injury, but he also had several drops and looked rusty. It was another Tennessee prospect that caught the eye – JUCO transfer Cordarrelle Patterson. You can see tape from his Vols debut here. He had six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown, plus two rushes for 72 yards and another score. He looks raw, but he also looks the part physically with unique acceleration and strong hands. Tony Pauline wrote on Patterson’s display: “(He) offers size, dependable hands and showed terrific football speed during the victory.” Chris Steuber was also impressed…
Cordarrelle Patterson is on everyone’s radar now. Wow. Playmaker! #Tennessee
— Chris Steuber (@ChrisSteuber) September 1, 2012
It’s still early but Patterson has a quarterback in Taylor Bray who can get the ball downfield and exploit his speed/size. He could emerge as a big-time prospect this year. Bray had 333 yards against NC State with two touchdowns and no turnovers. On a negative note, David Arneson struggled badly at corner. He had 13-interceptions last year but a switch to safety appears inevitable at the next level and he won’t be a first round pick next April.
Montee Ball laboured to 120 yards from 32 carries as Wisconsin edged past Northern Iowa 26-21. Ball had a touchdown and a further 31 receiving yards. I like Ball, but can’t help but feel his stock can only dip after last year. He doens’t have Russell Wilson at quarterback any more keeping things balanced and he’s going to be the main focus of the Badgers offense. It’ll be tough for him. Marcus Lattimore fumbled his first snap on his return from injury at South Carolina, but his second touch was a 29-yard touchdown. He looked sharp if not fully 100% just yet in a 110-yard, two-score performance against Vanderbilt.
Saturday was a good day for the Clemson Tigers. Tajh Boyd looks sharp at quarterback, DeAndre Hopkins set a school record for receptions in a single game and Andre Ellington was sensational. The top senior running back had 231-yards from 26 carries and looks better than ever before. He exploded through openings, led some key drives and could end up being one of the best playmakers in the ACC this year. Hopkins also looked good with Sammy Watkins missing through injury – he caught 13 passes for 119 yards including an excellent touchdown pass in the back-right corner of the end zone.
Chris Gragg is a tight end worth monitoring at Arkansas. He looked good at times last year if a little raw, but he started well this weekend with 110 yards from seven catches against Jacksonville State. He also had two touchdowns via Tyler Wilson. This was a pretty easy day for Wilson who had three total scores and 367 yards. Knile Davis returned from the ankle injury that ruined his 2011 season and record 70 yards from 18 carries and a touchdown.
Finally to Landry Jones, the man people are already making excuses for last year and trying to argue he can be a first round pick. If Landry Jones is a first round pick next year, it’s because somebody made a mistake. Oklahoma beat UTEP 24-7 but reports say Jones again looked rattled when things weren’t going smoothly and took three sacks. He has feet made out of cement and needs zero pressure, timing and heavy reliance on scripted passes to be productive. In the NFL he’s going to need to improvise, move around comfortably and find passing lanes. He’s not going to be able to judge pre-snap where he’s throwing, make the pass blind and hope it comes off. Jones is a mid-round talent with backup value. Don’t believe the hype.
On Monday we get our first look at Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. He plays Georgia Tech.