Labor Day screwed up the entire college football schedule this weekend, so instead of posting this on a Monday it has been delayed a bit. My goal for the season is to attempt to highlight and find emerging talents; prospects who actually raise their draft evaluations. I won’t include many prospects from my Top 50, unless they deserve extra attention.
Florida DT Dominique Easley (6’2/295) vs Toledo
Now, as a full-time interior defensive lineman, Easley’s impact was immediate against the Rockets despite it not showing up on the stat sheet. Lining up from the 0, 1, 3, and 5 techniques, Easley’s explosion off the snap was ridiculous. As soon as the ball moved an inch, Easley was engaged with his opposition, hands first to extend and drive the offensive lineman into the backfield. No joke, he kept interior lineman on skates for three to five yards on multiple occasions. And that doesn't include other times when the Gator shot gaps and rerouted ball carriers. Easley is going to have a huge year and could be a first-round selection.
Utah State C Tyler Larsen (6’4/312) vs Utah
There is an argument for the center being the most important member of the offensive line. Interior pressure vital in today’s NFL, and many centers make protection calls and anchor the unit. Larsen isn’t overly athletic but he’s very good at occupying his opposition. He continues to shuffle to gain an anchor, and that will only improve with better leverage.
Clemson redshirt junior DE Vic Beasley (6’2/235) vs Georgia
We have seen pass rushers come through Clemson in Gaines Adams, Da’Quan Bowers, and to a lesser degree Andre Branch. What does Beasley offer that the others don’t? Bend. The Tiger did a very good job attacking an offensive lineman’s shoulder, keeping separation with an armbar, and hand fighting while dipping to turn the corner. He doesn’t always engage immediately, but Beasley can win in contested situations. His second and third steps once creating separation are very impressive.
William & Mary S Jerome Couplin III (6’2/215) vs West Virginia
This small schooler needs to improve his motor from the backside, but in terms of working towards the line of scrimmage Couplin III can swarm ball carriers. He has a bit of Antonio Allen to him in that respect, filling lanes near the line of scrimmage and bringing offensive players down with ease. He’ll need to prove his coverage skills, but Couplin III frequently moved into the box in passing situations and could project as a big safety in nickel packages.
Nebraska CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6’2/220) vs Wyoming
Many NFL writers have emphasized the importance of finding larger cornerbacks to counteract receivers specializing in winning at the catch point. Nebraska didn’t put Jean-Baptiste in man press coverage on every snap, but when they did he thrived. Showing sound trail technique and length to disrupt targets, Jean-Baptiste was a terror at the catch point. I didn’t see him backpedal but he did display some loose hips in transitions.
South Carolina redshirt junior LT Corey Robinson (6’8/341) vs UNC
Teams are constantly looking for athletic offensive linemen to develop, and Robinson fits the bill. His upper half looks a bit thin, but he already maximizes his length to keep the opposition at a distance. Robinson’s footwork can lack fluidity, and there’s some overextension while looking through contact with his hands, but as long as the Gamecock stops thinking so much and plays more assertive he should be fine.
Rice redshirt sophomore DT Christian Covington (6’3/295) vs Texas A&M
Obviously the focus of this contest was on Johnny Manziel, but Covington really impressed me. Along with getting some initial penetration, Covington showed lower and upper half activity to adjust and drive while adjusting for position. Even for a big man he displayed some bend after attacking a specific shoulder. That versatility from the 1 and 3 technique was visible and we look forward to seeing the interior lineman the rest of the season.
Texas A&M RB Ben Malena (5’9/195) vs Rice
We all have seen how talented Christine Michael is, and although there were other circumstances working against the Seahawks, Malena kept Michael on the bench. He took advantage of plenty of draws, allowing blockers to develop upfield and making cuts with appropriate timing. Malena displayed just enough burst and tackle breaking ability to be coined one of the top veteran running backs flying under the radar right now.
Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller (6’0/194) vs Alabama
Amari Cooper is a tough assignment. As is Christion Jones. But Fuller made it look easy in this contest. Seeing time opposite both receivers, Fuller didn’t overextend in press situations, allowing the pass catcher to enter his personal space. From there, Fuller was stuck in their hip pocket and retained slight contact all over the field. His trail technique was very impressive, as was disrupting the catch point. Antone Exum gets the attention, but keep a close eye on Fuller. He also took some snaps from the slot corner spot.
LSU QB Zach Mettenberger (6’5/235) vs TCU
As I’ve stated before, Mettenberger will have to be quicker with his reads and decision making compared to his peers, since his foot speed and elongated motion slow him down as a passer. Against TCU, it happened. Mettenberger appears to have taken the next step under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, specifically in terms of timing. He made quick and accurate decisions at the end of three and five step drops while continuing to test single coverage downfield. Mettenberger completed throws falling off his back foot in the face of pressure, but I did not see him hit receivers when forced to move forward off his spot.