Welcome back as the Weekend Watcher regales of talented competition.
Head Scout Brent Sobleski once again scours the nation, watching as many games as possible, while reporting back with those which piqued his interest.
Time for another weekly round-up.
Let us all travel back in time for a moment and remember the wonderful Labor Day holiday weekend just experienced. Barbecues were smoking. Everyone was wearing white for the last time. And there were a couple quality football games of which to partake, particularly the Naval Academy versus Maryland.
Navy is always one of the most interesting teams to watch year in and year out. Not from a talent evaluation perspective, but for those who prefer scheme and discipline in their football games.
Early in 2009 many were trying to see exactly what the buzz was about surrounding Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry (a future top five selection). The Demon Deacons played Navy in their bowl game that season. Many rumblings came out of that game that Curry was not a playmaker, and he did not deserve his lofty status.
Upon closer review, not enough draftniks understand the nuances of playing against the triple option. Many did not see Curry continually blasting his assignment out of the play, or shedding cut blocks, or never being out of position. His stat line was not impressive, but his performance was.
Navy forces opposing teams on their heels causing them to play assignment football. It is not natural for most defenders as they think their way through the defense instead of relying on instincts.
Lo and behold the Terrapins currently have three of their own talented linebacker prospects; Adrian Moten, Alex Wujciak, and Demetrius Hartsfield. Each completed this contest with at least 12 tackles. Inside backer, Wujciak, led the way with 18 in total. But none were as disciplined in their play as the aforementioned Curry.
First, it was interesting to see the approach facing the triple option by Head Coach Ralph Friedgen and his coaching staff.
Traditionally, the triple option is attacked as such…
– Defensive tackles and inside linebackers have dive responsibility.
– Defensive ends have the quarterback.
– Outside linebackers have the pitch man.
– The safeties play the alleys.
Maryland tweaked this process by using a three man front where the ends pinched into the inside running attack. The outside linebackers had the quarterback. And the safeties were up in the box five to eight yards deep playing the pitch, with the corners helping on the edge.
This is an instance where Maryland felt the athleticism they have, particularly at outside linebacker, could overcome Navy’s pitch phase. But Navy was in position, and should have, won the game.
Moten displayed his athletic ability with one of the top plays anyone will see all season.
The Midshipmen had driven the ball near the goal line. Moten leapt over the guard corralling Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs, before the signal caller could even release completely from the center/quarterback exchange. It caused a fumble at the 1-yard-line and helped secure the victory. It was not quite Roy Williams versus Texas of years gone by…but it was close.
Moten spent the rest of his day trailing as the weakside linebacker scraping down the line to make tackles.
His bookend, Hartsfield, may even been a superior athlete. But his long arms and lean frame had troubles holding up at the point of attack allowing too many Naval offensive linemen into his legs.
Meanwhile, Wujciak have had the most impressive stat line. He also was exposed as not having the speed to prowl sideline to sideline.
Safety Antwine Perez jumped off film early when he exploded through a tackle making his presence felt. The 6-feet-2-inches tall and 210 pound USC transfer is a big hitter but far too often lost his footing and angles instead of squaring into potential tackles.
Maryland snuck away with a victory this past holiday weekend only after surrendering 421 rushing yards to Navy.
Thursday night the MAC’s two best players/prospects butted heads.
Central Michigan’s Jake Olson and Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson each had exemplary performances and displayed why each could eventually develop into elite prospects.
The Chippewa’s left tackle was particularly impressive. Olson is arguably the most athletic tackle prospect to come down the pipeline since Virginia’s D’Brickashaw Ferguson graced collegiate fields.
Olson’s footwork is exceptional, and he has the ability to mirror any edge rusher in the nation with his pass set. His lower body is very flexible with a deep kick step. He is very long and lean at 6-feet-8-inches. Olson simply moves about effortlessly.
The offensive lineman’s greatest strength may also be his greatest weakness.
Olson’s tall frame currently supports 290 pounds. This certainly can contribute to the nimbleness of his footwork. Since entering Central Michigan near 240 pounds, the blindside protector has had his issues gaining and maintaining weight. Because the tall blocker does not present the traditional girth at the position, he has to play on his toes when pass blocking. Olson does not rely on the strength of his post leg and base, but rather bows up and really leans his weight forward into his blocks. As such, he is often seen playing over his toes instead of flat footed. His punch also suffers to a degree, really needing to wind up to effectively stun a defender upon contact.
As a redshirt sophomore, Olson still has the time to develop his body more fully for the next level. While he adds another 10-20 pounds on said frame, Jake Olson has the potential of developing into an elite pass protector entering the National Football League. Much like one of his predecessors at the position, Joe Staley, had many of the same issues.
On the opposite side of the football, Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson is a tailor-made five technique for 34 based teams. At 6-feet-5-inches tall and 305 pounds, the junior was completely overwhelming Chippewa offensive lineman on a down by down basis. Wilkerson led the team with two quarterback sacks and three tackles for loss. He would gain leverage, make his initial run read, and then easily discard blockers to the side.
The top quarterback prospect in the NCAA, Andrew Luck, did not have his best effort to date against UCLA.
His final stat line read: 11 completions, 24 passes, 45.8 completion percentage, and 151 passing yards.
Early in the game an issue presented itself as to why Luck may have struggled. The talented redshirt sophomore was not properly distributing his weight from his plant foot, through the football, thus driving it down field. At first it seemed as if this were a result of adrenaline early in the game. Instead, his progress got worse as the game continued.
Luck was simply getting sloppy with his mechanics, particularly his footwork.
But there were still things to like about his play which set him apart for him contemporaries. The Stanford Cardinal quarterback is decisive in his throws. He is delivers the ball with a tight compact delivery. He can and will look off the safety. And his athleticism showed through on a night which required Luck to rush for 63 yards.
Not a shining example by any means, but it is his prevalent skill set which is so intriguing.
A teammate of Luck’s which NFL coaches will fall in love with during the evaluation process is fullback/linebacker Owen Marecic. Marecic is currently the only two way player in college football.
As the team’s fullback, Marecic can be a devastating downhill blocker. He paved the way for Toby Gerhart’s tremendous Heisman run a year ago. And he will now freight train paths through defenses for a plethora of backs this season. There is no hesitation in his blocks, and he is more than adequate as a pass protector. Highly touted linebacker Akeem Ayers was held in check throughout this contest, primarily due to Marecic’s blocking.
As the team’s starting linebacker, Marecic does not appear entirely comfortable. Stanford has once again resorted to a 34 defensive front. The hard nosed defender currently resides at the Mack linebacker position to take advantage of his tremendous down hill ability. But he is limited in his role, struggled to engage, and then defeat blockers.
The inside linebackers as a unit are facing issues due to weak nose tackle play by Sione Fua, who does not require double teams from the offensive interior.
Overall, Owen Marecic is a throw back and arguably the best pure football player in the country.
– Lee Smith is a large tight end with legitimate blocking and pass catching ability. The Marshall product (formerly of Tennessee) played a major role as the Thundering Herd should have beaten West Virginia. He will find a place on an NFL roster and be in the league a long time.
– Clint Bolen may not be the flashiest blocker, and he certainly is not left tackle material, yet he shut down South Carolina’s highly touted defensive end Cliff Matthews simply by using his hand positioning and initial punch properly and effectively.
– Garrett Chisolm helped dominate a porous Georgia defensive line. The Gamecock prospect is a powerful straight line blocker that is built like an offensive tackle, but does not have the lateral movement to be anything other than a guard.
– Chris Culliver, it is clear the cornerback can run with anyone. Now will this particular South Carolina defender learn to tackle anyone?
– Cameron Heyward and Allen Bailey, dominate performances from both top defensive line prospects. Though the Ohio State star *almost* looked like a linebacker dropping back in coverage and snagging an interception.
– Tyrelle Pryor, now THERE is the quarterback prospect so many have grown to loath. Back to the end of the Heisman line for you. Try to give someone the benefit of the doubt, and this is what happens.
Remember…the eye in the sky does not lie, and the Watcher sees all.