West Virginia vs. Maryland
Geno Smith. Let's clear up some misconceptions.
- Smith is not a dual-threat quarterback. If you're a fan of the mobile, running QB, this isn't your guy. For a mental model of how Smith plays, think Aaron Rodgers. Smith is a pocket passer first, and a really good one, that happens to be mobile and able to run well when flushed out of the pocket. This week Smith ran four times: one was a kneel down, three were scrambles, and none were called runs. He had a six yarder, but gained -13 yards overall. He's not a running quarterback.
- Smith is not a product of Dana Holgorsen's offense. Many draft pundits criticize Smith of not being able to read a defense, instead throwing tons of predicated reads, ie: called screens, etc. Of 23 first half throws, 3 were predicated reads. On the other 20 throws, Smith dropped to pass and read the defense. Overall for the game, Smith threw only 8 predicated throws. He went 30 of 43 overall, and 22 of 35 as a pocket passer reading the field. Smith completed almost 63% of his passes from the pocket, and while not the unrealistic stats from the past two weeks (James Madison and Marshall), he read the defense and put up good numbers against the 8th best defense in the country in the rain. I saw this last year, and I'm seeing it again.
More on Smith: Smith's advanced in pocket passing techniques. He's got some flaws, but they can be cleaned up. Smith is constantly balanced, and when he steps into throws and transitions his weight properly, he follows through and delivers a great ball. He snaps the ball out over his ear quickly, and gets great velocity on the football. Smith also knows when to take some RPMs off the ball. He's trained in resetting his feet, and doesn't throw off-balance when not rushed. I don't like that he bounces around so much on his feet. I'd like to see him calmer in the pocket, but it's not something that really detracts from his game. He does tend to throw off his back foot when pressured in his face, and the ball almost always sails on him. He also needs to speed up his progressions. He reads the defense, seems to understand what he's seeing, and makes good decisions. But too many Maryland pressures and sacks came from Smith not going through his reads fast enough. He also needs to work on passing from under center. Almost all WV snaps from under center are runs. That said, he's a rock in the pocket, almost never getting flustered. Maryland got pressure on him all afternoon, and he stood tall, and delivered the ball. Smith hangs in the pocket and won't bail early, and will step up into open spaces in the pocket, reset, and deliver - he's probably the most advanced QB I've seen in four years in terms of staying in the pocket. He seems almost oblivious to the rush at times, and took some shots because of it, but still got the ball out, most of the time for completions. Smith also got hurt in the first half and stayed in the game. While he didn't put up the unrealistic stats that he did in the first two games, Smith showed all the skills required of an NFL pocket passing quarterback. Unless today was an anamoly, and I don't think it was since I've seen Smith before, I saw a top ten pick. After seeing Logan Thomas twice this year and some last year, I consider Smith the better prospect at this point in the season.
Count me as unimpressed by the West Virginia offensive line. Center Joe Madsen, guard Josh Jenkins, and right tackle Jeff Braun are last draftables-to-rookie free agents for me. Madsen is a lunch pail blocker who gets the WV line into the right scheme most of the time, but he's only OK at anchoring and drive blocking. Probably best in a mostly zone blocking scheme, and the best of the three Mountaineer lineman. Jenkins is just another lineman, and an undersized one at that. Braun is NFL sized, but is more of a wall-off blocker. Smith saw a lot of pressure from Maryland today.
Stedman Bailey reminds me a bit of Santonio Holmes in terms of playing style, though Bailey doesn't have Holmes' elite deep gear. Bailey works all over the field, mostly outside the hash marks, but will go over the middle - something to note, his drops were inside the hash marks today. He's at his best when he's outside running vertical routes, and has the hands to make difficult grabs against defenders. Doesn't let the ball into his body and will catch the ball at its high point. Good catch-and-run skills, but more smooth than electric. A good day two receiver with vertical ability.
Tavon Austin and Roscoe Parrish need to check to see if they are related somehow. Describe one, and you describe the other. Austin is super small with electric running skills after the catch and on returns. He's got vertical ability but he won't out-fight anyone for the ball. Can get loose all kinds of ways and is super dangerous once he has the ball. Shows great hands one play, then not so great the next. A team drafting Austin needs a plan, and probably needs some bigger outside receivers and a good tight end.
I thought Maryland safety/linebacker Kenny Tate had a pretty good game. Tate's a lot like Bryan Scott: a bigger strong safety that can play linebacker in the box and do a lot of things for the defense. He's an OK blitzer but isn't going to be able to stay in the box as an every down linebacker. He's longer and lean for a linebacker, and a bit of a long strider. He can close quickly in a straight line but isn't a great change of direction guy. Tate is a smart defender and diagnoses the play well, plays under control, and often gets himself in position to make a play and then makes it. A team looking for a third down linebacker with tight end coverage ability could take a flyer on Tate as their guy.
Maryland defensive tackle Anthony Francis had a pretty good day. He's a bit of a 3-technique DT / 5-techique end tweener, and the kind of player that Pittsburgh might bring in for a look at DE. He's got good size but with some quickness, but mostly got penetration today with effort.
Joe Vellano is a lunch-pail DT that needs to add about twenty pounds to be effective. He comes off the ball hard each and every snap, and plays a relentless game. He'll get pushed around at times, but wins mostly with effort and good technique. Isn't a great bull rusher. Vellano shows pro level effort and technique, and with some extra strength, he could be a passing down / wave DT in the Chris Hoke mold.
I came away pretty impressed with Maryland linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield. Maryland used him in a variety of positions (OLB, ILB, rush end) and he played well. He was the primary reason that Smith had to move around the pocket. His best position is probably ILB or 4-3 OLB, because he's at his best as a blitzer and covering in the shorter zones. Not a huge linebacker, but one that WV needed to account after while. WV eventually worked against him in some of the deeper zones against insider receivers, and Hartsfield was out of his element.
Virginia Tech vs. Bowling Green
Bowling Green MLB Dwayne Woods was one of the better Eagles on the field, in my opinion. He's a bit of a guy without a position, being a short, undersized inside linebacker. He doesn't play small, and plays with a lot of pop. I liked his hip snap on contact, and can stone-wall runners. Mobile, he slips a lot of blocks. Not going to win many one-on-one blocking match-ups with lineman, and needs to be covered. Someone to keep an eye on as a late round / rookie free agent.
Logan Thomas played better in this game than last week, and still remains a first rounder in my opinion. He's a true dual-threat quarterback that runs a lot in the Hokies' offense. He's not a sledgehammer runner like Jake Locker or Tim Tebow, nor is he the athletic freak that Cam Newton is. He's more of a smooth runner that picks up yards with longer strides. He's a lot like Newton and Tebow in terms of an evaluation: Thomas has all the physical tools that you need to see, and flashes some of the abilities needed to play QB at the pro level. I consider Thomas a projection pick at this point, somewhere in between Tebow and Newton. He's not at the elite level like Newton, but he does more things well at the college level than Tebow did, in terms of skills that translate to NFL football. Thomas runs most of the Tech offense from the shotgun, but does play from under center quite a bit. When he's under center, Virginia Tech is nearly a lock to run or call play-action. Thomas is pretty good with play action, where the reads are simpler. He does have a tendency to throw behind wide open receivers on play action. He won't miss them completely, but throws just enough behind the receiver to prevent any yards after the catch. He read the field alright, but Tech had the game in hand throughout, and Thomas wasn't asked to do a whole lot in this game, and his stats reflect that. Still, while he's reading progressions, it's not at a high level and he needs work. Thomas is still a first rounder for me, but a player that shouldn't be thrown into the fire as a rookie.
Virginia Tech defensive end James Gayle is in the Lamarr Woodley / Courtney Upshaw mold, though he's not close to as powerful as those two were in college. He's most similar to Upshaw in that he's a jack-of-all trades, but for Gayle, he's somewhat of a master of none. He's an OK speed rusher, but isn't explosive enough to get an edge all the time. Strong, but gets washed out of too many plays. Hustles, and works to get to the football even if he's on the backside. Recognizes plays and sniffed out screens and draws in this game. Probably best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
South Carolina vs. Missouri
I don't think Missouri's James Franklin can play quarterback at the NFL level without some significant time as a reserve. He runs Gary Pinkel's offense, as Blaine Gabbert did, but doesn't have Gabbert's talent. Franklin struggled to read the defense all game. He consistently made poor reads, whether he threw to receivers that weren't open, or didn't see open receivers. For me, Franklin isn't a dual-threat quarterback. He's more of a great athlete that can throw the ball well enough to start in college.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is the typical Steve Spurrier passer. He's limited physically, but can execute Spurrier's highly effective college offense. Spurrier's offense is actually pretty simple to run. It's sort of like a logic statement, eg: "if x, then y." Spurrier's offense works in the same manner, eg: "Read the strongside linebacker. If he drops, throw to the TE. If he stays, throw to the WR." Spurrier likes quarterbacks who execute his offense exactly the way he envisions, which Shaw does. Spurrier's quarterbacks don't have a great track record outside his offenses, because the reads in the NFL are far more complicated than in his offense. Shaw's stats in this game were unreal (20-21, 249 yards, 2 TDs, 20 straight completions to end the game), but he was making easy reads all game. He doesn't have a great arm, and rarely makes a play with his arm beyond the design of the play. He's tough, and will run hard. Shaw is mentally tough, handles tough coaching well, and leads by example. He's kind of the type of quarterback you want as a reserve in the Ty Detmer role.
Marcus Lattimore is a pro running back right now. He's got the best vision I've seen in college since starting to write for Buffalo Rumblings - yes, that means better than CJ Spiller, Mark Ingram, and Trent Richardson. He's a big, strong workhorse that seems to always find the hole and make positive yards. He's underwhelming from a speed perspective. He's not going to run away from anyone on the second level. Lattimore fights for yards all game, and has the big, powerful body to do so. He's a true workhorse and can easily carry the ball thirty times without wearing down. As mentioned before, his best attribute is his vision. As the blocks develop, he sees where the hole is and reacts well, getting to the hole without much wasted movement. He'll sometime cut into an area right before the blocks develop - that's the trait that separates him from everyone else. He's type of back a team like New England and Pittsburgh crave - a guy that can grind out a game.
South Carolina left defensive end Devin Taylor isn't the player that right end Jadeveon Clowney is, but I think he projects as a wave, effort defensive end. Taylor is tall and lean, and looks awkward in a four- or three-point stance. Taylor's burst off the ball is OK but nothing special. Taylor got some pressure on Franklin mostly through using his length to his advantage. He can eat up ground in a hurry with his longer legs, and can hand fight well with his long arms. Taylor does tend to get upright too much, and can get driven off the ball by dedicated drive blocking. He'll need to get stronger in the pros, but I think Taylor projects as a mid- to later- round pick with strong reserve traits and some upside.
Throw a blanket over Austin and Ace Sanders, and they're the same. Sanders is a bit more sturdy as a runner, but does all the same things that Austin does. Spurrier plays Sanders outside a bit, but Sanders is mostly in the slot. He's explosive in and out of his breaks, and can accelerate to top speed in just a couple strides. He's best matched up in the slot, and can break a game open in the return game, as he did today.
Kansas State vs. Oklahoma
I don't think Collin Klein is a pro quarterback. He's big and athletic, and plays a lot like Tim Tebow did at Florida. But he's far more raw as a passer. Most of his throws are predicated throws, where the play design has one or two receivers that the QB can throw to. Klein over-strides on his throws, and misses because he's not following through on his weight transition. When pressured, Klein's footwork deteriorates. He throws from a front-footed jump position, and he gets nothing on the football in terms of velocity when he does so. His biggest issue is a hitch in his throw. It's a reverse of Tebow's hitch. Klein's ball goes from a normal carrying position to above/behind his helmet, pauses, and then forward. It's worse than Tebow's for two reasons: it's not a natural flow, and the defense can see the ball rise up. Of note, I don't think Klein is his listed 6-5. Standing near center BJ Finney, Klein is visible shorter. Finney is listed at 6-4.
Kansas State running back John Hubert is a firecracker out of the backfield. He's short but not small, and can run inside some. He was most effective on space plays: screens, draws, traps, misdirection, etc. He runs with a lower center of gravity, and while he didn't go down easy, he wasn't difficult for Oklahoma to get on the ground. I project Hubert as a later-round scat back type that can play on passing downs.
I didn't see much of Kansas State cornerback Nigel Malone, and that's a good thing, since I was looking. Malone didn't get thrown at much. Kansas State played him mostly in zone, and some man-off.
Arthur Brown looks like a pro-level weakside linebacker in a fast flowing scheme. He's short and looks small, but plays a bigger than his size. He'll play off blocks but won't hesitate to fight through them either. Brown is pretty good at anticipating, and can get into the hole before the blocking can wall him off. He strikes hard on contact, and is a menace to receivers in the shorter zones, in particular. He can get washed out on off-tackle runs, and isn't effective in man coverage against tight ends that take him vertical. Kansas State plays him more as a weakside inside linebacker, and that should translate well to NFL 4-3 weakside linebacker.
I wouldn't be comfortable taking Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones in the first round right now. He's too inconsistent. All of his issues are mental. On his good plays, and there are a lot of them, he's an ideal pro pocket passer: shifting into the right part of the pocket, resetting his feet, and delivering a very good, accurate throw. He can fire all over the field, and contrary to what some draft pundits have said, Jones drove the ball downfield on a few seam throws. On his bad plays, he hits receivers in the strike zone but behind them, and doesn't move in the pocket to areas that improve the situation. He'll then compound that by making a poor play. Jones' first half fumble was caused because instead of stepping into the pocket, where he had room, he drifted right, out of the pocket, where he was strip sacked, and Kansas State scored a touchdown. On his interception, he again drifted right, and threw completely off balance, overthrowing Kenny Stills. It's sort of maddening to watch. Jones will drive his team down to the red zone, looking amazing doing so, to the point where you think you're seeing a top ten quarterback. He'll then get inaccurate and force Oklahoma into a field goal. The guy has all the tools to be the first overall pick and a great pro. I think he's suffering from a lack of confidence. He's recently married, so hopefully things start coming together for him. Right now, I wouldn't spend a first rounder on him. I'd wait to the second round. Even then, I'd need to interview him and his coaches to get an indication of where his head is. He's got a lot of games and wins under his belt, and it's hard to bail on guys that play a lot and are successful in college, but time is running out for Jones.
Kenny Stills is an average sized multi-role receiver. He's not great at getting deep, but can go vertical at times. He won't run by defenders, but does have the ball skills and route running savvy to get deep effectively. It's also incorrect to characterize him as a possession receiver, though he works the middle of the field well. Most of his catches against Kansas State were routes that he worked himself completely open. He also got the ball from Jones in contested areas, and caught most of those as well. Either way, Stills showed good ball skills, catching the ball away from his body. For me, Stills looked like a solid #3 receiver that can do a lot of things for an offense, and might be a #2 receiver in time.
Tony Jefferson plays a game typical of modern era strong safeties. He's not the 225 pound thumper that we saw in the NFL in the 1990's. He's built like a free safety, and played over the tight end in Cover 2 almost all night, and showed well. Against tight ends and straight line receivers, he covered well. Against some of Kansas State's shifty receivers, he got turned around at times and lost coverage. The Wildcats ran the ball a lot, and Jefferson had a busy night supporting the run, but showed well. He had to make a lot of plays in support against Klein, but got his nose dirty and made some solid tackles.
Demontre Hurst is a Tampa 2 style cover corner. I thought he played well on the outside when asked to play in the shorter zones, with safety help over the top. He's the stereotypical Tampa 2 corner: shorter, built well, better going forward than in reverse. He seemed a step faster on deep balls than the typical Tampa 2 corner. He was challenged deep by Klein early on, but blanketed the receiver, and wasn't challenged again.