Iowa defeated Georgia Tech 24-14 in the Orange Bowl last night. Not really surprising considering the Hawkeye's had a month to game plan GT's triple option which essentially neglects the passing game completely. How many other offensive schemes run eight minutes off the clock with ten run plays only to miss the field goal? If the Yellow Jackets aren't winning late in the game it's nearly impossible for them to comeback, you can't just switch the passing game on when it's needed.
Regardless, this was a good chance to watch some prospective NFL talent in action. The two most high profile candidates were competing with each other - Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan and Iowa left tackle Bryan Bulaga. In my latest mock draft published yesterday, I had Morgan going third overall. After his performance last night, I'll have to review that.
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Let's start with the positives, because this is only one game and he's still very much (in my opinion) a top ten pick. Morgan had some success with a bull rush and showed at times he has a nice spin move, being creative to get greater penetration through the middle than he ever found as an edge rusher. He could've had two big sacks that would've probably made this review a lot more favorable. On the first occasion with 7:36 left in the second quarter, Morgan lines up at right defensive end against Bulaga. It's a shotgun snap and he shows great anticipation and an initial burst out of the blocks to get leverage on Bulaga, getting under his pads and forcing him backwards into the quarterback. It forces a scramble to the left, Morgan disengages and would've recorded the sack until Bulaga grabs him by the face mask, pulling him back and throwing in a hold for good measure. No flag was thrown.
The second opportunity happened late in the fourth quarter, this time with Morgan lining up on the left hand side. He again shows a good burst off the snap, getting off the line a split second ahead of the right tackle Kyle Calloway and managing to beat him inside. It flushes QB Ricky Stanzi out to the left again, but Morgan shows a great pursuit from one end of the line of scrimmage to the far sideline. He dives at Stanzi's feet and just misses catching his ankle to register a sack for a short loss - instead Stanzi is able to make a short gain for a first down. It flashed the relentless style I've seen from Morgan previously and showed he can move for a guy his size (6'4, 275).
Apart from that though, it was a frustrating evening. For every time Morgan was able to get leverage in the running game and force a play to bounce wide or help collapse it in the backfield, he was driven back himself or blocked out of the play. Iowa's lineman used his relentless style against him, often allowing him to run himself out of the play, simply guiding him into areas from where he couldn't be effective. It concerns me that he wasn't able to dominate the right tackle Calloway, in fact it's fair to say the offensive lineman won most of their duel's. Saying that, you have to credit the lineman too. But it concerns me even more than Morgan was twice driven out of the play by an under sized tight end. I've seen this when C.J. Spiller did a very good job in pass protection against Morgan earlier in the year despite the size disadvantage. Georgia Tech's coaching staff were clearly frustrated that Morgan wasn't having the impact they expected, so moved him around from the left and right side and eventually had him standing up in space. Everything they tried failed to get Morgan more involved.
I'll qualify that I think Morgan is still a top 10-15 pick. He didn't get much help from the rest of his line and Iowa had a month to prepare for this game. He's a junior so still learning and despite some struggles last night, there have been other times where I've seen Morgan show that edge rush ability and win a game for his team. There isn't a better defensive end in the 2010 class and for teams like Seattle who are desperate for help in the pass rush, Morgan would make some sense. But this performance perhaps temper's expectations as a top three pick and requires previous tape to be reviewed again in the run up to April.
It possibly didn't help that Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa) had a truly brilliant performance and recorded two sacks. He reiterated that he won't declare for the 2010 draft after the game - he'd previously said he'd stay in Iowa for his senior year. He warrants serious consideration as a high pick in 2011, I think he could play in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes.
So what about Bryan Bulaga? I've always felt he'll strictly be a right tackle at the next level. He's had most of his success this year when he's simply been physically stronger than the guy he's facing. When he's come up against the better speed rushers he's struggled. Playing at right tackle will probably utilise his strength and blocking abilities in the running game more whilst possibly shielding some of his issues against better NFL pass rushers. Having said that, there were a few occasions tonight when Bulaga was over powered badly - specifically the play referenced earlier in this article involving Derrick Morgan. That's a concern because Morgan will be a NFL caliber defensive lineman. It's one thing to dominate college players with your strength, it's another to do it at the next level. We're still waiting to hear whether Bulaga will declare for the draft, although I suspect he will. I had him going 16th overall to the 49ers in my last mock. That still looks like a good fit, but San Francisco may look at the likes of Trent Williams (OT, Oklahoma) to fill that position if Bulaga is considered too much of a reach in the mid-teens.
I've already mentioned Kyle Calloway in this article. I've seen gradings in the 3rd round range, I've even seen mocks with him posted in the second round. He's one to monitor, he has good footwork and sets himself well in the running game. He's not going to be as good as a natural pass protector and is strictly a right tackle prospect. For teams looking to better ther offensive lines though, Calloway is worth consideration in the middle rounds.
The man I remain totally unconvinced about however is Jonathan Dwyer (RB, Georgia Tech). I've seen him in the first round of some mocks and I'm just not buying it at all. He's added bad weight this year - fat instead of muscle. It shows. Last year he was all about prototype size with great speed. Now he's become a run of the mill power back who in all fairness - didn't show much 'power' at all against Iowa. But it's his lack of burst that concerns me the most. With three minutes left in the first quarter, Dwyer gets the hand off on a draw play. The GT offensive line creates a big nice crease to run into with a good 15 yards of space. He shows no acceleration or shift as he lumbers up to the line, three defenders actually have time to react and get to the running back before pushing him backwards ten yards. No power, no pace.
But that just set us up for one of the most ridiculous decisions you'll ever see a running back make late in the final quarter. The Yellow Jackets are on their own 12 yard line, Dwyer gets the hand off. He runs to the right but sees no running room so actually retreats. Sensing pressure with defenders bursting into the back field - he actually runs into his own end zone and only some pathetic tackling allows him to somehow squeeze his way back to the one yard line and avoid the safety. How does a running back nearly cough up a safety from his own eleven without fumbling the ball?
He's been able to accumulate a lot of yards this year in the funky 'run, run and run some more' offense GT use. The triple option does a good job putting it's backs into space and when Dwyer has a load of space in front of him, as you'd expect he takes what he's given. But he won't break off a big run, his cuts are slow and predictable, he can't bounce outside. He's shown marginal 'power' for a man his size and in a pro-style system I think he'll be fairly predictable. The combine will be key and if he slims down and runs well, teams will be interested again. But right now, I'd struggle to justify taking him in round three.