It was a weekend that saw the top team in the land, Florida State, require overtime to pull off the victory over Clemson. Yet even in defeat there were terrific performances from next level hopefuls on the losing end. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week Four.
Lets start with a few house keeping notes.
During Oregon State’s 21-point win over San Diego State, defensive end Obum Gwacham, who continues to receive strong praise from scouts, tallied one sack and one tackle for loss. Oregon State’s next four games include USC, Colorado, Utah and Stanford which pose a great challenge for Gwacham.
During the first half of the Alabama-Florida game I thought Gators left tackle Chaz Green looked good and his run blocking was impressive. After having his leg rolled up on Green tried to play with a heavily wrapped ankle late in the first half but was far less effective.
Alabama running back Kenyon Drake’s play, specifically his play on special teams, was mentioned after week two. Against Florida he opened the scoring with an 87-yard touchdown reception. Most impressive was the way Drake lined-up on the flanks then threw several moves on the Gator defensive back and separated down field.
One of the more interesting stories to follow through the 2015 NFL Draft is that of Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke. His record setting passing numbers are numbing and include 5076 passing yards as a sophomore in 2012 (when ODU was a IAA program) with 44 touchdowns then 4022 yards and 33 scores a year later. Both seasons his completion percentage was at or near the 70% range. In four games this season Heinicke has managed 1172-yards passing with 10 TDs. Numbers aside Heinicke’s pass placement and location is on the money as receivers rarely break stride or need to work for the reception. His game management and decision making also ranks up there with the best on the college level. His measurements fall short of the mark as Heinicke touches the tape a shade over 6-feet tall and weighs under 200-pounds. Heinicke, rated as a street free agent by most scouts, is a cross between Colt Brennan and Chase Daniel. Whatever he is or isn’t Heinicke most definitely deserves a chance next summer in camp.
Vic Beasley/DE-OLB/Clemson: A year ago when Florida State annihilated Clemson, Beasley’s performance ran parallel to the beating his team received as he tallied one solo tackle and was handled all game by Seminoles left tackle Cameron Erving. And while Clemson lost a close game in overtime this weekend, Beasley’s performance was brilliant compared to a year ago. The senior terrorized Florida State all night posting 2 sacks and 2 tackles for loss. It was obvious Florida State focused on Beasley as two blockers were assigned to him most of the night. The end result was Beasley breaking through blocks to make plays or the creation of opportunities for teammates. Most impressive was his ability rushing the passer out of a three point stance as well as standing up over tackle. This time around Erving looked intimidated and confused through much of the game.
Nate Orchard/DE-OLB/Utah: Scouts had been raving about Orchard during the early part of the season despite Utah’s lackluster schedule. Hence the game Saturday against Michigan was a big test for both team and player. After a slow start Orchard turned on the burners during critical moments in the second half and looked dominant at times. He finished with 7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks while also breaking up a pass. The ability Orchard displayed off the line of scrimmage in space was impressive and nicely complimented his pass rushing skills. Comparisons are being drawn to former Boise State star Demarcus Lawrence, selected in the second round last April by the Dallas Cowboys. If Orchard continues his impressive play he could also move into the second frame.
Kris Frost/OLB/Auburn: Frost caught my eye during the summer when I graded him as a late round pick but the junior has exceeded expectations in the early going. The athletic linebacker prospect displayed pass rush prowess in the victory over Kansas State, totaling 2 sacks and 2 tackles for loss to go along with 6 tackles. Frost projects as a weak-side prospect and has consistently shown skill making plays in pass coverage but the newest element of his game, rushing the passer, will further boost his draft stock.
Landon Collins/S/Alabama: Entering the year I decided to take a wait and see approach towards Collins, stamping him with a late round grade. Thus far in 2014 he’s made a believer of me. The junior was a part time starter last season but has shown great development this year after moving in with the first team on a fulltime basis. His athleticism and ability to make plays in coverage is impressive. During the blowout victory over Florida, Collins made an acrobatic interception in deep centerfield and a pair of terrific pass defenses on the sidelines. Sized well, he’s more than just the strong safety some have suggested he’ll be.
Greg Mabin/CB/Iowa: Mabin sat on the sidelines the past two seasons and has taken well to the starting role this year. During the Hawkeyes razor thin victory over Pittsburgh, Mabin broke up passes on consecutive downs late in the game, helping seal victory for Iowa. Both passes were aimed at Panthers star receiver Tyler Boyd. For the game Mabin had three pass deflections, giving him four this season. He’s also averaging 5 tackles a game this year and is a developing prospect that combines next level size with solid ball skills.
Tevin Coleman/RB/Indiana: Most of the running back talk in the scouting community centers on four underclassmen: Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, T.J. Yeldon and Jay Ajayi. Coleman, the next in line, has his supporters and is building momentum. Despite playing with an injured knee Saturday, he posted 132-yards rushing on 19 carries during the Hoosiers upset win over Missouri. In three games this season Coleman has totaled 569-yards on 66 caries for an average of 8.6-yards per handoff, not bad for a ball carrier that tips the scale just under 210-pounds.
Sleeper of the Week: Derrick Mathews & Efrem Oliphant/LB/Houston: Undersized but scrappy and productive, both Mathews and Oliphant are overlooked in the scouting community but must not be taken for granted. Both are tackling machines as Oliphant led Houston with 134 last season followed by Mathews with 116. Both are terrific in pursuit with the ability to make plays sideline to sideline and though neither are likely to be selected in the draft each could make an impact in camp next summer.
Small School Prospect- MyCole Pruitt/TE/Southern Illinois: Pruitt, someone I wrote about a year ago, was stamped as a late round pick by scouts entering the season and proved his worth against Purdue, the only IA program SIU faces this season. MyCole led all pass catchers with 10 receptions for 136 yards and could not be stopped by the Boilermaker defense. Pruitt caught 48 passes as a junior after 49 during his sophomore campaign and already has 26 receptions in four games this year. Though short (under 6-feet/2-inches) he’s a sure handed tight end with enough speed to split the seam. He’ll be a solid last day pick for a team needing a move tight end or H-back.
Tyler Lockett/WR-RS/Kansas State: There’s a wide variety of opinion on Lockett’s next level ability but his performance against Auburn had detractors saying “I told you so.” The speedy wide out dropped two passes in the first quarter of his teams loss to the Tigers, including one which slipped through his hands in the end zone. Dropped passes and poor pass catching technique is nothing new for Lockett. On film he’s body catcher who seemingly needs to grasp the ball against his frame to secure the reception. This leads to drops, double catches and a lot of missed opportunity. He’s the type of player who’ll wow coaches with big plays from the line of scrimmage or long kick returns then at the same time break hearts with his inability to cleanly catch the ball.
Carl Davis/DT/Iowa: I expected a lot from Davis entering the season but I’m quickly coming to the conclusion his reputation does not meet reality. Against Pittsburgh, who started a back-up redshirt freshman at center as well as a sophomore at guard, Davis was nearly invisible. Finishing the game with half a tackle for loss and two assisted tackles, he was continually handled at the point of attack and was a non-factor. Scouts believe Davis could be a top 100 pick but he’ll need to dominate against lesser competition or he’ll fall into the later rounds.