Notes from Week Ten

MACtion hit UK TV this week, with Miami (Ohio) CB Heath Harding my first focus for Week Ten.  I don’t see Harding as a scheme diverse CB, something that will hurt his chances of pushing for the middle rounds.  While he showed flashes of a “plus” break on the ball, in man coverage he struggled and I wouldn’t expect a fast 40 time at the Combine/his Pro Day.  He gave up the inside too easily as well, so he’ll need a zone heavy pro system.  When in zone, he looked like he’s good at reading the QB and can “click and close” really well.  He’ll need the right landing spot in the league – something out of his control unless he goes undrafted.

Western Michigan OT Chukwuma Okorafor was LT last year, keeping Taylor Moton (pick 64, Panthers) at RT.  He’s a huge man at 330 lbs, with long arms.  In pass protection, he looks balanced with a solid base and despite playing a touch high, is tough to move off his spot.  His hand placement is good and he understands how to win – get into his man and dominate.  He wasn’t tested with Joe Ostman injured for Central Michigan, but I would say his feet look average after a solid first step.  I would say NFL speed might give him some issues.  As a run blocker, I was disappointed.  In a rivalry game, I expected to see him fired up and burying people – but often he got into his man and then looked around to see if the play had finished.  He was playing like a 290 lb finesse zone blocker.  There were a few moments in the third quarter, but I wanted to see him play to his size.  I will hopefully watch again, but he didn’t quite live up to the hype for me.

Another Western Michigan prospect, RB Jarvion Franklin had a big day – although they went away from him a little at times and it might have cost them the game.  He has a nice size/speed combination – and very quick feet for a bigger back.  He looks impressive when he runs low, showing an ability to explode out of his cuts.  At times, he’ll dance around a little too much – so he needs to make sure he keeps his shoulders square and moving North/South.  It wouldn’t be a massive shock if he got some middle rounds talk from this watch – I’m looking forward to watching him again.

Finally for Western Michigan, CB Darius Phillips has put together an impressive kick return career – and that ability will get him drafted, and possibly earlier than many think.  As a CB he wasn’t overly tested, but he did show a nice break on the ball.  I would imagine he’ll test well and at this position, that’s going to earn him some cash on Draft day.

As I was watching Toledo QB Logan Woodside, I was thinking “poor man’s Luke Falk”.  Woodside doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, and deeper throws he has to touch in – but it’s good enough to make tight window short/intermediate throws.  On the whole, his ball placement was impressive – including taking something off easy passes.  He showed an ability to get through progressions, which is encouraging.  At times, he did hold the ball a little too long – NIU didn’t get huge amounts of pressure on him – but I think if a team did, that might hurt him.  Still, I would see him as draftable – and judging from the ESPN commentators who were talking about how much time he spends on the game, he can make a roster.

When you are in a crowded backfield, as Georgia RB Sony Michel is, it can be hard to impress – for talent evaluators, it can be hard to get a real feel for them.  So I was pleased to see Michel get 16 carries, which matches his season high from week one against App State.  He made several nice runs, showing an ability to make people miss and good acceleration.  He can create from nothing and his vision was evident on a couple of nice cuts.  He hasn’t been featured as a receiver this year, but has 22 catches last year and 26 in 2015, so it’s there – he did have one catch in this one, making a smooth catch.  Quite whether he can crack the top 100 in a crowded year at the position, we’ll see, but it was nice for him to be able to showcase his talent.

My main reason for watching the South Carolina game was LB Skai Moore.  After missing 2016, he’s had some time to knock the rust off, so it was a good time for me to watch him.  Unfortunately, someone who last off-season was talked about as a top 100 level prospect struggled.  His read and react was slow, and he had little impact on the game.

There were so many prospects to look at the in LSU/Alabama game, I’m going to keep it on my hard drive and watch it again before week 11 kicks off.  Here are my first impressions.

I felt sorry for LSU WR D.J. Chark – LSU tried to feature him early, but they seemed to go into a shell.  He only got to stretch his legs once on a punt return, but that got called back for a penalty.  He has good size, speed and with the return ability he should be a top 100 pick.  With the QB issues at LSU, it’s tough to get a real feel for him – but he looks talented.

One player who was outstanding for LSU was C Wil Clapp who did a number on highly touted Alabama NT DaRon Payne – it was so ugly, Bama moved to a 3-4 hybrid scheme to get Payne over the guard.  Clapp sat well in pass protection and got his arms extended.  He got movement in the running game and looked really good against a top defensive line.

I mentioned when I watched Arden Key earlier in the season, when he was quiet, that he needed to round into shape.  Given that time, he came up with a much better performance.  He still needs a little refinement in terms of pass rush moves – but he’s so quick around the edge, and can get low, that he’s tough to block.  Hopefully the arrow will continue to point up for him the remainder of the season.  On the flip side for the Tigers, I didn’t think CB Kevin Tolliver II had a great game.  He was in off coverage a fair bit and seemed to open his hips too early.  Perhaps he’s better in press, but I didn’t think it was a springboard to an early declaration for the junior.

I’ve seen Alabama OG Ross Pierschbacher with some high rankings, but I didn’t think he looked great.  I would say he’s short armed and needs to get stronger.  At times he struggled and was thrown around.  We all talk about juniors who for some reason don’t end up going high – so no mud slinging – just my opinion in that I didn’t think he looked good.  I would say his best bet would be the return in 2018 and move to Center.

I mentioned DaRon Payne above – but for someone who is highly regarded it wasn’t a good game.  He was OK at times doing the two gap work, but I can’t see this making him a top 15 pick.  When rushing the passer, he was high and controlled.  He didn’t look dynamic in that area at all – and in the Draft I think that puts a cap on your stock.

A few ho-hum types for the Alabama machine – another top receiver in Calvin Ridley and another athletic LB in Rashaan EvansMinkah Fitzpatrick was hurt, but with his ability to play nickel CB, he’s a sure-fire high pick – and Ronnie Harrison is the next box safety, who showed in this one he can cover as well.

Nick Saban is a renowned control freak – the best coaches and leaders are.  So, that attention to detail covers all aspects of the game, including special teams.  Step forward Punter JK Scott.  After the Roberto Aguayo disaster, perhaps we won’t see a day two specialist – but Bryan Anger was for the Jags made a Pro Bowl – not something many Jags draft picks have done.  The height on his punts was impressive and he played a big part in Alabama winning the field position battle.

North Carolina State QB Ryan Finley has been getting some press, so I concentrated on him in the NC State/Clemson game.  I came away impressed.  His base looked solid and he stepped into his throws – plus he was able to see the field well, a dying trait in the college game.  A few times he forced his first read and one or two passes sailed on him.  He seemed calm – and led a nice TD drive after the long Clemson run which looked like it had broken State’s back.  He was a little unlucky at the end ont he 4th and 10 – but it was his responsibility to make sure all the players were set, he seemed to call for the ball early before they were.  In all, there was a lot to like.  Hopefully they’ll be on UK TV again – but if not, I’ll hit Draft Breakdown if he declares.

The big advantage for NC State DE Bradley Chubb over a prospect like Arden Key – is that he can defend the run well.  It was harder for him as a pass rusher against a mobile QB – plus they stunted him inside a bunch – but he’s big, powerful and can move – so he should be a high pick.

For Clemson, I hadn’t looked at DE Austin Bryant in detail and did so.  I didn’t come away thinking he was one who should declare.  He looked tight in the hips and played too high.  Some of that was due to the two gap stance against the run, but the other end Ferrell looks the better prospect to me.

Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds impressed me.  He looks like a modern day LB – who can cover well and has plus range.  He doesn’t always get off blocks, but he tries with his hand use and I would say he’s further along than some.  A junior, he could elect to return, but I think he will test well and could be a top 50 pick.  There are others in this LB class, so he’ll have to think about that though.

Next Week

Finally – Notre Dame make it to UK TV (right now Indiana 4 vs Notre Dame 0)!  I’ll also have Iowa/Wisconsin plus North Carolina/Pitt and the two Friday night ESPN games

Updated: November 8, 2017 — 9:23 pm

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