An exciting week of college football saw a shootout in the SEC as well as a mild upset in Lincoln, Nebraska. The top linebacker in the land was dominant on Saturday and there were several brilliant performances from next level receivers. Here are the risers and sliders for week three.
Anthony Barr/OLB/UCLA: Barr was the dominant defensive force during the Bruins emotional victory over Nebraska. His statistics were impressive; a team leading 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. Barr’s improved instincts and reaction time is noteworthy. Unlike last season when he primarily made plays with brute force, Barr is now quickly anticipating the action and properly reading plays as they unfold. That combination of outstanding physical skills and improved football intellect will secure a slot for Barr early in round one.
Marion Grice/RB/Arizona State: There was a lot to like about Grice’s game when the Sun Devils pulled out a fourth quarter victory over Wisconsin. His stats were nothing out of the ordinary as the senior accounted for 84-yards on 22 rushing attempts (3.8-yard average) and added 5 receptions for 50 yards. The fact he scored four touchdowns on the ground, three of them coming in the second half, was eye-catching. Grice combines outstanding vision, instincts and the ability to string several moves together over the course of a single run. He made defenders miss all game long and consistently picked up positive yardage handling the ball. He has the size and style which remind many of Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin and the tools to be a feature runner at the next level.
Mike Evans*/WR/Texas A&M: What can you say? Evans caught 7 passes for 279 yards and 1 touchdown against one of the best defenses in the nation. He was the dominant skill player on the field and Alabama could not stop him. The red-shirt sophomore is big, smooth and deceptively fast. Evans does not drop the ball and uses his size (6-feet/4-inches, 220-pounds) as an advantage. He needs work on the details of his position (route running) but the upside for Evans is exciting. Tune into the TFY podcast this week for updates on Evans.
Jace Amaro*/TE/Texas Tech: To say Amaro is the talk of the tight end position in the scouting community these days would be an understatement. Missing half his sophomore season of 2012 with injury, Amaro is off to a fast start this year. He lead Texas Tech with 9 receptions for 97-yards during their victory over conference foe TCU last week. Amaro is large, athletic and consistently gets into the secondary then creates mismatches which he exploits. While he comes with a large upside Amaro is still rough around the edges. He would’ve put up better numbers against the Horned Frogs were it not for a few untimely drops. The fact he usually lines up in the slot makes it tough to scout his ability as an in-line blocker. Yet all things considered, Amaro is very much the type of tight end the NFL is looking for.
DeMarcus Lawrence/DE-OLB/Boise State: Lawrence posted a team leading 9 tackles and 2 tackles for loss in the Broncos win over Air Force. And while his stats were not earth shattering, the ability he showed making plays in space was outstanding. Against the option attack of Air Force, Lawrence displayed terrific speed and quickness pursuing the action. His ability to change direction without losing much momentum, then get outside the numbers to make plays in the open field, bode well for the undersized college defensive end whom most project to outside linebacker.
Ryan Grant/WR/Tulane: Depending on which scout you speak with Grant presently projects anywhere from the early part of round four to the later stages of the seventh frame. And while his grades are all over the place, this much is steady; the Tulane senior is a reliable pass catcher who does the little things well. He’s totaled 24 receptions for 348-yards over the course of three games this season. Factor in three touchdowns and Grant is on course for a career season. He’s neither big (6-feet/190-pounds) or fast (4.58-forty) but a dependable wide out with the tools necessary to grab hold as a fifth receiver for an NFL squad.
Devante Parker/WR/Louisville: Having Teddy Bridgewater throw one the ball is an advantage yet scouts are unanimous in there belief that Parker is a terrific prospect. The sure handed wide out has a smooth style, displaying great balance and body control on the field. He consistently gets up in a crowd to fight for the ball and more times than not, comes away with the reception. Parker’s 13-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, a grab which made highlight reels around the nation, helped Louisville put away pesky interstate rival Kentucky. Parker projects as a middle round choice and possesses the skills to line-up as a 3rd/4th receiver on Sunday.
Storm Johnson/RB/Central Florida: Last year Johnson posted 507-yards rushing as the back-up to Latavius Murray, a sixth round pick of the Oakland Raiders. This season as the starter for UCF, Johnson has shown an entirely new dimension to his game. The big ball carrier has been the go-to guy for Central Florida’s running attack and combines a variety of skills which has scouts thinking he’ll be selected in the same area of the draft as his former teammate. Against Penn State, Johnson overmatched the talented Nittany Lions defense for 117-yards on the ground with one score. More of a downhill runner, Johnson comes with a good degree of upside potential and would be a fine addition as a complimentary back in the NFL.
Daniel McCullers/DT/Tennessee: Last week in our notes section it was mentioned how unimpressive McCullers has looked for a defensive tackle so highly rated by NFL scouts. And almost on cue McCuller was a non-factor during the Volunteers blow-out loss to Oregon. While the big lineman got a bit of upfield push early in the game, for the most part he was invisible. The problem is two fold as McCullers 1) is a two down defender with marginal pass rushing skills 2) he’s a tall lineman who plays with limited leverage.
Deandre Coleman/DT/California: Two tackles and one tackle for loss. Those are the numbers Coleman, considered by some as a top 45 prospect, registered against Ohio State. And though individual statistics don’t always tell the story the fact the Buckeyes totaled 332-yards on the ground also says something about Coleman’s ability to occupy blockers and allow linebackers to make plays. Coleman was consistently handled throughout the night by the Buckeyes talented offensive line. This was likely the most formidable challenge of the season for Coleman and he came up short.
Notes: Credit to Jake Matthews as the Texas A&M offensive tackle played extremely well against Alabama. Matthews did a terrific job in pass protection and really put his athleticism on display. Looking ahead, the Aggies have Arkansas and Auburn on the schedule over the next month. This means Matthews will be facing off against a pair of talented pass rushers; Chris Smith of Arkansas and Auburn’s Dee Ford.
On the other hand Alabama’s Jeoffrey Pagan is just not there yet. The athletic defensive end shows great explosion and suddenness in his game but can’t seem to finish the play. He was often behind the line of scrimmage yet for whatever reason, did not finish off the ball carrier. If, or when, it comes together for Pagan the draft world will be all over him.