In every draft, there's multiple prospects from each school that are worthy of being selected. In some cases, the highest rated prospect gets the most attention but may not always be the best player. This year's class has a couple of schools like that, such as Mississippi State and Oregon.
Mississippi State has potentially two top notch cornerbacks in Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay. While Banks has received the most attention, it's Slay who could end up being the better player overall.
At Oregon, it's no different with stud outside linebacker Dion Jordan being discussed as a potential Top 10 selection while inside linebacker Kiko Alonso is considered by some a second- to-third round selection.
Alonso is six-foot three, 238 pounds and plays with reckless abandon. He's a contributor in run and pass defense, proving capable of stacking and shedding blocks, taking on blocks like a traditional “thumper”, and having the quick feet and instincts to successfully play zone or man coverage. He has a non-stop motor, is rangy and physical – all traits that are vital to have at a linebacker position.
During this past season, Alonso impressed with the above traits in multiple games I watched, such as against the USC Trojans. After throwing a pass into the right flat on a sprint right option concept, the Trojans were down to Oregon's three-yard line and on the verge of scoring. Their next play call would be a run that would ultimately be unsuccessful because of Alonso's run defense.
When the ball is snapped, he shoots the A-gap between the center and right guard from the middle linebacker spot and immediately meets the fullback. He sinks his pads and hips and flattens out the lead blocker, forcing the running back to look to the backside of the play. However, because this was a Lead play designed to attack the specific area where Alonso was, there's not much running room on the backside.
For a better look, here's the link to the play at the 6:59 mark
Alonso wasn't asked to take on blocks often at Oregon, which is why this play was impressive. He clearly has an understanding of what to do when faced in those situations, as he's also shown the ability to use his length to engage and disengage from blocks as well.
When he doesn't have to take on blocks, he's equally good in bringing down the ball-carrier because of his violence and range. Consider this next play against Kansas State.
Alonso's once again lined up at his usual middle linebacker spot and is nearly eight yards from the line of scrimmage. When Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein receives the snap and goes to his left, the Oregon linebacker immediately flows with the ball in that direction. As Klein is getting ready to hand the ball off to the running back, Alonso's already pulled the trigger and gotten downhill because he quickly read the play. He shoots the C-gap in a hurry and brings down the ball-carrier for a two yard loss.
For another look, here's the play at the 3:49 mark
In pass defense, the Oregon linebacker shows an understanding of concepts and is quick to read-and-react. He's adept at mirroring pass-catchers in man coverage, showing quick feet and instincts. He also understands when to pass off receivers or tight ends in zone coverage and then go cover another one. This was seen in multiple games, such as the aforementioned Kansas State one.
Alonso is lined up across the outside receiver in the short side of the field (“boundary”). Oregon goes on to drop eight in coverage, Alonso reroutes the outside receiver before passing him off vertically to the cornerback.
As he's passing off the receiver, he keeps his eyes on the quarterback to see if a throw will be made underneath. As the play unfolds, quarterback Collin Klein reads the defense and decides that he will throw the ball to the shallow crosser coming in Alonso's direction. When he raises his arm to release the football, Alonso recognizes his intentions and immediately starts to come forward. The crosser from the backside is also coming in Alonso's direction and doesn't see the linebacker, who lays a bone crushing hit as the receiver attempts to haul in the pass.
To get another look at the play, go to the four minute mark at this link
Because Alonso is able to play the run and pass, he's likely to be selected early in the draft. There's a chance he goes in the second round but the third round seems more likely right now. Two reasons are because of his off-field issues, which includes burglary and DUI charges, and health issues (torn ACL in 2010). However, his talent is very impressive, as he makes impact plays every game, and is worthy of a higher selection. It'll be up to him to continue to be dedicated to football and keep his head straight. If he does, he'll be a steal for the team that selects him.
All video are courtesy of draftbreakdown.com, who you can follow @draftbreakdown.