Another team fell from the ranks of the undefeated this weekend while the top four playoff hopefuls secured their positions. It was also a week where news on the post-season All Star games began to flow in. With all the latest updates on what’s happening in January, here are the Risers and Sliders for week eleven.
Michael Thomas/WR/Ohio State: Thomas has been swiftly moving up draft boards all season and his performance against Illinois was impressive. His stats were nothing extraordinary as he posted 6 receptions for 76 yards with 1 score but on successive plays Thomas shows why many believe he’ll be a first round pick. Midway through the first quarter Thomas got vertical over defenders in the middle of the field to make a catch then was pounded by opponents but held onto the ball despite being woozy. On the very next play he grabbed an errant throw from the air for a 24-yard touchdown catch. In those two plays Thomas displayed route running skills, the ability to highpoint the throw, toughness as well as balance and body control. I’m told Thomas will enter the draft and the faster he runs the forty in workouts the earlier he will be selected.
Stephane Nembot/OL/Colorado: Nembot has been a favorite of mine since his sophomore campaign. The nimble blocker who’s been invited to the Shrine Game, has been a four year starter at both the left and right tackle positions for Colorado. He displays terrific footwork and lateral range in pass protection while offering the size and growth potential to develop into a good run blocker. Mistakenly graded as a late rounder by scouts, Nembot is a middle round choice with starting potential at the next level.
Robert Kugler/C/Purdue: Kugler entered the season with draftable grades and has played reasonably well in what’s been a miserable season for the Boilermakers. During the team’s seven point loss to Northwestern, he looked effective as a run blocker and in pass protection. Kugler has average size/speed numbers but plays tough, smart football and offers potential as a inexpensive back-up on Sunday’s.
Nelson Spruce/WR/Colorado: Spruce is the second CU Buffalo to make the risers list this week and with good reason. The senior is not big (6-feet/200lbs) or fast (high 4.5’s) rather very productive. Against USC he finished with 7 receptions, 94-yards and 1 score, giving him 67 catches for the year. And while Spruce does not possess long speed he comes with great short area quickness which helps him get a step on defenders into breaks or transitioning after the reception. I feel he fits well as a last day draft pick that will line up as a fifth receiver on Sunday’s.
Sterling Shepard/WR/Oklahoma: Shepard has been on my risers watch list for the past month but his performance against Baylor really stands out. The senior finished the game with 14 receptions, 177 yards and 2 touchdowns, which improved his season totals to 1004 receiving yards and 9 scores. Shepard is another with average size/speed numbers yet a sure handed pass catcher with terrific quickness. He’s a middle round choice and can line up in the slot as well as return punts at the next level.
Jake McGee/TE/Florida: The one time highly tight end who suffered a gruesome leg injury which sidelined him most of last year has returned to form in 2015. Ten games into the season McGee has totaled 31 receptions, 268 yards and 3 scores, including a 5 catch performance against South Carolina on Saturday. McGee, a solid pass catcher that gets results as a blocker, projects as a number two tight end if he passes medicals in the lead up to the draft.
*Small School Prospect* James Cowser/OLB-DE/Southern Utah: Cowser is one of three draftable prospects on the Thunderbirds defense and a player moving up draft boards. To date he’s totaled 10 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss as well as 3 quarterback hurries, along with 56 total tackles. The explosive pass rusher possesses linebacker size and constantly disrupts the action off the edge. He’s fast (high 4.5’s forty) agile and can quickly change direction then run down quarterbacks or make plays in backside pursuit. Cowser, who’s drawing comparisons to former Big Sky defender Jared Allen, plays intense football and goes hard on every down. He’s expected to participate at the Shrine Game and should receive a combine invitation in the coming months.
J.D. McKissic/WR/Arkansas State: After his sophomore season when he caught 82 passes, I put McKissic on my watch list but his play has gone downhill since. He totaled 53 receptions a year ago and thus has 43 catches as a senior with two games remaining. McKissic comes up shy in the areas of size/speed (5-feet/9.5-inches, 4.50s forty) and his drop in production is a major red flag.
As we move through the end of the regular season, invitations to post season All Start games such as the Senior Bowl and Shrine Game are being sent out. Part of the fun of these annual contests is seeing which small school prospects are scheduled to participate. Here’s the latest on what I’m hearing.
Earlier I mentioned James Cowser, one of three draftable prospects from Southern Utah, as a Shrine Game invitee. His two teammates are also expected to play in post-season classics. Safety/linebacker Miles Killebrew, the highest rated of the three and a potential second day pick is receiving Senior Bowl interest and expected to be on hand in Mobile. Cornerback Leshaun Sims is scheduled to be in St Petersburg for the Shrine Game.
As has been reported elsewhere small school corners James Bradberry of Samford and Harlan Miller of Southeastern Louisiana have been invited to the Senior Bowl. Ironically Bradberry’s former college teammate Jaquiski Tartt made a big move up draft boards after a terrific performance in Mobile last January.
Deandre Houston-Carson of William and Mary was highlighted as our small school prospect in week ten and I’m told he’ll be at either the Shrine Game or the Senior Bowl or possibly both.
I’m told the Senior Bowl was at Harvard recently to scout offensive tackle Cole Toner. I am of the opinion the team’s other offensive lineman, Anthony Fabiano, should get Shrine Game consideration though I’ve heard no official word on that.
South Carolina State defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, whom I wrote about last month, is expected to participate in the Shrine Game.
Another MEAC defender looks like he’ll be on hand for at least one of the All Star games as I’m told Norfolk State linebacker Deon King is receiving interest from the Senior Bowl.
Earlier this season I listed Bronson Kafusi as a slider but he’s been on a tear in recent weeks and has turned the tide of his draft stock. Much of the reason stems from Kafusi primarily lining up at defensive end, which I noted on October 19th. I’m told there are a number of area scouts who feel he’ll end up in the middle rounds with good pre-draft workouts.