Behold! The college season ‘tis upon us once again!!!
So many games to watch, yet so little time to view them all…or even most.
Welcome to TFY’s latest and greatest feature, the “Weekend Watcher”. Head Scout Brent Sobleski will use this as a weekly opportunity to discuss those games and players which struck a nerve during his copious amounts of football intake.
Now if one is going to start, might as well start at the top.
As such Washington’s Jake Locker receives critical attention. Many accolades have fallen the way of Locker this preseason. But the most important discussions currently raging around the country are whether or not Mr. Locker could and should be the number one overall selection in the 2011 draft.
Simply put, one has to take the good with the bad regarding the highly touted prospect. His play against BYU was no different.
Growth can already be seen in Locker’s game. More athlete than quarterback most of his career, Husky coach, Steve Sarkisian, has the task of developing his star signal caller into an NFL quarterback. Already some of the work which has been done became obvious. Locker is attempting to manipulate the safeties on most downs. He now progresses through his reads much more smoothly. The team leader is also more adept squeezing accurate passes into tight windows.
Two very good examples presented themselves against the Cougars. The first was on his team’s initial touchdown when Locker was able to throw a back shoulder dart into his tight end, around strong safety coverage, for the score. Later, Locker split the corner and safety in very limited space before his receiver was nearly decapitated.
The physical talent will always be present and obvious. As such, they require little attention. Though it should be noted Locker has already shown the ability to lace a fifteen yard out, from the opposite hash, on a rope. Plus, his scrambling prowess has never been questioned.
From a negative standpoint a few issues still linger. Locker can be lazy in his mechanics resulting in errant throws which could have resulted in easy completions. At times he did not reset his feet and instead became more baseball star than football player airmailing passes. Because of his aforementioned physical acumen, he appears to just try and make plays instead of executing properly. Bad habits have a tendency to die hard.
Also, everyone would have loved to see Locker bring his team from behind after his defense put them in a precarious position. The quarterback failed to do so and missed his moment to shine thus surrendering a victory on the road once again.
One final note on Locker, many have anticipated his continued growth for the prospect in the team’s new-ish “pro style system”. Coach Sarkisian had implemented multiple facets of a similar system, but he also adheres to the strengths of his players. So do not be surprised when watching Washington this year, even with Locker behind center, still using multiple quarterback draws and bubble screens within said offense.
Defensively, two players required close viewing.
Washington’s massive interior tackle Alameda Ta’amu may not have had a large impact, but his presence was surely felt. The near 340 lbs. defender did not see much action as BYU made a point to run predominantly outside the tackle box. Ta’amu is a prototypical two gap nose tackle but will have to grow into the position from a technique perspective. His ability to use his hands properly, stacking and shedding opponents, is below average. As a result the Cougars were able to block the junior with a single lineman for stretches of the game. Ta’amu ability to move laterally down the line with his shoulders square, while controlling those blockers, is also lacking. A prospect with the ability to grow into a dominant player but has some work to do.
Behind the defensive tackle, senior safety Nate Williams made an immediate impact…literally. It was impressive to see the team captain fly up from fifteen yards deep, meet the running back in the hole clean, and stonewall the running back. The runner was met, and he would go no further. A physical presence at the position at 6-feet and 215 lbs., Williams was never truly tested against BYU’s passing attack.
Two defenders both with the talent to play and potentially excel at the next level.
Across the field Brigham Young’s most heralded prospect is arguably their left tackle Matt Reynolds. The latest to play for the Cougars in his family . His father played and now coaches. Two of his brothers also started previously. A Reynolds along the offensive line is a tradition within the program. This edition could also be the most talented.
Yet Matt will still have his struggles with speed rushers throughout the season. His initial pass set is solid but too often had to bail early even against less than spectacular ends furnished by Washington. Once Reynolds faces a quicker opponent that can shorten the porch, notices Reynolds turning his shoulders early, the tackle can and will struggle tremendously. He is simply lacking the elite athleticism which separates top tackle prospects.
Furthermore, Reynolds is far from an intimidating run blocking presence. He often entered his blocks too high and had a tendency to wall off defenders instead of driving them.
An added bonus is seeing the tackle’s versatility on a down by down basis since the Cougars now employ strength calls for their offensive line.
Reynolds can hold down left tackle but may eventually be best suited to right tackle. His style of play is very reminiscent of former second rounder and current starter at Jacksonville, Eben Britton.
Much like his contemporaries, another solid player, in a sea of mediocrity for this season’s potential offensive tackle class.
Two teams met in St. Louis to hash our their local differences. Missouri packs a punch and is loaded with talent in spots. Whereas, Illinois has their issues and does not present the same type of prospects many fans may have once been accustomed. Yet, the Fighting Illini gave Mizzou all they could handle before falling short.
Like most programs it starts at quarterback for Missouri.
Junior Blaine Gabbert is one of the most physically talented prospects in the nation at his position. He is not as heralded as the Jake Locker’s, Andrew Luck’s, or Ryan Mallet’s of the world; but he has the potential to be on par with all.
After touting said prospect, now it is time to tear him down to a degree.
The ability to complete every pass is not in question. Gabbert’s pocket presence, or lack thereof, was frightening to see against Illinois. On multiple occasions, the signal caller’s internal clock went off WELL before any defender was even near his presence. Gabbert would then try to break the pocket instead of stepping up properly, potentially starting down the barrel, and delivering a catchable toss.
In Missouri’s system, which relies so heavily on a short to intermediate passing attack, this could only exacerbate the issue. If Gabbert is only asked to continually deliver quick passes against off zone coverage, then his feel for the game will be questionable at best entering the National Football League. If his coaches allow him to take over the offense and really drive the ball downfield consistently, then his growth potential is unlimited. Only time will tell.
The true star of the program is redshirt sophomore defensive end Aldon Smith.
Smith is physically similar to recent first rounder and current New York Giant, Jason Pierre-Paul. Entering his second year starting for the program, Mizzou’s end is already more polished than the previously stated raw prospect. Smith is ridiculously long, lean, and athletic off the edge.
While the pass rusher is still not the most polished prospect, he was able to use multiple club moves to overtake offensive lineman (both along the interior and exterior) and greet the quarterback rudely.
It was interesting to see how the coaching staff employed their most talented defender. The end not only lined up in his traditional spot, but as a three technique inside, and even dropped off in coverage. In each situation, he had a certain comfort level.
Smith has snuck his way up TFY’s draft board, currently sitting tenth overall. If his play continues in such a fashion, and he builds off his 11 sack performance of a year ago, there is no question Aldon Smith can be a legitimate top ten overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft.
Another freakishly talented defender patrolling sideline to sideline for Mizzou is Zavier Gooden. The multi-faceted linebacker was seen in usage ALL over the field this past weekend.
For instance on three consecutive plays, Gooden put his hand in the dirt and rushed the quarterback successfully. Then he lined up in his traditional linebacker position. Only to be found a play later covering a wide receiver in the slot (relatively well, might I add).
Team officials have supposedly timed the 225 lbs. defender with a legit 4.39 forty yard dash. While these types of fish stories often surround talented athletes around multiple programs; it is easy to see (even in a single viewing) how athletic Gooden is on the field.
Keep this red shirt sophomore on the radar as well, because he just may be a future star.
A final game to discuss was Memphis visiting Mississippi State. Memphis does not exactly get any scout’s blood boiling, but the Bulldogs have some legitimate talent.
Earlier discussion centered around the play of one disappointing tackle prospect. Whereas State’s Derek Sherrod stood head and maybe shoulders above the aforementioned, yet not to renamed, tackle prospect.
The left tackle was much smoother in his pass set displaying a nice deep kick step upon initial movement. His hands were always held high and tight. And he really fires into his blocks when asked to uproot defenders in the running attack.
Only one issue may have presented itself seeing Sherrod’s feet work themselves slightly wide as he progressed in his set. An potential problem which will be reviewed closely against tougher and upcoming SEC opponents.
Two ends made their presence known collectively for the Mississippi State.
Pernell McPhee is a highly regarded prospect on this particular website, and one with legitimate pass rushing potential. What showed up on tape was his ability to shed tackles and stick his hat into the mix against the run. An encouraging sign for a climbing prospect.
McPhee’s running mate is junior Sean Ferguson. Ferguson may not possess the pure size (6-feet-3-inches and 255 lbs.) of McGhee (6-feet-5-inches and 285 lbs.), but his ability to fire off the line quickly and becoming a disruptive force in the backfield has potential.
Mississippi State is no longer a program one just flicks past when they are playing on the ole’ television.
– Michael Pouncey, it is already going to be hard enough stepping into and then out of your twin brother’s shadow for the Gators; but please ask him to help you with your current snapping woes.
– Janoris Jenkins, thank you for showing up to play when seemingly the rest of your teammates at Florida did not against the downtrodden Miami (OH) Redhawks.
– Greg Jones, instinctive tackling machine for Michigan State that once again struggled against larger offensive lineman. His book may have already been written to its conclusion.
– Juan Nunez, you may not be Greg Jennings coming out of Western Michigan’s program, but there is legitimate NFL potential in your smooth routes and reliability as a target.
– Damaris Johnson is small of stature (5-feet-8-inches tall and 180 lbs.), but he has an explosive burst when he touches the ball for Tulsa.
– Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State may not be the worst quarterback in the nation, but let us all see it against Miami first.