A Wednesday edition of the Weekend Watcher whistles its way into your cerebral wavelength.
Head Scout Brent Sobleski attempts to break it all down including: Florida v. Georgia, Auburn v. Mississippi, and a stop in Hawkeye land.
Time to roll directly into the thick of things…
Two SEC contests required attention.
Florida v. Georgia, between the hedges in Athens, may not have been the marquee match-up seen in recent years, but both rosters are still loaded with talent despite this lean season.
The headline prospect was Bulldog receiver A.J. Green.
Many already know the story about Green missing time earlier this season due to NCAA violations for selling a game worn jersey. It has yet to dissuade prognosticators from bumping Green from a spot as a legitimate top five talent and an elite prospect. His play on the field only fortifies the thought process.
Green is amazingly quick off the line and through his cuts. The receiver does not have to gear down tremendously to run his routes properly, while also displaying an ability to defeat press coverage. He can take off the top of a defense at any given moment because of his speed, length, and ability to catch the ball away from his body.
As seen in highlights since his return, the Georgia product is fantastic catching the ball away from his body and in traffic. Against Florida, Green was able to ensnare a touchdown pass between two safeties and a linebacker despite being hit by the triumvirate simultaneously after the ball arrived.
Despite possessing somewhat of a lanky disposition at 212 pounds on a 6-feet-4-inch frame, Green displayed a level of physicality at his position against Florida rarely seen. The receiver was playing angry. He suffers to a degree dealing with a redshirt freshman at quarterback. Sometimes his looks are limited. Coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo manufactured touches via a bubble screen and a reverse. Both times Green threw wicked stiff arms on defenders just manhandled the smaller Gator secondary participants.
Green’s one mistake came early in the game, when he did not give his young signal caller enough help.
The junior ran a simply stop route but did not come back to the football, nor effectively shielded the cornerback from the oncoming pass. Florida’s Janoris Jenkins was in coverage most of the day. He is one of the best in the business. He easily drove on the football, undercut the pass, and took it the other way to set up his team early.
Green may have had a solid day, but Jenkins was close to being as good. The cornerback showed enough against an elite talent to be considered as a top 12 prospect. If not for the likes of two elite talents already at the same position (Prince Amukamara and Patrick Peterson), Jenkins could legitimately be in conversations as going even higher.
The cornerback showed premier fluidity in his hips, dropping in coverage, and opening up, and turning without losing speed or leverage.
Green may have found his self open a few times, but when Jenkins was in coverage, he blanketed the top target solidifying himself as a top prospect.
Jenkins’ bookend was not as fortunate.
Redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown’s play was horrific and did not see the field during second half play.
The corner was rising out of his backpedal and turn, thus losing speed and momentum. Both Green and Kris Durham flew past Brown on simply nine routes. He was saved by a quarterback’s inexperience to hit the targets.
Despite the uneven play of their corners, Florida was helped by its dynamic duo at safety, Ahmad Black and Will Hill.
The two serve in a role reversal in how they play the position, despite what the naked eye may tell a scout.
Black is often found in the box. He blitzes and serves as an extra linebacker at times. He is a sure tackler who always goes low and attempts to wrap his target. He snakes his way through traffic with uncanny precision. He will come up and take on blockers. Then he will drop back in goal line coverage and mirror the aforementioned Green.
He does all this listed at 5-feet-9-inches tall and 190 pounds. He may not be Bob Sanders redux, but he is fantastic football player that plays the game the way it should be played. And when he enters the NFL, Black will continue to overcome the same issues regarding his size he has likely heard his entire career.
Hill loves to sit back and be the intimidating centerfielder. Hill does have the prerequisite size at 6-feet-1-inches tall and 207 pounds. He can be a missle flying up field, looking for the knockout blow. He does struggle with form tackling and rarely wraps. Hill does cover a lot of field with his ability to run sideline to sideline.
As noted previously in TFY’s prodcasts, Hill is only a junior, but already strongly considering entering the NFL draft in 2011.
Durham was on the wrong end of a Hill blast early in the game. He showed tremendous toughness after being laid out by the safety and looked to have suffered a chest injury. Before the injury Durham showed surprising quickness for his size and an ability to snag passes away from his body.
The 6-feet-5-inches tall target has already turned heads in Green’s early season absence stepping in as the team’s top target. The senior has averaged almost 20 yards per catch this season and was just passed by Green as the team’s leading receiver.
Up front both teams are experienced and physical.
Georgia is one of the few teams in the nation that likes to rotation their offensive linemen.
Clint Boling is the best of the bunch, but was clearly a better player inside at guard than when he was asked to move outside to tackle. Boling is physical, finishes blocks, and displays strong hands while keeping them in tight. He struggles with his lateral movement, particularly when sliding with an extended kick step.
Trinton Sturdivant appears to be an elite tackle prospect in the making a few short seasons ago as a true freshman blindside protector. Unfortunately, numerous injuries have derailed his career, and the results are apparent. The flexibility in his lower body has decreased tremendously, and Sturdivant struggles bending at the knees.
Josh Davis is a pure right tackle prospect. The senior gets nice fits in his pass set and can cave in the side of the defense from time to time, but is not a great overall athlete.
Junior Cordy Glenn plays a little high inside at guard, but he gets extension with his long arms and pumps his feet consistently.
Ben Jones is an experienced pivot who can be driven back by bigger and more athletic defensive lineman, but the center does a nice job playing his angles.
Finally, freshman Kenarious Gates needs to improve his flexibility instead of bending at the waist. Plus his footwork can be improved tremendously.
Along Florida’s offensive line, there is a bit of a misconception regarding teams that primarily employ zone read offenses. They are generally seen as having smaller athletic linemen. This could not be further from the truth regarding the Gators.
It all starts in the middle with Michael Pouncey. His early season struggles at center are well documented, but have improved. He does need to shoot his hands quicker off the snap instead of letting defenders into his body. Pouncey looked more comfortable against Georgia with a defender lined up directly over him and able to drive said defender off the ball in a straight line. Despite his issues this, Michael Pouncey is still a very powerful run blocker.
The 6-feet-5-inches and 355 pounds of Carl Johnson at left guard plods and plows through a defense. As a senior one would expect better of an upperclassman, but Johnson constantly signals when he is pulling or preparing to enter his pass set. He rocks back in his stance and rolls into his first step prior to the ball being snapped.
Both Johnson and his left tackle, Marcus Gilbert, had their issues communicating early in the game. They were not able to properly pass defenders along during stunts and blitzes. Gilbert is not a top athlete at the position but he held the fort well against an athletic Georgia front. He does so by getting a good first step and possessing strong hands.
Georgia’s front line is bolstered by the athleticism of junior Justin Houston, another Bulldog already considering early entry to this year’s draft.
The knocks on Houston are twofold. First is an inability to hold up against the run. The second is the edge rusher being too much of a one trick pony, despite his 15.5 tackles for loss including 9 quarterback sacks.
One of the complaints regarding his game is justified. The other is not.
Some may be surprised to find out Houston was stout against the run throughout the game against Florida. He showed tremendous leverage and strength, particularly on setting the edge against much larger offensive linemen pulling down the line. He took on multiple blockers without conceding much ground.
His pass rush was a little underwhelming. Houston continually displayed a speed rush accompanied by a halfhearted rip move. While he is quick and explosive off the edge, Houston never seemed to really dip his shoulder and get underneath the pads of the Florida’s big tackles.
Houston has the potential to be an ideal 34 outside linebacker at 6-feet-3-inches tall and nearly 260 pounds, if he does make the final decision to declare early.
Moving westward but staying within the SEC, Ole Miss could not pull out another amazing upset victory over a number one ranked team as they did against Florida a couple of seasons ago.
Auburn and their Heisman front-runner, Cam Newton continued to chug along their expected path.
Many questions have arisen about the viability of Newton as a pro prospect. Many are warranted because of Auburn’s usage of their 6-feet-6-inches tall, 250 pound playmaker behind center.
Let us look perceived flaws in his game for a moment and, instead, break him down as a legitimate passing prospect.
Ole Miss did do one thing successfully, they shut down the middle of the field. That point will be addressed in a few moments.
The Rebels forced Newton to pass the ball more often than he ran. He showed more than enough to be an effective collegiate passer. And, quite frankly, he has some talents which can transition to the NFL level.
Newton’s arm strength has never been in question, and he can clearly drive the ball down the field. He also presents a quick release, instead of an elongated motion many larger quarterback’s possess. The Auburn signal caller also displays touch. He can and will rocket passes to the sidelines or throw soft catchable balls over the middle to crossing patterns. Newton is quite accurate rolling out to both his left and right.
Newton’s issues will continue primarily based within the nuances of his offense. He is not asked to check down often. He is not asked to throw into tight windows, although he did lace one pass against Mississippi down the seam. Also, the spin on Newton’s football does come out of his hand with high rotations.
There will be more to Newton as a pro prospect as this process unfolds, and it should be interesting to see how it progresses.
Defensively, Mississippi’s Jerrell Powe and his accompanying draft stock have been spiraling down the shoots. One of the legitimate two gap nose tackle prospects in the nation, Powe’s work ethic has been questioned. His on-field prowess has not lived up to expectation either.
Powe’s level of pure talent would dictate a top 20 selection. Instead, he has not been the bully in the middle seen late last season. The Ole Miss sizeable interior defense was able to withstand and prevent Auburn’s prodigious running attack for stretches. Powe was a large reason. The problem resides in an inability to truly dominate the middle.
Powe was pushed around to a degree and did an abysmal job of keeping Auburn blockers form his legs. He does not use his hands well to keep himself upright in these instances. If a nose tackle cannot control the blockers in front of him by using his hands properly, he is useless in a two gap front.
Prospects with previous weight issues always drop, but stellar play can help their cause. Powe does not fall in this category currently.
One defensive tackle on the upswing is Auburn’s Nick Fairley. A couple weeks ago, the Watcher pointed out the Tiger junior was an underclassman of note. That may have been the understatement of the season, as Fairley has since caught fire as a prospect and is now being considered a top 10 talent. Fairley has been an extraordinary up field disruptive force along the Auburn’s defensive line and has continually shown the tools worthy of the distinction.
Finally, many outside of Iowa City may not realize quarterback Ricky Stanzi is stringing together a wonderful senior campaign.
After Hawkeye losses to Arizona and Wisconsin, many have written off the Kirk Ferentz led squad. Both opponents currently reside within the top 15 of the BCS (Iowa is 16th). They are still one of the more talented teams, particularly along their defense, in the country.
Their senior signal caller has been known for two things among scouting circles; forcing plays thus making mistakes, and a lack of top notch physical tools.
Stanzi will never be the most impressive prospect regarding measureables. He has nice size at 6-feet-4-inches tall and 230 pounds, but he is does not have a top notch arm or athleticism. He simply has trouble driving the football down the field.
Within Ferentz’s west coast based offense, Stanzi is a perfect fit. It is even more impressive considering he is not making the crucial mistake this season. Stanzi is having a breakthrough campaign completing 68.5% of his passes, throwing 19 touchdown passes (with only 2 interceptions), and totaling 1922 yards.
Stanzi has clearly matured as a field general. His greatest improvement has come in pocket awareness. The Iowa signal caller may not be the most nimble prospect, but he slides around the pocket with ease, a true testament to quarterback mobility. Then he is able to look off safeties and hit his receivers in stride.
Watch as the Iowa quarterback becomes a late riser.
Remember…the eye in the sky does not lie, and the Watcher sees all!