Week two on the college scheduled featured a contest with national title implications as well as a number of other important conference match-ups. Several defensive front seven players stood out for scouts and for the second week in a row, the signal callers disappointed. Here are the risers and sliders for week two.
Jared Norris/LB/Utah: The defensive performance of Norris helped lead the Utes to a victory over interstate rival Utah State. Norris finished with 10 tackles for the game and his intelligent, disciplined play was most impressive. Utah State’s no huddle offense goes east/west as well as north/south and Norris never missed a beat or was found out of position. He lacks classic size but has the makings of a starting 3-4 ILB for the next level.
Treyvon Hester/DT-NT/Toledo: The stats are not reflective of the impact Hester had during Toledo’s upset victory against Arkansas on the road. The junior finished with 4 tackles and .5 tackles for loss but was the focus of double and even triple team blocks all day which allowed Toledo pass rushers to get pressure off the edge and on the blitz. Most impressive was the way Hester pushed the pocket up field and got pressure during critical moments late in the game. Few on the outside are talking about Hester, who’s known in scouting circles as a quality prospect with a terrific character.
Thomas Lawrence/DL/Michigan State: During Michigan State’s victory over Oregon, I posted a tweet about the impressive play of Spartans defensive lineman Joel Heath. His teammate Thomas Lawrence also deserves mention. Lawrence finished the night with 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack and broke up a pass. He’s a tall, angular athlete who not only makes plays up the field but can change direction and get outside the box in pursuit. There’s a feeling in the scouting community Lawrence, who was considered a free agent prospect entering the year, will land in the middle rounds of next year’s draft.
Kentrell Brothers/LB/Missouri: Missouri has yet to move into the meat and potatoes portion of their schedule but Brothers is playing at mid season form. The linebacker almost single-handedly secured the Tigers victory over Arkansas State totaling 16 tackles as well as 2 interceptions, which came in the final quarter. Stamped as a potential late rounder, Bothers is a well built run defender with a good head for the ball.
Tyler Higbee/TE/Western Kentucky: The redshirt senior entered the season with free agent grades but is swiftly becoming a draftable commodity. During WKU’s victory over Louisiana Tech the tight end led the Hilltoppers with 7 receptions for 88 yards, including several important third down grabs which kept the chains moving. Higbee has also shown himself to be a competent blocker when kept on the line of scrimmage. At 6-feet/5-inches and 250-pounds he possesses a next level frame and a developing game.
*Sleeper* Bryce Williams/TE/East Carolina: Graded as a late round pick entering the season, Williams very much looked like a next level player during ECU’s close loss to Florida. He finished with 9 receptions for 83 yards and 1 score, out battling defenders to come away with several difficult receptions in the middle of the field. Williams is not a deep threat at the tight end position rather a sure handed underneath pass catcher that does a solid job as an in-line blocker. He’ll be a dependable second tight end on Sunday’s.
*Small School Prospect* Harlan Miller/CB/ Southeast Louisiana: Miller was stamped as a street free agent by area scouts but there as some who feel the small school corner is middle round worthy. He’s tall (6-feet), fluid, possesses excellent ball skills and terrific hands for the interception. Miller has collected three interceptions in two games this season with Ohio University up next for the Lions.
Brandon Allen/QB/Arkansas: Its tough to claim a quarterback who passed for 412-yards on Saturday is sliding down draft boards but the tape doesn’t lie. During the loss to Toledo, Allen just didn’t seem in control of the situation and failed to hit on several key passes late in the game when targets were available. He missed open receivers and on the final snap didn’t even put a desperation pass in play, as the clock wound down.
Max Wittek/QB/Hawaii: The stats say it all; 7 of 24 passing for 67 yards with no scores but 2 interceptions. Wittek had the opportunity to make scouts believe in his next level ability. Most now understand why he couldn’t win the starting job at USC.
Maurice Canady/CB/Virginia: I stamped Canady as a fifth round pick during my ACC preview and believe he has next level ball skills but speed is a concern. Watching Notre Dame junior Will Fuller out race Canady downfield for the game winning 40-yard reception with 12 seconds left will surely raise more red flags over the issue.
I’ll repeat what I wrote in August during my SEC preview; I am shocked so many scouts believe Tra Carson is a free agent prospect. He’s an interior grinder with terrific quickness for a big ball carrier. I stamped Carson as a last day draft pick back in August but I easily believe middle rounds as of now.
I was surprised when I was told Utah defensive end Jason Fanaika had received a top sixty grade by a number of scouts. And while I still don’t believe he’s top two round material, he’s shown flashes of becoming that type of player. Though Fanaika needs to make plays on a consistent basis he’s displayed terrific power, quickness and the ability to disrupt the actions during the seasons’ initial two weeks.
Western Kentucky running back Leon Allen, who went down with a gruesome injury during the victory over Louisiana Tech, was stamped as a middle round prospect by some area scouts. Prior to the injury I had him as a late rounder so obviously things will need to be adjusted.
Hawaii vs Ohio State
3:30 EST Big Ten Network
This should be no contest as Hawaii is walking into the lions den and will likely leave stripped to the bone. But for quarterback Max Wittek, the USC transfer who played reasonably well during the season opener, it’s a game that could make his season. The senior signal caller, who completed 50% of his passes during the victory over Colorado with 3 scores and 2 interceptions, is considered by most scouts a street free agent though they are intrigued by his physical skills. The Buckeye defense is like no other Wittek will face this year and the ability to play efficient, mistake free football would enhance his draft stock.
Oklahoma vs Tennessee
6PM EST, ESPN
The OU-UT game features a battle of talented underclassmen cornerbacks.
Oklahoma’s Zack Sanchez is a smaller but talented shut down corner with next level starting potential and a prospect with first round possibilities in my opinion. Tennessee counters with Cam Sutton, another prospect with starting potential in the NFL but more of a second day pick.
Sutton will have to contend with the Sooners explosive passing offense, which gained 439 yards through the air last week, albeit against Akron. Sanchez will likely face-off against Marquez North, the Vols big-bodied game controlling receiver still recovering from a knee injury.
How Sutton handles the multi-faceted Sooners offense and Sanchez contends with his size disadvantage (assuming North dresses) has the interest of scouts.
Eastern Kentucky vs North Carolina State
6PM EST TV?
Were it not for Noah Spence, the gifted defensive lineman/pass rusher who left Ohio State for Eastern Kentucky after struggling with personal issues, this game would not be highlighted.
Spence showed the makings of a first round prospect during his sophomore campaign in 2013. He’s slightly undersized but explosive and athletic. During the season opener against Valparaiso, a school known more for its basketball program, he finished with 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries and forced 1 fumble.
Saturday against North Carolina State is a step up in competition for Spence and EKU as they’ll face possibly the most underrated quarterback prospect in the nation, Jacoby Brissett. The senior signal caller is a terrific athlete who buys time in the pocket by easily eluding defenders. Brissett makes proper decisions and is much more than a run first quarterback. Scouts want to see if Spence can pressure or at least contain Brissett in the pocket as well as play within the EKU system.
Boise State vs BYU
10:15PM EST ESPN2
Boise State pass rusher Kamalei Correa, a week one riser, is a force to be reckon with off the edge. He’s fast up the field, can change direction on a dime and easily makes plays to every direction of the field.
BYU’s Ryker Mathews has been inconsistent throughout his college career. Looking like a star in the making as a freshman when he started 13 games, Ryker has since watched his game regress, starting just four games the past two seasons. Despite this scouts still believe Mathews is a draftable prospect and offers the skills to play on Sunday.
Correa presents one of the most difficult challenges Mathews will face this season. Its imperative he stop or at least slow down Correa, who’s making his way up draft boards.
Oregon vs Michigan State
8PM EST ABC
A year ago it was Oregon’s left tackle Jake Fisher, at the time stamped as a middle round prospect, trying to slow down Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, considered by many a first rounder.
This year there’s a battle between first round prospects as the skill level has elevated several notches.
As posted prior to the season, most scouts stamp Ducks defensive end Deforest Buckner as the top senior prospect in the nation. He’s a tall, playmaking lineman with growth potential and the ability to impose his will on opponents. Buckner is also a scheme diverse lineman with possibilities at defensive end in a three man front or even tackle on a four man line.
It will be up to the Spartans Jack Conklin to shut down Buckner, and the junior should be up to the task.
The former walk-on has started the past two seasons, primarily at left tackle, and has the makings of a top 20 pick. Conklin is a large blocker who plays with tremendous fundamentals and intelligence. All signs point to Conklin entering next April’s draft.
Week one of the college season featured some incredible finishes as well as a few outstanding performances. It was a weekend when defensive line prospects stood out while quarterbacks fell flat. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week one.
Josh Doctson/WR/TCU: Late last week I highlighted Doctson’s challenge against what’s likely to be the toughest pair of cornerbacks he’ll face during the regular season, and the senior came out on top. Rated as the top upperclassmen receiver by a number of scouts, Doctson was the most productive pass catcher on the field during the Horned Frogs victory over Minnesota. He finished with 8 receptions for 74 yards and one score, coming up big during the games critical moments. Though not a speedster with a hefty yards per catch average, Doctson looked very polished in the season opener and caught everything thrown his way.
Will Fuller/WR/Notre Dame: Fuller dominated what is considered a solid Texas secondary during the Notre Dame trouncing of the Longhorns. He showed game breaking skills, hauling in 7 receptions for 142 yards and 2 scores. And though his second touchdown grab of 66 yards was the result of a busted coverage, Fuller played fast and was consistent in his all around game.
Jake Butt/TE/Michigan: The Wolverines lost a close contest to Utah but witnessed the development of a rising star. Listed on a number of NFL junior watch lists around the league, Butt finished with 8 receptions for 93 yards and 1 score against the Utes. He stepped up during the games important moments, coming away with several key receptions to keep drives alive. Already known as a competent blocker, Butt impressed scouts with his overall performance in week one.
Kamalei Correa/DE-OLB/Boise State: Correa is another name on underclassmen watch lists around the league and he proved deserving against Washington, finishing the game with 6 tackles, including a team leading 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack. Correa’s athleticism stands out on film and though much of his production comes out of a three point stance, he’s equally effective in space chasing plays in pursuit or dropping off the line into coverage. Boise State has had much success placing this type of defender into the draft (Demarcus Lawrence and Shea McClellin) and word I’ve been hearing the past few weeks is Correa’s plans include the 2016 draft.
Cassanova McKinzy/DE-LB/Auburn: Justifiably there are several Auburn defenders that could’ve made this list but I chose McKinzy for his overall performance. The senior finished with 6 tackles including 1 for loss and made plays up the field as well as in pursuit during the victory over Louisville. I love the way McKinzy plays within the system and is consistently around the action. Carl Lawson was more impactful while Jonathan Ford was more productive but I was impressed with the completeness of McKinzy.
Matthew Ioannidis/DL/Temple: The Owls defense imposed their will on Penn State during their surprising victory and Ioannidis was a big part of the effort. The senior finished with 4 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack as well as breaking up 1 pass. Ioannidis made plays all along of the line of scrimmage and if he could not get to the ball he occupied blockers thus creating opportunities for teammates. He’s not a prospect that will test well prior to the draft rather a scheme diverse defensive lineman who could have a long career as a back-up in the NFL.
Sleeper- Christian Jones/WR/Northwestern: Coming off the 2013 film I graded Jones as a potential late round pick entering his senior season. A knee injury enventually shelved him in 2014 so it was great to see the big bodied receiver bounce back during his first action in more than a year. Jones led all pass catchers during the Wildcats upset victory over Stanford posting 5 receptions for 52 yards, and outplayed the Cardinal’s highly regarded Devon Cajuste. Dismissed by scouts entering the year, Jones is a sure handed receiver with excellent size as well as next level potential if he remains healthy.
Small School Prospect- Jamaal Jones/WR/Montana: The Washington transfer has been a productive three year starter for Montana and projects as a number five receiver at the next level. Off to a hot start in 2015, Jones has hauled in 17 receptions for 205 yards during the Grizzlies two games this season. He’s a sure handed, underneath receiver who can line up in the slot or on the flanks.
Christian Hackenberg/QB/Penn State: I’ve been a bit outspoken on this site and during interviews in my opinion that Hackenberg is the most overrated prospect in the nation. His play against Temple further confirmed my belief. The offensive line did nothing to help the situation as he was sacked ten times but Hackenberg is making the same mistakes as a year ago. Indecision, staring down receivers, poor choices as well as woeful inaccuracy plagued him throughout the loss to Temple as it did in 2014. During a conversation with a league insider last week, someone who specializes in quarterbacks, the point was made that while stats may not be important red flags are raised when a college quarterback cannot complete 60% of his throws. After completing 58.9% of his throws as a freshman, Hackenberg’s accuracy fell to 55.8% last season. On Saturday he completed just 44% of his passes. Inner circles rumblings say Hackenberg is expected to bolt for the draft after this season and numerous sources tell me the signal caller has already decided on an agent. And while Hackenberg may be a terrific arm talent, he looks anything but NFL ready.
Kevin Hogan/QB/Stanford: Hogan was graded as a fringe late round pick by scouts entering the year based on his physical skills. During the loss to Northwestern the four year starter proved he’s still more athlete than passer. Hogan’s deer in the headlights look was only surpassed by inaccurate passes which sailed high or wide of open targets. Over the past four years Hogan has never established himself as anything other than a practice squad player for the next level.
Justin Holman/QB/Central Florida: Like several of this week’s risers, Holman has been listed on a number of underclassmen watch lists around the league. Similar to Kevin Hogan, Holman is a terrific arm talent that’s more thrower than passer. His stats were not terrible in the loss to Florida International but his accuracy and inability to consistently hit receivers in stride, or miss them outright, was bothersome. In a bit of irony Holman and the Knights take on Hogan and Stanford this weekend. The Cardinal defense is significantly better than the FIU opponent Holman faced last week, so he’ll have a chance for redemption.
Was Saturday night’s performance by Jake Coker the shape of things to come or the exception to the rule? The physically gifted signal caller, who was considered nothing more than camp fodder by scouts before the season began, played efficient, mistake free football during the Tides victory over Wisconsin. Should he continue to build upon his performance we could see Coker invited to several pre-draft scouting events.
Keep an eye on Emmanuel Ogbah of Oklahoma State. His athleticism is impressive and was on display against Central Michigan. His stats line was solid (2 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 QBH) and the way Ogbah disrupts the action or forces ball handlers to reroute is impressive.
As previously mentioned last week I highlighted Josh Doctson’s match-up against the Gophers pair of talented cornerbacks and Briean Boddy-Calhoun came out worse for the wear. Boddy-Calhoun, ranked by some scouts as the number two senior cornerback prospect in the nation and ahead of his teammate Eric Murray, gave up a lot of underneath receptions and seemed to be playing back on his heels. As I stated in my Big Ten prospect preview, his lack of height and unpolished ball skills are a concern.