This weekend I’ll be watching the following games: Washington State vs UNLV, California vs Ohio State, Alabama vs Arkansas and Wake Forest vs Florida State. I’ve also got Texas at Ole Miss and Notre Dame against Michigan State saved for later in the week. I’ve highlighted some of the things I’m going to be looking for in each game.
Washington State vs UNLV
Expectations were high at Washington State with Mike Leach running the offense, but the Cougars have struggled in their first two games this year. Marquess Wilson (WR, Washington State) was supposed to be the main benefactor, but he’s pretty much summed up the teams stuttering start – four catches for 61 yards against BYU and four catches for 47 yards (zero touchdowns) isn’t an awful stat-line, but much more was expected. As the Leach offense grows and develops, we need to see more of Wilson. This is an offensive scheme that took talented receivers to stardom at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, even when the quarterbacks were only so-so. Wilson needs to prove he can be the same kind of production machine. There’s nothing wrong with his potential – he’s 6-3 but a lean 185-190lbs but he matches up well for his size. He has decent hands and plays with the right level of intensity. He’s flashed some ability against press coverage which is good given his frame and he’s a big play threat. If Washington State’s offense goes up a notch or two this week, look for Wilson to step up to the plate.
I’m also going to take another look at Travis Long (DE, Washington State). He picked up two sacks in the game against BYU.
California vs Ohio State
We may never truly understand how good (or bad) Keenan Allen (WR, California) is until he enters the league. He has prototypical size at around 6-3 and 210lbs, but he simply isn’t playing in the kind of offense that could push him into the top-15 range. AJ Green had Aaron Murray, Justin Blackmon had Brandon Weeden and Julio Jones was the biggest physical freak since Calvin Johnson, playing in an offense with an elite ground game. Zach Maynard is the quarterback in Cal, and he’s not a prolific passer. Not by a long shot. Which is a shame for Allen, given they’re half brothers. I’ll be watching Cal’s big receiver in this tough match-up against Ohio State, but I don’t expect to learn much. He has made a handful of big plays this season, which he wasn’t known for in the past. Allen’s day will come at the combine – very few prospects could improve or hurt their stock more with a single forty yard dash. That’s what teams are going to go off, because they won’t learn a lot from the on-field play.
I’m not quite sure why there’s so much fuss about Ohio State’s Jonathan Hankins. I’ve seen him projected as a top-5 pick by some, but where’s the evidence for that kind of grade? I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if there’s anything I’m missing with this guy, who just looks ‘above average’ at the college level. I’m much more impressed by John Simon, who lacks a lot of the physical qualities you expect in a defensive lineman but makes up for it with effort. He’s still fast off the line, he’s a terrific football player and he finds ways to have an impact. He’s not going to wow people with a brilliant athletic resume – he’s a shade under 6-2 and around 260lbs. He’s not an elite athlete. But he’s the kind of guy I want on my football team. You find a role for him on defense.
Alabama vs Arkansas
This was supposed to be a heavyweight contest in the SEC, but then Tyler Wilson suffered a concussion and Arkansas lost to U-L Monroe. Reports today suggest Wilson won’t play in this game, raising the chances this’ll become an ugly beat-down. It’s been a strange year for Arkansas and unfortunately it could get even worse. Wilson’s stock is up for debate – he’s a gunslinger with a good arm and some pro-teams will like his overall skill set. At the same time, he’s incredibly slingy with his release and he can get easily flustered. He’s not the tallest quarterback at a shade under 6-2, so the low release point needs further investigation. The health issue also needs to be looked at – the concussions are concerning and not a new problem. It doesn’t help that he gets virtually no protection at Arkansas, but he’s a prospect who’s suffering as his team suffers. Knile Davis doesn’t look like the same player prior to a serious ankle injury, which is also a shame. He started last season as one of the most dynamic running backs in college football. Now, he doesn’t even get the most reps at RB. I’m also hoping to get a closer look at Cobi Hamilton and Chris Gragg against an elite secondary.
Alabama are loaded as usual and have a quarterback in A.J. McCarron who does a little more than the guys he replaced (Greg McElroy & John Parker Wilson). It’s another chance to look at the talent on ‘Bama’s offensive line (Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and DJ Fluker), but the guy I’m most intrigued with is Dee Milliner at cornerback. He was superb against Michigan – and looked every bit the next SEC defensive back who goes in the top ten. Milliner does it all – great recovery speed, he can press, play run support, he’s a ball hawk. The sky’s the limit for this guy.
Wake Forest vs Florida State
I want to see Bjoern Werner for the first time this year – a guy from Germany who reminds me of J.J. Watt. He came to everyone’s attentions against Oklahoma last year with a dominating performance, and he’s started 2012 with five sacks in two games. He may be better than Watt as a pass rusher and a lot of teams are going to be watching Werner to see if he continues his production over the next few weeks. I also want to have a good look at Xavier Rhodes for the first time in 2012, a player I’ve heard a lot about both positive and negative. He’s had a ton of injuries which is a concern, and he’s better in run support than coverage. But he is the type of corner Seattle goes for – he can hold his own and he’s big at 6-1, 215lbs. I actually much prefer Greg Reid, who is 5-8 and 179lbs.
I’m not a big fan of FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel. He’s physically gifted and was once a highly rated high school QB who joined the college ranks at the same time as Landry Jones. However – there just hasn’t been enough progression. He’s still making the same mistakes, still not leading a dominating passing game. The fact Christian Ponder was actually drafted in the top half of a first round makes me wonder if Manuel still has a chance of going early, because Ponder showed barely anything to warrant the pick Minnesota spent on him. I just cannot see Manuel as anything beyond a round 3-5 pick. He’s not accurate, he makes bad decisions, he has balls tipped a lot despite being 6-4. He just always seems slightly off. On the plus side he can extend plays, but people promoting him as a legit pro-prospect are basing it on physical size and potential rather than tape. He needs to show so much more.