Here's our staff's notes from this past weekend, including notes from the USC upset, ranked match up between Michigan and Notre Dame, and the Miami upset over Florida.
Game Notes: Florida vs. Miami (FL), Baylor vs. Buffalo, West Virginia vs. Oklahoma, Oregon vs. Virginia, Central Arkansas vs. Colorado, USC vs. Washington State, San Jose State vs. Stanford, and Notre Dame vs. Michigan
OS Scouts Included: Alex Brown, Mark Dulgerian, Dan Claycomb, Chris Tripodi
-Undersized (5’9, 177 lbs) and underutilized in previous seasons at Florida, senior wide receiver Solomon Patton put up more receiving yardage against Miami (118 yards) than he had produced in his entire career (79 yards). Patton’s role in the past had been limited to kick return duties as a freshman and sophomore, as well as a handful of jet sweeps and reverses last year (14 rushes-140 yards in 2012); however, due to a preseason injury to starter Andre Debose, Patton has been thrust into the lineup and been surprisingly impressive. Catching 6 passes for 118 yards and a late touchdown this past week, Patton won in the 3-step timing game with elusiveness after the catch, in the intermediate passing game with crossing patterns and deep down the field for a post reception. He’s shifty, explosive and a better hands catcher than I anticipated coming into his senior season, and should be a late round prospect worth keeping an eye on as the season develops.
-Continuing to impress with a rare first step to disrupt run or pass plays, Dominique Easley’s quickness off the snap led to a handful of holding calls. Although his impact wasn’t overly impressive on the stat sheet (zero sacks, just 1 tackle), his movement skills and ability as a one-gap penetrator are eerily similar to current Dallas Cowboy DT Jay Ratliff. Neither Ratliff nor Easley possess plus measurables in terms of arm length or power at the point of attack, but both present terrifying mismatches versus slower, interior blockers. Easley has experience playing outside at defensive end, but is best suited to play inside a 4-3 defense at either the 1 or 3-technique positions.
-Senior wide receiver Tevin Reese stood out against MAC opponent Buffalo with renewed focus and attention to detail as a route runner, pass catcher and ball carrier after the reception. A major concern I had with Reese was his inability to consistently come away with clean, hands receptions away from his framework. In addition to struggles catching the football, Reese moreover was not a decisive or sharp route runner, as he routinely rounded off patterns, drifted away from the football and simply didn’t display attention to the minor details of the wide receiver position. Seemingly putting it together as a senior, Reese appears to be more confident in his ability to snatch the ball away from his frame and most of all has shown improvements as a route runner, in terms of sticking and driving flat of the route break. For an exceptionally fast and explosive wide receiver, this is what NFL scouts wanted to see happen in Tevin Reese’s senior season.
-Running back Lache Seastrunk continued to excel for this Baylor Bears offense, and his skill set fits the mold of a younger Ray Rice or Doug Martin type of back, in that he can carry the ball 25-30 times in a game, stay on the field for passing downs and be an excellent receiving option or solid pass protector with increased reps. Seastrunk’s most impressive attribute is his body control with the football in his hands; able to hit the hole full speed, break down and re-evaluate the defense, then make a secondary move and work back up to full speed in an instant, Seastrunk truly has some rare qualities that make him a hassle to tackle inside or outside the tackle box. Even more powerful than you might imagine, Seastrunk put on display impressive contact balance and leg drive to fight through first contact for extra yards.
-For West Virginia, Houston-transfer Charles Sims made a strong impression with his game on the road against Oklahoma. Showing smooth, fluid athleticism and crisp footwork to and through the hole, Sims turned multiple negative yardage plays into positive gains and even first downs at times. Sims is very controlled and coordinated as an athlete that also excels on 3rd downs, where his developed route running skills and hands make him a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers. A natural hands catcher that runs with balance after the catch, Sims is the perfect dual-threat back for Dana Holgorsen’s offense. So far Sims is cementing himself as this draft’s top rated senior ball carrier.
-For Oklahoma, senior Brennan Clay led the way with 170 yards rushing on 22 carries, outperforming his more highly touted teammate Damien Williams. Clay is quick to locate a lane, make up his mind and accelerate full speed to and through his read. Wasting no steps, Clay’s initial burst and easy long speed make him a big play threat inside or outside the tackle box. Although Damien Williams possesses a greater size-speed element and more natural pass catching skills, Brennan Clay is the more instinctive runner and has superior acceleration to/through the hole. Both are solid prospects in their own right, but Clay is closer to Williams than most have been willing to admit.
-The go to word when describing Seantrel Henderson is potential and he did nothing to change anyone’s mind this game. Henderson moves incredibly well for a giant man, but his technique and results in the run game are awful. Granted he faced some of the top DL talent in the country this week, but he didn’t move anyone downfield without help and even missed making a block on anyone at the first 2 levels. His stock seems to be falling quickly.
-One of the low notes for the ACC was the beatdown Oregon put on Virginia, however one of the small bright spots in that game was DE Jake Snyder. At 6’4”, 270 pounds, Jake Snyder has the perfect build for a 3-4 DE. He did a great job of using his hands and strength when taking on a blocker. He also showed some burst and seemed to read the option well. He may not have the pass-rushing ability to be a 4-3 DE but he looks to have the size and strength to start at the NFL level in the 3-4. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him off the board in the 2nd Round.
-It feels like the Virginia Cavaliers have a top OT every season, right? This year Morgan Moses is that guy and he played will in the loss to Oregon. Moses showed good ability in the run game, particularly on an outside block on a 45-yard TD run in the 1st quarter. Moses shows some skills in the passing game as well, particularly in his footwork and technique. What holds back Moses from being an elite OT is he seems to have little ‘pop’ on initial contact and also lacks a mean streak. Too often he can be found just standing around after the initial sequence of the play.
-Stefon Diggs is the real deal. He’s a unique gifted athlete who has a long stride, stop on a dime and accelerate quickly. Against Old Dominion, Diggs had 6 catches for 179 yards and a TD. Only 2 of Diggs’ catches went for less than 33 yards as he showed an impressive ability to keep his balance and acceleration through tackles. I’m excited to see what he can do against in the FSU and Clemson games this season but he’s an extremely impressive athlete who will be going high whenever he decides to enter the draft.
-The USC vs Washington State contest was marred by poor offensive play, but there were plenty of players to highlight on the defensive side of the ball. For the Trojans, there are a pair of seniors who are really benefitting from Clancy Pendergast. Outside linebacker Devon Kennard looks comfortable in the new scheme after missing the 2012 season with a torn pectoral muscle. He looks bigger and stronger this season and he showed good quickness shuffling through traffic to track down ball carriers on Saturday. Coaches are being more creative with how they apply pressure using outside linebacker/defensive end Morgan Breslin (2 sacks vs. Wash St.) from multiple line-ups. Washington State safety Deone Buchanan is a riser who has big time hitting ability and nice range against the run and pass. While both of his interceptions were essentially thrown right to him, it should be noted senior corner Damante Horton finished the game with 2 picks returning 1 for a touchdown.
-Colorado receiver Paul Richardson is making it impossible for the nation to ignore him with the stat padding he’s doing. After another 200+ yard game, the junior is the only playmaker on a poor offense but he must continue to develop physically and technically. A linear athlete at 6-1 170, he is similar to former Washington State receiver Marquess Wilson. He has impressive top end speed to run under deep throws and shows some quickness as a runner after the catch from underneath routes. He is rail thin and must improve his strength and route running but his numbers are no fluke.
-Stanford’s front 7 and safety play was as advertised. Shayne Skov stood out and looks to be in 2011 form physically. He showed the speed to run down ball carriers at the boundaries and the explosion to blow up running lanes. The defensive line, highlighted by OLB Trent Murphy, DE Henry Anderson, and DE Ben Gardner had their way with the Spartan’s offensive line. They play well as a unit and win with discipline, length, and physicality. Junior wide receiver Ty Montgomery emerged as Kevin Hogan’s primary guy. He’s bulked up and is clearly a top end athlete. His ceiling is very high in this offense. SJSU QB David Fales had an up and down game to start with his offensive line giving him no time to throw. Once he adjusted to the pressure, he looked sharp and got into a nice rhythm in the second half. He showed pinpoint accuracy and plenty of arm strength to hit his targets outside the numbers. His supporting cast must step up moving forward.
-Senior wide receiver T.J. Jones had his second straight big week with 9 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. One issue with Jones is a tendency to leave his feet unnecessarily, which is accentuated by his size (5-11, 195) and high throws from Rees. Jones does a great job adjusting to the ball in the air however and generally shows good concentration, but did have an easy drop against Michigan. If he continues to put up numbers like he has so far (15 catches, 232 yards and a touchdown) he will get strong All-American consideration and looks like one of the better slot prospects in the country.
-Redshirt junior Louis Nix III’s play against Michigan matched the hype as the nose tackle found his way into the backfield consistently. He’s a powerful 340-pounder who fires off the ball quickly, shoves blockers out of the way with his hands, drives them into the backfield with good extension and even shows speed in pursuit. Nix’s combination of size, power and athleticism is rare for a man his size and he should be an early pick next May.
-Junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt was not as impressive but was facing one of the NCAA’s top tackle prospects in Taylor Lewan. Tuitt lost contain on Devin Gardner a few times and wasn’t impressive in pursuit, but showed good strength off the edge. His late interception for a touchdown was a gift from the Michigan quarterback but Tuitt made a nice athletic play, grabbing the ball right before it hit the ground and turning onto his back to secure possession. His name was briefly thrown into the first-round discussion after a strong game against Temple that quieted some endurance questions but after being held in check by Lewan, he’ll need to improve by the end of the year to make that a reality.
-The Irish had two impressive youngsters on the defensive side, true freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith and sophomore cornerback KeiVarae Russell. Smith uses great extension to keep his eyes in the backfield and shed blockers to make plays. He almost intercepted Gardner after reading his eyes on one play, but let the ball bounce off his hands.
-While senior Bennett Jackson gets the attention in the Notre Dame secondary, Russell is more impressive. He stays tight in coverage on opposing receivers and while he was beat twice by Jeremy Gallon, once deep and once for a touchdown, anything less than a perfect pass from Gardner would have been broken up. Keep an eye on Smith and Russell in the coming seasons at Notre Dame.