First a quick apology for late and light entires this week. My laptop crashed on me and was in the MAC Hospital most of the week. It has recovered and is back home now for me to work on. Let the thumbnails begin.
J.T. BARRETT #16 QB OHIO STATE 6’2/220 Heading into the weekend I had no intention of thumb-nailing Mr. Barrett. But given what he did in leading the Buckeyes to a come from behind win over a very good Penn State team how could I ignore him? He used his arm, his legs and his mind to shred the PSU D and put Ohio State back in charge of the BIG TEN. He has turned himself into a top level field general after starting his career as a great athlete, but a marginal starting QB. Almost every season, until this year, Urban Meyer looked for and tried other QB on his roster as starters, always reverting back to BARRETT down the stretch. For this big game BARRETT throw for 328 yards going 33/39, with 4 TD. He almost ran for another 100-yards, finishing the game with 423 yards of total Offense. If you wonder about his leadership skills let’s make note of his being a 3-time Captain for the Buckeyes, a first! Given how some top notch QB prospects have struggled a bit this season, IMO BARRETT has to be rising up draft boards. I would also note that it is my opinion he has faced serious challenges each season because of the annual matriculation of star skill position players to the NFL. The talent cupboard is never bare under Meyer, but BARRETT has had a largely new cast of playmates every season. Besides, if he falls short as an NFL QB he is athletic enough to switch positions ala a guy names PRYOR. Right now I am thinking BARRETT is moving his way up Draft Boards into the Top 100, as the elite 3 underclassmen QB (DARNOLD, ROSEN, ALLEN) have all had less than superior seasons to date.
DANTE BOOKER #33 OB OHIO STATE 6’3/240 RsJR. BOOKER is a superior athlete who has had issues trying to stay out on the field. He was the opening day starter in 2016 with high expectations from everyone in the Buckeyes football program. He never got beyond that first game because of a season ending knee injury. I was determined to thumbnail the best looking Buckeyes LB from their big game with Penn State and here he is. He has a trim, lean, muscled body with enough size to go hold up at the next level. He was an absolute impact player for the OSU Defense in their big victory. He located the ball very well all game long and was very effective whether coming up to meet the run or dropping off into coverage duties. His 5 tackles (3 solo) and 1 TFL are solid but don’t tell you how well he played against a Top 10 opponent. He was also on the spot to recover a PSU fumble in the 4th quarter when Ohio State was making their big come from behind effort. He is officially a Redshirt Junior, but might be ready to come out for the 2018 NFL Draft. If he does, and passes all the medical tests at the Combine, he should be a Day Two Pick. Best of all he’s a plug-in OB for a 4-3 scheme, who can stay on the field for all three downs. I do not doubt he could also start in time for 1 3-4 pro scheme D.
NICK CHUBB #27 WR GEORGIA 5’11/230 NICK CHUBB was a flaming star when he stepped out onto the field for the Bulldogs as a true frosh and rushed for over 1500 yards at 7.1-ypc back in 2014. He injured a knee part way through 2015 and though he came back in 2016 he was not quite the same RB we saw pre-injury. He decided to return for a senior season at full health and it looks like the right decision based on the first two months of the 2017 season. He looks like his old self to me. I see a powerful runner who runs through and over defenders, but also shows burst of speed to take it well into the secondary. He cannot be arm tackled and has excellent balance. He showed me he still has the speed to get to the corner if a wide play is blocked well enough. He was the back-up runner against Florida while his partner MICHEL (see below) had the more productive day. CHUBB finished with 13 carries for 77 yards and 1 TD. An early carry of 22-yards was his longest of the day. But he has several other efforts of well over 100-yards so far this season. I look for CHUBB to be a hot Day Two draftee for an NFL team looking for a power runner to fill their RB group, ala SAMAJE PERINE this season in “OLD D.C”.
NICK FITZGERALD #7 QB MISSISSIPPI STATE 6’5/230 JR Many people, yours truly included, couldn’t understand why MISS ST HC DAN MULLENS wasn’t pulling his hair out over the loss of DAK PRESCOTT to the NFL after the 2015 college season. I guess now we know why. Clearly, he had DAK’s successor in house and was confident he had another ideal fit for his offensive scheme. FITZGERALD has been outstanding as the starter since DAK left. He even got some important back-up time during Dak’s senior season. FITZGERALD may still be a better running threat than a passer, but he keeps improving and gets the most out of an offense which doesn’t provide him with as strong of a supporting cast many SEC QB get to work with. He led the Bulldogs in rushing last season with 1375 yards and 16 TD. He also passed for 2400-yds and another 21 TD. That’s 37 total TD for you math challenged readers. But his 54.3% completion average last season was a bit concerning to NFL scouts. Last weekend FITZGERALD led his team to a 35-14 road win over Texas A&M. As usual he did it with a combination of his arm and legs. He passed for 141-yds and 2 TD (with 1 INT), while also running 18 times for 105 yards and another TD. He’s not the ideal NFL QB candidate right now, but his size and athleticism are intriguing to say the least. And his arm is adequate to make all the throws. He’s still raw in many ways, but his leadership qualities and athletic ability are hard to ignore. I don’t think he will come out, but he will require a ton of analysis by NFL Personnel People if he does.
MIKE GESICKI #88 TE PENN STATE 6’6/250 It seems to be getting harder and harder to pinpoint the top notch TE prospects coming out of the college game. That is due in great part to the Run/Pass Option plays that now dominate the college offenses, IMO. We see more and more highly valued WR than ever most drafts, but not so the TE. The RPO concept takes the TE out of the equation on many plays, if not completely off the field of play on late passing downs. Despite that the NFL still needs TE for blocking and underneath pass routes, at the very least. GESICKI, with a HS volleyball pedigree, is the kind of guy whose athleticism allows him to stave off TE obsolescence. He runs well and jumps well which allows him to be a very dangerous target on out/sideline throws. He has excellent hands and is a natural positioning himself for the catch both with his body and his hands. I will be curious to see his vertical at the Combine, because he wins just about every jump ball thrown in his direction. He was also a HS basketball star. Like most receiving TE these days he needs to work to improve his inline blocking, but he’s not terrible blocking for the run game. He reminds me a bit of former Nittany Lion TE JESSE JAMES, who now starts for the Steelers. But he’s much further along in most of his skills than JAMES was coming out of State College, PA. He looks like a late First Rounder to my eyes.
SONY MICHEL #1 RB GEORGIA 5’11/222 Here is the other part of the UGA RB duo, not to mention 2 other top underclassmen RB, for now. MICHEL is a bit faster than CHUBB and looks to be the more versatile of the two. He is a good pass receiver, although you won’t see that much this season, and he might make an outstanding KR man at the pro level. He was the bigger impact player against Florida last weekend. Though he only carried the ball 6 times from scrimmage those few carries were good for 137 yards and 2 TD. His big run of the day went for 74 yards. MICHEL is the home run hitter for this team with a great combination of speed, balance and power. He is also considered to be the best RB in pass-pro blocking on the current roster. His blocking will be a big selling point in NFL Draft Rooms as they plug in every tidbit they can find on these prospects. In fact I will go out on a limb just a bit. Should the RB position for the next Draft not be flooded with top underclassmen, I could envision MICHEL being a late First Round draftee if he can burn a 4.44/40 or better at the Combine.
BILLY PRICE #54 OC OHIO STATE 6’4/312 After spending most of his college career at OG, PRICE has moved to OC pretty much seamlessly. He’s an excellent athlete, especially for an OC, and has solid size for the position. The game against Penn State marked his 49th start for the Buckeyes. He excels at getting a fast start into his blocks after the snap. Second level blocks are not hard for him to make. He has enough strength to move DL off the line-of-scrimmage with his initial contact. He looks to be doing a very solid job of helping his line-mates to double team certain defenders and also slides well after identifying blitzers. PRICE is a natural knee-bender and combines functional strength with quickness. He reminds me a bit of former Buckeyes OC COREY LINSLEY, now with the Packers. But he has more bulk and quicker feet than LINSLEY. Until he earns a starting job at the next level he should be capable of backing all 3 Interior OL spots. Another player who has to be nearing a Top 100 prospect ranking, as well as being a Top 5 prospect at the Center slot.
TRACY SPRINKLE #93 DT 6’3/293 There is so much talent arriving on the Columbus campus each year that some awfully good athletes never get a chance to start for the Buckeyes. SPRINKLE has become a solid member of a two-deep DL rotation for the Buckeyes, and is starting this season. He caught my eye early in the Penn State games as he penetrated the OL and disrupted the Penn State pocket on numerous occasions. QB/TRACE McSORLEY had much less time to stand in there to survey the field, than he would have liked all day long and SPRINKLE was a major reason for that. Though SPRINKLE was only credited for 1 tackle, that a TFL, he was key in disrupting the Penn State O. He got good penetration all day, showed a nose for the ball, chasing it all over the field. He has nice size and looks to be a pretty athletic guy. I could see him as a DE in a 3-4 scheme or inside in a 4-3. He could make a valuable piece for an NFL team looking for depth in their DL rotation. He could work his way into the middle rounds of the 2018 Draft if he can get to the Senior Bowl or Shrine Game and get some scouting attention.
JAMES WASHINGTON #28 WR OKLAHOMA STATE 6’0/205 It looks to me like WASHINGTON is the best all-around receiving prospect at Okie State since a guy named DEZ BRYANT. WASHINGTON has very strong and dependable hands and is a good route runner. He also has excellent after the catch running ability, much like a RB. In fact his frame reminds me of quite a few pro RB. The Cowboys have a lot of good receivers on their roster and QB MASON RUDOLPH does a nice job of spreading the targets around. But WASHINGTON always seems to end up leading the receiver group in catches in the final analysis. He has become the NCAA’s leading active TD catcher. For the game last weekend he caught 7 balls for 91 yards, including 2 TD. He is great at working the sidelines, but uses fakes to set up DB and get deep despite lacking sprinters speed. But don’t take that to mean he is not fast. His quickness, route running and speed make him a very tough cover for secondaries on Saturday. And I would expect that trend to carry over to the NFL next season and beyond. This is a first round talent and producer.
I would like to make one more observation here, by saying it would have been no problem at all to fill this week’s report with 10-12 legit pro prospects from just the talent assembled in Columbus, OH for the Penn State/Ohio State game. But I’ll save a few names for future reports again in the next month plus of action by those two teams.