Who Caught My Eye Weeks 11/12

November 24, 2015

I’m doing a slight variation on a theme for the rest of the College season. Since I have multiple game tapes recorded and the games are dwindling down I will be doing prospect thumbnail sketches based on games I have just watched, either live or recorded. I will be sure to indicate which games I am using for the profiles. The goal now is to get as many players covered as possible for you.

BLYTHE is just what we all have come to expect from the Iowa program under HC FERENTZ. He’s pro ready, polished in his fundamentals, but with very little upside. What you see is what you get from BLYTHE. He’s slightly undersized but makes up for some of that missing weight with his solid technique. I watched him carefully in the W over Minnesota, which has a stout solid Defense. He uses good leg drive and hand usage to move defenders where he needs them to go. He has very nice footwork and little wasted motion. On several occasions I noticed he responded very quickly to inside blitzes and picked up the LB/DB to buy more time for his QB. He stays on his feet and keeps them under his pads in either run or pass blocking. He is also adept at staying down in his stance to maximize his leverage and strength. He should make a very solid pro lineman for a team that uses a zone blocking scheme. Power running, man blocking offenses may want to look elsewhere fort their OC. Draftable but not until Rounds 4/5.

Watching CALHOUN in the big showdown game with Ohio State was disappointing to me. Then again I’ve been unimpressed with CALHOUN pretty much for the last two seasons. I don’t see anything really special about his play. Against the Buckeyes he was credited with 3 tackles, including 1/2 TFL. And I think his game is not going to translate to the NFL well at all. He has not added any significant weight to his frame in 3 years. Yet he’s not light enough on his feet to stand up and spend considerable time as an OLB in any scheme I am aware of. He’s not explosive off the snap and spends a lot of time engaged with the OT he lines up against. In 11 games this season he has 37 tackles, which include 11.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks & 15 QBH. He’s been a solid, reasonably productive college football player, but not the special guy he’s often made out to be. To put it bluntly, he ain’t no JOEY BOSA. Against the Buckeyes CALHOUN was particularly vulnerable to cut blocks, which usually took him off his feet. I wouldn’t draft CALHOUN until Draft Saturday and only for a 4-3 scheme. I think he’s going to be overpowered trying to set the edge against the run, and not quick enough to excel as a pass rusher.

This tough kid is not the next WARREN SAPP, but he is stout, reasonably athletic and plays with urgency. A lot if his game is just relentless push and leg drive into the middle of the line. He is very thick through the legs and mid-section, and will overpower a smaller OC. He is also capable of occasionally penetrating through gaps to collapse the pocket. Although I think JIM MORA and his staff got a bit cute at times with their player usage, it does speak well for THOMAS as an athlete that they actually put him in the backfield a a blocker on one goal line possession. However, he was exposed in that scenario when he was not fast enough to get out and lead on a play run wide to the left. Coaches’ bad, not the player’s IMO. I noticed in the WSU game that when THOMAS was getting a brief rest, the UCLA line was usually blown off the ball. His relentless leg action and strong, active hands propelled THOMAS to 4 tackles in the game, including 3 sacks. Despite being listed at 6’3 (he might be shorter) he was credited with tipping two passes in this contest. I don’t see him as bulky enough to play the Nose in a 3-4 as a pro, so I project him to a team with a standard 4-3 scheme as their base defensive set. I luv his energy and his productivity. Mark him down as having 2nd Round potential.

UCLA coaches have been waiting for this prospect to fulfill his perceived potential as a top notch Kicker. He has been a solid, if unspectacular Kicker coming into 2015, but has been almost perfect this season. Against WSU he was 4/4 on his field goal attempts. At that point he was 19/20 on FG and 39/39 on XP for the season. He’s not a booming kicker but in the right wind conditions is able to give it a go past 50-yards. He has a nice smooth leg action and gets good trajectory on his kicks out of the hold. I expect we will see him at an All-Star venue which could enhance his rating heading to the Combine. I do not project him to be drafted right now, but he is certainly one of the top 3-4 Kicking prospects based on his accuracy and cool demeanor. He’s probably a bit more of a prospect than KAI FORBATH was coming out of the Bruins’ program.

FLOYD is a bit of a puzzlement to me as I try to project him to the pro game. He’s long and instinctive to the ball. He has some natural edge-rush skills that lead to more than his share of sacks and QBH. But is he too long, and lean, to be as productive as a pro as he has been as a collegian? My scrutiny of him came against Auburn, which has a pretty solid OL. For the game (a UGA W) FLOYD was credited with 6 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 Sack. His 1st Quarter sack was a thing of beauty as he put an inside swim move on the LT and spun right into the QB. He was quite disruptive and caused blocking assignment night mares all day long. But he’s sliding around blockers with his quickness and balance, that may not be as effective against most NFL OL groups. To excel at the NFL level he’ll need to play for an innovative DC who will move him around to take advantage of his quickness, and diagnostic skills, while trying to keep big bodies and extra blockers off of his thin body. And of course, he needs to find a way to bulk up by 10-15 lbs. without losing his quickness. Look for him to explode at the Combine if he comes out, which I think he will.

Mark this man down as another solid tackling machine. FROST recorded 87 tackles in 2014 and had 83 through 10 games this year. He’s athletic and productive enough to stay out on the field for both long and short yardage situations. His versatility is reflected in his overall numbers. He also has 2 TFL, 2 INT, 1 FF & 2 QBH on the season. He’s a very active defender who responds quickly to the ball. He can also be seen well downfield in pass coverage each game. He finishes off quite a few tackles for his team with his ball pursuit downfield. The big question mark is likely to be whether he’s just a half-step slow to be as productive at the pro level. We might get a feel for that if he plays at the Senior Bowl and by what he’s able to do in shorts at the Combine. An NFL team will certainly have no worries about him giving them full effort, and his FBI. He posted his usual stat listing with 9 tackles against Georgia two weeks ago. I see his best chance to succeed in the NFL in a 3-4 scheme, where he will play both inside and outside depending upon down and distance. I would also expect him to contribute effectively on Special Teams units all around. I’d project him to be a mid-Round (5) draft selection.

I have thought about thumb-nailing GOFF for over a month. But I wanted to find a game against a top notch opponent, but one in which GOFF would not be a tackling dummy behind a mediocre to poor CAL OL. So I settled on the Stanford game, based on the rivalry aspect, and the fact that though not dominant the Cardinal defense plays big boy football. My final analysis leads me to say, come on out and be the first QB taken in the 2016 NFL Draft Mr. GOFF. While working under considerable pass-rush pressure GOFF was outstanding. Keeping a clean pocket for GOFF to throw from has been a challenge pretty much all season. But in this losing cause GOFF was 37/54- 68.5%- 386 yards- 2 TD- 0 INT. He shows good mobility, and though his somewhat slight frame would discourage him from tucking the ball and running too often, he is a good athlete. I’ll even go so far as to say he is somewhat of a smaller framed, less experienced ANDREW LUCK. His passing mechanics look very good overall and he can make all the throws. He has a very live arm, yet throws a very catchable ball. He shows touch as needed on his throws. I even smiled when he carried out his throwing motion fakes after handing off to the RB, ala BRETT FAVRE in his PACKERS days. He is very good with room to get even better. He is reported to have a very high FBI, and I have no reason to doubt that watching him. The only times I have seen him get into INT trouble is when he forces throws when falling way behind. Sounds like LUCK again to me. Despite losing against better competition once the PAC-12 segment of the schedule came along GOFF has maintained his cool and kept his team in the hunt on most weekends.

Out on the field this player looks a bit shorter and a bit stouter than his program numbers. We’ll likely find out at the Combine what the truth is about his size. But he is an intriguing combination of strength and agility with the ball in his hands. He was operating at far less than 100% for much of the mid-season, but finally looks ready to rumble for the late Bowl run. Following an early turnover TOLEDO drove 27 yards in 4 plays, each of which was a HUNT run, for their first TD of the night. Toledo alternates 3 RB, with HUNT getting the bulk of the carries when healthy. In the big showdown game with BGSU, HUNT ended up with 29 carries, for 153 yards & 2TD. Not bad against one of the best Defenses in the MAC. His long run for the night was 41-yards. He’s not a long distance threat, but gains lots of yards after initial contact with a combination of power and balance. He also shows quick feet and the ability to jump-cut to change direction. Defenders taking him on will feel the pain in most instances. On several occasions I saw him eyeball a small seam in the defense and explode through it to get to the second level. This may sound like sacrilege to many, but his size and running style remind me quite a bit of EMMITT SMITH. He could be headed for another 1000 yard season, which would tell me it’s time to head to the NFL. He’s up to 755 yards (including 9 rushing TD) on less than 150 carries. He could have 3 games left to play, and if healthy should top that mark. If he does come out the Combine will be very important for him. I think he’s worthy of a Day Two Draft selection, but we shall see.

I don’t often say this about Iowa players, but KING has elite athletic gifts in addition to his solid coached-up technique. He is faster than you might guess initially and should test quite nicely at the Combine. He finds the ball quickly in Iowa’s Zone D and can make plays on the ball in the air. Even though he did not have an INT against the Gophers he led the country with 8 going into that game. He is very dangerous as a return man in his spare time. At the end of the 3rd Quarter as Minnesota was mounting a comeback KING returned a Kick-Off 58 yards to thwart Minnesota’s post TD momentum. He has a strong, solid physique and pro scouts luv his strong and active hand usage. He looks like, and hits like a Safety in run support. This guy is the complete CB package, and the time may be right for him to pack up his bags and head to the NFL after this outstanding season for both him individually, as well as his team. His versatility and athleticism will be big selling cards for NFL personnel people. Sorry IOWA fans. After watching him closely in this contest I see him as a potential late First Rounder if he comes out for the 2016 NFL Draft.

Last year one of the biggest puzzlements to me was how PHILLIP DORSETT/WR/MIAMI could have all that speed plus good hands, yet be targeted so few times by his QB. He blazed his way through the Combine and was a First Rounder for the COLTS. MITCHELL poses the same question marks this year. He has been nicked up and missed games throughout his career, but even during healthy stretches his numbers are underwhelming. Against Auburn he caught only 2 balls for 20 yards. I also spied him making a very solid goal-line block on a sweep play to tie the game up at 10-10 in the third quarter. I realize the Bulldogs have some real QB issues this year, but somehow a guy with MITCHELL’s speed, hands and yards-after-catch potential should be getting more touches IMO. He should be drafted, but he’s not close to being in my Top 100 right now. Buyer beware, if he blows things up in shorts at the Combine.

Even though WASHINGTON STATE pulled the big upset over UCLA you certainly couldn’t blame PAYTON for the loss. He was outstanding as the go to guy for frosh QB ROSEN. PAYTON does not have deep speed, nor ankle breaking quickness. All he does is get some separation with tight patterns and catch most everything coming his way. Against WSU he caught 14 balls, for 152 yards. He uses his body well to screen off defenders from throws, bounces off would-be tacklers and gets bonus yardage quite often. As an added bonus he is already a very solid blocker downfield in the running game and for his fellow receivers after the catch. He makes a lot of catches in 3rd down situations and runs his patterns to the proper yardage needed to move the sticks. I see his value as a pro in the role of the No. 3 receiver. Right now I’d project him being drafted in Round 4/5, but if he puts up some better than expected speed/quickness numbers at the Combine his good hands and reliability could bump him up into Top 100 prospect status.

This is not a great year for the TE position prospect list to put it mildly. I see some very nice H-Back/slot type pass catchers who are big bodied WR, but don’t offer much more than that. VANNETT may be the closest thing we have to a good inline blocking TE who can also go out and effectively run some pass routes. VANNETT does a lot of H-Back work as well. He runs pass routes for State, but the TE seldom gets targeted in their scheme. Thus he had 3 catches against the Spartans for a paltry 9 yards. How about if I just say I feel petty certain that he is vastly underutilized for his talents. In fact the TE is always a rotation group position for Coach URBAN. VANNETT is reasonably athletic and though he’s no Gronkowski I truly believe he can be more productive as a pro than he has been in college. I think he could be similar to KYLE RUDOLPH for the VIKINGS, and a very valuable inline piece for Red Zone and short yardage situations. For teams without a true FB he could have value in that H-Back role.

Some guys may not have the speed numbers everyone wants to see, but they are just plain solid football players. I believe WILLIAMS fits that bill. He has excellent hands and ball awareness. I was amazed at several of his catches in the WSU upset (I guess) of UCLA. His TD catch on a ball thrown directly over his head was outstanding. He showed good hands all night long. He keeps the ball away from his body when possible and works the sidelines to his advantage. He is one of the Cougars go-to guys on third down situations. He has good length to extend for throws as well. With a speed receiver on the other side of the field to loosen up the secondary I think this guy will make a very productive No. 2 receiving option as a pro. Against a fast, hard hitting UCLA secondary WILLIAMS pulled in 7 catches for 100 yards, which included that 30-yard TD. Assuming a bunch of outstanding underclassmen will flood the Draft Class, WILLIAMS likely gets relegated to Day 3 Draft status. That will only mean some NFL team gets a bargain next April, in the middle rounds.