In a Big East match-up (and the final “Big East” match-up for these two teams) on a Friday night, the two lesser viewed teams have significant NFL talents. Quarterback Ryan Nassib will get a chance to showcase his NFL upside on a fairly big stage, and he’ll have to go against (likely avoid) UConn cornerback and fringe 1st rounder Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
Also in this game, Justin Pugh is our top senior left tackle, as well as a handful of mid-late round prospects to watch from Syracuse and UConn in this game tonight.
Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse (#12) - 6'3, 220
Arguably the most intriguing player to watch in this game, Nassib has quickly become a favorite of mine and Optimum Scouting thanks to his progression from his junior film and the way he’s played despite mediocre play on the rest of his offense. Nassib’s elite anticipation, timing, and velocity are what has won me over despite having lackluster receiver, running back, and half of line protection around him. He’s progressed well as far as making reads from the pocket, adjusting his footwork and arm angles depending on the pressure. His velocity control between levels is still an issue as well as having some over-confidence at times in his receivers routes (not a bad thing when playing with better receivers at the next level), but with many of his issues being correctable, Nassib has an NFL starter upside.
Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse (#67) – 6'6, 305
After overcoming a shoulder injury earlier this year, Pugh has stepped up and gotten back to his 2011 form as a legit left tackle prospect. Listed as both a redshirt junior and senior by Syracuse (thanks to him not playing any snaps in 2008), my feeling from being at Syracuse was that Pugh is already basically considered a senior and likely to be playing in the NFL next year. Still a little stiff in his in-line pass protection, Pugh still has the balance in his kick slide, the anchoring ability in pass protection to protect inside, and the ability to time his initial punch on the edge to not allow over-extension or a loss of balance on the outside. Pugh is the top ranked offensive tackle prospect for us, and certainly has 1st round, left tackle upside in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse (#21) – 6'0, 210
The on-field leader of this Syracuse defense, Thomas has been very consistent in both run support and short area coverage from his strong safety spot. He changes direction and attacks up field very quickly and smoothly, moving efficiently through traffic and positioning his line of attack to the ball well so he doesn’t get caught up. He’s asked at times to cover in slot man (which he doesn’t do all that well outside of an initial press), but more importantly, he does a good job of attacking the midfield zone well and being an enforcer in coverage. His zoning ability isn’t ideal and in coverage he’s not as fluid or on point as you’d like from a strong safety, but he has the balance and change of direction skills to improve there, along with the already established run support ability.
Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse (#15) - 6'2, 210
-The more physical of the two senior starting receivers, Lemon has the willingness to go across the middle and some ability to get upfield and make the first defender miss. Still, his routes through traffic aren’t consistent; he doesn’t have great extension to catch the ball away from his body, and doesn’t have consistent hands across the field.
Marcus Sales, WR, Syracuse (#5) - 6'0, 180
-Plays more on the edge and in deeper breaking routes than Lemon for Nassib’s reads, but really struggles with running efficient routes vs. zone, breaking on time for his routes, body control as he gets downfield to gain separation, and also concerns with having more consistent hands. Still, he has some open field moves and downfield ability as a receiver , and can make a tough catch when battling with a defender downfield.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Uconn (#5) – 6’2, 190
Possibly the best recruit to ever come to UConn, Wreh-Wilson has been a consistent, tough to get past defender for the UConn defense. Built well in his upper and lower half, he's long and lean throughout his body who can utilize that length against bigger receivers and keep his hands on quicker ones in the short area. Very physical throughout the receivers route tree, he has the ability to lock on and engage as both a press cornerback, where he still needs some polish but is more than adequate in that respect, along with meeting with receivers in off-coverage, turning and running in good position. He times his transitions very well, knowing when to break and staying in a balanced base and in position to consistently make a break on the ball. He also releases well from blocks downfield and rarely gets locked up downfield from blockers. He could show a bit more aggressiveness in run support, and stay more consistently lower in his transitions along with not over-extending. However, if he can stay healthy, his length, physicality, and natural man coverage abilities should make him an early round pick that teams would be excited to develop.
Ryan Griffin, TE, UConn (#94) -6’5, 240
-Stepping up this year as a complete tight end, Griffin leads the team with the most yards per catch, as he’s shown the ability in the seam and on the outside as a receiver, as well as flashing the ability as an inline and upfield blocker. He doesn’t overly impress in either area as a receiver of blocker, but his ability to play both adequately should make him a late round prospect if he can continue to play well in the struggling UConn offense.
Sio Moore, OLB, UConn (#3) -6’2, 229
-An under-rated athlete and a linebacker who attacks well on the outside, Moore does a good, not great job, in sorting through traffic to finish tackles in the backfield. Still, he has the upside, build to get more physical, and the ability to dip in short area coverage as well.