Another Saturday results in a shake-up at the top of the college football rankings and even more pride in the Magnolia State. It was also a very good week for next level prospects found in the defensive front seven.
There was a breathe of relief after Arizona receiver Austin Hill turned in a seven reception, 70 yard performance against USC on Saturday but truth be told there’s a bit of concern about his play. Hill was stamped as a second/third rounder entering the season but most scouts now feel he presently grades as a mid-to late rounder. Six games into the year Hill sits with 25 catches for 345-yards. There’s a feeling in the scouting community that Hill may not be fully healthy from the knee injury which kept him on the sidelines in 2013.
Two weeks ago when, I joined my friend Fran Duffy for his Eagle Eye in the Sky podcast, we briefly spoke about South Alabama quarterback Brandon Bridge. Since then league insiders have told me Bridge is building a real buzz inside war rooms. One league source compared his physical skills to Colin Kaepernick’s as Bridge has the arm strength to make all the throws as well as the leg speed to make big plays running the ball. When questioned about his rather ordinary completion percentage of 55% this season I was told there have been 40 recorded drops of catchable passes by South Alabama targets this season. As mentioned during the podcast, the talk is Bridge will likely receive a Senior Bowl invite, though for disclosure purposes none of this is coming from Senior Bowl staff. If he does turn up in uniform next January in Mobile it will be a huge opportunity for Bridge.
Rashad Greene/WR/Florida State: Things have not come all that easy for the Seminoles this season yet a real buzz is building around receiver Rashad Greene in scouting circles. The senior is on pace for a career season, accumulating 44 receptions, 683 yards (15.1 yard average) and 3 scores midway through the campaign. His quickness, ability to get open and playing smarts have been impressive as has Greene’s dependability. He’s not going to put up eye popping numbers at the combine yet many scouts feel Greene is a legitimate top 65 selection.
Leonard Floyd/DE-OLB/Georgia: Floyd was someone I spoke of in glowing terms prior to the season and he’s met expectations placed on him. During the Bulldogs blowout victory over Missouri this weekend Floyd was a disruptive force posting 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss and was credited with 4 quarterback hurries. The sophomore is a tremendous pass rusher with the athleticism and mobility to bend off the edge then alter his angle to chase down quarterbacks or ball handlers. While I plan to get into more detail on underclassmen later this week, the word from Athens is Floyd, a true sophomore who spent a year in prep school, is likely to enter the draft.
Grady Jarrett/DL/Clemson: Jarrett has quietly been rising up draft boards and scouts are positive about his next level ability. The senior leads all Clemson defensive linemen in tackles this season, most recently posting 5 tackles with 1 for loss and a fumble recovery during the victory over Louisville. Slightly undersized at 6-feet/.5-inches and 280-pounds, his athleticism and movement skills have scouts believing Jarrett will be the perfect three-technique tackle on Sunday’s.
Henry Anderson/DT/Stanford: More and more the name of Henry Anderson continues to pop up in conversations with scouts when speaking of prospects on the rise. Entering the season with late round grades, Anderson has rebounded well from an injury plagued 2013 campaign, playing smart, tough football this season. Scouts feel, and justifiably so, Anderson will be a solid middle round pick who’ll go onto to have a long career in the NFL as either a two-gap end or defensive tackle.
Mark Nzeocha/OLB/Wyoming: Originally stamped as a last round pick by scouts, Nzeocha is making a move up draft boards with terrific play this season. The athletic linebacker leads Wyoming in tackles, sacks and pass break-ups during the first half of the campaign. In the teams loss to Hawaii this weekend Nzeocha posted 13 tackles besides forcing a fumble and recovering one. The senior is a three down defender who comes with weak side linebacker measurables (6-feet, 3-inches, 235lbs and 4.5s/forty).
Dak Prescott/QB/Mississippi State: In the day and age of read option quarterbacks, Prescott is drawing a lot of attention. He’s a physically gifted prospect that’s displayed consistent progress as a quarterback and improved his passing skills. Prescott has delivered better accuracy this season while reducing the number of misreads and poor passes thrown. He’s also developed into a field general and has scouts buzzing.
Dan Vitale/FB/Northwestern: The junior fullback has stood out in a variety of areas this season. He’s a terrific lead blocker for Northwestern’s diverse running game and is the team’s leading receiver. Vitale has been a consistent short and intermediate range target in the passing game from the start of the season and his skill set makes him a perfect west coast fullback.
Sleeper of the Week: Bobby Richardson/DL/Indiana: Its tough to call Richardson a sleeper, especially after the IU defense gave up 45-points this weekend. But watch the tape and you’ll see Richardson constantly making plays behind the line of scrimmage. On Saturday he blew past Hawkeyes left tackle Brandon Scherff, a unanimous top 15 pick next April, for a sack early in the game which brought his total to four this season. Richardson has the size and skill set to get consideration as a two-gap end or three technique tackle at the next level.
Small School Prospect: Zack Hodges/DE-OLB/Harvard: Teams love players that can rush the passer and Hodges has made a living doing as much in the Ivy league. Though a bit inconsistent this season Hodges has totaled 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in four games. He’s athletic, quick and easily moves about the field, rushing the passer or pursuing the action. Hodges, graded as a potential late round pick entering the season, comes with an upside but a quirky personality that may not sit well with some. Don’t be surprised if he plays in the Shrine Game then receives an invitation to the combine.
Cody Fajardo/QB/Nevada: Scouts were high on Nevada’s dual threat quarterback entering the season. And while the senior displays a good deal of athleticism in his game he also shows a large degree of inaccuracy in his throwing. Except for one outstanding performance against Arizona, Fajardo has completed under 60% against every other IA opponent this season. On film he makes receivers work too hard as they are continually slowing in routes, reaching backwards or getting vertical to make the grab.
Christion Jones/WR-KR/Alabama: Stamped as a last round pick, Jones was graded as much for his return skills as his receiving ability. The former has not worked out well and fumbles forced Jones to the bench on punt returns last weekend. Jones has caught just 11 passes this season and is averaging 4.6-yards on 8 punt returns.