LSU 47, West Virginia 21
There were a number of quality draft prospects in the game featuring LSU at West Virginia. A few of those prospects had impressive games, but no player was as impressive as West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
The junior Smith entered the game as a mid-rounder, but he put together a fabulous tape for NFL talent evaluators. He had a very impressive game against one of the best defenses in college football. Smith had a gritty performance and showed the ability to throw the ball accurately in the short, intermediate, and deep part of the field. He showed poise in the pocket and kept his eyes downfield without looking at the rush.
One of Smith�s most impressive attributes is his field vision. He is able to read the defense and does not lock onto his primary receiver. Smith showed some advanced skills to look off safeties and linebackers to help get his receivers open. He also did a good job of using a pump fake that many college quarterbacks don't execute well.
For the game, Smith completed 38-of-65 passes for 463 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. As his passing numbers indicate, he did a good job of moving the ball downfield against the Tigers� defense. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Smith still needs some development in his mechanics and footwork, but he has a fabulous skill set. If Smith continues to have a big season and declares for the 2012 draft, he could be a second-day pick. It would probably be better for him to return for his senior year and improve to have a shot at going higher in 2013.
West Virginia's defense featured three players who are in the running to get drafted in the first three rounds next year. Cornerback Keith Tandy, defense end Bruce Irvin and defensive end Julian Miller had the opportunity to show what they could do against a balanced LSU offense that seems to be improving each game.
Keith Tandy had the best game of the Mountaineer defenders. The 5-foot-10, 198-pounder had good coverage throughout the game. He had a near interception on a deflection and juggled the ball, but it fell incomplete. Later in the first half, Tandy had a nice pass break up, when on a deep slant, he ran with the receiver down the field. He was able to close ground and pop the receiver, Russell Shepard, just as the ball hit his arms, to fall incomplete. It was a technically-sound play from Tandy.
At the end of the first half, Tandy had a good tackle on a perimeter run to stop a third down conversion attempt short of first down yardage. He did a good job of working his way through trash and cutting around a pile to get the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage.
Tandy finished the game with six tackles and one pass broken up. He looks like a solid third-round pick.
Some rate Bruce Irvin highly as a first-round pick due to his 2010 season where he recorded 14 sacks as a situational pass rusher. He had 21 tackles for the season with two forced fumbles. Irvin (6-3) added weight this offseason and is up to 245 pounds. While still undersized, West Virginia has Irvin as a starter this season and keeps him on the field for all three downs.
Early in the game, Irvin had a number of runs come his direction but did not hold up very well. Later on, he had an impressive run stuff in the second quarter. At the snap of the ball, Irvin held his ground when getting hit by the left tackle. He then ran around the tackle and got in the hole to stop the back at the line of scrimmage.
Irvin was very quiet in the pass-rushing department. He had one pressure of quarterback Jarrett Lee, and did not record a sack. The LSU offensive line was ready for Irvin's speed rush and was able to block it. Irvin had one big play in the fourth quarter when he made a tackle on a reverse for a loss of nine yards. Irvin, who was unblocked, read the reverse and burst into the backfield to make the tackle. In the game, he recorded four tackles with 1.5 tackles for a loss.
It wasn't a tape that will help Irvin's draft stock. It looks clear that he will have to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. His run defense is a weakness, but if Irvin can add more weight, he should be better poised to defend the run. While some rate Irvin as a first-rounder, I'm skeptical of that. He looks like a one-trick pony who, in my estimation, is a second-day pick.
Julian Miller has gotten off to a slow start in 2011 with nine tackles and one tackle for a loss with a forced fumble and zero sacks in four games. He was held in check against LSU with two tackles in the game.
The 6-foot-4, 268-pound Miller will need to improve his run defense in the NFL, since LSU was running right at him with some success. At the end of the first quarter, the Tigers had a touchdown run going through Miller's gap. His one solo tackle was a nice read on a screen pass that he ran over to make the stop at the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, he was very quiet against the Tigers. Miller looks like a fringe third or fourth-round pick at this time, but he is going to need to pick up his production in order stay in that range.
LSU wide receiver Reuben Randle had an uneven performance against West Virginia. On the opening drive of the game for the LSU offense, Randle finished it with a short touchdown catch on a slant.
It was a well-executed route and catch from Randle on a play that the majority of NFL offenses will ask to him to run repeatedly. He helped move the ball on a few other catches. Early in the third quarter, LSU went back to that scoring play. Randle was open again on the slant, but he dropped a perfect strike that hit him in the hands. It was a bad drop on a routine catch. The 6-foot-4, 208-pounder is a possession receiver who looks like third-day pick. He would probably be best as Z (flanker) receiver in a West Coast offense.
The player in this game that is most likely to be drafted the highest next April is LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. The 6-foot, 185-pounder has been putting together a banner junior season that has pushed his stock into the first round, if he decides to skip his senior season and enter the draft. With the year Claiborne is having, it would be surprising if he wasn't in next April's draft.
The game didn't start well for Claiborne as he was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the West Virginia�s second possession. It was a pretty standard shoving match that carried over after a block between Claiborne and a wide out. Claiborne gave the receiver a stiff shot just after the whistle was blown. It happened in front of a ref, otherwise it probably wouldn�t have been called, as that kind of thing happens after the majority of plays in football. The penalty got Claiborne some time on the sidelines.
LSU was playing a lot of zone coverage. In the first half, West Virginia was throwing the ball a lot, but the vast majority of passes were going to the opposite side of the field from Claiborne. Early in the second quarter, Claiborne got beat in zone. Smith threw an outlet pass to wide receiver Stedman Bailey around the 15-yard line. Claiborne flew over, but overpursued due to his momentum, while he tried to stop and break down to get set up to make an open-field tackle Bailey cut back. Claiborne dove at his legs, but fell short and Bailey ran into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown reception.
In the third quarter, Bailey caught a crossing route on Claiborne, and though the junior cornerback ripped the ball away, Bailey was already down on the ground.
Just as West Virginia was mounting a comeback with the score at 27-21, Claiborne took a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, serving as a gut punch to West Virginia. He started in the middle of the field and broke towards the sideline. Claiborne shook off a tackle in midfield and again on the sideline to break back towards the middle of the field and run away from all the Mountaineers to score a decisive touchdown for LSU. When his team needed a big play, he stepped up and provided a game-changing play.
Claiborne finished the game with four tackles and a pass broken up. He returned three kicks for 154 yards and a score. Even with the missed tackle and penalty, Claiborne showed that he is very talented and ready for the next level. His stock looks to be in the middle of the first round right now.
South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 3
There was a very good draft matchup was in the game between Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward took on Gamecocks' wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. The latter is considered to be a high first-round pick while the former entered the game as a high second-round pick. The two battled each other and both had good plays in the contest.
Early in the game, Jeffery got things started by finding a soft sport in zone coverage to catch an outside curl route for a Gamecocks� first down. Hayward was able to end that possession by intercepting a bad pass from South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia to negate a potential scoring drive. The ball was thrown up for grabs by Garcia, but Hayward saw the ball in the air, tracked it, and ran under the pass for his third interception of the season.
Later in the first quarter, he intercepted Garcia again. On the play, Hayward was covering Jeffery closely, but Garcia's pass was behind Jeffery and came into the waiting arms of Hayward, who returned the pick for 21 yards before being tackled.
Jeffery's effort to make the tackle after the interception definitely left something to be desired, as he didn't directly chase the cornerback, who was slanting towards the middle of the field. Instead, Jeffery started running downfield along the sideline and then veered towards the middle of the field to get an angle to track Hayward far downfield from where the interception occurred. However, Hayward was tackled well before Jeffery would have been in position to bring him down. The pick set up Vanderbilt's only score in the game.
Hayward showed some good run defense by running into a hole to tackle South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. It was a good tackle where Hayward took the back�s legs out from underneath him. Later in the second quarter, he had another tough tackle on Lattimore after a run off tackle.
Jeffery got some revenge on Hayward late in the second quarter, getting a step on the corner while running a deep post. The ball was underthrown which let Hayward close the gap with Jeffery. Hayward was fighting with Jeffery for position, and the ball fell incomplete. However, Hayward was flagged for interference. On the next play, Jeffery beat Hayward on a deep in for a gain of 21, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty on South Carolina's offensive line.
Later in the second half, Hayward had a good tackle on a tight end who got open, running down the seam in Cover 2 coverage. Hayward broke over quickly to make sure there was no run after the catch.
Overall, Hayward held his own going against one of the best receivers in the country. The Vanderbilt cornerback finished the game with three tackles, two interceptions and a pass broken up. It was a good game for him, showing he can be a quality cover corner against an elite receiver. Hayward (5-11, 188) made the argument for himself to be a late first-rounder with his success against Jeffery. Currently, Hayward is tied for the lead in the nation with four interceptions. He now has 12 career interceptions and should have an impressive total of picks by the end of the season.
South Carolina tried to get Jeffery involved in the game, targeting him a number of times, but not on high percentage throws. On his seventh target of the game, Jeffery ran a nine route in the middle of the field but was double covered, and the pass was broken up.
On the eighth pass thrown his way, Jeffery caught a 28-yard touchdown pass on a jump ball in the end zone against the sideline. Though originally ruled a score, upon further review the replay showed that his first foot to come down was out of bounds. The play was overturned and the touchdown taken away. Hayward was not in coverage.
Later, Jeffery beat cornerback Trey Wilson for a leaping catch to tip the ball to himself and come down with a good gain. It was the 10th target of the game for Jeffery, but only his second reception. He finished the game with two receptions for 34 yards.
South Carolina needs to do a better job of targeting him with higher percentage throws like 10-yard out patterns, bubble screens, and mix in some fade routes when in the red zone. So many of the throws to him are jump balls as he is running deep down the field, since Garcia is just not good enough or accurate enough as a quarterback to put passes where Jeffery can make the play. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder has 14 catches for 246 yards and one touchdown in four games this season. The Gamecocks are simply not taking advantage of having a high first-round pick on their offense.
A cornerback who is likely to be selected before Hayward is South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore, who had a mixed game against Vanderbilt. He recorded his first interception of the season but also fumbled the ball on a punt return.
The fumble came first: Gilmore was running with the ball away from his body, letting his arm swing around. It came loose after he bumped into one of his own teammates, but luckily for him, South Carolina recovered the ball.
Gilmore�s first interception came on a jump ball. It looked like it was caught by both players, and technically a tie is supposed to go to the offense, but the officials on the field ruled it an interception. The play was reviewed, and it stayed an interception for Gilmore as there was not enough evidence to overturn it.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has a very good skill set. He is fast, tall and strong, plus generally does a good job in run defense. Gilmore has a ceiling that he hasn't come close to hitting yet with South Carolina. Perhaps NFL coaching can turn Gilmore into the dominant player that he has the potential to be. He looks like a top-20 pick.
Edging out Hayward as the standout of the game was South Carolina defensive end/tackle Melvin Ingram, who had a dominant performance against Vanderbilt. He entered the game as a potential third-round pick, and definitely sent his stock up with this big game.
To get the game started, Ingram scored his third touchdown of the season, which came after star freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sacked and forced a fumble from quarterback Larry Smith. The football was picked up and returned by Gamecocks defender Antonio Allen to the 12-yard line, when he fumbled when getting tackled. The ball rolled into the end zone, where Ingram promptly dove on the ball for his third touchdown of the season.
For a point of reference, Ingram has more touchdowns this season than many star receivers, including teammate Jeffery, Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner, and Stanford wide receiver Chris Owusu.
Aside from the play, Ingram had a massive game on defense. He snuffed out a screen for a big tackle for a loss when he busted through the line, recognized the screen, and redirected to tackle the ball carrier immediately after the reception. This heady play caused a loss of eight yards on third down.
Later on a wide receiver screen, Ingram made another fabulous read, leaping into the air to break up the pass. Following that, he had a good tackle in run defense just before halftime, and a few plays later sacked the quarterback. Ingram lined up as a three-technique defensive tackle and had no problems beating the guard. He flew through the gap at the snap of the ball and shoved the guard�s hands away before running down the signal caller.
Ingram notched his second sack of the game in the fourth quarter, later finishing with four tackles, three tackles for a loss, two sacks, one pass broken up and one fumble recovery for a touchdown. It was a fabulous performance that shows his skill set as a strong, quick, versatile and intelligent football player. The 6-foot-2, 276-pounder looks like a good value pick after the first round. He could be a good starting left defensive end in a 4-3 defense with the ability to rush from the inside on passing downs.
Defensive end Devin Taylor had a breakout game for South Carolina as well. Entering the season, he was viewed as a first-round pick, but was very quiet in the first few games, including a bad performance against Georgia. That game may have motivated him, since he came back to record nine tackles last week against Navy. Against Vanderbilt, Taylor broke into the sack column for the first time this season. Coming from left end, he read a bootleg and came unblocked after Smith. It was a smart read by Taylor to not follow the run fake to his right and charge upfield to close on Smith in a hurry. It was a loss of nine on the play.
Later on, Taylor used his height (6-7) and leaping ability to jump and bat a pass away at the line of scrimmage, almost intercepting the pass for the Gamecocks. That wasn't the only near turnover for him against Vanderbilt. On a bad snap, he almost recovered a fumble, diving on Smith just as the ball was recovered. The off-the-mark shotgun snap got past Smith, and the signal caller used his head start to barely beat Taylor to the ball. In the NFL, Taylor would have gotten credit for a sack on the play. He has a ways to go to restore the postion of his draft stock, but seems to be starting in that direction.
Hayward wasn't the only Vanderbilt draft prospect to get an interception from Garcia. Middle linebacker Chris Marve made a big play for his team. In the second half, he intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone. It was intended for Jeffery, who was running a crossing route on the goal line, but the pass was way behind him. Jeffery reached back getting a couple finger tips on the ball, but that lifted it up in the air. Marve snatched the ball away and ran it for 20 yards, before tossing it to a defensive back for a few more yards on the return.
Otherwise, Marve had his hands full contending with Lattimore. Marve had some good plays in run defense, but also had some plays where he was ridden out by offensive linemen. Also, Lattimore did beat Marve in a one-on-one pass route out of the backfield for a good gain. Marve finished the game with nine tackles and the interception. The mid-rounder didn't do anything to change his draft stock for better or worse.
Arizona State 43, USC 22
The game between USC and Arizona State featured more than few future draft picks squaring off against each other. Among the game's future first-rounders were USC's Matt Barkley (QB) and Matt Kalil (LT) against Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict (MLB). There was trash talking before the game, with Barkley saying in an interview that Burfict was a dirty player. Burfict didn't respond to the quote, but he did respond with his play against USC.
In the first half, Barkley struggled in the red zone, and USC had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. Part of that was out of his control, as a big wind storm hit the stadium for a portion of the first half, but even when that wasn't a factor, he just wasn't sharp in the first two quarters. Barkley missed some open receivers, even overthrowing star, sophomore receiver Robert Woods running free downfield for a would-be touchdown. Then late in the second quarter, Burfict made a game-changing defensive play against his rival, Barkley.
Burfict picked off a pass from the USC quarterback just as the Trojans were knocking on the door of the end zone. Burfict was at the line of scrimmage and saw that the play was set up as a wide receiver screen. He read Barkley's eyes and paused before leaping to pick off a short pass. He intercepted the ball at the Arizona State 15-yard line, returning it to just beyond midfield where Barkley tackled him. After the tackle, the big linebacker helped Barkley up off the ground and patted the quarterback on the head.
That huge play in the first half led to another Sun Devil touchdown and a 21-9 halftime lead. Barkley came out of the locker room and was effective to lead a comeback from the Trojans. He lofted a perfect 24-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Lee early in the third quarter. Barkley kept moving the ball on the next drive, but again overthrew his receiver (Lee), who was running free down the sideline. Still, Barkley guided USC to a 22-21 lead. Burfict made a huge tackle on a run to stop USC's two-point conversion attempt.
When given time, Barkley shows the field vision to make progressions through his reads and deliver the ball well. Arizona State devoted extra defenders in the intermediate to deep part of the field to try to negate Barkley and the passing attack.
Part way through the fourth quarter, Barkley lost the ball on a blind side hit when USC was at the Arizona State 14-yard line. This was just another mistake on his part, as he held onto the ball too long with the pocket collapsing. Arizona State defensive linemen Greg Smith beat a block from the tight end to hit Barkley, who had other defenders closing around him. It was another red zone opportunity that USC squandered.
Barkley made yet another mistake in the fourth quarter. As he was trying to avoid a sack, he lofted a ball into the flat toward a check-down receiver, but the pass was intercepted by Arizona State's Shelly Lyons and returned 41 yards for a touchdown. It was just one of a number of bad decisions by the junior signal caller, who had a mixed outing. Barkley finished the game 21-of-33 for 227 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He still should be a top-10 pick if he enters next year's draft.
Beyond the interception, Burfict was active in the first half with a few good fills and tackles in run defense. He was flagged for a personal foul penalty away from the ball, and the replay did not clear up why Burfict got the call. After that, he was part of a convoy that made a tackle in the backfield for a loss.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Burfict was reasonably quiet in the second half as USC went to a pass-heavy attack with Barkley. While Burfict did not rack a lot of tackles, he was very good in pass coverage and obviously understands zone concepts well.
Against USC, Burfict recorded five tackles with .5 tackles for a loss and an interception. His tackle total is down this year, 22 in four games, but he has been trying to avoid penalties. He might be better off just going back to playing with more reckless abandon. Head coach Dennis Erickson has said as much, even connecting Burfict with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis for some coaching from the future Hall of Fame linebacker.
One thing that Burfict will need to continue to improve on is getting off blocks. He can bash an offensive lineman and fight off blocks with violence, but he needs to improve his technique for getting hands off of him to disengage linemen. This season, it looks like Burfict has handcuffed himself and is not playing with the same aggressiveness. If he goes back to his old style, his tackle total should increase and he'll do a better job of getting off blocks.
USC left tackle Matt Kalil had a dominant game, demonstrating every reason why he is a top-five pick. Kalil had no problems in pass protection. He was overpowering in run blocking, plus showed excellent athleticism, getting out for blocks at the second level of the defense. The 6-foot-7, 295-pounder dealt out some punishing hits, even knocking one Sun Devil defender out of the game. Kalil also helped spring running back Marc Tyler for a few big runs. It was another good tape from Kalil that will just confirm his status as a high first-rounder.
The senior Tyler ran well against Arizona State. He finished his runs well, and did a good job of making one cut and then charging downfield. He took off on a 26-yard run in the third quarter which set up a 10-yard touchdown run from him to give the Trojans the lead.
After that score though, Tyler had a bad play with a fumble as USC was driving. He was holding the ball low and Arizona State defender Colin Parker dove at Tyler from the side, punching the ball out, which the Sun Devils recovered. The 5-foot-11, 230-pound Tyler will have to work on keeping the ball high and tight, connecting with it on the proper pressure points. Once in the open field, he can get sloppy and lower the ball.
Other than that fumble, Tyler had a good game, running for 149 yards on 22 carries with a score. Arizona State was more concerned with the pass, keeping their safeties deep and allowing Tyler reasonably good looks to run against. He looks to stay steady as a mid-round pick.
USC's defense also features a potential high draft pick and some mid-rounders. Safety T.J. McDonald is viewed as a late first round or early second-round pick. The junior made his presence felt all over the field with some big hits. McDonald was called three times for personal foul penalties, but that is deceptive because he had some bad luck involved in getting hit with those penalties.
McDonald's first personal foul was an example of a good hit that is now a penalty. In pursuit of the ball carrier who had broken into the open field along the sideline, McDonald flew over from the middle of the field; the ball carrier tried to juke around McDonald, who was already launching himself up and into his traget for a powerful hit. Because McDonald launched his shoulders and head into the opposing player, he was flagged.
The second personal foul penalty was bad luck for McDonald as a receiver ducked his head down, causing a helmet-to-helmet hit. It happened so quickly that he did not have the time to get lower to tackle the receiver legally.
McDonald had six tackles in the game, and his draft stock shouldn't be hurt too much from his penalty-filled night. In fact, many NFL defensive backs coaches will like how physical and punishing he can be.
Junior defensive end Nick Perry had six tackles in the game, but did not get to the quarterback. Although he has two sacks on the season, he should probably return for his senior season. Perry (6-3, 250) could use more practice time on his pass-rushing moves and probably should add some more football functional strength. If he declares for the 2012 draft, he looks like a third-day pick who would probably be better as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
USC senior middle linebacker Chris Galippo did not have a good game against Arizona State. He had only three tackles as Sun Devil running back Cameron Marshall bloodied the Trojan defense for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Galippo had the opportunity to make a big sack on a well-timed blitz through the middle of the offensive line, but missed the tackle, allowing Arizona State to get a good gain out of the play. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder has 21 tackles on the season with 2.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and two passes broken up. He has potential, but is not producing enough from his skill set. Galippo looks like a third-day pick in next year's draft.
(Editor's Note: Congrats to Arizona State for scoring 40-plus points against USC for the first time in school history, per Awesome Kelly in Arizona).
Clemson 35, Florida State 30
Florida State and Clemson featured a good amount of talent for the 2012 NFL Draft. A mix of early- and mid-round picks went against each other in Death Valley.
Seminoles left tackle Andrew Datko had a good game and rebounded to a degree after not producing his best performance a week ago against Oklahoma. Datko did a good job of blocking Clemson defensive end Andre Branch. Branch is rated as a second-day pick, with Datko being a late first-round or early second-round pick. Datko definitely won the matchup between the two future pros.
Datko had a false start in the second quarter, but he did not have any issue taking Branch out of the game. The only play that Branch really beat Datko was on a rush at the end of the contest. He came around the edge and dived at the feet of the Seminoles quarterback. Datko dived on top of him, but when the quarterback stepped up to avoid the diving Branch, he got rocked by a defensive tackle for a game-ending sack. Overall though Datko was ready for everything Branch threw at him. Datko was too quick in his drop to let Branch get by him on speed rushes, and Datko's strength beat Branch when Datko got his hands on him. It was a quality tape produced by Datko.
Early in the game, defensive tackle Brandon Thompson was moved by the Florida State line and the Seminoles started out with some good runs straight at Thompson. He doesn't offer much pass rush, so if he isn't an asset as a run defender than he is at best plugging a gap. Later, Thompson started to make his presence felt.
Thompson made his first play when he recorded an ankle tackle on a draw on third-and-15 in the second quarter. He helped create a big pile to stop a fourth-and-1 late in the second quarter. Thompson recorded a tackle at the line of scrimmage in the third quarter.
The highest-rated draft prospect in the game was Florida State defensive end Brandon Jenkins, a potential top 20 pick. After recording five tackles against Oklahoma, Jenkins got off to a slow start against Clemson although he was getting a chip from a back on some plays. Jenkins got a pressure on quarterback Taj Boyd on a rush in the second quarter.
Jenkins had a very good rush late in the second quarter. He started to the outside and used his inside arm to knock the left tackle aside and create a lane to the quarterback. The left tackle held him to prevent a sack and the penalty was called. Jenkins tackled Boyd on a run following that. For the third straight play, Jenkins whipped the tackle. He beat him with a speed rush to the outside to sack Boyd. It was his second sack of the season. That series was utter dominance from Jenkins, and if he could do that more consistently he could push the top 10.
Florida State linebacker Nigel Bradham did not play as well against Clemson as he did a week earlier against Oklahoma. Bradham started out well and made a good read to snuff out a screen pass to Ellington. Later Bradham was called for a pass interference penalty. It was unnecessary because Bradham was running stride for stride with tight end Dwayne Allen, but as the ball was thrown, Bradham grabbed and pushed Allen off his route. Allen came back to beat Bradham on a crossing route for a first down on a third-and-5.
In the third quarter, the senior Bradham (6-3, 240) made a nice tackle at the one-yard line to stop the back cold and not allow him to fall into the end zone.
Bradham is a better blitzer and pass rusher than he is in pass coverage. He seems to panic when the ball is in the air. The pass coverage issues are one of the reasons why Bradam is a late second-day pick rather than pushing into the second round.
Florida State had a vaunted secondary, but they struggled against Clemson. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was flagged for a pass interference and was beaten by wide receiver Sammie Watkins for a few receptions. Senior nickel cornerback Mike Harris was beaten early and often. Clemson clearly targeted him and connected for a few deep passes against Harris in the first half. Watkins beat Harris for the game winning touchdown midway through the second half.
Rhodes had a nice pass breakup in the third quarter, but suffered a leg injury on the play and had to be helped off the field. He came back into the game shortly later. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Rhodes is the Seminoles best cornerback. The redshirt sophomore is draft-eligible after this season, but if he returns for his junior season, he could go from a second-day pick into the first round.
Clemson has a couple of pro prospects on the offensive side of the ball. Freshman receiver Watkins and sophomore quarterback Boyd will be prospects to watch for 2013 and 2014, but for 2012, two senior players are draft candidates. The top among them is tight end Dwayne Allen. He had a massive game a week ago against Auburn and looks like the top senior tight end in the nation. Allen is a second-rounder right now.
His first catch of the day went for six points. Allen lined up as an H-back. After the ball was snapped, he ran to the flat and caught a pass from Boyd a few yards before the end zone. He coasted in for a score. Allen was clearly a concern for Florida State as they took one of their top blitzing linebackers, Bradham, out of pass rushing and had him attempt to cover Allen. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound tight end is a mismatch against linebackers on passing routes - even smaller and quick linebackers like Bradham.
It wasn't all good for Allen as he jumped for a false start to cause a punt rather than an attempt to go for a first down. Allen came back to make a diving catch on an in route to give Clemson a first down. Allen caught four passes for 67 yards and one touchdown. He could have had a bigger game, but did not get many passes thrown his direction by Boyd.
Tigers running back Andre Ellington came into the game as a third-day draft pick and did not do enough to go up from there. He averaged 3.1 yards per carry, and was not a dangerous weapon against the Seminoles. He has good but not great speed, and he is not fast enough to be a mismatch against a defense with the quickness of Florida State. He's undersized (5-10, 190) and does not run with power. Ellington ran for 71 yards on 23 carries with a short touchdown run.
Florida 48, Kentucky 10
The Florida Gators featured more of the speed and playmaking that they have shown in the first three games of the season. Senior quarterback John Brantley started the game well with a 45-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gerald Christian. Brantley threw a strike down the seam to hit Christian in stride for a score.
Brantley was doing a good job of moving the ball in the first half, but left the game after taking a big hit from Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan. Brantley got a shot in the ribs and landed hard. He went into the locker room before halftime and was 6-of-11 for 99 yards.
Brantley came back in the third quarter, but Florida kept the game largely on the ground. Brantley finished 8-of-14 for 115 yards with one touchdown pass. Next week, Brantley will get a big test against the Alabama defense that is loaded with future NFL players. From there, Brantley will take on LSU, Auburn, South Carolina and Florida State later this season.
Moving the ball for Florida was running back Chris Rainey. At halftime he ran for 84 yards on 10 carries with a long run of 27 yards. He had an excellent run where he reversed field and broke free for a big gain. That got the Gators to the Wildcats one-yard line. Rainey got his knee rolled up on later in the half, but finished out the game with the rest of the starters.
In the second half, Rainey played some in the third quarter before giving way to the backups. Rainey ran for 105 yards on 15 carries (7.0 per carry). As a player, Rainey looks like a mid-rounder, but his aggravated stalking charge from 2010 could cause Rainey to fall. The speed and explosiveness of Rainey (5-9, 174) is undeniable, and he could be a good change-of-pace back and special teams player in the NFL. He has five blocked punts in his career.
Also helping to move the ball for Florida was senior running back Jeff Demps. He ran for 69 yards on eight carries with a touchdown in the first off. Demps ran the ball well for Florida, but showed the kind of playmaker he can be in the third quarter.
On his first carry of the second half, Demps took off on an 84-yard touchdown run. On a draw play, Demps (5-7, 191) kicked his run to the left side and sprinted by a host of Wildcats on his way to a career long touchdown run. Demps finished the night with 157 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns.
Senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard caught a fumble from Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton. Howard ran the ball into the end zone from two yards out to put the Gators up 28-3 in the second quarter. The 6-foot-3, 303-pound Howard was disruptive for the Gators and has started his senior season well.
Perhaps the most impressive draft prospect in the game was on the losing team. Trevathan was all over the field for the Wildcats in the first half. He made a number of good tackles and put the hit on Brantley that knocked him out of the game. In the second quarter, he sacked backup quarterback Jeff Driskell and forced a fumble that was recovered by Kentucky. Trevathan showed the ability to be a lightning fast blitzer off the edge.
Trevathan (6-1, 232) looks like he has added some weight compared to the 2010 season, and he hasn't lost any speed. Trevathan has good instincts and stays around the football. He did not provide the impact plays in the second half, but Florida was running the clock out for the final two quarters. Trevathan still put together a big tackle total. Trevathan entered the game as an early pick on the third day of the 2012 NFL Draft, but after his impressive first half, he has his arrow pointing up. If Trevathan can continue to add weight without losing any speed that would really help his draft stock.
Oklahoma State 30, Texas A&M 29
In a huge game for the Big 12, one of the top draft matchups in the game didn't happen. Texas A&M cornerback Coryell Judie was out of the contest with a pulled hamstring. That hurt the quality of game because Judie was going to have to go against star Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Blackmon is considered to be a top 10 pick, and Judie is in the running to be a first-rounder.
Even without Judie defending him, it wasn't a good start to the game for Blackmon as he had a dropped pass on an out route. It was a rare occurrence. Blackmon didn't get going until he had a 20-yard gain on a slant in the second quarter. Overall, Texas A&M did a good job of defending Blackmon in the first half. They sent bracket coverage his way at times, and that forced quarterback Brandon Weeden to throw the ball elsewhere. Blackmon (6-1, 215) had four catches for 49 yards in the first half.
In the third quarter, Blackmon made a nice catch for an 11-yard touchdown. He dragged his feet before getting pushed out of bounds. The play was at first ruled incomplete, but it was reviewed and the correct call of a touchdown was made.
Blackmon got into a groove and was moving the ball the downfield against the Aggies secondary. Late in the third quarter Blackmon was about to score another touchdown on a quick out. He caught a short pass, and as he was a few yards short of the end zone, he reached the ball out to celebrate and hold it up in the air, but he lost control of the ball and fumbled it into the end zone. It rolled out of bounds to turn the ball over to Texas A&M for a touchback.
Blackmon finished the game with a few more catches. Even though he had a good performance statistically with 11 catches for 121 yards and a score, it was an incomplete game where Blackmon left points on the field. He is supremely talented with size and speed, but needs to get more disciplined and controlled on the field. He looks to still be a top 10 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Early on, Brandon Weeden never seemed to get in a very good rhythm and wasn't finding Blackmon as much as their offense needed. Weeden (6-4, 218) showed his strong arm and moved the ball, but a number of drives stalled and Weeden was not particularly effective on third down. He made some bad decisions late in the first half that hurt Oklahoma State's ability to get some points before halftime. In the first half, he was 17-of-23 for 153 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Weeden got into a groove in the third quarter, leading Oklahoma to produce three touchdowns and take the lead over Texas A&M. He connected with Blackmon for an 11-yard score and to wide receiver Tracy Moore for a four-yard touchdown.
Weeden led two field goal drives that were critical scores and also drained the clock. For the game, Weeden completed 47-of-60 passes for 437 yards and two scores. He didn't play very well in the first half, but was excellent in the final two quarters to lead the comeback road win. Weeden (6-4, 218) has a strong, accurate arm but his age (27) is what makes him a a third-day draft prospect.
Oklahoma State left tackle Levy Adcock did not have a good game against Texas A&M. Adcock struggled with the speed rush from outside linebacker Sean Porter. On a couple of plays in the first half, Porter (6-3, 230) beat Adcock for sacks of Weeden. The fear of the speed rush caused Adcock to jump and get whistled for a false start in the third quarter.
After that penalty, Adcock did a better job in pass protection as Oklahoma State made a comeback through the air. While Adcock's blocking got better, he had another false start in the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-6, 322-pounder Adcock looks like he would be a better fit as a right tackle in the pros. His ability to handle the NFL speed rushers at right defensive end could be a big problem for Adcock at left tackle. Moving to the right side would help Adcock to avoid some of the elite speed rushers. The game was a mixed outing for Adcock that won't help his draft stock as a second-day pick.
Texas A&M has a number of offensive prospects that were tested by Oklahoma State. Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill, wide receiver Jeff Fuller, and running backs Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael are all future NFL players. Fuller, Gray and Tannehill all entered the game as second or third-round picks. The junior Michael could stay in school to be the lead back in 2012 and enter the 2013 NFL Draft.
Tannehill started the game extremely well. On a quarterback keeper, Tannehill gashed the Cowboys defense for a 65-yard touchdown run. He faked a handoff and blasted through the Oklahoma State secondary. He showed impressive speed to out run defenders to the end zone.
Tannehill moved the ball well in the first quarter and connected on a two passes to junior wide receiver Ryan Swope for 54 yards. He eventually hooked up with Fuller for a touchdown on a 17-yard strike in the second quarter. In the first half, Tannehill caught 13-of-21 passes for 154 yards with one touchdown. He ran for 64 yards on four carries with a score.
In the third quarter, Tannehill made a couple of bad decisions in throwing two interceptions. The first one came on a pass to Fuller. The big wideout fell down and Tannehill still threw him the ball. Fuller got up and tried to wrestle the ball away from the defensive back Justin Gilbert, but was unable to.
On the next possession, Tannehill was intercepted by Gilbert again. With a defender around his waist, Tannehill did not see two defenders closing on his covered wide receiver. Tannehill tossed the ball up and the sophomore Gilbert was sank in front of the intended target to record his second interception of the game.
Tannehill started to move the ball more in the fourth quarter after Oklahoma State took the lead. He completed passes with Swope being his top target. He tossed a short touchdown pass to Fuller late in the fourth quarter. Fuller ran a quick out and Tannehill hit him in the hands for a four-yard touchdown. The score put Texas A&M down by three with a little more than two minutes remaining in the game.
The comeback bid ended when Tannehill was intercepted at the end of the fourth quarter. He threw to a covered Fuller and the pass was deflected and intercepted to seal the win for Oklahoma State. Tannehill finished the game 28-of-47 for 309 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. The turnovers and second-half collapse definitely hurt Tannehill's draft stock. It could cause his stock to drop to the third day of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Fuller started the game slowly with a dropped pass. Later in the second quarter, he had a pass intended for him broken up by safety Markelle Martin. Fuller came back to make leaping catch for a 17-yard touchdown catch to cap off a long drive in the second quarter. Fuller ran a slant. Martin was a step late getting in position to defend the receiver and Fuller made a leaping catch with Martin draped all over him.
Fuller caught that short touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter, but otherwise he was held in check by Oklahoma State. Fuller totaled 55 yards on six receptions with two touchdowns. His draft stock remains steady after this game.
Gray did not have a good game and never got into a grove running the ball. He ran for 29 yards on nine carries (3.2 average) in he first half. The Aggies had to throw the ball to get back into the game after the Cowboys massive third quarter, so Gray did not get a lot of attempts. He finished the game with 35 yards rushing on 13 carries. Michael had more success running for 58 yards on five carries (11.6 average) in the first half. He finished the game with six carries for 62 yards.
Against Texas A&M, Martin was one of the few defenders to show up in the first half. After getting beat by Fuller for a score, Martin broke up a deep pass for Fuller on the next drive. Martin showed good range to get over to Fuller who had a step on his cornerback. On the same possession he made a good tackle in run defense and came over to make a potentially touchdown saving tackle. Martin was flying all over the field for the Cowboys.
Early in the fourth quarter Martin rocked Swope on a deep slant. The big hit landed Martin a 15-yard penalty for leading with his helmet and going helmet to helmet. He was a big presence on the field for Oklahoma State and provided a good tape that shows Martin to look like a potential second-round pick.
Alabama 38, Arkansas 14
There was a lot of future NFL players on display in the Arkansas at Alabama game. The Crimson Tide defense is packed with NFL prospects and they showed why against Arkansas.
The player who may get drafted first among all of the athletes in this game was Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. The junior defender has an excellent skill set and had an eventful game against the Razorbacks.
First and foremost, Kirkpatrick was playing extremely physical football. Early in the game, Kirkpatrick set that tone with a good physical tackle on a short pass. Later in the first quarter, he had a massive hit on a wide receiver on a short pass. Kirkpatrick flew up from 10 yards away and blasted the receiver. On the next play though, Kirkpatrick got popped in the mouth on a block from a wide receiver to open up a hole for Dennis Johnson to score a Razorback touchdown to tie the game at seven.
Other than that play, Kirkpatrick was a violent force. The 6-foot-3, 192-pounder was laying some wood on offensive players. He had big tackles in run support and showed excellent speed to get in position to make tackles. Kirkpatrick blew up a screen pass and followed that up with another big pop on a short pass that forced an incompletion.
In the third quarter, Kirkpatrick got beat for a touchdown. He had very tight coverage, but got beat for a jump ball in the back of the end zone by wide receiver Cobi Hamilton. It is hard to knock Kirkpatrick too much because he had good coverage, and Hamilton made an amazing play.
Later, Kirkpatrick almost made an interception. He and teammate Mark Barron both went for the ball and knocked each other away from a pick. Barron gave Kirkpatrick a big shot and the cornerback had to come out of the game. He appeared to be OK and just had his bell rung by Barron. At that point Alabama had a huge lead, and didn't need to continue to play Kirkpatrick. He had a quality game that should keep his draft status stable as the top-rated cornerback eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft.
Alabama linebacker Donta' Hightower made his presence felt in the game. He showed good pass-rushing ability and was able to get hits on the quarterback when he blitzed. Hightower also did a good job of tackling wide receivers in the open field. Hightower broke up a pass, and made a big tackle for a loss on fourth down to get the ball back for his offense.
Some of the other Alabama defensive draft prospects all had some big plays. Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw flashed some big pass rush during the third quarter. Safety Mark Barron had some good plays in coverage coming over the top to take away the deep part of the field. Both of those defenders showed well. Upshaw is considered to be a late first-round pick and Barron is considered to be a second-day pick.
The top offensive prospect in the game was Alabama running back Trent Richardson. He had a massive performance against Arkansas to lead the Crimson Tide offense. Early on, Richardson (5-11, 224) had a very impressive play on a catch in the second quarter. He caught a pass just outside the 10-yard line. He ran over a defender at the 6-yard line, and came down a yard shy of the end zone. The 12-yard pass play set up Alabama to go up 10-7 in the second quarter. Richardson ran for 66 yards on eight carries with two receptions for 24 yards in the first half.
In the third quarter, Richardson showed why he is viewed as the top running back in the 2012 NFL Draft class. Richardson made an excellent catch on a screen pass. The ball went through a defender's hands and Richardson had good concentration to make the reception. He cut upfield and ran by a couple of defenders to break into the open field. Richardson sprinted 61 yards for a touchdown.
Later in the quarter, Richardson dodged a defender in the backfield on a third-and-short and broke downfield for a 25-yard run. In the game, Richardson ran the ball well and averaged 7.4 yards per carry. He totaled 126 yards rushing on only 17 carries. Richardson totaled 85 yards receiving on three catches.
Alabama left tackle Barrett Jones and center Williams Vlachos had very good games blocking for Richardson, and quarterback A.J. McCarron.
Senior wide receiver Marquis Maze (5-10, 180) had a huge game for Alabama to help his draft stock. Maze caught five receptions for 40 yards in the first half. He is fast with good hands and is a good route-runner. Maze provided a highlight-reel play with an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter. He zig-zagged his way through would-be tacklers as he broke from the middle of the field to the sideline and then back to the middle of the field before crossing the goal line. It was a fabulous return that put Alabama up by 17 points.
Maze was viewed as a mid- to late-round pick, but his big game against Arkansas will definitely help push his stock up.
Arkansas wide receiver Greg Childs was dead silent against Alabama. He had two catches for 17 yards. Childs does not look the same after his 2010 knee injury. He was viewed as a second-day pick, but his stock is declining as he isn't producing well this season.
Razorbacks defensive end Jake Bequette missed the game with an injury.
Arkansas senior linebacker Jerry Franklin, a second-day prospect, had a pretty quiet game. Franklin (6-1, 245) stuffed a quarterback sneak on the goal line with a devastating hit on Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Otherwise he didn't make many big plays for Arkansas, although he had a number of assisted tackles in the game.
Georgia Tech 35, North Carolina 28
The North Carolina Tar Heels defense features a lot of NFL talent, but playing against Georgia Tech was not the typical game to analyze those defenders. The option offense run by Georgia Tech is heavy on perimeter runs with very few passes thrown. Therefore the Tar Heels defensive ends of Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss had very limited pass rushing attempts in the game.
The junior Paige-Moss is a backup after getting beaten out for a starting spot by sophomore defensive end Kareem Martin. Martin has been very productive and consistent. Between Martin and Coples, Paige-Moss is not getting a lot of snaps. Against Georgia Tech, Paige-Moss flashed some quality run defense on a couple of plays but overall he was a non-factor in the game. Entering the season, Paige-Moss was viewed as a first-rounder but right now his stock is sliding rapidly. He would be better off returning for his senior season and trying to put together a productive year before going pro in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The senior Coples is regarded as the best defensive linemen in the 2012 NFL Draft class. It was a frustrating day for him as Coples had his hands full. He was getting double-teamed, chop blocked, cut blocked and run all over the field by the option offense. Georgia Tech attempted only 14 passes and the majority of them were play-action. With such a run-heavy offense Coples had to defend the run first and was unable to have a big game rushing the quarterback.
Still, Coples did a quality job defending the run. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound Coples did a good job of turning and running downfield to get in on tackles. He wasn't quitting on plays away from him or taking plays off. He had a few good pursuit tackles and as well as a couple of quality stuffs at the line of scrimmage. While Coples did not get to the quarterback, he gave NFL evaluators a good tape of him defending the run well with evidence of a good motor.
North Carolina was without outside linebacker Zack Brown. He entered the game with a first-round grade. His absence from the field was not explained to be an injury or a suspension. Brown was sorely missed as his lighting speed would have been very helpful in defending all the perimeter runs that Georgia Tech ran. It would have been a good game to evaluate Brown's run defense on the outside.
North Carolina defensive tackle Tydreke Powell had a quiet game with so many runs going to the outside. The big defensive tackle looks like a third-rounder.
The top offensive draft prospect in the game was North Carolina wide receiver Dwight Jones. In the first, half Jones was relatively quiet. He caught a slant on third down for 11 yards and a first down. On another catch, Jones carried a defensive back for three of four yards on a seven-yard catch to almost get a first down, but was stopped half a yard short of the first down.
After making only two catches for 18 yards in the first half, Jones broke out in the third quarter with a short one-handed catch that he broke downfield for 41 yards. Jones flew through the secondary and got the North Carolina offense some momentum.
Jones caught a few more passes in the second half and did a good job of fighting off a number of tackles before finally being brought down. Jones (6-4, 225) uses his size and strength to fight off defenders and make multiple defenders needed to get him down. Against Georgia Tech he hauled in eight passes for 109 yards. Jones is a second-day pick that is building his case to be pick in the middle of the second round.
Georgia Tech junior wide receiver Stpehen Hill had a huge game. He entered the game with eight receptions for 311 yards and three touchdowns in the first three games of the season. Hill made a miraculous catch on a sideline pass in the first half. Hill leaped and made a fabulous one-hand catch that will he on many highlight reels. Later in the second quarter Hill came wide open after his cornerback bit on a play-action fake. Hill coasted down the field with a 59-yard touchdown catch. In the first half Hill, had four receptions for 118 yards.
The 6-foot-5, 206-pound Hill looks stronger than his listed weight. The junior looks like a good weapon who is under used in the Georgia Tech triple-optin offense. Hill does an excellent job of attacking the football and catching it at his highest point. That made Hill a real weapon on jump balls. As expected with a Georgia Tech wide receiver, Hill is a very good run blocker.
Hill had an easy touchdown that he dropped in the fourth quarter. It looked like he pulled his hamstring on the play. Again, the cornerback left him on a run fake, and Hill was running free downfield. The pass hit him square in the numbers, but he dropped maybe the easiest touchdown he could see in his collegiate career. He finished the game with six receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Michigan 28, San Diego State 7
San Diego State features senior quarterback Ryan Lindley whom many claim to be one of the best senior quarterbacks in college football. Entering the game against Michigan, Lindley has completed 54 percent of his passes for 622 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. He completed 58 percent of his passes last season for 3,830 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 intercetpions. Lindley is generally viewed as a mid-round pick. If he could improve his accuracy and show the ability to lead his team to big wins he could move his stock up.
Early in the game, Lindley showed his strong arm on completing a few good out routes. Lindley had good timing on the throws and put them where his receiver could catch the ball or they would go incomplete. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Lindley is a true pocket passer who is not a quarterback that looks to make plays with his feet.
After a few good throws to start the game, Lindley became high on a lot of passes and did not complete a high percentage of his attempts. His accuracy struggled when he had any kind of pressure. When he had some defenders near him his footwork breaks down and his passes are off the mark. While Lindley had defenders in face regularly in the first half, he wasn't sacked and was not getting hit. He was doing a good job of getting rid of the ball, but not executing the offense that well as San Diego State could not produce any points in the first half on three drives into Michigan territory.
Through the first two quarters Lindley completed 7-of-14 passes for 73 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. San Diego State was down 21-0 at halftime. Lindley's performance stayed consistent in the third quarter. His accuracy was bad. Even when he had a clean pocket he wasn't stepping into his throws well and was overthrowing the vast majority of his passes.
Late in the third quarter, Lindley finally started to complete some passes and move the ball. Lindley made a number of short passes, before throwing a perfect strike to wide receiver Colin Lockett for a 16-yard touchdown with only a few seconds left in the third quarter. The throw was a fastball that hit Lockett in stride as he ran into the end zone.
On a critical fourth down in the fourth quarter, Lindley had a tight end wide open on a short pass but he threw it off the mark behind and high of this target. There also wasn't a pass rush that affected Lindley, and that failed conversion pretty much killed any shot for San Diego State to mount a comeback. Michigan got the ball and ran it down the field for a touchdown to seal their win.
On the next drive, Lindley completed a few more passes to move the ball into Michigan territory, but he got hit as he pulled back to throw and fumbled the ball away to the Wolverines. In the game, Lindley completed 23-of-47 passes for 251 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions. Not helping Lindley is the lack of talent at wide receiver on San Diego State.
Lindley was inaccurate in all levels of passing: short, intermediate and deep. He is going to need a lot of development at the pro level. The physical aspects are critical, his footwork and accuracy are not even close to being that of a starting NFL quarterback. He will obviously have to make all the mental strides of learning an offense and how to perform against NFL defenses. Lindley looks like a third-day pick.
San Diego State redshirt sophomore Ronnie Hillman has created some buzz with a big start to the season after a strong freshman year. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Hillman is more of a speed back. Entering the game against Michigan, Hillman was averaging 6.5 yards per carry with 497 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. Last year, Hillman ran for 1,532 yards and 17 touchdowns.
To start the game, Hillman had some good runs. He finishes his attempts well and is adept at picking yards after contact, which is impressive for a back who is undersized. Midway through the first quarter, Hillman a good run that was approaching 10 yards but he fumbled the ball away in a pile. The fumble set up a Michigan touchdown.
At halftime, Hillman ran for 52 yards on 12 carries (4.3 average) with his one fumble. Hillman had to fight for his yards as his offensive line was getting generally beat up front. Hillman did not have big holes to run through, but he did a good job of grinding out some tough yards.
In the third quarter, Hillman broke off his best run of the game. He ran for about 20 yards before getting hit from behind. Unfortunately for Hillman, he fumbled the ball again on the hit. The ball rolled downfield before it was recovered by Michigan.
Against the Wolverines, Hillman ran for 110 yards on 21 carries (5.2 average) with zero touchdowns and two fumbles lost. He caught two passes for 15 yards.
His two fumbles are going to definitely give scouts cause for concern. With him being undersized, it causes a red flag if he has the strength to avoid putting the ball on the ground when he goes against bigger and stronger competition. Hillman probably would be better off playing another season in college. It would be good if Hillman can add some more power and bulk while keeping his quickness. Getting over 200 pounds while staying productive would help him. If he enters the 2012 NFL Draft, he looks like a mid-round pick.
The one defensive draft prospect for the Aztecs to keep an eye on is senior outside linebacker Miles Burris. In San Diego State's 3-3-5 defense, Burris is playing the same kind of linebacker as a 3-4 rush linebacker in the NFL. Last year as a junior, Burris produced 80 tackles with 20 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks with four forced fumble. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Burris is a natural blitzer.
This year in his first three games, Burris totaled 16 tackles with three tackles for a loss and two sacks. Against Michigan, Burris largely struggled against the better competition. The big Michigan offensive linemen were effective at getting their hands on Burris and running him out of plays. The strength mismatch was too much for Burris to take on, and he had a hard time getting off of blocks in pass rushing as well.
He didn't make his presence felt until the second half of the game. Burris finally got a pass rush and put a big hit on Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. The pressure caused Robinson to throw a bad pass that resulted in an interception. Burris made a few quality tackles late in the game in run defense. He made a nice tackle for a loss in the fourth quarter.
It hurts Burris' draft stock that he had a relatively quiet game against better competition than he normally faces on a weekly basis. Burris looks like a third-day draft pick.
For Michigan, senior defensive tackle Mike Martin had a good game. Martin (6-2, 304) was disruptive at the point of attack. He flashed a few good pass rushes and did a good job in run defense. Martin looks like a third-day draft pick who could develop into a quality nose tackle in a 4-3 defense.
Cincinnati 44, North Carolina State 14
The draft matchup to watch in this game was Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead against North Carolina State linebacker Audie Cole. One draft prospect that was not in the game who would have been worth watching is North Carolina State defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy. He missed the game with a broken foot.
Sweezy (6-5, 293) had a quality season in 2010 with 11.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks and 50 tackles. He would have made the interior running more difficult for Pead.
Entering the game, Pead ran for 257 yards with four touchdowns in three games in 2011. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Pead did not play much in blowout wins over Austin Peay and Akron, but he had a good game against Tennessee, running for 155 yards on 14 carries with one touchdown. In 2010, Pead ran for 1,029 yards while averaging 6.5 yards per carry with six touchdowns.
The senior had a huge game ripping through the North Carolina State defense. In the game, Pead ran for 167 yards on 27 carries with one touchdown. He also caught three passes for 24 yards and one touchdown. Pead�s receiving touchdown came on a screen pass and he coasted untouched into the end zone from 25 yards out. He displayed his burst on runs of 33, 28 yard, and a 19-yarder early in the game. Pead ran well between the tackles and bounced runs outside for big yardage.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder has a good burst of speed to hit holes and get to the second level of the defense. Pead can rip off yards in chunks as he shows good vision and cutting ability to slash his way through a defense. He has the speed to get to the corner and turn upfield.
Pead definitely has some tools to work with. Getting some NFL coaching with physical development could turn him into a quality pro back. Pead may not develop into a bell-cow back in the NFL who produces huge rushing totals and touchdowns, but he could be solid back as part of a good ground game.
At times Pead can run a little too upright, so in the NFL he could use some coaching on running with better pad level and running behind his pads. If he can add some bulk without losing any speed, that would be a good idea for Pead. Having another 10-15 pounds of muscle could help him to avoid injuries, and take the pounding from NFL defenders. Pead is not a power back although at times his running style looks like that of a power back. Pead projects to be a mid-rounder because he is not a finished product.
Even though Pead had a big game against North Carolina State, Cole had a quality showing against Cincinnati. He racked up a lot of tackles in run defense, although they were mainly in pursuit beyond the line of scrimmage. Cole is a smart player with some instincts. He reads plays well and is around the ball. Cole also closes quickly and he displayed that on a few snaps.
In the first quarter, Cole made a big play that could have been huge for North Carolina State. He came on a blitz around the right defensive end. Pead tried to pick up Cole, but the linebacker shoved Pead aside and put a devastating hit in the back of quarterback Zach Collaros. The ball was fumbled with a number of Wolfpack defenders near the ball, but Cincinnati recovered the loose ball. The drive ended with a Cincinnati touchdown.
In previous film study of Pead, one attribute that was impressive was his blitz pickup, so Cole deserves credit for making the play. Cole showed his closing speed and pursuit skills again by blasting Pead in the backfield just after he caught a screen pass. Cole read the play perfectly and flew past the blockers to hit Pead just after he caught the pass. When Cole gets running, he can also deliver some hard hits.
The 6-foot-5, 239-pound Cole needs to add some strength. Right now, he plays middle linebacker after playing outside linebacker in previous seasons. At his current weight, Cole would have to play outside linebacker in the NFL. The reason is to try and avoid blockers.
Cole's major weakness as a prospect is his inability to get off blocks. When offensive linemen get to him, they can ride Cole downfield. He didn't get off a block on numerous runs from the Bearcats. Tight ends and offensive linemen are able to grab a hold of Cole and push him around the field. He has to add some strength to have the power to disengage from blockers. Cole also needs to be coached up on how to use his hands better to slap off blockers who have a handful of his jersey.
Entering the game Cole had recorded 22 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two passes broken up and one forced fumble this season. Last year, he had 86 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles, three passes broken up and one interception.
Cole is an interesting prospect. He definitely has some developmental tools. If Cole adds 10-15 pounds of bulk, he could be a 3-4 inside linebacker. Adding weight could allow him to play the middle of a 4-3 defense as well. If he stays at his current weight, he should be a 4-3 outside linebacker. Cole looks like a mid-round pick that would go on the third day of the draft.