College football week three notes

September 17th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

— Louisville absolutely destroyed Florida State 63-20 but at least DeMarcus Walker enhanced his stock (somehow). He was the only FSU defender who got close to Lamar Jackson. His patience at the LOS, hand use, explosive closing speed and combination of size/athleticism makes him a very attractive DE/DT hybrid. You want to see him play with a bit more snap-to-snap intensity (he’s a bit passive on snaps where he doesn’t have an impact) but there’s a lot of potential here.

— Yes, Lamar Jackson is fast becoming the biggest star in college football. He’s a bit one-paced as a thrower (100mph or nothing) and he still needs to work on his accuracy (his intercepted pass to the inside on a corner fade was a basic error) but as an athlete he’s clearly sensational. Even if the NFL eventually doesn’t see a future at QB — there’s a role for someone like this at the next level.

— Tim Williams is a stud. Against Ole Miss he ran outside of the tackle before instantly dipping to the inside drawing a hold. It was a brilliant play — setting up the OT before destroying him in one fluid motion. He hit the QB’s arm on a sack to force a pick-six for Jonathan Allen (a 75-yarder no less). The NFL loves players like Williams. He’s destined for a big time draft grade and could easily go top ten. Speed, hands, length.

— Marquis Haynes is fun to watch. He could be a Bruce Irvin type DE/LB. He’s a lighter player and won’t be a full time defensive end. There were a couple of times where he was easily blocked out of the play by the Alabama RT and Bo Scarborough coasted through a downfield block on Haynes at the second level to secure a first down (he really needed to do a better job disengaging). He did have one huge, crunching sack/fumble against Alabama that was recovered and returned for a touchdown. He drew a big holding call on O.J. Howard on a running play. Haynes has major production as a pass rusher in college and could be a sleeper in the middle rounds.

— Damore’ea Stringfellow was superb today. He’s a big bodied receiver who won a contested catch downfield vs Marlon Humphrey (who had water-tight coverage). It was ideal body control and positioning by Stringfellow. He made another key grab at the goal line vs Humphrey to set up a first and goal and scored a consolation red zone touchdown with three minutes to go.

— I maybe underestimated Eddie Jackson’s athletic potential. The Alabama safety had a long punt return for a touchdown. He ran away from a lot of people.

— It’s surprising to see continued talk about Chad Kelly in the first round. It’s a bit like the ‘Dalvin Cook is superior to Leonard Fournette’ stuff. And is there a team that has flattered to deceive more than Ole Miss over the last three seasons?

— Speaking of Fournette…

— Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers is a special talent. He’s a former big-time 5-star recruit who will play in the NFL in the en vogue LB/S hybrid position. He scored on a +50 yard punt return vs Colorado today.

— Oregon running back Royce Freeman was injured during a 35-32 loss to Oregon. It’s unclear what the issue is but his lower right leg was iced and heavily wrapped on the sidelines.

— Tennessee cornerback Cam Sutton will also miss several weeks with an ankle injury. It’s a real shame for Sutton. Hopefully he recovers well in advance of the combine — he’s a potential top-15 pick.

— Joe Mixon (RB, Oklahoma) has some severe character flags that need to be investigated thoroughly but he’s a 5-star recruit with major upside. He had a big kick return for a TD vs Ohio State. His ceiling is extremely high — but the flags are a real concern.

— Time for the DeShone Kizer #1 overall hot takes to settle down. Why did this ever become a thing?

 

Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage one to watch

September 14th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage scored eight touchdowns against Texas Tech last weekend. Even more remarkable is that he did it with just 15 touches.

Ballage’s most impressive score was a 75-yard run (see above) where he ran away from the defense. It’s pretty impressive for a runner listed at 6-3 and 230lbs. He admitted in a recent interview he’s actually 6-2 but the weight is accurate.

I did a bit more digging on Ballage — a player I haven’t focused on much because he works in a committee and has never really been the lead guy. He had just 653 yards last season but did average 5.2 YPC. He scored just four times.

This season he already has 193 yards, nine scores and 8.4 YPC in two games.

One of those four touchdowns from last season included this against UCLA:

Physicality, effectiveness, speed, size. This guy is intriguing.

His character and personality is even more impressive. Listen to his demeanour in this interview, or the way he handled the on-the-field post game reaction to his record setting night (it’s at the end of the video at the top of the page).

Character is big for the Seahawks. So is difference making physical qualities. If Ballage continues to produce, he could be a name to keep an eye on. After all, Christine Michael’s contract expires next year and as the Seahawks transition towards more of a committee approach — they’ll be looking to add bodies at running back all the time.

I’m going to be attending the Washington vs Arizona State game in November so will get the opportunity to watch Ballage live.

He at least has the potential to get into the second round mix. Oregon’s Royce Freeman is a similar bigger back with plus speed. They could both go in a similar range. Right now you’d also have to put Nick Chubb in that bracket. Keep an eye on NC State’s Matt Dayes too. Leonard Fournette is a shoe-in for the top five picks while Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook could also find a home in round one.

 

Tuesday draft notes: Alex Anzalone shines

September 13th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

— Florida linebacker Alex Anzalone is one to seriously monitor for the 2017 draft. His performance vs Kentucky on Saturday was intense — including 1.5 sacks and five solo tackles. His closing speed, play recognition and versatility to play coverage and rush the passer makes him an intriguing prospect. See for yourself:

Anzalone is a redshirt junior so declaring for the draft is likely if he maintains this level of performance. He’s eerily similar to Clay Matthews Jr — the same hair, 6-3/241lbs frame and intensity. For the Seahawks he could be an option in the Bruce Irvin role. Watch this guy if you get a chance.

— Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson is an interesting case. You’ll see a lot of mocks projecting him in the top-10. He has the ideal frame but at the moment just doesn’t play like a top-10 prospect. Robinson has heavy feet despite his athleticism and he doesn’t play with the kind of control we saw from Laremy Tunsil a year ago. There were a couple of times vs Western Kentucky where he didn’t really seem sure who he was supposed to block. The potential is there and the league demand for athletic tackles has never been greater. That could keep him in the top tier for 2017. At the moment he’s not entirely living up to the hype. That said, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Seahawks if a tackle with upside and potential suffers a bit of a fall and maybe comes into range.

Adam Schefter predicted today that Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer would be the #1 pick in next years draft. I found that surprising given he started the year swapping drives with Malik Zaire. I watched Kizer vs Nevada and Texas and there’s certainly a lot to like. He’s big but not immobile, he has a decent arm and he made some nice throws against the Longhorns. Yet on Saturday there were also some issues:

On one pick he horribly undersold a deep ball when the WR had gained perfect downfield separation. He misfired a couple of other times downfield and as a runner he’s more ‘elusive’ than a threat to break off gains. Does he really look like a future #1 pick in the video above? He also has limited starting experience and although DeShaun Watson has had a middling start to the season — it’s staggering to think Kizer has jumped ahead of him based on this evidence. With the likes of Watson, Myles Garrett and Leonard Fournette eligible next year — it’s hard to imagine Kizer being the top pick.

— It’s rare that the top recruits end up becoming the top draft prospects but that could be the case with this years draft. Here’s a list of players who were all part of the same recruiting class and given 5-star ratings:

DeShaun Watson
Malik McDowell
Calvin Cook
Cam Robinson
Bo Scarborough
Malachi Dupre
Jalen Tabor
Marlon Humphrey
Joe Mixon
Adoree’ Jackson
Leonard Fournette
Jabrill Peppers
Myles Garrett
Da’Shawn Hand

It’s strange to think Hand was ahead of the others and yet plays, so far, basically a spell-role for the Alabama defense. Garrett, Peppers and Fournette are top-tier prospects for next years draft while Humphrey, Dupre, Tabor, Robinson, Cook and Watson are all slated for round one.

Malik McDowell is really boom or bust. Against Furman he had one really good play shedding a block and pursuing the running back for a big loss. He was also dumped on his backside by a tight end at one point and drifted out of the game against a major underdog opponent. When he uses his length he’s adept at disengaging and working into the backfield. Too often though his technique drops and he becomes ineffective. I’m not sold on his ability to go as early as some are predicting.

Adoree’ Jackson is an incredible athlete but what is his role at the next level? Can he become a bona fide corner? Joe Mixon has a high ceiling but major character concerns that need to be checked out. As a talent he has a NFL future but nobody will touch him without doing major background checks on his legal case.

Bo Scarborough has the potential to be the next great running back at Alabama but so far has been used in a committee. We’ll see if his role develops over the course of the season.

— This should be a much better draft for tight ends. If Eric Ebron can go #10 overall than O.J. Howard is an absolute shoe-in for the top-15. Howard has Ebron’s occasional lapses in concentration but he’s an even better athlete with major upside as a pass-catcher. Jake Butt is Mr. Dependable — a Greg Olsen type who does everything well. Evan Engram is a better blocker than his 6-3, 227lbs frame suggests but he’s a really dynamic pass-catcher.

If you missed this weeks podcast — don’t forget to check it out here.

 

Podcast: Lamar Jackson, Alex Anzalone & Dolphins game

September 13th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

This week, Lamar Jackson took the college football world by storm, the Seahawks pulled out a narrow 12-10 victory over the Dolphins and we look at week two draft risers including Florida’s impressive linebacker Alex Anzalone.

 

Are you ready for these?

September 12th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

This is the color rush jersey to be worn by the Seahawks when they host Los Angeles in week 15.

NFL_Leaks (twitter here) has the scoop. The NFL introduced monochrome uniforms for Thursday night games last year, with mixed results. Some of the combinations this year look good (see: Cincinnati, San Diego, Oakland and a few others). I’ll leave you to make your own mind up on Seattle’s entry.

‘Action green’ as it’s described by Nike is a unique accent to the home and road jersey’s and, like it or loathe it, is part of the teams identity. Picturing the Seahawks in an entirely ‘action green’ uniform is a different matter. Especially when you consider the Rams will be wearing golden yellow.

It’ll be like two different varieties of mucus, meeting to finally determine which is tougher to cough up.

Week 15: The Mucus Bowl

If you’re so inclined, the Seahawks will have the largest variety of player name/number options to purchase. They’ll also be introducing the following:

Some of these look very good. The Bengals ‘white tiger’ uniform particularly stands out. Seattle’s will be an acquired taste. Kudos to NFL_Leaks for the info.

Tonight we’re doing a podcast where we’ll discuss some of the college football/draft topics from the weekend. No doubt we’ll also get into the Miami game and Russell Wilson’s ankle.

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Dolphins 12-10

September 11th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Where do you start?

I suppose it has to be the game winning drive, manufactured miraculously against the odds. Russell Wilson’s injured ankle basically shut down the offense. And without an experienced game-manager backup he was forced to stay in the game.

A 75-yard scoring drive in the final four minutes was improbable. Yet there was Wilson, virtually on one leg, leading the team down the field. Two converted fourth downs. One perfect fade for the touchdown.

A franchise quarterback performance.

Yet the game MVP goes to someone else. Cassius Marsh had three incredible plays on special teams including a (now crucial) blocked field goal. His sack/fumble at the end all but capped the win.

This had a bit of the 2013 Rams game about it. On that occasion the Seahawks couldn’t block a tackle dummy, couldn’t move the ball on offense and needed a dramatic stop as time expired to win the game.

The scenario’s are different here — but the inability to move the ball and the desperation late win against an underdog opponent are similar.

That game ended up being an anomaly. The hope has to be that this is the same. An off day due to Wilson’s injury and some ring-rust.

Yet there are legitimate concerns over the following:

— Seattle’s O-line struggled in pass pro, in particular Bradley Sowell who picked up multiple holding penalties. He did have a key run block on the 4th and inches play during the final drive.

— How serious is Wilson’s ankle injury? If you take away his mobility, it harms the offense to a great extent. He appeared to be moving more freely during the game winning drive. More on this in a moment.

— Why did the Seahawks throw the ball 26 times in the first half versus 11 runs? Are they needing to set up the run these days? Was it just a one-off game plan to try and set up the deep ball and test a rookie cornerback and Byron Maxwell?

— What on earth was Earl Thomas doing today?

— Too many bad long snaps. Again.

— What happened on the blown coverage that led to Kenny Still’s big drop and Arian Foster’s easy 50-yard catch-and-run?

The most important factor is Wilson. If he’s healthy that will do for now. It looked like a serious ankle sprain. The type that might not force him to miss any time but it could:

a.) easily be injured again in another game considering how often Wilson is hit

b.) linger enough to prevent him ever playing at his absolute best in 2016

Do they need to bring in an experienced backup this week just in case? Someone who can get them in and out of plays, handle the huddle and lead a conservative offense?

For now let’s enjoy the relief of a win and a 1-0 start.

 

Week 2 CFB open thread

September 10th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

I’m working at the Gennady Golovkin vs Kell Brook fight in London today so won’t be able to watch any college football until Monday (wedding anniversary tomorrow). Expect some thoughts in the week (plus instant reaction to the Seahawks/Dolphins game on Sunday).

In the meantime here’s an open thread for today’s games. Tell us which game you’re watching and which draft prospects stood out.

 

Joey Hunt to start vs Miami? Plus CFB week 2 preview

September 9th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Maybe J’Marcus Webb shouldn’t have referred to Germain Ifedi’s injury as “dreamland”? Per Ian Rapoport, they might prefer to start a rookie instead on Sunday.

Having spent the summer preparing one of the more explosive interior offensive lines in the NFL (evidence here) — the Seahawks look set to blow everything up before week one.

Germain Ifedi’s twisted ankle sprain could keep him out for a few weeks (although he was only listed as ‘questionable’ for Sunday’s game, not ‘out’ or ‘doubtful’). Initially it looked like a straight swap. Webb plays right guard, Justin Britt and Mark Glowinski stay where they are. Webb played right guard for Oakland. Britt was excelling at center.

For whatever reason, Rapoport is suggesting they’re not entirely comfortable with that scenario. So let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of what might happen instead:

PRO #1 — Joey Hunt knows the center position
The Seahawks have tried converted defensive linemen, tackles and guards at center. Hunt at least knows the position. He’s already beaten Patrick Lewis for the backup job in pre-season. He might not be the massive, explosive force Britt was going to be — but as a stopgap he might be able to hold the fort.

PRO #2 — Justin Britt isn’t just succeeding because he’s a center
I can’t remember if it was Tom Cable or Pete Carroll but one of them recently suggested Britt was influenced too much by J.R. Sweezy. Britt liked Sweezy’s playing style — aggressive and a little reckless. It worked for Sweezy but Britt needed more technical refinement and control to succeed. It appears to be one of the reasons he has performed so well this summer. That shouldn’t change if he moves back to right guard.

CON #1 — What does it say about J’Marcus Webb?
He can’t win the right tackle job. He didn’t even appear to seriously compete at left tackle. And now with Germain Ifedi likely out, he might not even be trusted at right guard. This is quickly looking like the 2016 version of Cary Williams.

CON #2 — Loss of size and explosion
Britt is 6-6 and 325lbs. Next to Glowinski and Ifedi that was an intimidating and explosive trio. Joey Hunt was listed at 6-0 and 295lbs before the draft. He might’ve added weight — but it’s hard to add much more to a 6-0 frame. Seattle’s run game looked great in pre-season when the interior line was bossing defenders at the LOS. Hunt is more of a technician.

CON #3 — Oh, they’re playing Ndamukong Suh
This was always going to be a major test for Seattle’s new O-line. The feeling was if the interior holds up it won’t matter too much if the tackles Sowell and Gilliam struggle against Cameron Wake and Mario Williams. Can Hunt slow down Suh? Remember rookie J.R. Sweezy facing a baptism of fire against Darnell Dockett on debut? Hunt isn’t learning how to play offense like Sweezy — but could it be a similar rough start? How will he deal with knowing every time he snaps the ball — he’s battling Suh? Mentally can he deal with that, as well as physically?

The Seahawks’ roster is largely signed up for the long haul so they can pick and choose their target needs moving forward. This one injury proves, again, how light they are on the O-line. One injury to the right guard is leading to a major overhaul — with doubts already lingering at tackle.

It wouldn’t be a big shock if the Seahawks ‘do a Dallas’ and focus on the O-line for a series of drafts. Especially if they want to focus on protecting Russell Wilson and need better blocking in the post-Marshawn Lynch era.

With that in mind — here are some players to watch this weekend in college football:

Dan Feeney (G, Indiana)
The most impressive O-line performer on opening weekend, Feeney is powerful, adept at pulling, blocking at the second level and being physical at the POA. For more on Feeney click here. Indiana face Ball State on Saturday.

Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh) & Dorian Johnson (G, Pittsburgh)
Both players looked strong teaming up vs Villanova at LT/LG and they have a much tougher match-up vs Penn State this weekend. Both are very physical but are also deceptively athletic. Pittsburgh dominated in the trenches last week and will likely continue to run to the left side this weekend.

David Sharpe (T, Florida)
In what looks like a generally weak tackle class in 2017, Florida’s LT has a chance to really boost his stock this year. The right side of the Gator’s line is a bit of a mess, which could make it hard to judge Sharpe if opponents focus on the right tackle (possibly true freshman Jawaan Taylor). Florida faces Kentucky on Saturday in one of the few intriguing games in an otherwise mediocre week two. Keep an eye on Kentucky’s Denzil Ware.

 

Germain Ifedi injury highlights jinxed Seahawks

September 8th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

To suggest the Seahawks are snakebitten when it comes to first picks in the draft would be underselling the situation.

They’ve had miserable luck every year bar one since Pete Carroll and John Schneider arrived in Seattle:

2010 — Russell Okung
Missed six games in his rookie season with high-ankle sprains on both ankles

2011 — James Carpenter
Started nine games in his rookie season before suffering an ACL injury

2013 — Percy Harvin
Had a slight labrum tear in his hip while training during the offseason, missed most of his first season in Seattle

2014 — Paul Richardson
Tore his ACL vs the Panthers (playoffs) in his rookie season

2015 — Jimmy Graham
Tore his right patellar tendon last November

2016 — Germain Ifedi
Suffered a high ankle sprain days before the season opener vs Miami

Since 2010, only Bruce Irvin has avoided a serious injury in his rookie year after becoming Seattle’s first pick in the draft (via trade or selection). Earl Thomas was their second pick in 2010. Everyone else, without fail, has suffered.

It’s a major blow that Ifedi is the latest victim. Seattle’s interior O-line was flirting with becoming a major team strength in 2016. That could still happen (especially if this latest injury isn’t too serious) — but Ifedi’s combination of size and explosion won’t be easy to replace.

The loss of one guard is unlikely to hijack the start of the season. Even if the O-line struggles, they’re capable of winning anyway. Remember the Rams game in 2013? With Paul McQuistan at left tackle and rookie Michael Bowie at right tackle? The Seahawks won that one despite an absolute thrashing in the trenches.

Losing Ifedi won’t create a similar problem. But they can ill afford any more losses on the O-line.

 

Week one risers: Hello DeMarcus Walker & Dan Feeney

September 6th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

DeMarcus Walker (DL, Florida State)
Walker had 4.5 sacks against Ole Miss. Unbelievably, that only tells half of the story. Just watch…

Look at the hand use to disengage here (he’s #44) and then explode. His closing burst after shedding the block is incredible:

Textbook club/swim move following a great get off. The perfect blend of technique and athleticism:

The video above shows him working the A gap, now look at him attack the B gap lining up at DE vs the tackle. Same result — but this time he gets the strip sack and turnover:

The violent hands, the ideal technique, the ability to explode, the relentless nature. DeMarcus Walker is a senior prospect we need to get to know.

He had 10.5 sacks last year and is listed at 6-4 and 280lbs by ESPN. Scouts Inc listed him at 6-2 and 266lbs over the Summer so this is a point of contention. Rivals has him down at 6-4 and 280lbs on their recruiting page so that might actually be true. Walker is a former 4-star recruit and has been a team captain since 2015.

The Seahawks seem to like these DE/DT types who can play inside and out. Walker’s superb start against Ole Miss means he has to be on our radar going forward.

Dan Feeney (G, Indiana)
I didn’t think anyone would be more impressive than Dan Feeney on opening weekend — then DeMarcus Walker showed up. Feeney is Indiana’s right guard and had a really impressive outing against Florida International:

He pulls with ease, locates who he needs to block at the second level and executes. At the LOS when he needs to turn a defender to create a lane he can do it. He’s incredibly patient in pass-pro and doesn’t get flustered when a defense throws in a stunt or an exotic look.

Combo blocking is a big deal and I’m convinced it’s one of the reasons why Jack Conklin went #8 overall. I’m not sure I’ve seen a combo blocker at guard as good as Feeney in the last 3-4 years.

He’s also plenty powerful and can handle a bull rush. He’s a grinder with the mobility to attack the second level and dominate in the run game. If you’re looking for a plug-in-and-play guard this is your guy. His ability to go in the first round might depend on his athletic testing — but in terms of talent he should be right up there if he avoids injury.

If you missed this weeks podcast, check it out here.