by Greg Doyle
One of the better games this weekend should be one of local interest as Virginia Tech visits BC. Unfortunately, that will be on opposite the Red Sox, so it will largely get ignored. But as usual, there will be games on all day. Let’s take a look around at some new prospects featured on TV this weekend.
USC vs. Washington State (3:30 PM EST Fox Sports Networks)
I am curious about this game just for the pure carnage that could ensue. USC is, of course, one of the best college football teams in the country and supremely talented. Washington State, on the other hand, has been one of the most unorganized, incredibly disjointed teams to come down the pike of major college football in years. Washington State’s first year coach Paul Wulff deserves a second year to try to put his program in place, but there sure better be marked improvement from the mess he has assembled this season. This is a Washington State team that has lost to Cal 66-3, to Oregon 63-14 and to Oregon State 66-13. Heck, even mediocre Baylor beat them 45-17. What is USC going to do? I would imagine, if Pete Carroll has any mercy at all, he’ll have his 4th stringers in there by halftime and even they should only be able to outscore Washington State by 3 or 4 touchdowns. This could be ugly, but interesting in a car crash sort of way.
USC CB Josh Pinkard (#36)
Pinkard is a very big corner, 6’2″ 215. He has played both safety and corner at USC but only had 8 career starts coming into this season. He redshirted last season while recovering from a torn ACL. He has had some character issues, with an arrest for DUI in 2007. While Pinkard is a willing hitter with good athletic skills and the versatility to play both safety and corner, which the Patriots would like, his lack of playing time, injury history and character issues will prevent him from being anything other than a late round choice. If he has a good year (and so far he is playing about part-time) and shows his talent in the post-season, as well as convincing teams he is dedicated to football, he has a chance to play in the NFL. But he has a long way to go.
USC S Kevin Ellison (#4)
Ellison is one of the best safeties in the country and likely a first day draft pick. His brother Keith is a linebacker with the Buffalo Bills. This guy is a typical Rodney Harrison-type safety who hits hard, plays in the box and likes to mix it up. He has the size at 226 lbs. but also possesses surprising athleticism. Not the fastest guy in the world, he uses his smarts in coverage. He has had some injury and knee issues in college. Currently leads the Trojans in tackles and is one of the team leader’s on defense. He would fit with the Patriots.
Washington State WR Brandon Gibson (#4)
One of the few bright lights for Washington State this year, Gibson is a big, physical receiver with good hands. Had over 1,000 yards as a junior and was a 1st Team All Pac-10 selection. His stats are down somewhat this year, as Washington States quarterbacks have struggled with inexperience and a new offense, but Gibson still leads in all categories. He is not a speed burner or a down-field guy. Has returned kicks though. With his natural hands, he’s known for making catches look easy. He is not a guy with nifty moves in space, but more of a strong, smart and receiver with excellent hands who can move the chains while catching passes in traffic. The Patriots would like him.
Virginia Tech at Boston College (8:00 PM EST ESPN2)
Apparently there is some sort of baseball event going on locally at the same time as this game. So perhaps that will make this one a tough one to tune in for. If you get the urge to check it out during the commercials, there are some players of interest to watch.
Boston College QB Chris Crane (#10)
Crane has always looked the part of an NFL quarterback, with a NFL-looking 6’4″ 236 frame. But getting his first extended playing time this season after the departure of high NFL draft pick Matt Ryan, Crane’s actual play didn’t even look like it belonged on a semi-pro field, never mind the NFL. That is until last game. Suddenly, the Crane whose only early-season strength was seemingly an ability to occasionally make a nice scramble (despite his size) was good all-around. Suddenly he displayed a nice arm and touch from the pocket. Suddenly he was able to stand there and display zip and accuracy all at the same time. Suddenly he didn’t look disheveled in the pocket as he lit up North Carolina State for over 400 yards. Out of the blue he looked like a prospect! Big arm, big size and movement ability? That at least sounds like a prospect, but Crane played very little until this year. And when he started playing, to be frank, he was horrible. Maybe something clicked on last game and the talent began to emerge. Or maybe it was an aberration. It’s at least worth further looks this year as there could be something there that just needs experience.
Boston College G Clif Ramsey (#73)
Plays with John Hannah’s old number at Hannah’s old position, left guard. Ramsey is a 6’6″ 311 lb. guy who has also played right guard in the past. BC has a reputation of producing top flight NFL linemen. While Ramsey is known as somewhat of a brawler who has a mean streak and can beat up opposing linemen, he is also not known as real athletic and has trouble pulling and doing much on the run in space downfield or on screens. He has good strength and attitude and will wear an opponent down, but unless he improves his overall athleticism he probably doesn’t fit with the Patriots model of linemen. He can probably play somewhere in the NFL though and has a good shot to be drafted.
Virginia Tech LB Brett Warren (#33)
Warren is the son of former Washington Redskins tight end Don Warren, who was on some of the ‘Skins Super Bowl winning teams under Joe Gibbs in the ’80s. Brett Warren checks in at 6’1″ 237 and mostly plays inside for the Hokies. Has been a part-time player until this season, but has shown a knack for big plays. Is fast and can get out in coverage. Can rush the passer on blitzes too. Warren is a smart, athletic kid who doesn’t do anything that overwhelms you. He hasn’t been a great player for the Hokies, but he has been good and done a lot of different things. Has excelled on special teams as well. He isn’t big, so that makes you wonder how he’d fit in a Patriots 2-gap. But he is just one of those hustler types who you just know would make an impression on special teams and his athletic ability on passing downs to stick with some NFL team out of camp despite only being a late round choice or an undrafted free agent.
Others to watch
I have always gotten a kick out of watching Texas A&M fullback Jorvorskie Lane (#11) run. You can see him today at noon on Fox Sports Networks as the Aggies take on Texas Tech. Lane is a huge 6’0″270 lb. bowling ball. Yes, that is right, 270 lbs.!!! Yet, he runs with surprising athleticism and even decent speed. He can plow people over when he puts his shoulder down and has always been productive at the goal line and on short yardage. Coming into this season, he had over 2,100 career yards running. Has been so-so in the passing game. With a new coaching staff this year, his carries and yards are way down in a new offense, as he only has 21 carries for 67 yards. Has been called on more to block this season. It’s too bad as he is a unique talent, but being a senior, the new coaching staff is developing younger kids in their first year. He is fun to watch and reminds a bit of Brandon Jacobs. One concern is whether he keeps himself in top shape and if he ever dedicated himself to that, he could be a Jacobs-type runner in the NFL. Here are some good highlights.