It looks as though there will be a changing of the guard in the PAC 12 as Oregon was crushed by Utah, a contest which saw several terrific performances by next level prospects. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week four.
Jeremy Cash/S/Duke: In a nutshell Cash put on a defensive clinic against Georgia Tech. First his numbers which included a team leading 12 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles and 4 quarterback hurries. Cash created havoc all day displaying great intensity as well as instincts and versatility. He was effective up the field while showing discipline in pass coverage. Cash, who entered the season with late round grades, stated his case to be a second day selection.
Darian Thompson/S/Boise State: The Broncos defense manhandled Virginia during their 42-point victory on Friday and Thompson proved why scouts consider him the nation’s top senior safety. The center fielder finished the game with 5 tackles and also intercepted a pass, his second pick in four games. Thompson is a big, forceful safety that devastates opponents stuffing the run while also showing skill covering the pass sideline-to-sideline. He’s a top 60 prospect that could move into the initial 40 picks if he participates at the Senior Bowl then shows next level ball skills.
Su’a Cravens/S/USC: If Thompson is the top senior safety in the nation few would argue the number one junior at the position, and possibly the best prospect regardless of year, is Cravens. The forceful safety put on another show during the win over Arizona with a team leading 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss while also forcing a fumble. In four games this season Cravens has four tackles for loss and a pair of pass defenses. He’s omnipresent every Saturday and is constantly around the action. The question asked by many is whether the 220-plus pound defender will play safety or linebacker at the next level.
Isaac Asiata/G/Utah: The Utes trouncing of Oregon 62-20 in Eugene was impressive in so many ways. Offensively the team combined for 530-yards and Asiata’s blocking helped paved the way. Strong as an ox, the junior manhandled opponents all night and for the most part held his own against defensive end Deforest Buckner, the nation’s top rated senior prospect. Not only did he open holes for the running game and hold his ground in pass protection, Asiata threw several key blocks on the move, looking relatively athletic pulling across the line of scrimmage then getting out to the second level.
Shaq Washington/WR/Cincinnati: Entering the season Washington was stamped as a street free agent by scouts in part due to his 5-foot, 8-inch frame but there’s no denying he offers next level ability. During the shootout loss to Memphis he posted 9 receptions for 126-yards with 1 score. That increased his team leading total to 26 catches in four games and Washington is also the Bearcats top punt returner. While it may be tough for him to find space in the late rounds teams are rethinking their original opinion on this potential slot receiver/return specialist.
Ben Brown/LB/Mississippi State: Brown is the Bulldogs leader on defense and ranks as one of the top five inside/middle linebacker prospects in the nation. He offers a great combination of toughness, instincts and discipline. He posted 7 tackles, broke up 1 pass and tallied 2 quarterback hurries during the win over Auburn. A tough run defender that’s constantly around the ball making positive plays, he’s a three down defender that can line-up in multiple schemes.
*Sleeper* Donte Deayon/CB/Boise State: Deayon flashed brilliance early in his Boise State career before struggling through a mediocre junior campaign. Unranked by scouts entering the year, Deayon has watched his game take off this season. He’s totaled 3 interceptions in four games and has improved his play against the run. Deayon is small but has enough ability to line up as a dime back/special teams player on Sunday’s.
*Small School* Tim Brown/TE/West Chester: Brown, a pass catching machine for Division II West Chester, came back with vengeance after missing the seasons opening games due to an NCAA snafu. In just his second game this season he totaled 4 receptions for 59 yards and 2 scores against Millersville. As a junior in 2014 his numbers included 53 receptions, 1059 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. Brown is built more like a possession receiver but will have an opportunity as a move tight end/H-back in camp next summer.
D’Haquille Williams/WR/Auburn: Few senior receivers were rated higher than Williams entering the season but he’s proving to be an enigma. He comes with mouthwatering size/speed numbers (6’ 2.5”/225lbs/4.5s) but has a disturbing tendency to drop catchable passes, something which plagued him during the loss to Mississippi State. Four games into the 2015 campaign Williams has caught 11 passes for 130 yards, numbers attached to a middle round tight end versus a top 60 receiver prospect.
Bronson Kafusi/DE/BYU: Opinions on Kafusi were all over the board entering the season; scouts graded him as a street free agent while many on the outside stamped him as second day material. For a variety of reasons I gave Kafusi the benefit of the doubt and graded him as a late round pick. Thus far scouts have been proven correct. In four games this season Bronson has totaled a single sack and recorded just two tackles against Michigan this weekend.
Antonio Morrison/LB/Florida: I like Morrison’s game and gave him a second round grade entering the season, which was slightly higher than scouts. And though I was willing to overlook his almost safety like size (6’ 1”/226lbs) the Tennessee game was cause for concern. Morrison plays with a great degree of intensity and plenty of speed but was easily blocked from the action and had a number of tackles broken. I also noticed he took a lot of poor angles throughout the game. It boils down to Morrison being a scheme specific player for the next level which limits his appeal.
Defensive lineman Sheldon Day is a playmaker on the college level and someone who grows on you when watching the film. Poor measurables (6-feet/.5 inches and 280lbs) are a big red flag and when projecting Day to the next level I can’t help but be reminded of Trevor Laws, another undersized Notre Dame defensive lineman who performed miserably in the NFL.
Lost in the shuffle of the injury to Myles Jack last week was the season ending injury suffered by cornerback Fabian Moreau, a player many scouts rank as a second day pick. While I have no present knowledge of his future plans I am told the overwhelming feeling in the scouting community is Moreau should apply for another season on the college field.
Though the end result was lopsided scouts had to be pleased with the performance of UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel and receiver Tajae Sharpe. The Notre Dame defense outclassed UMass but Frohnapfel kept the chains moving in the first half, finishing with 20 of 40 passing for 233 yards and 1 interception. He stayed away from poor decision making and the most part, poor passes. Sharpe finished with 8 reception for 83 yards against a talented Irish secondary.
There’s a bit of buzz building around Utah’s Kylie Fitts, the junior defensive end/outside linebacker who transferred from UCLA. The athletic prospect has shown flashes of dominance displaying speed rushing the passer and the ability to pursue the action laterally. His numbers through four games have been ordinary and include 10 tackles, 1 sack as well as 3 pass defenses but scouts love his upside. I’m told there’s a good possibility Fitts enters the draft if he finishes the year on a high note.