Alabama moves toward the 2010 season hoping to defend their national title but do so under the cloud of an NCAA investigation into at least one of their top players.  While the Tide offers outstanding next level talent, a few of their well known underclassmen prospects are overrated in our opinion.  Here’s a breakdown of the team favored to bring home the trophy for the second consecutive year.

Experience has shown that winning the Heisman Trophy does not necessarily translate into success on the NFL level.  Nothing could be further from the truth for the 2009 recipient, Mark Ingram.

A complete ball carrier, Ingram has a nice combination of size, speed and power.  He consistently runs north/south, shows incredible strength in his lower body and easily breaks tackles, staying on his feet, then quickly regaining balance to pick up extra yardage.  Ingram also runs smart, showing patience, picking and choosing his spots besides displaying the ability to cut back into the open field.  He hits the hole hard, has a burst and runs with authority.  Though not a real elusive or creative runner, Ingram possesses better than average corner speed.    He’s a top-flight prospect for the next level.

Receiver Julio Jones is highly rated by many and though we like his skills, Jones’ game has a number of flaws.  He displays strong hands, plucks the fastball from the air and quickly transitions from making the reception to running after the catch.  He’s tough to bring down running after the reception, has opposing defensive backs playing back on their heels and can be an effective downfield blocker when he gives effort.  That said Jones loses out in battles too often, loses concentration and drops some very catchable throws.  When our top 25 for 2011 was initially posted in May we ranked Jones as the third best NFL prospect in the nation.  That will soon change as he will drop after extensive film review.

Offensive lineman James Carpenter is a college left tackle better off in confined quarters.  Carpenter makes good use of blocking angles and is a solid position blocker that bends his knees and works to play with leverage.  Strong at the point, he easily controls defenders once engaged in a block. Carpenter is heavy footed and struggles sliding out to protect the edge at left tackle. We think he’ll get looks on the right side or at guard in camp next year.

Marquis Maze is a terrific prospect who shows solid downfield speed, runs good routes yet struggles in battles.   He’s a great compliment to Jones and a potential number four at the next level.

Defensively Marcell Dareus is another Tide junior who is going to take a hit on our draft board.  Dareus flashes power, strength at the point and holds his ground against blocks.   Playing low to the ground, he works his hands throughout the action and can be a menacing force at tackle or end.  Dareus moves well on his feet and strings plays to the sidelines.  That said he does not always seem to chase the action hard and we feel he should be more forceful and productive than he is.  The recent NCAA probe looms large as to whether or not Dareus takes the field this season.

Mark Barron is a terrific prospect and a safety effective against the run and pass.  Very effective in zone coverage, Barron is aggressive but also remains disciplined with assignments in zone.  He’s a strong open field tackler and forceful up the field on the blitz.   He’s also sized well and offers a good amount of upside.

Alabama Pro-Prospects

Round Full Name Pos Number Year
1st Mark Ingram RB 57 3Jr
1st Marcell Dareus DE 22 3Jr
1st Julio Jones WR 8 3Jr
3rd Mark Barron S 4 3Jr
3rd Don’ta Hightower OLB 30 3Jr
6-7 James Carpenter T 77 4Sr
FA Marquis Maze WR 4 4Jr
FA Darius Hanks WR 15 4Sr
FA Greg McElroy QB 12 5Sr
FA William Vlachos C 73 4Sr

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The eyes of the draft world will be focused on Ryan Mallet at Arkansas this season, the Razorbacks big time, quarterback prospect.  And though most will be paying attention to the big passer, the offense does offer other prospects that must be watched.

The argument could be made that Ryan Mallett has more upside than any other NFL quarterback prospect in the nation.  Then again there’s reason to say his game holds an equal amount of downside risk.

Mallett is a statuesque pocket passer with great size and the arm to match.  He can drive the ball with a flick of the wrist, flashes the ability to throw strikes down the field and puts the ball in front receivers, letting them run to the pass.  He shows toughness in the pocket, stands in strong against the rush and does a nice job commanding the offense.  He also shows indecision in the pocket, makes some questionable throws on occasion and must improve his accuracy.  Mallett throws with an exaggerated motion which leads to passes ending up behind receivers or high of the mark.  He has the physical tools to be a big time prospect but his poor mechanics and marginal accuracy are worrisome.

Scouts love offensive tackle DeMarcus Love though we are a little cool towards the senior blocker. Love show strength as a run blocker, controls opponents once engaged at the point and flashes footwork off the edge in pass protection.  He moves relatively well and plays with a nasty attitude.  Love also struggles to finish blocks, lacks balance and is on the field too much.   We like him as a potential third round draft pick that’s likely to move into guard.

Ray Dominguez is another college tackle that projects to guard in the NFL.  Built low to the ground, Dominguez blocks with good pad level, forward lean and works his hands.   He’s not a natural knee bender and struggles off the line of scrimmage.

The Razorbacks have had their fair share of tall, game controlling, possession wide outs and Greg Childs is close to receiving that label.  Child’s extends his hands to make the reception, displays a sense of timing and uses his frame to box-out opponents and come away with the pass. He consistently makes the difficult reception and shows strength running after the catch.   We presently list him as a free agent but expect him to be rated much higher very soon.

Several scouting services rank D.J. Williams as one of the best senior prospects at the tight end position, something we disagree with.  Williams lacks height for a tight end, shows average playing speed and minimal strength at the point of attack. He extends to make the catch in a crowd but in his game is marginally consistent.

Arkansas Pro-Prospects

Round Full Name Pos Number Year
1st Ryan Mallett QB 14 4Jr
3rd DeMarcus Love T 65 5Sr
FA Seth Oxner C 60 4Jr
FA Greg Childs WR 85 3Jr
FA Ray Dominguez G 73 5Sr
FA Ramon Broadway CB 26 5Sr
FA D.J. Williams TE 45 4Sr
FA Rudell Crim CB 4 4Sr

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Auburn has had to play second fiddle to the Tide in the state of Alabama recently, something that’s not going to change soon.  They offer a good amount of talent on the offensive side of the ball, players with the potential to move up draft boards.

They Tigers have depth on the offensive line and no prospect is as good as Lee Ziemba.

The durable lineman is sized well, possesses strength at the point and blocks with a good degree of intelligence.  Ziemba effectively uses his hands to push opponents from their angle of attack then seals them from the action with good body positioning.  He gets movement run blocking, flashes dominance and works hard.  He lacks the feet for left tackle but has the tools to eventually be a right side blocker.

Ryan Pugh is a versatile and underrated blocker in our opinion.  Keeping his head on a swivel, Pugh quickly gets into blocks, shows the ability to adjust and keeps his head on a swivel.  He’s not a great athlete but gets the most out of his ability.  We like Pugh as a potential back-up interior lineman at the next level.

George Berry is a strong and explosive guard.  He quickly sets off the snap, keeps his feet moving and is effective blocking in motion.

Coming off the ’08 film we loved what we saw out of Mario Fannin and thought him to be a big time prospect, but were slightly disappointed last year.  Fannin has good size, flashes brute strength yet also shows a burst in his running and the ability to make defenders miss.  He possesses solid vision and does a nice job following blocks.  He is an outstanding pass catcher that finds his way down the field to make long receptions.  Fannin could be tougher in his overall game but is a prospect with a huge upside.

Junior receiver Darvin Adams is a solid pass catcher who shows a lot of quickness in his game as well a burst.    Adams consistently extends his hands to make the reception away from his frame, comes back to the ball and gets vertical in a crowd to make the difficult catch.  He has a thin build, does not get good results as a blocker downfield but offers possibilities as a 4th wide out on the NFL level.

The top prospect on defense is linebacker Craig Stevens.  An athletic player, Stevens covers a lot of area field, nicely redirects to ball carriers and is solid in pursuit.   He possesses a good change of direction and shows skill in coverage.   He looks like a solid weak side prospect.

Zac Etheridge is a tough safety with solid sideline to sideline range. Etheridge shows the ability to line up over the slot receiver and effectively reads then diagnoses the action.  He’s not a big safety and does struggle bringing opponents down on initial contact.  Etheridge has enough skills to make it as a 4th safety/dime back is he comes back healthy from the neck injury he suffered one year ago.

Auburn Pro-Prospects

Round Full Name Pos Number Year
3rd Lee Ziemba T 71 5Sr
4th Mario Fannin RB 27 5Sr
5th Craig Stevens OLB 46 4Sr
7th Ryan Pugh C 50 4Sr
7th Darvin Adams WR 89 3Jr
FA Zac Etheridge S 4 4Sr
FA Terrell Zachery WR 81 5Sr
FA George Berry G 66 5Sr
FA Mike Blanc DT 93 5Sr
FA Lee Isom G 57 5Sr
FA Josh Bynes ILB 17 4Sr
FA Antoine Carter DE 45 4Sr

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