With Ryan taking a look at non-senior prospects, it is only fitting I offer some notes on prospects in their final year of eligibility. These will be weekly features, along with the weekend matchups preview, which will be posted on Friday.
Miami (OH) QB Zac Dysert (#4/6’3/228) - Possibly in his most daunting matchup on paper, Dysert’s performance against Ohio State subsequently may not appear solid on paper. Do not let the box score deceive you, as Dysert showed why he more than belongs on the same stage as the top programs and quarterbacks in college football right now. Right away, the RedHawks put Dysert in the gun with five receivers despite the senior’s comfort from center. He can handle it all and showed the willingness to call protections at the line of scrimmage from either a no-huddle situation or traditional play style. Dysert gave his receivers multiple opportunities to make a play and delivered well placed throws to intermediate or deep targets. The receivers, however, did not hold up their end of the deal, dropping nearly 10 passes on the day, including multiple third down conversions. Dysert did miss a couple of short targets after evading pressure that would have resulted in touchdowns; both were overthrown. Whenever the defense had a lapse in coverage, usually when Dysert pulled down his first cocked throw for a more favorable option, the veteran signal caller took advantage and fit roped passes into tight windows downfield between the hashes or closing safeties and corners. I would love to see Dysert manipulate coverage with his eyes more often, but his ability to keep plays alive due to comfort and strength in the pocket and willingness to throw on the run makes this quarterback prospect very intriguing. He absolutely has NFL arm talent. Right now, I would rank Dysert neck and neck with West Virginia’s Geno Smith in the second tier of senior quarterbacks.
Stat Line vs Ohio State: 31-of-53 for 303 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Clemson RB Andre Ellington (#23/5’9/192) - Nothing irks me more than a heftier running back, who is deemed a power runner because of his frame, that consistently goes down on first contact. On the flip side, I love leaner backs that work for every single one of their yards. Ellington showed why he fits the latter description in his performance against Auburn. He frequently placed a hand when following his lead blocker and cut directly off of their backside as soon the the pulling lineman engaged a defender. Ellington also used that hand to keep himself up after twisting tackles, spinning with his momentum to stay on his feet and burst ahead for long gains. The Tiger’s explosion is something to see, as Ellington seems to shoot out of a cannon in just one straight-line step. The senior actually uses his leaner frame to his advantage by getting skinny through small slivers of space at the second level or keeping close to blockers and shrinking the tackle target. Ellington’s cuts are so swift that linebackers that believe they have him lined up end up whiffing and even if he is destined to go down, the Tiger’s wide base and understanding to lunge forward always results in a positive outcome. Now, as a pass blocker, Ellington will not help. Instead of actively searching for someone to block, he decided to wait beside one lineman, but Ellington did have some success chip blocking on the edge. Also, the Clemson senior did bounce a few runs to the sideline, which is far more difficult in the NFL. Ellington projects best to a heavy zone blocking team, but he is not limited to it. Right now, we consider him the second best back in the senior class.
State Line vs Auburn: 25 carries for 228 yards, no runs for loss.
Southern Miss OLB Jamie Collins (#8/6’3/240) - There is no doubting Collins' athleticism, as his closing burst was instantly apparent on a sack of Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez where he shrugged off a block and ate up ground in two steps while wrapping up the Cornhusker’s legs. The same flashes of fluidity can be seen in coverage, since Collins was asked to drop in short zones. However, outside of that natural ability, Collins struggled quite a bit. First, the senior failed to play decisively. Collins’ movements lacked purpose and it was obvious he could not quickly decipher whether the play was a pass or run in time to make an impact. Because of this, the Golden Eagle was stuck in no man’s land, specifically on play action passes. Second, Collins lacked technique when playing the run on the edge and allowed blockers into his chest instead of using strong hands and length to contain. This vanished the possibility of shedding to make a play on the ball carrier, and those same attributes were lost when pass rushing, as Collins repeatedly led with his shoulder on first contact. The senior just does not know how to handle blocks at the point of attack. But, the flashes are there, and if Collins continues to develop his technique and frame, he is worth taking a chance on.
Stat Line vs Nebraska: Seven solo tackles, six assisted, 2.5 tackles for loss including one sack.
NC State LG R.J. Mattes (#79/6’6/313) - At tackle last season, Mattes looked nearly undraftable, but in his most recent exposure at guard, the senior looked much more comfortable. Because of his time on the edge, Mattes’ pass protection technique looks familiar, with a kick slide to stick with rushers pressuring the outside shoulder. However, if he gets caught on a quick inside move, Mattes is susceptible to revert back to waist bending or even whiffing since he lacks the foot speed to slide and mirror. In the running game, Mattes was asked to crash down on massive Tennessee nose tackle Daniel McCullers and did well to make first contact with arms extended. Besides that first push, however, Mattes had difficulties generating more push, especially when asked to reset his feet and generate momentum. He does not move as fluidly forward, which is evident when hitting the second level, but Mattes could be a serviceable depth player and a late round selection. The senior could improve with lower pad level and a stronger counter punch, but the lack of quick twitch reactions likely will not change.
Nevada S Duke Williams (#5/6’1/200) - The safety position has been one of the weaker groups in the past few seasons, especially in the later rounds. But Nevada’s Duke Williams showed a nice blend of aggression and coverage ability in the Wolfpacks’ win over a talented Cal offense. I was very impressed with how Williams closed on edge runs, covering plenty of ground with strong angles to meet the ball carrier at or behind the line of scrimmage. However, unlike other determined safeties, Williams was under control but still hit his target with force. The senior was not as firm against inside runs, choosing to remain outside of the pile rather than join the fray. In coverage, Williams was frequently moved around and actually ended up covering top prospect Keenan Allen in the slot on a few occasions. His best play in coverage came against freshman Chris Harper on a 3rd and 6. Harper, from the slot, attempted to run a crossing inside route over the face of Williams, but the senior recognized the down and distance and beat the youngster to the catch point by swatting the pass down. This was not a single flash, as Williams undercut another pass intended for Allen, tipped it, but was unlucky in that it fell right into the receiver's grounded lap. Williams did have a lapse in judgment on kickoff coverage when he punched a player, who was laying on his leg, multiple times after the play. He sports an imposing frame but Williams did allow Allen to get behind him on one play that was luckily called back on a penalty. Still, it was a nice start for the possible third day selection at a consistently thin position.
Stat Line vs Cal: Four solo tackles, two assisted, and one pass breakup.