Week two of the college season was highlighted by upsets in the PAC 12 and Big 12. It also saw remarkable performances by several offensive tackle prospects as well as solid play from a number of next level linebackers. Here are the Risers-Sliders for week two.
Taylor Lewan/T/Michigan: Lewan was dominant throughout the Wolverines victory over Notre Dame and justified his ranking as a top ten prospect moving towards next April’s draft. He was terrific in pass protection and displayed outstanding skill blocking in motion. What stands out about Lewan is the combination of athleticism and blocking fundamentals. He blocks with incredible knee bend for a 6-foot, 7-inch tackle and easily moves about the field or redirects to linebackers on the second level. Everyone knew the Notre Dame contest would be a challenge for Lewan and like the Wolverines, he came out victorious.
Tyrus Thompson/T/Oklahoma: The junior tackle was outstanding during the Sooners victory over West Virginia and seems to have really elevated his game this season. He’s another fundamentally sound blocker whose pass protections skills look next level ready. Thompson easily slides laterally to protect the edge and his use of blocking angles helped shut down West Virginia pass rushers. He also performed well run blocking as Sooner ball carriers picked up big yardage off the left side. Thompson was susceptible to the bullrush and left the game in the fourth quarter with a seemingly serious ankle injury. Regardless, this game put scouts on notice that Thompson has the makings to be the next top tackle prospect from the Oklahoma program.
Denzel Perryman/LB/Miami: The Hurricanes defense, lead by Perryman, held on tight and did just enough to upset interstate rival Florida. The junior made several timely stops during the game, leading the Hurricane defense with 13 total tackles as well as forcing a fumble. Perryman is on the small side yet shows elements of former Miami great Ray Lewis in his game. The athletic linebacker is fast, tremendous in pursuit and offers the versatility to line-up in multiple defensive schemes.
Jimmy Gaines/LB/Miami: For the first time in the ten years this column has been written, multiple players from the same school appear in one article. Gaines was so effective against the Gators he deserves mention this week. Never a consistent starter prior to his senior season, he has displayed steady, productive play the past two games. He finished behind Perryman with eight tackles in the victory over Florida and also forced a fumble. What stood out about Gaines was the way he played disciplined, assignment football. As we said back on August 16th, he’s an athletic prospect with potential as a back-up linebacker/special teams player in the NFL.
AJ Johnson/LB/Tennessee: Johnson was omnipresent against Western Kentucky’s diverse but often mistake prone offense during the Volunteers victory on Saturday. He totaled 8 tackles but more important, Johnson played stay at home football against the play action passes and the ball fakes WKU ran all game. Johnson displayed some weakness in coverage yet the ability to make plays in pursuit as well as up the field was impressive.
Jonathan Brown/LB/Illinois: Brown has his game back on track after a terrible campaign last year. Against Cincinnati’s multi-look offense he lead the Illinois defense with 14 tackles. Most impressive was the range the senior displayed and the ability to make plays in pursuit His instincts looked much improved from a year ago and for the most part, Brown has really cut down on the mental mistakes. Brown could move into the middle frames if he continues to play productive football despite entering the season stamped as a late rounder by scouts.
Vintavious Cooper/RB/East Carolina: Cooper’s name is rarely mentioned in scouting circles and even we graded him as a marginal free agent. Yet the senior is doing his best to make people rethink their original opinion of his next level potential. Cooper was dominant during the Pirate’s victory over conference foe Florida Atlantic as he was the team’s leading ball carrier (20 attempts, 95-yards, 1 TD) and pass catcher (5 receptions, 49-yards). Though lacking the size and skill to be a feature runner in the NFL, the versatility to productively carry the ball or catch it out of the backfield will get Cooper long looks as a situational ball carrier/third down back in camp next summer.
Kasim Edebali/DE-OLB/Boston College: Eagles running back Andre Williams could easily fill this spot after his career performance in the victory over Wake Forest, yet something about Edebali’s game stuck out. The athletic defender made several key plays throughout the contest, many which never showed up on the stat sheet. Edebali finished with 2.5 tackles, 2 quarterback hurries and was credited with half a sack. During a critical goal line stand early in the game Edebali set the edge, forcing Demon Deacon running back Josh Harris to stay inside, where he was stopped for no gain on fourth down. The German born Edebali is an intriguing prospect that’s displayed steady progress the pass two years and offers potential as a one-gap end or outside linebacker in the NFL.
Stephon Tuitt/DL/Notre Dame: I mentioned Tuitt would be handled all night by Taylor Lewan in “Five Things to Look Out For” on Friday, and the Notre Dame junior did not disappoint. Tuitt was invisible for most of the four quarters and did not register a tackle all night. The interception he returned for a touchdown was the exception to the rule rather then a foundation of Tuitt’s play. The junior lineman was manhandled throughout the game not only by Lewan but also second and third string tight ends Michigan placed on the field. He looked un-athletic, marginally explosive and was constantly on the ground. I posted a month ago that I felt Tuitt was an overrated prospect and has no place as a potential top 25 prospect. Many saw the reason why Saturday evening.
Andrew Jackson/LB/Western Kentucky: Stuffing the run is Jackson’s specialty yet against the talented Tennessee running game Jackson looked pedestrian. Besides having several tackles broken Jackson kept getting caught out of position and took suspect angles to the action. Totaling just three solo tackles during the contest was evidence of his struggles.
Stephen Morris/QB/Miami-Fl: Considering how much I raved about Morris over the summer, this one is painful. After a lot of success moving the ball in the first quarter Morris struggled as the game proceeded then virtually disappeared during the second half of Miami’s victory over Florida. His stats line of 12-of-25 passing for 162-yards was deceptive as Morris looked worse than the numbers. Most disturbing was how far from the mark many of his throws landed. Whether it was miscommunication with receivers or just poor accuracy matters little. A win is a win but this was no victory for Morris in the eyes of NFL scouts.
Tom Savage/QB/Pittsburgh: When last we saw Tom Savage, he was a struggling freshman quarterback who lost his starting job at Rutgers. Under center for the Scarlet Knights, Savage showed great physical skills yet his defensive reads and decision making left a lot to be desired. Fast forward three years and Savage is now the starter at Pittsburgh with the same great physical skills but the same suspect decision making. After positive signs early in the game against Florida State, Savage reminded scouts why he’s played little football the past three years. Misreads, forced passes and generally poor mental play resulted in two interceptions and three sacks. There’s a lot of season left but Savage must quickly turn his game around to quell the doubters.
Watching film over the summer I struggled to understand how some scouts rate Daniel McCullers/DT/Tennessee as a potential first round prospect. He’s a big dude who takes up a lot of space in the middle but does little in the way of play making. He’s not nearly as athletic as former Volunteer John Henderson and has not proven himself to be much more than a two down defender. Rather than dominate the Western Kentucky offensive line he clearly overmatched on Saturday, McCuller’s rarely did anything other than occupy blockers. While there’s a need for that type of lineman at the next level, I just don’t think that type of prospect is selected during the draft’s initial 50 picks.
I was not impressed with the play of Seantrel Henderson/T/Miami against Florida. There’s just too much inconsistency in his game. After dominating on one snap, Henderson then falls over his feet the next down. His upside is incredible but Henderson lacks in the areas of blocking balance and wherewithal.
You cannot help but get excited over the athleticism William Clark/DL/WVU shows on film. Problem is Clark has not translated that athleticism into football production. Clark recovered a fumble against the Sooners but tallied just 2 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was constantly around the action but needs to start making plays.