Inside the War Room Week Five
In this week’s Inside the War Room I take a look at one of the best running backs in college football, talk about a big matchup for one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, name week four standout prospects, and much more.
Big Things Come in Small Packages
This season we have seen some of the best performances in college football put on by one of the smaller prospects in this year’s draft class in 5-foot-9 195 pound Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah. So far this year he has had great performances in three of the four games he has played including rushing for 232 yards vs. Florida Atlantic, making a miraculous game winning touchdown reception vs. McNeese State, and rushing for 228 yards and two touchdowns vs. Miami. The fact he has put up excellent production this season and quickly has risen up the draft board is the reason he is this week’s Prospect of the Week.
When scouting Abdullah the first thing that stands out to me is his excellent quickness, and overall speed. He hits the hole extremely quickly, and shows the distant to take any play the distance. He has already recorded a run of 57 yards this season and a reception that went 58 yards and also has a career long run of 62 yards which he recorded last season. Another area that makes him a highly regarded running back prospect is his vision. In watching film of him he bounced off several tacklers, and was able to keep his balance due to his low center of gravity. One more positive about his running style is that he keeps his feet moving on contact which allows him to break tackles, and turn what should be short gains into long runs. He shows nice hands out of the backfield as well and recently became Nebraska leader in all-purpose yards due to his excellent rushing skills, and pass catching ability. So far in his career he has recorded 56 receptions which shows he is a threat in the passing game. The last area that stands out to me about him is his overall intelligence. When deciding to come back for his senior season he stated that one of the major reasons he decided to come back was due to fact that he realized that life is bigger than football, and that his best chance at long-term success was to earn his college degree. It is rare to see this type of maturity out of a college athlete who defiantly has an NFL career ahead of him.
Like all prospects he has some concerns with his game as well with the first one being a lack of size. Nebraska lists him at 5-9 195 pounds, which raises concerns about him being an every down back in the NFL. He lacks the power you would like to see in an every down back as well. One other concern I have with him is that he is not a great blocker, and if he is to succeed in the NFL he must improve in this area.
When determining his draft grade I have him rated as a second round running back for a couple of reasons. The first reason I have him rated as a second rounder is due to the fact the running back class should be loaded if juniors such as Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, and Duke Johnson declare for the draft. The second reason I have him rated as a second rounder is due to the fact the NFL doesn’t usually pick running backs high in the draft anymore, and they defiantly don’t take change-of-pace running backs in the first round. With that being said I think Abdullah will have a successful career in the NFL due to his ability to be a threat in both the running, and passing game and his overall great character.
Big Matchup for Mannion
This weekend lacks great matchups for the most part, and may be one of the least glamorous weekends of the season. However, one matchup I am looking forward to is seeing my number one senior quarterback Sean Mannion go up against one of the top pass defenses in college football.
Mannion is a pure pocket passer who has put up 300-yard passing games in two of his three games this year including posting 328 yards vs. Portland State. He has also shown nice accuracy this season completing 77% of his passes last weekend vs. San Diego State, and also completing 70% of his passes vs. Hawaii. He will be challenged this weekend though when he goes to Southern Californian this weekend to take on the Trojans. USC currently has the nineteenth best pass defense in college football only allowing 161 passing yards a game. They also have created their share of turnovers already picking off five passes this season which should be a challenge for Mannion whose biggest weakness is that he tends to force passes at times which leads to interceptions.
One more interesting matchup to watch in this game will be between Oregon State TE Connor Hamlett, and USC MLB Hayes Pullard. Hamlett is a big tight end coming in at 6-7 266 pounds, and is a threat in the passing game already hauling in 11 passes for 165 yards which averages out to 15 yards per catch. Pullard is an athletic linebacker who was one of my sleepers heading into the 2014 season. He has lived up to this billing ranking third in the team in tackles despite missing the second half of the Stanford game, and first half of the Boston College game due to the fact he was ejected in the Stanford game for targeting.
Week Four Standouts
This weekend was highlighted by several running back prospects putting up impressive stats. The player who had quite possibly the best weekend of all draft prospects was Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon who rushed for 253 and five touchdowns on only 13 carries. Gordon is only a junior, and I think his best bet would be to go back to Wisconsin for his senior season due to a loaded running back class if the players I think declare for the draft due indeed come out. Another impressive rushing performance was put in by fellow Big Ten back Ameer Abdullah who rushed for 229 yards and two touchdowns vs. Miami. His outstanding performance allowed him to become Nebraska’s career all-purpose yardage leader which is a tremendous accomplishment when you consider the players who have played at Nebraska. I look for Abdullah to hear his name called at the round of round one, or early in round two of the draft. Yet another back from the Big Ten who stood out was Minnesota’s David Cobb who rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns vs. San Jose State. The Big Ten was not the only Midwestern conference that had outstanding RB performances the Missouri Valley Conference did as well getting three running back on this list as well led by South Dakota State RB Zach Zenner who rushed for 211 yards, and now has over 5,000 all-purpose yards in his career. North Dakota State RB John Crockett had an outstanding game as well rushing for 144 yards in a big win over fourth ranked Montana. The last MVC running back to make this list was UNI’s David Johnson who averaged 9.6 yards per carry and picked up 186 yards on the day vs. Northern Colorado. All three of these backs will be competing for the top running back in the Missouri Valley Conference all season long, and we could see all three of them drafted this year.
The best passing performances came from one of the most underrated quarterbacks in this year’s draft class in Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke who threw for 430 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions vs.Rice. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota made the list yet again after completing 84% of his passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns vs. Washington State. I would be shocked if Mariota is not the number one pick in the 2015 NFL Draft if he keeps playing like he has so far this season. One more quarterback who put up big numbers was East Carolina QB Shane Carden who went 30-for-48 for 438 yards and four touchdowns. I currently project Carden as a late round pick at this time. One quarterback who found his way onto my draft board with his performance this weekend is Alabama QB Blake Sims who threw for 455 yards and four touchdowns vs. Florida.
One of the top plays of this season was made by Arizona WR Austin Hill who hauled in a game winning Hail Mary vs. California. He ended up catching eight passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Another receiver who had an outstanding effort this weekend was Florida State’s Rashad Greene who hauled in 10 passes for 135 yards, and showed the leadership FSU badly needed this weekend with the Jameis Winston situation playing out. Two players that continue to make this list with their outstanding performance on a weekly bases are Amari Cooper who caught 3 touchdowns vs. Florida, and Kevin White who racked up 173 yards vs. Oklahoma. A small school receiver who looked impressive was New Hampshire WR R.J. Harris who caught eight passes for 119 yards. One tight end who was impressive this weekend was Southern Illinois’ MyCole Pruitt who caught 10 passes for 136 yards, and surpassed the 2,000 yard receiving mark for his career. Miami TE Clive Walford also impressed me this week showing great athletic ability for someone his size hauling in 7 passes for 80 yards, and a touchdown vs. Nebraska.
One of the few defensive prospects who stood out this weekend was Clemson DE/OLB Vic Beasley who looked dominate against one of the top tackles in the draft in Florida State’s Cameron Erving. He recorded two sacks and two tackles for loss and showed first round talent as both a linebacker, and undersized pass rusher vs. the Seminoles.
Ten Football Thoughts
- After watching Nick Marshall play against Kansas State last week I can’t see him being able to play QB in the NFL due to a lack of accuracy, arm strength, and overall passing skills. I think his best bet will be to move to WR or DB in the NFL, and think he will go undrafted due to the fact he is considered a developmental prospect at this point in time.
- Another quarterback who will have to move positions in the NFL is Michigan’s Devin Gardner who has looked like he is not even a Big Ten caliber quarterback the past couple of weeks. He has played WR at Michigan, and I think his only chance of making an NFL team will be at WR.
- This week I spent most of my time watching film of offensive lineman, and one prospect that stood out to me is Wisconsin’s Rob Havenstien who showed excellent strength, and defiantly has the size to play right tackle in the NFL coming in at 6-8 333 pounds. He also displayed nice feet for someone his size, and was able to get to the second level on several occasions.
- One of the best athletes possibly in the 2015 NFL Draft class has to be DE Randy Gregory. He has an excellent burst off the line of scrimmage, and shows exceptional closing speed. In fact he is so athletic Nebraska plays him at safety in their prevent defense. Look for Gregory to be one of the top defensive players if he enters the 2015 NFL Draft.
- I think Florida QB Jeff Driskel needs to stay in school if he wants any shot of sticking in the NFL, and even then I am starting to not like his chances of playing the leagued. He is a very streaky passer, who lacks the accuracy and decision making ability to play in the NFL currently. Hopefully another year with Kurt Roper can turn Driskel into a legitimate prospect for the 2016 NFL Draft.
- Look for Louisville OT Jamon Brown to shift inside to offensive guard in the NFL. He lacks the mobility to play tackle in the NFL, and overall looks like a fringe prospect at offensive guard at this point in time. Look for him to go undrafted.
- One person who is on the hot seat is Michigan coach Brady Hoke. He has lost more games every year he has been at Michigan, and last week his team looked like a team that will be lucky to be bowl eligible in their loss to Utah. Two coaches who I think would make a great fit in the maze and blue is current Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh who is not happy with his current situation in Baltimore, and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi who is one of the top coordinators in college football, and obviously knows the Michigan recruiting scene.
- A deep sleeper to keep your eye on this season is Upper Iowa TE Lucus Hefty. Hefty is a solid receiver who has already recorded 18 receptions this season. His best bet will be as an H-back in the NFL due to a lack of great size, and strength. Several NFL teams have already shown an interest in him including the Browns, Panthers, and Bills.
- Even though Texas is not having success on the field I think Charlie Strong is rebuilding the program the correct way. The fact that he is setting a high standard from the get-go and is getting rid of players who are not meeting this standard is building the team for success in the long run assuming he can bring in talented players who do live up to his standard in recruiting. I think it will be a few years before we see Texas competing for a National Championship, but if they show patience with Strong he will have Texas backing to being a national power within in five years.
- I usually don’t talk about my coaching career in this article, but last week I was happy to be in one of the biggest upsets of my career. According to Iowapreps.com we were 42 point underdogs going up against 3-0 Kingsley-Pierson. However, we came out and showed why Newell-Fonda is one of the top small school programs in Iowa and came out with a 56-0 win. Now the key is to keep it up this week when we play River Valley.
East Carolina WR Cam Worthy has been suspended for two games due to a violation of the student code of conduct. … Fordham QB Michael Nebrich passed John Skelton for most 400-yard passing games this Saturday with his 5th 400-yard passing game. … Georgia RB Keith Marshall suffered a leg injury last week vs. Troy. … Oregon State QB Sean Mannion became the school’s all-time leading passer last week. … Stony Brook TE Will Tye will play in the FCS National Bowl. …
Make sure you all go follow John Blair. Blair is an up an coming scout that puts tons of time and sweat into the Inside the War Room articles. You can follow him on twitter @NFLDraftITWR
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