by Greg Doyle
Some very good games today. The BC-Notre Dame game is always fun and we also have LSU-Alabama at 3:30 PM. This should be a battle as Alabama faces its stiffest test going to Baton Rouge in Nick Saban’s return there while trying to stay undefeated and remain a National Championship contender. There’s a lot of good matchups on the slate today, so let’s look at a couple.
Penn State at Iowa (3:30 PM ABC)
Penn State looks to continue its undefeated season and stay in the National Championship race. They have a great team, their best in a long time, and are very entertaining to watch. Iowa is tough, particularly at home, so there is potential for a good game.
Evans is a Junior, so there is no guarantee he will come out. But he is one of the more dominant defensive players in the country. A star pass-rusher, Evans is very quick for his 264 lb. frame, but also possesses the strength to bull-rush bigger offensive linemen. Had 12.5 sacks last year as a Sophomore. This season, Evans was arrested early on, along with some of his house-mates, for marijuana found in their place after police responded to a report of a party. Joe Paterno suspended Evans for 3 games as a result. The incident was surprising given Evans reputation as a quiet, team leader and a good character person. He also is thought of as a team player despite his status as one of the dominant players in the country. So far this season, Evans has only 2 sacks in the six games he’s played. He has rotated some since coming back from suspension, but he is capable of dominating a game at any time. If he comes out and character questions from the incident are adequately explained, he could be a top 10 pick. But I do not think he fits with the Patriots or a 2-gap scheme as he probably can only play down in the NFL, lacking the pure speed to be significantly involved in coverage or to play up as a linebacker.
Penn State DB Tony Davis (#11)
Davis was a 13 game starter at corner for Penn State as a Sophomore, but then suffered an injury plagued season last year as a Junior. This year, he is playing some safety. The Patriots would like his versatility as he has extensive experience at corner and now some at safety. A bit undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL at 195 lbs. Probably fits more as a nickel back and, thus, is likely a second-day draft pick. He isn’t great at any one thing, but his smarts and leadership and ability to call out coverages has led Penn State to shift him to safety at times. Still plays some corner too and his versatility may lead the Patriots to take a look.
Iowa DL Mitch King (#47)
Undersized but relentless defensive lineman who is just a good football player despite what he lacks in size and natural ability. Has started for four years at Iowa, though he did have one redshirt season as well. A captain for the Hawkeyes. This guy is someone the Patriots would like, but may have to think twice about it because of his size. Listed at 280 lbs., but that may be generous. Probably a role player on the Patriots, though he could perhaps contribute and play more somewhere else. But still his attitude, relentless play, toughness and solid play make him attractive. He has played for Belichick friend Kirk Ferentz. Could perhaps bulk up and play outside on the line for the Patriots.
Iowa CB Bradley Fletcher (#29)
Recruited as a running back to Iowa, he was quickly converted to a cornerback. Came into this season with 8 career starts, but has started all 9 games this year. Good size at 6’2″ 200 and a noted hard worker. Plays physical, but lacks great foot quickness. Willing run defender, but would struggle as a slot corner due to lack of footspeed and change of direction ability. Better playing outside against bigger receivers where he matches them physically. Has steadily improved as a player and could be a late pick. Reminds me somewhat of current Patriots player Mike Richardson in size and ability.
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (8:00 PM EST ABC)
Texas Tech comes off their huge upset of #1 Texas last week. But they better not dwell on that, as an excellent Oklahoma State team is coming to town in what is a very good year for the Big 12. Oklahoma State only has one loss, so this should be an excellent battle.
Perhaps the best tight end in the draft next year in that he is a complete player. He fits the old mold of tight ends that have size, blocking ability and the athleticism and hands to catch. At 6’6″ 260, he is a real tight end, not one of these glorified h-backs or even wide receivers you see masquerading as tight ends nowadays both in the college game and the NFL. Pettigrew is thought of as a good blocker, but can get out and beat linebackers with speed and safeties with his size. Missed a few games with injury this year, but has 21 catches. Given his complete game, he likely is a first round pick and perhaps the first tight end taken. He is also known as a team player who likes football and doesn’t complain when he is utilized to block. With Ben Watson approaching free agency, perhaps the Patriots might look at a complete tight end such as this. Mel Kiper already rated him as the 9th best player in next year’s draft. There are some character questions as he does have an arrest record.
Probably the best receiver in college football. This isn’t a guy who is simply a product of the spread offense. Not at all. Crabtree has it all, size, speed, strength, great hands and precision routes. He could come out, despite having two years of eligibility left, due to a redshirt season. A good example of his hands and strength was his great catch last week to beat #1 Texas with one second left in the game. Crabtree is simply everything you look for in a physical, fast, productive and tough receiver. If he comes out, he may be a top 5 pick or the first receiver taken. There may be a minor adjustment to playing in a NFL offense, but his talent is real and it likely won’t be much of an adjustment. Really, he has nothing left to prove in college as he is already a man among boys at that level. Here he is last week in this video beating #1 Texas. Watch the combination of hands and strength and agility to catch the ball, stay in bounds and break away from tacklers. All with just one second left on the clock.
Others to watch
On ESPN-Game Plan for subscribers, you can catch Illinois and Western Michigan at Noon. Pay particular attention to WMU cornerback Londen Fryar (#6). Yes, it IS Irving Fryar’s son and yes, he is a NFL prospect. The younger Fryar weighs in at 192 lbs. and is one of the best players in the MAC Conference. He isn’t as great of an athlete as his dad was, but is very solid cornerback who isn’t afraid to hit and has the ability to cover. He had an amazing 16 passes broken up as a Junior. Displays good hands and has 6 career interceptions. Fryar is one of those guys who is head and shoulders above most of his fellow players in the MAC and he should be drafted somewhere in the mid-rounds, perhaps higher if he displays a flash of his dad’s speed at the combine. Fryar is also a smart player and rarely is out of position in coverage or gets fooled.