Scout’s notebook: defensive review

Observations and analysis from the eighth week of the college football season, including thoughts about some of the nation’s top defensive prospects.

Mt. Cody is starting to ascend

I know Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody is only going to be a two-down lineman at the next level, and some would argue that you shouldn’t draft a two-down player in the first round, but don’t you think the Chargers would concede a first-round pick at this stage for a young Jamal Williams? Or don’t you think Steelers NT Casey Hampton is worth a top 32 selection? The answer to both is a resounding yes, and that’s why I think Cody is certainly worthy of a first-round pick in the 2010 draft. The man simply eats up blocks on the inside, consistently holds the point of attack against the run and makes everyone on the Alabama defense better because of it. He looks like an ideal fit as a 3-4 nose tackle at the next level and should be able to anchor the interior of an NFL defensive unit for years to come.

Orgeron making an impact on Vols’ defensive line

Tennessee assistant Ed Orgeron is considered one of the top defensive line coaches in the country, and it comes as no surprise that the Vols’ front four has improved dramatically under his tutelage. One guy in particular who has really taken his game to another level is defensive tackle Dan Williams. Williams is a 6-3, 327-pound lineman who isn’t as stout at the point of attack as his frame would indicate. However, he’s doing a much better job this year using his hands to defeat blocks on contact and showcases the flexibility to routinely get under the pad level of opposing linemen and bull-rush his way into the backfield. His pad level has a tendency to rise as he starts to wear down, and he’s still learning how to play with consistent leverage in the run game, but he’s made significant strides under Orgeron and looks like a guy who could compete for a roster spot and eventually develop in a rotational NFL lineman.

A limited Wolverine

The Michigan Wolverines have sent their share of linebackers to the NFL in recent years, and MLB Obi Ezeh looks to be the next in line. Ezeh currently leads the team in tackles with 62 and is a physical presence inside the box who knows how to stack and shed and make plays in the run game. However, when watching him last weekend vs. Penn State, it became obvious that Ezeh lacks ideal fluidly in space and struggles when asked to turn and run with tight ends down the field. He was brutally beaten by PSU tight end Andrew Quarless on a 60-yard touchdown pass and lacks the athleticism to stay with NFL-caliber tight ends in the pass game. Ezeh looks more like a two-down linebacker at the next level, but he does remind me a bit of former Wolverine and current Jets linebacker David Harris and could certainly find a home as an effective 3-4 ILB.

The maturation process of a defensive lineman is a thing of beauty

One of my favorite things about scouting college players is watching their development from one year to another and seeing how much work they put into their technique during the offseason. And the improvement I’ve seen from Pittsburgh DE Greg Romeus really has me intrigued about his potential at the next level. Watching Romeus this summer, I saw a long, coordinated athlete who struggled to keep his base down and relied solely on his natural ability to make plays in the pass game. Yet after watching him Saturday vs. South Florida, he looked so much more balanced and flexible off the edge and was nearly impossible to block 1v1. His long arms and initial burst automatically make him a tough block in pass protection. Now he’s using his quick hands and suddenness to slip blocks in space and has the athleticism to absolutely explode toward the passer after he gains a step. He possesses impressive body control for a guy his size and looks like a potential impact defensive lineman at the next level.

This Owl is for real

While watching Temple tape this summer, I got my first glimpse of Owls safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and came away very impressed. Here’s what I wrote:

Impression: A promising defensive back who displays good flexibility and balance in coverage. Is a physical tackler with good size and definitely has the potential to develop into an NFL-caliber safety.

And now, after watching him again vs. Toledo, I realize that Jarrett not only has the ability to develop into an NFL-caliber safety, but the guy looks like a potential starter. He currently leads the Owls with 44 tackles and ranks as one of the nation’s top junior safety prospects in my book.

Versatility is his main asset

Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas is never going to get the type of love he deserves on draft day. He’s undersized at 5-9 and isn’t the most explosive of straight-line athletes. Yet if there’s one senior cornerback in this year’s draft who will play in the NFL for the next 10 years, it’s Arenas. He looks so natural in coverage and has the ability to not only press receivers off the line, he also looks comfortable in space and can also play in off-man or zone. Plus, his ability to tackle, blitz and make plays in the return game are unmatched by any other defender in college football. Arenas is a thickly built kid who showcases good strength in all areas of his game with the short-area quickness and balance to stay with receivers in an out of his breaks. Most important, he’s an instinctive, unselfish talent who’s willing to put his ego aside and do what’s best for the team. He’s the kind of versatile corner that coaches love, and I can see him playing a variety of roles for an NFL team and being successful at all of them.

Follow me on Twitter: WesBunting

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