This could be the year for the Panthers, the season the program finally take a big leap into a BCS game. The squad offers impact players on the defensive line, play makers on offense and a terrific left tackle. All of whom could be top forty five in next April.
The top prospect on offense is receiver Jonathan Baldwin, a dominant, game controlling receiver who sneaks it down field for the big reception on occasion. An impressive target with reliable hands, Baldwin plays with outstanding balance and body control. He consistently makes the acrobatic reception downfield and uses his size as an advantage. Baldwin is also a solid blocker off the line of scrimmage. He will lose focus occasionally and on film he displays minimal quickness as well as speed. Sources from the program told us the latter is not a big problem for Baldwin as he is a workout warrior and would perform brilliantly at a combine/pro-day workout. When he enters the draft expect Baldwin to be a top 32 selection.
Note: During our podcast this week, which will be taped on Friday, we will have exclusive info on the word around the Panther program regarding the NFL future of Baldwin and some of his underclassmen teammates.
Left tackle Jason Pinkston is a player we’ve been high on since the 2008 season. Mechanically sound, he blocks with terrific leverage and uses effective body positioning to seal defenders from the action. His footwork is solid as is his use of blocking angles in pass protection. He lacks the dominant base and does not get much movement run blocking. Sources have told us Pinkston could work a bit harder as well. He stands under 6-feet, 4-inches and some may question his ability to hold down the left tackle spot in the NFL. We disagree as Pinkston has all the tools necessary to be a blind side protector until he proves otherwise.
Junior Lucas Nix is another good looking tackle prospect. He combines smarts, mechanics and quickness to get the job done. Nix moves well on his feet and shows skill getting out to the second level then blocking in motion. He also displays good footwork in pass protection. Like his teammate, Nix must improve his run blocking strength yet is an underclassmen with a good degree of upside potential.
Greg Romeus was a prospect who grabbed us as a true freshman in 2007 with his play making ability. He’s a solid athlete who breaks down and moves well in every direction of the field. Romeus jolts blockers with good hand punch, knocks linemen off the ball or pushes them into the pocket altogether with his power. He has adequate speed off the edge and flashes ability in backside pursuit. A good campaign in 2010 followed up by good workouts in early 2011 will put Romeus in the top half of round one next April.
Jabaal Sheard mans other defensive end position and is also a terrific prospect despite not getting the same recognition as his teammate. Sheard is quicker off the snap, faster up the field and better in pursuit compared to Romeus. He also can be effectively used off the line on zone blitzes. Sheard does not hold up as well at the point of attack against the run yet has enough talent to be a top 75 pick in 2011.
Junior linebacker Max Gruder is a smart, disciplined defender who makes plays sideline-to-sideline. Effectively diagnosing the action, he takes good angles to the ball and always puts himself in a position to make plays. Undersized, he gets engulfed at the point yet does a lot of things well and must be kept on the radar moving forward.
Dom DeCicco is a safety in a linebackers body. Tough and aggressive, he attacks ball handlers and is a sound tackler in the open field. DeCicco plays a bit stiff and lacks great range outside the numbers. We project him as a traditional strong safety though he may also get looks at outside linebacker.
Elijah Fields is an imposing looking safety who never made as many plays as he should have. On the occasions he was around the ball his impact could be felt. Fields was dismissed from the program in February and will be playing for Cal-Pa in Division II this season.
Pittsburgh NFL Prospects