Making the rounds this past weekend, Arkansas is once again a focal point. Pittsburgh and Connecticut battled to a fantastic finish. Texas gets a scare. Also, a MAC receiver sets career highs. All in all another great weekend of college football while attempting to watch potential NFL caliber talent. Brent Sobleski touches base once again to give a glimpse of what he saw.
– A week ago, this piece discussed the inconsistency of redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Mallett. Against Auburn, the young gunslinger left a handful of throws on the field but his overall play was outstanding. Three particular throws stood out. Two were deep sideline routes where the ball was dropped perfectly over the shoulder of his targets, one a pylon route resulting in a touchdown. The third and most impressive was a rope laced on a fifteen yard out from the opposite hash while being run through by a blitzing defender. Granted, Auburn did not apply the same type of overall pressure seen from the likes of Alabama or Texas A&M in the previous weeks. Mallett simply stood tall in the pocket and delivered bullets. At times his touch was slightly off not leading his receivers, but this was a nice effort. One has to start wondering whether this prospect will declare early even after one year of starting due to the collective bargaining status currently in the National Football League. Mallett may need a bit more seasoning, but could look to take advantage of the uncapped year without a potential rookie salary cap.
– Guard Mitch Petrus was another point of emphasis a week earlier. Petrus also had an exceptional effort. The contention previously was potentially an overall stiffness is his play. This past weekend Petrus played more fluidly and was terrific getting to the second level and making blocks in space. Only once did it appear he really bent at the waist to engage a defender while pulling. He also displayed nice extension in his pass set with strong hands to control opponents one on one. And while stiffness in the hips may have been the wrong assessment upon initial review, overall strength in this guard’s base is somewhat questionable in a couple instances while having trouble anchoring. This is a prospect that will need closer review as the season progresses to see if he truly stacks up against other top interior blocking prospects in the nation.
– As a result of the play up front, the Razorbacks finally got their running game on track this season. Tailback Michael Smith put together his best effort of the season with 18 carries for 145 yards. Smith has been somewhat of a forgotten man in recent years after taking on the unenviable task of replacing two greats in Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Also the program’s visibility has not been top notch after a couple uninspiring campaigns. Smith though is an explosive talent with plenty of speed. His ability to slash through small seams is impressive. His downfall is his size at a listed 5-feet-9-inches tall and 180 pounds. He seems incapable of breaking any tackles. With that said his quickness and versatility as a receiver out of the backfield could make Michael Smith an interesting scatback option in the latter rounds of the draft.
– On the opposite side of the field, Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman had an underwhelming game. It was not until the fourth quarter in which he finally made a play while maintaining contain and tackling a runner attempting to get outside the tackle box. He also had one quarterback pressure.
– Offensively, the Tigers struggled throughout the first half against Arkansas but turned on the jets in the second. This unit relies heavily on their trio of talented backs. Ben Tate has been their bell cow to date. Tate is an economical runner. He is not particular fast, powerful, or elusive; but is solid in all facets of his game. Onterio McCalebb is the future at the position, but has been dinged in recent weeks. Surprisingly Mario Fannin, a highly rated running back prospect entering this season, has been used in differing roles. The junior is listed as the starting fullback in name. He has been most often seen as one of the team’s top receiving targets as the coaching staff tries to get this runner out in space to take advantage of his explosive abilities. Senior quarterback Chris Todd certainly did not help his team this past weekend with a woeful performance. Todd could hit any targets throughout the day.
– Moving northeast, a budding rivalry has sprouted between the Connecticut Huskies and the Pittsburgh Panthers. In a knock out, drag out contest; these teams relied heavily on their talent in the trenches to dictate this game. A good match-up saw Pitt’s talented junior defensive end Greg Romeus knock heads with UConn’s senior left tackle Dan Ryan. Heading into this week, Dan replaced his younger brother Mike to better man the position against a top defensive line. The offensive lineman has great size at 6-feet-8-inches tall and 316 pounds. He clearly lacks athleticism. Early Ryan got the upperhand. With a little help from chipping backs and tight ends, Ryan successfully stalemated Romeus through three quarters. When the game was on the line, Romeus came to the forefront by easily gaining the edge applying pressure on the quarterback and notching a sack. The sack was the end’s only tackle of the day. Greg Romeus appears to fade in and out of contests watching him in early viewings. It was a pleasant surprise to see this talent step up when it was most needed.
– While Pitt’s defensive end stepped up at a crucial time, Connecticut’s top rated end Lindsay Witten was a complete non factor. Often overpowered at the point of attack and got very little pressure on the opponent’s quarterback despite coming into this game as the nation’s second leading sack artist.
– A prime reason as to why Pitt has been so successful running the ball this season is because their tight end Nate Byham is an outstanding blocker. Byham might arguably be the best blocking tight end seen in recent years. He successfully gains the edge with ease and handles most defenders single handedly. At times he will reach a bit too much for blocks but has been exceptional nonetheless. Also in this particular contest against the Huskies, Byham proved to be the receiving threat he is capable of becoming after doubling his season total in catches (which now stands at 6). Byham can find the soft spots in zones, use his body to shield defenders, and become a nice check down option. His stock has been rising in scouting circles as this site pointed out earlier in the week.
– The one skill position prospect who did step up, at least early, in this competition was Pitt’s sophomore sensation Jonathan Baldwin. This receiver’s hands and body control are exemplary. He gave the Husky defense fits. Certainly, a talent which will receive more attention in the coming years.
– For those who wrote off the Texas’ game against Colorado, then a good game was certainly missed. The Longhorns, by all intents and purposes, should not have struggled as much as they did against the Buffaloes. Senior quarterback Colt McCoy was not particularly crisp. His arm strength has always been questioned, but it was surprising to see his inability to really spin the ball well even on some short passes required in Texas’ system.
– Texas’ senior left tackle Adam Ulatoski has looked better this season than last. This blindside protector has obviously put some work into his overall technique and it shows. No longer is playing ultra high coming out of his two point stance. He is showing better flexibility in his hips and knees. This will certainly help in his pass set with the senior not displaying the best feet at left tackle.
– Unlike his teammate, defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle exudes athleticism and speed off the edge. What came as a little surprising was his power in short areas. Granted, this was against Colorado’s struggling offensive line, but Kindle was very impressive off the edge simply overwhelming some blockers.
– Last, but certainly not least, is the performance of one Freddie Barnes. This Bowling Green wide receiver was spotlighted on this site earlier in the year when the Falcons faced Boise State. His stat line this past weekend was one that can be found on video games: 22 receptions, 278 yards receiving, and 3 touchdowns. In doing so, Barnes became the program’s all time leading receiver. He could have had two more catches as well which were bobbled or dropped. Barnes is currently averaging 12.5 receptions a game. His 75 total catches currently lead the nation. When watching this highly productive receiver play it is obvious he has very strong hands. He runs his routes precisely. But by no stretch of the imagination is this prospect a downfield threat. Speed and quickness are lacking. Barnes is a former quarterback, and is even used in the BGSU’s own version of the wildcat. He is almost their entire offense. And it was amazing to see Kent State not bracket this target or even trying to jam the receiver off the line of scrimmage. Barnes is certainly lighting up the boxes cores. Yet at this juncture, based on his physical skill set, it would seem unlikely if he were to be drafted.