Michigan WR Jeremy Gallon
The comparisons between Gallon and Golden Tate were immediately obvious after the Wolverine’s first reception. For a compact target, Gallon does a great job of working back towards his quarterback and fighting at the catch point. He has patience in his routes to find soft areas in the defense, but can show burst to separate just as easily. Add on some after catch toughness, and Gallon looks like a third- to fourth-round prospect, despite the likely knocks on his size. He doesn’t have the same explosion as Tate, but the similarities are there.
Baylor redshirt sophomore DE Shawn Oakman
We’ve seen some freak athletes emerge out of nowhere in recent years (Ezekiel Ansah, Margus Hunt) and Oakman could be the next. The redshirt sophomore transfer from Penn State isn’t even starting, but is making his presence felt in the backfield on multiple occasions (5.5 tackles for loss in two games). Oakman converts power to power, overmatching his edge opposition with brute strength and length. Development needs to take place, but that can be said for multiple prospects. Expect Oakman’s name to be mentioned more and more this season, especially if he ends up starting in place of one of the ends in the Bears four man front.
Wisconsin redshirt sophomore RB Melvin Gordon
Gordon is a long strider once eclipsing the line of scrimmage, but short steps in the backfield allow pulling blocks or lead blocks to formulate. The Badger is not afraid to lead with a stiff hand to keep momentum going. Gordon stays close to the offensive line before bending his run outside the numbers. Add on his legit long speed, and Gordon is an absolute playmaker. The 2015 running back class is potentially loaded with prospects like T.J. Yeldon, Todd Gurley, and Duke Johnson, so Gordon might be wise to declare this season and get a jump on that group. It is early, but he would be my top prospect at the position in this class.
Miami redshirt sophomore LB Thurston Armbrister
Armbrister sees time as a stand-up linebacker next to a three man front. He consistently keeps his outside shoulder free while not getting washed away on runs to his side. Armbrister looked fairly fluid with his lateral cuts and drops, but his turn to work into the deeper sections of the field displayed slower hips. The young prospect’s closing speed could be better, and that might be more visible when he is given more pass rushing opportunities. His backpedal also looked difficult. Armbrister is currently a solid run defender on the edge, who stays composed, slowly closes, and wraps up at the point of attack, but his length lends to pass rushing upside.
Southeastern Louisiana CB Todd Washington
Robert Alford emerged as a top 64 selection throughout the draft process thanks to excellent closing speed and agility to stick with receivers downfield. His teammate, Todd Washington, offers a bit more physicality at the line of scrimmage and loves sticking in the hip pocket of opposing receivers. Washington frequently lined up in press coverage and didn’t let contact evade him throughout the entire route. That will be a bit trickier in the NFL, but Washington should get a look during a postseason all star game.
Kentucky junior DE Za’Darius Smith
Smith is currently leading the FBS in sacks with four. He doesn’t win with exceptional quickness off the line or with inside moves against heavy footed offensive tackles. Instead he consistently displays the ability to shed at the line of scrimmage thanks to hand and length use, a skill that is tough to find at the college level. Around the edge he keeps an armbar to sustain workable separation and takes a tight line to a quarterback. When double by a tight end and tackle, Smith splits the two blocks to keep an anchor and makes sure to gain backfield vision. Once the quarterback leaves the pocket, Smith makes his move and envelopes the passer in space. His lack of explosion might keep him out of the early rounds, but expect Smith to continue to produce with these skills.
Nebraska G Spencer Long
The Cornhuskers offense hasn’t faced a real stiff test yet, opening against Wyoming and Southern Miss, but UCLA’s front seven (their next opponent) is no joke. Teams have put a premium on finding and generating interior pressure, which results in putting a premium on players who can prevent it. I doubt Long will be an early selection, but he gets dirty between the tackles. The interior lineman is a bit top heavy, however, he compensates for active hand use and a willingness to engage in contact. He delivers a solid pop in pass protection and can keep a clean pocket for a mobile passer like Taylor Martinez. More knee bend and a lower backside would be preferable, but I like Long’s competitiveness.
Who impressed you from this weekend? Feel free to leave a comment below or tweet me at @JoshNorris.