Notes from Week Thirteen

Week 13 was unlucky for Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald who suffered a gruesome broken ankle against Ole Miss.  I’m not sure I would have been on the sideline for the rest of the game, as he was, but I wish him well for a speedy recovery.

When I’ve watched Mississippi State OT Martinas Rankin before, I felt he was rather too passive – but in a rivalry game, I thought he got after it more, which is encouraging.  He had a fun battle with Ole Miss DE Breeland Speaks, who has really come on in the second half of the season (6 of his 7 sacks were in the last 6 weeks).  Speaks is a powerful prospect who I need to study more if he declares, but he would fit inside in the nickel but does lack a little length for some teams.  A one gap Wade Phillips 3-4 would be perfect for him though.

Against the team speed of Miami, Pitt WR Quadree Henderson didn’t look out of place – which won’t escape the notice of scouts.  He’s a plus returner, which adds at least a round to his stock.  It’s a little tough to tell in that offense – and indeed he has more runs (36) than catches (17) in 2017 – so he might elect to return for his senior year.

Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead on the other hand, I would expect to declare.  Playing the Michigan State style system of quarters coverage, so past a depth of 10-15 yards, the slot WR is his.  He has a plus break on the ball and I thought he tackled better in this one than I saw previously.

It was said that the late, great Bill Walsh needed to watch just three plays of a player before deciding if he could play.  If you watched the first two plays of Virginia Tech/Virginia, LB Tremaine Edmunds had excellent coverage against a RB on a deep wheel route, and then sniffed out a fly sweep, closed and made the TFL.  His closing speed is “plus”, which at a listed 6’5″ 250 lbs is going to earn him a lot of interest should he decide to declare early for the Draft.

I went into this game wanting to check out Virginia Tech CB Brandon Facyson – but it’s the second game I’ve done that and he’s had nothing thrown his way, so it’s tough to tell.  He’s got good size, can press and was in good position, but tough to judge his ball skills. I watched him a ton last year and thought he faded in the second half of the season, but it looks like teams are flat out avoiding him this year.

Virginia QB Kurt Benkert has the required arm strength for the league, but his accuracy was off in this one, particularly with the deep ball (although coverage was good, and he needed the perfect ball).  His footwork will need a retool and he must keep his eyes up when he gets pressure.  His thin frame and strong arm remind me of Matt Moore coming out of Oregon State, so there might be a career for him in the league – and I figure Moore has made a few million dollars from it, so he’ll be hoping for at least a career like that.

While Edmunds for Tech is a “plus” athlete, I’m not sure Virginia LB Micah Kiser is.  This was generally his kind of game, where he could show his toughness between the tackles.  He takes on blockers and ball carriers hard – and has some real snap to him.  However, when he has to move outside the tackle box, he doesn’t have that extra gear.  Remember Josh Perry at Oho State?  124 tackles in 2014, 105 in 2015 – where is he now?  The Colts practice squad with 22 NFL tackles to his name.  It’s tough to crack the NFL as a LB unless you are a top athlete these days and that sucks for some really fun to watch college players.

I feel like I’ve been watching Virginia S Quin Blanding for ages.  He came back for his senior year, which worries me to a degree in that one assumes he didn’t get a high grade from the Draft Advisory Committee.  Anyway, early in his career poor tackling was a problem – but he’s cleaned that up.  He wasn’t tested that much in coverage, and this scheme isn’t perhaps great for his stock – but he gets downhill well, his angles are good and earlier in his career he had extensive experience in a complex and varied defense.  I like him, but I’ll be keeping an eye on his Combine numbers.

Also for Virginia, CB Juan Thornhill, a junior, had a nice game.  His INT was a nice read of the QB and then break under the route.  He tackled well, particularly one open field tackle, which isn’t always the case for CBs.  On a deep ball, the LB who was supposed to be helping him got in his way – but he did let the WR take the inside too easily earlier in the play.  He’ll have a decision to make in the coming weeks.

In the Alabama/Auburn game, I wanted to focus on Alabama SS Ronnie Harrison.  When Mark Barron came into the league, the negative on him was he didn’t cover man to man much – and Harrison is playing that same kind of role.  He’s in two deep most of the time, and occasionally rotates to single high.  If there’s a blitz, he might have man coverage responsibility, but for the most part he’s not asked to do it.  Harrison is an excellent downhill force against the run.  He tackled really well, and his angles were good.  On a 3rd and 5 crossing route, I thought he was static when he should have reacted – but other than that, I thought he looked the part of a high pick.  Some schemes won’t see him as a fit, so I’m not sure every NFL team will love him – but enough will.

I’ve mentioned the Alabama punter, JK Scott, before – but I didn’t think he had a great game.  He got lucky with a bounce on his 65 yard punt, and he didn’t have that some “pop” off his foot.  The botched hold also goes against him.  He could still be a top 100 pick, but he’ll have to perform better between now and the Draft.

Last year, I had Auburn OG Braden Smith in my top 100 – but dropped him as I thought he got found out against Alabama’s power.  That was again evident in this game.  When 1 on 1 with NT DaRon Payne, at best there was a stalemate – he just doesn’t have the power to move people.  Now, he works square, gives it everything and can move – but I remember past mistakes, of which Reese Dismukes was one, and I remember, so I think he might be over rated when people talk of him as a 1st/2nd round pick.

Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson wasn’t on any lists I saw coming into the year, but he’s building some buzz and this will add to that.  He has some wiggle, is featured in the passing game (not always the case for Auburn backs) and he runs low.  Hopefully he’ll be healthy for the SEC Championship so I can have another look next week.

I think I’m a curse on Clemson WR Deon Cain.  I’ve seen him getting some first round talk, but every time I’ve seen him, he’s been quiet – and was again.  YouTube first, then rank him, I think.

I’m not PFF, so I don’t know how many snaps Clemson OG Tyrone Crowder played – but he didn’t seem to be in the game that much to me.  First thing for me as a top 100 candidate on some sites is that he’s either not good enough, or not conditioned well enough to play every snap.  I’ll think about a guy like that on day three.  When on the field, I thought he looked heavy and slow.

I don’t think Clemson OT Mitch Hyatt has the longest arms.  He has a nice punch, can sit nicely in pass protection and is active with his hands – but I think longer NFL edge guys are going to cause him a problem.  In the running game, his base isn’t good.  He ducks his head into contact and is consistently off balance, so he needs to clean that up.

There’s no question Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell has huge upside, but he is unrefined in terms of hand use.  Ideally, he will come back next year (he’s a redshirt sophomore), but we’ve all seen talents like this go early.  it’s worth noting that not all were successful in the league, so hopefully his family can afford for him to come back in 2018.  I’m not saying he’s a bad player, indeed his athletic upside might see him go first round, but his chances of a long NFL career would be better, for me, if he returned to school next year.  I said the same about Harold Landry last year, although I don’t think he’s quite the athlete Ferrell is.

I had a good look at Clemson LB Kendall Joseph.  He looks short – listed at 6’0″, he therefore might be 5’10″/5’11”.  He’s a downhill attacking type of LB.  Despite not being the biggest, he has some snap to him and will attack blockers/ball carriers nicely.  In terms of getting of blocks, he’s not the best – a little more guile is needed after the initial pop.  I also thought that he struggled to find the ball at times.  He’s OK when he’s flying downhill and gets penetration, but in a crowded box, I didn’t see that natural sonar to find the ball.  I’ve seen him rated very high (as high as 13th overall), but I see a guy who probably is a day two guy – but the lack of height hurts him, so I will need to have a think about it.  He has to decide whether to return next year, I hope the high rankings don’t lead him down a path which I’m not sure if the true picture…

After not seeing Notre Dame until the Miami game, they made it again to UK TV – so with the Bowl game, I’ll get my 3 watches of full games (which I will supplement, as always, with YouTube/Draft Breakdown stuff).  So, RB Josh Adams didn’t impress against Miami – and I once again cursed him as he didn’t really get going.  I didn’t think he showed much “wiggle” and he ran tall at times (6’2″ anyway doesn’t help).  I will watch a YouTube game where he has success (USC or NC State might be best), but for now I’m not seeing a top 100 talent.

These columns are me typing what I see.  If I don’t agree with the big names, I say so – after all, what’s the point of going with everyone else?  I might as well not write the column.  So, Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson is viewed as a top 5 overall pick by Mel Kiper Jr.  Now, Mr. Kiper has forgotten more about the Draft than I know, but after two watches, I’m not seeing it.  I thought athletically against Miami he was poor – and I didn’t think he looked great in this one.  At times, his base in pass protection was too wide – he has a solid build, so I’d like to see him drop that anchor.  He got square nicely and got after it, but I don’t see the “Wow” prospect some do I’m afraid.  Nothing personal against him or Mr. Kiper, it’s jsut what I see.

Now, before everyone thinks I don’t like Notre Dame – I’ll give another mention to NT Jerry Tillery.  He’s tall for a NT, and that gave him some problems again, but overall he had a fine game.  He showed pass rush ability and he also got penetration to disrupt.  I see him as a pro one gap five technique and I think he’s a better prospect than Nelson.

It was clear Stanford RB Bryce Love wasn’t 100% – limping off multiple times.  But he gutted it out and put up some nice numbers on the night.  His spin move on a bad ankle was impressive.  He has another game before he can rest up (which is on UK TV on Friday night – although we don’t get Big 10 or 12 Championships as they are on Fox), but hopefully in the Bowl game he will be closer to 100%. But even some way below that, he’s impressive.

Updated: November 27, 2017 — 9:00 am

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