The tradition continues. After the first weekend of college football we take a look at players who met expectations in the eyes of scouts and are rising up draft boards as well as a few players moving in the opposite direction as a result of poor play.
Jordan Matthews/WR/Vanderbilt: Matthews totals, which included 10 receptions for 178 yards and one touchdown, stand out against what many thought was a reliable Mississippi secondary. Included were two receptions which resulted in gains of 55-yards and 42-yards. Matthews displayed his usually reliable hands but more importantly showcased speed and a burst many did not think he possessed. Scouts estimated the big-bodied receiver’s speed to be in the 4.55s range. Yet in the loss to Mississippi he looked more like a 4.45s receiver. This will only enhance Matthews’ draft stock.
Christion Jones*/WR/Alabama: They say week one of the football season is when the biggest mistakes occur on special teams. But when mistakes take place against Virginia Tech, the program which usually puts the nations top special teams unit on the field, it makes you wonder. Jones scored twice on returns during the Tides thumping of Virginia Tech, putting his team in the lead early then sealing victory late in the contest. His 72-yard punt return barely 90-seconds into the contest test got the Tide rolling. Later Jones bettered that mark with a 94-yard kick return in the second quarter. He also added a 38-yard touchdown reception and was responsible for 21 of the Tides 35 points. The junior is a home run hitting skill player with a developing game and a prospect to keep an eye on.
La’el Collins*/OL/LSU: We graded Collins as a third round choice entering the season as the athletic lineman projects nicely as a zone blocking prospect. Collins is displaying another element to his game this season, moving to left tackle after holding down the guard position last year. During the victory over TCU, Collins held his own on the blind side protecting quarterback Zach Mettenberger and also stood out run blocking. While I’m not ready to move Collins from the guard board over to tackle, the versatility he displayed against the traditionally strong Horned Frogs defense won’t be lost on scouts.
Paul Richardson*/WR/Colorado: Off the 2011 film Richardson graded as a legitimate NFL prospect and potential top 100 choice. The junior suffered a torn knee ligament in the spring of 2012, which kept him on the sidelines all of last season. He made a remarkable return Sunday against interstate rival Colorado State and seems back to full strength. Richardson registered 10 receptions for 208 receiving yards with two scores. He opened the scoring for Colorado with a 72-yard reception less than 3-minutes into the game then helped the Buffs seal victory with a 75-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter. Richardson is a terrific prospect with a nice upside and his performance against Colorado State was a positive sign.
Khalil Mack/OLB/Buffalo: Mack was a little slow out of the gate against Ohio State but really caught fire in the second quarter and was tough to stop as the game proceeded. His athleticism and ability to pursue the action from every direction was eye catching. Most impressive was the way Mack made plays standing up over tackle as the game developed, versus coming out of a three point stance. He led all defenders in tackles (9), tackles for loss (2.5) and sacks (2.5) and returned an interception 45-yards for a score. We graded Davis as a 2nd/3rd round prospect on July 28th but if he continues to build on this weekends performance then turns in good workouts prior to the draft, there’s reason to believe a top 35 selection is in the offing.
Tyler Larsen/C/Utah State: Scouts stamped Larsen with a third round grade entering the season and its easy to see why. During the fourth quarter loss to interstate rival Utah, Larsen was both dominant and versatile. Rarely beaten at the point of attack, he blocked with exceptional fundamentals and displayed skill on the line of scrimmage as well as blocking in motion. Larsen will be challenged in the coming weeks as the Utah State schedule includes BYU and USC, but this was a terrific start to his senior campaign.
Antonio Andrews/RB/Western Kentucky: One cannot help but be impressed with the productivity and versatility Andrews displayed during the Hilltoppers victory over Kentucky. Against a tough Kentucky defensive front seven, Andrews posted 99-yards on 20 carries with one score. His vision and ability to quickly get through cutback lanes look next level worthy. Andrews also showcased his pass catching talents adding three receptions for 37 yards to his tally. Depending on which scout you speak with Andrews grades anywhere from a fourth round pick to an undrafted free agent. In the end I feel there’s no denying the 218-pound back will be a last day pick and catch on as a rotational ball carrier in the NFL.
Logan Thomas/QB/Virginia Tech: Despite a disappointing junior campaign we have high hopes for Thomas this season, as do most NFL scouts. And while one game does not make an entire season, it was not an auspicious start for Thomas. His defensive reads were poor and his accuracy was worse. The excuse thrown around all game was the fact Thomas is playing with a new group of receivers. Pray tell, what was the problem last year? As posted on twitter last night, the play of Logan Thomas is starting to parallel the career of former UNLV signal caller Jason Thomas; a quarterback prospect who looked dynamite during his sophomore campaign only to watch his game steadily decline.
Levi Brown/DT/Temple: Scouts focused on the Temple-Notre Dame contest this weekend, specifically the Owls defensive line play. Two words would describe the outcome; not good. Brown, graded as a last round pick by scouts, was a non-factor all day. He was regularly handled in one-on-one blocking and finished the day with a pair of assisted tackles. This non-showing against good competition is sure to raise concerns in the scouting community.
* Denotes Underclassman
I effused praise on South Carolina left tackle Corey Robinson last week, grading him as a second round player and referring to the junior as an “exciting prospect”. During the game I texted someone who was in Columbia scouting the game to get their take on Robinson. The response on how Robinson looked? Stud.
Applause for Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller who showed a lot of progress and positive play against Buffalo. His mechanics and patience were much improved over last year. In the early going it looks as though Miller is transitioning from strong-armed athlete to NFL caliber passer.
Moving forward we must keep Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty on the radar screen. The junior signal caller attempted just a single pass in 2012 yet completed 27 of the 34 passes he threw against Kentucky, with one touchdown and no interceptions. Efficient is the best way to describe Doughty’s play. Something else must be considered when evaluating Doughty, the new head coach at WKU, Bobby Petrino, who has a history of developing quarterback prospects over the years.