The dreaded double digit number appears and we all know that the College Football season is dwindling down a precious few weeks. Keeping my focus in check, here are some guys who got my attention in games this past week.
VADAL ALEXANDER/OT/LSU 6’6/320 #74
A very long, athletic player. Much more of a finesse OL than a bulldozer. Has good agility, but tends to play too tall and loses much of what natural strength he does have. Played OG for the team in 2013 then moved back to RT. He’s a functional player at a high level program, but is far from NFL ready. Anyone drafting him before Round 3 is doing so on potential and trainability. He had a tough night against the bullying DL of Alabama. But most OL do struggle against the 2 deep, physical group that SABAN has assembled. He is clearly best suited to develop for a zone blocking scheme in a precision passing game offense. I am high on his potential, but a bit disappointed in his lack of development given how many games he has started. I’d sure like to see him under the watchful eyes and tutoring of an NFL OL Coach in Mobile come January.
VERNON BUTLER/DT/LOUISIANA TECH 6’3/309 #27
Once again the lack of any uniformity in college uniform numbering caused me to take a while to find this big guy wearing a RB number, but playing in the pits. He’s very active and alert to the ball. He recorded a Sack in Quarter 2, and then a few minutes later he tipped a pass to the ground. In that game against RICE he was credited with 4 tackles overall. On the season he now has 7 TFL, 3 sacks & 5 QBH among his 36 total tackles. He’s not stout enough to play on the Nose, but he looked very effective when TECH dropped into a 2-man DL formation. He’s has decent length for his somewhat shorter frame. He’s very active in ball pursuit, but pays attention to his responsibilities overall. He causes more general havoc than he does making specific plays in the backfield. He could be a nice addition to a team like the PACKERS who de-emphasize the DL positions and often use only a 2-man line, relying on their LB corps to make most of the plays. If he shows well at an All-Star venue and the Combine (or Pro Day) he might get drafted albeit in he later rounds.
DeFOREST BUCKNER/DE/OREGON 6’7/295 #44
This true senior is destined for Top 12 Draft selection next April. He’s best suited for a 4-3 scheme, but can play in any system. He’s an athlete first and a dominant player second. He was a big factor in the victory over CAL last Saturday night with 7 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU. I also felt he earned 2 QBH and would have had a second sack, but was held which precipitated a penalty flag. He’s doing all this damage with a large cast on his right wrist/forearm. He’s stout against the run and stays on his feet to help finish plays. He’s quick to follow the action and reverses direction constantly. He had a runner cut up inside him on a sweep, kept his feet and made the tackle 16 yards downfield. I am curious to find out his wingspan when measured at the Combine. For the season, thru 9 games, he has recorded 12 TFL and 7 sacks. Also ranks second on the team in overall tackles with 51. My eyes tell me that whoever drafts BUCKNER will be adding the League’s next CALAIS CAMPBELL to their roster. I believe he’s a better overall player than ex-mate ARIC ARMSTEAD, who was a first rounder this Spring for the 49’ers.
COREY COLEMAN/WR/BAYLOR/JR 5’10/190 #1
I was skeptical of COLEMAN’s pro prospects early in the season, in good part because of his chippiness and constant trash talking in several games I watched. But I was very impressed with his serious, but controlled demeanor as Baylor introduced frosh QB/STIDHAM as their new starter against K-State. I was even more impressed with the numbers he put up; 11 catches-216 yards- 2 TD. On his first TD catch of 81 yards he just simply outran everyone, made an effortless catch and continued to leave defenders in the dust. In the course of catching those 11 balls he also high-pointed catches against bigger defenders, tip toed the sidelines, and more. He does indeed remind a bit of STEVE SMITH/RAVENS with his combination of speed, strength, elusiveness and determination. I now believe he will leave school early and end up being a First Rounder in the 2016 NFL Draft. Expect him to wow people at the Combine with his workout numbers and fine tuned body.
JEFF DRISKEL/QB/LOUISIANA TECH 6’3/234 #6
One of the major disappointments of the MUSCHAMP regime in Gainesville has found a home playing under SKIP HOLTZ at LA TECH. DRISKEL looks much more composed and comfortable at the helm for the Bulldogs. Perhaps not being in the spotlight so close to home has helped him. It s a slight step down in competition level from the SEC, but his conference does produce pro prospects and he ends up with a bit less to work with. He’s up to seven straight games with over 300 yards passing and seriously reduced his INT ratio. In the Win over RICE, DRISKEL was 17/26- 65%- 320 yards- 4 YD- 0 INT. He has shown good leadership and improved quite a bit under pocket pressure. He scrambles, extends plays and throws the ball away these days instead of throwing it up for grabs. I still don’t see him in my Top 100, but he’s made himself back into being a draftable prospect. If he’s not on Senior Bowl radar the SHRINE folks should snatch up the Florida boy for their game.
WILL FULLER/WR/NOTRE DAME/JR 5’11/180 #7
I was gong to thumbnail RB/PROSISE, until he injured his shoulder in the 1st Quarter against PITT. But it was a no brainer to switch to FULLER, who is Notre Dame’s big play maker as a receiver. My first notes after switching my focus to him was a replay of his 47-yard TD catch to put the Irish up 7-0. He finished the night with 7 catches for 152 yards and 3 TD. Like all the Notre Dame receivers he is a solid blocker for his teammates down field. He’s improved tremendously in the past year in yards after catch. His second TD reception in the second quarter was a 36-yard strike. I also counted 4 clutch catches on the night, that resulted in first downs on third down receptions. With the numbers he is putting up this season I would expect him to head to the NFL sooner rather than later.
JP HOLTZ/TE/PITT 6’4/245 #86
In case you haven’t noticed, true inline blocking TE, who can catch the ball downfield are almost as much of an endangered species as the FB. A lot of formations don’t even call for a true TE on passing downs. The H-Back is the mode of preference all too often these days. HOLTZ is a throwback and may make a more productive pro player than he has been allowed to show in college. He is a solid, though not exceptional inline blocker. He is good at getting off the line of scrimmage and into his routes, many of which are 10-15 yards downfield. He has good, not great hands, which might improve with more passes being thrown his way. Against the Fighting Irish he caught 3 balls for 58 yards. His long play was a 27-yard out-route during a 2nd quarter PITT drive. He also had a shot at another 15-20 yard sideline cross which he could not hang on to. I’m not sure he has pro starting potential, but he could make a solid No. 2 TE and be worth a 5-7th Round selection.
CHRIS JONES/DT/MISSISSIPPI STATE/JR 6’5/308 #96
JONES came on with a bang as a frosh in 2013 when he was selected as a 1st-team Freshman All-America. When looking at his stats, one must remember that DC MANNY DIAZ insists on playing 8 players in a DL rotation. He refers to them all as starters. Therefore, JONES numbers are not always a true indicator of his impact out on the field. He is the complete package and demonstrated that in Thursday night’s Win over MIZZOU. In that game he recorded 2 tackles both of which were TFL. He was also credited with a Sack in the game. On the season (9 Games), he has 32 tackles, 6 TFL & 2.5 sacks. He’s also been credited with 4 QBH. He’s more athletic than physical, but requires double team blocking on almost every down. His talents make me think he can play DE in a pro 3-4, or DE/DT in a 4-3 scheme. Right now I would admit he is a flash player, but some of that can be attributed to playing in a rotation. If you look at a highlight reel he might rank as a First Rounder, but he hasn’t dominated play for extended periods of time. If more playing time helps him improve, or motivates him to push himself one might justify a first round selection on him, but if he comes out I’d guess he may still be around in Round 3. That could be quite the bargain over the long haul.
DANIEL LASCO/RB/CALIFORNIA 6’0/210 #2
Let’s flash back a couple of weeks to talk about LASCO and his work against Southern Cal. LASCO has been battling a hip injury much of this season. As a result, after rushing for over 1100 yards in 2014 his stats are mush less impressive this year to date. But it is his versatility that appeals most to my eyes. Against USC, 2 weeks ago, he was able to rush for 64 yards on 15 carries and 1 TD while sharing time at RB. But his ability to block in pass pro was crucial in protecting star QB JARED GOFF. In his spare time LASCO played on Special Teams coverage units and made 2 tackles that I saw. He’s a slashing runner who can find creases and get through them. Though not a real Hone-Run threat he has the potential to tough his way to some nice double digit runs each week. LASCO has also shown good hands as a receiver over his career. It all adds up to a solid 2nd or 3rd RB spot for an NFL team looking to upgrade the middle of its roster. What he does at an All-Star venue and the Combine will have a lot to do with his final draft position next April.
KEENAN REYNOLDS/ATH/NAVY 5’11/205 #19
Yep, I know the drill. How can be a legit pro prospect? He has a military commitment on his horizon. He’s too short for QB and running wildcat offenses has gone the way of the wishbone. I get all that, but he’s a quick twitch athlete, with lots of brains and guts. A leader of men to put it simply. Remember when the PATS took a QB from the MAC named EDELMAN? How has that worked out? REYNOLDS has accounted for 77 rushing TD and 26 passing TD in his NAVY career, with more to come. Accounting for more that 100 TD is rarified air in FBS football. He can and will do whatever is required of him. I see potential as a receiver, a Special Teams ace, a Return Specialist, and more. BELICHICK drafted a LS from NAVY last year (JOE CARDONA) and as of today he’s serving that function on the PATRIOTS roster. If not beaten to the punch by another team watch him end up in New England’s 2016 Training Camp and we’ll see what happens from there. REYNOLDS has a legit shot at the NFL at some point in the next few years. I’m hoping to see him in action at the shrine venue in January!
A’SHAWN ROBINSON/DT/ALABAMA 6’4/312 #86
Once again there really aren’t any stats that I can point to in explaining the impact this man had on the big win over LSU. But if you watched the game you had to sense his presence. ‘BAMA has a two deep DL rotation, most of whom will play in the NFL. But ROBINSON stood out in this game. Officially, he was credited with 3 tackles, 2 of which were TFL, 1 PBU and a blocked extra point. But he literally intimidated the LSU OL all night long and occupied blockers while the LB and S held FOURNETTE to 12 carries of 1 yard on the night. He only gained 31 net yards total. Even ROBINSON’s blocked extra point was awe inspiring as he jumped over the snapper, landed upright and leaned forward, arms extended to block the kick. His strength is overwhelming and he looks even bigger than his actual weight. This as a SUH-like interior DL who can change the flow of the game with his presence. If he chooses to come out after this season I will guarantee you he’s a TOP 10 draftee.
TERRANCE SMITH/LB/FLORIDA STATE 6’4/230 #24
The Seminoles may have failed to upset Clemson in their showdown game last Saturday, but this young man came up huge in defeat. One of the few FSU seniors back for the 2015 campaign, SMITH reminded me a lot of another SMITH (TELVIN) for the Seminoles who now plays LB for the JAGUARS at a high level. SMITH was everywhere the ball went in this game. When the contest ended and they added up all the numbers TERRANCE was credited with being in on 14 tackles, 6 of them solo. I also counted a TFL among those 14 stops. He is adept at dropping into coverage as well as run support. Even though not credited with a sack in this contest he is very capable and explosive as a blitzer. Even though he looks long and lean that 230 lbs. will serve him well in the NFL. He should be a Top 100 prospect and expect to be drafted by Round 3, if not before. His speed and instincts are what most NFL defenses are looking for more of.
CODY WHITEHAIR/OL/KANSAS STATE 6’4/309 #55
WHITEHAIR is a slightly undersized pro prospect, who will get by in the NFL on his determination and smarts. He will probably be able to play some OT in an emergency, but is more likely to start inside where he can hide some of his physical shortcomings. Though his range is limited he is agile on his feet with good blocking technique. He had issues containing the long and quick SHAWN OAKMAN of Baylor, but most OL find OAKMAN most difficult. He should also provide great value as a multiple position back-up. He’s a team leader, primarily by example on the field and in the locker room. He might sneak into Round 3, but I expect him to more likely be a highly sought after player when Draft Saturday rolls around. It may take a couple seasons as a versatile back-up, but I would fully expect him to earn a starting job with time. Then good luck getting him out of the lineup.