As the regular season enters its waning stages, time is limited with various scouting duties always needing accomplished. So this week’s edition shall feature a quick hits interpretation to keep this train rolling down the tracks.
– Iowa finally saw their outlandish undefeated aspirations come crashing down around them. This came about due to a single play by Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton. This senior has had a disappointing senior campaign after an injury to his knee in last year’s bowl contest. His explosiveness still appears severely limited compared to a season ago. Part of his problem may be lining up regularly at left defensive end, since it was his right knee which was injured. This is the leg with which he takes his primary step off the snap. The defensive lineman was not even much of a force defeating blocks. But on his singular sack, Wootton did not bite on boot action, came clean, and kept contain. Iowa’s quarterback was rudely sacked, as the defensive end accidentally undercut the signal caller. injuring Ricky Stanzi’s ankle, while also forcing a fumble in the endzone.
– One player for Iowa which was not mentioned a week ago in this piece, who surely should have been is outside linebacker A.J. Edds. The versatility of this senior is outstanding. No other linebacker in the nation is asked to do as much. In fact against a spread offense against the Northwestern Wildcats, Edds spent more time in coverage than he did in the box. Because of defensive coordinator’s Norm Parker’s vanilla schemes, Edds acted primarily as a pseudo-nickel cornerback. At a listed 6-feet-4-inches tall and 244 pounds, there is not a better cover linebacker in this upcoming draft class.
– Another Hawkeye of note, one which has redeemed himself to a degree this year, is starting center Raphael Eubanks. Entering last season, Eubanks was an incumbent starter and named to the Rimington Trophy Watchlist. He was then soundly beaten out by a former walk-on Rob Bruggeman (currently on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad) for the starting position. Eubanks bounced around the line all last season. This year, he is once again anchoring one of the best offensive lines in college football. The pivot is undersized at a listed 280 pounds and can be pushed around by larger defensive lineman. Instead this center relies on quickness, athleticism, and positioning in Iowa’s zone scheme to set the tone up front. He is a marginal prospect, but in the right system he could get a look.
– A quarterback with plenty to prove and potential entering this season was Western Michigan’s Tim Hiller. Arm strength was the major concern by most scouts, but it has been his amount of negative plays seen this year which is alarming. Against Michigan State, this quarterback lost another fumble. His total is now up to seven fumbles this season, four of which were actually lost. Four more passes were broken up by the Spartan defense. That makes a staggering tally of 45 in total by the opposition to date. And Hiller has also been sacked 21 times this year. A lot can be laid at the feet of the coaching staff asking so much of this passer in regards to attempts, but Hiller must show improvements late in this season if he wants to help his draft stock.
– Oregon also saw National Championship hopes dashed, primarily due to the powerful running of Stanford’s Toby Gerhart. Gerhart broke the 200 yard mark in the Cardinal’s two biggest games of the season. The Ducks were simply out muscled. Senior safety T.J. Ward is still rounding into shape after an ankle injury kept him out of action for a few weeks. The explosiveness seen in his tackling ability very early in the season is currently lacking. Junior middle linebacker Casey Matthews is a flow defender and simply is not that physical at the point of attack. Thus they were overwhelmed by the Cardinal’s ground and pound attack.
– Staying out on the west coast, Cal running back Jahvid Best often steals the show and rightly so. In this contest, his frightening injury certainly had scouts holding their breath. Instead of concentrating on the bad, a couple of their men in the trenches deserve some spotlighting. Defensive end Tyson Alualu quietly goes about his job week in and week out. With the popularity of the 34 ever growing in the NFL, Alualu is a tailor made 5 technique already playing the position in college. His greatest area of strength is his technique and handfighting. Left tackle Mike Tepper is an underrated prospect. He is not the ideal athlete for the position but very strong at the point of attack, controls defenders once he gets a solid fit, and a good position blocker.
– Saturday night saw two explosive ACC offenses attack one another. Clemson senior C.J. Spiller is always a must see. What is so intriguing about his play is that everyone knows sooner or later he is going to break a play wide open. And while Florida State certainly does not possess the most stout defense this season, his ability to press the hole between the tackles before bouncing outside was better than expected. He ran often behind a solid small area blocker Thomas Austin. This guard did a very nice job controlling the line of scrimmage by handling defenders with his strong hands. Florida State has an interior blocker worth mentioning in junior Rocky Hudson. Hudson is as powerful as Clemson’s Austin, who outweighs him by 15 or 20 pounds, and this Seminole does a wonderful job moving laterally or getting to the second level. His lack of bulk does hurt him slightly when defenders attempt to throw him off his blocks. This Florida State blocker should enter next year’s class as the top rated guard prospect.
– Once again early this week, more MAC schools have been showcased. Ohio versus Buffalo had a great finish. While the Bobcats are predominantly a ball control offense, senior wide receiver Taylor Price is certainly turning heads. Recently he blew away scouts with an on-campus workout. His size at over 210 pounds and legitimate 4.3 forty yard dash speed has his stock rising tremendously. Buffalo has a dynamic wide receiver of their own in Naaman Roosevelt. The school’s all time leading receiver in yardage and receptions glides in and out of his routes while challenging all opposing defenses with his deep speed. Roosevelt also displayed his toughness with a couple direly needed receptions last night as the receiver was being punished by defenders. Last night, the third of the MAC’s triumvirate of dynamic receivers put on a show. Central Michigan’s Antonio Brown lit up Toledo with 13 receptions for 139 yards. Brown has also led the nation in punt return average over the last two seasons and his overall quickness often leaves defenders in the dust.