Geno Smith and Matt Barkley are still battling (for us at least) for the top senior quarterback in college football. But a surprise name seems to have established himself as the #3 senior quarterback in this year’s class.
Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are the stars for the LSU Tigers. But how do the start defensive ends project to the NFL level?
Also, Nation-Wide Scouting notes from our staff for Syracuse, Rutgers, South Carolina, LSU, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Mississippi State and the Top 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat in College Football.
Ryan Nassib Impresses as an NFL Quarterback Despite Team’s Record
I attended Syracuse’s game (eventual loss) against Rutgers in New Jersey this past weekend. I came into the game a big Ryan Nassib fan from scouting him in the pre-season. I left the game feeling confident not only in my pre-season evaluation, but in the new perspective of Ryan Nassib not only being a “favorite” of mine and Optimum Scouting’s, but also a legit, 1st round talent at quarterback.
As a bit of off-field research, there’s a bit to know about Nassib that all came together as I talked to people around the pressbox. To start, Nassib is a 4-time Big East All-Academic team member, a marketing major who’s already had 2 internships, and is up for the NFF Scholar Athlete Award. And in a football related note, his head coach is formerly the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, his offensive coordinator coached in the NFL for four years, and his dad played for the University of Delaware.
But back to his game against Rutgers. I won’t look at the actual stat line, because a.) Stats never tell the story on a quarterback’s game and b.) his teammates had 6+ drops and 3 poorly run routes that lead to incompletions not at the fault of Nassib. As far his play against Rutgers, Ryan Nassib stood out as best he could with the talent around him.
Nassib biggest concerns coming into the season were his velocity control, being more decisive with his footwork under pressure, and showing better ball placement on the outside. All three of those are areas for him to improve in the NFL, but all are correctable with time and all three looked improved in the his game against a fast and quick to the ball Rutgers defense.
His ability to throw from different arm angles and foot platforms is a testament to his confidence in his arm and ability to adjust himself to make all types of NFL throws, and he’s as talented in that as any quarterback in college football. He showed the ability to use his eyes to direct safeties as well as use subtle pocket movement (as well as arm fakes) to direct the defense and give his receivers separation, even under pressure. That skill set isn’t common for college quarterbacks and he seems to have improve dramatically in his post-snap recognition from a season ago.
But the combination of two elite qualities of Ryan Nassib that, combined with his natural arm talent and development mentally, are what put him in the first round area and future franchise quarterback level: Anticipation and decisiveness.
Being able to anticipate a receivers route is key for a quarterback, especially at the NFL level. And Nassib’s anticipation and timing of routes, and timing of defensive players breaks, is already at an NFL level, even though his receivers clearly aren’t able to handle that timing and anticipation. But his a large majority of his throws, while ball placement wasn’t perfect but certainly NFL catchable on a consistent basis, were perfectly timed and anticipated in a way that few college defensive backs would be able to adequately defend or have a chance to intercept his passes.
And I can’t stress enough how crucial decisiveness as a quarterback is for the NFL. With such small throwing windows and quickness of NFL progression reads, it’s crucial that an NFL quarterback both see and deliver an opening when a receiver has space. It’s what makes Tom Brady great. It’s what’s allowed Ryan Tannehill to have success despite being under-developed as a quarterback this year. And it’s one of Ryan Nassib’s qualities.
I’m not sure how great Nassib would be if he played with better receivers or if he had a more national spotlight. But he’s certainly won me over, along with likely a handful of team’s in attendance in the team’s loss to Rutgers. And while many may view him as a mid-rounder for now, it may be time to get to know this NFL talented and NFL ready quarterback now, before he goes in the 20-40 range of the 2013 NFL Draft.
LSU Stud Defensive Ends Mingo and Montgomery in More Detail
The LSU victory over South Carolina was the first game I specifically watched each and every snap of both juniors, since Optimum Scouting has decided to focus on Seniors throughout the regular season. But with all the hype about these two future NFLers (and likely to declare) along with peripherally seeing how dominating these two can be, it was about time to further inspect their talents.
For me, three things we’re quickly gathered in my notes after I finished the game. For one, both are very different future NFL pass rushers, in style and future NFL fit. Secondly, their role in the LSU defense limits their production, but not their future NFL ability. And thirdly, Sam Montgomery is clearly the better prospect, and Barkevious Mingo isn’t a Top 10 lock for me.
Barkevious Mingo, the leaner of the two and the future 3-4 outside linebacker, certainly did impress, and he’s among the best pass rushers eligible for the upcoming class. He disengages on the edge very well, he’s smooth laterally, and is quick to react upfield and make open field plays. But what really stood out is his flexibility and body control as an athlete on the edge. His bend and readjustment after the initial push allows for him to consistently adjust himself to be in position on the edge, and disengage with the ability to make plays quickly in his inside or outside gap.
But Mingo showed that he can be held up, even in space, as a passer rusher against thicker blockers because of his lack of post-snap rush moves and inability to use his hands once engaged to attack the ball. His skills as a 4-3 defensive end certainly don’t translate well to consistently be a passer rusher at the NFL level, but his ability in space and concerns about pass rushing once engaged make him best suited to develop as a 3-4 outside linebacker. A super talent with fantastic upside, he’s not a finished product as a pass rusher quite yet at the NFL level.
As for his teammate Sam Montgomery, he can step in tomorrow and be a backfield disrupting presence. He’s not the elite upside talent that Mingo is, but drives much more powerfully with his lower half once engaged and has a consistently power rush off the snap. He engages with great hand placement and wins the leverage battle quickly as a pass rusher. He’s body positioning, balance, and leg drive is at a near elite level for the college game, and it shows with his ability to get upfield quickly and collapse the pocket.
He has fantastic extension in his bull rush, and drives with great vision of the quarterback and rarely loses contain while also showing a quick burst in pinching inside vs. the run. His ability to attack while extended and change direction once in the backfield is what will bring him sacks at the NFL level, along with opening up inside and outside blitzing lanes.
Montgomery could develop more diverse rush moves as well as show ability to sink and collapse the outside more consistently, but that isn’t quite his role in the LSU defense. With the athletic build, upside as a pass rusher, and already developed bull rush technique and leg drive, Montgomery is the clear cut top pass rusher in the 2013 NFL Draft (if he does declare), and is one of the more impressive true 4-3 defensive ends I’ve seen in some time.
Nation-Wide Scouting Notes from Optimum Scouting Staff
Scouting Notes by Eric Galko, Jimmy O’Brien, and Alex Brown of Optimum Scouting
-Left tackle Justin Pugh of Syracuse got a chance to get back on the field against a solid opponent, and looked the part of an NFL offensive tackle prospect. While I’d like to see him get better initial hand placement and get a little thicker in his lower half to drive in the run game, he extends with great pop, opens up and kick slides smoothly with balance, and actively exchanges and readjusts his hands the way you’d like for a left tackle prospect
-If you haven’t seem Khaseem Greene, linebacker for Rutgers yet, then you’re missing one of the country’s best linebackers on one of the country’s best defenses. His a bit undersized, but his ability to attack and explode in run support, his quick flow to the ball from a middle linebacker spot, and strength and physicality as a tackler is very impressive to go along with his quick feet and zone-dropping ability. To add to that, he forced four turnovers in the team’s win over Syracuse with 3 forced fumbles and an interception.
-While only a redshirt sophomore, Jawan Jamison has generated enough buzz around himself that it was clear NFL scouts at the team’s game against Syracuse were watching him. He showed his sudden cuts, balance initially through the hole, and strength/smoothness in his initial zone cuts. He has a fantastic second step as he attacks the second level, and gets skinny in traffic very well. He still needs to be more decisive in his outside zone reads and also could be more explosive when anticipating tacklers, as he does have a tendency to slow down through contact upfield.
-Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas impressed as the entire Syracuse defense shut down the Rutgers run game for the most part in the team’s loss. He flows upfield very quickly and changes direction smoothly as he sorts through traffic. He delivers a great pop when initiating contact as a tackler, but also shows the ability to still wrap up and contain runners, even powerful ones, from breaking his tackle.
-Junior running back Marcus Lattimore for South Carolina is the clear cut top running back eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft. While he doesn’t have elite top speed and has injury concerns, his versatility (willing pass blocker, effective pass catcher and turns and runs well after catch), his ability to consistently stay low in his pad level through contact and drive upfield, patience as a runner with his ability to use his blocks efficiently upfield, and his tough running ability at the second level makes him everything you want in a franchise back in the NFL.
-Clearly, Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham, who spent much of the afternoon on the sidelines, is still working his way back from last October’s devastating knee injury. But Graham, who received less than 40% of his team’s carries, showed flashes of his old form, demonstrating lateral agility on jump cuts and executing one acrobatic spin move to net an additional five yards on a second quarter play. Still, at times, he appears to be moving gingerly, only driving off his good leg, not exploding out of cuts, and lacking his trademark side-to-side and vertical burst. Overall, the knee appears to be structurally sound, and Graham’s future production could be just a matter of him regaining the confidence to cut it loose.
-In the passing game for Pitt, the main target was Devin Street, who possesses good size, better than average speed, and displayed improved route running discipline and plus post-catch change of direction and running ability. Street, on a variety of short and intermediate routes, adjusted well to poorly thrown balls, and demonstrated the ability and willingness to make tough catches in traffic across the middle, including a nice touchdown grab on a goal line smash route.
-Also shining in the pass game for the Panthers was Senior Mike Shanahan, who’s listed as a wide receiver, but is seeing an increasing number of snaps at tight end. Shanahan, who is slow off the line and sluggish changing directions for a wide receiver, is a better prospect at tight end, where, despite less than stellar in-line blocking skills, he flashes excellent hands, the ability to work soft spots in zones, and the leaping ability and ball skills to be a legitimate goal line threat. As a flexed tight end, Shanahan made an impressive 34 yard, over the shoulder, catch on a seam route that showcased several of his talents.
-For Louisville, a defensive standout performance was turned in by safety Hakeem Smith, an aggressive downhill player, making his 35th straight start, who made numerous stops by crashing the box. Smith was effective both at the line and in space, making several open field tackles, including a key one on one takedown of Pitt’s powerful Freshman running back Russell Shell.
-Cornerback Adrian Bushell did not fare as well for the Cardinals. Though he did exhibit improving willingness to help in run support, his man to man coverage was suspect for much of the afternoon. Bushell was twice beaten on slants, too easily surrendering inside position, and was completely turner around on an endzone corner route by Pitt wideout Cameron Sadler.
-Louisville’s best defensive performance was turned in by inside linebacker Preston Brown, who’s playing this season like a draftable prospect. Brown, who’s a rock solid 6020 and 260 pounds, displayed excellent range for a big backer, especially on a strong side off-tackle run, where he chased the play from his weakside position, bringing down the ballcarrier after a short gain. Brown continually picked his way through traffic inside, showing not only the size and physicality to stack and shed, but also impressive in-space fluidity and movement skills.
-Junior fullback Trey Millard for Oklahoma may very well end up entering the 2013 NFL Draft, as the clear #1 fullback, H-back prospect in the country. Showcasing light, nimble feet to set up and cut off of his blockers with patience and vision to and through the hole, Millard finished runs with an explosive element, running through arm tackles, hurdling over defenders and consistently gaining positive yardage. What makes Millard such a special prospect is how many different ways he can make an impact. Having the route balance and soft hands, Millard tore apart the Texas secondary with a variety of short flat routes and intermediary seam patterns. Catching a flat route and turning up the field, Millard simultaneously hurdled and stiff-armed two defenders, en route to an impressive 73 yard gain. Moreover, whether lead blocking or pass protecting, Millard rarely misses an assignment. A complete H-Back prospect that could start for a number of NFL teams, Millard would likely be taken in the 3rd round range.
-In a matchup with Tennessee’s vaunted receiving combo of Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, Mississippi State senior cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay more than held their own. Banks and Slay proved to be interchangeable on both sides of the field, with Slay playing the field more often than Banks, due to his superior straight-line speed. Johnthan Banks solidified his 1st round preseason grade in this game by directing the receiver’s route off the line with exceptional hand usage and quick, mirroring footwork. Darius Slay, who entered the season without the hype of his cornerback counterpart Banks, very much looked the part of a starting NFL corner with elite long speed, hip fluidity, turn and run ability, and great mirroring skills. To be considered a top round prospect Slay will have to clean up his drive angles to the throw, improve his overall physicality off the line and in-route, and not sit on the route stem so often, as he struggled to anticipate on underneath slant patterns. A future starter with plus physical tools to work with, Slay looks like a mid-Day 2 draft pick.
-Overlooked in lieu of the wide receiver-cornerback matchup just detailed, was the play of Mississippi State left guard Gabe Jackson. Jackson, who possesses great length and a thick, sturdy frame, engaged defenders off the ball with suddenness and quickness out of his stance, firing out and winning with hand placement to control the point of attack. Better on counter and power plays than zone schemes, Jackson did an outstanding job of cutting off defenders and moving them out of the hole, by swinging his hips into position and striking the outside shoulder of his opponent with heavy hands and a lock-tight grip. Able to pull and kick out with effectiveness, Jackson seems versatile and athletic enough to play either guard position, and could even play right tackle in a pinch.
-The only person Jackson couldn’t consistently move in this game was Tennessee nose tackle Daniel McClullers. A mammoth of a man in the middle, McClullers tossed Mississippi State blockers around in this matchup, running to flow and bowling through combo blocks with no problem whatsoever. Whenever he works his hands, McClullers is nearly unblockable and once he learns how to do so efficiently, we could be looking at the next “big” thing, literally, at the nose tackle position. Having rare size, rare strength, and lateral movement skills to be a high volume tackler at the nose tackle position, McClullers could very well declare for the upcoming draft as a bigger version of Georgia’s John Jenkins.
Top 10…Coaches on the Hot Seat
While this doesn’t directly relate to scouting, it can have a major impact on how the youth of these teams play, as well as the current mindset of prospects on teams that are struggling and have instability at the top of the coaching staff (see North Carolina prospects last year).
1. Joker Phillips, Kentucky (1-6 in 2012)
2. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (1-5 in 2012)
3. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo (1-5 in 2012)
4. Gene Chizik – Auburn (1-5 in 2012)
5. Jeff Tedford – California (3-4 in 2012)
6. Robb Akey – Idaho (1-6 in 2012)
7. Derek Dooley – Tennessee (3-3 in 2012)
8. Charlie Weis – Kansas (1-5 in 2012)
9. Randy Edsall – Maryland (4-2 in 2012)
10. Kevin Wilson – Indiana (2-4 in 2012)