WEEK 6: Ohio State vs. Michigan State
In the famed ‘Shoe’ of Ohio State, there was enough NFL talent on the field to write a column on each team. Since I’ll be seeing Ohio State later in the season, however, Michigan State will be the focus here.
On offense, I really wanted to watch QB Brian Lewerke go on the road in a very hostile environment and see how well he reacted to all that the Buckeyes would throw at him. I came away impressed despite the outcome of the game, really appreciating his ability to extend plays with his legs and locating secondary targets downfield. While Lewerke’s arm strength is more on the above average side and he doesn’t always throw tight spirals, he has enough arm talent to make tight-window NFL throws, and his athleticism is a real asset that will enable him to compete for a backup roster position. One player who made a couple nice seal blocks for Lewerke is TE Matt Seybert, who’s played both offense and defense for the Spartans in his career. The former Buffalo Bull has a nice combination of size and athleticism along with an ability to run easy as evidenced on his two receptions for 37 yards in the game.
Leading the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns was WR Darrell Stewart who plays as a big-slot for the Spartans. Stewart – who isn’t an explosive speed athlete – is an instinctive player who understands the nuances of route running and how to subtly separate from defenders. In addition, he’s a very passionate player who brought great energy to the field in pregame and during the game, and demonstrated outstanding toughness working over the middle and in traffic, including on his second-quarter TD reception.
On defense for Michigan State, the Spartans have three NFL prospects up front in DE Kenny Willekes, DT Mike Panasiuk and NG Raequan Williams – all of whom tallied at least 7 tackles in the game. Willekes owns good size as a 4-3 DE prospect and plays with his hair on fire — numerous times in the game he was in the backfield either pressuring Ohio State QB Justin Fields or wreaking havoc versus the run.
Williams led all three of these guys with his eight tackles, and he is a thickly built man who has some position flexibility to also play as a 3-technique over Guards.
Panasiuk – who I like better as a NG playing as a shade over the center – is a strong player who plays bigger than his listed size of 6-4, 290 would indicate, and he made plays on the opposing side of the line of scrimmage while recording a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss.
At the second level, middle linebacker Joe Bachie made his presence felt very early in the game, recording a sack on the third play of the game and adding a second later in first quarter. Bachie is a very smart and instinctive football player who’s able to play faster than he may time in the 40 in the spring, and his production as a 3-year starter for Michigan State is impressive.
WEEK 6: Cincinnati vs. Central Florida
In a primetime matchup of two aspiring AAC teams, there were several NFL prospects on the field at Nippert Stadium. For the hometown Bearcats of Cincinnati, tight end Josiah Deguara showed his grit and determination early and often in the game. Although built more like a fullback while standing around 6-2 ½ and possessing a thicker frame, Deguara led the team in receptions and receiving yards while ripping off an explosive 22-yard gain. There is some real momentum building behind Deguara in the scouting community, and it’s easy to project the physical and relentless aspects of his game translating well to the NFL as a role player on offense and mainstay on special teams.
On defense for Cincinnati, two linebacker prospects showed well in Perry Young and Bryan Wright. Young – who stands 5-10 – is easy to discount based on his height; but once the ball is snapped, he only knows one speed – 100 mph! Wright is a good-looking prospect physically and plays hard as well. The former Jireh Prep star is still relatively new to the position after playing QB in high school. And while he needs to improve his hand usage and quick shed-ability, he displays the size, range and toughness that the NFL covets for developmental players.
For the Golden Knights offense, center Jordan Johnson displayed his athleticism while working nicely on combos to the second level. Johnson is a stockier framed interior blocker with a nice combination of size and foot quickness, but he needs to improve his snap accuracy and velocity in order to succeed at the next level. Also on offense, RB Adrian Killings flashed some speed and foot quickness as well on his limited carries in the game, and then ripped off a big second quarter kickoff return. While kickoff return ability has diminished in recent years with the new NFL touchback rules, Killings’ stop/restart and long-speed are assets of his that he’ll try to showcase to teams in the Spring.
On defense, cornerback Nevelle Clarke held up on the outside nicely versus the Bearcats. Although seldom targeted, he shut down down the pass on the few occasions the ball did come his way. Clarke – who stands 6-1 and possesses 32” arms – is a prototypical press-man CB prospect who I expect will be coveted by teams that play the Seattle Cover-3 scheme. It will be important for Clarke to time well in the 40 as well as in the short-shuttle during the spring.
We also drove up the road to Dayton, Ohio to take a look at TE prospect Adam Trautman in the Flyers’ matchup vs Jacksonville University. Trautman is a former QB turned TE who possesses good size and athleticism to factor into the passing game. While his long-speed is a bit in question, the Houston native displays solid understanding of route running and technique to help create some separation from defenders – aspects that generally college players need time in developing when they transition to the NFL. Trautman is an intriguing small-school prospect who should have a chance to have his name called early on Day 3 of the draft.
WEEK 6: Penn vs Dartmouth
The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl continued its tour through Pennsylvania, following up their visit last week to Philadelphia, with a return visit for an Ivy League contest at the University of Penn, as the Quakers hosted Dartmouth.
Considered to be the Ivy League’s top prospect, Big Green cornerback Isiah Swann missed his third straight game due to a hamstring injury. A four-year starter and team captain, Swann led the FCS with nine interceptions in 2018, along with 18 passes defended. His size/skill-set has NFL scouts intrigued, so hopefully he can get healthy enough to get back on the field soon.
— Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella) October 4, 2019
For Penn, running back Karekin Brooks carried the offensive workload, rushing for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. As a runner, Brooks demonstrated excellent patience and vision running behind his line, along with tremendous balance. He also flashed his receiving abilities, catching 10 passes out of the backfield for an additional 31 yards while highlighting his ball skills and versatility.
One last player of note: Dartmouth defensive end Niko Lalos, who as offered preferred walk-on status at Ohio State and Notre Dame but chose to attend Dartmouth instead. A former basketball standout in high school, Lalos possesses great size and showed off some of his athleticism.
*Be sure to check back all season long for our exclusive ‘Campus Confidential’ reports, as we go on location across the nation bringing you the top prospects on the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl big board!
Week 6: Penn State vs Purdue
It was the 100th homecoming in Penn State history this past Saturday in Happy Valley and the Nittany Lions did not disappoint with a big win over Purdue.
Manning the middle of the stout defensive line is tackle Robert Windsor, who was a handful for the Boilermakers to block. Windsor used his strength and power to generate tremendous push, while slipping through double teams. He was constantly behind the line of scrimmage making tackles and pressuring the quarterback.
He was surprisingly slippery to block/was constantly in the backfield making TFLs against the run + applying pressure on the QB all day long vs Purdue.👀 pic.twitter.com/9fQkhra6GT
— Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella) October 7, 2019
While Windsor anchored the front unit, cornerback John Reid held down the secondary with his impressive man coverage. He broke up a couple of passes and wasn’t afraid to mix it up, constantly jamming wide outs at the line of scrimmage and collecting a pair of tackles.
One of the better CB prospects I’ve scouted in 2019 is physical cover man @John_Doe_25.
A 3yr starter, Reid demonstrates excellent mirror skills/plays aggressive at LOS/keeps WRs off-balance.
— Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella) October 7, 2019
Purdue has been bitten by the injury bug this season but tight end Brycen Hopkins remains highly regarded as one of the premier prospects in the nation at his position. His size, athleticism and ability to find the open seam make Hopkins a threat in the passing attack, especially inside the red zone. In addition, his leadership and character intangibles are two other strengths that have made him a hot prospect in the scouting community.
*The ninth annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be held January 18th, 2020 at the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena Make sure you check back for our ‘Campus Confidential’ reports for the latest players we’re keeping tabs on!
WEEK 5: North Texas vs Houston:
Two Texas teams who suffered significant roster losses this week squared off in Denton this past Saturday. The Mean Green lost explosive wide receiver and projected high draft pick Rico Bussey to a knee injury. His presence will be sorely missed by this North Texas team, especially by senior quarterback Mason Fine who is one heck of a find. The Oklahoma native has produced a prolific career in Denton while setting many North Texas passing records. Though undersized for the position while standing around 5-10, Fine is a quarterback first and athlete second, as he really impressed me with the strength of his arm, his mobility, the clear ability to work through his progression, and his toughness to keep coming back when hit.
Helping to protect up front for the Mean Green is left guard Elex Woodworth, who overcame some serious adversity this offseason after suffering a ruptured Achilles in the winter. A testament to his work ethic and mental fortitude, Woodworth returned three weeks ago and only needed a week to start looking like his old self. Woodworth is an athletic blocker who bends very well in his hips and knees. He’s also a versatile player who has repped snapping the ball in practice and filled in some last season at left tackle when needed.
On defense for North Texas, defensive end LaDarius Hamilton has been a monster for the Mean Green while flashing great twitch with his hands to disengage blockers and come off to tackle. Hamilton possesses a real athletic build, but what impressed me most was his ability to come out of hips engaging offensive linemen and producing some serious “knock back” to reset the line of scrimmage. He’ll be known as a pass rusher, but don’t discount Hamilton’s ability to also play the run.
On the backend, North Texas has two senior safety prospects in the rangy Taylor Robinson and the feisty Khairi Muhammad. Robinson – who plays to the field side of the ball – shows some solid man-to-man cover skills matching up with opposing receivers. There are times where I’d like to see greater urgency to the football, but there are also some plays where he comes flying up ready to get physical as well. Muhammad – who plays to the boundary side – took about two plays of film to quickly become one of my favorite players this year. Despite being generously listed at 5-11 (he’s really about 5-9), the Dallas native is a missile of a player in the secondary. It will be important for him to test well in the spring (especially in the 40), but he’s the type of prospect who gets discounted by most because of his size before making it in the NFL — first on a practice squad before really earning his keep on special teams.
For the Cougars, it was devastating news when electric QB D’Eriq King decided to redshirt and sit out the remainder of the season. Both he and fellow senior wide receiver Keith Corbin were two of Houston’s three legit prospects, leaving left tackle Josh Jones as the stand-alone guy from a scout’s perspective. Jones is a very athletic tackle with good arm length that he consistently plays with to maintain space between him and defenders. He showed his athleticism early in the game by pulling out on run plays and then finishing them with some good ol’ fashioned nastiness.
WEEK 5: Texas A&M vs Arkansas (Southwest Classic)
The Aggies of Texas A&M field a young team under second-year head coach Jimbo Fisher with only two senior starters. On offense, center Colton Prater anchors this Aggie line. Listed at just a shade under 300 lbs., Prater is an athletic blocker with good lateral quickness who is capable of executing this zone scheme well where he’s asked to reach block and climb to the second level often.
On special teams, Braden Mann is arguably the top punter in the nation this year and he showcased his strong leg early and often in the game. On Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Mann boomed three of his four punts 50+ yards downfield, secured three inside the 20-yard line, and even had one downed inside the 10-yard line. As we said in our summer position rollout, consistency is what’s key for specialists trying to make it to the NFL, and every single one of Mann’s punts hung in the air in excess of four seconds.
On the other side of the stadium, Arkansas has several senior NFL prospects, none more impactful Saturday than TE C.J. O’Grady, who made several plays in the passing game while leading the team in receptions. O’Grady is a thickly built man with the size to block inline, but that aspect of his game takes a backseat to his impressive receiving skillset.
Teammates on the D-line who also showed well against the Aggies were 3-technique McTelvin Agim – who recorded his first QB hurry on the game’s opening snap – and nose guard T.J. Smith, who later joined in on the action by recording a sack while working a line stunt beating the opposing left tackle. Agim is a well-known prospect in the scouting community due to his quick twitch and ability to affect the opposing passer, while Smith is an under-the-radar player who the coaches speak highly of and is really coming on in his final year at Arkansas.
Playing directly behind Agim and Smith is one of my favorite players in the country in linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris. On Saturday, Harris showed his importance early in the game while scooping and scoring off an Aggie fumble, recording the first points of the game for the Razorbacks. Harris – who led the SEC in tackles in 2018 – is a stockier inside linebacker with excellent instincts and toughness, which allows him to play faster than what may be perceived when people see a 40 time. Harris will be in the NFL next season, likely earning his keep as a backup on special teams.
WEEK 5: Temple vs Georgia Tech
The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl was on hand in Philadelphia on Saturday as Temple defeated Georgia Tech 24-2, behind the Owls stingy defense led by middle linebacker Shaun Bradley. The national sports media doesn’t pass through the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ often, so Bradley is one of the best players in the country that no one is talking about. His knack for the big play, tough-guy demeanor, sideline-to-sideline prowess and ability to cover makes him an appealing player for the next level.
The do-it-all talents of Isaiah Wright were on display once again, as Wright was used as a receiver, runner and returner. While it was a relatively low-key game for Wright, he was often deployed as a decoy on end-arounds and used in motion, keeping the defense honest while setting up his teammates to make big plays. A possession wideout used in array of ways, he owns a very similar skill-set to Mohamed Sanu of the Atlanta Falcons.
For Georgia Tech, wide receiver Jalen Camp showcased his length and vertical ability, snagging four catches for 63 yards while demonstrating the ability to compete for contested balls. A team captain, whom head coach Geoff Collins awarded a single digit to for his hard work during the spring and summer, Camp is an under-the-radar prospect due to the Yellow Jackets wishbone offense scheme.
*Make sure you check back for more Campus Confidential reports throughout the season, as we count you down to the ninth annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on January 18th, 2020 at the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California!
Week 4: Missouri vs. South Carolina
After losing the past three contests to the Gamecocks, a smothering Tigers defensive performance sealed the victory at home for Missouri on Saturday. Getting the scoring started for Missouri was unheralded middle linebacker Cale Garrett, who alertly scooped up the ball in the endzone after a bizarre back-and-forth deflection involving a throw by the USC quarterback. It was a bizarre play that went to review, but a heads-up one by Garrett, who also led the Tigers in tackles on the day.
Other seniors for Missouri who are under consideration for the Collegiate Bowl include starting quarterback Kelly Bryant who put together a fairly complete performance while showing his athleticism as a ball-carrying run threat as well as a poised thrower from the pocket. Bryant, who’s in his first season with the Tigers after transferring from Clemson, has the arm talent to succeed at the next level but needs to show improved ball placement on his intermediate and deep throws.
Up front protecting Bryant are a pair of senior prospects in athletic LT Yasir Durant and mauling RG Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms. Unfortunately, Durant was unable to go due to a neck injury suffered the preceding week, but Wallace-Simms did his part in paving the way for a Tigers rushing attack that totaled 194 yards against a very talented South Carolina front.
At wide receiver, slot-type John Johnson had a productive game while catching four balls for 52 yards and also added 13 yards on a second quarter end-around that showed some quickness in evading tacklers. Lastly for Missouri, do-it-all specialist Tucker McCann had a nice day both punting and placekicking, going 6-for-6 combined on field goals and extra points, and impressively downing several punts inside the 10-yard line.
For the Gamecocks, it all starts with their imposing front-seven defensively, who all look like NFL dudes. Edge defender D.J. Wonnum showed his athleticism with his second-quarter interception that he returned to the 1-yard line. Wonnum is what NFL scouts look for body-type wise with his long, thick frame, and his versatility should make him scheme diverse to play in either even or odd-man fronts.
Inside on the DL are two stud tackles in Kobe Smith – who is active and constantly around the ball in run situations – and Javon Kinlaw, another long, powerful man who made his presence felt while recording four tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery.
At the second level of the defense roams linebacker T.J. Brunson who officially recorded 12 tackles on the day but seemed to be around the ball even more often than that. Brunson is a physical and instinctive inside linebacker who excels versus the run. He made a nice play on Saturday getting his hand up in the passing lane to break up a pass, but making more plays in this facet of the game is needed from the three-year starter to improve his draft stock come April.
On offense for South Carolina, not much got going in the ground game, negating the impact that this two-headed rushing attack of seniors Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster could muster. Both Dowdle and Feaster look the part physically with their sturdy frames and sizes, and both were out early pregame fielding kickoffs for additional versatility.
Wide receiver Bryan Edwards was also out early while fielding punts pregame – something that is unusual for bigger/stronger bodied athletes. Edwards – who stands 6-3, 220 pounds and is rocked-up – accounted for just about all the offense the Gamecocks could muster and dazzled with his 75-yard receiving touchdown off a screen pass to open the second half. Not to give too much away on the Conway, S.C. native but he showed me some suddenness as a route runner along with the concentration and dependability that a team needs from a big-time wide receiver.
Not to be outdone in the specialist category, South Carolina’s Joe Charlton made some impressive punts in the game, booming six of his eight punts 50-plus yards, including two for 60-plus.
WEEK 4: Pittsburgh vs UCF
The NFLPA Bowl was in attendance to see the Pitt Panthers upset the UCF Knights, led by defensive team captain Dane Jackson, one of the top-rated senior cornerbacks in the country. A smart player with great instincts, sound technique and excellent ball skills, Jackson possesses smooth change of direction and solid man coverage skills.
— Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella) September 23, 2019
On offense, do-it-all weapon Maurice Ffrench showed off his versatility, scoring a receiving touchdown while also demonstrating his rushing ability, in addition to handling both kick and punt return duties. A hard-nosed runner after the catch, Ffrench plays with a distinct toughness and his ability to create separation makes him an ideal slot receiver for the next level.
For UCF, cornerback Nevelle Clark demonstrated the ability to play both man and zone coverage, while flashing some physicality against opposing wide outs. His technique and backpedal are sound, displaying a low stance, which enables him to get out of his breaks quickly in order to make a play.
WEEK 3: Purdue vs. TCU
It’s been a tough start to the season for the Boilermakers and the news only got worse when senior quarterback Elijah Sindelar – who was leading the nation in passing yards – was ruled out prior to the TCU game with injury. Purdue struggled much of the night offensively against an impressive Horned Frog defense, but the Boilermakers did find tight end Brycen Hopkins for several big plays that helped keep the game competitive in the first half. Hopkins – who’s an athletic player with good quickness at the tops of routes – displayed his receiving skills while leading the team with four receptions for 77 yards, providing a much-needed spark for the offense on several occasions.
For TCU, this is an imposing-looking team that has a lot of NFL bodies on its roster. On offense, the Horned Frogs have a two-headed monster in the backfield with seniors Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua, who both topped the 100-yard mark on Saturday. Both RBs are well put together and Anderson in particular showed consistent vision to find open lanes while rattling off several explosive runs on the night. Olonilua – who looks like he could easily be a starting defensive end with his 6-3, 240-pound frame – is a load to bring down and has good body-lean as a rusher to consistently fall forward for additional yardage. I would like to see Olonilua get north/south a little bit quicker to truly use his commanding size, but both rushers should have opportunities to play at the next level.
Up front, right tackle Lucas Niang is a player that I’ve been waiting to see live as the 2.5-year starter is a specimen who understands how to play with his length and utilize his size to wall-off defenders. I was not disappointed with Niang or with left tackle Anthony McKinney opposite of him, as they paved the way for Horned Frogs rushers to total 346 yards!
On defense for TCU, the trend continues in the secondary with good looking DBs Innis Gaines (strong safety), Vernon Scott (free safety) and Jeff Gladney (CB). All three stand 6-0 or taller, have good arm length, and both safeties eclipse the 200-pound mark. Gladney in particular made a nice read on a play, sinking back from flat responsibility versus a flea flicker and elevating up to make an interception. Both he and Gaines add value on the punt team and did an outstanding job getting downfield twice to down punts inside the 5-yard line.