Scout’s notebook: offensive review
Observations and analysis from the fifth week of the college football season, including thoughts about some of the nation’s top offensive prospects.
Trouble on the left side
Oklahoma offensive lineman Trent Williams made the transition from right tackle to left tackle this season, but the move has been anything but seamless. Williams struggled again this weekend vs. the edge speed of Miami, in particular DE Eric Moncur, and simply doesn’t seem to possess the short-area quickness needed to mirror laterally in space. He was repeatedly exposed on the “up and under move,” and to be honest, I was more impressed with the play of Miami LT Jason Fox than I was with Williams. Williams exhibits some natural power in the run game and can sit in his stance and anchor vs. the bull rush. However, after seeing his performances against BYU and now Miami, I simply wouldn’t feel comfortable drafting him as a left tackle and feel his future in the NFL is limited to the right side.
Another left tackle on the move
Watching LSU left tackle Ciron Black this weekend, I was impressed with his ability to consistently gain leverage on contact and create movement as an in-line run blocker. Black showcases a mean streak at the point of attack and is very efficient when asked to block downhill. However, the more I watched him in pass protection, the less confident I felt about his ability to play on the left side in the NFL. He exhibited only average range on his initial kick-step and struggled to redirect and stay on blocks when engaged. I still think Black has the potential to be a starting-caliber lineman in the NFL, but I see him having more success at either right tackle or guard. He reminds me of New Orleans Saints starting left guard and former Nebraska left tackle Carl Nicks.
Four wideouts who are really catching on:
Mike Williams, Syracuse (6-2, 204)
The play of Syracuse WR Mike Williams has been absolutely brilliant throughout the first five games of the year, and his performance Saturday vs. a talented South Florida defense has me wondering, is this guy the best wideout in college football? Williams not only has the size and speed to make plays vertically down the field, but his overall polish as a route runner has improved significantly under new head coach Doug Marrone. Plus, Williams has that X-factor to his game as he goes up and attacks the football as well as any receiver I’ve seen since Larry Fitzgerald. Williams had 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns this past weekend and was consistently able to create substantial separation against highly rated senior corner Jerome Murphy. Williams will definitely be crashing the NFP Super 30 on Wednesday, and I can now see him potentially making a run at Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant as the nation’s top wideout.
Stephen Williams, Toledo (6-5, 200)
One wideout who really seems to be flying under the radar in the early part of the season is Toledo’s Williams. He’s a big, long athlete who does a nice job adjusting to the ball and runs surprising well for his size. Williams hauled in 10 receptions for 231 yards and two touchdowns against Ball State, including a game winning 51-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds remaining. However, what impresses me most is his ability to beat press-coverage, get into his routes quickly and run away from man coverage down the field. He’s an intriguing target who I think is one of the better prospects in this year’s weak senior receiver class.
Golden Tate, Notre Dame (5-11, 195)
If Notre Dame wideout Golden Tate is able to consistently catch the football (which has been a problem for him so far this year), there aren’t to many cornerbacks in the country who can match up with this guy 1v1 in space. I love what Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis did with Tate this weekend, moving him around the offense and allowing him to make plays with the ball in his hands from the slot. Tate not only showcases the ability to create separation on all areas of the field, he does a nice job finding soft spots in zone -- and as we saw Saturday, he’s very dangerous after the catch. I still don’t see him as a big-time starting threat on the outside at the next level, but he looks like a Kevin Curtis-type wideout to me, someone who can make some plays down the field and create mismatches from the slot.
Carlton Mitchell, South Florida (6-4, 212)
If there’s one wideout worth keeping an eye on the rest of the year, it’s South Florida’s Carlton Mitchell. He’s a big, athletic kid who runs extremely well for his size and consistently is able to separate from defenders down the field. He’s still raw and isn’t the most natural of receivers, but the guy is a load to bring down after the catch and is simply a big play waiting to happen in the pass game. Mitchell is one of the more intriguing junior wide receiver prospects in the country and possesses an enormous upside at the next level.
No matter where you put him, the kid’s a player
Pittsburgh’s Dorin Dickerson has seen time at wide receiver and linebacker during his first two seasons as a Panther. However, he made the transition to TE in 2008 and is now really starting to come into his own. Dickerson is a gifted athlete who runs very well for his size (6-2, 230) and has the athletic ability to make plays down the seam and stretch defenses vertically. He’s already proven to be quite the mismatch for opposing defenses and is on pace to haul in a staggering 14 touchdown passes and just under 500 yards receiving. He isn’t going to be a typical “on the line Y” at the next level, but he certainly possesses the skill set to create plays in the pass game and looks like a guy who could find a home as a pass catching tight end, H-back or even fullback in the NFL.
After a slow start, Oregon TE Ed Dickson is finally starting to hit his stride. Dickson has hauled in 18 catches for 251 yards and four touchdowns in his past two games and is simply a mismatch nightmare any time he’s asked to run vertically down the field. There’s no denying the kid’s athletic ability, but Dickson has done a much better job setting up and selling his routes this season, which has been one of the main reasons he’s been able to consistently separate so easily down the field. Now, there’s definitely some intriguing talent in both the senior and junior tight end classes this season, but Dickson’s ability to create big plays in the pass game could end up being the tipping point in making him this year’s top tight end prospect.
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