by Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
September 19, 2009
The Jets-Patriots NFL matchup isn’t the only football game this weekend that has featured months of smack talk. The Tennessee and Florida game has had chatter swirling around it dating back to the Volunteers hiring former Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin after last season. Allegations of recruiting violations back and forth kept things percolating over the spring. Kiffin has played the role of the college Rex Ryan, making bold predictions for his team’s chances against the Gators, which he’s tried to tone down this week by calling Florida the most talented college football team in history. But the emotions are running high and that could be bad news for Tennessee, a wounded former college football giant just trying to get back on its feet while coming off a loss to a mediocre UCLA team. Kiffin is probably right about Florida’s talent and not just blowing smoke. So, if he can keep this game interesting into the fourth quarter, it may just add one more thing on the long list of items Raiders owner Al Davis was wrong about.
Florida QB Tim Tebow (#15)
There are mixed feelings amongst football observers whether Heisman winner Tebow has the skills necessary to be successful in the NFL. Tebow has traditional drop-back QB size at 6’3″ 232, and he hardly possesses a weak arm. On the field, Tebow is a leader and runs the Florida offense to perfection. But Tebow is anything but a conventional QB; he’s an unconventional QB in an unconventional offense, using his legs to scramble around the pocket or run down field. At times, Florida has basically used him as their short yardage and goal line running back. He has the strength to overpower, as witnessed by his 23 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore. It says here, despite his unconventional style and the offense he plays in, Tebow has the talent to be a success on the NFL level. He should be a first day pick, possibly a first round pick. Watch him today, as he is very exciting and you can see the NFL skills show up here and there despite the spread offense he runs.
Cunningham is one of those college defensive ends who may be able to shift to outside linebacker in the NFL. It seems the vast majority of those projects don’t make it; however, some make it huge. Trying to figure out which ones have the upside to make the shift is the hard part. Cunningham seems to have all the attributes necessary to succeed at the next level. He stands 6’3″, 252 lbs. with penetration ability and is a solid tackler. His speed is uncertain, but he’s a good athlete. He isn’t a good enough pass rusher to he can exclusively play that role in the NFL. He is either going to show the ability to play linebacker and be stout against the run or he isn’t going to make it. His play today against a pro-style offense at Tennessee may provide some clues.
A 1st team All American middle linebacker, he may be the top linebacker taken in next April’s NFL draft. He seems to have all the attributes one would want, size, strength, mobility, solid tackling ability, leadership, and good production. All this points to a sure fire NFL first round pick. With Jerod Mayo having the same sort of versatility, it’s possible the Patriots would take him if they had the shot. But he likely won’t last that long.
Crompton is an enigma. He seems to have all the attributes of an excellent QB. Strong arm, good size, mobility, and athletic ability are all there, but for whatever reason it just hasn’t come together for him. It was thought playing in Kiffin’s NFL-style offense would do wonders for him, but after a strong first game against a weak opponent, he took a step back in last week’s loss to UCLA. He is now in danger of being benched and if any player ever needed to save their career with a good performance against a top-notch opponent, it’s Crompton this week. Last week he returned to being turnover prone by throwing three picks and fumbling once. He simply has to stop doing that and also needs to show touch and accuracy more consistently. His completion rate is only 50.6 percent for his career. That simply won’t cut it on any level. The talent is there and he deserves a little longer to get in tune with the NFL style offense, but his chances are running out.
Hardesty is a solid back who’ll play in the NFL, but will split time this year with Bryce Brown, the number one freshman running back in the country. Hardesty is a good sized running back at 215 lbs. He runs hard with good power, but lacks breakaway speed. He is a tough guy who’ll also show he can participate in the passing game, which so far has been a little limited in his time at Tennessee. More than likely a middle round choice at best.
Williams is a massive 327 lb. nose tackle who seemingly would be a perfect fit with a team like the Patriots. He is strong, a space eater and plays well against the run. Hasn’t shown much pass rush ability, but holds his own at the point of attack and is a decent athlete. Has some potential and it looks like he hasn’t reached his peak yet.
Texas has probably thought about this game for a year. A one point loss at Texas Tech last year (on the last play of the game) was the Longhorns only loss, and it could be argued they lost a National Championship because of their cross-state rival and long-time weak sister. It says here that, while still explosive on offense, Texas Tech isn’t quite as talented as last year and will suffer at the hands of a motivated and ready for revenge Texas team.
Another potential outside linebacker convert who came to the Red Raiders last year after a year as a JUCO. Regressed somewhat and only made 8 tackles, but it looks like he has earned a greatly increased role this year. He has always been able to rush the passer and currently leads Texas Tech with 2 sacks through the early going. Has good speed and decent size. Can play special teams. Right now a project, but has NFL size and some good athletic ability. Someone to watch.
A good college corner with decent size and lots of experience. Wall is one of the leaders of the Red Raider defense and has been a very solid and productive player for them. Decent speed and some ability as a kick returner as well. He’s off to a good start; it’ll be interesting to see how he does at against a top-notch QB this week.
Texas QB Colt McCoy (#12)
The Longhorns leader is a strong armed field general who rarely gets rattled, is very accurate and is unquestionably one of the coolest customers and mistake-free quarterbacks in college football. He just doesn’t make many dumb throws and his accuracy makes things very difficult on defenses trying to stop Texas. Completed an amazing 76.7 percent of his passes last season. He does need to bulk up a bit as he isn’t the biggest quarterback around. Only 210 lbs, he needs more bulk to avoid injury in the NFL. Is elusive and can throw on the move and take off running with surprising speed as well. He should be a very high pick.
Off to a great start this year, this slot receiver has great moves, runs crisp routes and is elusive after the catch. He has excellent hands as well and produces in the red zone by finding openings in tight areas. A tough kid, he has good size for an inside receiver. Potential first round pick who’d be great with the Patriots, a team who values his type of skills.
A big, strong linebacker who can cover tight ends, run with most backs, rush the passer and take on guards at the line of scrimmage. He is 255 lbs., but runs well. Can also get down in a stance and beat tackles to get to the quarterback. Had 10 sacks last year. A playmaker who plays hard. Likely another very high Longhorn draft choice.
E-mail Greg Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org