Tag:Arizona
Posted on: March 4, 2012 4:20 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 4:21 pm
 

Scouts identify 5 underrated Combine performers

Now that we've had a few days to fully digest the information overload that is the annual Scouting Combine, there are a few players who haven't received enough attention for strong efforts, according to my conversations with league personnel. 

Every Combine conversation I've had with scouts has started with the obvious workout warriors -- Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill, Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson and other, similarly well-publicized athletes. Considering their spectacular performances, it isn't surprising to see their stocks get a bump.

According to scouts. there are plenty of others flying under the national radar whose workouts helped solidify their grades. These are five who were mentioned multiple times. 

ILB Tank Carder, TCU: Much like Boston College's Luke Kuechly, Carder has been type-cast as an instinctive, high-motor defender throughout his career but the two-time defending Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year proved to be a much better all-around athlete at the Combine than anyone expected. The 6-2, 236 pound Carder clocked in a sub 4.70 time in the 40-yard dash (4.69 seconds officially) and demonstrated his agility in the three-cone (6.89) and short-shuttle drills (4.18) that some teams place a great deal of value in when scouting linebackers. 

QB Austin Davis, Southern Miss: With NFLDraftScout.com's top four-rated quarterbacks either unable to unwilling to throw passes at the Combine, I thought one of the more fascinating elements of this year's workout would be to see which of the so-called second or third-tier passers would be able to take advantage of the extra attention. Having been one of a limited number of media members allowed inside the Lucas Oil Stadium workout for the QB workouts this year, I saw Davis pass the ball well to all levels of the field, showing surprising zip on intermediate routes and as impressive accuracy on the deep ball (a knock on his game entering the Combine) as any passer on the field.

OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State: Generally speaking, I agree with how the NFL identifies players when assigning them positions at the Combine. Several so-called 'tweeners like McClellin were asked to work out as defensive linemen. After being stunned with McClellin's progress in playing linebacker at the Senior Bowl, I was disappointed he wasn't identified as such at the Combine. His workout certainly showed off the straight-line speed (4.63) and change-of-direction skills (7.07 seconds in the three-cone drills) to handle this conversion. McClellin's speed, in fact, would have ranked him fourth among the 29 linebackers tested at the Combine -- and this is after measuring in at 6-3, 260 pounds.

RB Bernard Pierce, Temple: Pierce is one of the more interesting backs in the 2012 draft class because he's more of a finesse, zone-read back than the power option that his 6-0, 220 pound frame and school record 53 rushing touchdowns would indicate. The junior helped prove his unique athleticism with an underrated all-around performance at the Combine in which he measured in faster (4.49), quicker (7.07 seconds in the three-cone) and more explosive (123" broad jump) than some of the more highly regarded backs of this class.

CB Trevin Wade, Arizona: While officially credited with just a 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash, Wade was surprisingly cited by several league sources as having a strong Combine workout. Scouts mentioned Wade's fluidity in timed drills (4.0 seconds in the short shuttle) and position drills as more important indicators of his underrated cover-corner skills than his time in 40-yard dash. Wade was inconsistent at Arizona but finished his career on a high note with a strong senior campaign and is rated by some scouts among the top 100 prospects in the draft. 
  

Posted on: January 29, 2012 12:22 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2012 1:15 pm
 

WRs steal the thunder, boost stock in Senior Bowl

As usual, the quarterbacks generated most of the hype throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl. But during the game Saturday it was their receivers who stole the spotlight as the North defeated the South, 23-13.

Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams shrugged off a fumble in the first quarter to catch six passes for 116 yards for the South, demonstrating the elusiveness and pure speed that helped him return four punts for touchdowns this season, earning the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year award. For his efforts Adams was named the Senior Bowl's "Outstanding Player" for the South squad.

Arizona's Juron Criner, also of the South, was quiet early in the game but connected with college teammate, quarterback Nick Foles, to the tune of four catches for 50 yards and the South's only touchdown, a 20-yarder with 12:55 left in the game. Criner finished with six catches for 77 yards.

Those receivers managed to stand out despite lackluster play by the quarterbacks. Just as he was throughout the week of practice, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, for the North, was the most impressive quarterback in the game.

He completed only five of 11 passes overall, with a touchdown and an interception. However, that one touchdown pass, a 41-yarder to Arizona State's Gerrell Robinson with 11:44 left in the third quarter, gave the North a 23-13 lead and enough cushion to hold on for a victory.

MVP honors for the game went to North running back Isaiah Pead, who was also Offensive Player of the Year for Cincinnati in the Big East. In the game, Pead collected 31 on the ground and 98 yards on punt two punt returns, including a 60-yarder that was the highlight of the first half.

Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, the most consistent of the South team's quarterbacks throughout the practice week was the worst of the six passers Saturday, completing nearly as many passes to the defense (two interceptions) as he did to South receivers (five completions) for just 56 yards.

Other Senior Bowl standouts:

--Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Undeniably the most talented player in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, Coples continued his dominant week of practice with an MVP-caliber performance in the game. Coples, a shade under 6-6 and 281 pounds, was a consistent threat off the edge and used his long arms and obvious upper body strength to rag-doll pass blockers on his way to the quarterback. Perhaps the most impressive play of the game from Coples, however, came as a run defender. He shook off a block from Iowa State right tackle Kelechi Osemele and with one arm stopped the momentum of running back Isaiah Pead and threw him to the ground for a two-yard loss on 3rd and goal. If Coples played with the same intensity throughout his senior season that he did throughout the week in Mobile, he might have been the easy choice as the top defensive prospect in the 2012 draft.

--Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati: The game's MVP was easily the most explosive running back in this. He demonstrated his unique straight-line speed and agility by accelerating through holes and making defenders miss as a running back and punt returner.  Despite taking on return duties late in his senior season, Pead showed good vision and courage in attacking seams as he averaged 49 yards on the two opportunities. He demonstrated not only athleticism, but also the willingness to cut back inside against the grain and finish his runs.

--Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Despite playing with a little less consistency that scouts would like, the 6-7, 323 pound Adams impressed throughout the week of practice with his ability to maintain squarely in front of speed rushers and play with a reliable base against bull rushes. Adams played with much better consistency Saturday, controlling his opponent throughout the contest and distancing himself as the elite offensive line prospect in the Senior Bowl.  Adams surrendered a sack in the 3rd quarter to Alabama's Courtney Upshaw but held up well initially to my top-rated senior prospect and only allowed the coverage sack on Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson after protecting for several seconds.

--Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: While Martin wasn't able to break free for the splashy plays that his North teammate Pead did, it was the former Bronco running back who was the best running back in Mobile throughout the week of practice and he followed that up with an impressive game. Martin showed good burst to and through the hole, as well as the vision and acceleration to gain yardage in chunks as a running back and kick returner. Having impressed scouts with his obvious dedication to the weight room by sporting a chiseled physique during Monday's weigh-in, Martin showcased that his attention to details isn't just limited to lifting weights. He provided excellent effort blocking downfield on a 41-yard touchdown catch by Robinson.

--Bobby Wagner, ILB, Utah State: Like Martin, Wagner initially caught the attention of NFL scouts by showcasing a powerful build on his 6-0, 241 pound frame during Monday's weigh-in. With defenders asked not to take ball-carriers to the ground throughout the week of practice, Wagner wasn't able to wow scouts with what he does best -- tackle -- until the game. He certainly did on Saturday, anticipating and closing quickly on ball-carriers and then wrapping up cleanly to tie with South Carolina safety Antonio Allen to lead the game with seven tackles. Wagner also proved his playmaking ability, recording  a tackle for loss and an interception of Weeden in the first quarter.

For much more Senior Bowl content from NFLDraftScout.com, click here.
Posted on: January 25, 2012 6:29 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 6:36 pm
 

Arizona WR Criner quieting critics at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala -- Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner saw his stock slip before his senior season even began amid concerns about family and personal health issues. 

While those issues will still need to be investigated fully by NFL teams, the playmaking skills that he demonstrated throughout an record-breaking career with the Wildcats have helped him stand out this week for the South Team at the Senior Bowl.    

Though I still have reservations about Criner's straight-line speed, he's shown enough in that category to eat up the cushion against off-man coverage supplied by a cornerback group for the South that is as strong as any position playing in the 2012 Senior Bowl. Criner runs precise routes and has excellent body control to adjust to the ball while it is in flight. He demonstrated this in beating North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins, my 21st overall rated prospect in the 2012 draft on a deep ball midway through Wednesday's practice.    

Criner's ability to track the ball and make big plays haven't ever been the question. After all, he caught 75 passes for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns in just 12 games as a senior and this was a drop-off from the year before when he earned All-American honors with 82 catches for 1,233 yards and 11 scores. Though he certainly doesn't possess the big play speed of Arkansas' Joe Adams or Houston's Patrick Edwards, he's frankly been a more reliable target this week than either of the other two big possession receivers NFLDraftScout.com currently rates ahead of him -- North Carolina's Dwight Jones and Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller.
      
I spoke to a high-ranking team official who recently met with Criner to get a better gauge as to the level of concern he, personally, had with Criner's off-field issues.

"I'm not concerned at all," the official said. "That stuff was overblown by the media. The coaches there [Arizona] say he is a good kid.  He's gone through some tough stuff but I don't know of anything that would cause his stock to be impacted by it."

Posted on: October 29, 2011 11:41 am
 

Mano-a-Mano, Week Nine

In addition to the prospects Senior Analyst Rob Rang wrote about in his "five players to watch" blog post, take a look at these memorable ten one-on-one match-ups (plus a slew of honorable mention selections) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.

Because players move around based on different formations and what coaches see as favorable match-ups, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.

All times Eastern.

"*" Denotes an underclassman.

1. Stanford QB *Andrew Luck (#12/6-4/235/4.73) at Southern Cal QB *Matt Barkley (#7/6-2/220/4.74)
8:00 pm, ABC

Usually in this space I discuss players likely to literally butt heads, but the battle of two of the nation's top signal callers is too intriguing to ignore. Luck will receive higher marks than Barkley in every category on a scout's report, especially in the athleticism areas. But Barkley could actually get more of a bump from this game than Luck, from whom near-perfection is expected in every outing. League general managers will take note if the former top high school recruit does not shrink under the pressure of both facing Stanford defenders and from taking on the consensus number one pick.

Barkley's impressive performance against Notre Dame last week already showed NFL teams he is capable of making some tough throws (and avoid bad plays) in hostile venues. But as Rob Rang mentioned in his blog post yesterday, a strong outing at his home stadium where he displays the poise and movement within the pocket to avoid pressure (and outside of it to gain first downs with his feet), as well as an ability to put the ball in tight spaces when necessary, will help him shed the "game manager" moniker and lock up a top five draft slot.

2. Stanford LT *Jonathan Martin (#55/6-6/305/5.29) at Southern Cal DE *Nick Perry (#8/6-3/250/4.59)
8:00 pm, ABC

Martin isn't related to a current NFL player like USC left tackle Matt Kalil (brother, Ryan, is the highly-regarded center for Carolina), but his strength and ferociousness both in pass protection and in the run game make some scouts believe he's the top blind side player in the draft (should he decide to join Luck in entering the draft early). He does tend to play with too wide a base at times, making it difficult for him to adjust to spin and inside moves from quick rushers like Perry -- who not only needs to show explosiveness off the snap to beat Martin to the corner, but also counter rushes and consistent hustle chasing Luck and running backs inside to have scouts consider him a top 40 project as a 3-4 'backer or a 4-3 end for teams looking for more speed than size on the edge.

*Matt Kalil (#75/6-6/295/5.05) will have his own challenge holding back Stanford's DE/OLB *Chase Thomas (#44/6-4/240/4.76), who ranks in the top 20 in the FBS in tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (5.5). Though Thomas isn't as quick or agile as Perry, he will challenge the anchor of Kalil, whose relatively svelte build belies his ability to widen his stance when necessary and stand his ground against strong bull rushes. On many plays, however, he fails to bend and move his feet quickly enough to protect the inside rush lane or mirror defenders pushing him upfield before cutting upfield.

3. Michigan State WR B.J. Cunningham (#3/6-2/216/4.59) at Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard (#15/5-10/205/4.49)
12:00 pm, ESPN

Cunningham ranks in the top 20 nationally in receptions and receiving yards per game, and had a nice game in the Spartans' win over previously undefeated Wisconsin (6-102, TD). Scouts like the feistiness (if not the size) of Dennard, however, who should match up regularly against QB Kirk Cousin's best downfield option. Cunningham does not have elite speed, but he has the size, quick feet, and a burst to create separation from Dennard. Plays can be had if Cousins does not stare down Cunningham so the heady Dennard can close on passes, and if Cunningham's hands are once again solid (and not inconsistent, as they were vs. Michigan). Dennard may also end up shadowing MSU's quicker receiver, Keshawn Martin (#82/5-10/190/4.44), to prevent him from making the type of back-breaking plays after the catch that he made against the Badgers.

4. Wisconsin DE Louis Nzegwu (#93/6-4/255/4.76) at Ohio State LT Mike Adams (#75/6-6/320/5.28)
8:00 pm, ESPN

The Badgers must get over that supremely disappointing defeat to Sparty State quicky, or the Buckeyes will turn one loss into two in a hurry. OSU RB Dan Herron (#1/5-10/208/4.52) will get the headlines going into the game because of the boost he gave the team against Illinois (23-114, TD), but getting Adams back from suspension was just as important. In an offensive tackle class lacking depth, his wide frame, arm length, and fluid movement will be coveted by scouts looking for pass protectors. He's been inconsistent with his effort and technique in the past, however, so Nzegwyu (who has 2.5 sacks in his last two games) will look to take advantage of any momentary lapses to stop Herron in the run game or attack QB Braxton Miller if the young passer looks unaware of backside pressure.

5. Arizona WR Juron Criner (#82/6-4/215/4.62) vs. Washington CB *Desmond Trufant (#6/6-0/185/4.49)
10:30 pm, FSN

The Wildcats have not played since their emotional win over UCLA last Thursday that marked the beginning of the post-Mike Stoops era. In that game, Criner connected with fellow senior QB Nick Foles (6-5/240/4.96) for three scores, using his size and hands to go over the top of Bruins defenders (who also helped him scores by falling down or letting him run by on two of his three TDs). He faces a good junior corner in Trufant (the brother of NFL CB Marcus) that is making big plays regularity this year (interceptions in the first two weeks of the year, nine other passes broken up, two forced fumbles this year) but is prone to giving up big plays, as well. And Criner isn't the only receiver prospect Trufant will face, as David Douglas (#85/6-1/205/4.64) and junior Texas transfer Dan Buckner (#15/6-3/220/4.57) are also on scouts' radars as potential later-round picks.

6. California WR Marvin Jones (#1/6-2/202/4.53) at UCLA CB *Aaron Hester (#21/6-1/206/4.49)
7:00 pm, Fox Sports Prime Ticket

It is unfortunate this game won't be seen outside of the West, as Jones and Hester should have some good battles. Hester was one of the corners beaten by Criner last week, as he gave up a score by allowing the Arizona receiver to eat up cushion and could not recover in time to prevent a fade into the end zone. Jones isn't quite as big as Criner, but he can be physical and is a superior route-runner. Hester, therefore, will have to prove to scouts his footwork is sound if he is to handle Jones -- and project as an above-average starter at the next level.

7. Purdue DT *Kawann Short (#93/6-3/310/5.22) at Michigan C David Molk (#50/6-2/288/5.18)
12:00 pm, ESPN

Short was the Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week for his work against Illinois (3.5 TFL, 2 sacks), and carries an extra 30 pounds over Molk -- even if a lot in his midsection. Molk may not be the biggest pivot man in the draft, but his ability to block on the move and to anchor against NFL-sized tackles has gained him respect from scouts. Though Short can be a pain for most college interior linemen to handle one-on-one, teams will be interested to see if he can beat a technician like Molk with strong hands on initial contact -- and if he has the, flexibility, change of direction ability, and relentless nature to chase down junior QB Denard Robinson when the speedy runner is not directly in his path. General managers considering him in the second round of the 2012 draft will also like to see how Short looks in the fourth quarter after spending the afternoon pursuing "Shoelace."

8. Arkansas Wide Receivers at Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward (#19/5-11/188/4.53)
12:21 pm, SEC Network/ESPN3.com

No matter where the savvy Hayward lines up, he's going to be facing a potential NFL receiver because of the depth the Razorbacks have at the position. Arkansas' fastball-throwing QB *Tyler Wilson (#8/6-3/220/4.77) can challenge Hayward's ability to handle the size of Greg Childs (#85/6-3/217/4.56) and *Cobi Hamilton (#11/6-3/209/4.57) down the field -- and his ability to bring them down after the catch. The speed of the fourth-ranked interceptor in the FBS (with five picks this season after grabbing six in 2010) will also be tested if he's covering speedy Jarius Wright (#4/5-10/180/4.34) or Joe Adams (#3/5-11/190/4.38). In the end, Hayward may be battling Wilson most of all, as he is a capable zone defender willing to come off one man to attack passes in his general vicinity if the junior passer is locked onto one of his formidable targets.

9. Illinois LT Jeff Allen (#71/6-4/315/5.26) at Penn State DE Jack Crawford (#81/6-5/273/4.79)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Allen is an underrated prospect who has a nice chance to show off his balance and fluid movement in pass protection for scouts against another potential mid-round pick in Crawford Saturday afternoon. PSU's tall, long rush end is not an elite prospect by any means, but did assist on two sacks for the Nittany Lions last week in the win over Northwestern and can be a thorn in the side of Illini junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase if left unchecked.

10. Missouri WRs *T.J. Moe (#28/5-11/195/4.49)/Wes Kemp (#8/6-4/220/4.47)  Texas A&M at CB Coryell Judie (#5/5-11/190/4.48)/Terrence Frederick (#7/5-10/187/4.52)
12:00 pm, FX

Another both teams' coaches will be preaching defense before the game, this one will likely end up just another Big 12 passing shoot-out. Judie and Frederick are two Aggies corners with NFL aspirations, but soph QB James Franklin is capable of finding his multiple targets if given sufficient protection up front. Kemp has a similar size/speed combination to current St. Louis Rams receiver Danario Alexander, though his production hasn't always reflected it since Chase Daniel left Columbia. Moe doesn't look like a big-time playmaker on the hoof, but his crisp routes, underrated quicknessm, awareness in zones, and strong hands making defenses pay for coverage breakdowns. Both Judie and Frederick will fight the larger Kemp on sideline throws and jump balls despite his height advantage, but they must he disciplined in their footwork against Moe or the junior find a seam or leave them behind on a strong cut.

Honorable Mention

Bowling Green WR Kamar Jorden (#19/6-1/203/4.68) at Kent State CB Josh Pleasant (#2/5-10/190/4.41)
1:00 pm, MAC-Sports.com Live Streaming

West Virginia CB Keith Tandy (#8/5-10/199/4.54) at Rutgers WR *Mohamed Sanu (#6/6-2/215/4.57)
3:30 pm, ABC

Oklahoma DE Frank Alexander (#84/6-3/255/4.82) at Kansas State LT Zach Hanson (#70/6-8/303)
3:30 pm, ESPN

Iowa CBs Shaun Prater (#28/5-10/185/4.49)/*Micah Hyde (#18/6-1/185/4.53) at Minnesota WR Da'Jon McKnight (#6/6-1/212/4.54)
3:30 pm, Big Ten Network

West Virginia DE Julian Miller (#97/6-3/268/4.76) at Rutgers LG Desmond Wynn (#70/6-5/295/5.14)
West Virginia LT Don Barclay (#64/6-4/310/5.27) at Rutgers DE Manny Abreu (#51/6-2/260/4.76)
3:30 pm, ABC 

Virginia Tech CB *Jayron Hosley (#20/5-10/172/4.52) at Duke WRs *Conner Vernon (#2/6-1/195/4.53)/Donovan Varner (#26/5-08/175/4.53)
12:30 pm, ACC Network/ESPN3.com 

Wake Forest CB *Kenny Okoro (#6/6-0/190/4.49) at North Carolina WR Dwight Jones (#83/6-4/225/4.53)
3:30 pm, ESPNU

Purdue LT Dennis Kelly (#68/6-8/306/5.32) at Michigan DE *Craig Roh (#88/6-4/269/4.76)
3:30 pm, Big Ten Network

Florida LG Dan Wenger (#56/6-3/295/5.28) at Georgia DT DeAngelo Tyson (#94/6-2/306/5.02)
3:30 pm, CBS

Baylor DT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (#90/6-2/335/5.06) at Oklahoma State C Grant Garner (#74/6-2/292/5.36)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins (#8/6-0/190/4.49) at Penn State CBs Chaz Powell (#2/6-1/206/4.48)/D'Anton Lynn (#8/6-0/208/4.53)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Kansas RT *Tanner Hawkinson (#72/6-5/295/5.04) at Texas DE *Alex Okafor (#80/6-4/260/4.62)
7:00 pm, Longhorn Network

Ole Miss DE Kentrell Lockett (#40/6-5/248/4.79) at Auburn LT A.J. Greene (#77/6-5/298/5.18)
7:00 pm, ESPNU 

California DE Trevor Guyton (#92/6-3/280/4.86) at UCLA RT Mike Harris (#65/6-5/326/5.32)
7:00 pm, Fox Sports Prime Ticket 

Mississippi State RB Vick Ballard (#28/5-11/220/4.58) at Kentucky OLB Danny Trevathan (#22/6-0/232/4.68)
Mississippi State DT *Fletcher Cox (#94/6-4/295/4.96) at Kentucky RG *Larry Warford (#67/6-3/336/5.34)
7:00 PM, Fox Sports South

Wisconsin DT Patrick Butrym (#95/6-3/285/5.14) at Ohio State C Michael Brewster (#50/6-4/305/5.17)
Wisconsin OLB *Mike Taylor (#53/6-2/230/4.64) at Ohio State FB *Zach Boren (#44/6-0/252/4.68)
8:00 pm, ESPN

Arizona CB Trevin Wade (#24/5-11/192/4.56) at Washington WR Jermaine Kearse (#15/6-1/208/4.50)
10:30 pm, FSN 

--Contributed by Senior Analyst Chad Reuter  Follow him on Twitter at @ChadReuter

Posted on: October 1, 2011 9:20 am
 

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: This is the second consecutive week that I listed Tannehill as part of this series. Last week, it was a tale of two halves for the senior quarterback and his Aggies. In the first half against Oklahoma State, Tannehill looked every bit like the first round quarterback (and A&M the top ten team) I expected. Everything fell apart in the second half, however, as Tannehill threw three interceptions at home and the Cowboys came back for the big conference win. I am not ready to give up on Tannehill quite yet, especially when two of his three interceptions appeared to be the result of poorly executed route-running. With one loss already on their record, Texas A&M must win the rest to have a chance at the type of season they were hoping for. Arkansas, like Oklahoma State, relies more on their own offense rather than a stifling defense to win games. They are athletic, however, and playing at home. They're also smarting after their own conference loss (to Alabama). The mental toughness or weakness that Tannehill demonstrates in this game will go a long way in determining whether scouts believe he has the leadership skills necessary to be the face of an NFL franchise.  This game begins at noon ET and will be televised by ESPN.

CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech: 
After leading the entire country last year with nine interceptions, junior cornerback Jayron Hosley has picked up right where he left off, snaring two picks already this season. This week he'll be asked to help shut down a Clemson offense that has been equally impressive. Clemson's sophomore quarterback Tahj Boyd and freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins earned All-ACC quarterback and receiver honors for their play after each of the past two games. Boyd leads the ACC in total yards, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Watkins has caught 14 passes for 296 yards and four touchdowns... in just the past two games. Hosley possesses the quick feet, balance and speed to put an end to the Tigers' offense fireworks but will need to play with greater consistency than he has throughout much of his young career. A strong performance in this game could push Hosley onto my Top 32 Big(ger) Board.  This game begins at 6:00 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN2.

ILB Donta Hightower, Alabama: Not surprisingly, there are a host of future NFL players that I and pro scouts will be focusing on in this key SEC showdown between Alabama and Florida. One could make the argument that Hightower, while one of the best, also is facing the toughest task this week as he'll be asked to slow down the Gators' speedy due of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, each of whom rank in the top ten in the SEC in rushing. Demps has been particularly explosive, averaging a stunning 9.4 yards per carry. Hightower is beginning to play with the same speed and explosiveness that was evident early in his career before a major knee injury suffered two years ago robbed him of some of his playmaking abilities. Big enough that some teams envision him as a future defensive end, the 6-4, 260 pound Hightower certainly has the bulk teams want, but his agility and open-field tackling skills will be put to the test in this one. With so much NFL talent on the field, this is the game I am most looking forward to scouting, Saturday.  This game begins at 8:00 ET and will be televised by CBS.

WR Nick Toon, Wisconsin: As impressive as the talent level is in the Alabama-Florida game, there certainly isn't much of a dropoff in this first squaring off of Wisconsin and Nebraska as members of the Big Ten. Some believe this game will be replayed in a few months as each team looks poised to make a run to the Big Ten championship game. If that is to be the case, I cannot wait for the individual battle that is going to take place between Toon and Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, my top-rated senior cornerback in the country. Nick, the son of former New York Jets' great Al Toon, is blessed with a similar combination of size, speed and playmaking ability as his father but has been racked with inconsistency throughout his career. Dennard is finally healthy after missing the first three games with a muscle strain. In terms of one on one battles, it doesn't get any better than this... This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised by ABC. 

SS Tony Dye, UCLA: Like many a UCLA Bruin before him, Dye entered his senior season rated by many scouts among the better safety prospects in the country. However, with Rahim Moore leaving early for the NFL (second round pick by Denver), Dye hasn't yet been able to step up his level of play. The lights likely won't get much better this season for Dye than they will Saturday night against Andrew Luck. With a strong performance in this one, Dye can help his own slipping stock and perhaps give the Bruins a chance against the most well-rounded offense in the country. This game begins at 10:30 pm ET and will be televised by FOX Sports.

p.s. At the request of some diehard draft fans, I'm also including the QBs to watch this weekend. They are:

Matt Barkley, USC hosting Nick Foles, Arizona. 3:30 pm ET on Fox Sports.*
Kyle Cousins, Michigan State visiting Ohio State. 3:30 pm ET on ABC/ESPN

*As well as Tannehill, mentioned above.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 3:43 pm
 

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

Because I'm scouting them in real time these players make an early impression, often leading to consideration as my Prospect of the Week or Diamond in the Rough.

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

QB Ryan Lindley, San Diego State: Throughout Brady Hoke's tenure as the Aztecs' head coach, Lindley demonstrated the live arm and understanding of defenses to help turn around the San Diego State program. Now, with Hoke on the opposite sideline, the pupil will have his opportunity to show up the teacher. Lindley is a bit of a gun-slinger. He's shown a willingness to throw off his back foot and into coverage a bit more than I'd like, but he does possess the size, arm and accuracy to be a legitimate NFL prospect. He currently ranks 8th on NFLDraftScout.com's QB board for the 2012 draft. Michigan isn't loaded defensively, but they are certainly a step up athleticism-wise from anything the Aztecs will see this season. Furthermore, I want to see how Lindley handles the noise and pressure in such a hostile environment.  This game begins at 12:00 pm ET and will be televised by The Big Ten Network.

WR Greg Childs, Arkansas:  Ryan Mallett and Knile Davis received much of the attention last season, but the most consistent performer last season for Bobby Petrino was his high-flying junior wideourt, Childs. Childs, of course, suffered a knee injury that robbed him of any thought of coming out early. He was hobbled early this season coming back from the injury and missed last week's game due to a death in the family. Against what I believe is the best coached and most talented secondary in the country, Childs will definitely have his work cut out for him. However, when healthy, Childs has shown a combination of size, speed and body control to rank as a legitimate top 50 prospect. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by CBS.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: A former wide receiver who only made the switch to quarterback last season after the incumbent starter struggled, Tannehill has made as much progress as an NFL prospect as any player in the country. The improvements he's made in reading coverages, setting up and delivering passes and simply understanding the nuances of Mike Sherman's pro-style attack in less than a full season operating at quarterback have been impressive, leading some scouts to view Tannehill as this year's out-of-nowhere first round pick. Tannehill certainly isn't coming out of nowhere in my mind, nor that of NFLDraftScout.com. We've rated him the top senior QB prospect in the country since August. Tannehill and his Aggies face their first real test this weekend, however, as they host Oklahoma State, who boasts their own legitimate pro QB prospect in Brandon Weeden and his Biletnikof-winning receiver Justin Blackmon. Sure, I want to scout this game because it pits two top ten teams, but don't fool yourself, this is a huge showdown for the quarterbacks. This game begins at 3:30 ET and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DE Andre Branch, Clemson: Quite frankly, I wasn't impressed with the play of Florida State's left tackle Andrew Datko in last weekend's game against an athletic Oklahoma defense. Branch boasts the combination of size, strength and speed that could also give Datko troubles, which is why I want to focus on him. Those wanting to see one of the better senior prospects at any position in the country can simply look to Branch's left, as senior defensive tackle Brandon Thompson has been impressive, thus far. In past games that I've wanted to focus on Branch, Thompson has stolen my attention. We'll see if Branch can't steal back some thunder in this exciting ACC matchup. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN. 

CB Cliff Harris, Oregon: Heisman finalist LaMichael James was the primary reason for Oregon's rise to the BCS Championship game last season, but Harris was arguably the most dominant player on the team, earning All-American honors as a returner and ball-hawking cornerback. His well-documented off-field troubles have hurt his stock, as has his spindly frame (5-11, 168). Harris hasn't seen much time yet this season as he works his way back into head coach Chip Kelly's good graces. The Ducks will be sure that Harris is on the field against an explosive Arizona offense, however, that features their own talented pro prospects in QB Nick Foles and WR Juron Criner. How the slim Harris matches up with Criner (6-4, 215) should give scouts a good idea as to how well he'll handle the bigger, more physical receivers of the NFL. This game begins at 10"15 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN2.

p.s. At the request of some diehard Seahawk fans, I'm also including the QBs to watch this weekend. They are:

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State visiting Texas A&M. 3:30 pm ET on ABC/ESPN
Landry Jones, Oklahoma hosting Missouri. 8 pm ET on FX.
Nick Foles, Arizona hosting Oregon. 10:15 pm ET on ESPN2.
Matt Barkley, USC visiting Arizona State. 10:15 pm ET on ESPN.*

*As well as Lindley and Tannehill, mentioned above.

Posted on: July 20, 2011 8:30 pm
 

Mike Stoops: WR Criner "here and ready to go"

There has been a great deal of speculation as to the health and readiness of All-American wide receiver Juron Criner during the off-season, but according to his head coach, the 6-4, 215 pound wideout is "fine" and "here and ready to go."

Criner earned First Team All Pac-10 honors this past season with a record-breaking campaign, catching 82 passes for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, he missed a scheduled trip to ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut during the off-season due to personal and family troubles and the rumors began to really get going after Criner was, according to a television broadcast, hospitalized after neurological testing.

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, however, expects his star receiver to be available when  Arizona opens up fall camp August 4.

"We anticipate having Juron," Stoops said. "He had some family issues that were concerning over the summer, and those are personal. We anticipate him being the same player - or a better player - than he was a year ago."
Criner demonstrated a knack for big plays earlier in his career, notching nine touchdowns among his 45 catches (for 582 yards) as a sophomore. He took his game to another level last year, however, and obviously the Wildcats are hopeful he can make the same jump in production in 2011.

As productive as Criner has been, he rates only as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 7 senior wideout entering next season. This grade is largely based on the fact that Criner has questionable deep speed. NFLDraftScout.com estimates him as capable of running the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds.

Should Criner be able to return and enjoy another big season in 2011, he'll likely get plenty of opportunities to prove that his production isn't simply a by-product of Arizona's spread offense and the talent of quarterback Nick Foles, also viewed by NFLDraftScout.com as a potential NFL prospect. With a pro-caliber combination of size and overall athleticism, Criner could appeal to all-star game scouts and certainly will rank among the senior wideouts pro scouts will be most interested in putting the stopwatch to come the off-season.


Posted on: June 30, 2011 5:27 pm
 

If Criner can't play, other Wildcats will suffer

Arizona's Juron Criner, NFLDraftScout.com's No. 7-rated senior wide receiver, reportedly has an undisclosed medical issue that could put his 2011 season in jeopardy. It was first reported by The Arizona Republic, and could have a domino effect on multiple Wildcats who have their eyes set on the 2012 NFL Draft.

Criner considered leaving school a year earlier after catching 82 passes for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior, often playing through nagging injuries. He's a deep threat who can rack up yards after the catch. The Republic contacted the Arizona sports information office regarding Criner, which said “We are unable to comment,” citing student privacy guidelines.

If Criner indeed is sidelined next season, it will also have a major impact on Nick Foles, NDS' fifth-rated senior quarterback who needs a very strong campaign to help boost his stock with a strong influx of junior quarterbacks expected to be available next spring - including Andrew Luck, Landry Jones and Matt Barkley.

It also wouldn't do any favors to the draft stock of running back Keola Antolin, NDS' No. 33-rated senior running back who benefits from Criner's ability to stretch the defense.

--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com