Who to watch: Vanderbilt v. NC State (Music City Bowl)

Stay tuned for must-see prospects from every game of the bowl season.

Music City Bowl

Monday, December 31, 12:00pm EST

ESPN

The one guy I’ve been dying to watch all bowl season

Vanderbilt

Jordan Matthews, #87, Junior, WR

The best wide receiver prospect in the state of Tennessee isn’t Justin Hunter or Cordarrelle Patterson, it is Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews.  In my November WR rankings, I named Matthews the #2 receiver prospect for the 2013 draft. In fact, JM is one of the best SEC receiver prospects of the last decade.  Check out this production compared to other elite SEC performers:

  • Alshon Jeffery (2010)  6.3 receptions,  108.3 yards,  .64 touchdowns  *played one more season before entering NFL
  • Jordan Matthews  (2012)  7.3 receptions,  105.2 yards,  .58  touchdowns
  • AJ Green  (2010) 6.3 receptions,  94.2 yards,  1 touchdown
  • Julio Jones (2010)  6 receptions,  87.2 yards,  .54 touchowns

In five of Matthews’ eight SEC conference games, he hauled in at least 115 yards and one touchdown, proving his consistency and high-end ability.  #87 is also a big play threat, tallying five receptions of 50+ yards throughout the season.

In the Music City bowl it will be fascinating to watch Matthews face NC State CB David Amerson, who many considered to be the #1CB prospect in the country coming into the 2012 season.  Let’s hope that the poor field conditions don’t spoil this.

If he were to enter the NFL Draft and forego his senior season, he would easily grade in my top four wideouts, and possibly even grade as my #1 receiver in the draft.  Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin said: “The funny thing, and the scary thing, is I think he can get a lot better.  Probably the most powerful trait he has is he thinks he is the best wide receiver in the country. He behaves like that, he acts like that and he practices like that every day.”  I too think he might be the best wide receiver in the country.

Check the highlights vs Georgia…

North Carolina State

Mike Glennon, #8, Senior, QB

The National  Football Post’s Russ Lande just named Mike Glennon his #1 quarterback prospect for the 2013 draft.  I have some other thoughts on Glennon.

In the five games when the lights shone brightest on Glennon, there’s one word to describe him: quantity.  In relevant games, Glennon threw 49.6 passes per game, up from 32.6 in 2011, a  52% increase in attempts.  In these games, the Wolfpack went 1-4, and presumably Glennon was throwing to play catch up.  This theory is further supported by the fact that his yards/completion jumped from 11.3 (in 2011) to 14 (in 2012) while his completion percentage dropped by nearly 7%.

I’d attribute those numbers mostly to the environment in which he played… so, let’s look at what he could control.  He threw touchdowns 5% more frequently compared to 2011, but also threw interceptions 5% more often compared to 2011.  This advances my theory of quantity: he threw more, he threw more touchdowns, he threw more interceptions.

Overall, his grade in my system fell slightly from 90.4 in 2011, to 87.5 in 2012, neither of which puts him above the “potentially elite” hurdle of 95.  Watch the Music City Bowl and see what you think, but I think he’s far from the #1 quarterback prospect in the draft.

Watch him against NC State’s big rival…

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What to Watch- 15 September 2012

Keenan Allen (#21) Junior WR, California

12:00PM at Ohio State. ABC/ESPN.

Keenan Allen is the most dominant WR that Jeff Tedford has coached at Cal.  His 2011 season was more dominant than any Desean Jackson recorded and certainly more dominant than other NFL receivers Lavelle Hawkins and Marvin Jones.  Allen’s productivity score of 77 is the best Cal WR season I have in my database.  And get this, he did it as a sophomore.  Now in his Junior season, Keenan Allen is widely considered to be the best WR prospect in the 2014 class.  At noon on Saturday you get to see why.

In 2011 he had 75+ receiving yards in 11 of Cal’s 13 games.  Over the course of the season, his average stat line was  7.5 catches 103 yards and .46 Touchdowns per game.  Pretty impressive.  But get this, when the competition was at its toughest, Allen put together his best games:

@ Washington: 10-197-1TD

@ Oregon: 9-170-1TD

USC: 13-160-0TD

@ Stanford: 6-97-1TD

His averages in those four games against the Pac-12’s best: 9.5 catches, 156 yards,  .75 touchdowns.  Any questions?  While I fully expect the Cal Bears to get annihilated at The ‘Shoe on Saturday, that will provide Keenan Allen with plenty of opportunities to catch passes as his team is playing catch up.

Casey Pachall (#4) Junior QB, TCU

12:00PM at Kansas.  FX.

In 2010 TCU went 13-0 and capped their season with a Rose Bowl win over B1G Ten power Wisconsin.  They were led by Senior QB Andy Dalton who had a phenomenal season and went on to be a RD2 pick of the Cincinnati Bengals and successful rookie starter.  In steps then-Sophomore QB Casey Pachall and what does he do?  Nearly match Dalton’s outstanding season.

Pachall’s 2011 graded as a 107.7 in my system (anything above 95 indicates a potentially elite NFL prospect).  For comparison, Dalton’s 2010 graded as a 115.5, one of the highest grades in my database.  Pachall is my #2 rated QB in America (behind #1 Geno Smith).  He has the size, the arm strength, and the upside to become a Sunday signal caller.  So why should you care about a stinkin’ game against Kansas?  The knock on TCU has been their weak conference.  Well, this week Pachall gets his first shot as a quarterback in the Big12 conference.  Feast your eyes on #4 and see what the buzz is about.  If TCU is to make an immediate splash in their new conference, Pachall will be the key.

(pardon the first 35 seconds, he goes nuts after that)

Bryn Renner (#2), Junior QB, North Carolina

330PM @ Louisville.  ABC/ESPN2.

In 2011 Renner got his opportunity as a Sophomore and excelled.  His 15 touchdown passes in ACC play ranked him third in the conference despite having thrown 70+ fewer passes than #1 Boyd and #2 Glennon.  Overall, his 2011 season graded at 97.3  (anything above 95 indicates a potentially elite prospect).  Not only was he good, but he was consistently good, throwing for at least 2 TDs in ~70% of his games.  As of now, I have Renner as my #6 QB prospect in College Football.

Last year this game was a slugfest, with the Tarheels winning 14-7 over the Cards.  Renner was sacked four times and completed 12-18 for 178 yards and 1TD/0INT.  Expect this year’s game to be a little higher scoring as both Renner and Louisville QB Bridgewater have more experience than they did  last year as first year starters.  Tune in and catch a glimpse at one of the best (and most under the radar) Quarterback prospects in America.

(Notice how well he moves and stays with the play.  Shows off some arm strength in the first 60 seconds too!  Focus on the player, not the competition)

Donte Moncrief (#12), Sophomore WR, Ole Miss

9:00PM vs Texas.  ESPN.

You would probably agree with me that the SEC is the best conference in college football.  Further, you would probably agree with me that teams in the SEC play the best defense in the country.  On the same page?  K, good.  Well if both of those are the case, then you should consider Ole Miss Sophomore WR Donte Moncrief as one of the emerging stud wide receivers in the country.  If we isolated conference games played during the 2011 season, here are the results for SEC wide receivers who hauled in the most touchdown receptions against SEC defenses:

  • Jarius Wright- 6 TD (2012 NFL Draft, Rd 4 pick, Minnesota Vikings)
  • Alshon Jeffery- 5 TD (2012 NFL Draft, Rd 2 pick, Chicago Bears)
  • Rueben Randle- 5 TD (2012 NFL Draft, Rd 2 pick, NY Giants
  • Donte Moncrief- 4TD
  • Jordan Matthews- 4 TD  (one of the best JR Wide Receivers in America)
  • Tavarres King- 4 TD  (one of the top SR Wide Receivers)

Pretty impressive list, right?  Let’s continue.  Within the context of Ole Miss’ anemic 2011 passing offense, Moncrief put up a productivity score of 69, which ranks second of any Rebel WR in the past decade and surpasses any productivity grade that Mike Wallace posted during his college days. With a new head coach, Hugh Freeze, the Rebels are speeding up and spreading out their offense.  Through his first two games, Moncrief has tallied stat lines of 8-104-1TD and 3-72-1TD.  With the Rebels expected to play from behind against Texas, expect Donte Moncrief to have plenty of opportunities to catch passes on Saturday night.

Check out this quick ESPN video of a nice Moncrief catch from 2011!

Observations– 30 August 2012

South Carolina 17- Vanderbilt 13

South Carolina’s offensive and defensive lines were dominant.  Jordan Rodgers was under pressure all night and Vanderbilt’s defense just couldn’t get a stop.  QB Shaw and RB Lattimore led the attack for the Gamecocks who overpowered their way to an early season, nailbiting win.  It’s interesting to see Spurrier ‘just win’ games.  It seems like he is content to win ugly, which is completely necessary in the SEC.  The SC defense certainly passes the eye test but it will be itneresting to see if the offense can produce against the better SEC teams.

In an unrelated note, Connor Shaw reminds me of Forrest Gump when he runs.

Jordan Matthews looked good.  The SEC has graduated a lot of receiving talent in recent years (AJ Green, Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffery, Randall Cobb, Rueben Randle) and it will be interesting to see who steps up to be among the SEC’s best receivers.  Da’rick Rogers (Tenn) was the obvious choice but with his recent transgressions it looks like an open race.  Matthews flashed in the second quarter after hauling in a mid range pass and turning on the jets to take it for a touchdown.  He hauled in 8 balls for 147 yards and 1 td, but had a drop on a critical 3rd and long play.  For Vandy fans, the game will be most remembered for the non-call on an obvious pass interference play involving Matthews late in the game.

The ‘Dores proved that they’re headed in the right direction.  After falling behind 10-0 early, it would have been easy to go away quietly.  They held tough, took a lead, and were a play or two from pulling the huge upset of #9 ranked South Carolina.  Kudos to the job that James Franklin is doing.

BYU 30- Washington St 6

Washington State looked out of synch all night.  The pace of play was slow in the early going and they never seemed to get into a rythm.  Once they fell behind, BYU’s offensive and defensive lines just wore them down.  Wazzu does have some players, but overall they’re too thin, especially where it counts; in the trenches.

Riley Nelson is completely average.  The 25-36, 285 yds, 2TDs line looks great, but Nelson had a clean pocket all night and a helpful running game.  I was curious to watch him because BYU has had a good string of quarterbacks in the past decade.  However, Nelson’s 2011 season graded outside my top 40 QB ratings for last season and this game proved why.  Against a team with a better defensive line, BYU’s offense will struggle.

Friendly reminder:  Because BYU players often go on mission trips and then come back to play football, they have guys that are 23-25 years old starting for them, which gives them a few extra years to physically mature.  Their lines looked overpowering last night.

What is BYU’s motivation?  They’re not Notre Dame, but they made the choice to go independent last season.  I don’t think they’ll ever be a national title contender.  They have no conference and no place.  They’re a nice team, but I can’t help but wonder in what framework their goals exist.

What to watch- 30 August 2012

The College Football Season kicks off tonight.  A few things I’ll be watching:

South Carolina @ Vanderbilt, ESPN 7:00pm EST

Jordan Matthews #87, Junior WR, Vanderbilt– Over the last six games of the 2011 season, Matthews averaged 5.5 catches for 110 yards and .7 TDs.  After tallying only 8 catches in Vandy’s first seven games, Matthews shined when given the opportunity.  When he does make plays, they usually go for big yardage as evidenced by his 19 yds/catch average which ranked 6th in the NCAA last season (min. of 30 receptions).  With a historical context, Matthews 2011 season ranks right up there with Earl Bennett, within the context of the offense.   If the ‘Dores are going to pull the big upset in Nashville tonight, chances are Jordan Matthews will have something to do with it.

UPDATE:  Matthews hauled in 8 catches for 147 yards and 1 touchdown in Vandy’s 13-17 loss.  His impact could have been even greater if not being interferred with (missed call) on a critical fourth down play in the final minutes.

(A few nice highlights at the 28 second mark and the 59 second mark)

Washington State @  BYU, ESPN 10:15pm EST

Marquess Wilson #86, Junior WR, Washington St.– It’s easy to be overlooked when your team goes 9-40 over a four year stretch, but Marquess Wilson would like your attention.  In 2011 he was utterly dominant.  In 11 of 12 games, he tallied at least 75 receiving yards.  He recorded a touchdown in 8/12 games.  Overall, his 2011 season ranked as the second most dominant in the last decade of Wazzu football, behind Jason Hill.  With a new sheriff in town in 2012 (Air Raid genius Mike Leach) expect Marquess to become a Pac-12 STAR and an All-American caliber player.  His 2011 AVERAGES– 6.8 catches, 115 yards, 1TD– rank him right with Greg Jennings and Roddy White’s college numbers.  GET ON THE BANDWAGON!!!

UPDATE: Wilson caught 4 balls for 61 yards and 0 touchdowns as Wazzu was out of rythm and manhandled by BYU in a 6-30 loss.  Washington State’s offense looked out of rythm all night although Wilson flashed at times.  Brighter days lie ahead.

(The combination of music and phenomenal plays make at least the first two minutes of this video must-see)