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 Cincinnati-South Florida game.

The good and bad of South Florida CB Jerome Murphy

The Good: A tall, explosive athlete who has the speed to turn and run with receivers down the field. Showcases a good intial burst out of his breaks and can close quickly when he keeps his feet under him. Finished the game with four pass breakups.

The Bad: Isn’t real balanced or flexible in his drop and has a tendency to drift out of his breaks when trying to redirect. Struggles to consistently find the football when his back is to the play and isn’t the most instinctive corner. Displayed a lack of concentration last night, jumping a route and not finishing on a very catchable ball.

Overall: I don’t think he has the footwork or balance to hold up on an island in man coverage at the next level. Looks more like a zone corner.

What a freak (and I mean that in a good way)

South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has to be one of the toughest linemen in the nation to block. His combination of athleticism, power and length gives him the ability to routinely stack and shed in all areas of the game. Against Cincinnati, he was consistently able to set the edge in the run game, control blockers at the point of attack and make his way toward the ball. And in the pass game, he showcased an impressive first step for his size off the edge and loves to go to his rip move to keep blockers from getting their hands on him. He’s still very raw with his instincts, stance and overall hand technique, but the kid has an incredible-looking frame and features an amazing 81-inch wingspan. He finished with five tackles, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries and was consistently able to slip blocks and work his way toward the football. I could see him developing into something special as either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive end.

Pierre-Paul’s counterpart

The emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul this season was supposed to mean a big spike in the production of fellow defensive end George Selvie, who has seen his fair share of double-teams over the past two seasons. However, even after his sack last night, Selvie still only has three on the year, with one coming against Wofford College. Now, it’s obvious when watching Selvie that he possesses the type of quick-twitch ability to consistently threaten the corner and pressure of the outside of the pocket at the next level. However, he’s simply too “straight-linish.” Selvie doesn’t exhibit any type of counter move off his outside speed rush, struggles to redirect in space and doesn’t use his hands well to slip blocks. He’s always around the quarterback, and when he gains a step, he can really close in a hurry. But there just seems to be something missing from his game when he’s asked to disengage and finish on a play.

Pike’s performance

The Good:
Pike showcases a real calm, confident demeanor in his game, and even when he’s flushed from the pocket, he still seems to be under control. The game never seems to move too fast for him.
He displays a strong arm and has the ability to make all the throws at the next level, which was evident on the 25-yard completion he had throwing against his body to WR D.J. Woods.
He throws a very clean, catchable ball and does a great job putting just enough touch and power on his throws to fit his passes into tight areas.
He showcases a sixth sense as a passer and feels pressure around him, keeps his eye down the field and can calmly step up in the pocket. This attribute can’t be overlooked at the next level; just ask JaMarcus Russell.
Don’t underestimate Pike’s ability to call an audible at the line of scrimmage and efficiently get his team in and out of plays. This is a lost art at the college level with so many quarterbacks asked to look to the sideline and allow their coach to audible them out of a play.

The Bad:
The South Florida defense definitely played a bit faster than Pike was accustomed to. He struggled to be real decisive going through his progressions when his intial read wasn’t there.
Pike has a tendency to lose his rhythm and base at times when he steps up in the pocket, causing his passes to sail on him. He’s a tall kid with a strong arm, but staying balanced when stepping up in the pocket is key to delivering an accurate ball.

Game notes

One guy to keep an eye on the rest of the year is Cincinnati OLB/DE Curtis Young. I kept Young off my Thursday night primer because he has missed the team’s last couple of games with an injury. However, I came away impressed with his week one performance against Rutgers when he finished with 11 tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack and was again impressed with him Thursday night. Young isn’t the most explosive of pass rushers, but he’s a smooth, graceful athlete who uses his long arms and hands well to slip blocks. He finished with five tackles, two tackles for loss and another sack and looks like a guy who could definitely compete for an NFL roster spot as a 3-4 OLB.

I wasn’t real pleased with the play of Cincinnati safety Aaron Webster last night, despite his interception and 83-yard return. Webster’s a long, lanky athlete who lacks overall balance and fluidity in coverage and struggles to reach top-end speed quickly. He’s a strider who possesses only average range even when he reaches full speed and doesn’t take consistent angles toward the football. Overall, he lacks the necessary tools to hold up in coverage in an NFL secondary.

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