Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Thank you Idaho & Bowling Green

It's been a rough year for Seahawks fans. In a weird way, the game between Idaho and Bowling Green was for us. Brilliant from start to finish, prospects worth scouting and a superb ending that gave the Vandals a fitting victory. Robb Akey coaches with a smile, doesn't take himself too seriously and watching him celebrate amongst the fans at the end certainly made me forget about that Green Bay game last weekend.

All eyes were on stand out guard Mike Iupati. He didn't disappoint - this was a thoroughly dominant display from the top senior guard of the 2010 class. Iupati consistently over powered every opponent he faced on the night. It was men against boys stuff for the most part. In fact the biggest challenge in scouting Iupati is to decipher whether he's going to hold that same advantage over NFL opponents and when things are more evenly matched - can he still dominate?

The first thing that stands out is how well he moves for someone listed at 6'6" and 330lbs. He spent most of the game pulling wide, showing the kind of athleticism and footwork that made Branden Albert a tackle prospect come draft day and an early pick. The funny thing is - despite his already considerable size - there's probably room on that frame to get even bigger and not lose his footwork. Like Albert, I think some might start talking about him as a tackle. But for me he's strictly a guard and potentially a very good one at that.

He'd be a perfect fit whatever scheme Seattle go with next year. He's nimble enough to move around and work in the zone blocking scheme, but he has the ideal size if they switch to more of a man system in 2010. So let's look at the two aspects that impress the most - his speed and power.

With 7:50 left in the first quarter, Idaho are driving to score their first touchdown of the day. Iupati starts at left guard but glides into the backfield to block the left defensive end. He's so quick to pull, react and put himself into position to make the block. There are starting right tackles who wouldn't have been able to do what Iupati did there - and he took the snap at left guard. It helped a fair bit that he got away with a blatant hold that probably would've been flagged in the NFL - but we'll let that one go for now. It did help the quarterback find his receiver at the back of the end zone.

I've not seen a guard pull as much as Iupati did in this game. It seemed like 80% of his snaps he'd launch over to the right side, with the running back just following him forward and usually picking up a nice gain. On one play with 3:01 left in the second quarter, Iupati pulled right as usual and located a linebacker to hammer. Whilst doing this, he held out his right hand and managed to block a second linebacker using a hand for both defenders. Whilst blocking both guys - he managed to push them forward four yards as the running back made a ten yard gain. You can't find that kind of second level blocking in college football usually.

When he stayed in position at left guard, we saw flashes of that raw strength and power. When Idaho scored to make it 28-14 with 5:30 left in the third quarter, Iupati opened up a huge hole through the middle that a bus could've driven through. He hit one defensive lineman so hard on that play his head jolted backwards - so much so it ended up forcing another lineman out of the way to make the hole even bigger.

Clearly this is a specimen. This is someone who most certainly warrants first round consideration. The size, the agility, the complete package - it's like watching Ndamukong Suh but at guard. Of course you want to see Iupati against better competition - I'd have liked to have seen Idaho's games with Boise State and Washington this year. You also want to see him against the elite teams, the best defenses in the nation. We're not going to get that. If Tim Ruskell was still GM, we wouldn't be talking about Iupati as a potential Seahawk for those reasons. Now - we can talk about him, we can praise him and we can hope for him. However, rest assured that fans from all 32 teams watching that game will be saying the same things on blogs all over the internet.

I have to say, Iupati wasn't the only impressive prospect on show. Ruskell was against taking guys from small schools and this game for me showed one of the big reasons why his successor cannot hold the same philosophy. Bowling Green wide out Freddie Barnes set a single season record during the game, registering 155 catches for the year. It's not hard to see why he's achieved that. His hands reminded me of Michael Crabtree - everything was caught with his hands. He was beyond reliable in that sense. He found ways to get open and when the ball was thrown his way, he'd catch it. Barnes ended the game with 219 yards from 17 receptions and three touchdowns.

The fact he'll only run a 4.6 at the combine will put some off. He isn't going to be a #1 go-to-guy in the NFL. He isn't the answer to Seattle's desperate need for a playmaker. But heck - he warrants some looks. It's no fluke he's put up the numbers he has (1770 yards, 19 TD's) - he's a Biletnikoff finalist this year. I can think of worse things to spend a 5th round pick on.

Overall the game (which was won by Idaho 43-42 thanks to a last second two point conversion) was a joy to watch. The fact there was legitimate NFL talent on show only added to the spectacle. If the Seahawks are turning over a new leaf post Ruskell - they cannot afford to ignore the small school guys anymore. There's some gems out there, they just won't be on ESPN and CBS every week.


Jayce said...

I definitely agree with you. Freddie Barnes really surprised me. He was a threat on every play and walterfootball had him going 5th round? Definitely someone to consider. Iupati impressed me, but do you think his knees could give being 330 pounds?

Anonymous said...

I think Iupati is a must-have for Seattle.

Can't remember any names, but there are a few guys in the NFL who have moved from LG to LT... how nice would that be if he played LG for a year or 2 and slid over....

Thank god Ruskell's not here to F this one up. His small-school bias pissed me off something fierce. Damn him for not drafting Rashad Jennings!!

Rob Staton said...

Jayce - With regard his knees, all we can go by is whether he's had injury problems in the past with his knees... which Iupati hasn't. The fact he's a big guy at 6'6" helps spread out the weight - he looks big but not 'too big' if you get what I mean.

Annonymous - people are going to ask the question about Iupati as a tackle. He's big with nimble feet, that's usually the perfect combo. However, Idaho play him at guard for a reason. I don't see why a team would try to force that issue when potentially, he could be a brilliant guard. It's something you could entertain maybe, having worked with him for a couple of years as you say. But he should be considered a pure guard in this draft.

Anonymous said...

I made the comment a few weeks back. Trade back with our #9 pick, have two picks in 20's to draft OT (Bulaga/Brown) and OG (Iupati/Asomagah), with 2nd rd go S (McDaniel) or RB (Dwyer). Next year have two picks to use to get QB (hopefully) Locker.

E in F

SNY said...

Rob, what are the draft implications for the Seahawks regarding this weekend's NFL games?

Will a Redskins or Browns win move Seattle up in the draft? What are some possible outcomes. Will Buffalo's game have any effect?

What happens if we win, what happens if we lose? Thanks man, LOVE the blog..

- BS

Anonymous said...

If WA wins and SEA loses, along with CLE losing, SEA has the number 5 draft spot. SEA can do no better than that, and no worse than number the number 7 pick.

I don't know if Iupate will be there by the time the Hawks are on the clock with their 2nd pick, but I'd expect Maurkice Pouncey, or the guard from Bama, whos name slips my mind at the moment, to be available.

It's a good year for interior lineman, lets just hope whomever is in charge takes advantage.

Anonymous said...

*Excuse me, I meant CLE must lose as well. Sorry.

Jayce said...

Guard from Alabama is Mike Johnson. Some say he might even be better than Iupati because he plays against better competition.

Rob Staton said...

SNY - as has been mentioned, Seattle can pick no higher than #5 and no lower than #7. Seattle's strength of schedule, as was the case last year, is significantly weaker than any of the other teams in the top ten. It means in any tie breaker situation, Seattle will have the advantage in terms of picking early.

I've heard Maurkice Pouncy suggest he'll only declare if he gets at worst a second round grade from the draft committee, so that's something to keep an eye on. The guard from Bama is someone I haven't focussed too much attention on, but I'll have a cloe look in the BCS title game.

Anonymous said...

This may not be the right forum, but what about:
Trade Hasselbeck for a draft pick for (Browns 2nd round?)
Jason Cambell and some OT depth/competition in FA. There is still a chance(albiet small)big Walt returns especially with a solid Guard next door.
That could give us something like:
Haden CB /Morgan DE
Iupati G
Best RB
Mays S

Obviously, if Morgan is off the board, which is likely, then we would still have a hole to fill at DE. However, it seems like it takes rookie DE's a few years to develop anyway, so a FA may have a more immediate impact anyway.

This also doesn't address #1 WR, but an improved line/running game could open things up enough to eek out a few more wins.

Savage said...

The NFL has turned into a passing league and as a result QB, OL and DE have become the most important positions. It no mystery that these are the Hawk's 3 weaknesses and the main factors behind the last two years record 9-22 (soon to be 23).

These positions have to be upgraded. To me that makes Derrick Morgan and Sam Bradford the 2 targets, in that order. If we can take one of those guys with our first pick, I will be happy.

Morgan's scouting reports remind
me a lot of Patrick Kerney. How much better would the D be if they got Kerney's production from his first year with the Hawks again? DPOY runner up would be a huge addition. At this point and unless something changes dramatically, Morgan is the #1 likely target for the Hawks IMO.

Then with the next 2 picks, I'd spend them on OL. Whether its Iupati, Brown, Okung, Campbell, Davis, Hudson, Pouncey, etc I'm not sure. I have seen enough to get a feel on them. Its really difficult to watch the OL during a game when thats not where the action normally takes place.

I think that Brown and Iupati could be a good combo. Some of Iupati's size could help to make up for some of Brown's lack there of. I don't if he is playing in it, but if he is I am eager to see how Iupati holds up at the Senoir Bowl. Can anyone confirm if he is playing in one of these games?

Jayce said...

I think he is going to be playing in the senior bowl.


Savage said...

Thanks for the link Jayce.

Its good to see he will be going to the Senoir Bowl so we can get a better take of him against top talent. Hopefully he stays the plan and doesn't ppull out of the game.

Rob Staton said...

Jayce - thanks for that link. Much appreciated.