I had LSU/Florida on the schedule for week six – so for fans of both schools I will get to your prospects, but just not this week. The main thing is that people were safe, so the correct decision was made to postpone the game. I added two games to replace this one – Auburn/Mississippi State and UNLV/San Diego State.
First off, I want to give “Pigskin Paul” a mention. I’ve been reading his work for many years and he’s now over at the GBN Report – check out Paul’s column as he gives you names to look for before the games, and his opinion after them.
Small School Feature
I couldn’t find any video of Wayne State OT Nate Theaker in the off-season, but was able to watch a live feed of the game at Findlay (which I have used in past season, so thank you to them). Theaker is listed at 6’5″ 305 lbs, but looked a bit heavier – I would say he’s a little top heavy frame wise. He wasn’t really tested speed wise, so it was difficult to really tell, but I wouldn’t say he’s a Jared Veldheer (who came out of the same conference at Hillsdale) level athlete. He’s not naturally flexible and numerous times he was waist bending, particularly in the running game, including ducking his head into contact. There were times when he was too good – and certainly in pass protection he had a solid base and looked in complete control. It’s a little difficult to project forward from D2 at times and this was one instance. I have him on the schedule for week eleven, so will see if he gets more of a test.
I had Michigan/Rutgers scheduled for this week – I watched almost a half, but I was learning nothing, so I called an audible and watched Bucknell OT Julie’n Davenport. At 6’6″ 315 lbs, Davenport carries his weight well and actually looks like he can carry 10-15 lbs more comfortably. For a tall man, he can bend – he sits in his stance in pass protection and uses his long arms to his advantage. On a couple of stunts, he was patient – handed over the DE and then stoned the DT. The only times he had problems were against wide-9 rushers – a spin move inside and a couple of speed rushes made him look a little heavy footed, with his hands dropping with each step (what Wes Bunting used to call “chicken wings”). Interestingly, when climbing to the second level in the running game he moved really well, so he might just need a little technique work when sat in his stance – or be a little tight in the hips. He made some top blocks in the running game, he gets under people and can wash them up with consumate ease. There were some nice pancake blocks as well, including one where he literally buried his man and then helped him back up! I would imagine Davenport has a real shot at making the Senior Bowl roster – but certainly he was well worth a watch.
I always like players who can rise up and make big plays at key times. Holding a seven point lead over William and Mary, James Madison were on the ropes with the Tribe driving deep into JMU territory. At that point, CB Taylor Reynolds closed the door on the comeback attempt, making an interception in the end zone on an underthrown fade route. Reynolds plays the boundary CB role and is generally in press man coverage. I’ve seen a few CBs this year who give up the inside way too easily, but Reynolds does a nice job of guiding his man outside. He looks comfortable turning and running down the field. There’s perhaps a little tightness in the hips as he gave up a medium curl route completion and also was called for holding, although the replay was poor and I couldn’t see what happened. He was in off a few times – side-on in bail technique and he didn’t look as comfortable in that role. When facing the QB, he showed a nice break on the ball to get his hand on a crossing route. He was a willing tackler in the running game, and he will go for the ball when a team mate has secured the tackle. Reynolds is on the Senior Bowl watch list and I really hope he secures an invitation to Mobile – although much of that will be determined from his 40 time at his junior timing day.
The Rest of Week Six
I tuned into the Thursday night matchup to give Temple OT Dion Dawkins a first watch. Dawkins has good size at 6’5″, 320 lbs and looks to have long arms. Athletic tools wise, I don’t think he’s an elite athlete – his feet are okay, but top NFL speed would give him problems – and also he’s not naturally flexible, a couple of times a DE getting low caused him problems. Technique wise, he seems to have the basic idea in terms of using his arm length to his advantage and that will only help him as he bids to become an NFL starter. As he’s not flexible, he got walked back into his QB a few times – simply the lower DE getting under his pads. His first step in pass protection is not particularly deep, but being relatively upright, that does become harder to get a decent step. I’ll watch him again a couple of times and then see if he cracks the Senior Bowl, but I think from first watch I’d be thinking early day three.
Temple RB Jahad Thomas is an interesting prospect. His size works against him, but he’s tough to get a big hit on as he’s quick and also has a nice spin move. He’s versatile in that he’s a good receiver and also showed up as a punt returner (although his big return was called back for a penalty). I liked how he stayed on his feet in pass protection – it’s not a great matchup projecting forward to the NFL – but he looked willing, which is more than bigger backs. With the RB class, it depends who else declares early – but I think there’s a place for him in the middle rounds because he’s a bit different.
Also flashing for Temple, was DE/LB Haason Reddick, who was a thorn in the side of the Memphis RT all night. Clearly at 6’1″ 230 lbs, he’s a pro LB – but he does look to have long arms, which helps. Reddick is athletic with a good get off, quickness and long speed when it comes to chasing down plays. His playing speed is fast – but he does need to break down a little better before tackling, as he missed a couple or lost his footing. An All-Star game would allow him to have a week at LB – but certainly in an attacking speed his pass rush ability could still be used.
In general, the media is poor with ranking QBs – Tom Savage a first round pick for example! Even in top 100s last year it was evident with Jacoby Brissett and Cody Kessler appearing in very few. The reason is simple – a huge part of the evaluation is in meeting rooms. A QB must be football smart and the media only gets drip downs – but not always as some teams will obviously play their cards close to their chest. I mention this as I get the impression that Miami’s Brad Kaaya is going to shine in this part of the process. When you watch him play, there are some good moments, but also some negative – but I think the off the field stuff will see him go high. Perhaps with such a high profile prospect, more will come out than a middle rounder like Kessler last year. I really liked the way he led the team down the field late on for what should have been the tying TD – but equally after Kermit Whitfield’s TD, I thought he went into his shell a bit – perhaps the lost tooth had something to do with that (ouch!). Kaaya showed some superb touch on the TD throw to Coley, but he did miss a couple of deeper balls. He was crisp on slants, with a quick release. One thing I would like to see improve is picking pressure – it’s not easy against complex defenses like Florida State’s, but he will need that skill at the next level.
When I watched Florida State earlier in the season, DT Derrick Nnadi didn’t impress, but he was battling an ankle injury. Now healthier he made some nice plays and anytime a one technique can get a sack, that’s a big bonus. Nnadi is listed at 303 lbs, but looks a bit heavier – but was still able to get penetration and disrupt. DE/DT DeMarcus Walker didn’t have a top game, but he made several key plays – including blocking the potential game tying PAT. His ability to win off the edge is likely his ticket to the NFL as at 6’2″ 273 lbs, he’s a bit short/light to be a two gap guy – something he does for his team. I suspect the lack of length might be an issue come the post-season process – but I think he’s a day two talent at the very least.
My main reason for watching the Auburn/Mississippi State game was WR Fred Ross, but unfortunately Ross had a stinker. He dropped three passes, two of which were easy and then muffed two punts. His body language wasn’t great, but he did have the mental strength to catch a late TD. I have him on the schedule next week (vs BYU), hopefully he can rebound, but it’s clear he’s missing Dak Prescott.
Watching Auburn RG Braden Smith was fun. Despite playing in a zone system, he gets after it. He moves a bunch – either to the LB level or pulling, including once in pass protection. The main limitation with him is that he’s 6’5″ and doesn’t sink his hips in pass protection – I think that needs to improve before he considers declaring early for the Draft. Also for Auburn – DE/OLB Carl Lawson was quiet for patches – but his flash plays were impressive. The main thing for him this season is to stay healthy throughout, so fingers crossed that happens. As long as the medical checks out he’s a day two guy – but it wouldn’t be a shock if he went in the first as scouts will grade his flashes.
Many NFL teams use thresholds when drafting – be that height, weight, arm length, speed or other combine measureable. As such at 5’8″ 180 lbs, San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey is not going to meet the size thresholds of some teams. It’s a shame – because he is one heck of a football player. Despite the lack of size, he’s been durable in his career and should surpass a certain Herschel Walker with yardage gained at some point this season. Against UNLV, he had his 26th career 100+ yard game. He’s patient, has good vision, an elite burst, can cut on a dime and explode out of it – and is a good enough receiver that he looks very much at home in the slot. Having missed out on Keenan Reynolds to the Ravens, I wonder if the Patriots might be interested in Pumphrey as an offensive weapon. He deserves to be a day two pick – but I think they size may limit him to day three – welcome to the tough world of the NFL…
Trying to stop Pumphrey for UNLV was LB Tau Lotulelei. I knew nothing about him coming in, but I was very much impressed by him. The way I’m stacking my top 100 at the moment, there are a bunch of borderline guys and just below that are guys who aren’t highly rated, but I think deserve to be. If he can have a plus All-Star game and Combine showing, I think he can push for a day two slot. The highlight play from him for me was a 3rd and 3 where he took on the FB – knocked him on his backside and tackled the RB for a gain of 2. SDSU went for it on 4th and 1 – and he knifed through to make a TFL – one of several such plays on the day. At times he will gamble and come under blocks, which worked at times – but not always. In this game, he might have been trying to do too much – it might help if he doesn’t have to. He missed a couple of tackles – but outside of that I have made a note to watch him again a couple more times.
I also want to mention San Diego State LB Calvin Munson who at 245 lbs is bigger than many current college LBs. In an attacking 3-3-5 defense he lines up inside and outside. From inside he’s an effective blitzer, so would suit an attacking 3-4 or 4-3 base system. From outside, he flashed the ability to get low, which was exciting. He made several fill tackles and he certainly packs a punch. As with Lotulelei, I think with the right post-season, he can push for a day two slot.
As noted above, I didn’t learn much from the Michigan/Rutgers game, but I did zero in on DT Ryan Glasgow, who I didn’t get to from my first Michigan watch. Glasgow is playing the same kind of role Henry Anderson did for Stanford – that is some 4-3 DT, 3-4 DE and in the nickel 3-4 NT. Glasgow doesn’t look as long or strong as Anderson – he flashes the ability to penetrate with nice quickness, but when that doesn’t work he struggles more. Michigan were obviously in cruise control, but I don’t think Glasgow screamed top 100 at me – but I will be watching Michigan against at least three times, so he’ll get further chances to impress.
Prospect of the Week: Tau Lotulelei – LB – UNLV – hasn’t got any press – but he should!