It was a weekend that saw running backs from the senior and junior class moved to the forefront with big time performances. Several Big Ten linebackers considered camp fodder by NFL scouts also continued impressive campaigns with outstanding play and are now receiving late round consideration. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week 13.
Ryan Groy/G/Wisconsin: There are a variety of opinions on Groy in the scouting community but after Saturday most will turn positive. Entering the season with a last day grade, Groy handled fast rising Ra’Shede Hageman throughout the Badgers victory, regularly moving the Gopher lineman from the action and opening large holes for the running game. Groy’s game runs parallel to former teammate Travis Frederick, last April’s first round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, as he’s a powerful, mauler best suited for a ball control offense.
Kareem Martin/DE/North Carolina: Handed a last day draft grade by NFL scouts yet considered a top 75 pick by many on the outside, Martin has quietly had a terrific season. With one game left Martin’s totals include 19 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 13 quarterback hurries and 3 forced fumbles. He also ranks second on the team with 70 tackles. That sort of production will not go unnoticed and good workouts prior to the draft will push Martin into the third at the very least.
Ka’Deem Carey/RB/Arizona: Carey was tremendous during the Wildcats thumping of Oregon as the junior registered 206 yards rushing on 48 carries with 4 scores. From a scouting point of view Carey showed the ability to carry the load against a big, fast defense as he picked up yardage between tackles and around the corner. Expected to enter the draft, Carey’s performance against Oregon may just seal his status as a second round pick.
Ameer Abdullah/RB/Nebraska: Scouts usually roll their eyes when the conversation turns to running backs from Nebraska but its time to start talking about Ameer Abdullah. His most recent feat included 147-yards rushing on 25 carries against Penn State, the tenth time this season Abdullah has gone over the century mark. In fact the only game he did not rush for 100-yard was during the loss to UCLA when he was just two yards shy of the mark. The junior is small yet creative and finds ways to pick up big chunks of yardage from the line of scrimmage. He’s solid middle-round value and will be a nice fit in the NFL as a situation/change of pace ball carrier.
Tim Cornett/RB/UNLV: There’s a terrific story brewing in the Mountain West Conference as UNLV, a perennial two win program, is bowl eligible for the first time in a decade. Cornett’s play is largely responsible for the team’s resurgence. In the midst of a career season, his latest performance included 220-yards rushing and 4 scores against Air Force in difficult conditions. For the season Cornett has scored 15 touchdowns on the ground. Consider this; despite measuring 6-feet, 209-pounds and timing under 4.45-seconds, Cornett was not graded as camp worthy by scouts entering the season. His measurables, production and continued improvement will have scouts rethinking that opinion.
Tyler Lockett/WR-RS/Kansas State: The Wildcats lost a tough conference game to Oklahoma, a contest which see-sawed back and forth in the early going. Yet despite defeat Lockett was the star of the game. The junior finished with 12 receptions for 278 yard and 3 receiving touchdowns against the Big Twelve’s top rated pass defense. Lockett also averaged 32-yards on five kick returns. He’s similar to Tavon Austin in size and style, and like the 8th pick of last April’s draft Lockett is a home run hitting skill player who can score from any point on the field.
Blake Bortles/QB/Central Florida: Bortles has built a buzz around himself and its only going to get louder the way he shredded Rutgers. The junior completed 21-of-30 passes for 355 yards during the victory over the Scarlet Knights, the fourth time this season he’s thrown for more than 300-yards. The big armed signal caller is a classic pocket passer for the next level and comes with a nice degree of upside. He most improve his pass placement as receivers are consistently adjusting for errant throws or slowing up in routes to catch the ball. Yet despite this Bortles possesses the physical skills necessary to end up in the second day of the draft if he continues to improve.
Denico Allen/LB/Michigan State: From a measurables point of view Allen falls short of what teams want in a linebacker and is built more like a safety. Yet on film the senior plays big and comes with a complete game. Unranked by scouts entering the season, Allen has totaled 62 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss besides breaking up 7 passes this year. He’s a legitimate one-gap, chase and run linebacker who brings a lot in the way of intensity, intangibles as well as special teams potential.
Anthony Hitchens/LB/Iowa: Hitchens is another college linebacker playing well above the expectations of NFL scouts. During the victory over Michigan he lead the Hawkeyes with 8 tackles and 3 tackles for loss. More importantly late in the game, with Michigan driving for a tying field goal, Hitchens forced the ball from the hands of Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner then recovered the fumble to seal victory. He’s a solid pursuit linebacker that can play three downs and like Allen, brings special teams potential.
Wade Keliikipi/DT-NT/Oregon: For the second time in three games Keliikipi was manhandled by opponents who exploited Oregon in the middle of the line. After Khalil Wilkes of Stanford controlled Keliikipi when the Cardinal offense rushed for 274 yards, so to did Steve Gurrola of Arizona on Saturday. The Wildcats finished with 304-yards rushing. And though Keliikipi can’t shoulder all the blame, the fact he was overmatched by lesser opponents with size deficiencies won’t sit well with scouts.
Jeremy Deering/S/Rutgers: There was cautious optimism for Deering in the scouting community when the season started. The athletic senior was moving from wide receiver to safety and showed promise in pre-season practice. Deering has since played marginally productive football, an ailment which plagued him at his former position. Deering has shown little in the way of instincts or ball skills and presently grades as camp fodder.