by Greg Doyle
It’s November already, and a monster matchup today in college football between two undefeated teams, Texas and Texas Tech. That will be an entertaining high scoring game. I also recommend Patriots fans pay close attention to the Miami-Virginia game because it’s a good game, but more particularly because Virginia has two linebackers who seem to fit perfectly into a Patriots-type scheme and who have played for Bill Belichick friend and former colleague Al Groh. We will look at them today. Virginia running back Cedric Peerman, who we spotlighted last week, is another potential future Patriot as well.
Miami (FLA) at Virginia (Noon EST Channel 38)
In a battle of two suddenly hot ACC teams, this game will be key to one of them having a shot at a good Bowl.
Miami TE Chris Zellner (#88)
Miami has a history of producing good tight ends and Zellner is certainly a NFL prospect. However, Zellner is not on the same level as past tight ends such as Winslow, Shockey, Franks and Olsen. One problem is he just lacks bulk and isn’t a good in-line blocker. It’s not really a lack of effort so much as his size and strength aren’t conducive to that kind of game. He is more an h-back type who can give you some blocking on the move. Decent hands, but isn’t great at getting open. Is just not the athlete that past Miami tight ends have been. Has played some fullback. Zellner’s playing time has decreased this year in favor of younger players. Has 26 career receptions. Not a down field threat. Zellner is a solid player who may be able to convert to NFL fullback or h-back hybrid, but it is unlikely he’ll be drafted before the 6th or 7th round, if at all.
A tall, unheralded JUCO receiver now in his second year of major college football. Caught 9 balls last year in his transition to Division I football and has improved this year with 13 catches and 2 touchdowns thru 8 games. Farquharson, in my opinion, is a true diamond in the rough. Hasn’t put up gaudy numbers as he has worked in a new offense with young quarterbacks, but he is immensely talented with good size. Has all the tools but is very green and without great experience. Did not even play high school football, so this is a real project. But the talent is there. Has displayed improvement this year and polished his game some. Would be a nice late draft pick with real developmental potential, though if someone works him out and sees the raw talent, he could move up.
A perfectly sized linebacker for the NFL at 6’4″ 250, Appleby plays inside in coach Al Groh’s 3-4 defense. Has been a solid player for the Cavaliers and showed good inside blitzing ability, but the concerns will be whether he can cover in space and that he has been mildly disappointing in that he hasn’t been dominant inside. Has played a lot on special teams in his career. His production has been good this year, but not great, behind an inexperienced defensive line. Appleby is a talented kid who will be drafted on the first day, perhaps in the first round. He has played well, has good speed, strength and is a solid tackler but he has not played spectacularly. He does play in a system very similar to what the Patriots play. I think projecting forward, as the Patriots like to do, his upside is in front of him and with NFL coaching he could be an excellent player. He did start out as a defensive lineman before converting inside, so his conversion is still in process. Looking at his talent and where he may be in a few years, this would be a good first day pick for the Patriots if the intangibles check out (intelligence, character, coaching recommendations, etc.)
Another prototypical NFL linebacker in terms of size at 6’3″ 254. Sintim plays outside for the Cavs and is quite a playmaker. He has great pass-rush ability and really knows how to seal the edge of the defense on running plays. Can overpower college blockers with his size and strength and adds nice speed as well. Good intangibles as well, as he has been a team captain and emotional leader who plays with passion. The Patriots would like him and he’ll likely be one of the top linebackers in the draft. Could be the perfect Mike Vrabel replacement.
Arizona State at Oregon State (Fox Sports Net 10:15 PM EST)
Two teams that badly need a win to keep their bowl hopes alive. Arizona State has been extremely disappointing while Oregon State had a big upset of USC but has been inconsistent otherwise.
An unheralded 6’1″ 245 linebacker who is in his second year of major college football after playing JUCO ball. Wooten has adjusted well to the higher competition and is a solid college player. Has decent size and could play special teams. This is a late-round type guy who offers promise that he could be a backup in the NFL and a good special teams player if he works hard. Has shown some coverage ability, but is not a pass rusher. Has good speed to move sideline to sideline and get down to cover kicks. This is a guy who has decent size and good speed which translates well into today’s NFL. Doesn’t do anything outstanding and isn’t the old breed of strong, big, run stuffing linemen, but has some versatility to perhaps stick on a roster and add skills in several different ways. Has had a knack of causing fumbles and getting hands on passes in his two years. Might be a good second day pick for the Patriots.
A top-flight college corner that probably will be a first day pick in the NFL Draft. Hughes doesn’t possess great size, but he is quick and athletic and not afraid to make a tackle. Ran track in college and has played some receiver. Never gets too far away from his man in coverage. Needs to get a bit stronger, but is solid in every way and doesn’t make mental or physical mistakes. Reportedly good character, religious and a hard worker who works and studies hard at football. Fits best in a zone scheme. Reminds me very much of Asante Samuel in physical stature and play at a similar point in his career.