Scouting Blog

By: Alex Khvatov




The new College Football season has begun.  Here are my notes on some of the prospects from week one.
(Jr) WR Bug Howard (North Carolina)
His real name is Johnathan, but everyone just calls him Bug.  During the 2014 season, he had 42 receptions for 455 yards and two touchdowns.  If week one of the new season is any indication of what to expect, he should have a breakout junior campaign.  In the opening game against South Carolina, Bug caught six receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown.  He outplayed his much more heralded teammate Quinshad Davis.  He is big (checks in at about 6'5) and has good speed.  He has gotten stronger in the offseason.  Bug knows how to use his size to his advantage.  He was able to shield defenders away from the ball.  He fought for every inch and showed the ability to pick up yards after the catch.  He is a name to remember this season.      
(Jr) LB Skai Moore (South Carolina)
Junior middle linebacker led the team with 93 tackles last year.  In the opening game against North Carolina, he recorded 10 total tackles and two interceptions.  Moore has nine career picks which is more than most defensive backs have coming out of college.  He is an undersized LB, but he is fast.  He has sideline-to-sideline speed.  He is a solid tackler and will deliver a big hit when needed.  He excels in zone coverage, shows fluid hips and terrific ball skills.  There were a couple of times during Saturday's game that he abandoned his gap responsibility.  He also needed to take better angles to the ball.  Other than a couple of blemishes against UNC, he was always around the ball.  
(Sr) QB Kevin Hogan (Stanford)
Hogan gave me hope at the end of last season.  He caught fire in the last couple of games in 2014.  He was had a superb game against UCLA.  I had high expectations for the senior QB coming into this year.  He has the size, the arm strength and the athleticism.  He throws a pretty good deep ball.  Stanford's playcalling was very conservative in week one, but Hogan failed to elevate his play when his team needed him in the second half.  He has a long release that gives DB's time to jump his routes.  He also showcased his struggles with accuracy all afternoon.     
(Jr) QB Christian Hackenberg (Penn State)
He was supposed to be more comfortable in his second year running the same offensive system.  Except for two throws, Hackenberg looked comfortable and more decisive in the first quarter.  He threw with anticipation, flashed his arm and looked in command of the offense.  But then his offensive line let him down.  He was sacked 10 times against Temple.  Pressure started to bother him in the second half, and he looked rattled.  He locked on to his primary target and misfired on a number of easy throws.  I saw the same inconsistent QB last Saturday that I watched in 2014.  It wasn't all his fault, but I can't possibly continue to grade him as a first round prospect.  He is falling on my board.  
(Sr) DT Anthony Zettel (Penn State)
He is off to a good start this season after dominating in the Big 10 last year.  He had five tackles and 2.5 TFL's against Temple.  Zettel is an all-around DL.  He holds up well against the run.  He is a good athlete and diplays terrific quickness.  He can play multiple positions.  I believe that he would thrive at the next level as a DE in 3-4 scheme.  He should be a first round pick next year when it is all said and done.     
(Sr) WR Christian Jones (Northwestern)
Jones missed the entire 2014 season with a knee injury.  There were questions early in spring practice whether he would be able to return to full strength.  But he answered those questions and was the most reliable target in the passing game for the Wildcats on Saturday.  He is more of a possession receiver and won't blow you away with his speed.  However, his ball skills are impressive and he is a major target in the red zone.  He was clutch on third downs.  He also came up with a big first down conversion on 4th & 7 play in the first half.   
(So) LB Anthony Walker (Northwestern)
He was the most impressive defender in week one action.  The sophomore LB is clearly the leader of Northwestern's defense.  Walker recorded 10 total tackles, 0.5 sacks and a recovered fumble.  He also dropped two would be interceptions against Stanford.  He showed very good closing speed and terrific instincts.  He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.  His awareness in pass coverage also stood out to me.         






In this scouting blog, we focus our spotlight on a small school QB Carson Wentz from North Dakota State.
Wentz was born and raised in North Dakota.  He watched QB Brock Jensen lead North Dakota State to three straight FCS Championships as he waited patiently for his chance.  He certainly had big shoes to fill.  In 2014, he finally got his opportunity to start and he didn't disappoint as a junior.  He led the Bison to a 15-1 record and won another FCS Championship.  He earned the Most Outstanding Player award in the Championship Game.
Last season, he completed 63.7% of his passes, threw for 3,111 yards and 25 touchdowns.  He also added 642 rushing yards and six TD's on the ground. 
His physical tools are impressive.  He has ideal size (6'6, 231 pounds) and a very strong arm.  He can make all of the NFL throws with ease.  He can fit the ball into a tight spot.  His athleticism is also impressive.  He is a tremendous athlete for his size.  Wentz displays a quick release without any wasted motion.  He operates in a pro-style offense.  He knows the system well and makes good reads at the line of scrimmage.  He is a smart guy and carries a 4.0 GPA.    
He throws very well on the run.  Wentz is also an effective playaction passer.  He spreads the ball around and loves using the TE over the middle of the field.  Even though, he operates mainly in a short passing game, he displays a nice touch on the deep ball. 
There are some areas for improvement.  He has a tendency to stare down his primary receiver.  Wentz needs to do a better job working through his progressions.  His ball placement especially on short throws can be shaky at times.  He makes his receivers work for it.  He has to improve his footwork.  He also needs to recognize the blitz better during his pre-snap reads.  He fights for extra yards as a runner in the open field.  He needs to learn how to slide  He is susceptible to big hits and has coughed up the ball on a few occasions.
Star RB John Crockett has departed, and the expectations for Carson Wentz are very high.  He will be attempting to lead the Bison to a fifth straight Championship in 2015.   



We had the chance to attend the 2014 FCS Bowl in Miami last weekend.  Here are some small school players that we feel helped themselves the most at this particular all-star game. 
QB Kyle Snyder (Southeast Missouri State)
Snyder transferred from Ohio University.  He displayed a very strong arm and showcased good mobility.  He demonstrated the ability to fit the ball into a tight window.  He threw an accurate ball to all areas of the field.  He was also impressive throwing on the run.  Snyder won the Offensive MVP award for the White team.  He was clearly the best QB at the FCS Bowl.   
WR Andrew Robustelli (Jacksonville University)
He is a natural hands catcher with good size.  He used his body to shield defenders away from the ball.  Robustelli also showed the ability to stretch the field vertically.  During the game, he caught two deep balls for touchdowns.  He walked away with the Offensive MVP award for the Navy team.     
WR Richard Aiyegoro (Howard University)
He is an undersized slot guy with very good speed.  Aiyegoro used his quickness to get off the line.  He was very impressive after the catch.  He showed his elusiveness in the open field and made defenders miss.  He displayed his big-play ability.    
DE Jovontay Williams (Johnson C. Smith University)
Williams excelled as a speed rusher off the edge.  He had good initial quickness off the snap.  He displayed a non-stop motor.  He was active as a run defender.  He made a number of tackles in run support in the game.        
CB Alexzander Tillman (University of North Dakota)
He is an undersized corner with quick feet and fluid hips.  He was able to turn and run with receivers downfield.  Tillman got physical with every wide receiver that he lined up against.  He showed good technique and excelled in press coverage.  He was also very active in run support.   




We had the chance to attend the 2014 National Bowl in Miami last weekend.  Here are some small school players that we feel helped themselves the most at this particular all-star game. 
DE/LB Julian Howsare (Clarion)
He was a two-time All-American at Clarion University.  Everyone expects him to receive another All-American honor this year.  He certainly lived up to the hype.  Howsare was clearly the best player at the National Bowl.  He earned the Defensive MVP award for the Blue Nation team.  He used his speed and power to get to the QB.  He used an impressive spin move on a number of occasions.  He showed active hands, shed blocks and was able to split the double team.   
DE/LB Gary Henderson Jr. (Glenville State)
Henderson Jr. really came up big during the game on Sunday.  He was a relentless pass rusher.  He demonstrated an explosive first step and a non-stop motor.  He was a physical player and a good wrap up tackler.  He was great in pursuit.  He also made some plays on special teams. 
DT Carlif Taylor (Southern Connecticut State)
He only played football for one year in high school.  There is definitely a lot of untapped potential.  His best football is still to come.  He was a good run defender.  Taylor did a terrific job disengaging from blockers.  He held his ground at the point of attack.  He made a lot of tackles. 
LB Reggie Slaton (Millersville University)
Slaton won the Defensive MVP award for the Red Nation team.  He was making plays all over the field and came up with a key interception in the fourth quarter of the game.  He is not a big guy, but he excelled as a run defender.  He took good angles and was a reliable tackler in the open field.              
WR Brad Smithey (Southwestern Oklahoma State)
He was the most consistent WR from the Red Nation team.  He excelled as a slot guy.  Smithey caught the ball well and ran good routes.  He was quick in and out of his breaks.  He used his quickness to get off press coverage.  He also provided value as a return man.
WR Michael Doherty (Buffalo State College)
Doherty was the best receiver for the Blue Nation team.  He has good size and caught the ball away from his body.  He was a natural hands catcher.  He was quick off the line and had success defeating press coverage.  He showed the ability to stretch the field vertically.   
DE/LB Colin Brown (St. Olaf College)
He was constantly in opposing team's backfield.  Brown was a disruptive pass rusher throughout this weekend.  He played with good leverage and used a quick first step.  He also played with a terrific motor.   
S Victor Johnson (Northeastern State University)
He transferred from Oklahoma State and started two seasons at Northeastern State.  He has good length.  He was active in run support.  Johnson displayed his physicality and made a number of big hits.  He also showed good awareness in coverage.    




Here is a look at some sleeper prospects on the offensive side of the ball in the 2015 NFL Draft that you should get familiar with.
(Sr) QB Garrett Grayson (Colorado State)
A couple of weeks ago, he became Colorado State's all-time passing leader in yards.  He has good arm strength.  Grayson can make all of the throws at the next level.  He is very accurate on short and intermediate passes.  He has improved his deep ball accuracy and footwork this year.  He spreads the ball around to different targets.  He is a leader and demonstrates good command of the offense.  In fact, he is one of the top senior quarterbacks available in next year's draft.     
(Sr) WR DeAndre Smelter (Georgia Tech)
He hasn't posted huge numbers because of the offense that he plays in, but Smelter caught my eye at the end of last year.  He is a gifted athlete.  He is a physical WR with good size.  He uses his big body to shield the defenders away from the ball.  He is a deep threat.  He makes difficult catches and uses his strength against press coverage.  In the fourth quarter against Virginia Tech, Smelter made some clutch plays.  He did it against sophomore Kendall Fuller who is considered to be one of the top cornerbacks in the nation.  He is raw in terms of his route running, but he has huge upside.  I currently have a third round grade on him.
(Sr) WR J.J. Worton (Central Florida)
He gets overshadowed by his teammate Breshad Perriman, but he is the better all-around receiver.  Worton plays mostly in the slot.  He has outstanding hands and runs precise routes.  He is an underrated athlete.  He is dangerous in the open field whether he is returning kicks or picking up yards after the catch.  Worton regularly makes tough grabs in traffic.       
(Sr) TE Isaac Blakeney (Duke)
Blakeney plays WR for the Blue Devils, but his future is at TE at the next level.  He has great length, long arms and a huge catching radius.  He was a former basketball player in high school.  He knows how to box out defenders and has terrific leaping ability.  He is an outstanding athlete and would present a matchup nightmare with his speed if he would move to TE at the next level.  Blakeney is very raw, but his potential is enormous.      



A running back will definitely get drafted in the first round of next year's draft.  In fact, the 2015 RB class could turn out to be really special.  It reminds me of the 2008 class that produced the likes of Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles.  Let's take a look at the potential prospects.      

1.  (JR) Todd Gurley (Georgia)
He is a physical, downhill runner.  Gurley has size, power, speed and strength.  He punishes defenders and runs over them.  He is tough to bring down and breaks a lot of tackles.  He has great agility and balance.  Gurley gets stronger as the game wears on.  Georgia's offense features him in the passing game.  He is finally healthy this year and looks to be in the best shape of his career.  His upright running style and durability are a concern.  He also needs to improve in pass protection.  He is still a first round pick and will be the first RB selected in the 2015 draft.     
2.  (JR) Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin)
Gordon is a big play threat.  He is an explosive back with terrific speed and outstanding balance.  He is a dangerous outside runner.  He accelerates very quickly and shows a second gear to pull away from defenders.  He can stop and start on a dime.  Gordon is an athletic back with great change of direction skills.  He has become a better inside runner.  He makes people miss with his elusiveness, but has a tendency to go down too easily at times.  Wisconsin also needs to feature him in the passing game more.  He is still a first round talent.          
3.  (JR) Mike Davis (South Carolina)
He is only about 5'9, but he has a great build.  He is a powerful, physical runner.  He runs over defenders and shows the ability to bounce off tacklers.  Davis gains a lot of yards after initial contact.  He runs low to the ground.  He has nifty feet, good vision, impressive balance and deceptive speed.  He is quick through the hole.  He is a player that gets stronger in the fourth quarter.  He reminds me of Ray Rice.             
4.  (JR) T.J. Yeldon (Alabama)  
He has the size, the build and the speed that you look for in an NFL RB.  He has exceptionally quick feet, great cutback ability and good balance.  Yeldon finds the smallest creases as an inside runner.  He is a physical back that breaks his share of tackles.  He is a really good blocker in pass protection which is an underrated part of his game.  At times, Yeldon will dance around at the line of scrimmage instead of being decisive and just hitting that hole.  There are also concerns about his upright running style and his fumbling issues.     
5.  (JR) Duke Johnson (Miami, FL)
Johnson has tremendous speed and athleticism.  He is very elusive in the open field.  He can make people miss in tight quarters.  He shows good vision and uses a deadly stiff arm to break tackles.  He is patient and waits for his blocks to develop.  Johnson can start inside and then bounce it outside without any hesitation.  He is a weapon in the passing game.  He has soft hands and runs good routes.  He is also a dangerous kick returner when he has been asked to handle that duty.  However, he is an undersized back with ball security issues and some durability concerns.    
6.  (JR) Jay Ajayi (Boise State)
He is a big back with a thick lower body and blazing speed.  Ajayi has a physical running style.  He just bounces off tacklers and is a load to bring down.  He can run over defenders or around them.  He also displays good balance and always falls forward.  He is a dangerous receiver coming out of the backfield.  Ajayi needs to improve in short-yardage situations.  He also needs to take care of the ball.  He has put the ball on the ground on a few occasions.            
7.  (SR) Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska)
Abdullah is off to a terrific start this year.  He already has two 200-yard games.  He is a big-play threat.  He hits the hole with authority, shows great quickness to the outside and an extra gear in the open field.  He is also a tough runner between the tackles.  Abdullah runs low to the ground, keeps those feet moving after initial contact, lowers his shoulder and always fights for extra yardage.  He is one of the strongest players at his size at the RB position.  He is an outstanding cutback runner that has a nose for the endzone.
8.  (JR) D.J. Foster (Arizona State)
He is an all-purpose back.  Foster is athletic with great quickness.  He is shifty and has the ability to make people miss in the open field.  He is a home run hitter.  He is a patient runner with good vision.  He has soft hands and runs precise routes.  He is arguably the best receiver at the running back position in the entire nation. 
9.  (JR) Javorius ''Buck'' Allen (USC) 
He has become a workhorse in Steve Sarkisian's offense.  He has good size and balance.  Allen has displayed outstanding vision.  He is a good cutback runner.  He also shows a terrific burst through the hole.  He is very effective on screen passes as well.  Expect this player to rise in the RB rankings as we get closer to the draft.         
10 (tie).  (SR) Karlos Williams (Florida State)
The converted safety became the lead back this year.  He scored the game-winning TD in overtime against Clemson last week.  He has great size and speed combination.  Williams is a home run threat.  He is also hard to tackle due to his physical nature.  But he is still raw and is more of an athlete playing the running back position.  He has an upright running style.  Williams needs to improve his vision and become more decisive as an inside runner. 
10 (tie).  (SR) Jeremy Langford (Michigan State)
Langford is off to a slow start this season.  He hasn't recorded a 100-yard game up to this point.  He had eight 100-yard games in 2013.  He is a downhill runner with good size, power and speed.  He lowers his shoulder and finishes his runs.  Langford is a good receiver out of the backfield and is a solid pass protector.