Movember 4

by Paul Guillemette, GBN Associate Editor and Chief Scout

Just thinking out loud!!! Even though we all know full well that college football is big business in many ways, that it is still a game. A sporting event played with fire and passion, but always under the guise of sportsmanship. So you can just imagine how outraged I was to see the Maryland football team captains refuse to shake hands with the Penn State captains before the coin toss. Talk about a lack of sportsmanship and respect for your opponent and the game itself. Maryland Head Coach Randy Edsall claimed after the game that nether he, nor any of his coaches, were aware that the co-captains had cooked up that disrespectful strategy, and did not condone it. That’s not enough. You need to be looking for new captains immediately, and also should take time during this, your Bye Week, to lecture your team on sportsmanship and class, which at least some of them are clearly lacking in. Here's wishing the TERPS football program an 0-3 finish to the season and no Bowl Game appearance.

What is it about the state of Maryland right now? My biggest outrage during Sunday's NFL action were the antics and behavior of TERRELL SUGGS/LB/RAVENS. His attitude and actions during he heat of battle were those of a downright hoodlum. The game was a heated rivalry with way too much chippiness to go around, but SUGGS crawled lower than the low with his mouth and dirty hits. NFL Officials need he leeway to eject players from games in cases such as this. Both organizations deserve team fines, along with hose for multiple classless players for both teams. MR. SUGGS should pay dearly in fine money and a game or two suspension.

I have not yet watched game tape of the FLORIDA/GEORGIA battle in Jacksonville Saturday, but two things struck me clearly just from watching highlights and reading through the stats sheet. First of all, beleaguered HC WILL MUSCHAMP must have the blood of a historian coursing through his veins, If you don't remember the Gators embarrassing loss to FCS Georgia Southern last November, Will certainly does. GA SOUTHERN did not throw a single pass in that game. With the Gators having serious QB issues MUSCHAMP & OC KURT ROPER inserted frosh QB TREON HARRIS as their starter and let his pass the ball all of 6 times, completing 3. The Gators rushed the ball 60 times for 418 yards. The RB combo of TAYLOR & JONES carried 50 times for 389 yards. On a cold, for Florida, and blustery day it was he perfect strategy. The loss makes me wonder what goes haywire on game days for UGA Head Coach MARK RICHT. The Bulldogs bring in a top 5 recruiting class every year. But the overall results, though good, never seem to live up to their overall potential. It is also a curiosity to me at the number of players who never finish up their career in Athens. UGA was clearly in the drivers seat to win the SEC East coming into this game, and got run over by a team fighting to stay at .500. It seems like just about every year his Bulldogs lose one or two more games than most of us expected, and often at the strangest of times. What gives Coach RICHT?

Even though I respect his coaching acumen and organizational skills I still find it just about impossible to like Michigan State Head Coach MARK DANTONIO. And the win over Michigan two weekends ago reminded me why. If a larger version of the Disney dwarf GRUMPY were ever to walk the sidelines DANTONIO would be him. His growly face and demeanor just cry out of anger and unhappiness. I also take exception to his lack of respect for opponents' programs. His decision to let his offense, with starters, make one last TD march in a game they already had locked up showed no respect for a beaten opponent. It was not his responsibility to stop his own Offense, but many coaches would have had their team taking a knee to run out the clock out of respect for their opponent. I would also point out than more than a few folks, yours truly included, find State's behavior boorish and brutish when things turn against them in a game.

I am amazed at the seeming army of MARCUS MARIOTA bashers who find one reason after another why he's not Heisman worthy and can't hold a candle to JAMEIS WINSTON as a collegiate QB. My only criticism of MARIOTA, if it be criticism, is that he is not ANDREW LUCK. Guess what... no one is. The next ANDREW LUCK is not lacing up his shoes anytime soon. But MARIOTA has his team at 7-1 and in good position to claim the PAC 12 title this season. I would ask some of his critics to take a look at his supporting cast right now. His OL has been a shambles because of multiple injuries and his weapons are limited to say the least. Were it not for numerous dropped balls it is entirely possible MARIOTA might be completing 75% of his throws this season. He's done nothing to diminish my estimation of his Heisman candidacy either on or off the field.


October 8
by Colin Lindsay, GBN Editor and Publisher

Who’s up; who’s not …. Nothing is hotter in college football these days than the state of Mississippi and no one in the state is hotter right now that Mississippi State junior QB Dak Prescott after he lead the Bulldogs to that big win over Texas A&M last Saturday. Certainly if nothing else Prescott has vaulted into the top 2-3 Heisman candidates after accounting for 5 scores against A&M last week. Meanwhile, pro scouts are starting to warm to Prescott who reminds many of another Cam Newton. Prescott doesn’t have Newton’s natural athleticism; indeed, as a ball carrier he’s more like a bruising Tim Tebow than the explosive Newton, but he’s a much more mature, poised pocket passer than Newton whose mechanics have improved markedly in the past season, although he is still something of a work in progress. However, when he sets his feet Prescott throws darts and can get the ball downfield in a hurry with just a flick of the wrist. And while he is not necessarily the most accurate passer out there, Prescott usually puts the ball where his receiver has a chance to make the catch and generally takes pretty good care of the football. For the record, Prescott is on pace to throw for around 2,700 yards this fall as he has completed 64% of his pass attempts, including 13 for scores against just a couple of picks. For the moment its hard to get a real good read on where NFL scouts have Prescott graded, but he certainly appears to be trending way up, particularly with several of the other top-rated guys struggling at times in recent weeks. Best guess right now is that Prescott looks to be being considered as a possible mid-to-late first round pick with the potential to move up based on his work ethic and character.

Another Bulldog who had an eye-opening game against Texas A&M on the weekend was LB Bernardrick McKinney. The rangy 6-4 McKinney is nominally a MLB, but Mississippi State actually lines him up all over including as a down DE on passing downs and as a pure OLB on others. In fact, most NFL teams figure that McKinney’s best fit at the next level would be as a 3-4 rush LB who likely lacked the overall athleticism to play in reverse at the next level. However, what pro scouts saw against A&M was a guy with surprising quickness and agility in space who more than held his own in coverage who is starting to remind them more and more of former Texas A&M and current Denver LB Vonnie Miller, the second pick overall at the 2011 draft. And speaking of outside edge rushers, another guy who appears to be on the rise is Utah DE/OLB Nate Orchard who led the Utes' sack attack on UCLA QB Brett Hundley this past weekend which saw the Utah defense drop Hundley a remarkable 10 times including 4 by Orchard himself  who now leads all FBS pass rushers with 8.5 sacks on the season. Orchard is a solid 6-4, 255 pounds, but was originally recruited as a receiver coming out of high school and still retains much of that speed and quickness and has excelled as an impact defender for the Utes with a penchant for making big plays in key games. Orchard is a good athlete - he was also an all-state BB player in high school - who still needs to add some more polished moves to his pass-rush arsenal, but has good speed and quickness coming off the edge, can plant and change direction and plays with a relentless edge. Plus he's a character kid who is married and has already graduated with a degree in Economics.

Where have all the other QBs gone …  It wasn’t all that long ago that QB was considered to be one of the strongest positions for the 2015 draft. However, a number of top prospects at the position just have not developed as expected this fall including juniors Kevin Hogan of Stanford and UCLA’s Brett Hundley, as well as seniors Bryce Petty of Baylor and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. Hogan, for example, was once thought to be a dark horse top 10 prospect heading into the year. However, while no one questions his smarts and athleticism, Hogan’s mechanics have been all over the place this season. In particular, Hogan’s footwork in the pocket has been far from textbook, while his release angles have been inconsistent. Plus, one just hasn’t seen next level arm strength on a consistent basis from Hogan this fall. Meanwhile, there are growing concerns about Hundley’s pocket sense and awareness, especially after he somehow managed to get sacked 10 in the Bruins stunning loss to Utah on the weekend. As a result, there is a growing sense in the scouting community that both Hogan and Hundley could be well reserved by returning to school next fall for some additional seasoning.

Meanwhile, while the QB situation hasn’t really developed much in a positive way so far this fall, the WR position just seems to get better and better. For starters, athletic, big-play  Auburn WR Sammie Coates appears to be getting closer to 100% after he barely played through the first month of the season because of a nagging knee injury. Saturday against LSU Coates, who led the entire country with 20-yard plus receptions in 2013, had 4 more receptions over 20 yards including a highlight reel 56-yard TD catch to get the AU Tigers off and running. If healthy, there are many scouts who consider the 6-2, 205-pounder with reported 4.35 speed to be a better prospect than Sammy Watkins, the 4th player picked at the 2014 draft. Meanwhile, even before he hauled in that dramatic Hail Mary that gave the Sun Devils a last-second win over USC, Arizona State junior WR Jaelen Strong had continued to grow in the eyes of NFL personnel people such that it will be no surprise at all if he ends up going in the top half of the opening round of the 2015 draft. Not bad for a guy whose only FBS scholarship coming out of high school in Philadelphia was from Eastern Michigan. Strong has always had an intriguing size (6-4, 215) and speed combination with the ability to make the tough catches in traffic, but was never that polished or consistent; however, this year he has significantly improved his route-running as well as his concentration and focus; plus he’s been catching everything in sight. Indeed, Strong is on pace to catch 100 passes this season for 1,500 yards despite being double-covered on most plays. Meanwhile, just what the 2015 draft needs is another emerging big-play WR threat but that appears to be the case for Rutgers’ junior wideout Leonte Carroo who is averaging almost 19 yards per catch through 6 games this fall; Carroo also has 14 TD receptions in his last 16 games including a couple over 70 yards. Carroo is a well-built 6-1, 205-pounder with track type speed who like a lot of young receivers needs to improve his route-running, but could be an attractive second-day option this coming April/May to a team looking for a big-play threat at WR on the second-day of the 2015 draft. Scouts are also reportedly starting to warm to Washington State Vince Mayle, a 6-3, 220-pound former basketball player who only started playing football two years ago, but has quickly emerged as Cougars’ QB Connor Halliday’s go-to receiver in Mike Leach’s high-octane offense. Mayle, who actually dropped up to 20 pounds entering the current season, has appeared to be much quicker this fall, but still has the bulk to beat corners with his size and physicality. And while the WSU passing numbers are always a little inflated - Halliday is on pace to throw for over 6,000 yards this season - Mayle is on pace to finish the year with over 100 receptions and 1,500 yards.

September 24

Every year it seems prospects come from seemingly nowhere to establish themsleves as legitimate prospects for the upcoming draft. And while there is still a ton of sorting out to do before the 2015 draft, the following half dozen players have had the kind of starts that just might fit the bill in one way or another.

QB Dak Prescott, 6-2, 235, 4.65, JR … Prior to the season we heard more than one whisper that anyone looking for an emerging sleeper at the position for the 2015 draft might want to consider Mississippi State junior Dak (short for Dakota) Prescott. If nothing else Prescott is a little bit less of a sleeper after he led the Bulldogs to that stunning upset of LSU last Saturday night right in Baton Rouge. Prescott isn’t all that tall for an NFL QB at barely 6-2, but he has a thick build and quick feet; indeed, he’s a legit dual-threat QB who is averaging close to 100 yards rushing per game this fall and can run out of trouble in the pocket, although he doesn‘t always throw all that well on the run. However, Prescott does have a live arm and decent touch when he sets his feet. Bottom line is that this a kid with a little Cam Newton/Russell Wilson in him with the natural physical tools that an NFL can work with.

QB Taylor Heinicke, 6-0, 215, Old Dominion, 4.65, SR … Has a chance to be the first player every to win the Walter Payton Award for the outstanding player at the FCS level and the Heisman Trophy. And yes to the quizzical NFL fan who doesn’t follow college football all that closely, ODU is now a member of the CUSA conference after moving up to the FBS level last fall. In their final year in the FCS ranks, Heinicke was awarded the Payton Trophy after throwing for over 5,000 yards. In fact, he already has over 10,000 career passing yards along with over 1,000 more on the ground. Of course, Heinicke is the mother of all longshots to win the Heisman Trophy playing for a Sun Belt team, much less Old Dominion, but did put up Heisman type numbers last fall when he threw for over 4,000 yards and 33 scores. Like Prescott above, Heinicke isn’t very tall at barely 6-0, but he is a Drew Brees type who sees the field extremely well, has a quick release and real nice touch; plus he’s another good athlete who can escape trouble and is an accurate passer on the run. The knock on Heinicke is that he doesn’t have a cannon for an arm and needs a wind-up to get the ball downfield, but he’s a super productive passer who likely will get some long looks from NFL teams based on the success of guys like Brees and Russell Wilson.

RB Tevin Coleman, 5-10, 205, Indiana, 4.45, JR … Coleman doesn’t get the same recognition as some of this year’s other top runners including Todd Gurley of Georgia, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Mel Gordon of Minnesota, but no back has been more productive in the early going this fall than Coleman who is on pace to rush for over 2,300 yards this fall. And while he put up a lot of those numbers against a couple of cupcakes on the Hoosiers early schedule, Coleman was front and center this past weekend when Indiana restored some pride for the embattled Big Ten when it posted a shock road win at Missouri of the SEC as he ran for 132 yards on just 19 carries despite being hampered by a sore knee. For the year, Coleman is averaging 8.6 yards per carry after averaging 7.3 last season. He’s also a pretty good receiver with 36 career receptions and can contribute as a KO returner. Coleman has a nice combination of size and track speed; has decent vision and instincts and is tough to tackle in the open, although scouts would also like to see him be a little more physical between the tackles.

WR Kevin White, 6-2, 210, West Virginia, 4.50, SR … Perhaps no player has helped his draft status this year than White who was a fair to middling player for two years at the junior college before turning in a fair-to-middling first year at WVU last fall when he had 35 receptions. Indeed, there was nothing to suggest that White was anything more than a fair-to-middling prospect entering the season. That was then, though, as White trails only first-round bound Amari Cooper of Alabama in total receiving yards in college football his fall as he is on pace to finish the year with 120 receptions and almost 1,900 yards. And White has hardly picked his spots as in games against said Alabama and Oklahoma, arguably the two top teams in the country this season, White had 19 catches for over 300 yards and 2 TDs including a spectacular 68-yard TD reception this past weekend against the Sooners. White, a solidly-built 6-2, 210-pounder, has been described as something of a young Anquin Bolden; however, he looks quicker and more athletic than the 49ers’ star and has a really explosive first step; he can also get deep, although he still has to prove he has legit speed and can break tackles in space.       

OLB Caleb Azubike, 6-3, 265, Vanderbilt, 4.75, JR … Its been a rough start for 1-3 Vanderbilt this fall which got its only win to date against football orphans Umass - by three points at home. However, the Commodores may have something of a breakout star in junior DE Caleb Azubike, the latest in a growing list of late comers to the football who have bloomed as edge rushers. Azubike’s family only immigrated to the States when he was entering high school, but he has a unique combination of size, speed and athleticism; he’s also known as a workout warrior who will impress at the combine. Azubike, who did not redshirt at Vanderbilt, was one of the Commodores most effective defensive linemen the past couple of seasons in which he had 4 sacks both years despite never starting.  This year, though, he’s played almost every sack and aleady has 4 sacks in 3 games playing somewhat out-of-position as an undersized 3-4 DE. NFL teams, though suspect that Azubike could be a dynamite Steelers-style 3-4 OLB given his athleticism and relentless work ethic.

OLB Hau’Oil Kikaha, 6-2, 250, Washington, 4.75, SR … Picked up right where he left off in 2013 when he had 13 sacks as he already has 6 sacks through 4 games so far this fall playing as a Buck DE. Like Azubike above though Kikaha projects to a 3-4 OLB at the next level as he lacks the size and strength to hold the point of attack against big offensive linemen. As an edge-rusher, though, Kikaha has a nice burst, instincts, closing speed and overall athleticism. As a former wrestler he’s also got good balance and agility and can plant and change direction; also understands leverage and uses hands effectively to disengage. Big issue for Kikaha, though, is can he stay healthy after missing much of 2011 and all 2012 with torn ACLs.