NFL Prospect Focus: Illinois State
It seems like every year Illinois State has at least one NFL prospect. Last year, I made a school call there and found they had three to five legitimate players who were worthy to either be drafted or at least be in NFL camps. This year scouts are going in to see two players: offensive tackle Josh Aladenoye and defensive end Colton Underwood.
Colton Underwood – Defensive End
In 2012, Underwood put up some numbers that would get anyone noticed. He had 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. When I went to watch the tape yesterday, I was disappointed. Underwood plays DE in their base 3-4 defense, often lined up as a five technique. On passing downs he sometimes lines up outside as a DE or he’s inside at DT and sometimes on the nose. The best traits Underwood has are his quickness and his motor. He goes non-stop from snap to whistle every play. It would be nice if every player we got to evaluate had the competitive nature of this player.
Where Underwood gets hurt is size. He is listed at 6’4 – 255. I don’t doubt the 255 but I doubt he is taller than 6’3. He does not have a big frame body and I don't think that he can get much bigger then 260-265. Underwood possesses very good initial quickness with an explosive first step but his overall athleticism is average. He has just average knee bend and change of direction to go along with average balance. While he has initial quickness, he lacks speed, he will probably run in the 4.95 - 5.00 area. The other thing that bothers me about his frame is that he has short arms. He needs long arms to compensate for being smaller and he doesn’t have them. He shows good hand use against FCS players, but he will lose the leverage game most of the time at the NFL level.
Where Underwood’s initial quickness pays off is when he is playing inside. He flashes the ability to get by his opponent before he is completely set. This is not as apparent when he lines up outside because he lacks the long speed to go along with his quick first step. As I mentioned, he has quick hands and good hand use, and he has to have them because of his lack of size. On tape, I have seen numerous times where once an offensive lineman gets his hands on him, he will lose the battle at the point of attack.
Underwood was helped in 2012 by a very good prospect playing opposite him on the D-line. Nate Palmer was an OLB/DE and was very productive. He ended up as the Packers sixth round pick and made their roster. When watching tape, it is obvious that Palmer is a far superior athlete and made a lot more plays. Underwood benefited from Palmer being on the field because offense would scheme to block Palmer and Underwood would always be in a 1 on 1 situation. At the FCS level he won battles more because of his motor than his skills. This season, without Palmer being there, his numbers are way down. Through five games he has only one sack. Offenses are trying to take him out of the game and it's working.
It’s tough to downgrade a player when he has the competitiveness that Underwood has. He is small and an average athlete. He lacks the speed and athleticism to play linebacker and at 255 he lacks the bulk to play defensive tackle in the NFL. While there are some schemes that can get by with 6’3 – 255 DEs, the players with that size are almost always excellent athletes with long arms and speed. Underwood does not have these traits. I highly doubt Underwood gets drafted but would be a very good free agent because of his competitive nature.
Josh Aladenoye – Offensive Tackle
Aladenoye started at left tackle in the games I watched from 2012. The Illinois State media guide lists him at right tackle. Aladenoye is a transfer form Oklahoma. He redshirted at Oklahoma in 2009, then played as a backup in 2010 and 2011. He transferred to Illinois State last year and has started every game while there.
Over the years, I have made many school stops at FCS or D-II schools that have a transfer from a BCS school. The coaches think that because the player came from a higher level of competition, he is automatically a prospect. That is the wrong assumption to have. Most players transfer down because they can’t play at their original school. There have been cases where a guy transfers because he may have gotten in trouble or didn’t get along with a coach. That was not the case with this player. Aladenoye couldn’t get on the field at Oklahoma, and he decided that the only way he was going to get play time was to transfer to a FCS school. When you look at the tape you can see why he didn’t play at Oklahoma.
The only positive trait I can see with Aladenoye is size. He is a big man at about 6’6 – 325. He is not a muscular 325. His percentage of body fat is high and he would be better served to play at 315. While he is big, he is not strong or explosive. He gets off the ball slowly and shows very little explosion on contact. He will often stop his feet on contact and doesn’t follow through with his blocks. He is more of a waist bender then a knee bender and falls off blocks. He has very average athleticism and lacks good movement skills.
Because of his limited athleticism, he struggles in space to make a block at the second level. In pass protection, you see much of the same. He can’t set quickly, lacks the lateral agility to consistently stop wide speed, and doesn’t have the feet or recovery quickness to shift his weight and stay with counter moves.
In my opinion Aladenoye is not a prospect. Because he has size, it’s worth taking another look at late 2013 tape to see if there is improvement.
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