9/21/10 Edition

9/21/10 Edition

The Weekend Watcher returns with plenty falling within his realm.

The contests viewed this past weekend contain two potentially elite quarterback prospect breakdowns, tough line play, and even more quick hits.

Sample Brent Sobleski’s, TFY’s Head Scout, inner thoughts as he breaks down multiple games and players.

NFL prospects and their standing ebb and flow each and every week as they display promise or disappoint.

Without further adieu…

Already discussing two of the top quarterback prospects in the previous installments (found HERE & HERE); it would only be fair to analyze two more names which have worked their way to the top of the heap.

Starting in Athens via Fayetteville, Ryan Mallett’s pure natural ability is tantalizing.

The Arkansas product has the strongest arm in the nation.  His deep ball is mesmerizing. Nearing 6-feet-7-inches tall and 240 pounds, Mallett possesses prototype NFL measureables. And he is far from lumbering behind center.

The number one concern with his play entering this season was a lack of overall touch. A year ago, Mallett finished with a completion percentage under 56. While not terrible, it did not highlight his tremendous struggles especially against the better defenses on the Razorback’s 2009 schedule. More than half his games saw his percentage dip below 53 percent. Entering this year it was a questioned if Mallett could become more of a pure passer than just a rifled armed thrower.

The Ryan Mallett seen against Georgia this past weekend, particularly in the first half, was a quarterback who has obviously grown as a passer.

Through the first and second quarters, the large signal caller was effectively taking what the defense was giving instead of continually trying to press the ball downfield. Finishing 13 for 17 before halftime was a tremendous step in the right direction.  Mallett was making the correct reads, generally hitting his targets in stride, and started to look potentially like a number one overall level prospect.

Then the second half hit. And the thought had to be floating through many scouts’ collective consciousness, “Here we go again.” Starting 5 for 13 from the third into the late fourth quarters, Mallett’s previously described struggles began anew. Open receivers were being missed. Initial reads were being stared down. In fact the Georgia Bulldogs should have intercepted two terrible throws when the Arkansas quarterback never checked down and still decided to throw the football into good coverage. Luckily for the Razorbacks, defenders play defense for a reason and the two particular passes mentioned fell harmlessly to the ground after bouncing off Bulldog paws.

Mallett’s growth did continue in the final minutes of the game. After a mostly horrid second half performance, the quarterback finally showed some gumption never previously seen previous in his career. Entering the game in Athens, Mallett had yet to earn a road victory in the SEC. And it appeared Georgia had all the momentum late. The big gunslinger stepped up, completed three straight passes, and drove his team to a touchdown to win the game in its waning moments. Finally, Mallett displayed the fortitude to step up and lead his team to victory in a difficult situation.

As a prospect there will continue to be concerns for Ryan Mallett, but this past Saturday was a step in the right direction.

Up front, Arkansas had issues.

Tackle prospect DeMarcus Love was highly regarded entering this season according to certain scouting services.  It was a bit perplexing based off his 2009 film as Love was far too often caught over his toes and top heavy.

Love looked like a different prospect against Georgia compared to a season ago.  The previous statement is not entirely positive.

Arkansas adjusts their offensive line according to strength call. Love clearly looked much more comfortable at right tackle than on the blindside. At right tackle, the lineman had a deeper kick step and slid more naturally in his pass set than manning left tackle.   Overall, he had his struggles in pass protection most of the day being caught off balance multiple times.

While run blocking Love winds up far too much upon initial contact. Instead of a strong initial short punch, the tackle looks like a bird preparing for flight just prior to engaging a defender. This causes a lineman to lead with his helmet, forcing issues with balance, and maintaining blocks.

At the very least, Love did not play as top heavy as previously seen.

On the opposite side of the field, the play of two Arkansas defensive linemen was intriguing.

Damario Ambrose and Alfred Davis are two very different players, but both of their skill sets are quite effective.

Ambrose is a 6-feet-5-inches tall and 270 pound defensive end who is just as effective getting up field as he is dropping off in coverage.  As such the team used him as a hybrid edge player against the Bulldogs. His presence was certainly felt with two quarterback sacks and a forced fumble.

As a pure pass rusher, the senior has the athleticism and quickness to beat tackles off the snap, but he appeared to lack the ankle inflection and body lean to shorten the edge consistently.

Davis is the plugger in the middle of the Razorbacks’ defense. At 6-feet-1-inch tall and a listed 326 pounds [maybe closer to 340], he is the poster boy for the term ‘widebody’.  Davis is hard to uproot out of the middle of the defense and creates opportunities for his linebackers and edge players.

Asking the redshirt sophomore to be anything more than a two down player, at this point in his career, would be a stretch.

Two highly touted teams from the Big Ten both met Arizona based programs this past weekend.

Starting with Iowa’s trip to Arizona and subsequent defeat at the hands of the Wildcats, quarterback Nick Foles should be entering the conversation as a top prospect in his own right. Mike Stoops’ leading signal caller stepped in as the team’s starter in this very same game a year ago and has yet to relinquish the duties, playing at a very high level.

It would not be out of the line to start discussing this less heralded PAC Ten prospect above the likes of Jake Locker and in the same breath of Andrew Luck and the previously discussed Ryan Mallett.

Already possessing prototype size at 6-feet-5-inches tall and 245 pounds, Foles’ greatest asset is his uncanny accuracy. A year ago the Arizona prospect completed nearly 64 percent of his passes, a very good number in its own right. Currently, the junior is completing his pass attempts at a ridiculous 79 percent clip.  While the Wildcats’ schedule has included Toledo and Citadel early, Iowa’s defense is one of the best in the country.  A defense Foles still completed over 70 percent against.

As young quarterback with only 14 career starts under his belt currently, there are still concerns which he can rectify within his development.

For example Foles’ accuracy overall is fantastic, but it drops tremendously if a defense forces him off his initial read.

Second, his arm strength is suspect after watching a prospect like Ryan Mallett earlier in the day (whose isn’t?). The issue appears be derived from a lack of arm speed on his release and less than ideal rotations spinning the football.

Arizona has done Foles a favor this past off season hiring a quarterback’s coach, Frank Schelfo, to work purely on the junior’s mechanics and technique. This is an advantage many at the same level do not possess.

But when the game was all said and done, and a victory was on the line, Foles’ blood was ice cold lacing a precision pass into the back of the endzone that would have made any NFL quarterback proud.  It seemed destined to be tipped by the four or five Hawkeyes it passed, yet found its way softly into the open arms of a ‘Zona receiver for the winning score.

Much like his contemporaries, Foles is not an infallible prospect but his continued growth along his personal learning curve presents high potential leaning towards becoming a top quarterback prospect.

Defensive line was considered a strength of Iowa’s entering the game, but it was Arizona’s front which controlled parts of the game.

Brooks Reed, in particular, played impressively. Iowa has churned out offense line prospect after offensive line prospect.  Junior Riley Reiff appears to be the next along their assembly line to become a solid to very good product. Reiff struggled to handle Reed throughout the entire contest.  Reed played with leverage, strength, and tenacity throughout causing Iowa headaches with his five tackles and 1.5 quarterback sacks. Against the pass the defensive end displayed a speed rush, a bull rush, a spin, a rip…all the moves required to be effective. Reed may not wow with top notch athleticism off the edge, but he could easily fall in the same mold of a Kyle VandenBosch or Aaron Kampmann at the next level.

Reed’s counterpart, and the highly ranked, Adrian Clayborn was a non-factor because of the attention Arizona paid to Iowa’s end. Clayborn was shut down throughout most of the contest facing relentless double teams and chip blocks from the running backs and tight ends.  Senior left tackle, Adam Grant also played outside of his means.

Meanwhile, Clayborn’s less heralded (yet potentially more talented) teammate Christian Ballard also had his struggles. Ballard’s biggest issues, both figuratively and literally, were facing the near 360 pound junior Vaughn Dotsy. The guard’s lateral movement is very suspect but he was able to engage Ballard multiple times, overwhelming the defensive lineman, or turning and walling him off very effectively.  Ballard would start to figure it out at the end, using his agility to catch Dotsy off balance; but it may have been too little too late.  Ballard was much more effective lined up as a one technique or even five technique instead of over the outside shoulder of Arizona’s massive blocker.

Arizona’s in-state rival traveled north to face Wisconsin with the Sun Devils coming up just short of beating the highly ranked Badgers.

Wisconsin running back John Clay receives most of the attention, but his NFL prospectus is suspect. Clay is a massive downhill runner with freight train ability. At 6-feet-1-inch tall and near 260 pounds, he is intimidating at the college level especially when Wisconsin runs him behind their 300 plus pound fullback. But like most oversized backs, Clay struggles accelerating into the hole and moving laterally. If a hole does not open automatically, this runner had to gear down completely and could not regain his momentum.  If a defense can create some disruption up front, Clay can and will become a non factor. Arizona State was not that type of defense, and Clay posted 125 yards rushing.

Whereas his running mate, Montee Ball, may have not tallied impressive stats (far from it), but his explosiveness into and through the hole was evident.  Ball may be considered little compared to Clay, but the back-up still pounds away at 238 biscuits.

The power running game would not be effective without Wisconsin’s dominant offensive line.

Gabe Carimi leads the pack.  As a prospect, the senior left tackle appears different upon initial viewing this year compared to previous seasons. As a pass blocker, Carimi did not display the smooth and deep kick step seen as a sophomore or junior.  Instead the blindside protector relied heavily on a short power step up initial movement.

Physically Carimi was developed as well, looking more stout and thick. The tackle has admitted to big gains in the weight room this off season.

These changes are likely the result of struggling against the bull rush previously in his career.

Arizona State was dominated and pushed around up front by Wisconsin’s massive offensive line.

Stud sophomore Vontaze Burfict had his struggles taking on and defeating blocks.  Though it was obvious how talented this yet to be eligible draft prospect is when watching him run sideline to sideline.  His ability to get downhill, not allowing backs space on the edge may be the best seen since Patrick Willis.

Junior cornerback Omar Bolden is also a talented defender that made his presence known throughout this contest.

Quick Hits

–         Jake Locker’s athleticism and potential will likely keep him in the first round mix, but his play against Nebraska’s tough defense exposed the lack of the Washington quarterback’s progression in Coach Sarkisian’s offense.

–         Chris Neild is the nation’s most technically sound zero technique.  Unfortunately, WVU’s nose tackle barely tips the scales at 300 pounds.

–         Noel Devine should benefit greatly from the advance of spread offenses in the NFL and the usage of smallish playmakers.  The Mountaineer’s acceleration is second to none.

–         Robert Sands continues to have issues with a shoulder that he aggravated in WVU’s comeback victory against Marshall, and the safety’s lackluster play has been a direct result.

–         Davin Meggett is not cut from the same cloth of his father and former NFL star, Dave Meggett. The son is arguably the best running back currently on Maryland’s roster over a highly touted Da’Rel Scott because of his ability to run down hill and stick his nose in as a blocker.

–         Zach Collaros desperately needs to run the ball more. New Cincinnati Coach Butch Jones wants you to be more like Dan LeFevour at quarterback, not Tony Pike.

Remember…the eye in the sky does not lie, and the Watcher sees all.