This section breaks down many college football games each week and highlights how 2013 NFL Draft Prospects
have performed. Or look at the 2013 NFL Draft Stock
By Charlie Campbell.
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Virginia Tech 20, Georgia Tech 17
ESPN reported that there were four NFL general managers at this game to watch Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback had an excellent debut as a first-year starter in 2011 and has a unique physical skill set. He pairs a cannon for an arm with great running ability. The redshirt junior is considered to have the potential to be a high first-round pick.
Thomas' first pass of the evening was almost intercepted by Georgia Tech cornerback Rod Sweating. The ball went through Sweating's hands as well as the wide receiver's. Thomas ran for 11 yards for a first down two plays later; it was his first carry. He got the Hokies in the end zone on the second drive at the end of a 56-yard march. Most of the yardage came on the ground, but Thomas finished the drive by tossing in a short touchdown pass to tight Eric Martin. The signal-caller showed nice touch on the pass to rainbow it over the defense and lead his receiver toward the back of the end zone.
Thomas threw a bullet for a 15-yard gain on a quick slant to Marcus Davis early in the second quarter. Thomas then toseed another nice touch pass for a gain of 13 on an out route. He made a bad decision on a third-and-13 a few plays later, putting one into coverage between two receivers. It wasn't actually clear who Thomas was throwing to, and he was fortunate the pass wasn't intercepted.
Thomas was spotty throughout the first half. His accuracy was off, and he didn't look in sync with his wide receivers. Thomas lost his top two receiving targets from 2011 and doesn't seem to have chemistry with his new receivers yet. He also was locking onto his primary read and was not surveying the field by working through his progressions. Thomas completed 12-of-23 passes in the first half, picking up 90 yards and the score score. He also carried the ball nine times for 40 yards.
The third quarter saw Thomas struggle to move the ball and the Hokies were unable to produce any points. He finally got a big play through the air with just eight minutes left in the game, but it was more of the receiver's doing. It was a quick slant that saw Davis break off a big run down the field.
The next play illustrated why the NFL general managers were there to see Thomas. He dropped back to pass and laid out a perfect 42-yard bomb into the end zone. His receiver made the catch while being interfered with. The score gave Virginia Tech a 14-10 lead. It was perfect throw at a clutch time from Thomas.
Georgia Tech took the lead by three with just under a minute in the game. Thomas completed his first pass for a nice gain close to midfield. After a few short gains, he made a clutch throw on a slant to give his receiver room to run. It set up a 41-yard field goal to tie the game and sent it into overtime. The Hokies quarterback didn't throw the ball once in the extra period.
Thomas completed 21-of-38 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Yellow Jackets. He ran for 39 yards on 17 carries, too. It wasn't an impressive game that really helps his draft stock, but Thomas made clutch plays in the fourth quarter to get his team to overtime and a victory.
Thomas has a cannon for an arm and looks effortless with the flick of the wrist throwing a fastball. However, it is crystal clear that he needs a lot more development as a passer. His accuracy is off, and he needs to improve his footwork. Thomas' field vision is also a weakness. He typically doesn't work through his progressions. There is no doubt that Thomas is dripping with physical potential, but his junior year debut made him look more like a middle of the first-round pick rather than a top-10 pick.
There were other draftable players in this game other than Thomas.
Virginia Tech junior cornerback Kyle Fuller has the potential to be an early-round pick. He had an active game against Georgia Tech. Fuller fired into the backfield to up end a running back for a loss of three yards on a perimeter run. On a deep pass just before halftime, he had blanket coverage on a deep ball. Fuller and the receiver were scrapping with each other, but it wasn't enough contact to warrant a penalty.
Fuller had another opportunity for a tackle for a loss in the third quarter, but he missed the tackle in the backfield. Fuller had a clutch open-field tackle on a screen pass late in the game. He shed a block and wrapped up the ball-carrier in a textbook fashion.
Fuller had solid coverage all night and didn't allow his receivers to get separation. He made a huge play in overtime on a ball thrown up for grabs. Fuller was the closest player to the pass and leapt to catch the ball at the highest point. The interception set up the Hokies to finish off their victory. Fuller has a lot of potential, but a larger game-sample of the youngster is needed to get a good gauge on where he could go in the 2013 NFL Draft, if he comes out early.
Another prospect from Virginia Tech worth mentioning is defensive end James Gayle. He got an easy sack in the first quarter when he went unblocked by the left tackle and only had to dodge a running back to get to quarterback Tevin Washington. Other than that play, Gayle had some nice rushes, but his rushes took too long to develop, and as a result, he wasn't able to get home for another sack. Gayle looks like a mid-to-late rounder.
Baylor 59, SMU 24
There usually aren't many top-shelf matchups of NFL draft talent in the first week of the college football season. The majority of the top programs take on cupcake teams, and massive blowouts are a normal result. One potential under-the-radar exception this year was the Baylor versus SMU matchup on Sunday afternoon.
Many thought Bears offensive tackle Cyril Richardson would be taking on Mustangs defensive end Margus Hunt, but that changed when Richardson was moved to left guard for this season. Hunt versus Richardson was a possible battle of second-day draft prospects.
Richardson played left tackle for Baylor last season, protecting the blind-side of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Robert Griffin III. It was a surprise that Richardson has been moved inside to left guard. However, given the wide splits of the offensive line in collegiate offenses, defensive tackles end up closer to the quarterback than in NFL. Thus, it makes some sense that the Bears would want a good pass-protector on the inside. The defensive ends have a lot further to go to get to the quarterback than the defensive tackles.
Richardson was rock-solid in the first half, but was largely untested. SMU ran a 3-4 defense and there were many pass plays where he didn't have a defender to block. Richardson did well in the ground game and hit some nice blocks to open up holes.
Hunt was a complete non-factor versus Baylor. The Mustangs had him playing contain on the edge on a lot of passing plays, but, when he did rush the quarterback, he didn't pressure the signal-caller. Hunt is all power and doesn't have a repertoire of pass-rushing moves. He needs to get a lot of coaching at the next level to upgrade his pass rush.
Hunt got in on a tackle in the third quarter when a running back ran right into him and the blocker. Hunt then jumped offsides on the next play, but the penalty was declined. In general, he held his ground well at the point of attack in run defense. The offensive line couldn't push Hunt around, but he wasn't disengaging and getting in on tackles.
Hunt is a developmental project for the NFL. He has a nice skill set, but doesn't really look like he knows what he is doing on the field. The senior doesn't appear to understand how to attack offensive tackles and how to fight off their blocks.
It isn't surprising that Hunt is raw. He's only been playing football for three years after coming from Estonia. The 6-foot-8, 320-pounder looks like a better fit as a 3-4 defensive end. He has the length and power to set the edge in order to occupying tackles, freeing up outside linebackers. Right now, Hunt doesn't have the natural pass-rushing skills to be an end in a 4-3 defense.
Hunt was viewed as a second-day pick to start the seson, but that is clearly based on his potential. He needs a lot of work in order to be a competitor against NFL offensive tackles. Some teams may draft him early because of his freakish special teams prowess. Hunt has 14 career blocked kicks (nine field goals) and set an NCAA record with seven blocked kicks as a freshman in 2009. He look more like a third-day pick, at least defensively, against Baylor.
One draftable player who started the season well was Baylor's Terrance Williams. The senior wide out, a potential first-round pick has quality size and is very fast. Many wondered how he would play with a new quarterback, but Williams dominated SMU.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder took the first play from scrimmage for a gain on seven yards on a jet sweep. Next, the Bears threw a quick stop pass to him and he dodged a defender to get upfield for a gain of close to 15 yards.
Williams' best reception of the first half came late in the second quarter when he had a nice gain on a slant against SMU cornerback Chris Parks. Williams had another good reception after beating Parks on a skinny post. It was a gain of about 35 yards. Williams got a yard of separation and it was an easy downfield completion for his quarterback.
Williams made a nice leaping reception during the third quarter in the midst of three defenders. Later, he beat Parks on a go route down the field for a gain of 48 yards. That ended Williams' action for the night, and he totaled seven receptions for 139 yards. It was an impressive start to the season and showed that the senior is worthy of first-round consideration in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Junior Tevin Reese, another Baylor wide receiver, also flashed versus SMU. He only had one reception, but it was a big one. Reese caught an easy touchdown after running a go route. He was left uncovered and raced through the secondary for a 50-yard score. Reese has second-day potential, but he would probably be better off playing all four seasons in college to improve his stock, just like Williams or former teammate Kendall Wright.
Last but not least, is SMU running back Zach Line. He has been one of the best backs in Conference USA over the past few seasons, but had a mixed day against Baylor.
First the good: Line set up a first-and-goal late in the second quarter on a dump-off pass in the flat. He was left open and charged upfield for a gain of over 10 yards. The senior finished the reception well by powering his way through three defenders.
Then the bad: Line put the ball on the ground with just two minutes remaining in the second quarter. He ran up the middle and a diving defensive tackle slapped the ball to the ground. Luckily for the ball-carrier, a teammate recovered the loose ball.
Line bounced back with a great run in the third quarter. He shed two tackles near the line of scrimmage and took a defender for a ride of a few yards. Line then shook the defender off his back and sprinted downfield for a gain of 33 yards.
Line averaged a nice amount of yards per carry versus the Bears, but they were playing very soft run-defense. They had such a big lead they were playing their safeties deep to prevent any quick scores that could've let the Mustangs back in the game. Line had big holes to run through and put together a string of good carries. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder ran for 132 yards on 25 carries with five catches for 21 yards. He had a good amount of yardage after contact and broke a plethora of tackles with his imposing power.
It doesn't look like Line has the burst needed to be an NFL running back; he isn't quick enough to the hole. However, Line definitely has the skill set to be a fullback. He is big enough to be a good blocker; he can carry the ball in short yardage situations; and he has nice receiving ability out of the backfield. Line could be mid third-day pick as a fullback.
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