DraftNasty's 2011 SEC West Pro Prospect Preview: 'Who's Nasty'?
July 8th, 2011 By Corey Chavous
With the climate of the NFL uncertain, there's not any concern when it comes to the SEC. The Western portion of the conference lost back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners, but returns an unreal amount of talent. Look for Arkansas' Jake Bequette (#91 pictured) to continue his stellar play this fall.
The Crimson Tide have a number of top tier pro prospects, and they could very well be the darling of the conference in what could be a special year. RB #3 Trent Richardson (5’11, 220, JR) combines outstanding vision and power with a long gear to take it the distance. He ranks as one of the team's most competitive warriors in the weight room. Richardson averaged over 6 yards a carry in 2010 and snagged 23 passes out of the backfield.
Although the team lost Atlanta Falcons’ 1st Round draft pick Julio Jones, they have two very capable receivers returning in #4 Marquis Maze (5’10, 180, SR) and #15 Darius Hanks (6’0, 185, SR). Hanks has the body control to roll speed cuts and Maze gets to top speed in an instant. Maze may be the most impressive receiver in the conference after the catch.
TE #89 Michael Williams (6’6, 259, JR), has the size to develop into a big-time blocking asset for the team. He’s much more of a position blocker at this point, but he shows above average movement skills at nearly 270 pounds. He could become a viable pass threat.
The team’s best offensive lineman is OC #73 William Vlachos (6’1, 294, SR). He is adept at executing his assignments, but most develop more body control on space assignments. He finds a way to win with positioning and guile when isolated inside.
Defensively, this could be the best collection of talent during HC Nick Saban’s five years at the school. DE #92 Damion Square (6’3, 285, JR) will have a chance to develop this season after spending time rotating a year ago. He will align over the offensive tackle and could surprise with his quickness early in 2011. NT #99 Josh Chapman (6’1, 310, SR) came along well in 2010 after spot duty in his first two seasons. He can struggle vs. inside players with length, but does a fine job of dropping to a knee to hold up against double teams. His hand usage should improve in his final campaign.
The team’s best pass rusher is senior OLB #41 Courtney Upshaw (6’2, 265). Upshaw can drop with some effectiveness from a two-point stance, put his hand in the dirt and generally chases a lot of plays down from behind. His best football may be ahead of him. He forced four fumbles in 2010. Another player capable of putting his hand on the ground is WLB #30 Dont'a Hightower (6'4, 260, JR). He's a load to handle and seems capable of flattening any FB or RB assigned to block him if it's 'Oklahoma' or 'Bull in the Ring' time. We feel this is the year he will fully recover from the knee injury that ended his 2009 season prematurely.
The team’s secondary is filled with elite talent. SS #4 Mark Barron (6’2, 218, SR) has quietly grown into the leader of the unit. Barron can blitz, make plays on the ball and covers the #2 slot WR from time-to-time. He ended the year with a painful pectoral injury and it affected his play. Along with fellow FS #37 Robert Lester (6'2, 210, JR) , the back end should provide good air traffic control. Lester took over Barron’s 2009 ballhawking role and picked off eight passes. He’s not tremendously quick or speedy, but his eyes allow him to play faster than he will time on a clock.
Cornerbacks #21 Dre Kirkpatrick (6’3, 190, JR) and #28 Dee Milliner (6’1, 196, SOPH) may be the team’s most talented cornerback tandem since Fernando Bryant and DeShea Townsend manned the outside in the mid-to-late 90s. Kirkpatrick has the movement skills of former Tennessee Volunteer Dale Carter and Milliner provides a perfect complement on the other side.
QB #9 Jordan Jefferson (6’5, 224, SR) seems to play his best in bowl games, but has left a lot to be desired in between. He flashes the arm strength to make every throw, but it often seems as if the timing with receivers has been off at critical moments. His elongated release gives secondary defenders an extra jump on some of his intermediate passes. With 4.5 speed, Jefferson provides an element (7 rush TDs in 2010) that often goes underappreciated.
Junior receivers #2 Reuben Randle (6’4, 207) and #10 Russell Shepard (6’1, 188) are explosive outside threats. Both are capable down the field, but Shepard can be used in a multitude of ways (bubble screens, reverses, ‘Wild’ Tiger, quick slants). Randle has big league speed and should be a load to handle if he can develop chemistry with Jefferson. He is rare in his strength after the catch and flashes a second level gear to track the ball down the field.
Offensive line wise, the Tigers have seniors #60 Will Blackwell (6’4, 303) and #64 Josh Dworaczyk (6’6, 295) returning to the mix. Blackwell can frustrate defenders in space, but he has had some health issues. Dworaczyk, too, has shown mobility, but he needs to improve at the point of attack with his knee bend when run blocking. After starting a lot the last two years, he experienced some issues staying upright this past spring. OC #53 T-Bob Hebert (6’3, 280, SR) may not start this season, but his experience at both center and offensive guard make him a valuable commodity. His balance needs to improve.
The team will rely on senior DE #94 Kendrick Adams (6’5, 255) to get it done up front. While he will occasionally flash up-and-under or rip moves, he’s not good with his hands on a consistent basis. He has some tools, but he must disengage from blockers.
The team’s senior LBs #22 Ryan Baker (6’0, 227) and #23 Stefoin Francois (6’1. 215) are extremely undersized. Baker is the better player because he believes what he sees and will shoot his gun. He ranked second on the team with 87 tackles a year ago.
Junior CB #17 Morris Claiborne (6’0, 177) quietly had a very productive junior year in the shadows of Arizona Cardinals’ 1st Round pick Patrick Peterson. As he showed on various occasions, he will find the ball with his back turned to the QB. FS #18 Brandon Taylor (6’0, 195, SR) has been aggressive and now will look to get his hands on more balls in his final campaign.
The Razorbacks lost QB Ryan Mallett to the NFL a year early, but return a quarterback with significant game experience in #8 Tyler Wilson (6’3, 215, JR). Wilson looked poised and accurate in 2010.
RB #7 Knile Davis (6’0, 230, JR) is one of the strongest and most compete one-cut downhill runners in the country. He’s thick in the thighs and bounces off a lot of contact, but don’t be fooled, his speed to get to the edge is vastly underrated. Look for Davis to have a big season.
It’s rare when you have a quarterback change, that each of the team’s four leading receivers return. #85 Greg Childs (6’3, 217, SR) has the size and athleticism to win vertical matchups down the field. Both #4 Jarius Wright (5’10, 180, SR) and #3 Joe Adams (5’11, 190, SR) excel in the slots or on crossing routes to take advantage of their RAC ability. Adams, in particular, is a threat with the ball in his hands and he averaged 15.5 yds/PR a season ago. 6-foot-3 junior wideout #11 Cobi Hamilton provides a deep threat element with his long striding style. He averaged almost 20 yards a catch in 2010.
LG #72 Grant Cook (6’4, 318, SR) hopes his experience will be a plus as he takes over for the departed Wade Grayson. LT Grant Freeman (6’7, 305, SR) has bulked up in preparation for his full-time gig in 2011. He has started some at tackle, but he will have to hold off sophomore #78 Anthony Oden.
DE #91 Jake Bequette (6’5, 271,SR) improves every year as a pass rusher and hopes his 2010 momentum carries over into a productive final year in Fayetteville. He may never be an elite edge rusher, but he is tenacious, heavy-handed and finishes at the QB. Opposite Bequette is DE #43 Tenarius Wright (6’2, 252, JR), and he also has a knack for getting the QB down (5 sacks). Wright could become an eventual 3-4 OLB projection.
The best prospects in the middle of the defense are DT #92 Dequinta Jones (6’5, 310, JR) and MLB #34 Jerry Franklin (6’1, 241, SR). Jones has the length to be a factor sliding along the line at a couple of spots, while Franklin has been a team leader for multiple seasons. Franklin is an adept blitzer with a sneaky ability to get into passing lanes on three-and-five step drops. His size and versatility will continue to be huge for DC Willy Robinson’s pro-style attack. Franklin has to take that one extra step on contact to become a true intimidator in the middle, but the team asks a lot of him week-to-week. He consistently lines the defense and is asked to be the middle runner at times in their 2-Deep coverage packages.
Aside Franklin will be the multi-dimensional #31 Jerico Nelson (5’9, 205, SR), a fierce competitive nickel-type with good instincts. He can cover WRs, show up in the holes vs. ball carriers and blitz with effectiveness. Look for him to have another productive, active year.
The most underrated player on the unit is FS #5 Tramain Thomas (6’0, 198, SR), a 2nd Team All-SEC selection as a junior. He does a great job with his angles on 7 (corner) routes and fills the stat sheet with underrated tackling ability. While he’s shown corner ability, it remains to be seen whether NFL teams will look at him outside. He’s the rare safety with fast-twitch fibers and range.
It didn’t take long for #14 Chris Relf (6’4, 245, SR) to develop in HC Dan Mullen’s multiple-spread attack. He showed better deep ball touch than anticipated, but still will struggle to fit the ball down the field at times. Relf is a powerful runner who is extremely tough to tackle in the open field.
RB #28 Vick Ballard (5’11, 215, SR) could be downgraded some because he will often get the ball on the move. It should be noted, however, that he will block, something very important in the translation to the NFL game. Ballard is effective on two-back counters and will stick his foot in the ground to get vertical when he sees a lane.
Two senior offensive linemen will have to step up on the flanks, as #62 Addison Lawrence (6’4, 290) and #77 James Carmon (6’7, 330) take over as bookend tackles. Carmon has experience on the other side of the ball, but Lawrence has had much more playing time. Don’t be surprised if they get into a rhythm early in the season.
One guy who has little question marks along the line is C #55 Quentin Saulsberry (6’2, 300, SR). An energetic, feisty offensive lineman, Saulsberry can lean too much over his toes, but he uses good power steps to create forward movement in the running game. He’s started at four positions (RT, LG, RG and C) along the line. He may be one of the more underrated prospects in the conference.
Who could get ‘Nasty’?
One player to watch is WR/PR #1 Chad Bumpis (5’10, 195, JR). The once highly-touted recruit is strong in the lower body and can tap dance with anyone in the country. The team will look to get the ball in his hands at least 7 to 12 times a game. He could be the X-factor needed to take further pressure off the running game. He averaged 14.4 yds/catch on 44 receptions in 2010.
The Bulldog defensive unit lost two linebackers (Chris White, KJ Wright) and one defensive lineman (Pernell McPhee) to the NFL. It’s time for DE #99 Sean Ferguson (6’3, 250, SR) to reach his potential. He’s an unrefined pass rusher who still takes a little too long to set up his moves with his hand in the dirt. He seems more comfortable standing up and is more athlete than player at this point. Ferguson flashed burst when aligned on the defense’s right side but did not record a sack a year ago (5 TFLs).
The linebacker corps is full of inexperienced, yet talented personnel. #10 Cameron Lawrence (6’2, 225, JR) has some speed and could be the star of the group.
The secondary is full of experienced playmakers. Junior cornerbacks #13 Johnthan Banks (6’2, 185) and #25 Corey Broomfield (5’10, 180) both bring experience and savvy to their respective spots. Broomfield is an aggressive player who fits best inside at the nickel back spot, where he does a good job of matching pattern combinations. Banks has some smoothness, but he uses a bail and read approach the majority of the time, particularly in three deep zones. He sometimes fails to hold the outside vs. stalk blocks. Both have above average ball skills and will make quarterbacks pay for errant throws.
SS #4 Charles Mitchell (5’11, 205, SR) has been an above average starter and does not mind getting physical. There have been times when his penchant for punishment has affected his coverage responsibilities. He’ll strive to find a balance in 2011.
Look for RB #34 Brandon Bolden (5’11, 215, SR) to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark in his final season after accounting for 17 touchdowns a year ago. He runs behind his pads and is very light on his feet. The team uses him in a variety of ‘Wild Rebel’ formations out of the gun. Not only is he an adept receiver out of the backfield (32 receptions in ’10), he also shows good awareness when identifying pass rush threats in his pass pro.
It certainly helps that he has a physical offensive line returning to open holes for him this fall. LG #73 Alex Washington (6’4, 356, SR) is a mammoth-sized guard who has yet to play to his physical attributes. With that said, he does do a decent job of passing off line stunts. He should be a much better player this year.
The tackles #78 Bradley Sowell (6’7, 315, SR) and #79 Bobby Massie (6’6, 325, JR) could be the conference’s best combination. While Massie clicks his heels together too much in his pass pro, he still fronts defenders well. He should add play strength this fall. Sowell, on the other hand, is much more refined. He plays with a natural base and can slide-n-mirror with effectiveness. If he correct his occasional tendency to lean a little too much, Sowell could see his draft star rise meteorically.
Defensively, the coaching staff has to be elated about the sixth year of eligibility granted to DE #40 Kentrell Lockett (6’5, 248, SR). After tearing his ACL, he will look to combine with line mate #7 Wayne Dorsey (6’6, 262, SR) to provide an edge presence for the Rebels. Before his injury, Lockett’s combination of quickness and agility made him a tough matchup for opposing tackles. It will be interesting to see if he regains his explosion this fall.
The team’s potential sleeper prospect could be FS #1 Damien Jackson (6’2, 210, SR). He will deliver punishment and takes good inside out angles to the ball. If he can become a ball-hawking presence in the middle of the field, it could open up more blitz options for creative DC Tyrone Nix.
The loss of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton should open the door for junior QB #14 Barrett Trotter (6’2, 206, JR). Trotter will have to beat out #15 Clint Moseley (6’3, 222, Soph) in training camp, but he does have some game experience. Trotter could be effective in the quick passing game and does have decent mobility (see SEC Champ Game ’10).
The return of running backs #5 Michael Dyer (5’9, 206, Soph) and #23 Onterio McCalebb (5’10, 172, JR) leaves a huge problem for SEC defenses. Dyer’s balance and vision put former starter Mario Fannin in a full-time 3rd Down role a year ago. McCalebb is used on fly sweeps and misdirection schemes to get his elite speed in space. The duo combined for nearly 2,000 yards rushing and 14 TDs on the ground a season ago.
Whoever mans the QB spot will have a budding star on the outside in WR #80 Emory Blake (6’1, 197, JR). Blake’s ability to get behind opposing defenses often opened up running lanes for the Auburn rushing attack in 2010. He recorded 8 receiving touchdowns on just 33 receptions and averaged nearly 17 yards/reception.
The edges will be set by senior tackles #77 AJ Greene (6’5, 298) and #75 Brandon Mosley (6’6, 306). While Greene has struggled to stay healthy, Mosley earned a starting role at right tackle for the National Champions. He doesn’t bend consistently, but finds a way to long arm defenders aligned in a wide 5 or 7 technique. He should continue to improve this season.
This could be the area of most concern for the Tigers and a number of younger players will need to step up early and often. Not only does the team lose all four starting defensive linemen, they will also be without the services of 2/3 of their linebacking corps (Craig Stevens, Josh Bynes). The play of junior LB #25 Daren Bates (5’11, 201) will be monumental in 2011. Please don’t be fooled by his size, Bates will strike with a purpose. He aligns over the slot in zone coverages and shows good awareness. He should have a bigger impact after a non-descript sophomore season in which he got better as the season progressed after a move from the safety spot.
Junior CB #22 T’Sharvan Bell (6’0, 182) is another versatile defender who’s also played the nickel position. At times he will get a little out of control, but he’s shown that he can blitz and does square up to get ballcarriers to the ground. Bell needs to wrap better when in position.
Senior FS #15 Neiko Thorpe (6’2, 192) has all of the tools to have an impact in the middle of the field after spending the better part of the last two seasons at cornerback. He didn’t record an interception last fall and can get a little leggy when having to plant-n-drive on the ball. Thorpe has faced a lot of the conference’s top receivers and displays decent body control. If he can learn the nuances of the safety spot, we wouldn’t be surprised if he has a breakout year.
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Posted by SuperTMartin1 on Jul 8th, 2011Do you feel Duron Carter will be able to step in and help Alabama? He's got
a new workout video on youtube, looks like a better player in shorts and
T-shirts. The Carter x Kirkpatrick comparison was on point. Kirkpatrick has
a go for broke style like Carter. That Chad Bumpis is special, he took it to
Georgia Tech last year. Thanks for feeding us that good info Chav.
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