For the record, the Cotton Bowl was a pretty awful game all round between Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. Twelve turnovers in total, bad execution from both offenses and neither side deserved to win this game. Unfortunately, once again I'm left wondering why exactly Russell Okung is being touted as a potential top five pick.
It's only fair to mention that Okung (OT, OSU) was a doubt coming into this game with a knee injury. That could've played a part in what was frankly a very patchy display but this is the kind of thing I've seen before when Okung was healthy. At times he's very good in pass protection, when he engages one-on-one and sets himself, he generally does a good job. However, he just isn't 'dominant'. There were two huge plays in the fourth quarter where I just thought, "wow - that's not good."
The first instance came with 14:09 remaining and OSU with 2nd and 5. The quarterback Zach Robinson is under center and drops back to pass. Okung confronts the right defensive end off the snap, but the rusher simply moves inside, brushing past Okung as if he wasn't there. Even after the guy makes his way to the QB, it takes Okung 2-3 second to react to what's happened and by this point, he's stood in the open field looking at his QB being slammed into the ground. Robinson got up clutching his ribs and back. It was a general lack of effort to not even get his hands on the DE (who must be giving up around 30-40lbs on Okung) and the play in general looked very sloppy.
The second example came with 2:13 left and OSU with 3rd and 7 trying to rescue the game having gone behind 21-7. This time Robinson is in the shotgun with a linebacker making a late run off the edge. He engages Okung but the big tackle just lazily puts his hands on the guy and allows him to effortlessly brush past with absolute ease and get to the QB. It leads to a tipped pass that's very nearly intercepted. Again, the linebacker is nowhere near matching the size and power of Okung and should've been brushed away with relative ease. Instead, he's just flat out beaten off the edge with a very basic move. It's a lack of effort, nastiness and ability to just dominate. Most NFL tackles in that situation would've dealt with that linebacker by pushing him over, probably with one arm.
I have to believe if the knee was that bad, he wouldn't have played in this game with his NFL career at stake. Jason Fox (OT, Miami) didn't play his bowl game and had premature surgery citing the risk to his pro career as the reason. Okung wouldn't risk millions to play. The knee is a consideration here, but not a pass. Okung should still be able to deliver some kind of a punch. He'll be facing bigger, faster guys in the NFL. I didn't see Anthony Davis get beat like Okung did today when I scouted Rutgers. When scouting last year's prospects, I didn't see Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe or Michael Oher get beat like Okung did today. Andre Smith I did - but his value was always as a run blocking right tackle.
I've said for a while I think Okung is worthy of mid-late first round consideration. Nothing I've seen today makes me think I'm wide of the mark on this one, even though most people have him pinned in the top 5-10 picks. I've had him going in the top ten in my mock drafts recently mainly due to the premium on offensive lineman in the NFL. I might have to reconsider that projection.
This isn't going to be a great year for offensive tackles at the top of the draft. There could be better value later on if Okung, Bryan Bulaga and Charles Brown last a while.
Time to take a look at prospective 2010 prospect Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas) who's in action against East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl. For more on his situation, click here.