Scout’s notebook: Thursday review

Here are my initial reactions to the performances of some of the nation’s top prospects in Thursday night’s North Carolina-Virginia Tech game.

Don’t worry about the position, just worry when the ball’s in his hands

North Carolina wideout Greg Little isn’t only a king-sized target at 6-3, 210, the former running back also showcases impressive power and agility with the ball in his hands and is an absolute load to bring down in the open field. Little made the transition from running back to receiver in 2008, and you have to love a wideout who can create after the catch. He finished the game with four catches for 58 yards and one touchdown as well as six rushes for 38 yards, and he caused problems for the Virginia Tech defense whenever he went in motion. He does a great job using his big frame to attack the ball and knows how to absorb punishment over the middle of the field when working from the slot. He isn’t the most explosive of vertical threats and is still learning how to run routes, but he knows what to do with the ball after the catch, and the junior wideout definitely has the ability to carve out a niche for himself on an NFL offense.

Outside might be his calling

Whenever I bring up North Carolina middle linebacker Quan Sturdivant, I always make two critical points. The first is that he’s as physically gifted as they come and has the athletic ability to develop into an impact starting-caliber linebacker at the next level. However, the second point is always that I don’t think he’s the most instinctive guy and struggles to consistently find the football inside. But last night, he got the start at weak-side linebacker and looked so much more comfortable on the outside. Sturdivant finished the game with a team high seven tackles and did a great job trusting his initial reads, reacting quickly to plays and closing on the ball. He did a great job attacking downhill, shooting gaps in the run game and consistently making plays behind the line of scrimmage. As talented as the guy is playing on the inside, in my opinion his calling at the next level definitely looks to be at outside linebacker.

It’s all over

I paid particular attention to the play of Virginia Tech offensive guard Sergio Render to watch how he held up vs. the contrasting types of UNC defensive tackles, and boy, did I come away impressed. Render does a great job keeping his base down consistently through the play, maintaining his leverage and anchoring at the point of attack. However, what makes him so tough to disengage from in both the run and pass game are his powerful hands. He consistently gets under the chest plate of defenders on contact, and once he gets hold of you, the battle is over. No matter who lined up over him, his combination of power and lateral agility made him nearly impossible for opposing defenders to shed inside.

Some 3-4 pass rushing talent

Undersized Virginia Tech defensive end Nekos Brown might not get as much credit or attention as some of the other big-name defenders on the Hokies defense, but his play Thursday night in both the run and pass game really stood out. He looks like a guy who could easily make the transition to 3-4 OLB at the next level. Brown is an explosive athlete off the edge who does a great job getting off the snap count on time and consistently is able to threaten the corner. He also possesses the type of power in his lower half to take opposing linemen up the field, drop his pad level and get a good bull-rush on contact. He finished with six tackles and 1