Who Caught My Eye Week 9

By | November 2, 2015

CARSON, an Oregon transfer, is the leading RB for the Aggies with 646 yards through 8 games, surpassing his 2014 season total already. He played a big part in the team’s tight win over South Carolina last Saturday, carrying 21 times for 122 yards and 1 TD. He is a power back who runs hard north and south most of the time. He carries tacklers for additional yards after contact on many of his rushes. A nice plus to his game is a very reliable pair of hands and a natural pass catching style on short throws out of the backfield. He also has 25 catches for the season. He looks to me like a nice candidate to be a second RB option for a team with a speed guy as their starter. I think he might also have very solid value as a Red Zone option because he runs low to the ground, is hard to bring down and can catch screens out of the backfield. I could see CARSON as a late round draftee next April, and a nice addition to the Shrine or NFLPA game rosters.

I have discussed several times in this space that the NFL has reached a place in it’s development that teams must find room for players of “questionable” size on their roster. Mighty Might GRANT may be one of those players. He’s a do-it-all offensive/Special Teams performer who can flip the field in a heart beat with his combination of speed and quickness. He was a major factor in keeping TECH in their contest with unbeaten Oklahoma State. He got everyone’s attention in the 1st Quarter with his 100 yard (actually 107 unofficially) kick-off return. And he never took the pedal off the metal as he blazed around the field in between re-taping of an ankle that got twisted on a TD reception. In fact he had 210 all-purpose yards in the 1st Quarter alone as TECH forged a lead on the Cowboys. I am not sure if he has more speed or greater quickness, but he clearly has plenty of each. When the dust cleared and STATE had rallied for the win GRANT had 13 catches for 178 yards and 1 TD. He also averaged 48.7 yards on 3 kick returns. You look at his size and scoff at the notion he could survive in the NFL, but I maintain if limited to about 12 touches per game, he would still have a chance to impact the contest every week. I’d draft him for my team in the 5th/6th Round and chart his plays carefully.

HACKENBERG has been a savior of sorts for Penn State since arriving as a 5-star recruit under BILL O’BRIEN in the post-SANDUSKY era. He’s now a junior and toiling for HC JAMES FRANKLIN. It has been a bit of a challenge for HACKENBERG & FRANKLIN to devise an offensive system that suits them both. FRANKLIN prefers an option style QB to run a spread attack, while CHRIS is a traditional pocket passer. Given better athletes surrounding him HACKENBERG is having a breakout season, as are the Nittany Lions, who now stand at 7-2 after their convincing 39-0 victory over a solid ILLINOIS team. HACKENBERG has a big arm, but understands touch on the ball and throws very catchable passes. He may not be a scrambler, but he is athletic enough to move around and extend plays. He demonstrated that against the Illini who often beat up on a very average State OL. For the game HACKENBERG was 21/29, 72.4%, 266 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT. That lack of an INT is major progress for HACK, who had 15 INT/12 TD in 2014.This season he has 13 TD and only 2 INT. My guess is that he has learned as much as he can at State relative to a pro career, and may be best served to move on perhaps like BLAKE BORTLES did by leaving UCF after his junior season. He may not be game ready for the NFL 2016 season, but should still be a Top 10 Draft Pick at the ripe old age of 21 next April.

I have LOUIS marked down as a sleeper receiving prospect for the 2016 Draft. He was supposed to play second fiddle this season to SHAQ WILLIAMS, who was kicked off the Auburn team last month. LOUIS is trying to pick up the slack, but the Tigers miss QB KEITH MARSHALL more than they thought they would, and play at their QB position is down this season as a result. I believe LOUIS is an under-developed receiver right now, with the size and speed to excel at the pro level. In the close loss to Ole Miss LOUIS caught 4 balls for 137 yards and 1 TD. He’s a smooth running, big target who could make a very solid No. 2 wideout for some NFL team with patience and good coaching. He should look good in post-season All-Star action and at the Combine. I would expect him to be an early Saturday draftee.

One of the great names in this year’s Draft Class. He’s an interesting prospect, who is getting a chance to show his multiple skill sets under new DC WILL MUSCHAMP, who has a knack at finding niches for his players. McKINZY showed some natural pass rush ability from both the inside and outside against Ole Miss, but also showed he can be a big thumper against the run as well. I thought he even showed some ability to drop into shallow coverage a couple of times. Clearly MUSCHAMP is not reluctant to use McKINZY in multiple defensive roles. If you watched the game and thought you saw CASSANOVA as a very active player you were correct. Here was his stat line for the day: 9 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 sack, 5 QB hurries. Now picture that kind of athlete/performer in an attacking 3-4 defensive scheme like the STEELERS or PACKERS. McKINZY has a chance to push into a Friday Draft position. A Senior Bowl appearance could provide a huge stage for him to perform on.

This long, lanky guy reminds me a bit of ALEX HENERY, when he kicked for Nebraska. Even though the Horned Frogs aren’t prone to very many close games OBERKRON has been a nice security blanket for that probability. In their eventual romp over WVU last THursday night he kicked 4/4 field goals, with a long of 57 yards, when drives stalled for TCU earlier in the game. He is now 12/15 on the season on those rare occasions that BOYKIN and Co. can’t reach the end zone. His leg is strong, giving him 50-yard range almost every week. He can also reach the end zone with his kick-offs. For a guy his height, and he’s very long legged, his leg swing mechanics are very consistent and smooth. I would doubt he gets drafted but he should be in an NFL Training Camp with a serious chance to earn an NFL roster spot.

This long drink of water may be one of the “prettiest” prospects out there as you watch him run around the field in pads. And I dare say that I think he just oozes of potential, despite the act that he is a star already. I was slightly taken aback at first, watching him against Texas Tech, because I did not see the quickness and explosion that I expected from him. But the longer I watched the more I appreciated his playing style. He maintains awareness of the action around him on the field, looking to complete his assignments and responsibilities, not just pinning his ears back and flying to the QB. He may have to pick that up a bit in the quick release NFL, but I like his all-around game. If needed I would guess that his frame could accept another 10+ lbs if desired. I like him best on the weak side/blind side in a 4-3 scheme, where that athleticism can avoid some traffic, but he’s a bit more than just a pure edge-rusher, IMO. I would describe his overall playing style as controlled, but relentless. Against Tech OGBAH recorded 7 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 3 QBH (my count). He now has 7.5 Sacks on the season and looks poised to top his 2014 total of 11 sacks. Sorry OKie State fans, but he is another young man who I think is ready both mentally and physically for the NFL. I look for him to declare and be another guy who likely goes in the Top 10 of the Draft.

This edition of WCME has been populated by some very big names in the prospect world. Now I want to present to you a player who might be labeled a “late bloomer'” in the vernacular of us older talent scouts. RASHAD played sparingly (2 starts) in 2014 and recorded only 18 tackles on the season. His main claim to fame was as an absolute standout on pretty much all the Tar Heel Special Teams units. He’s still all that in his senior season, but has been thrust into a starting slot at LB and has flourished. In the big UNC win over PITT he looked equally adept at dropping into pass coverage as he did playing the run and rushing the QB. He was credited with 6 tackles and 1 QBH for the day, and was outstanding in kick and punt coverage. On the season his stat sheet is quite impressive with it’s versatility through 8 games: 54 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 QBH, 3 FF, 1 PBU & 2 INT. Despite the lack of a Sack I will tell you he’s just a bit of technique away from a few of those as well. He looks to me to be a player who is going to be very impressive with his Combine or Pro Day testing numbers. I would project him to be a late round pick who may have a very nice pro career. I hope to see him at the Shrine Venue in January.

REDMOND is likely out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury. So I went back to look at him on tape against Southern Miss, which has a solid team this year. Here is what I saw. As expected he showed well i coverage whether in man-press or zone. He is very quick to react to the ball in the air. He gets to balls that look like sure completions when they are thrown. He made a few tackles, but he did not look like a guy who relishes putting his nose into ball carriers. He jumped all over a sideline throw throw for a pick in the 2nd Quarter. I’d like to see him be more assertive in run support, but his real value lies in coverage. He appears to be the next Miss State CB to be headed for a pro career. At the very least he looks like a potential slot coverage guy, but he has the tools to be more. His medical check at the Combine could be critical to his draft status.

This former walk-on has become one of the Badgers most reliable and important defenders. His forte is getting after the passer. I reviewed IOWA game tape and can tell you he did his job and then some in that defensive struggle, where the Badgers lost despite the Defense only allowing 10 points. Let me tell you what I saw him do. I counted 3 outright Sacks for the game along with 4 QB hurries. He forced 2 fumbles and one of his hurries resulted in an INT. That’s my notes, not an official stat count. But he looks to me like more of an all-around LB than he’s given credit for. He peeled off into pass coverage on multiple occasions and clearly looked like a player who can cover most inline TE. He can get tied up at times by blockers, but he usually fights free with upper body strength and flexibility. He’s not elite, nor in my Top 100. But I will say I see him as draftable, as early as Round 4. Looks like strong Shrine Game material to me and should be invited to the Combine, where I think his numbers will be better than a lot of folks think.

TUNSIL is finally back on the field after being held out while the NCAA completed an investigation into allegations of receiving perks from agent-types. He still looks to be in excellent football shape. I cannot believe how low he gets in his natural 3-point stance. He had his work cut out for him against Auburn because star DE CARL LAWSON was back in action for the Tigers. At the end of the day I declared the TUNSIL/LAWSON match-up as a draw. He was called for 2 pre-snap penalties in the first half, likely because of the loud crown noise at Auburn. But he looked more comfortable and effective as the game wore on. He may have looked a bit rusty, but his conditioning was good as he played the entire game. He’s what scouts are looking for in today’s NFL. He’s a long athlete with smooth footwork. I’m guessing his arms will be quite long when measured at the Combine. And yes, I don’t see how he doesn’t come out now that the NCAA is tracking his off-field actions. Expect him to be a Top 10 draftee, and likely the first OL taken in 2016. Sorry Ole Miss fans.

This big stout guy fits the description of a mauler, but with surprising athleticism for his body type. He’s a wide body with that big base pro teams looks for. He did a lot of pulling in action against PITT. And for his bulk he was quite smooth and effective doing so. Defenders were driven back on their heels all night with TURNER’s power and leverage. He does a nice job staying low out of his stance and getting into the bodies of his targets. Not a huge surprise, but he was a bit slow reacting to a couple of inside blitzes. I believe he saw them, but was unable to move quickly enough to stuff them. Overall, he’s aggressive with his hand punch and can rock defenders with it. He may be considered more pro ready than some other OL prospects because UNC plays more of a pro style Offense and that may allow him to fit into a pro system pretty quickly. I felt I saw him make extra blocks when plays were extended beyond the original play call assignments. I liked what I saw and would project him as a 2nd or 3rd Round draftee next April. Look for him at the Senior Bowl.