Separation Saturday was exactly that as three teams (LSU, TCU and Michigan State) are likely out of the hunt for the national title while Alabama and Oklahoma State made themselves contenders. There was also a nice mix of defensive front seven players along with skill prospects who impressed NFL scouts on the weekend. Along with some major news on the underclassmen front, here are the Risers and Sliders from week ten.
A’Shawn Robinson/DT/Alabama: Everyone will focus on Robinson getting vertical to block a field goal late in the game but his play leading up to that point was incredibly impressive. Robinson proved he could effectively clog the middle of the line and collect blockers or just as easily collapse the pocket by bull rushing opponents off the ball. Robinson posted two tackles for loss, one coming on a twist where he displayed the ability to easily change direction then tackle the ball handler in the open field. The big defensive lineman is proving himself to be a three down, multi-purpose lineman. Everything I’ve heard since September has Robinson entering the 2016 draft where he’s destined to be a top 20 choice.
Nick Vigil/LB/Utah State: In a bit of a shocker Utah State lost to New Mexico by a single point after missing a field goal during the final minute. Despite this, Vigil once again led the Aggie defense which gave up under 250-yards of total offense. Vigil finished the night with 9 tackles, which gives him a team leading 98 tackles this season. The junior also has 9.5 tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles to his credit. He’s a tough, two down defender with terrific instincts and tackling ability. I’m hearing Vigil is seriously considering jumping into next April’s draft, where he projects as a middle round choice.
Kylie Fitts/DE-OLB/Utah: With so much headlining talent on the Utah defense its easy to get lost in the shuffle and that’s exactly what’s happened to Fitts. Yet the junior, who sat out last season after transferring from UCLA, has progressively improved this year. His latest outing included 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 1 pass break up during the victory over Washington. That’s 4.5 sacks this season for Fitts who primarily comes off the bench, to go along with 6 pass defenses. He’s a long, angular athlete with good upside and effectively makes plays standing over tackle or coming out of a three point stance. Several weeks ago I was informed Fitts will consider entering the draft if he finishes the season strong and he’s doing exactly that.
Aaron Burbridge/WR/Michigan State: Entering the season Burbridge was completely ignored by scouts despite posting 51 receptions the prior two years. He’s now in the midst of a career campaign and scouts are intrigued. The senior leads Michigan State in all receiving categories with 62-receptions, 994-receiving yards and 6-scores. Sized well at 6-feet/205lbs, Burbridge is averaging 16 yards per reception and more than 110-receiving yards each game. He’s always been a sure handed wide out and the addition of his vertical pass catching skill plus stepping up as the Spartans top offensive threat will surely push him into the late rounds.
Josh Ferguson/RB/Illinois: Ferguson, who’s been struggling with a shoulder injury this season, returned after a three week absence and dominated the scene. The versatile running back posted 133-yards rushing (on just 12 carries) and added 6 receptions. Ferguson is a three down back and fits somewhere in the middle of the draft’s last day if his medicals check out.
Marquise Williams/QB/North Carolina: The Tar Heels have not lost a game since dropping a four point contest during the first week of the season and Williams is the primary reason. The senior signal caller has improved in all areas and manhandles opponents. Williams had a “wow” game against Duke, throwing for 494-yards and 4 scores. For the year he’s completed 66% of his passes. He entered the season with free agent grades but the ability to make plays with his arm and legs will surely give Williams late round consideration.
*Sleeper Prospect* Cleveland Wallace III/CB/San Jose State: Wallace was a player who caught my eye over the summer when I scouted his teammate Jimmy Pruitt. So impressive was his sophomore film I graded him as a potential late round pick. He’s been even better as a junior, significantly improving his entire game. To date Wallace has 3 interceptions to his credit and has broken up another 6 passes. He comes with a slight build but offers terrific ball skills and the ability to line-up in zone packages or backed off the line of scrimmage at the next level.
*Small School Prospect* Deandre Houston-Carson/CB/William & Mary: Entering the season as a fringe late round pick, Houston-Carson is a small school corner on the rise. The teams leading tackler (71), the senior is also tops on the defense with 4 interceptions and has added 3 more pass break-ups. He’s a solid athlete with next level size (6-feet/190-pounds) and ball skills. I’d expect to see him at the Shrine Game and an invitation to the combine is a real possibility.
Shawn Oakman/DL/Baylor: There’s was much surprise this summer after I reported scouts considered Oakman a middle round pick and to date they’ve been proven correct. During the Bears victory over Kansas State when Oakman faced off against Cody Whitehair, an offensive lineman with a second day grade, he collected just three tackles. He was slow getting off blocks and for the most part really did not seem to chase hard or show a lot of hustle. Oakman has totaled just four sacks this season, one a piece against Lamar, Rice, Kansas and Iowa State. Seven of his eleven tackles for loss came against Lamar (3.5) and Iowa State (3.5). His build, a long 6-feet/7.5-inches with skinny lower legs, also concerns next level decision makers.
Alonzo Russell/WR/Toledo: After his sophomore season of 2013, Russell looked like a big time prospect and potential top 100 pick. He was slowed considerably by injury during his junior campaign last year and has since struggled to get his game back on track for a variety of reasons. In eight games this season he’s caught just 24 passes for 396 yards. Russell has dropped from a potential middle round pick into the late rounds. He possesses the receiving skills necessary to play at the next level but must quickly pull it together on the field before teams expend a draft pick for his services.
I’m told there could be a number of underclassmen entries from Clemson next year. Sources tell me defensive lineman Shaq Lawson, a week eight riser, and cornerback Mackensie Alexander will enter the draft. That said one must remember coach Dabo Sweeney has done a heck of a job re-recruiting highly rated juniors and getting players such as Vic Beasley and CJ Spiller to return for another season. Several people inside the scouting community believe Alexander will be a top three corner if he enters.
Sources tell me they expect a jailbreak of underclassmen from Ohio State to enter the draft once the season is complete. Big names such as cornerback Eli Apple and running back Ezekiel Elliott are expected to opt for the draft but I’m also hearing lesser known players such as receiver Jalin Marshall will also considering making the jump.
South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore is leaning towards entering the draft according to sources. Moore leads the team in tackles (89), tackles for loss (6.5), interceptions (4) and pass break-ups (4). He’s slightly built and may be a scheme-specific, one-gap defender but Moore has been described to me as a freakish athlete.