Who Caught My Eye in College Football This Week

By | October 29, 2014

It always gets a bit disconcerting when I get to that point of he season when the week count hits double digits, and here we are in Week 10 of College Scouting thumbnails. It’s a true sign that for another football season that started, seemingly like yesterday, we are now in the stretch run of the regular season. Even the NFL has reached the halfway point of its season. Scary to think that in 3 months we will be past the All-Star portion of the scouting process and missing football action again. But let’s get after it while we still have games to watch and scout.

DARRYL BALDWIN/RT/OHIO STATE #76 6’6/310
Whether a professional scout, or an amateur, like myself, it’s important to always be on the lookout for late blossoming talent. BALDWIN appears to be just that for the Buckeyes. He came into the program as a DT back at the end of the Tressel era. He red-shirted, then played for a season as a back-up DT. He spent the past two years converting to OT under the MEYER regime at LT. He now finds himself ensconced at RT as the starter for his final year as a Buckeye. The first thing you notice is that he passes the eye test as a full sized, in-shape player, who shows some athleticism. He appears to have long arms and uses them fairly well for a relative newcomer at OT. Against Penn State, he demonstrated mobile feet and the ability to get off the snap quickly. He also did well getting to second level blocks. He stays on the man he is blocking until the end of the play. The weak spot in his game will be pass pro, but that can be improved in a couple of years by a veteran OL Coach at the pro level. I doubt I’d be looking at drafting him unless I really needed an OT project to develop and had a couple of Supplemental 7th Round picks in my pocket. This is he kind of guy the SEA HAWKS bring in for OL COACH TOM CABLE to develop. I would hazard a guess that he could be a priority URFA, with multiple suitors, the day after the Draft concludes.

MALCOLM BROWN/DT/TEXAS* #90 6’4/320
This big underclassman shows more than enough talent to warrant late First Round Draft attention. His initial quickness, at his size, is well suited for 4-3 NFL scheme. He is NOT necessarily suited for the Nose in a 3-4 scheme. He comes off the snap quickly, but can stand up too straight, too quickly at times. He clearly showed more energy and better results in the first half against K-State, but that was to be expected. There is not a lot of quality depth along the DL for the Longhorns right now, so the good big guys played a lot of snaps. Combine that with a pretty inept Texas Offense that wasn’t on the field a whole lot and it makes for a tiring scenario for al the big uglies in the Texas D. IMO, big guys need a few possessions off if they are expected to chase all game. I do not think he’s out of shape. He also shows good strength in holding his own against inside run plays. He pursues well, but isn’t catching anyone along the sideline unless the DB delay things on the corner. I’d like to see him develop more of a shock hand punch rather than getting tied up dancing with the OL, which I felt he did a bit too often. I would expect him to come out early as the transition to a Charlie Strong roster hits high gear in 2015.

FRANK CLARK/DE/MICHIGAN #57 6’2/270
CLARK could have great appeal starting about Round 3 of the DRAFT, for a team that uses multiple defensive schemes (most of today’s NFL) and is looking for a player who can disrupt the pocket. He had a very solid game against Michigan State last Saturday. He’s getting lost in the shuffle somewhat of the poor season that the Wolverines find themselves struggling through because of a pathetic and ineffective Offense. But his effort, productivity and ability to pressure the QB all fit today’s NFL priority list. In 2013 he had 4.5 Sacks, 7.5 TFL & 7 QB hurries. Against the Spartans last weekend he was one of the Wolverines standout players who helped harass CONNOR COOK/QB into a relatively mediocre performance. CLARK may not be stout enough to hold up full-time at DE in the NFL, and not quite fast enough to stand up in a 3-4 scheme all the time. But he has a chance to be a multi-purpose defender, ala ex-Wolverine BRANDON GRAHAM, who though not a full time player, fills multiple roles for the NFL Eagles. This guy would be really interesting to watch under NFL coaching for Senior Bowl week. Depending upon how many elite underclassmen declare for the 2015 NFL Draft CLARK could rank near the bottom of my Top 100 prospect list.

CONNOR COOK/QB/MICHIGAN STATE * #18 6’4/220
COOK is a potential First Round QB prospect, but not if he comes out after this season. He still needs work on his mechanics and his reading of defenses. He has an above average arm and good mobility. He can extend plays with his footwork and gain yards when things break down. But he needs another year to improve his overall play ala KIRK COUSINS not that long ago. He is in fact, more athletic than COUSINS from what I have seen of him. He had a typically solid game against arch rival MIchigan last Saturday passing for 12/22 – 227 yards – 1 TD – 0 INT. It was not a performance that cried out for being a first round draftee, however. His stats suffer a bit from being in a run first, ball control Offense for HC DANTONIO, and that will not change if he returns to school. Right now he plays fast enough to look good against Big 10 competition, but is not close to what he’ll need to do against NFL defenses. Hopefully, we will get to scout him again next season in Spartan green. Stay in school CONNOR… for your own sake.

QUANDRE DIGGS/CB/TEXAS #6 5’10/205
This 3-year starter for the Longhorns makes a most interesting prospect for the NFL. He has good ball instincts and is normally a sure tackler, though I saw him whiff a couple of times against Kansas State out in space. But he’s not incredibly fast or quick, which causes him to lose contact with some receivers fairly early on deep routes. He loves to play in the box and is very productive in helping to stop the run. DIGGS plays hard and tough. He finds the ball, if the play is in front of him, and will pick off a few throws each season. Because of his speed limitations he likes to get a bump on receivers early. I think his NFL future might eventually be as a S, not a corner. His compact size and tackling ability could make him a slower version of another ex-Longhorn EARL THOMAS. He should make a solid Special Teamer and at least a sub-package defender from the get-go. Because of his coverage limitations I do not see him as a Top 100 prospect once underclassmen enter into the mix.

RANDALL EVANS/CB/KANSAS STATE #15 6’0/190
Like most guys on the K-State roster EVANS is not what I would consider an elite athlete. He’s also not going to be a ball-hawking INT machine in the NFL. But he’s a good sized, press cover guy who likes to bump at the line and knock receivers off their patterns. In today’s NFL game of QB/receiver offensive timing, legal disruption is a very useful tool. EVANS is also a very aggressive tackler, who can take people down out in the open field. He’s a savvy vet, who can locate the ball and react to it in he air. His lack of super speed and/or quickness keep him from being an elite CB prospect, but he has enough speed to press-cover and then recover to continue coverage downfield. He is also used effectively in some zone blitz situations for the Wildcats. He was credited with 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 INT and 12 PBU in 2013 in 11 starts. He’s lost some playing time to a talented Juco this season, which may allow him to sneak under the radar to some astute pro personnel department. As a 3rd Day draftee he certainly looks to have enough ability and want-to, to work his way into sub-packages, handle multiple Special Teams roles and start a few games in injury situations. He looks like a very solid potential invitee to Shrine action in January.

RANDY GREGORY/DE/NEBRASKA* #4 6’6/240
Seeing that I have a lot of URFA prospects mentioned in this week’s feature I thought I’d best give you a thumbnail on one of the elite prospects for the 2015 DRAFT. He will still have a year of eligibility beyond 2014, but I will be shocked if he does not throw his hat/helmet into the 2015 Draft ring. GREGORY is an elite pass-rush specialist. In fact he reminds me a lot of ALDON SMITH/MIzzou who’s a 49’ers pass-rushing star when he’s not suspended. I will not speak to the off-field issues in that equation, but I think out on the grass it’s a legit comparison. Against Rutgers he was clearly schemed for in blocking assignments. On some obvious passing downs he was combo blocked by the LT, TE & FB. But at times Rutgers LT KEITH LUMPKIN more than held his own in man-on-man blocking. GREGORY had a decent game with 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QBH and he used his huge wingspan to block a Field Goal attempt. He was moved around a bit from side to side in the Huskers formation, and played some downs standing up somewhat like a 3-4 ILB. I am a bit concerned that GREGORY almost looks skinny right now compared to last season. I don’t know if he has lost weight to be quicker,especially standing up, but at the point of attack right now he’s almost a non-factor. I’d like to know what he weighs, and why. But right now I am a bit concerned that he’s sacrificed too much strength to gain added quickness. He’ll want a combo of both to play at the pro level and be a constant factor. But he has that length and quickness, which includes some natural pass-rush moves, that could make him a difference maker in the NFL. He is Top 10 Draft material.

JEFF HEUERMAN/TE/OHIO STATE #5 6’5/255
After watching the Buckeyes in 4 games this season I feel confident in saying HUERMAN is another player whose numbers are a circumstance of the system he plays in. The TE is not featured a whole lot right now at Ohio State and he is sharing snaps with a quality underclassman, who was a MEYER recruit. But watching him in action I think he may the best all-around TE that they have had in a while athletically in Columbus. He doesn’t look quite as big as his listed numbers, but he is a solid blocker both inline and especially on the move, or downfield. Against Penn State I think he was only targeted 4 times, catching 3 of them for a paltry 19 yards and 1 TD. He makes a great safety valve option for BARRETT as he grows as a QB. He looks to have dependable hands and moves fluidly. I don’t see a Top 100 spot for him as a prospect, but he should be draftable as long as he tests out in the middle of the TE class at the Combine. May make a better pro than a college player overall.

MIKE HULL/ILB/PENN STATE #43 6’0/230
You see HULL’s name on the Penn Sate roster and you think legacy player and a nice collegian. Then you wonder what he’s going to do for his real life’s work. But, if you actually watch him play, like in the Ohio State game, you see this year’s Big 10 version of CHRIS BORLAND. Well, he’s not as strong or athletic as BORLAND, but the point is all he does is compete and make lots of tackles. He recorded 19 tackles against Ohio State, including 2.5 TFL, and also picked off a pass that set up the Nittany Lions for a score. Hull plays with his head and his heart, and the results are impressive. Remember an undersized LB names LARRY IZZO, who played a long time in the League mostly on Special Teams, but surprisingly well in some starting assignments while taking over for injured starters? After watching HULL against he Buckeyes I see the same kind of player/competitor as IZZO. He finds a way to succeed. Like several other players in this week’s thumbnails I’m not projecting him to be drafted next May. But I will add that once into an NFL Training Camp he will be a tough player to cut. He could easily improve the bottom 10 of more than a few NFL rosters immediately. Was named Senior Bowl defensive player of the week for his effort against Ohio State.

J.J. WORTON/WR/PR/UCF #9 6’2/210
The bottom line first, is that WORTON is not real likely to be drafted next May. He’s a good, not elite athlete without any superior skills. But he looks to me like an excellent URFA for Training Camp with some team that has a battle brewing for a No. 5 WR and versatile Special Teams performer. He does a lot of the little things well and actually has made some very big plays for UCF the past couple of years. He’s an excellent Punt catcher, who can weave his way through traffic and improve a team’s field position with his return. He has shown excellent hands as a receiver. They are still showing highlight films that include is catch last season of the acrobatic, game saving TD catch against UCONN. Last Saturday he had a typical day at work with his lunch pail. He played on just about every Special Teams unit and had 4 catches, for 42 yards and 1 TD against Temple. He was also very conspicuous with his downfield blocking for his fellow receivers and runners. I am hoping he’s a local invite to the Shrine Game so he can show his versatility in All-Star action.