Do they call it Garbage time because when a team is up big, their defense starts to play like garbage? I mean do defensive players these days Play to Win, but once they're in position to, it's time to let players on their fantasy teams or their friends fantasy teams rack up some numbers? Do these players start to feel bad that they have to make a game of it all the time? Defenses that stop playing hard for 60 minutes even though they are up big is to football what the pitch count is to baseball.. does some damage to the integrity of the game.
West Virginia 41, Rutgers 31
There was a very good 2012 draft prospect matchup in the game between Rutgers and West Virginia. Scarlet Knights junior wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is enjoying a strong season and has produced some massive games in 2011. Matching up against him at times was West Virginia cornerback Keith Tandy. Both players entered the game as second-day draft picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Neither of them produced a massive performance, but there were some notable plays from each prospect, and they did go against each other at times. After a fumble from West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, Sanu got Rutgers in the end zone. He caught a short pass at the 10-yard line. Tandy came up and delivered a nice hit, but the cornerback didn't wrap him up. Sanu showed great balance as he bounced off Tandy. After taking the hit, the wide receiver turned upfield to run into the end zone for a touchdown.
Sanu had a nice 16-yard catch where he ran a short comeback route. Sanu ran by the cornerback and took a safety for a ride of a few yards before going down. Later in the third quarter, he had a dropped pass that would have given Rutgers a first down. It wasn't an easy catch since Sanu had to reach out while running close to the sideline, but he probably should have caught the ball.
Not helping Sanu in the game was Rutgers starting a freshman quarterback who completed only 18-of-46 pass attempts. The game was played in snowy and windy conditions and that could have affected both passing games, although both teams didn't shy away from throwing the ball.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Sanu is a good route runner who is fast and physical. He is an underrated wide receiver in college football. While Sanu didn't have a huge game, he showed a good skill set and looks like he could be a very good value pick in the second round, if he enters next year's draft.
Tandy had some other rough moments in the game. After being beaten by Sanu, Tandy was beaten again, giving up his second touchdown before halftime. Rutgers wide receiver Mark Harrison beat him running downfield. The ball was dropped into Harrison and, though diving, Tandy came up short of slapping the ball out as Harrison held onto the ball as he crossed the goal line.
It wasn't a complete disaster for Tandy against Rutgers. He did a quality job helping out in run support and recorded five tackles in the game with two passes broken up. Tandy had great coverage on an out route. He had a receiver blanketed and almost got in position to make an interception but at least broke up the pass and forced a punt.
Tandy entered the game pushing for consideration in the second round. This game hurts him some for not wrapping up Sanu and allowing Harrison's touchdown, but the West Virginia cornerback got in position to have a shot at making those plays and wasn't torched at all by Sanu. After this performance, Tandy probably is more of a third-rounder. There aren't any receivers as good as Sanu in the remaining four games of Mountaineers� regular season schedule.
Two other West Virginia defenders are prospects for the 2012 draft. Defensive ends Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller are both projected to go in the top three rounds of the draft. Some pundits rate Irvin as a first-rounder, while Miller is viewed as a second-day selection.
Irvin has been rated that highly for his 2010 season when he recorded 14 sacks. He was a situational pass rusher who recorded 21 tackles last season with two forced fumbles. Aside from his sacks, Irvin had only seven other tackles in the season. He is a fast, undersized player who worked to add weight for his senior season, so is now listed at 6-foot-3, 245-pounds.
The 2011 season has been a disappointing campaign for Irvin as an every-down player. He entered the game with 2.5 sacks on the season and 21 tackles with seven tackles for a loss. Irvin has not been the pass-rushing force he was in last year. Against the Scarlet Knights, that pattern repeated itself.
Irvin had one good pass rush coming from the edge. His speed allowed him to put some pressure on the quarterback and force the pass to come out a little early. Other than that play, Irvin was locked down. He recorded zero tackles in run support, and Rutgers was able to run at him. Irvin tries to get up field on almost every play and at times Rutgers went through the opening when he left his gap.
West Virginia moved Irvin around from the left to the right side, but either way he didn't get to the quarterback other than that one pressure. The Rutgers tackles were good enough to get in his way and force him to go too far around the pocket on most rushes. Irvin is fast and a good athlete, but he needs to develop more moves. Irvin needs to work on being able to cut to the inside. Obviously, he is going to need to add strength to go against NFL tackles, and even tight ends.
Irvin looks like he is a bit of a one-trick pony as a speed rusher who tries to run around the corner on every play. He definitely isn't big enough for a 4-3 defense. Irvin will have to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. The drop in production should hurt his draft status. He looks more like a second-day pick than a first-rounder.
Miller had a quality game for West Virginia. He played well at the point of attack and was a good run defender for the Mountaineers. Miller had a number of good tackles at the line of scrimmage. Offensive linemen were unable to push him back and he did an exceptional job of holding his ground, shedding his block and making a tackle. The senior set up good down-and-distance situations for his team with nice tackles in run support for a minimal gain.
Miller recovered a fumble in the second quarter. It was a botched snap and his recovery set up the Mountaineers inside the Scarlet Knights� five-yard line. He had a good pressure and came close to a sack rushing from left defensive end. It was a nice rush where the 6-foot-4, 268-pounder used his speed to get upfield and a strong rip move to get by the tackle and come in on the quarterback.
It might help Miller if West Virginia gave him one position rather than moving all over their line. He plays both end positions and defensive tackle. If Miller was allowed to master one technique, it could help him to make more plays and have a bigger impact. He is a better player than his stats indicate. Miller has 27 tackles with 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles this season. Right now, he looks like a third-rounder but has good upside so could turn out to be excellent value in the third round. Miller had nine sacks as a sophomore and junior.
West Virginia junior quarterback Geno Smith had a quality game. It wasn't the best of field conditions but the signal caller still completed 20-of-31 passes for 218 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also ran in for a touchdown in the second half. Early in the game, with the snow coming down, Smith dropped the football while standing in the middle of the pocket. He went to windup to throw and the ball simply fell out of his hands.
Smith recovered to help West Virginia move the ball well in the second half and pull off a comeback win. One of his touchdown passes was a fortunate play for him. He threw a pass up for grabs in the corner of the end zone. The ball was tipped by receiver Stedman Bailey, but he was able to catch his own deflection for the score.
The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Smith has a strong arm and can put good touch on his passes. He has the tools and skill set to be a potential starter in the NFL. Smith would be better off returning for his senior season and improving before going pro. He needs to work on his footwork and field vision in particular. If Smith entered the 2012 draft, he could be a potential second-day pick.
TCU 38, BYU 28
The game between TCU and BYU featured two prospects who are somewhat under the radar: TCU linebacker Tank Carder and BYU left tackle Matt Reynolds. Both are solid prospects who don't garner a lot of attention or publicity.
That wasn't always the case with Carder, who entered the season with some hype after playing extremely well down the stretch in 2010. He was the Rose Bowl defensive MVP in TCU's win over Wisconsin. This season got off to rough start at Baylor for the senior middle linebacker. The TCU defense was lit up by Robert Griffin III, and Carder did not have an impressive game. In the weeks to follow, he was reasonably quiet, and it got harder for him as his fellow inside linebacker, Tanner Brock, went out for the season. Lately, Carder has started to make a bigger impact and that was the case against BYU.
On the first drive of the game, Carder got things started with a good tackle for no gain. He made a good read to jet to the line of scrimmage to tackle the ball carrier in an off-tackle run. A little bit later, Carder had a nice delayed pass rush on the quarterback to force an incompletion. He started out the play patrolling the middle of the field, and seeing saw there were no underneath receivers to defend, he flew into the backfield to pressure the quarterback.
In the second quarter, Carder got beat by a wide receiver in zone coverage for a good completion. It was a mismatch that had Carder picking up the receiver crossing the short middle of the field. The senior linebacker shouldn't be getting assigned to cover wide outs in the middle of the field on crossing routes, but that can happen at all levels.
Throughout the game, Carder played the run tough in the box. On numerous occasions, he made good tackles to hold ball carriers to gains of only one or two yards.
In the second half, Carder made a good tackle downfield. On the play, he ran to fill the run hole to the right, but a gap opened up behind him and the running back cut back for a big gain downfield. Carder showed impressive speed to turn and run downfield and chase down the ball carrier.
Carder had a really nice play early in the third quarter. A guard came off the line and hit him about four yards downfield. He shed the block and got to the ball carrier to hold him to a gain of a couple yards. Getting off the block by the guard was impressive.
Later in the fourth quarter, Carder made a similar play where he shed a guard and got in a tackle on a running back. Carder popped the ball carrier with a hard shot that sent the running back's helmet rolling away.
For the game, the 6-foot-3, 237-pounder finished with nine tackles and really played well in the tackle box. Carder looks like he is on the bubble from the second and third-day of the draft. In the NFL, Carder's best fit could come as an inside linebacker for a 3-4 defense. He should add 10-15-pounds of bulk for that, but looks like he has the frame to do so. Carder will see a good test against Boise State in a couple of weeks.
Reynolds has a quality game as well. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound left tackle projects as a better right tackle in the NFL. He is a good pass protector who is technically sound. Reynolds is too big to be bull rushed, and he has quick feet to drop and mirror edge rushers. Reynolds is further ahead as a pass blocker, but against TCU he had a quality game run blocking.
The tone was set early when after the whistle of a running play, Reynolds tossed a defensive back to the ground. It could have been called for a personal foul penalty, but he got away with it. NFL coaches will like to see him manhandle defensive players like that.
As a run blocker Reynolds has potential. There are plays where he takes linemen for a ride. Reynolds also can get to the second level to hit blocks. His run blocking just isn't as consistent as his pass protection.
Throughout the game, Reynolds was a tough pass blocker. He shuffles back quickly and gets in position to hit his block. The stat sheet might say differently as Reynolds gave up a sack in the first quarter. He had his man blocked for over five seconds, but the quarterback scrambled and started running towards the line of scrimmage. The defensive lineman was able to disengage from Reynolds and run up to the quarterback to make a sack. Most NFL quarterbacks would have had the ball out at that point, and it is hard to downgrade him for that play.
To help make up for it, Reynolds had perfect blocking on a few deep drops from his quarterback. He provided good time to throw on those seven-step drops and BYU completed some passes downfield. One thing coaches will like to see is that Reynolds recovers after getting beat initially. There were a couple plays where he shoved linemen away from getting to the quarterback after they started to get some penetration into the pocket. Recoverability is always a desired trait, especially in tackles.
In the third quarter, Reynolds went down with an injury. He went to do a cut block on the defensive end and landed on the ground awkwardly. It looked like Reynolds had an abdominal or groin injury. He sat out briefly but returned a few plays later. His first play back saw Reynolds allow a pass pressure, but he recovered enough to give his quarterback time to get the ball out.
Overall Reynolds had a solid game. He looks like either a fringe second or a third-round pick, and it would be ideal to move him to right tackle in the NFL. Reynolds is a good blocker, but he does not have the sheer athleticism to be a left tackle in the NFL. A team like Philadelphia that has a left-handed quarterback should be interested in Reynolds because he would be a quality blind side protector on the right side of the line.
Stanford 56, USC 48
This contest last Saturday night that featured a ton of NFL talent became an epic college football game. The top-rated among the draftable players was Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who many believe is one of the best quarterback prospects of the past 25 years. He was taking on another future first-round pick in USC quarterback Matt Barkley. Each signal caller is lucky to have an NFL franchise left tackle to protect them in the Trojans' Matt Kalil and the Cardinal's Jonathan Martin. Both quarterbacks played well, but Luck was better as he matched the hype with a signature win.
On the first drive, the Stanford signal caller made a few special plays to move the ball. He threw a 21-yard strike to tight end Coby Fleener. On a third-and-5, Luck moved to buy some time before throwing a rope downfield to get Stanford to the USC 15-yard line. He took pressure but delivered a good throw and took a hit. To finish the drive, the junior threw a quick, short pass that was run into the end zone for a score.
After that drive, Luck had a number of drives fizzle out. He had a few passes off the mark, plus the USC defense was playing well. It wasn't until the third quarter when USC had a 20-10 lead that Luck got the Cardinal offense going. He made a number of big throws to move the ball downfield. Luck finished the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to fullback Ryan Hewitt.
On the next possession, Luck threw a perfect deep ball. On this trick play, he lined up as a wide receiver on the play. After the snap, Luck ran into the backfield on an end around and the offense pitched the ball back to him. Wide receiver Ty Montgomery blazed through the secondary to get open, allowing Luck to set up and drop the ball perfectly into him for 62 yards.
To finish the drive, the Stanford signal caller ran the ball into the end zone. They faked the handoff and after not seeing any open receivers, he ran straight up the middle for a three-yard touchdown run. That gave Stanford a 24-20 lead entering the fourth quarter.
After USC took back the lead to go up 27-24, Luck got good field position after a nice punt return. He got the drive started with a naked bootleg, but ran the ball for 12 yards on first-and-10. That put Stanford inside the USC 20 and they tied the game with a field goal.
The game remained tied, and Luck got the ball back. With just over three minutes in the game, he made his one huge mistake in the game. On third-and-3, Luck threw a short out pass that was jumped by Nickell Roby and returned 33 yards for a touchdown. The receiver was covered and it was bad decision by Luck.
With Stanford down 34-27, Luck got the opportunity to bounce back. He started moving the ball downfield with precision passes and then made a 15-yard run up the middle of the USC defense. Luck combined with some good runs led to a short touchdown run for the Cardinal to force overtime.
On Stanford's first possession of overtime, their signal caller helped move the ball through the air and on the ground to set up a short touchdown. The next possession saw Luck go through the air to answer a USC score. At the 11-yard line, he tossed a fade pass to tight end Levine Toilolo. The big 6-foot-8 tight end shielded the ball away from a freshman defensive back. It was a good matchup that Luck exploited wisely.
In the final overtime score for the Cardinal, they ran the ball in. They had to go for two and Luck made a fabulous play. He dropped back and moved the coverage by looking hard to his right. He came back to the middle to tight end Coby Fleener for the conversion.
Luck finished the game 29-of-40 for 330 yards with three passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one interception. It wasn't a perfect performance, but in some ways it was. Stanford has steadily blown teams out on a weekly basis, but against USC, Luck showed the ability to bounce back from a big mistake and execute a comeback win. He showed some heart and leadership, firing up his team on the sideline. Luck made plays his arm, legs, and through his intelligence. The contest against USC was another outing where he showed NFL evaluators everything they want to see out of a quarterback.
This would not have been Luck's signature win without the contributions from his offensive line. At times, they allowed him to get pressure and he was sacked a few times. However, they did well enough in pass blocking to let Luck move the ball. The line also was strong in run blocking.
Junior right guard David DeCastro had another excellent performance. He was the lineman who the Cardinal had the most success running behind. DeCastro consistently turned his linemen and rode them out of the play. He also pulled to the left extremely well and was able to hit blocks on the second level.
While Luck was sacked sometimes, it wasn't from DeCastro getting beat. He was solid in pass blocking. DeCastro looks like a solid first-rounder and the top guard in the 2012 draft, if he declares.
Martin fought his way to a solid performance. USC put a lot of pressure on the edge, and although he did a good job overall, there were a few plays where there were some issues.
On one example, Martin allowed a pass pressure on a speed rush coming from the edge. He did a good job of getting the lineman deep, but the defender was able to turn and run up field towards Luck. In the third quarter, Martin got banged up and limped off the field with assistance from the training staff. Fortunately, he was able to return on the game on the next possession.
Later on Martin allowed a hit on his quarterback. The defender beat him to the inside and tackled Luck just after the ball was thrown. That was the only play where Martin really allowed his quarterback to take a good hit.
He did a good job in run blocking. His run blocking prowess definitely sets him apart from many other left tackle prospects. Martin is not a tap dancer who can't open up running holes. He pushes linemen around and gets out in front to hit blocks downfield. Kind of like Luck, Martin had to scrap in this game and he came out on top. He remains a solid top-10 pick.
Kalil played a similar game to Martin. In the third quarter, Kalil allowed a pressure from a blitzing outside linebacker. On the next play, the senior tackle made an excellent seal block to spring running back Curtis McNeal for a 61-yard touchdown along the left sideline.
Later in the same quarter, USC went back to the ground with a 25-yard touchdown run from McNeal. They ran behind Kalil again with the big left tackle getting to the second level to spring McNeal with a big block on an inside linebacker.
Aside from a play or two, Kalil did a good job in pass protection and was tough as a run blocker. He went against one of the better defenses he will see all season and passed the test. Kalil looks like a lock for the top five of the draft.
With Kalil having a strong game protecting his quarterback, Barkley was able to get good time to throw for the majority of the game. The game started somewhat slowly for Barkley. He moved the ball some with some good plays, but USC had to settle for a few field goals in the first half.
Barkley rolled and completed a good pass to Rhett Ellison on a third-and-1. On a bootleg, he drew a defender to him on the threat to run with the ball. That opened up Ellison for a nice completion to set up a third-and-short.
Early in the second quarter, Barkley made a bad decision. He had a tight end who was covered closely by linebacker A.J. Tarpley. The pass was thrown to the tight end but Tarpley undercut him to make the interception.
Not helping Barkely was a few dropped passes from star receiver Robert Woods. Perhaps the nerves and missed practice time from earlier in the week caused him some issues. As the game wore on, Barkley and Woods started to play better.
Early in the fourth quarter, Barkley got back into the game with his team down by four. He fired a bullet on a short slant to wide receiver Marquise Lee. The freshman wide out burst through the secondary and ran into the end zone for a 28-yard score.
With the game tied at 34 and little time remaining in regulation, Barkley made some good throws to get USC across midfield, but the Trojans ran out of time to try and kick a field goal.
Entering overtime, Barkley had one touchdown. On USC's first offensive possession, he audibled to a perfect play for Woods. Barkley recognized single coverage on the outside and lofted a pass to the back of the end zone that Woods ran down.
On the next possession, Barkley had a missed opportunity as he threw the ball too high for an open receiver in the back corner of the end zone. A play later, he threw short to his freshman tight end Randall Telfer. He caught the ball outside the 10 and powered his way through a few defenders to get into the end zone.
Barkley finished the evening 28-of-45 for 284 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. It wasn't a game that will blow scouts away, but he was solid overall and managed the game well for USC. Luck and the Stanford offense were just too much for the Trojans� defense. Barkley's stock as a high first-rounder remains stable.
There were a few other draft prospects in the game who are worth mentioning. USC safety T.J. McDonald had a mixed game. He had a good tackle on a screen. It was a smart and instinctive play as McDonald read the linemen and burst over to get in position to make a quick tackle on the screen pass. He also had a tackle for a loss in run defense.
Late in the fourth quarter, McDonald got called for a personal foul after trying taking off Chris Owusu's head. McDonald flew in with a helmet-to-helmet hit that caused Owusu to get attention from the training staff and leave the game. The penalty came on Stanford's game-tying drive and gave them 15 critical yards. With the speed of the play, it was difficult for McDonald, but he is going to have to work on leading with his shoulder rather than his helmet. In the game, McDonald totaled five tackles with a tackle for a loss. He looks like a potential first round or second-round pick.
Another quality defensive prospect in the game is Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas. He had three tackles with 1.5 tackles for a loss. Thomas tackled McNeal after a fumbled pitch for a loss of seven yards. Otherwise, Thomas was pretty quiet in the game.
The junior McNeal had a mixed game. USC wouldn't have gotten to overtime without his two touchdown runs. He totaled 145 yards on 20 carries. McNeal (5-7, 180) is fast but runs hard for a smaller back. In the third overtime, he fumbled the ball away to end the game and seal the win for Stanford. It was a heartbreaking play for him and the Trojans.
McNeal is enjoying a solid season and went over 100 yards for the second straight game. He should return to school before going pro in the 2013 draft.
Georgia 24, Florida 20
There were a number of NFL prospects on display in the rivalry game between Florida and Georgia. The player here who is likely to get drafted first in next year's draft is Georgia left tackle Cordy Glenn.
Against the Gators, Glenn had a good game. All night, he blocked well in the ground game, plus did a good job in pass protection. Glenn allowed some pressures, but generally did a good job protecting the quarterback's blind side. During this season, Glenn has improved his pass blocking while winning his reps on run blocking. The 6-foot-5, 348-pounder is a powerful run blocker who, when he gets his hands on a lineman, will take them for a ride.
Glenn should definitely move back to guard in the NFL. He has neither the feet nor the mobility to stay at left tackle. As a guard, Glenn looks like a second-day pick, although there are others that rate him in the first round. The game against Florida should help Glenn's draft stock, but Florida's defensive players did not provide an elite test for him.
Georgia center Ben Jones had a very good game against senior Florida defensive tackle Jaye Howard. Jones opened up running lanes all game and did a quality job in pass protection. It was a good tape for him and a bad tape for Howard. Jones looks like a solid second-day pick while Howard looks like a third-day pick.
Senior Florida running back Chris Rainey started the season on fire with some dynamic performances in the early going. As the competition has gotten tougher over the past four games, Rainey has not played as well and Florida has lost each of those games. Against Georgia, his rough stretch continued.
Rainey had a big return to start the game that got the Gators to midfield, but a holding penalty brought it back. Shortly afterward, Rainey dropped a slant that would have been a touchdown if he had caught it. Rainey's rough first half continued when he fumbled the ball away in the second quarter. It started as Rainey took a draw and burst into the secondary. He spun away from a defender, but let the ball fly out to set up Georgia deep in Florida territory.
Rainey got dinged up in the game, and that could have been hampering him. He finished with 26 yards on five carries with two receptions for 30 yards. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder has durability issues that could stem from being so undersized. Right now, Rainey looks like he is a late-round pick.
Fellow senior running back Jeff Demps provided some big plays for Florida. Early in the game, he caught a short pass and took it 72 yards downfield. Demps was caught from behind which illustrates that he is not playing 100 percent healthy. That never happens as Demps is one of the fastest players in college football.
Demps wasn't caught from behind when he brought a kick back 99 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Demps followed his blockers and ran the field untouched. Other than those plays, he was a non-factor. Demps was held to 12 yards rushing on eight carries. He had only one catch in the game. Demps (5-8, 181) has the same problems as Rainey. Both are very undersized with durability issues. In order to be sure that he gets drafted, Demps is going to have to turn things around and finish the season strong, otherwise he may be an undrafted free agent.
Another player with big-time special teams ability in the game was Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin. He started the game well with a big tackle for a loss that injured Rainey.
After that things didn't go well as Boykin dropped an easy interception in the second quarter. The ball hit him right in the hands and could have taken points off the board as Florida was deep in Georgia territory. The drive ended in a field goal for the Gators.
Boykin did not have a good game returning kicks totalling four kicks returned for 72 yards. Right now his stock is in the third to fourth-round range.
Florida senior quarterback John Brantley missed the last few games because of an ankle injury. He returned against Georgia and started the game well. Brantley made a fabulous touchdown toss on a fourth-and-19 in the first quarter. He stepped up in the pocket and made a perfect toss to tight end Jordan Reed who was open running down the middle seam. He burned a linebacker and junior safety Bacarri Rambo.
In the first half, there were a number of good plays that Brantley made to throw the ball. He threw the ball accurately and completed passes downfield. Brantley got terrible pass protection and was sacked a number of times as his line had frequent missed blocks. They also committed a plethora of penalties. He was playing well but his teammates weren't helping enough. In the first half, Brantley completed 10-of-20 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown.
In the second half, his play was terrible. He threw passes off the mark and made a number of mental mistakes with clock management. Even when Brantley had good time to throw the ball, he made bad passes. Brantley completed 2-of-14 passes in the second half for a total of 19 yards. His failure to make some clutch plays was significant in the Gators losing the game.
Brantley looks like at most like a late-round pick. There is a significant chance he won't get drafted at all and will be an undrafted free agent.
Georgia senior kicker Blair Walsh had a bad miss on a field goal in the second quarter. Just before the fourth quarter, he missed a makeable field goal wide right. That miss kept Georgia down 20-17. It has been a disaster of a senior season for Walsh which has killed his draft stock. He started the season as one of the top kickers in the nation, but his terrible year will probably send him into the undrafted ranks.
Penn State 10, Illinois 7
The game between Illinois and Penn State featured three good defensive line prospects for the NFL. It was a defensive struggle, so the first score of the game came with three and half minutes left in the third quarter. The defensive line prospects all had some notable plays and stood out in the game for a variety of reasons.
Penn State's top prospect is senior defensive tackle Devon Still. He is putting together a strong senior season and is really improving his draft status. The powerful tackle is a tough run defender who has the ability to break into the backfield and make frequent tackles for a loss.
Still had a fabulous break into the backfield to bust up a run in the first quarter. He beats guards with power on some plays, and speed on others. A play after getting manhandled on a run, Still burst by a guard to sack the quarterback. He grabbed the quarterback and wrestled him down. Still has now recorded a tackle for a loss in every game he has played this season.
For the remainder, Still was able to cause some disruption. He was tough for Illinois to block, so the Illinois� offense struggled throughout the game. Still put together another game to improve his draft stock. Right now, hr looks like a solid second-round pick.
Illinois features two junior defensive ends in Whitney Mercilus and Michael Buchanan who are good draft prospects. Mercilus entered Week 9 of college football as the leading sacker in the nation with 10. Buchanan has five sacks thus far this season.
Against Penn State, the Illinois defensive line played a good game and put heat on the quarterback. Mercilus did not get a sack, but got some pressure on the signal caller. Illinois lines him up all over the defensive line, but he might be better off if lined up more on the edge. Mercilus is a speed rusher, but is not overly physical. Rushing from the inside can take away some of the space that makes his speed difficult to block.
Mercilus needs some work on his run defense. He can be pushed around at times. If Mercilus declares for the 2012 draft, it may be a mistake. Right now, he looks like fringe first or second-round pick. If Mercilus returns to school and gets better with another big season, he could be a top-10 pick.
Buchanan had a good game at Penn State. He notched his sixth sack of the season with a nice rush after cutting to the inside to get to the quarterback. Buchanan also had some good fills in run defense. If he declares early for the draft, he looks like a second-round pick. Buchanan also could be a first-rounder in 2013 if he goes back to school and gets better while maintaining, or improving his production.
Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins entered the game as one of the leaders in the nation in catches and was leading the nation in receiving yards with 987. He was held in check against Penn State. The snow and rough weather made it tough to pass the ball early in the game, and once it settled down, the Illinois quarterbacks struggled to throw the ball.
Jenkins finished the game with six receptions for 43 yards. The 6-foot, 185-pounder looks like a fringe second or third-day pick.
Penn State wide receiver Derrick Moye is also a third-day draft prospect. The senior had missed the last two games with a foot injury, and he looked rusty against Illinois.
Moye had a terrible drop late in the fourth quarter. He was open on a slant to get Penn State first-down yardage on a third down. It was an easy catch that forced a fourth down. On the next play, Moye was thrown the ball in the end zone, but fell incomplete as it dropped through his arms. He was lucky the defensive back got called for a questionable pass interference penalty.
On the next play, Moye caught a pass for eight yards. He finished the game with two catches for 29 yards. The 6-5, 202-pounder looks like a late-round pick right now.
Nebraska 24, Michigan State 3
The contest between Nebraska and Michigan State featured a few quality pro prospects going against each other. Spartans senior quarterback Kirk Cousins was coming off a good game for a huge win over the Wisconsin Badges, but the Cornhuskers feature a strong defense that would test him. One of those players who would make Cousins� job tough was Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.
Entering the game, Dennard was viewed as a first-round pick, while Cousins looks like a potential second-day pick. Dennard showed why with a dynamite start as on the first drive, he broke up a deep pass from Cousins to wide receiver Keshawn Martin. The ball hung in the air, and Dennard tried to catch it, but none of the three players could haul the ball in. A few plays later, a linebacker intercepted Counsins on a pass intended for B.J. Cunningham.
Dennard had excellent coverage in breaking up a short slant. He closed the cushion in an instant and timed the breakup perfectly. On the next possession, Dennard had a good tackle in run defense. Then on the following play, he skyed high into the air to slap away a pass intended for Cunningham. It was a phenomenal pass breakup against a bigger receiver.
Later in the second quarter, Cousins threw a deep ball for Martin, who Dennard was running with stride-for-stride downfield. The ball was lofted in, and he had good position to make an interception, but Martin slapped the ball away. It was a good job by the wide receiver to reverse roles and force an incompletion instead of an interception.
In the first half, Cousins was held to four completions on 15 attempts for 27 yards and interception. Dennard had three pass breakups. In the third quarter, things stayed the same. Hr almost had a diving interception after having tight coverage on a downfield crossing route. Cousins seemed to finally realize to throw at other receivers and moved the ball a little bit by throwing short against other defenders.
The game wasn't all good for Dennard as he missed a tackle along the sideline after taking a poor angle. It was the only mistake in a strong game from him. He had a lot of tight coverage and broke up four passes. After missing some games to start the season, Dennard has played well. This was his best game of the year thus far and shows why he looks like a first-rounder next April.
Cousins finished the game 11-of-27 for 86 yards and an interception. It was a bad performance from him that halts the rise of his draft stock after a good game against Wisconsin. Cousins wasn't helped by his receivers or the running game, but it was still a disappointing performance from the senior signal caller. Rather than forcing his way into the second-day draft, Cousins remains on the bubble from second or third day of the draft.
A solid second-day pick is Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David who was pretty quiet in the first half. He contributed to some tackles in run defense, but was not a big presence. David made a big tackle in the fourth quarter on a fourth down to end a drive for Michigan State. He had good, tight coverage in pass defense and was generally just solid but unspectacular against the Spartans. His draft stock should remain unchanged.
Some juniors made good plays in the game as well. Nebraska junior defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler had a sack in the second quarter when Cousins held onto the ball way too long. That let Steinkuhler run across the field and tackle him for a five-yard loss. Michigan State junior cornerback Johnny Adams made a nice interception on a deflected pass. It was a jump ball that bounced off the hands of the wide out and Adams reached out to snatch the ball away. Both could be possible second-day picks if they declared, but should return to school and get better before entering the draft.
A potential first-rounder is Michigan State Jerel Worthy. He has been inconsistent this season and finds himself on the bubble between the first and second round. On the second play of the game for the Michigan State defense, Worthy went down with an injury. It looked like he got his bell rung. Worthy missed the rest of the drive, but returned on Nebraska's next possession. This season, he has been inconsistent as a pass rusher, and against Nebraska, his pass rushing opportunities were limited. The Spartans� defense was removing him in passing situations and going with a 3-4, or a 3-3-5 defense package.
Worthy was quiet until the third quarter when he burst into the backfield to blow up an option run. He missed the tackle on Martinez, who tossed the ball to his back to avoid a big tackle for a loss by Worthy. Later on, Worthy was called for an offsides penalty. It was a quiet game from him. When the official stats come out, he will probably be credited with two or three assisted tackles, but that is it. Overall, Worthy was held in check by the Nebraska offensive line, and this game doesn't do anything to help his draft stock.
Nebraska senior right tackle Marcel Jones had a good game for the Cornhuskers. He was a real force on the offensive line and that helps his stock significantly. Michigan State running back Edwin Baker did not have a good game with 38 yards on 10 carries. Cunningham did not record a catch in the game. Both seniors are third-day picks who had their stock hurt from this game.
Arkansas 31, Vanderbilt 28
There was a good draft matchup in the game between Arkansas and Vanderbilt. The Razorbacks have a strong passing attack led by junior quarterback Tyler Wilson and senior wide receiver Jarius Wright. Vanderbilt has one of the better cornerbacks in college football in Casey Hayward. The senior Hayward entered the game tied for second in the nation in interceptions with five. He should have added to that total against Arkansas.
To start the game Hayward made a good tackle on a perimeter run to stop the back for no gain. On a tackle where Hayward lost his helmet, he was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a shove after the whistle. It was a terrible call, but was offset with another penalty so it didn't count for any yardage.
In the second quarter, Hayward had some missed opportunities. On the first, he dropped into zone coverage. Hayward trailed back in front of a receiver. The throw from Wilson was high and it bounced off the top of his hands. The missed interception had Hayward bobbing up and down in frustration. A few plays later, he dropped a pick-six.
Hayward read Wilson's eyes on an out route, jumped the route and had the ball bounce right out of his hands. If Hayward had caught it, he had nothing but open field in front of him and it would have made for an easy touchdown. Midway through the second quarter, Hayward dropped a leaping interception. He undercut a route coming over from zone. Hayward juggled the ball and, once again, should have grabbed the pass for a pick. Three dropped interceptions are going to hurt his draft stock. At the same time, he showed the good instincts and intelligence to get himself in position to make some splash plays.
Just before halftime, Hayward missed an open field tackle when the receiver made a cut back to avoid him. With only seconds left until the half, Hayward was beat for a touchdown when Wilson fired a bullet to Wright. The wideout ran by Hayward and got a couple steps of separation. He stalled looking back at the quarterback while Wright kept running. That got him open to narrow Vanderbilt's lead to 21-14 at the half.
In the third quarter, Hayward had a nice pass breakup on a third down. On a deep cross, he had good coverage and slapped a pass away. Late in the third quarter, Hayward made another nice pass breakup to prevent a touchdown on a deep pass to Wright in the front of the end zone. Hayward had his back to the ball, and as soon as he saw Wright put his hands up to make a catch, Hayward got his hands up and broke up the pass which fell incomplete.
In the fourth quarter, Hayward made another leaping pass breakup in the end zone. On a deep pass, he recovered and stretched out on a leaping pass breakup. The game was a mixed outing for Hayward. He showed tight coverage, good instincts, and physical talent. Hayward also showed the agility to make some awkward pass breakups. He also dropped a bunch of interceptions and those plays could have been huge in Vanderbilt pulling off the upset. Overall, this game sends his draft stock down slightly.
Wright put together a good game including a 37-yard gain in the third quarter where he found a soft spot in zone coverage along the sideline. Wright made a number of tough catches and showed off his good hands and speed. He finished the game with 10 receptions for 136 yards and a score. Aside from that touchdown catch, Wright did much better going against the other cornerbacks and not Hayward. The boundary corner gave Wright a real challenge. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Wright is on the bubble of being a second-day pick.
Wilson finished the game 27-of-43 for 316 yards with a touchdown. It was a bad tape though for him as he was lucky that four or five interceptions weredropped. He made some questionable decisions on multiple throws. Wilson should stay in school for his senior year to improve with coaching from Bobby Petrino before going to the NFL.
Vanderbilt senior defensive end Tim Fugger had a good game. He has continually grown in his career after starting as a linebacker but has now transitioned to play left defensive end. Fugger had a fabulous rush where he beat the tackle with power and speed. Fugger rocked the tackle off balance and ran by him to run down Wilson with a massive hits. It was Fuger's fourth sack of the season. He looks like a good gamble on the third day of the draft with some developmental potential.
It has been a somewhat disappointing year for Arkansas senior linebacker Jerry Franklin. He started out the season as second-day pick, but hasn't played well in some games, especially against Alabama and Texas A&M. After making a few good run tackles, Franklin made a huge play with his team down 28-20 at the start of the fourth quarter. Vanderbilt running back Zach Stacy dropped the ball as he tried to change hands. Franklin picked up the fumble at the four yard-line and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. A two-point conversion tied the game up. He finished the game with 10 tackles and made the play of the game to pull off a comeback win for Arkansas. This game should definitely help his draft stock.
Razorbacks senior defensive end Jake Bequette was shut down in the game. He has had a rough senior season while dealing with an injury. Bequette started the year as a second-day pick and now looks like a late-rounder. That is the same story for Arkansas wide receiver Greg Childs. He missed the game with an injured knee. His draft stock has fallen dramatically this season due to injuries and ineffective play, just like Bequette.
Pittsburgh 35, Connecticut 20
There were two quality defensive linemen prospects to watch in the game between Pittsburgh and Connecticut. Panthers defensive end Brandon Lindsey and Huskies defensive tackle Kendell Reyes are both considered to be early round picks. Some, like ESPN analyst Todd McShay, rate Reyes as a potential first-rounder, while in this writer's estimation, they both look like second-day picks. Both Reyes and Lindsey had quiet games this week.
Overall, Reyes did not get much pressure on the quarterback, and also did not get in on many tackles in run defense. On some plays, the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Reyes did a solid job of cutting into the backfield and getting some penetration, but he did not have the agility to redirect in order to chase down the quarterback or running back.
Consistently Reyes had to fight some double teams. On one of those plays, he helped set up teammate Jesse Joseph to come free and get a sack. Reyes was able cause a pile that allowed Joseph to run down the signal caller.
Reyes has a burst off the ball and is good at knifing his gap, but is a little stiff. In the NFL, he will need to spend some time on the hoops drill as well as work on dropping his hips and shoulder to improve his ability to redirect.
At the line of scrimmage, Reyes is not a plugger, and Pittsburgh had a touchdown run going straight at him. Overall, Reyes looks like he would be best in a one-gap system for the next level. Reyes could be a decent three-technique prospect on the second day of the draft. Going in the second or third round looks like the right slotting for him.
Lindsey had a similar performance to Reyes. Pittsburgh had a good game rushing the quarterback with six sacks, but that wasn't because of Lindsey. On a play or two, he dove for the quarterback after a teammate was taking down the signal caller, but that was the closest Lindsey came to a sack. One of those had him getting some pressure before teammate Aaron Donald sacked the quarterback.
On most plays, Lindsey seemed to try and burst upfield. That allowed UConn to run through his gap on occasion. On one play, he did a swim move and got by the offensive tackle. Lindsey lost his footing and fell on the ground. The guard dove on top of his block to keep him out of the play.
Another play in run defense saw Lindsey get taken to the ground by a lineman in run defense. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder does not have a lot of football functional strength. He doesn't have the size or power to hold up on the line of scrimmage as a base end.
Lindsey also needs more pass rushing moves. He tries to beat tackles with speed and cutting on every play. Lindsey has to develop his hands and add some functional strength. He executed a decent spin move at times, but that was about it and the offensive linemen seemed ready for it.
It looks like Lindsey would be better as a 3-4 outside linebacker. That would help to cover up his smaller size and strength. Offensive linemen in the NFL will overpower him in the ground game if he is lining up with his hand in the ground. Lindsey started the season as a potential high second-round pick, but now he looks more like a third-round pick.
The offensive lineman who really did a good job for UConn was tackle Mike Ryan. He is a mid-round pick and did a good job of shutting down Lindsey. The 6-foot-5, 335-pounder moves well for his size. Ryan probably should play right tackle in the NFL, but he is a sleeper prospect who could turn into a good value pick.
The sophomore Donald had two sacks in the game. He now has seven sacks on the season, and one of those was against Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff. Donald is a player to watch for 2013 and 2014.
Two quality offensive line prospects missed the game with injury. Pittsburgh linemen left tackle Lucas Nix and guard Chris Jacobson both missed the game. It would have been good to see how the latter faired against Reyes, but Jacobson is out for the year with a knee injury he suffered against Iowa. Both Nix and Jacobson could get consideration on the second day or possibly go early on the third day of the draft.
Another injury had major draft ramifications, and this injury happened early in the game. Junior running back Ray Graham was enjoying a huge season for Pitt. The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder entered the game second in the nation in yards per game with 134.1 and had totaled 939 yards (5.8 average) with nine touchdowns. He is a shifty back with excellent moves to dodge tacklers and has some real quickness.
On the second carry of game, Graham went down with a serious leg injury. He planted his foot in the ground to make a cut back and his knee buckled. Graham wasn't hit when the injury happened, but he felt it right away and hobbled for a step before being tackled. Graham had to be helped off the field and went into the locker room. He spent the rest of the night on crutches and sitting in a cart. It looks like a significant knee injury that could be torn ligaments.
Given this injury, one would think that Graham would have to return for his senior season to try and put together a good year before going to the NFL.
Virginia 28, Miami 21
The game between Virginia and Miami featured some quality talent for the 2012 NFL Draft. Most of the talent was on the defensive side of the ball. The defender who had the best game was Virginia defensive end Cam Johnson.
Johnson entered the season as a potential third or fourth-round pick, but has dealt with pectoral and knee injuries this season. They caused him to miss one game and have hurt his production. He has two sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss in six games.
Against the Hurricanes, Johnson added to his totals with a strong game. The Virginia senior defensive end had a good tackle in run defense with a tackle for a loss early in the first quarter. He shed a block and filled the hole off tackle to make the stop. That jump started Johnson's night and he started to put heat on Miami quarterback Jacory Harris.
Johnson had a good physical rush to get pressure on Harris. Johnson got upfield and shoved away left tackle Brandon Washington and cut to the inside. Washington brought down Johnson while Harris stepped up and was chased down by another Virginia defender. Johnson's good rush got Washington called for a holding penalty.
Later in the first half, Johnson beat Washington with a bull rush. He pushed him straight back into the pocket. Johnson shoved Washington aside and bear hugged Harris for the sack.
In the third quarter, Johnson met a teammate at Harris for a sack that also forced a fumble. Johnson was second to get to the signal caller, but he put a big hit on Harris and that helped force the ball out. It was a strong night for Johnson, and a necessary one, to help keep his draft stock from falling.
The player in this game who is likely to get drafted first next April is Virginia cornerback Chase Minnifield. Entering the game, he is a fringe first or second-round pick. The 6-foot, 185-pounder had a mixed game against Miami.
Minnifield started the game with a big tackle for a loss to force a punt. On a wide receiver screen, he jetted into the backfield to make a tackle on the receiver. It was a good read and the corner showed his speed by closing a big cushion in an instant.
On the second possession, Minnifield made another good open-field tackle on a receiver on a short reception. Throughout the game, he had tight coverage, and Harris generally targeted the other defensive backs instead of Minnifield.
One exception was a big play for Miami. In the second quarter, just before halftime, Minnifield was beat by Miami wide receiver Tommy Streeter for a short touchdown catch. It was a jump ball in the end zone that was just over the hand of Minnifield and into the hands of Streeter. The junior Streeter (6-5, 210) used his height and leaping ability to reach the ball above Minnifield. There wasn't too much more that he could have done to prevent the incompletion.
That play aside Minnifield played a solid game and had good coverage. His draft stock shouldn't be impacted from this game.
Another potential second-day pick in the game was Miami linebacker Sean Spence. The senior had a big game five days earlier against Georgia Tech. Spence had a quality game against Virginia, but was not the big force that he was against the Yellow Jackets.
Spence had a good tackle after chasing down a receiver downfield running over in zone coverage. Throughout the game, he made a few good tackles. By halftime, Spence had five or six tackles. He probably matched that in the second half. Spence entered the game 10th in the nation in tackles and should stay around there after playing Virginia. Spence (6-0, 225) looks like a potential high third-round pick right now. He is undersized and that is the biggest knock on this speedy and instinctive linebacker.
Another potential second-day pick is Miami safety Ray Ray Armstrong, who was suspended the first four games of the season. In the second quarter, he made a big hit on a receiver downfield. The hit separated the ball from the receiver and should have caused a punt, but a bad penalty call gave Virginia a first down.
A few plays later, Armstrong got burned by a trick play when Virginia tossed the ball to their running back who sprinted to the perimeter on a sweep. He then threw downfield for a wide open receiver. Armstrong started to chase down the running back, but the halfback option burned Armstrong deep. It was a tough play for Armstrong, and he probably did what he is coached to do.
Later Armstrong, flew up to the line to make a good fill on run defense to tackle the ball carrier for no gain. Overall he had a decent game and it shouldn't have a real impact on his draft stock.
Miami senior wide receiver Travis Benjamin had a decent game against Virginia. He made a fabulous over-the-shoulder catch on a ball that was thrown off the mark. Benjamin had to turn his body around and redirect to get in position to make the catch. The play went for 39 yards and set up Streeter's short touchdown over Minnifield. For the game, Benjamin had four receptions for 68 yards. The 5-foot-10, 176-pounder has some speed and looks like a third-day draft pick.
Streeter has been a real weapon this season, and he has been the receiver who has stepped up with Leonard Hankerson entering the NFL. Streeter made another touchdown catch on a deep ball in the middle of the second half. He got away with a shove on a cornerback and shielded a safety away from the ball and hauled in a long 51-yard touchdown pass.
For the game, Streeter caught seven passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. He is big with some speed to get downfield. Streeter has good hands and runs good routes. He should return to school to get better and have some more production before going pro. If Streeter entered the draft next April, he would probably be a mid-round pick.
Miami running back Lamar Miller has had a strong 2011 season and has been one of the top running backs in the nation. He has quality size and special speed to break off long runs. Virginia did a good job of bottling up Miller. They held him to 70 yards on 16 carries with a long run of 17.
Similar to Dolphins running back Reggie Bush, Miller hurts himself on some runs by cutting too much and constantly looking to bounce runs outside to get free downfield. He needs to focus on being a more North-South runner to get yards and move the chains. The red-shirt sophomore has plenty of time to develop, and if he returns to school while making improvements he could be a first-round pick in 2012 or 2013. If Miller comes out this year, he would probably fall to the second day of the draft.