Week eleven in the college football season saw a number of blowouts and more than a few strange games, which made for entertaining viewing. It was also a weekend where a number of run stopping linebackers made their mark on the scouting community.
Each week I highlight a small school prospect that’s creating a buzz in the scouting world. Northern Iowa running back David Johnson has been purposely left out as he’s a big named player from a small school who entered the season well known. That doesn’t means he’s not creating a buzz. I’m told Johnson, who helped the Panthers snap North Dakota State’s consecutive win streak at 33 this weekend with a 23-3 victory (138-yards rushing on 28 carries), has been receiving grades which range between the second-to-fourth round. Teams love his size, speed and strength and feel Johnson could develop into a feature runner for the next level.
How will Marcus Peters draft stock hold up after his dismissal from the Washington program? It depends. Sources tell me they’ll obviously do a lot of digging into his background and the answer could come from former Husky coach Steve Sarkisian, now at USC. If Peters issues are isolated to this season teams believe it won’t hurt him all that much. But if information is received his emotional antics have been a long term issue which were never spoken about by the former coaching staff, Peters will drop.
LSU offensive line prospect La’el Collins is all over draft boards. Some teams stamp Collins as a first round tackle while others believe he grades as a second round guard. I’m agree with the latter and have Collins as the top guard on my board.
Eric Kendricks/LB/UCLA: The younger brother to Mychal Kendricks, a second round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, Eric has steadily risen up draft boards and performed brilliantly against Washington on Saturday. Posting a team leading 13 tackles, giving him 114 total in ten games this season, Kendricks has been a one man wrecking crew. He stacks well against the run playing bigger than his 225-pound frame while easily running down ball handlers in pursuit. Kendricks also makes plays in space and could be the next member of his family to land in the second round.
Bryce Hager/LB/Baylor: The Baylor offense garners most of the headlines as they are averaging more than 50-points each game this season. But the team’s defense, which gives up 21 points per game in the high scoring Big 12 Conference, are the unsung hero’s and Hager is their leader. He sits atop the team with 71.5 tackles in nine games this season including 8.5 tackles during the blowout victory over Oklahoma. Hager also registered his first interception of the season against the Sooners. He’s a tough, run defending linebacker who plays assignment football and grades as a late round pick who’ll do well on the inside of a 3-4 alignment.
Ben Heeney/LB/Kansas: Its been a miserable season for the Kansas Jayhawks, who broke a five game losing streak against Iowa State this weekend. Yet through it all Heeney has played productive football. The team’s leading tackler, Heeney has posted 101 tackles in nine games this season while also accumulating 10 tackles for loss. Entering the season with a middle round grade from scouts, he’s a good football player who lacks top measurables but has next level potential as a back-up linebacker/special teams player.
Martin Ifedi/DE/Memphis: Ifedi gave serious consideration to entering the 2014 draft but opted to return for his senior season. The decision initially looked questionable after he was sidelined four games at season’s start with a knee injury. Since then Ifedi has been a monster on the field upon returning to health. The senior posted 22 tackles and 4 tackles for loss the past month, slowly rising up draft boards. An athletic 6-feet/3-inches, Ifedi offers the versatility to line-up in a number of defensive fronts on Sunday and will be a steal in the later rounds.
Jordan Taylor/WR/Rice: Taylor is another who sat on the sidelines with injury during the early part of the year. With his foot in a boot, he missed the seasons initial three games but has been impossible to stop in recent weeks. The past three games has seen Taylor post a combined 19 receptions for 344 yards and two scores. The tall possession receiver is averaging just under 23-yards per reception during the six games he’s played and has improved the reliability of his hands. Fast forty times as well as a clean bill of health on his foot could push Taylor into the middle rounds next April.
Devante Davis/WR/UNLV: Davis started hot, posting 100-yard receiving performances in two of the season’s initial three games, before a wrist injury forced him to the sidelines the next five games. He was back with a vengeance against Air Force registering 6 receptions for 114-yards with one score in his first action in more than a month. The big-bodied wide-out offers a reliable game and has been stamped anywhere from a mid-to-late round prospect by scouts.
Sleeper of the Week- Josh Campion/OL/Minnesota: In the midst of a terrific campaign, the Gophers have played team football every week, winning the lines of scrimmage. Campion, a three year starter at offensive tackle, is the leader of a line which dominates opponents. Moving to the left side this season after holding down the right tackle spot the prior two years, he’s a smart, well sized blocker who plays with athleticism and fundamentals to shut down defenders. Only a junior, Campion already has scouts talking about his next level potential.
Small School Prospects- Vernon Johnson/WR & Ricky Collins/WR Texas A&M Commerce: Two weeks ago it was a pair of cornerbacks from CSU-Pubelo receiving mention and this time we move further south and concentrate on two receivers. Johnson is a speedster who entered the season with middle round grades from scouts while Collins is a reliably handed wide out that receives little mention. Johnson, whose caught 66 passes for 998 yards and 10 scores this season, has been compared to former Pittsburg State wide out Jon Brown, the successful third round pick of the Arizona Cardinals. Collins is just as explosive, averaging 17.4 yards on 59 receptions this year. He too has 10 touchdown catches to his credit this year. I would expect Johnson to receive an invitation to the combine then land in the later rounds while Collins could become a free agent find. I expect both will be playing on Sunday’s in 2015.
Darrian Miller/OL/Kentucky: Off the 2013 film I thought highly of Miller, believing he had middle round potential. He’s had a rough season at times in 2014 and the fact he’s playing out of position at left tackle (he’s better off inside at guard) has not helped the situation. Jordan Jenkins of Georgia had his way with Miller on Saturday as the Kentucky lineman looked intimidated at times. Miller still has potential as a zone blocking guard at the next level but his draft stock has taken a hit in recent weeks.
Christian Lombard/OL/Notre Dame: Lombard is another struggling out of position. Starting at right tackle, he had difficulty handling the pass rush as well as finishing his run blocks against Arizona State. At one point early in the game Lombard was badly beaten by Marcus Hardison, a sleeper defensive line prospect who may slide into the late rounds.