Week one of the college season kicked off last Thursday which means its time to take the scouting process for the 2015 NFL Draft to another level. During a Saturday which saw mismatches purposely put on the schedule, there were several noteworthy performances and also a few duds.
I may be in the minority but I remain unimpressed by quarterback Brett Hundley. His performance against Virginia, who fields a solid defense, was adequate at best. Hundley did not make any glaring mistakes but he holds the ball too long in the pocket, is very slow to pull the trigger and makes wide open receivers work too hard. On a number of crossing routes his passes were high of the mark or behind wide open targets, which led to a loss of opportunity running after the catch. You cannot debate Hundley’s physical skills but the inability to make quick decisions in the pocket or correctly place passes is disconcerting.
A pair of Auburn defensive lineman displayed next level skills during the win over Arkansas. I was modestly impressed watching Jeff Whitaker’s return to the field after he was sidelined with a knee injury last season. He looked quick, mobile and athletic. Much the same can be said of Gabe Wright, who moved to his more natural spot of defensive end after spending 2013 at tackle.
Florida State had a bit of a rocky start, pulling out a tight victory over Oklahoma State, but in doing so I was very impressed with cornerback Ronald Darby. The junior is sized well, physical and shuts down opponents on crossing patterns or down the field. His instincts need polish but Darby looked terrific against what could be the toughest offense FSU faces this year.
Todd Gurley was dominant on Saturday for Georgia, finishing with 198-yards rushing and returning a kick 100-yards for a score. It was an impressive performance for the junior, though Clemson’s porous defense made it a bit easier. Word from sources in Athens is this will be Gurley’s final season playing college ball.
Bronson Kaufusi/DE/BYU: If you’re not yet familiar with the name of Bronson Kaufusi my recommendation is you quickly acquaint yourself with him. I’m told Kaufusi lost weight during the off season to improve his quickness and agility. The early results are impressive. In the victory over UConn the junior posted 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss and 2 quarterback hurries but stats just scratch the surface. Kaufusi looked like a beast and effortlessly moved his 6-foot/6-inch, 260-pound frame all over the field. At times he was impossible to stop and easily imposed his will on the opposition. Kaufusi comes with enormous upside and will have to elevate his game this weekend as BYU travels to Texas to take on the Longhorns.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa/DL/UCLA: I raved about Odighizuwa prior to the 2013 season but a hip injury sidelined him the entire year. Against Virginia he looked as dominant as ever. Odighizuwa offers a terrific combination of athleticism, quickness and explosion. He was constantly behind the line of scrimmage disrupting the action and was omnipresent all game long. Expect Odighizuwa to raise his play as the season progresses and continue to rise up draft boards.
Rashad Greene/WR/Florida State: The rocky start from quarterback Jameis Winston was made easier by Greene, who finished the game with 11 receptions for 203 yards and 1 score. Most impressive was the way Greene found openings in the defense and worked his way back to Winston, who struggled with consistency most of the night. An average of 18.5-yards on 11 catches for a wide out not considered a vertical threat will also raise eyebrows.
Tyler Matakevich/ LB/Temple: Few expected Temple to travel south and dominate an SEC team, but that’s exactly what they did. In a defensive effort led by Matakevich, the Owls held Vanderbilt to 54 yards rushing and two first downs on the ground. The junior linebacker was constantly around the ball, playing smart, tough football and leading Temple in tackles. Matakevich is not the biggest linebacker rather and instinctive defender with an aggressive game and a prospect who’ll find a way to produce at the next level.
Samuel Arneson/TE/Wisconsin: Arneson caught a single pass for five yards during Wisconsin’s fourth quarter loss to LSU, so why list him as a riser? In a nutshell, his blocking was dominant. Arneson lined up on both the left and right side and his blocks resulted in Melvin Gordon being sprung free for long runs. He also did a terrific job in pass protection. Graded by scouts anywhere from a late round pick to free agent status, Arnseon has the physical and football skills to develop into a second tight end at the next level.
Willie Beavers/OL/Western Michigan: Another who stood out in a losing effort, Beavers did a terrific job protecting his quarterback as the Western Michigan offense rolled up 456-yards against Purdue. Most impressive was the way Beavers shut down the Boilermakers Ryan Russell, graded by some scouts as a late round pick. Playing the left tackle spot for WMU, Beavers has the size and style to slide into guard at the next level.
AJ Johnson/LB/Tennessee: Johnson was the catalyst of the Volunteers defensive domination over Utah State. During the Vols 31-point win the senior posted nine tackles, forced a fumble, broke up a pass then intercepted another in the fourth quarter which Tennessee translated into a score. Johnson’s not a workout warrior who’ll wow scouts with a great combine workout rather a tough, instinctive linebacker who’ll do well on the inside/middle of the defense.
Small School Prospect of the Week: Tre McBride/WR/William & Mary: The Tribe lost a lopsided contest to Virginia Tech by a score of 34-9 yet McBride came away with four receptions for 62-yards against a secondary with a pair of solid next level prospects. A player that’s been on our radar for two years, McBride offers solid size (6-foot/200lbs) as well as speed (4.4s forty) and has stood out as a pass catcher and game changing return specialist. He’s a small school prospect deserving of a combine invitation and late round consideration.
Trey Flowers/DE/Arkansas: Flowers did finish the night with 9 tackles during the Razorbacks 24-point loss to Auburn but much of that was after the fact and he had minimal impact. Considering Auburn was starting a new left tackle as well as a back-up quarterback, Flowers should’ve been omnipresent in the opponents backfield.
Rees Odhiambo/OL/Boise State: When healthy last season Odhiambo displayed skill and next level ability at right tackle. Moving over to the left side this season, he was exploited by sophomore and budding star Robert Nkemdiche during Boise’s defeat at the hands of ‘Ole Miss. Odhiambo was outclassed and looked out of place at his new position, which won’t help his stock.