WEEK 2: Rice vs Wake Forest
Under second-year head coach Mike Bloomgren, Rice fields a young team with only six senior starters. One of those who we have our eyes on is left guard Nick Leverett, who is a grad transfer from N.C. Central that started the last three years at tackle for the Eagles. Leverett is a thick and athletic guard with adequate length who blocks physically in the run game while staying alert in pass protection. He’ll remain as an interior prospect for the NFL, and I’d like to see him take some reps at center if he gets into an all-star game setting.
One fellow Owl who stood out in pregame is grad punter Chris Barnes, who flashed a big leg while hanging one punt up in the air for 4.78 seconds. He displayed his leg strength with a 50-yard punt in the game, but his consistency will be a determining factor on his NFL chances.
For the Deacons, head coach Dave Clawson has a much deeper senior class of prospects, highlighted by defenders Justin Strnad and Essang Bassey. Strnad – a three-year starter at linebacker – is a long, rangy athlete who’s active with a nose for the ball. Bassey, also a three-year starter, is a shorter cornerback with a good frame and long arms for his size and demonstrated his speed and ability to remain sticky in coverage. Despite his shorter stature, the Columbus, GA native has been very productive in his career breaking up passes, due in part to his good length.
On the offensive side of the ball, left tackle Justin Herron is an athlete who’s a bit undersized while teetering around 295 pounds. But that didn’t stop him from getting good movement working double teams in the run game. After suffering a season-ending injury in the opener last season the four-year starter has the opportunity to become Wake Forest’s all-time starts leader among offensive linemen.
Out wide, big receiver Scotty Washington had a memorable game while leading the team with seven catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The Washington, D.C. native made some Moss-like catches in the game, twice going up to highpoint balls en route to explosive touchdowns. Continuing to use his body to shield defenders from the ball will surely raise his draft stock, as will continuously improving his short-area quickness at the line of scrimmage to escape what will be aggressive NFL corners.