We are headed down the home stretch of the 2013 College Football season. I have fallen hopelessly behind on my weekly game watching, so from this point forward the thumbnails we present here may be based on games from a bit earlier in the season, as I catch up. I will mention the specific games that my observations are based on for each prospect in he write-ups.
BRETT BOYKO/OT/UNLV #69 6’7/310 vs. Utah State … Guys with his size, who seem to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time have a tendency to get more than a passing glance from NFL personnel people. BOYKO indeed looks the part of an NFL prospect. And at times he plays like one. He is long in every sense of the word, which is good for an OT. And he shows good balance and decent feet. He looks a bit awkward and unsure at back pedaling into pass-pro, but that is likely fixable with NFL level coaching and training. In fact work on conditioning and strengthening his body core might also be a project to undertake at he next level. Right now he looks soft and flabby in his gut. He was often matched up against UTAH STATE DE/LARSEN, who is also a decent prospect, and overall played him to a draw. He tends to stand up straight at the snap, but that’s pretty common with guys his height. I like the fact that he stayed on his feet and got to some second level blocks against the Aggies. BOYKO has a solid chance to be drafted, but I doubt it will be much before Round 6/7. I would also project that he may need a year on a Practice Squad before sticking on an actual NFL roster. But that could be difficult to do without another team putting in a claim for him. We really need to see tis guy at an All-Star venue, likely NFLPA or Shrine.
ALVIN “BUD” DUPREE/OLB/KENTUCKY #2 6’4/267 vs. Miss State … The first problem associated with my watching DUPREE, was the fact that I had heard & read a bit of hype about him earlier. I confess he did not live up to expectations in my notes. First off, he still looks skinny to me, and I cannot imagine how he could possibly weigh the 265-or so number he’s currently listed at. I also see no chance at all for him to play with his hand down, other than 3rd and very long. He is fluid in his movement and gets around from sideline to sideline. But much to my chagrin, I felt I saw a guy who had no taste for contact. He tended to circle the action. I also saw him attempt multiple “arm tackles” that the RB just tore through. He looked to want no part of JOSH ROBINSON. They moved him around the defensive formation and a couple of times he used his speed/quickness to break into the backfield to create pass rush pressure. Overall, I was not terribly impressed with his play. On the team’s website they show him with 53 tackles, 8.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks through 10 games. From what I saw vs. Miss State he must have put up most of those stats against the lesser teams on their schedule. For me he is going to need to show up in Mobile and really play hard and tough for me to get excited about him as a prospect. I also want to see his real height/weight numbers at the Combine. I don’t see him as a Top 100 player right now, never mind “creeping” into Round One.
B.J. LARSEN/DE/UTAH STATE #99 6’5/275 vs. UNLV … LARSEN plays predominantly in a 3-4 scheme for the Aggies, and that suits his size and talents well. I would imagine he could add another 10-15 lbs. in an NFL training regimen. He uses his long arms well to shed blockers and obstruct throwing lanes for opposing QB. I watched him two weeks in a row against Colorado State and UNLV. He looked equally effective against two of the best LT in the COnference in SAMBRAILO & BOYKO. He can cover some ground and lays with good balance. He has some shock to his initial push and I would imagine he could improve that aspect of his game at the pro level. Though not a speed/edge pass rusher if his secondary gets good initial coverage downfield he ends up in the QB’s face fairly often. His numbers on he season are quite good for a 3-4 DE. In 10 games he has 26 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks & 1 INT. He has a solid chance to be drafted and earn himself a spot on an NFL roster in a DL rotation.
NICK O’LEARY/TE/FLORIDA STATE #35 6’3/245 vs. Louisville … O’LEARY plays a position that is not of a huge part of the FSU passing attack. But NICK has forced the coaching staff to find ways to get him the ball with a degree of regularity. He’s a sure handed receiver and a very smart football player. He often breaks off the called patterns to provide relief when QB/WINSTON is scrambling in a collapsing pocket. His work in the big game inLouisville was a good example of his value to his team. He pulled down 6 catches for 76 yards and 1 TD. He’s a willing, effective blocker but does not have the size to play inline a lot at the pro level. Though not a speedster he has enough speed and route running skill to get separation from LB and some S. I would expect his best pro fit to come primarily in an H-Back role, ala AARON HERNANDEZ. I would expect another onslaught of underclassmen to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft, which will likely push O’LEARY out of the Top 100. But look for JACK NICKLAUS’ grandson to be a very popular pick come Round 4.
BRYCE PETTY/QB/BAYLOR #14 6’3/230 vs. Oklahoma …. Since the first time I saw this hulking all-american boy I’ve been stuck on the image of L’IL ABNER from Dog Patch, USA. That has nothing to do with his QBing ability and pro potential, which has very large upside I believe. Remember that he’s been playing since week two of the season with two cracked vertebrae in his back. That’s no small deal my friends. But he’s worked his way into a comfort zone and his game is pretty much back to normal. His stats are off and part of that has his willingness to throw balls away rather than force them into coverage or scramble around, which he does quite well when fully healthy. He certainly came up huge last weekend in the thumping given to OKlahoma in Norman. He was masterful at taking what the normally tough Sooners Defense gave him, which was big cushion on his wideouts, thus allowing him to throw a lot of short/quick passes and let receivers run after the catch. He finished the day 32/42, 76%, 387 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT. He has an NFL arm and good mobility when healthy. He has some mechanics to clean up, but most QB do coming out of college. I think he has starting potential in the NFL and should be drafted by Round 2 next May. Initially, he needs to sit and learn for a year or two. Then you have an NFL ready starter in my estimation. Are you paying attention JONES BOYS?!
PRESTON SMITH/DE/MISSISSIPPI STATE #91 6’6/267 vs. Kentucky … SMITH has been a solid performer and quiet team leader for several years now. Because his school has gone undefeated this year so far, he is now getting some serious notice. He’s a long player, with good mobility. He has average strength and reasonable speed. He’s not a huge pass rush presence, but he’s steady and productive. He moves around a bit in the Bulldogs Defense and even drops into pass coverage with some regularity. In that role he has 2 INT & 3 PBU. And he does not look lost out in space. His best spot in the NFL would seem to be at LDE in a 4-3 scheme. He should be able to produce matched up against most of the League’s RT. If he could get a bit stronger and throw off blockers more often he could be a fulltime starter as a pro. There’s a lot of defensive talent for State to use on game day, and DC GEOFF COLLINS substitutes freely, so no one is getting 100 tackles on this defensive unit. But if you look at SMITH thru 9 games you get the picture of how versatile he is. He has 32 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 14 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles. Just for good measure he has used his agility and length to block 2 kicks this year. Glamorous he is not, but he gets results and leads by example. My guess is NFL types would like to see him pump up to about 280 lbs. He may never make a Pro Bowl, but could be a solid starter for some NFL team in a couple of years. Mark him down as Round 2 if he shows well at the Senior Bowl and Combine. No matter what he should be Top 100 timber.
NICK VIGIL/OLB/RB/UTAH STATE #41 6’2/230 vs. Colorado State … I”m not really convinced VIGIL is a draftable prospect, but every time I watch Utah State play he makes a favorable impression on me. He has average size and average athleticism, but clearly an oversized heart and maximum desire. He is now in he position of starting on both sides of the ball for the Aggies. His primary position is OLB, with a minor in Special Teams, but he is now the starting RB as well. He’s the older VIGIL brother on the team. He is truly a do it all guy as evidenced by his stats thru the 9 games he’s played in. On Defense he has recorded 78 tackles, 11 TFL, 5.5 sacks with 1 INT. On Offense he has carried the ball 33 times for 118 yards and 2 TD. He’s a tough hombre and a versatile, talented player. He plays tough and smart on every down. As per NFL Coach Speak a guy with his attitude and ability/willingness to fill multiple roles can really improve the bottom third of a roster, and provide valuable game day depth. It may be late, but some team with a handful of 7th Round Compensatory Picks would be crazy not to draft him and then risk the heavy competition that is likely to come if he’s an URFA.
MARK WEISMAN/FB/IOWA #45 6’0/240 vs. Northwestern … This former Air Force Academy frosh has served the old fashioned Big 10/NFL featured FB running game well. For those of you young ones, back in the day the NFL was ruled by FB who carried the ball more than the HB; JIM BROWN, JIM TAYLOR, JOE PERRY, RICK CASARES, LARRY CSONKA were all FB who led their teams and the League in rushing. Obviously in today’s NFL the FB is a dying breed in wide open offenses. But for a team looking for a good blocking FB, who can run a bit, catch a ball or two and excel on Special Teams please watch tape of WEISMAN in action. Against Northwestern WEISMAN rushed for 94 yards and 3 TD. For his Iowa career WEISMAN now has over 2300 rushing yards and has scored 30 rushing TD. I’d hazard a guess that he will not be drafted, but some NFL team that truly understands the value of a hard nosed FB, especially in the red zone should be burning up the phone lines after the Draft looking to add him to their Training Camp roster.
LEONARD WILLIAMS/DT/SOUTHERN CAL #94 6’5/290 vs. Utah … WILLIAMS is a monster talent, in a monster body. He looks even bigger than his listed size as he plies his wares at the collegiate level. Although he possesses quickness and speed for his size he’s not an edge pass rusher. His value is holding the line-of-scrimmage and generating inside pocket pressure. He plays DE in a 3-4 scheme right now for USC, but I could also see him at DT in a 4-3 scheme as a pro. He uses his long arms to push and pull opponents around. There are times when I felt he pushed into the pocket so quickly and aggressively that he failed to keep track of the ball and ran right past the ball carrier, but to some degree that’s nit-picking. He might be well served to work a bit on strengthening his initial hand punch a bit, to keep blockers off his body a bit more. His foot quickness is good in a short area for his size. He’s not a quick twitch athlete like a JJ WATT, so teams should not be expecting that from him. He also has a tendency to end up on the ground too often, most likely because he gets off-balance from playing so fast and out of control. But the long and short of it is that he was built to play pro football and should be an impactful interior DL. His functional strength and quickness to the ball remind me of some of MERLIN OLSEN. He is clearly an elite, First Round talent if he comes out early for the 2015 Draft. Expect him to do so!
GABE WRIGHT/DT/AUBURN #90 6’3/290 vs. Texas A&M … A few years ago I remember seeing this young buck named WRIGHT running around the field for the Tigers, who looked like he could develop into an impact presence on the interior of their defensive line. Now I watch WRIGHT and he looks like a decent rotation system DT with nothing special to his game. He’s neither gotten bigger nor stronger over time. He flashes some athleticism, but not on a regular basis. He’s basically become just another guy. Through nine games, in a successful 7-2 season, WRIGHT has totaled only 16 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 Sack & 8 QBH. He’s not even n the Auburn top 10 for tackles. He’s not a super quick athlete, and his size/strength is average at best. That’s not a winning combination especially for a potential pro career. He seems to work hard, but the results just don’t come at a level that cries out of pro potential. It is clear to me that WRIGHT is going to need a good All-Star outing and then a Combine that at least puts his numbers in the middle of the DT group if he is to be drafted. He’ll be in an NFL Training Camp next summer but at this pace it could be as an URFA. By the way I have watched 4 Auburn games this fall and he looked about the same in each one… nothing to write home about.