2009 Texas Vs The Nation Confirmations and Surprises by Sigmund Bloom on 02/02/09 The weather was beautiful in El Paso and the wind that turned the Sun Bowl into a monumentally low scoring affair stayed away for the game. The coverage on CBS College Sports was well-informed and funny, like when Lydon Murtha said “I’m not sure who Trev Alberts is.” after sideline reporter Aaron Taylor told him former Nebraska LB Trev Alberts (who was in the booth) said Murtha was lucky Alberts wasn’t at Nebraska was he was. Unfortunately, the game calling was not nearly as sharp as Murtha’s wit. There were many misidentifications of players, including one juncture when the crew was gushing about Frantz Joseph endlessly after he made a tackle - except that it was Antonio Appleby. The play by play guy also thought Dobson Collins played defense even though he was wearing the same uniform as the quarterback on a play when he caught a tipped pass from Jason Boltus - calling it an interception until the Nation offense went up to the line for the next play. There was a lot of great action, and most of the players kept the momentum they established during the week, although there were a few surprises. Here are the players who stood out: Stars of the Game Bernard Scott(RB-Abilene Christian) - Scott once again flashed the quick feet and good burst out of his cuts, but his leg drive and yards after contact was icing on the cake. One one run, he isolated defensive star of the game Frantz Joseph in the hole with a stutterstep, then exploded out of it to the outside to render Joseph helpless to stop the play. Scott’s quickness and elusiveness are NFL quality, but he also got a ton of power out of his narrow-hipped lower body. Scott broke some tackles and lowered a shoulder to plant Antonio Appleby (who is fifty pounds heavier than Scott) on one of his long runs. Scott’s speed made defenders take bad angles. Devin Moore was the RB drawing Chris Johnson comparisons coming into this week, but Scott proved to be the RB that deserved that kind of label during the game. Frantz Joseph(LB-Florida Atlantic) - Joseph capped off a great week of practice by doing what he did all week during the game. Joseph had an interception on a deflected pass, and he also was a force against the run. Joseph was a wall when he met runners, and he also displayed the ability to shed a blocker and make the tackle. He hit with a thud on 243 pound RB/FB Frank Summers and turned into a heat seeking missile once he had the correct read on a running play. One weakness was exposed when Joseph did look sluggish in space chasing down an offensive player, but he was a stud when he was playing downhill. Confirmations Curtis Painter(QB-Purdue) - Painter looked like the most polished and pro ready QB. He moved around well in the pocket, and he had terrific timing on a play action fake throw downfield. Painter tested the defense by throwing into small windows, and his accuracy often forced them to make a play. Painter also displayed great field vision and the ability to load up to deliver a long throw with zip rolling to his right. In general, he was the most engaged of the QBs and saw the field with the most clarity. Jason Boltus(QB-Hartwick) - You can’t watch Boltus without coming away impressed with his arm. He showed prodigious arm strength on deep balls and short passes alike, although that’s a bit troubling since some of the shorter passes should have been touch passes instead. Boltus also was athletic scrambling and forcing Lee Robinson to choose between stopping him or covering RB Anthony Kimble in the red zone (Robinson chose Boltus, and Boltus lofted an easy TD to Kimble). One particularly impressive part of Boltus’s game is his ability to whip his arm to create great velocity even when his feet aren’t set, and his arm strength has trained him to not fear throwing into small windows, which is essential for an NFL QB. David Johnson(QB-Tulsa) - Johnson put up great numbers at Tulsa, but he followed through on a tentative week at practice with a tentative game. He held the ball too long, not showing that clock an NFL QB needs to survive, and took a sack because of it. Johnson threw two TDs, but one should have been an INT, and the other was in garbage time. Frank Summers(RB/FB-UNLV) - Summers played exactly like the versatile hard-nosed fullback we saw all week in El Paso. He threw a crushing lead block on an offtackle run, and he also had soft hands on his catches, and broke tackles on his touches. He runs with a good burst, great leg drive, and a low center of gravity, and should translate well to the NFL. Dudley Guice(WR-Northwestern State-La.) - Guice just makes plays. He’s not that big, or that fast, or that sudden, but he plays a smart WR game. Guice is a natural hands catcher, and he comes back to the ball to help the QB. He also isn’t afraid to open himself up to big hits to make catches over the middle. Guice also showed good field awareness instantly extending the ball over the goal line on his late TD catch. Johnny Knox(WR-Abilene Christian) - Knox impressed with the great hands and concentration we saw all week on a TD catch from David Johnson that was tipped and should have been intercepted by DeAngelo Willingham. He also ran hot after the catch, and flashed great speed as a gunner on the punt coverage team - even though he missed the tackle on Jason Chery. Jaison Williams(WR-Oregon) - Duck fans know this routine, and so does anyone who watched practice this week. Williams gets open and moves very well for a 6’5” 240 WR, but then drops the ball in the moment of truth. Ryan Purvis(TE-Boston College) - Purvis’s exceptionally soft hands and natural body control resulted in multiple catches on Saturday, including a twisting one-handed snag that few wide receivers could make. He was also tough running after the catch. Davon Drew(TE-East Carolina) - Drew flashed the athleticism, size, and toughness to hang as an NFL TE all week, even though his game is raw because he started his East Carolina career as a QB. On one play in the game, Drew made a nice move to get open for a TD pass from Drew Willy - showing how he can be used in the pros. Lydon Murtha(OT-Nebraska) - Murtha’s push against the run was irresistable on Saturday. He showed tremendous drive, riding power end Derek Walker five yards out of the play, and moving Jovan Belcher back like a blocking sled when he found him at the second level on a running play. Murtha’s pass blocking needs work, but his nimble feet and natural size is more than enough to work with at the next level. Roger Allen III(OG-Missouri Western St) - Allen flashed unstoppable strength when he got leverage, but he was exposed by quickness in pass blocking, leaning too far forward and unable to recover - resulting in a sack. Allen could be an NFL starter, and he could never get over the liabilities in his game - matching we saw all week in the pit. TJ Lang(OG/OT-Eastern Michigan) - Lang was one of our favorite offensive linemen all week, and he responded with some highlights in the trenches - getting the rare pancake in pass blocking and turning junkyard dog Adrian Grady inside to open a huge lane on a running play. Khalif Mitchell(DT-East Carolina) - Mitchell translated his energy and tools into a couple of plays in the backfield - one sack when he ripped Maurice Miller and closed quickly, and a successful swim to meet Tarrion Adams in the backfield, although Adams ran through his arm tackle. Just like in practice, there were plenty of plays when Mitchell was a non-factor, but when he did make a play, he flashed exceptional tools. Zach Potter(DT-Nebraska) - Potter isn’t sudden, and he isn’t strong, but he makes plays with his long frame and motor - including one sack when Drew Willy broke the pocket to run, and a batted down pass (which was his signature play in practice). Potter still gets beaten soundly when a lineman gets their hands into his body, and he was stoned way too easily by Stanford RB Anthony Kimble, but he could blossom if he can add 20 pounds of good weight and the accompanying strength in an NFL weight training program. Adrian Grady(DT-Louisville) - Grady disrupted plays with a strong and quick first step, and a motor than never quits. He corraled mighty mite Yonus Davis and big RB Jamall Lee with equal aplomb, and he also landed a tremendous initial punch off the snap on Rich Ohrnberger, driving back one of the most technically sound OL in this game. Rulon Davis(DL-California) - Davis, like Potter, got his arms up instinctively to disrupt passing lanes when he was kept from the QB, and he put on a show of handfighting technique rushing the passer. He’s a useful player who might not be good enough to start, but he’ll be a terrific rotation player, probably as an end in a 3-4. Louis Ellis(DT-Shaw) - Ellis ran hot and cold, just like small school expert Josh Buchanan told us he would at the beginning of the week, but when he was hot, he was a bull in a china shop. Ellis blew up Andrew Hartline to tackle Anthony Kimble in the backfield, and he also showed good ability to read plays from the DT position. Ellis had an explosive and strong first step when was he was on. Lee Robinson(OLB-Alcorn State) - You can see Robinson’s superior athleticism/size combo out there even if you’re not looking for it. He didn’t make huge plays like Joseph, but his burst off the snap, ability to fight through blocks, and one play where he easily threw an opponent to the ground all amounted to a good closing argument in the case he built to be a mid-round pick in the draft during the week in El Paso. Colt Anderson(S-Montana) - If you like underdogs, you’ll love Anderson. His instincts and toughness get him in the middle of most plays. Anderson stripped the ball from Devin Moore and almost recovered it, and usually had an uncanny ability to close and fill against the run even though he’s only 190 pounds. Anderson did overpursue on a few plays, and he took himself out of one running play by clashing with the lead blocker instead of reading where the RB was going, but even on those plays he successfully affected the play by taking away an option for the ballcarrier instead of getting caught on his heels and washed out the play. The NFL will probably view him as too small to play strong and too slow to play free, but we think he’ll beat the odds like Jim Leonhard, the current starter next to Ed Reed in Baltimore. Stephen Hodge(S/LB-TCU) - Like Anderson, Hodge doesn’t fit in NFL defenses - playing with a linebacker’s mentality at safety, but being a little small for an LB and lacking the coverage skills of a defensive back. Still, he was always around the ball, and flew in like a hawk when he had the read on a play. Hodge impressed by blowing up a Brannan Southerland screen pass - giving the lead blockers nothing to hit - and by coming up to force an outside run back into traffic. If Hodge goes by the wayside like recent LB/S tweeners Darnell Bing and Ernest Shazor, it won’t be for a lack of aggressiveness. Ladarius Webb(DB-Nicholls St.) - Webb continued to grow on us as the week went on, and you couldn’t help but notice how he used his athleticism to break up multiple passes in the game. He was explosive when he left his feet to make a play on the ball in the air (twice), and he showed little difficulty staying with swift WR John Matthews step for step on a deep pass by Jason Boltus. He looks like the typical small school DB who will break out in year two or year three with NFL coaching behind his physical tools, and he’ll also be a valuable return man. Surprises Chase Holbrook(QB-New Mexico State) - Holbrook actually looked better than the eighth best QB at this game - which was where we had him ranked after a so-so week of practice. He had great timing, mechanics, and zip on his passes on his TD drive. Devin Moore(RB-Wyoming) - Moore’s speed and athleticism was apparent on one pass that he adjusted to - making a leaping catch - and then using the jets and a subtle move to get about four more yards on Rutgers LB Kevin Malast in close quarters on the sideline. Still, he didn’t seem to be very creative with the ball in his hands, and honestly, he didn’t look faster than Bernard Scott, or maybe even Yonus Davis. There was also a costly fumble by Moore, but that was a great play by Colt Anderson more than a boo-boo by Moore. Moore didn’t get his combine invite, so he’ll have to wait until his pro day to get a chance to impress scouts again. Yonus Davis(RB-San Jose State) - Davis looks a lot like MJD or former Raven Cory Ross with his thick, low to the ground build, and he showed the quickness and burst you expect to go along with that mini-fireplug build. Davis had a second gear, and he also ran well in traffic between the tackles. Based on what he showed us this week, he should at least get on a practice squad, and don’t be surprised if he makes a roster. Jordan Norwood(WR-Penn State) - Norwood flashed good speed on one catch and run, but he also dropped an easy one, especially shocking after the show he put on at the Skills Competition on ESPN that he was returning from while Monday’s practice was going on. Jason Chery(WR/RT-La-Lafayette) - We knew Chery was fast, but the toughness and tackle-breaking abilities he showed on his long return were a surprise. Chery ducked under Johnny Knox, who arrived right after the punt did, and then put on the fifth gear, making moves to elude two would-be tacklers and displaying outstanding balance in the process. He’s electric with the ball in his hands, and we’ll be interested to see his 40 time at his pro day. Joel Bell(OT-Furman) - Bell got beat a lot in the pit this week, and seemed a step slow. It was so bad that we started not reading into a defender’s performance too much if Bell was the tackle they beat. He came alive in the game, showing a mean streak and the ability to absorb a strong punch and recover well. He’s an OT project with upside - upside that wasn’t really visible until the game. Will Johnson(DT-Michigan) - Like Zach Potter, Johnson has a slight lower body to hold up at the point of attack against the run, but his instincts and motor serve him well. He also projects as a quality 3-4 end, and he showed killer closing speed when he got a sniff of the QB on his sack. He handfought Roger Allen successfully, a guy he’s giving up at least 30-40 pounds to, and he also blew up a run play in the backfield. Johnson looks like he’ll be a quality rotational player in the NFL. James Holt(LB-Kansas) - Holt is undersized at 215 pounds, so like Hodge and Anderson, he’s facing an uphill battle to convince the scouts that he can hang in the NFL because he doesn’t fit the physical profile for his position, but for the first time all week, he looked like he could make a compelling case during the game. Holt was a step faster than most of his peers in pursuit, and he was probably the surest tackler in the game. He attacked the ballcarrier with the ferocity you like to see from a defender. If Holt can make a mark on special teams and add 10-15 good pounds, he might beat the odds. Chris Owens(CB-San Jose State) - Owens was a non-factor after a masterful week of practice. In fact, the only time he really showed up was when he got called for pass interference on Dobson Collins. Jamar Love(CB-Arkansas) - We had heard Love could run in the 4.3s, but we didn’t see this week until he came in like a blur as a punt gunner. He also displayed great timing and break on a pass in the air on one of the best CB plays of the game.