Sunday, 11 October 2009

Sunday notes - Joe Haden, Gators impressive

I've just finished watching the tape from last night's Florida vs LSU encounter. The Gators defense is often compared to that of a NFL team and it certainly looked the part. Three big name prospects stand out with regard to the 2010 draft - linebacker Brandon Spikes, defensive end Carlops Dunlap and cornerback Joe Haden.

Of the three, Haden impressed me the most. When I watched Florida against Tennessee earlier in the year, Haden showed good recovery speed and the ability to make an athletic play for the ball. It was more of the same yesterday. He's a stout, physical corner with good definition. He's not the biggest (5'11", 180lbs) but he hits well and usually wraps up his tackles. Haden's a smart player, as you'd expect from someone who played quarterback in high school. He diagnoses plays well as they develop, meaning his reactions are usually spot on whether it's sticking with a receiver or adjusting to the ball carrier on a run.

He flashed his athleticism with twenty-two seconds left in the first half, staying with LSU wideout Terrance Tolliver on a route down the right hand side and making a diving catch for an interception. For me, he's a sure fire first round pick next year as an athletic, physical corner with football smarts.

Carlops Dunlap had a tougher evening at defensive end. He was double teamed on nearly every snap by the LSU lineman, clearly identifying his combination of size and speed as a potent threat. That's going to happen though and it'll happen in the NFL too, so it was interesting to see how the 6'6", 250lbs lineman faired.

He's a very laid back character and this often gets pointed out as being lazy or lacking effort. From what I saw tonight, I don't think anyone can say Dunlap wasn't putting in the effort on every snap. Sure, in between plays he'll walk around with his hands on his hips looking like he's waiting to get off the field. Some guys are like that, but when it was time to go to work I was satisfied Dunlap was putting in a shift. Not everyone is going to look like a warrior (eg Ndamukong Suh).

When Dunlap was offered one-on-one blocking he often exploded past his man and got into the backfield with ease. It seemed effortless (another reason why he probably gets labelled with the lazy tag) and although he didn't register a sack, he was often in the face of LSU QB Jordan Jefferson to force a poor throw. His presence and the attention he was getting from the Tigers offensive line also helped linebacker Brandon Spikes make a lot of plays, with clear holes through the middle with so much focus on the edge rusher.

He's often compared to Texans defensive end Mario Williams purely for the physical comparisons. I'm not sure Dunlap will go first overall like Williams, but there's certainly something there that will interest a lot of NFL teams at the top of the draft. He might experience a slow start to his career (not unlike Williams) but I expect Dunlap, with the right coaching, could become an elite defensive end at the next level.

Brandon Spikes was the other big name prospect and he clearly has the same kind of leading influence on the Gators defense that Tim Tebow has on the offense. Seattle won't take a linebacker early next year, but expect Spikes to be a mid-late first rounder or possibly an early second round pick - probably to play ILB in the 3-4.

Speaking of Tebow - it was another chance to watch Florida's often talked about signal caller. There was a lot of debate coming into the game about whether he'd feature having suffered a concussion two weeks ago. He did start and put in a largely impressive performance, managing things sufficiently and taking what the defense gave him.

I have to admit there are a lot of positives to Tebow's game and I do expect he'll go in round one next year. He's very capable of making plays with his feet, turning a potential big loss into a 5-6 yard gain by scrambling around. He has a good arm and for the most part was very accurate with his throws. He blotted his copy book slightly at the end when, with minutes remaining a ridiculous call was made to throw deep with Florida running out the clock. Tebow threw a bad pass to the right corner of the end zone, under throwing the receiver and getting picked off. It's any body's guess why that play was called by Urban Meyer, one of the weirdest decisions I've seen this year.

The same problems remain with Tebow. His release is as long and slow as ever, something he'll have to rectify in the NFL unless he's playing behind the world's greatest offensive line. It'll be sack city until he learns how to get the ball out quicker to his receivers. It's also hard to estimate how good Tebow is because clearly he's playing on a team a cut above the rest. Is that because of Tebow, or because of the system and weapons around him? I'd probably say a bit of both. But something intrigues me about him and although he'll be a big project (could take 2-3 years to solve those mechanical issues) there are positives - leadership, accuracy, arm strength.

LSU's prospects were less enticing. Terrance Tolliver (WR) showed poor route running skills and was barely relevant, catching just two passes for 14 yards. Joe Haden did a great job in coverage. I was more impressed with senior wide out Brandon La Fell - he showed tighter routes and good hands catching four balls for 44 yards. He's not a spectacular deep threat but looks good on a short-to-medium range.

Elsewhere, it was a productive day for Georgia Tech's running back Jonathan Dwyer. He scored two touchdowns as the Yellow Jackets defeated Florida State 49-44, including a 69-yard scamper in the first half. He only managed another 33 yards from his other 13 carries though and I still have reservations about his lack of explosion.

Jake Locker's Washington secured a dramatic late victory over Arizona, 36-33. His numbers were a mixed bag - 12/23 passing for only 143 yards and an interception. But he did get four total touchdowns (three passing) and 92 rushing yards. If the Huskies keep winning and Locker keeps scoring, it'll only continue to improve his rising draft stock. I watched the final moments of the game and Locker showed good poise to score a late TD to make the game barely winnable. He showed good footwork to move up into the pocket, then drilling a great pass into the right corner of the endzone. It set up the bizarre interception that eventually won the game, before another excellent Locker pass on the two-point conversion to seal it.

Finally, Bryan Bulaga (OT) helped Iowa defeat Michigan 30-28. He appears to be fully healed after missing three weeks with a thyroid problem. This was his second game back as his team went 6-0 for the season. I caught little snippets of the game and in the short examples, Bulaga doesn't appear to be the most physically dominating lineman. He does seem to have quick feet though and moves around well for a tackle. His athletic nature may appeal to teams running a zone blocking scheme, but I'd like to see him add some bulk.


Anonymous said...

Call me crazy, but how is Tim Tebow's performance "impressive" while Locker's was a "mixed bag?" Do we keep in mind that Tebow is either handing the ball to track stars or throwing to them with insane seperation? Locker is throwing the ball to guys who can't catch behind an offensive line that has the stength of a wet paper bag. Put Locker on a team like Florida or Oklahoma and you'd see the same numbers. Does anybody else find it odd how Bradford's and Tebow's backups had the same production when those guys were out? Everyone was awfully quick to say that Mark Sanchez was the product of having insane talent around him, but we magically seem to dismiss this notion in regards to players like Tebow, McCoy, and Bradford. Sorry for that little rant but people magically skirt this issue when making arguments.

I think drafting Tebow in the first round would be a huge mistake. You don't draft a "project" (at QB nonetheless) in round 1, especially when that QB has zero skills that match up with our offensive scheme. I know his leadership is "great" but the NFL is a much different animal than College and guys simply can't "will" their way to wins. There have been so many "winners" (Jason White, Ken Dorsey, etc) who came out of college to do nothing in the NFL because none of their skill sets remotely resemble what it takes to succeed in the NFL, which bottom line, is the most important thing when drafting a player.

Bottom line, I would never draft a QB in the first 2 rounds if you are hoping he can make HUGE changes to his game i.e. mechanics, footwork, gimmicky offense. QB is already risky and it would be a huge gamble considering you could draft a player at another position of need/importance that doesn't need to drastically change his game to succeed. I was all for drafting Sanchez last year and am very hopeful of drafting a QB this coming draft, but let's spend it wisely on someone who you can actually watch and say, "what he does directly translates of what we are asking him to do for us on Sundays."

Rob Staton said...

In fairness, I did say Jake Locker's 'numbers' were a mixed bag and not his overall performance. I think that's a fair statement considering his passing stats (12/23, 145, 1 INT) aren't particularly striking, yet he did score four total TD's and wracked up an impressive 92 yards rushing.

Clearly if you were to compare Locker and Tebow directly (and I haven't attempted to do that) you'd have to take into consideration the two very different situations. Credit has to go to Locker for the way he's performed this season and it's probably not gone unnoticed by scouts and GM's.

With regard to drafting Tebow, you make a very valid case for avoiding him. He's a big project. If I was a GM, I'd probably say the same things. However, if there's one guy capable of making a success of himself in the NFL, it's probably Tim Tebow. He's a big project and with the expense involved, that'll put a lot of teams off. But someone will probably take him in round one if they feel his potential and positives aspects (leadership, accuracy, arm) are worth a gamble.

1stHill said...

Being a University of Washington fan I have to defend Locker; his WR's dropped 6 passes for a total of 100 yards, one of those drops was in the endzone which would have been a TD, and the ball that was intercepted had gone through the hands of the WR. Locker made some great accurate throws, its just his WR's couldn't catch the ball.

Rob Staton said...

Admittedly there are reasons why the numbers were a mixed bag, but it wasn't intended as criticism, rather an observation of the stats.

akki said...

Would it be unfair of me to worry about Dunlap considering that of the last two major DEs from Florida, Jarvis Moss is a bust and Derrick Harvey was invisible against Kyle Williams on Sunday? How does Dunlap differ from the other two?

It's human nature to see that and wonder if the defensive scheme might be benefiting the DE's, even if your game description doesn't suggest that.

Brendan Scolari said...

Derrick Harvey is out for the season and didn't play against the Seahawks, so if that's what you mean by invisible then yeah... he was.