2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Offensive Line

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

Year in and year out, football teams of both the professional and collegiate variety produce star after star on offense, with quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and the occasional tight end getting all the publicity for making things happen. Almost without fail, though, the offensive linemen on those teams don’t get the recognition they deserve for what they do. Your team’s running game is the best around? Thank the “hog mollies” that are paving the way up front. Your team’s QB is putting up all kinds of big passing numbers? Thank his blockers for keeping him upright.

This year’s group of O-Line prospects features another group of stud tackles at the top, followed by depth at all three positions to round things out. NFL teams need to build their franchises around players like this, and there will be a couple more squads to have that opportunity next year.

1. Laremy Tunsil, Tackle, Ole Miss – A very athletic blocker with the ability to succeed in the running or passing games, Tunsil came into college as a heavily-recruited player, and has lived up to the hype. He’s super quick out of his stance when the ball is snapped, which allows him to take on speed rushers coming in off the edge, where that athleticism comes in handy and keeps him fighting.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Photo Credit: USA Today

In the run game, he uses his skill set to push holes open for his backs. Although he possesses a lot of strength, he doesn’t play in an offense that allows him to truly showcase it all the time. He isn’t what is considered a “road grader,” as he more finesses his way through run blocking, so he’ll have to show more of his power in 2015 if he wants to prove to NFL teams that he is the total package. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Tight Ends

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

When you look at the Class of 2016’s group of tight ends, you aren’t going to see anyone like a Rob Gronkowski or a Jimmy Graham, who can come in and become superstars immediately. What you will see is a group that is deep on those who can, and should, contribute immediately. You don’t need to catch 100 passes a year to be a successful NFL TE, and there could be a handful of players in college right now that will prove that in the future.

1. Hunter Henry, Arkansas – Some have referred to Henry as somewhat of a one-dimensional player, pointing at the fact that he doesn’t have eye-popping stats to back up their claims. What those people fail to realize is that Henry plays in a run-first offense, and has also had some very spotty quarterback play to deal with on top of that. He has caught a total of 65 passes since arriving at Arkansas two years ago, for a total of 922 yards and six touchdowns, so it isn’t like he’s just standing around, growing cobwebs.

Photo Credit: wholehogsports.com

Photo Credit: wholehogsports.com

In that run-first offense, Henry really shines, as he is a tremendous blocker. He’s strong off the snap and isn’t afraid to get in there and make room for his running backs. That’s a trait that NFL teams love to have in their TEs, but far more often than not, they merely have to settle on someone who “only” catches passes. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Wide Receivers

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

When you take a look at the group of wide receivers that lead the Class of 2016, one of the first things you notice is that there is no Amari Cooper here. There is no Sammy Watkins. There is no AJ Green. There isn’t a player that is a “sure thing” to dominate and do the same as a pro, without any sort of red flags, deserving or otherwise, popping up. It’s another deep class, with somewhere in the vicinity of 20 names being mentioned as people who could be drafted before the third round is over. There just isn’t that stud of the class to be head and shoulders above everyone else, which is actually a good thing. It means the names on this list will be in competition with each other all season long, jockeying for that top spot.

1. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh – In Boyd, Pitt has a player who has been successful in putting up numbers since the day he showed up on campus. In his first two seasons, he has a total of 163 receptions, totaling 2,300 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has the combination of size (6’2”, 200 pounds) and speed (has run a sub-4.4 40) that pro scouts drool over, and has the on-field intangibles that will transfer to the NFL. He works hard, is not afraid to play a physical game, is a very solid route runner and has a knack for making the clutch catch when his team needs him to.

Tyler-Boyd-Pittsburgh

Photo Credit: Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

The term “on-field intangibles” was used because of a DUI arrest that he had during the offseason. It will keep him out of the team’s season opener, but those closest to him and the program say it was a kid making a mistake, and not a troublemaker with poor decision making, as is the case with some college kids with arrests on their record. He has to stay out of trouble to even think about keeping the top WR spot on most teams’ draft boards, but if he can, he should succeed again in 2015. Pitt also returns their starting QB from last season, Chad Voytik, which should allow the duo to continue picking opposing secondaries apart. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Running Backs

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

The NFL seems to go back-and-forth between being a run-first league and a pass-first league seemingly every few seasons. For a little while, league offenses were all about the passing game, with record-breaking quarterbacks such as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady guiding their teams and taking them all the way. Things are beginning to shift again, as running backs are starting to become more important to a team’s success.

The NFL Draft Class of 2015 saw a loaded group of RBs, from Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon at the top, down to less talked-about gems like Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson, David Johnson and Jay Ajayi. As of now, the Class of 2016 isn’t as strong at the top, but one could argue that it provides more depth and more chance to find those hidden diamonds in middle rounds. As I did with the QBs, I’ll be looking at the top RBs in this class, why they’re ranked so high and what they need to do to continue seeing their stock rise throughout the season.

1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State – The man came out of nowhere to become the best RB in the country last season, absolutely decimating defenses, especially at the end of the year, when he ran for a combined 696 yards and eight touchdowns in his final three games. None of those three defenses he shredded would be considered poor against the run. In fact, Alabama, who was the first of those teams, had a top 5 defense against the run all year, and they still saw Elliott run for a whopping 20 percent of the total rush yards (and two of the three rushing touchdowns) they gave up all season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Elliott possesses a rare blend of size (6’0”, 225 pounds) and speed (4.5 40), using both to wear defenses down. He isn’t afraid of contact, showing a penchant for taking defenders on directly and winning far more of those battles than he loses. He is at home between the tackles, but has shown that he can stretch to the outside for home run plays with ease. In the NFL, backs are often called on to catch passes out of the backfield or to block in the passing game, and those are both things Elliott excelled at last season. He is heads and shoulders above anyone else in this class, and is as complete a running back as there is in the country. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Quarterbacks

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

The 2016 NFL Draft is still 250+ days away, but as is always the case when it comes to the draft and the fanatics who follow it, there is no such thing as “too early” to look at the upcoming class. As part of an ongoing series, I will be going position-by-position and discussing the top draft prospects for 2016. Their strengths and weaknesses will be looked at, as well as their chances for their stock to rise or fall in the upcoming season, as there is plenty of time for things to change in the next eight months.
To get things started, we’ll be going to the very top and discussing the quarterback class, starting with the current top player at the position.

1. Connor Cook, Michigan State – When you look at what the “prototype” of an NFL QB would be in the eyes and minds of general managers around the league, Cook fits that description. He’s tall (6’4”), has a cannon for an arm, doesn’t turn the ball over a lot and is deceptively quick for someone who isn’t a Michael Vick-style burner at the position. As an added bonus, he is a solid leader for a team that will contend for a national championship this season, which will put him directly in the spotlight.

Photo Credit: MLive.com

Photo Credit: MLive.com

Cook’s one flaw is a lack of consistency. One play, you might see him connect on a deep pass into double coverage, with an opening the size of a microwave to get the ball into. Two plays later, you might see him overthrow a wide-open receiver that is a mere 10 yards downfield. If he can improve that issue, he has a very good chance to be the top QB taken in 2016. [Read more…]

Ducks vs Bucks: College Football National Championship Preview

By Andrew Canan
PSDC Contributor

And then there were two.

Oregon vs Ohio State.

college-football-championship

Had you asked 100 “experts” in Week 10, when the first College Football Playoff rankings were released, it is doubtful that you would have gotten one to tell you that this is the matchup we would have before us. After all, at that time, Oregon was ranked fifth and Ohio State? 16th. [Read more…]

Requiem for Boise State: Has the College Football Playoff Come too Late for the Little Guy?

By Michael Conway
PSDC Writer

“Boise State, tonight, steps on to the national stage playing the role of David, trying to take down Goliath.”

“Why not give Boise State the shot at Ohio State, the shot at Florida? This game, tonight, will further the cries of the underdogs of the world wanting a national championship playoff format.”

~Thom Brennaman
January 1, 2007

boise-state-fiesta-bowl

Moments after its inception, those advocating for the death of the Bowl Championship Series began rattling their sabres. In its third season, one-loss Miami was denied the chance to play undefeated Oklahoma for the national championship in favor of a one-loss Florida State whose lone defeat came at the hands of the Hurricanes. The very next season, Nebraska wound up in the national title game despite ranking fourth in the human polls. The end of the 2003 season featured a contested national title between LSU, which defeated Oklahoma in the title game, and USC, which finished atop the AP poll. The next season, undefeated Auburn was denied a shot for the national title, while undefeated Utah was stuck with thrashing Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. That 2004 season ended with both Auburn and Utah unbeaten, ranked second and fourth respectively in the final poll. Controversy became the hallmark of the BCS and sometimes was the allure. Opponents of the BCS rejoiced in the chaos precipitated by a Saturday filled with shocking defeats for the nation’s elite teams, hoping that a lack of consensus about which two teams were the best would hasten the advent of a playoff. [Read more…]

College Football Playoff Semifinal Preview

By Andrew Canan
PSDC Contributor

college-football-playoff

Saban vs Meyer. Mariota vs Winston. Storylines that TV executives could have only dreamt of when the College Football Playoff started to become a reality. Now, here we are. The countdown to the first College Football Playoff Semifinal game is now down to mere hours. Will Nick Saban get Alabama and the SEC back to its standard hoisting of the championship trophy in January? Will Jameis Winston and the ‘Noles complete the all-so-difficult feat of repeating as national champions? Can Marcus Mariota lead the Ducks to their first national championship? Can Urban Meyer lead the Buckeyes and the Big Ten to their first championship since 2002? We will have answers to all of those questions and more in a little less than two weeks. Before then, let’s take a quick look at the matchups we have before us.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs Ohio State

What else is there to say about Alabama and Nick Saban except that they’ve been the program every other program can only hope to emulate. Winners of three of the last five national championships, they are certainly at the top of the college football mountain. This year has been no exception. [Read more…]

Melvin’s 2014-2015 College Football Bowl Manifesto, Vol. II

By Melvin Delucia
PSDC Writer

Already, I have identified one of my top plays in SDSU vs. Navy. After a little more research, I am loving the Washington Huskies -5 vs. Oklahoma State. Washington has one of the top defenses, in terms of personnel, in the country, with two players definitely projected to be a first day NFL pick, and another that may sneak in there.

cactus-bowl

Their strength and speed on defense vs. an offensively challenged Oklahoma State team with a young QB is a recipe for some turnovers and sacks. Washington’s offense is very average to me, however, Oklahoma State is the same team that had gotten blown out five consecutive games before their win over a depleted Sooner team that quite frankly isn’t that good. These losses were against good competition, but still they were one fluke punt return against the Sooners from not being bowl eligible. The best team that OK State beat besides the Sooners was…wait for it…I don’t know. Their other 5 wins are vs. UTSA, Missouri State, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas. [Read more…]

Melvin’s 2014-2015 College Football Bowl Manifesto, Vol. I

By Melvin Delucia
PSDC Writer

Bowl research takes into account many factors/angles. Ones that pop up in researching each game is the location, coach situation and motivation. I also will look at conferences and will assign some value to teams from more powerful conferences. I try to assign value to teams that finished strong, are happy to be in a bowl, and have one side of the ball that may be a huge advantage vs. the opponent. I also believe that coaching is huge in bowls, as you have 2-3 weeks to prepare and keep your team focused, which is not easy. Lines are opening lines as released by the Wynn Sportsbook. This has too much information to use columns.

Photo Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Bowl: Nevada -3 vs. La Lafayette. Nevada is from the extremely weak Mountain West Conference and I am not impressed by their head coach, Brian Polian. I noticed overall sloppy play when I watched Nevada play the two games near end of season. They do have a seasoned and effective QB in Cody Fajardo, however with Coach Chris Ault and most, if not all, of the Pistol Offense staff that has revolutionized offensive football Nevada was far from impressive this year when I watched them play, however their schedule and results makes me respect their body of work. [Read more…]

That New Guy at SMU? He Ain’t Big 12… But He Might Be One Day

By Scott Tyner
PSDC Big 12 Expert

Photo Credit: Scripps Media, Inc.

Photo Credit: Scripps Media, Inc.

I know Chad Morris. I grew up with Chad Morris. I worked for Chad Morris. And, I learned what the importance of establishing productive relationships within your organization means as it relates to translating into success. SMU just hired the literal second coming of Art Briles. He may also end up being (for my Big 12 readers) the third coming of Bill Snyder (well, third because there’s already been two for Snyder). What I can tell you about Chad Morris is this: there is not a human being alive that knows better what he wants and what he wants to accomplish in this life; and, there is no one on the planet that is as driven and undistracted as Chad Morris is about going to get what he wants or accomplish his aim. [Read more…]

College Football’s First Four Out: A Case for Each

By Andrew Canan
PSDC Contributor

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

With just rivalry week and conference championship games left, it appears the final eight teams are set in place. The four who are currently in the College Football Playoff, if the season were to end today, and the four who are on the outside looking in. Of the four currently in the playoff, three of them seem to have their place solidified. Alabama, who is arguably playing the best football of any team in the country; Oregon, who has beaten their opponents by an average of 23.7 points since their upset loss to Arizona; and Florida State who, despite their numerous comebacks and close calls, is undefeated and is the reigning college football champ. Of course, each still faces the possibility of being defeated in their rivalry game, conference championship game or both but win and they’re in. [Read more…]