Who Caught My Eye Week 14

December 6, 2019

The final full schedule weekend for the 2019 College Football season is now completed. One more weekend of Conference Championships and it’s on to Bowling for Dollars season.  Here are my watch thumbnails from this past weekend’s games.

TREY ADAMS  #72  OT  Washington  6’7/315   Sr     A couple of years ago you might remember this mountain of a man being named to first and second team All-American lists. In a big man’s sport, he is a truly big man. However, two injury plagued years, (2017/2018), and questions about his current physical condition, has pro personnel people concerned about his ability to make the jump from college to pro. Count me in that group of skeptics, unfortunately. He was on my radar last weekend against Washington State. It was a somewhat tough evaluation tool, given that State relies on speed as its defensive calling card, thus making ADAMS’ blocking targets much smaller and quicker than most true pro Defensive Linemen. He showed best in the Red Zone, especially in goal line situations. He was able to get low and seal off DL to the inside on several goal line running situations. On one third down, he absolutely buried his defender to lead the way for a score. He can hold his own against non-speed rushers with long arms that force defenders way wide in their attempts to go around him. I did, however, have to grimace on several occasions when he attempted to chop block in pass-pro, only to allow his man penetration as he lay on the ground. I have little doubt that he will have to move over to RT, rather than protect the QB’s blind side out at LT. He is just not mobile enough to handle that assignment at this point in his career. Have his injuries hurt him? I say yes indeed. He’s not as mobile as he once was, by a long shot. I think ADAMS will be a Day Three Draftee because of limited mobility overall. The Combine medical work will be absolutely critical to his final draft status. If he is ruled medically clean, some team will give him a shot and hope to improve his mobility and flexibility with a pro training regime. He really needs an All-Star game invite, but I haven’t heard of one yet.

DANIEL BITULI  #35  IB  Tennessee   6’3/250   Sr     Last year’s leading tackler for the VOLS surpassed his 2018 Tackle Total by one last weekend, to finish the regular season with 80 tackles, and that is with missing some game time this season to injury. And to the delight of Vols fans, the team should be headed for a Bowl appearance, thus allowing this outstanding player a shot to pad that total. In my eyes, BITULI is a legit pro prospect. Right now I have him teetering just inside the Top 100 on my prospect list. A huge underclassmen exodus may bump him out, but I believe you’ll see him in Round 4/5 come April, 2020. He is a good athlete with a nose for the ball. In cold, wet conditions, he led the Vols with 8 total tackles against Vanderbilt last Saturday. He is always around the ball, and has improved significantly in the past two years in his ability to drop into coverage and obstruct passing lanes in the short middle area of the field. I am anxious to see his 40-time in Indy. He looks to move very well, in all directions, for a man his size. To my surprise, I have not seen his name on an All-Star game acceptance list…. yet!

A.J. DILLON   #2   RB   Boston College  6’0/250   Jr     After an injury plagued 2018 season, DILLON came back with a vengeance for 2019. However, he looked a bit heavier to me, which might have been a plus back in the day when guys like Cookie Gilchrist, Jim Nance, Jerome Bettis and other dinosaurs dominated the pro football running scene, but doesn’t fit the general mold in today’s NFL. Power is his game, but I believe he will need more speed to make a mark in the League. He is fairly light on his feet for a big guy, but when the middle is clogged and he tries to head for the outside, he’s just an ordinary big back. I believe his Performance Camp leaders will need to get him down 10-20 lbs. depending upon what his real weight is these days. (I would guess about 260). In his season finale showdown with a tough PITT defense, DILLON read his blockers and used his power/balance to rush 32 times for 178 yards, and 1 TD. On the season, he rushed for 1,685 yards at 5.3 ypc, with 14 TD’s. If he could run at least a 4.55 at the Combine, he’d surely be a Top 100 draftee. This all assumes he comes out early, which  I think is a given. BC Head Coach Steve Addazio just luvs to run the ball and play defense. Another season at BC, which will add the toll of another 200+ carries, is not what DILLON’s body needs.

JACOB EASON   #10   QB   Washington   6’5/227   Jr     If you remember, EASON was a true frosh starter for Georgia, who then was pushed aside for Jake Fromm. He transferred to the Huskies program and took the reins of their offense this season. It has turned out to be a better season for him personally, than for the Huskies as a team. With their win over intra-state rival Washington State, the Huskies finish the regular season at 7-5, with a modest Bowl on their horizon.  Meanwhile, EASON was running a modest attack unit by completing 63.8% of his throws for 22 TD’s/8 Int’s. Those aren’t great numbers, but by the same token, his arsenal of weapons to work with was good, but not great either. He has another year of eligibility, and I recommend that he take it and try to raise his numbers up another notch in 2020. As a prospect, he has a strong arm with reasonable accuracy. He seems to show a very catchable ball for his targets. He is no JAKE LOCKER with his legs, but he can extend plays and take off if pocket pressure dictates such. What he has that LOCKER was never able to develop, (even as a pro), is accuracy on throws. Though not blessed with elite running ability, when he moves out of the pocket, he can still throw with good accuracy. Against State, he went 15/22- 68%- 244 yards, 1 TD- 0 INT’s. Even though Chris Petersen is stepping down as Head Coach, DC JIMMY LAKE is taking over as HC, and likely will keep most of the current staff around. A great part of EASON’s decision to stay or go pro may well depend on whether he’s stuck with another new offensive scheme to learn or not. Both parties are better off with his return, IMO. He could be one of the Top 5 QB’s for the 2021 Draft if he stays put.

DAVON HAMILTON   #53   DT   Ohio State   6’4/310   Sr     With the plethora of talent on that Buckeyes roster, there are lots of really good football players with pro potential who end up in rotational situations. The DL is one of the strongest and deepest units on the roster in Columbus. HAMILTON has had to wait until his senior season to make his mark. And make his mark he has, IMO.  As I usually do, I went into the Ohio State/Michigan game with about 6 guys to watch carefully as prospects, and a couple of blank pages for guys that literally caught my eye in game action. HAMILTON was my first fill-in-the-blank guy after only two defensive series for Ohio State. He has excellent body size for a mobile, but stout, 4-3 DT.  His most notable asset to me was his penetration work in the middle of the line-of-scrimmage. And his work was against a very stout Michigan Interior OL, which had been pushing opponents around in the second half of the season. However, HAMILTON kept hitting gaps and/or overpowering the Wolverine blockers. At the end of the day, he had his finest day of the 2019 season with 5 T’s, 4 solo, 1 sack, and 2 TFL. His pressure up the middle really had Michigan QB PATTERSON on edge pretty much all day. His season’s numbers were a clear indicator of his penetration work.  Out of a total of 22 tackles, 5 of them were Sacks. He also was alert enough to make a fumble recovery. If I represented an NFL team, I would be pestering National Scouting to make sure this guy was at the Combine. Hey Dan Shonka, if you need another DL prospect for the Shrine Bowl, send this guy a late invitation. He is really solid.

KALIJA LIPSCOMB  #16   WR   Vanderbilt   6’1/200   Sr     It was a tough season in the SEC for Vanderbilt in 2019. The team finished at 3-9 after their loss to intra-state rival Tennessee last Saturday. And my chance to get a good feel for this WR was spoiled by miserable weather and miserable QB play by Riley Neal, a grad transfer from Ball State. Especially, in the first half, a lot of balls coming out of the hand of NEAL were sailing high and wide of his receivers, especially LIPSCOMB, who stood open as he watched balls sail way over his head on multiple occasions. Things got a bit better as the game went along, with KALIJA finishing the game with 4 catches for 43 yards and 1 TD. This allows LIPSCOMB to finish the season with 47 catches for 518 yards and 3 TD’s. Last season with vet senior KYLE SHURMUR as his QB, LIPSCOMB led the team with 87 catches, including 9 for TD’s. I think you get the picture here. LIPSCOMB is a good athlete, who can catch and get upfield for additional after-the-catch yards. He has also been used on reverses and sweeps for the Vandy O. I know he’s draftable, and should be home by Round 4/5. The best news may be that he’s currently on the Acceptance list for the Senior Bowl. He’ll get to show his wares in Mobile with some top QB’s throwing to him.

SEAN McKEON   #84   TE   Michigan   6’5/248    Sr     McKEON is far from an elite NFL prospect, but he should get some attention as the Draft moves along to the final two rounds. He split time with Nick Eubanks to give the Wolverines a very solid TE component in their 2019 Offense. SEAN is a very solid blocker, which is job one for the TE position in a Jim Harbaugh Offensive scheme. McKEON is not just a dump-off target in QB emergencies. He had 3 catches against Ohio State, and turned one of them into a 41-yard gain. He’s not speedy, or particularly elusive, but he will run over and thru smaller secondary defenders. As of this time, McKEON is on the Acceptance lists for both the Senior Bowl and the Shrine Bowl. I am not sure on his draft ability, but I do expect him to occupy a roster spot when NFL Training Camps open next Summer.

JEFF OKUDAH   #1   CB   Ohio State   6’1/200   Jr     In some ways, it is rather hard to gauge the full measure of OKUDAH’s coverage ability since most opponents try to steer clear of throwing in his direction. That was true much of the day against arch-rival Michigan. Assuming he comes out for the 2020 Draft, I expect ODUKAH to have a very good chance to crack the First Round. He should really impress with Combine workout drills and the interview rooms as well. He has an ideal size for his position and already excels at most coverage skills. He has proven to be a wiling participant in run support and shows flashes as a zone blitzer. He has that supreme confidence in his cover skills and is not afraid of any match-up, no matter how good the opposing receiver is. By the end of the 1st Quarter, IU had marked OKUDAH down as having 3 PD. He does a very solid job of using the sideline as a fellow defender. His only noticeable flaw to my eyes, is being over aggressive at times with his hand usage to push and slow down receivers. NFL refs are pretty tough on PI and Holding penalties against Rookies. He might be a tad too aggressive for his own good right now, but…   for the 2019 season OKUDAH has numbers that give a clear picture of what he can bring to a defense: 26 T’s, 2 FF, 6 PD, and 3 INT’s. Look for around 6 Underclassmen to declare for the 2020 Draft from Ohio State. Combine that with at least another 6 solid seniors, and the Buckeyes could rank first in number of players drafted from one team. OKUDAH could be the second Buckeye to be drafted, sometime after Chase Young.

BRYCE PERKINS   #3   QB   Virginia   6’3/215    Sr     The Cavaliers won their intra-state rivalry game to capture the ACC Atlantic division crown and earn the right to face off with Clemson this weekend. Some reward! But it was a milestone victory, nonetheless. And there was no question at all who carried the Virginia offense in this game… QB BRYCE PERKINS. PERKINS ran and passed his team to their ninth Win of the season. Overall, PERKINS is a better athlete than he is a QB, but then again, people were saying that about LAMAR JACKSON of Louisville just a couple years ago. No, I do not think he is at JACKSON’s level, but he has the style, and above average athleticism. On the day, PERKINS was 20/33- 311 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. With his legs, he gained 164 yards on 19 rushes and scored 2 rushing TD’s. Those are some big numbers against a young, athletic defense for Tech.  He has those games that I luv in athletes. His older brother is PAUL PERKINS, NFL RB. BRYCE has a high FBI, and is a tough competitor. I am not sure how he fits at the NFL level. I think more than a few scouts will be watching the Combine and/or Pro Day numbers from this young man very closely. I also think that before we dismiss him as a QB prospect, we should look at his 2019 completion percentage of 64.2%. If NFL teams show little to no interest in him, I would encourage the CFL and XFL to pursue him with vigor.

MITCHELL WILCOX    #89   USF    6’4/245   Sr     Mark this young man down as a player who may have a more productive career at the pro level than he did in the Neanderthal offense at USF. He is certainly NO Kelce or Kittle, but I believe that he can catch more than 2 balls per game, and block the rest of the time, like he has in college. He moves well and has a dependable pair of hands. It will also help him that the TE group for the 2020 Draft looks to be pretty mediocre, though fairly deep. WILCOX has a good reputation as a team player, who was willing to sacrifice his own role for the good of the team.  For 2019, he finished the season with 28 catches at 12.5 ypc, with 5 TD’s. He had his usual 2 catches against UCF, but in his defense, I saw him blocking in pass-pro as often as I saw him out running patterns. He is currently scheduled to participate in the Shrine Bowl in St. Pete. This may be his best chance, prior to the Combine, to impress pro talent evaluators with his all around play and practice habits.

Clip notes:

Watching the Washington/Washington State game last Saturday, I caught sight of a negative habit in the throwing mechanics of State QB ANTHONY GORDON. Under reasonable pressure much of the game, he made way too many throws standing totally flat footed with no follow thru other than his arm. Not what NFL folks want to see their future QB doing. He is the first QB to be announced by the Senior Bowl, btw.

It was a very frustrating weekend of scouting games for yours truly. Being the end of the regular season, way too many prospects were banged up and not playing. For instance, VANDY has had a bad season as it is, but then on top of it, TE/JARED PINKNEY was out for the game, and in the first half RB/Ke’SHAWN VAUGHN went out with a shoulder injury. He came back in, but was hampered until HC DEREK MASON declared him out, rather than let him further damage his bad shoulder.

Count me as one of the truly surprised to hear of the resignation of Huskies Head Coach CHRIS PETERSEN out in Seattle.  At only 55-years old, one has to wonder about the proverbial burn-out that coaches are subject to. Let’s hope it is that, and not a health condition.