Just a few days stand between now and the start of the 2011 college football season, as well as New Era Scouting’s 2012 NFL Draft scouting grind.  While Labor Day Weekend brings an abrupt end to the summer season that always seems too short, it also brings the first live action of NFL-caliber football since February.  Sometimes  the best way to evaluate a game performance is to obtain the tape of a game where a player is faced up against a fellow future NFL player.  Week one of the college football season presents a couple of those matchups that, even though early on in the 2012 Draft scouting process, can leave quite the impression on their final grade.

Danny Trevathan (LB) Kentucky vs. Bobby Rainey (RB) Western Kentucky

A quick look at any All-American roster from the 2010 season, it would not take long to see the name Danny Trevathan, the leading tackler in the SEC (144).  His knack for the big game-standout performances was on display a few times, most notable against Auburn (17 tackles), Mississippi State (16 tackles), and Pittsburgh (11 tackles).  He is a guy that flies from sideline to sideline while playing in the fastest conference in the country.  Always around the ball, Trevathan is a more complete player than one would assume when seeing that he plays at 6’1 – 225 pounds.  He could use more bulk, but by no means is he a guy that dances around blocks, as he is often found in the middle of the inside-lane pile ups. 

Speaking of notable statistics, the 5’7 Rainey was third in the nation a year ago in rushing yards.  The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year also led the nation in carries (340), while proving his NFL ability with strong performances against Nebraska and Kentucky in out-of-conference play.  His size, or lack thereof, will be what naysayers point at when dismissing his NFL potential, but his low center of gravity and top tier balance make him a difficult back to bring down with initial contact.  His short area quickness and vision will score him a considerable amount of points on the grading sheet.

In 2010, Rainey ran for 100+ yards on 21 carries, while reaching the end zone twice against the Wildcats.  It was a lopsided contest (Kentucky won by 35), thus he was never given the opportunity to control the clock late in the game.  This year’s contest will be a home game for Rainey, and what better way to start his final campaign than to match up against  a fast defense.  Trevathan is the leader of the Wildcat unit, and he will have to play a huge role in their effort to contain the only real threat across the field.  While he is considered a strong, secure tackler, he must prove that he can play with the range that will be needed to defend Rainey’s speed, but also the stout downhill ability to take him down on first contact. 

 

LaDarius Green (TE) LA-Lafayette vs. Rischetti Jones (DE) and Markelle Martin (S) Oklahoma State

Those that have not done their full preparation for the 2012 NFL Draft class may not know the name LaDarius Green.  After all, LA-Lafayette is ranked near or at the bottom of most preseason team rankings.  However Green appears to be a top 3 prospect at the tight end position, especially in an era that favors the pass catching tight end.  Green led the nation in receiving yards, receiving yards per game, touchdowns, and games with 80+ yards in 2010, despite missing two entire games.  The long 6’6 – 236 pound Green is a weapon that defenses find nearly impossible to defend even though they spent 90+% of the passing plays with two players guarding him from the rock.  Green can get downfield in a hurry with his 4.5 speed, but also has the ability to “box-out” defenders underneath so that only he has the opportunity to make a play on the ball.

Jones entered the Cowboys program as one of the top defensive end recruits in the nation a few years back, but has displayed an underwhelming career performance to date.  However he did have few noteworthy games in 2010, ending the season with a 5 tackle-1.5 sack line vs. Arizona.  He is a physical presence in the trenches that uses his hands well.  Martin on the other hand is arguably the top senior safety in the nation with his bone-jarring hits and instinctive first step.  He plays downhill and is often involved underneath and across the middle, making him a prime candidate to control the game between the hash marks.

Green’s weakness entering the 2011 season is, without a doubt, his in-line blocking against physical defensive ends.  If he wants a realistic shot at the first round next April, he must prove that he can control his opponent at the point of attack with his hands while maintining leverage.  He does not have to push Jones around the field, but simply displaying the ability to hold his own against a force such as Jones will go a long way.  On the flip side, Jones has to prove he can throw the “hybrid” tight ends around.  A tight end like Green should not be getting in the way of Jones and the ball carrier, period.  If he wants to prove that his pre-college rankings were legit, this would be a nice way to start.  While Martin will not be matched against Green too often, the two are sure to meet on a few occasions because both can dominate the middle of the field respectively.  Martin will have his shot to deliver a couple of blows to the big body of Green, but also run downfield with him and make a few plays on the ball, a part of his games that scouts absolutely love.

Stephon Gilmore (CB) South Carolina vs. Lance Lewis (WR) East Carolina

Even though Gilmore is an underclassman, it is widely assumed he will be a top 10 pick in April.  The 6’1 – 195 pound cornerback is one of the most dynamic players in the country, as he can make game changing plays in a variety of ways.  The 1st Team All-SEC and 3rd Team All-American  reminds me of Charles Woodson with his ability to play his size to his advantage in man coverage.  He is a physical corner that can jam any receiver at the line, throwing off the timing of the opposing passing game.  He also mixes it up inside with his strength against the run, consistently putting his body on the line and delivering physical tackles.  He is as complete a cornerback as there is in college football.

East Carolina will be in year two of their spread offense air attack that is led by Lance Lewis and quarterback Dominique Davis.  As a result of the system, Lewis does have inflated statistics that can be attached to his name, but he does have NFL potential and will likely hear his name called in the middle rounds.  At 6’1 – 209, Lewis plays the catch-and-go game very well with his ability to create on his own and see blocks before they occur.  He is a big play waiting to happen no matter where he starts on the field.

While Gilmore will face NFL talent nearly every week, he gets the opportunity to shine against an offense that can put up points in bunches.  While slowing down the Pirates offense has to be a team effort, Gilmore should be able to shut down their number one target in Lewis. However, scouts will put the eyeball on Lewis to see how he handles the press coverage and just how fast he looks against the SEC defense.  He has a lot to gain in this matchup, and Gilmore has a lot to lose.

 

Billy Winn (DT) Boise State vs. Cordy Glenn (LT) and Ben Jones (C) Georgia

Winn is the hybrid defensive lineman that the NFL decision makers love to dream about.  The solid 6’3 – 295 pounder is moved inside/out, left/right throughout each game because of the matchup problems he presents to any style of blocker.  Very light and agile on his feet, Winn can move a blocker backward and disengage with ease, putting himself in position to make a play.  He has shown flashes throughout his career for Boise State, but he has yet to grab a spot on the 1st Team All Mountain West squad.  Considering his strong work ethic and coachability, I believe it is a safe assumption that Winn is on the brink of a breakout year.

Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones are both going to hear their names called early on in the 2012 NFL Draft.  Glenn has seen most of his action at left guard, but has been moved out to left tackle for his final campaign.  At 6’5 – 340 pounds, Glenn is surprisingly nimble on his feet but he’ll earn his paychecks as a pure road grader.  He is a dominant force at the point of attack when moving forward.  Jones will enter his fourth year as the Bulldogs starting center and is the leaser of the group.  He has developed in to a first round caliber player with his flawless technique and strong hands.  While he is not the quickest interior blocker, he holds the middle of the line together with his consistency and heady calls.  A true leader that understands the dynamics of an offense.

Even though Glenn was moved outside, he will still have his fair share of head to head matchups against the diverse defensive role that Winn has on his plate.  Talk about two powerful, intense forces.  Winn’s toughest head to head matchup came back in 2009 against Niners first round pick Mike Iupati; a matchup clearly lost.  With Glenn coming down on him, and Jones coming out, Winn is in for a long night.  If he can come out of the night with a few plays attached to his name, he should consider it the beginning of a successful senior season. He will not see another player, let alone two of them at once, like either one of these guys for the rest of the season.  Playing in the SEC, Jones and Glenn will be matched up against future NFL players a few times, but the hybrid Winn will present a unique opportunity to both of them in different ways on a night where everybody will be watching.

Vinny Curry (DE) Marshall vs. Don Barclay (LT) West Virginia

A name that jumped on to the national radar in 2009 was Marshall’s defensive end Vinny Curry.  He led all defensive linemen in the country in tackles with a whopping 94, 12 of which were sacks.  Do not let the Conference USA schedule take credibility away from those numbers, as he notched 2 sacks against West Virginia and 2 more against Ohio State last fall on top of a combined 17 tackles combined in the two contests against upper tier lines.  Curry plays on the right side of the defensive line primarily where he is often match up against the opponent’s top pass blocker.  He has long, powerful arms and plays with a constant tenacity that few defensive ends can match.

Barclay is your typical West Virginia offensive lineman.  A bit smaller than the ideal left tackle, Barclay brings the blue collar approach to the game.  What he lacks in natural talent and athleticism, he makes up for in hustle and brute strength.  He does a nice job of locking on and stifling the edge rushers, forcing them to make a secondary move.  As much as scouts love to see that, he does leave himself vulnerable to the double move and struggles to maintain balance as he moves back to the inside.  His future in the NFL does exist, but is most likely inside at guard.

These two faced off in week two at Marshall, where Curry easily won the head to head matchup.  Barclay did not hold at the point of attack, letting Curry to sack the quarterback twice and force a hurry.  Curry was a man on a mission all night, and did not let up until the 4thquarter clock read 0:00.  The combination of his ability and hustle was too tough for Barclay to handle by himself.  With the microscope more focused on Curry this year, he will have an early opportunity to shine against a noteworthy opponent, something he will not be able to say for most of the 2011 season.  Barclay must redeem himself from the 2010 contest that scouts will look at when trying to make the argument that he is only worth a look following the 7 rounds of drafting in April.

 

Article by David Syvertsen, New Era Scouting