Week two on the college scheduled featured a contest with national title implications as well as a number of other important conference match-ups. Several defensive front seven players stood out for scouts and for the second week in a row, the signal callers disappointed. Here are the risers and sliders for week two.
Jared Norris/LB/Utah: The defensive performance of Norris helped lead the Utes to a victory over interstate rival Utah State. Norris finished with 10 tackles for the game and his intelligent, disciplined play was most impressive. Utah State’s no huddle offense goes east/west as well as north/south and Norris never missed a beat or was found out of position. He lacks classic size but has the makings of a starting 3-4 ILB for the next level.
Treyvon Hester/DT-NT/Toledo: The stats are not reflective of the impact Hester had during Toledo’s upset victory against Arkansas on the road. The junior finished with 4 tackles and .5 tackles for loss but was the focus of double and even triple team blocks all day which allowed Toledo pass rushers to get pressure off the edge and on the blitz. Most impressive was the way Hester pushed the pocket up field and got pressure during critical moments late in the game. Few on the outside are talking about Hester, who’s known in scouting circles as a quality prospect with a terrific character.
Thomas Lawrence/DL/Michigan State: During Michigan State’s victory over Oregon, I posted a tweet about the impressive play of Spartans defensive lineman Joel Heath. His teammate Thomas Lawrence also deserves mention. Lawrence finished the night with 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack and broke up a pass. He’s a tall, angular athlete who not only makes plays up the field but can change direction and get outside the box in pursuit. There’s a feeling in the scouting community Lawrence, who was considered a free agent prospect entering the year, will land in the middle rounds of next year’s draft.
Kentrell Brothers/LB/Missouri: Missouri has yet to move into the meat and potatoes portion of their schedule but Brothers is playing at mid season form. The linebacker almost single-handedly secured the Tigers victory over Arkansas State totaling 16 tackles as well as 2 interceptions, which came in the final quarter. Stamped as a potential late rounder, Bothers is a well built run defender with a good head for the ball.
Tyler Higbee/TE/Western Kentucky: The redshirt senior entered the season with free agent grades but is swiftly becoming a draftable commodity. During WKU’s victory over Louisiana Tech the tight end led the Hilltoppers with 7 receptions for 88 yards, including several important third down grabs which kept the chains moving. Higbee has also shown himself to be a competent blocker when kept on the line of scrimmage. At 6-feet/5-inches and 250-pounds he possesses a next level frame and a developing game.
*Sleeper* Bryce Williams/TE/East Carolina: Graded as a late round pick entering the season, Williams very much looked like a next level player during ECU’s close loss to Florida. He finished with 9 receptions for 83 yards and 1 score, out battling defenders to come away with several difficult receptions in the middle of the field. Williams is not a deep threat at the tight end position rather a sure handed underneath pass catcher that does a solid job as an in-line blocker. He’ll be a dependable second tight end on Sunday’s.
*Small School Prospect* Harlan Miller/CB/ Southeast Louisiana: Miller was stamped as a street free agent by area scouts but there as some who feel the small school corner is middle round worthy. He’s tall (6-feet), fluid, possesses excellent ball skills and terrific hands for the interception. Miller has collected three interceptions in two games this season with Ohio University up next for the Lions.
Brandon Allen/QB/Arkansas: Its tough to claim a quarterback who passed for 412-yards on Saturday is sliding down draft boards but the tape doesn’t lie. During the loss to Toledo, Allen just didn’t seem in control of the situation and failed to hit on several key passes late in the game when targets were available. He missed open receivers and on the final snap didn’t even put a desperation pass in play, as the clock wound down.
Max Wittek/QB/Hawaii: The stats say it all; 7 of 24 passing for 67 yards with no scores but 2 interceptions. Wittek had the opportunity to make scouts believe in his next level ability. Most now understand why he couldn’t win the starting job at USC.
Maurice Canady/CB/Virginia: I stamped Canady as a fifth round pick during my ACC preview and believe he has next level ball skills but speed is a concern. Watching Notre Dame junior Will Fuller out race Canady downfield for the game winning 40-yard reception with 12 seconds left will surely raise more red flags over the issue.
I’ll repeat what I wrote in August during my SEC preview; I am shocked so many scouts believe Tra Carson is a free agent prospect. He’s an interior grinder with terrific quickness for a big ball carrier. I stamped Carson as a last day draft pick back in August but I easily believe middle rounds as of now.
I was surprised when I was told Utah defensive end Jason Fanaika had received a top sixty grade by a number of scouts. And while I still don’t believe he’s top two round material, he’s shown flashes of becoming that type of player. Though Fanaika needs to make plays on a consistent basis he’s displayed terrific power, quickness and the ability to disrupt the actions during the seasons’ initial two weeks.
Western Kentucky running back Leon Allen, who went down with a gruesome injury during the victory over Louisiana Tech, was stamped as a middle round prospect by some area scouts. Prior to the injury I had him as a late rounder so obviously things will need to be adjusted.