Final Pre-Draft Tidbits

April 20th, 2010

With just two days left before the draft kicks off on Thursday evening, SI.com draft analyst and DraftInsider.net publisher Tony Pauline checks in with JetsInsider.com with the latest word on what the Jets are doing and where they may be headed in the first few rounds of the draft.

The Jets have spent a lot of time with Virginia Tech DE Jason Worilds.

- Wondering who could be the surprise pick for the New York Jets? Familiarize yourself with the name of Maurkice Pouncey, the center/guard from the Florida Gators. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan has told people the Jets would pounce on Pouncey were he to slide to the 29th selection, which is very unlikely to happen. Pouncey could be selected as early as the 11th pick which is owned by the Denver Broncos and is unlikely to get past the Pittsburgh Steelers at 18.

- The Washington Redskins have been shopping Albert Haynesworth the past few weeks and both sides hope a deal is done this week. Reports have inferred the New York Jets could be in the mix to trade for Haynesworth but we can tell you the big defensive lineman has told people he wants no part of playing for a 3-4 defense. The Jets may look another direction late in the draft. The team brought Georgia defensive lineman Kade Weston in for a visit recently. They like his athleticism and upside, as do we, and the Jets think Weston is a solid late round choice/developmental prospect. Weston has also visited with the Houston Texans.

- DE Jason Worilds is another player receiving a lot of interest from the New York Jets. Besides New York Worilds been on visits to see the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots besides working out with the Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars. Yet it was his visit with the Jets that really stood out to Worilds. He spent a significant amount of his time meeting with head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, both impressing the Virginia Tech junior.

- Cornerback Kareem Jackson has been a busy man recently. He’s had workouts with the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals but the three teams to keep an eye on are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets. If neither of the top interior offensive lineman are available when the Steelers pick at 18 (Lupati or Pouncey) the Steelers could look to Jackson. Prior to the draft we reported that Jackson was preparing for the combine with Donnie Henderson, recently named defensive back coach for the Cardinals. The team will be looking for secondary help and Henderson has been pulling for Jackson. Finally, the New York sports media wrote several articles about Rex Ryan attending Alabama’s pro-day workout on March 10th to watch defensive lineman Terrence Cody. We can tell you the team was on hand primarily to see Jackson. The Jets not only brought Jackson in for an official visit and traveled to Alabama to privately workout the athletic cornerback, but general manager Mike Tannenbaum had dinner with Jackson the night before ‘Bama’s pro-day.

Be sure to check out all of Tony Pauline and his staff’s full coverage of the NFL Draft JetsInsider.com’s recently launched sister site, DraftInsider.net – a member of the Insider Fan Network.

DRAFT TALK: Jets to look at Fresno State RB Matthews

March 17th, 2010

Tony Pauline of SI.com and DraftInsider.net has learned that the New York Jets will be bringing running back Ryan Matthews of Fresno State to their facility for one of their official pre-draft visits.

Matthews, a junior, comes off a career season at Fresno State in which he rushed for 1808 yards and 19 touchdowns. Pauline, one of the premiere draft analysts in the nation, told JetsInsider.com that Matthews is one of the few complete backs in this draft; a strong ball carrier on the inside who also has the ability to turn the corner while also being an effective pass catcher out of the backfield.

Pauline projects Matthews as a potential late first round/early second round pick.

The Jets will take a look at Fresno State RB Ryan Matthews.

This is interesting as it was reported earlier this week the team will use another pre-draft visit on bringing in a different west coast running back, Toby Gerhart of Stanford.

Last month at the combine Matthews ran his forty in an electronic time of 4.45 seconds after weighing in at 218-pounds. His second attempt was slower but Pauline, who attends all the workouts, said Mathews slipped out of the start. His vertical jump was a solid 36-inches.

Pauline has told us other teams interested in Matthews are the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers, who are both bringing him into their facility for an official visit. The New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers are individually working out Mathews in the coming weeks.

Be sure to check out all of Tony Pauline and his staff’s full coverage of the upcoming NFL Draft at JetsInsider.com’s recently launched sister site, DraftInsider.net – a member of the Insider Fan Network.

Jets Rumblings at the Combine

February 25th, 2010

RB Green ready to be annointed Jets leading man as the team works to lock up Revis and Mangold to long term deals.

INDIANAPOLIS - The workouts don’t start in Indy until Friday yet there’s plenty of news around town. My sources tell me that the Jets are ready to give sophomore RB Shonn Green the starting position next year. The team feels Green embodies everything they want in a feature runner; a downhill, powerful ball carrier who wears down opponents. They are also confident that Green showed enough ability last season that he’s ready for the starters role.

With RB Shonn Green moving up in the Jets world, where does that leave Thomas Jones? (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Where does this leave Thomas Jones? Likely with a pay cut and re-structured deal if he wants to stay. GM Mike Tannenbaum has been working with Jones’ agent to hash out an amended deal as the team hopes to keep him aboard.

I’ve also confirmed that that the Jets are extremely close to locking up All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis to a contract extension. The long term deal will reportedly be worth in excess of $10MM per year with more than half guaranteed.

As soon as Revis is locked up the team’s next priority will be to sign Pro-Bowl center Nick Mangold to a multi-year extension.

We are in Indianapolis with full coverage and more live updates to come as the combine kicks off tomorrow. Check back often!

Be sure to check out all of Tony Pauline and his staff’s full coverage of the Indianapolis combine and all draft related news at JetInsider.com’s recently launched sister site,  DraftInsider.net -  a member of the Insider Fan Network.

Scouting College Saturday: USC vs Notre Dame

October 16th, 2009
Williams could be the first receiver selected in the 2010 NFL Draft

Williams could be the first receiver selected in the 2010 NFL Draft

A fall classic with some real meaning this season as the Trojans travel to South Bend, Indiana to take on Notre Dame.  The home team hopes to knock off the #26 ranked Trojans and keep their BCS hopes alive.  A loss for USC and they will be completely eliminated from the hunt for the national title.  This game has a lot for everyone; big time quarterbacks, game breaking receivers, bone shattering defensive backs and plenty of players on the lines of scrimmage.  It also offers nearly a half-dozen potential first round picks, most coming from the USC side of the ball.

Match-up:  Jimmy Clausen vs Taylor Mays

This is a match-up made in heaven for NFL scouts.  

Jimmy Clausen, the big armed pocket passer of Notre Dame that’s always shown incredible potential against Taylor Mays, a big time free safety and intimidating presence in centerfield for the Trojans.   Both are first round picks.  Each is likely to end up in the first half of the frame.  The pair have a lot to gain in this match-up.

On his behalf Clausen is watching his draft stock rise.  His accuracy is better and his decision making has improved by leaps and bounds this season.  There’s not to much indecision in Clausen’s game as he’s showing terrific poise and leadership commanding the offense for the Irish.  Clausen has had issues competing on the road, something which scouts are cautious about.  Regardless, he has all the makings of a starting NFL quarterback and though not the finished product, some believe he’ll be a top ten choice if he opts for the NFL after this season.

Mays is a combination of many things as the Trojans free safety.  He’s got great size (6′3”/236lbs) with the speed (4.50) to compliment.  Some would argue Mays is too large for the safety spot and would be much better off at outside linebacker.  His playing style seems to dictate he’d be best in a zone system as Mays is aggressive in all aspects of the game but really best up the field and struggles quickly getting to the sidelines.  

The ability of Mays to help out in coverage as Clausen throws fade and corner patterns to Golden Tate will be something to watch out for.  Clausen must show he can adapt to the different looks thrown at him by Pete Carroll and lead his offense against the sixth ranked team in the nation.

Match-up:  Notre Dame’s offensive line vs  Pete Carroll’s scheme

The Irish have three draftable senior prospects on their offensive line. 

Offensive tackle Sam Young has gotten most of the headlines the past few seasons and was rated the highest of the trio coming into the season.  We feel he’s the most overrated.  Young has had a lot of struggles this season and is constantly getting beat.  If he has a future in the NFL it’ll strictly be on the right/strong side.

Paul Duncan is bigger than Young but struggles against athletic opponents and for such a large man, plays soft at times displaying a very disappointing anchor.  He’s got some upside based on his size and will get looks late in the draft.

Guard Eric Olson could be the long term gem of this group.  He’s a hard working blocker that effectively controls opponents at the point of attack and plays with a nasty streak.  If he can improve his run blocking Olson has a future at the next level.

USC has an inexperienced front seven after losing seven players to the NFL last April.

The leading prospect up front is junior Everson Griffen, an athletic defensive end whom the Trojans use at tackle.  Griffen is explosive and fluid.  He string’s plays out to the flanks and offers big time potential.

USC does not have the raw talent to generate a pass rush so Pete Carroll must manufacture one using a lot of blitzes and games up front.  The ability of Notre Dame’s three senior offensive linemen to handle the different looks, as well as quarterback Jimmy Clausen, will be something scouts are focused on.

Match-up:  Safety Kyle McCarthy vs. Damian Williams

Kyle McCarthy is a player on the rise as his stock has shot straight north since September.  A devastating hitter who lays it on the line, McCarthy has made a number of game saving plays this season which has helped secure several of Notre Dame’s four wins.  He’s also a special teams demon and usually one of the first players down the field on coverage units. 

McCarthy has proto-typical safety size at 5′11.5”/211lbs.  His speed of 4.55 is a slight concern and although he’s made strides with his ball skills this season, McCarthy’s coverage skills are still not on an NFL level.

He’ll be challenged Saturday by one of the nation’s top game breaking receivers.

Junior Damian Williams has been a dominant force on the USC defense since transferring from Arkansas.  He possesses home run hitting speed which he uses to stretch the defense vertically at receiver or break games wide open as a return specialist.  Williams torched a good Cal secondary for eight receptions and 101 yards two weeks ago.

He’s very natural in all aspects of the position and has enough size to be a number one wide out for an NFL team.  If Williams enters the draft, a likely possibility, he could be the first receiver selected.

Can McCarthy contain and cover Williams?  Will Williams fearlessly go over the middle knowing he could be cut in two by McCarthy?  It will be fun to watch.

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Scouting College Saturday: Florida vs. LSU

October 9th, 2009

LafelllgOnce again the yearly battle between LSU and Florida will impact both the winner and loser in a major way.  The victor will go down the stretch of the ‘09 campaign a step ahead in the chase for the national title besides being the favorite to win the conference championship.  The loser will likely have to avenge their loss in the SEC Championship game for an opportunity at a BCS bowl berth.  One year ago Florida hammered LSU 51-21, then went on to be crowned National Champions. NFL scouts and league decision makers will be scouring this game as there are almost a dozen draft eligible players with top 60 potential. There are several great match-ups in this contest and Tony Pauline of TFYDRaft.com breaks it down for you.

Match-up: LSU’s defensive tackles vs the Pouncey twins

Charles Alexander turned down a chance to enter last April’s NFL draft after he was given another year of eligibility by the NCAA.  In fact prior to his decision Alexander had received an invitation to the combine.  Al Woods is a fourth year senior that’s been a consistent performer on the college level.  Both are nice prospects with size and growth potential.  

They have their work cut out for them as they face-off against the best brother-brother team in college football.

Center Maurkice Pouncey is turning into a dominant blocker on the pivot.  In fact we’d go as far as saying the junior is the number one center prospect in the nation at this point.  Maurkice is big, powerful yet also athletic and displays good movement skills.  He can turn defenders off the line and create large running lanes in the middle of the field, or get out to the second level and annihilate linebackers.  He has all the makings of a first round pick when he enters the draft.

Brother Michael Pouncey plays next to Maurkice at guard and is also a dominant blocker with a bright future at the next level.

This is an opportunity for Alexander and/or Woods to really impress scouts and elevate their draft stock.  Productive performances against the impressive pair of blockers on the Gators line will leave a lasting impression.

Match-up: Brandon LaFell vs the UF secondary

Brandon LaFell is universally considered the top senior receiver available in next April’s draft.  He gave serious consideration to entering the ‘09 draft and there were reports of family members pressuring him to leave for the NFL.  He’s a big, smooth pass catcher with a gliding style and very natural in all aspects of the position.  LaFell constantly extends to make the reception away from his frame and displays both strong and soft hands.  He offers potential as a number one at the next level and how early LaFell is selected in the first round will depend on how fast he runs prior to April and which underclassmen from the position enter the draft.

He goes up against a very tough Gator secondary on Saturday night.

Joe Haden is one of the brightest cornerback prospects from the junior class.  There’s been much speculation as to whether or not he’ll enter April’s draft. Haden is physical and shows a lot of skill facing the action.  Junior Ahmad Black is one of the most physical safeties in the nation.  Black presently leads the Gators in tackles and is very effective up the field but does struggle with his ball skills. Safety Major Wright, another junior, is an underrated player who struggles to get playing time due to the depth of the Gators secondary.  Wright is an adequately sized prospect with a complete game.  He’s tough against the run and also displays solid skill in coverage.  

LaFell’s courage will be tested as will his pass catching skills against the Gators dynamic secondary.

Match-up: LSU’s offensive tackles vs. Florida’s defensive ends

The breakdown of this match-up can be summed up by stating it features two of the most overrated players in the nation and a pair of underrated prospects.

When LSU tackle Ciron Black was a sophomore many anointed him as a first round pick.  We never agreed with that opinion.  Black is a well sized blocker and a better than average athlete.  He also lacks balance, footwork and the strength to finish blocks.  Now a senior, we presently grade Black as a late round pick and feel it may be necessary to move him inside to guard.  

One the other hand his junior line-mate Joseph Barksdale is a legit mid-to-early round prospect.  Barksdale is a big strong lineman with the ability to drive defenders off the ball run blocking.  He plays with solid fundamentals and just needs to brush off the details of his game.  He has a bright NFL future.

Florida has a pair of defensive ends, one who gets lots of hype and the other that gets the most from his ability.

Junior Carlos Dunlop passes the eyeball test and is an intimidating presence on the field.  He flashes the ability to over-power opponents, bull rushing them off the line and creating a lot of pressure up the field.  Dunlop is also a good athlete with the ability to string plays laterally out to the flanks.  The problem for Dunlop is he does not make enough plays and his game is plagued with inconsistency.  At his best Dunlop has top ten possibilities and can be used as a base end that lines up opposite right tackle or as a two-gap end.  Right now he looks and plays like a boom or bust prospect.

Jermaine Cunningham does not have the size or the natural skills of his teammate yet gets a lot from his ability.  Cunningham plays faster than his estimated 4.7 forty speed and bigger than his 248 pounds.  He’s likely to be used as a 3-4 rush linebacker at the next level but may also get looks as a one-gap end.

The match-ups between these four players will be exceptional to watch and may go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.

Match-up: Brandon Spikes vs. Richard Dickson and Charles Scott

Brandon Spikes is the most dominant middle linebacker in the nation.  He forces the action up the field, is stout defending the run and can be a nightmare on the blitz.  Spikes plays with aggression, violence and his motor is always going full throttle.  

He’s effective in the box and can chase down ball carriers to the sidelines.  That said the middle linebacker struggles making plays in reverse and is not efficient in coverage. 

The LSU offense will offer the power running of Charles Scott and tight end Richard Dickson, an efficient, overachieving tight end that produces as a pass catcher and blocker.

Scott has been slightly disappointing this season and NFL scouts are concerned he has not elevated his game.  He showed signs of life last week against Georgia and a solid performance against the stout UF defense, and a tough run defender like Spikes, will get him back in the good graces of NFL scouts.

Dickson is a reliable pass catcher that comes through in the clutch.  He’s by no means a true downfield threat but gets the job done when called upon.  The few times Spikes is required to cover Dickson will be telling for the linebacker.

www.TFYDraft.com is solely dedicated to the NFL Draft twelve months a year.  For rankings, reports and first hand breaking news, check them out every day! Follow us on Twitter

Scouting College Saturday: Miami vs. Oklahoma

October 3rd, 2009

 

The Sooners Trent Williams received the highest grade of any offensive tackle in the nation from NFL scouts.

The Sooners Trent Williams received the highest grade of any offensive tackle in the nation from NFL scouts.

Oklahoma and Miami both enjoyed early season rankings yet each team has already lost a game during the first month of the ‘09 campaign. They still remain in the hunt for a BCS birth at least until this weekend. Oklahoma offers as many as five first round players but will be missing their two highest rated NFL prospects as quarterback Sam Bradford will join tight end Jermaine Gresham on the sideline. Lost in the preparation for this weeks game was the news that Gresham, who was injured before the season began, will not seek another year of eligibility and will definitely enter next April’s draft. Miami offers several solid prospects from the senior class and many more emerging underclassmen. This is the type of game that could help re-establish Miami as a dominant program and would be the type of victory they have not enjoyed in many seasons.  Brent Foshee of TFY Draft Preview looks at the top match-ups for Saturday’s feature game.

Key Match Up:  Miami tackle Jason Fox vs. Oklahoma defensive end Auston English

 Auston English is an athletic and hard working defensive end that uses his speed and effort to make plays up field or in pursuit. English is more adept at rushing the passer than defending the run and tends to find most of his success with outside rushing techniques where he can use his superior speed. English is also effective pursuing from the backside and always hustles until the whistle blows. He fits only certain schemes yet is expected to be a first day selection in April. 

 
Miami tackle Jason Fox is a highly underrated prospect at this time. A blocker with solid footwork and balance, Fox has the ability to protect the quarterback’s blind side. He could use some more strength but possesses all the skills needed to be a successful pro tackle. 
 
Showing well against top competition like English will improve his standing in the eyes of scouts. 
 
Key Match Up:  Miami running backs Graig Cooper and Javarris James against the Oklahoma front seven
 
Graig Cooper is a terrific back who appears ready to play in the NFL right now. Comfortable catching passes out of the backfield or running between the tackles, Cooper will face his biggest challenge of the year this week against OU. 
 
 The Hurricanes other ball carrier, Javarris James, is a talented back that has battled injuries for most of his career. James must show consistency over the rest of his tenure as a Hurricane to have any chance of being a late rounder. Meanwhile Cooper could rise into the draft’s first round should he demonstrate that he can put up solid numbers against top competition. 
 
The Sooner defensive front seven is built around tackle Gerald McCoy. An explosive force in the middle, McCoy is among the highest rated players in the nation and will be a top 10 selection if he enters the draft. Linemate Demarcus Granger could join him in the first round of next years draft should he be able to play injury free. Another explosive front line defender, Granger hustles and can frequently be seen making plays near the sidelines or downfield. Oklahoma has very little depth at linebacker, as was evident last season when Ryan Reynolds went down. Reynolds is back this year, playing as aggressive as ever and the Sooners defense is among the best in the nation.  Keenan Clayton is an athletic linebacker that makes plays all over the field. Standing out in pass coverage, he looks like a prototypical strong side linebacker in a 4-3 defense and is a solid middle round prospect. The Sooners youngest linebacker is also potentially their best. Physical and nasty are the two words that describe Travis Lewis, an underclassmen with first round potential.
 
Key Match Up: Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams vs. Miami defensive end Eric Moncur
 
Yet another top tier NFL prospect on the Sooners roster, Trent Williams is a dominating college lineman that has the potential to develop into either a left tackle or a right tackle in the NFL. A massive lineman with good footwork and a wide wingspan, Williams gets his hands on defenders easily and pushes them around. Susceptible to players that are fast and relentless, Williams could have his hands full on Saturday if he is not careful. 
 
 Eric Moncur is an over aged player that will have to quickly make an impression if he is to have any chance of getting drafted.   Quick to the outside, Moncur can be disruptive off the edge yet is also easily handled at the point of attack by larger blockers.  Moncur played just three games last season before being sent to the sidelines with an injury.  He’s still struggling to get back to full health and has only played in two games this season.  Having a good showing against Williams could be just what the doctor ordered for Moncur.

www.TFYDraft.com is solely dedicated to the NFL Draft twelve months a year.  For rankings, reports and first hand breaking news, check them out every day!

Scouts Preview: Arizona State vs Georgia

September 25th, 2009
Chris McGaha is a sleeper at the receiver position in the 2010 NFL Draft

Chris McGaha is a sleeper at the receiver position in the 2010 NFL Draft

The Sun Devils take on the Bulldogs for the second consecutive season in a rare PAC 10/SEC showdown. This is ASU’s first big test after a pair of creampuff wins to start the season. Georgia should be well primed for this game after the season opening loss to Oklahoma State followed by a pair of shootout victories over South Carolina and Arkansas, respectively. The game offers several dynamite match ups NFL scouts will be concentrating on, and so should Jets fans. On the field Saturday night will be a number of talented defensive lineman as well as receivers; players the Jets could be interested in during the 2010 NFL Draft.

Match-up: ASU defensive end Dexter Davis vs left tackle Vince Vance

Dexter Davis is swiftly moving up draft boards. Scouts love his athleticism, speed and explosion off the edge. What they are less enamored with is his size and Davis measures barely 6-feet 1.5-inches and 253-pounds. He uses his athleticism to dominate and exploit lesser talents on the college level at defensive end yet in the NFL he’s destined to be used at outside linebacker or possibly be pushed to the middle.

Size is not an issue for Georgia left tackle Vince Vance, who measures 6-feet 6-inches and 329 pounds. Balance, footwork and skill in space are red-flags for Vance. The tackle has an upside but there’s no doubt the ability to control a smaller and much more explosive opponent will go a long way in helping determine whether or not he has the goods to stay at tackle on the next level.

It is also a good measuring stick for Davis, who now plays against a quality caliber tackle with NFL caliber size.

Match-up: ASU’s Shawn Lauvao vs the Georgia defensive line

Shawn Lauvao could well be the most underrated offensive lineman in the nation. A dominant and athletic blocker, Lauvao was sensational at guard last season and will now spend his senior campaign at tackle. His dimensions and skill dictate a move back to guard, and he could be a relatively early (top 75) pick next April. On Saturday he’ll have one of his stiffest tests of the season.

The big guns on the interior Georgia line have been disappointing this season, no doubt. Geno Atkins has been virtually non-existent during the Bulldogs initial three games and is watching his draft stock drop. Jeff Owens has been slightly better but it’s obvious he’s been slow recovering from the knee injury which kept him on the sidelines all of last season. Owens received one of the highest grades of any senior defensive tackle coming into the season from National Scouting yet has not lived up to the grade. Sleeper Kade Weston is starting to round into form and is one to take note of. We’ve always loved the upside the 6-foot, 5-inch and 320-pound tackle brings yet it was his consistency on the field we questioned. Weston seems to be on track for one of his most productive seasons ever.

At any point in time Lauvao’s opportunity to face-off against Atkins, Owens or Weston will definitely be a match-up to watch.

Match-up: ASU receivers vs. UGA’s secondary
Arizona State has two of the best senior receiver prospects no one talks about. Likewise, Georgia offers a trio of underrated prospects in the secondary.

Chris McGaha is drawing parallels to former Ohio State Buckeye Brian Hartline, now with the Miami Dolphins, because of his toughness, reliability and natural pass catching skills. Like Hartline, 40-time will dictate who early McGaha is drafted. Don’t be surprised if he’s a riser up draft boards starting soon.

Teammate Kyle Williams is another quality pass catcher, though smaller than McGaha. Williams was banged up last season yet has the makings of a solid 5th receiver on the NFL level.

It will be up to cornerback Prince Miller to shutdown these two, with most of the emphasis likely to be on McGaha. Miller is a solid cover man with good ball skills and cornerback fundamentals. He makes a lot of plays on the board and to his credit, few mistakes.

Bryan Evans is a versatile defensive back that can play either corner or safety. He plays heads football and offers solid instincts making plays sideline to sideline. A bit inefficient, Evans offers a good deal of upside.

Junior Reshad is a fast, run defending safety with nice size. He’s a bit one-dimensional and though aggressive defending the run, Jones is hesitant in pass coverage.

www.TFYDraft.com is solely dedicated to the NFL Draft twelve months a year. For rankings, reports and first hand breaking news, check them out every day!

Scouting for the NFL Draft: Toledo vs Ohio State

September 18th, 2009

Upset alert!

As a downtrodden Buckeye roster is set to tassel with Toledo at Cleveland Browns stadium, as major tests lies ahead for both. Can The Ohio State University put everything behind and rebound decisively against a perceived inferior opponent? Will the Rockets continue to fly high offensively and overcome an obvious talent deficiency? This game features a number of underrated receivers and defensive linemen New York Jets fan would be wise to watch. Brent Sobleski of the TFY Draft Preview breaks it down.

Match-up:

Ohio State defense vs. Toledo OffenseThe Rockets have been filling the stat sheets the first two weeks of the season. Toledo’s offense is the top gainer in their conference averaging 42.5 points per game, 371 passing yards, 187.5 yards per game on the ground, total offense, with a whopping 47 first downs along the way.

Senior quarterback Aaron Opelt is the predominant reasons for this early season success. It can be argued this offensive explosion was against weaker defensive opponents, but both were from BCS conferences. Opelt in that time has gone on to lead the nation in total offense. Obviously, this upperclassmen has benefited greatly from the addition of new offensive coordinator Matt Campbell. While this signal caller has certainly been productive, as a NFL prospect he is lacking in spots. Overall, Opelt’s arm strength and accuracy are questionable. Some of this has to do with his delivery and mechanics. He also struggles to throw the ball past the left hash as a right handed quarterback. A decent athlete, this Toledo gunslinger surprised the Buffalos of Colorado with a 61 yard scamper. This will not repeated against much better athletes Ohio State possesses. Despite these shortcomings, Opelt can still sling the ball around in this system effectively enough to keep the Buckeyes on their heels, especially if Toledo finds a way to score early.

It should not be surprising to find the Rockets have some nice targets for their quarterback. Two seniors, Stephen Williams and Robin Bailey present nice targets at 6-feet-5-inches each. Williams is the better and more productive of the two and will be returning from a bruised right shoulder this weekend. Their most dynamic target is sophomore Eric Page. A small slot receiver as adept working the middle of the field with his quickness as he is beating defender over the top deep. Sprinkle in another 6-feet-5-inches tall target in sophomore tight end Danny Noble who is a converted wide receiver and has a knack for finding the soft spots in the zone. If this offense gets time to pass, they do have weapons which can cause troubles for any opposing defense.With a prolific passing attack, the run game often opens up greatly. Toledo will rotate two solid talents at tailback as well. DaJuane Collins has carried the load until this point. He has done so with good vision and nimble feet slashing his way through crevices in the blocking. This week he will be rejoined by sophomore Morgan Williams. This particular returnee comes off a two game suspension but will add even more punch after rushing for over a 1,000 yards as a freshman. Both will be crucial to the overall tone of the game if Toledo can control the clock to some degree.

Up front the Rockets possess only marginal talents but they are experienced. From left to right, the unit reads: Mike VanDerMeulen, Jared DeWalt, Kevin Kowalski, Nate Cole, and John Morookian. Only one senior is among this grouping but they combine for over 80 careers starts. This experience will help as they have their hands full against a very talented Buckeye defensive line.

Countering said offense is another talented Ohio State defense. Their strength lies in the defensive line rotation. A unit whose play was considerably better against the Trojans of USC than a week prior versus Navy’s triple option attack. Cameron Heyward is arguably the best of the bunch. Blessed with the size and athleticism to start at both defensive end and tackle, this NFL caliber progeny looks to be a perfect fit as a 5 technique at the next level. This junior prospect stands 6-feet-6-inches tall and weighs around 290 pounds. He possesses long arms and strong hands to control opposing offensive lineman. Plus, Heyward has the added intangible of displaying a non-stop motor.  Doug Worthington is in the same mold physically as his teammate, but is not as consistent and has had injury issues in his career. Junior Dexter Larimore is a bull at the one technique and a handful for any opposing pivot. Thaddeus Gibson will be one of the premier 34 pass rushing linebackers when he decides to enter the NFL draft. Currently he is a bit undersized but overall very explosive off the edge. Rob Rose is another gifted pass rusher who rotates in, but has never lived up to expectations. Todd Denlinger is a nice blue collar gap plugger. Lawrence Wilson is the third senior coming off the bench, has some nice size at a 43 end, and limited pass rush ability. This unit simply comes at opponents in waves and does not stop.

Along the second level Ohio State is somewhat lacking as compared to has been seen on campus in recent years. Ross Homan is an instinctive weakside linebacker who reads and diagnoses offenses very well, often putting him in the position to make plays. Another junior, the undersized Brian Rolle has stepped up to fill the large shoes left by James Laurinatis. Rolle played extremely well early against Southern Cal and does pack a wallop even at 5-feet-11-inches tall and 221 pounds. Senior Austin Spitler rounds out this triumvirate. A versatile and hard working prospect becoming a full time starter for the first time this season. The name recognition is not to the level among the greats that have played these positions in this school’s storied history, but yeomen efforts will be displayed week in and week out by this group.

Their secondary is blessed with a lot of physical talent, but has yet to put it all together. Senior Kurt Coleman is the leader of the defense and the most experienced among this unit. This safety lacks ideal size, but will battle against the run game and has good sideline to sideline speed while covering the pass. Another senior safety, Anderson Russell, was looking to have a breakout campaign but was benched after his subpar play against the Midshipmen of Navy. Junior, Chimdi Chekwa enters his second year as a starter and flashes great athleticism and talent on the edge. He simply needs to improve in the mental aspects of playing the position. Lastly, senior Andre Amos has stepped into the other starting cornerback slot. He looks to make the most of his last year on campus. This is a unit with a lot of potential which has yet to see big returns.

Match-up: Terrelle Pryor vs. Barry Church

Toledo's Barry Church sits high on the list of NFL scouts.

On the opposite side of the field, the match-ups are not nearly as intriguing. Ohio State has been lackluster on offense throughout the opening of the season. Meanwhile, Toledo is an undersized defense which has surrendered plenty of points through the first two weeks. It is a case of the resistible force meeting the movable object. Two particular talents are very interesting because they are both the best athletes on their respective squads. 
Sophomore sensation Terrelle Pryor has yet to live up to expectations for the Buckeye faithful. An otherworldly physical talent at 6-feet-6-inches tall and 235 pounds while reportedly timing in the low 4.3 range with his 40 yard dash, Pryor runs like a gazelle. He also displays a very strong arm despite his awkward delivery. As a pure passer, this once elite recruit leaves fans wanting. This signal caller has yet to show the ability to be a drop back passer and read coverages properly. His overall accuracy is questionable at best. Yet the coaching staff has yet to truly take advantage of his athleticism as he continues to grow as a quarterback.

Barry Church, on the other hand, has been a standout for the Rockets since he stepped foot on campus.   This defender could leave Toledo as the only four time All MAC First Team selection in conference history. Playing the Star position in Toledo’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme, Church will be found all over the field. He is used as an edge rusher, blitzing linebacker, lining up as a pure weakside defender, covering the slot, or at safety. He is always under control and is rarely seen out of position. Toledo will use this talent as a countermeasure to Pryor if he is allowed to become more of a threat as a runner or on bootlegs. 

And the winner is…Ohio State.

Expect Toledo to come out strong with a built up intensity trying to gain the upper hand early. The intangibles of a neutral field and a former Buckeye assistant as the new Toledo head coach will play somewhat of a factor but not much. Eventually adrenaline wears out and Ohio State is simply too big and too powerful in the trenches for the Rockets to hold up over the long haul.

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