by Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
September 26, 2009
Indiana at Michigan (ESPN2 NOON EST)
A match up of two undefeated 3-0 Big 10 teams. A win here would be huge for the much improved Indiana, the underdog. More than likely, they’re overmatched here talent-wise. They’ve only beaten Michigan once since 1966. But Michigan is young and could conceivably be looking past the Hoosiers. A good game with lots of offense is at least a possibility.
A versatile and quick running back who adds value by being an effective kick returner. He has worked his way into being a feature back this year and has 235 yards for a 5.4 average coming into the Michigan game. If he can run effectively against the toughest defense the Hoosiers have seen so far, he may work his name into the minds of NFL scouts as a potential Sunday player. Really, his kick return ability should get him a look. He hasn’t distinguished himself yet, but has clearly improved a lot into his senior year. One weakness is he hasn’t shown much ability to catch passes, so if he can add that to his game, he may be the kind of versatile guy who can stick on a roster as a backup running back.
Easily the best player on the Hoosiers roster is the 6’3″ 263 lb. 1st Team All-Big 10 player Kirlew. A relentless force who shows up all over the field, Kirlew had 10.5 sacks last year on a team that struggled to rush the passer from other spots. He has added another 2.5 through 3 games this year. If the Hoosiers have any chance of going into The Big House and upsetting Michigan, Kirlew will have to be a major force. Kirlew may have the ability to switch to linebacker. He actually reminds a bit of Adalius Thomas. He disrupts, rushes the passer, causes fumbles, tips passes. But a lot will depend on his speed and how he tests. If he shows good speed and mobility in things such as the shuttle run at the Combine, his productivity is a given and the Patriots may seriously give consideration to drafting a guy like Kirlew to convert to OLB.
Michigan RB Carlos Brown (#23)
Brown is a running back who seemingly has been a bit player in the Michigan offense for years. He has always seemed overshadowed by more hyped, more highly recruited blue chip recruits like Brandon Minor, Sam McGuffie and Kevin Grady. Last year, new coach Rich Rodriguez came in and Brown became even more of an afterthought, rushing only 29 times for 128 yards all season. It’s not that he isn’t talened. The 6’0″ 206 Brown has good size, nice moves and good speed. He seems to do everything well. But for whatever reason, Rodriguez and Michigan coach Lloyd Carr have never tried to spotlight him. That seems to be changing this year. Brown is off to his best career start with 238 yards thru 3 games and is averaging 8.8 yards per carry. Maybe finally he’ll get his chance to be a star. He has never complained about his role and seems to have earned his shot to be the man by covering punts and waiting his chance. He is a solid player who right now rates as a low draft choice, but if he can continue the good to spectacular performances he’s had this year, that too could change for Brown.
Michigan WR Greg Mathews (#13)
Mathews is a big receiver at 6’3″ 209 and is miscast in the current Michigan offense. But he is a talented player, adapting and even improving the skills that haven’t really his strong point. The Michigan offense is more designed for smaller, faster receivers. Guys who can come on reverses, get deep, run middle screens and wide receiver screens. That isn’t the strong, physical Mathews game, but he’s still shown a lot by contributing and even becoming a threat in the offense. Last year, he managed 35 catches and 2 touchdowns. This year, he has a modest 7 catches but that is tied for the lead for the Wolverines in an offense that spreads it around. More than likely, his modest stats will put him in the middle of the draft at best. But he could be a steal. Strong, decent speed, and good hands with blocking potential to boot, he could be a better NFL player than college player. I would hope the Patriots would keep an eye on an underrated player such as this.
A big 268 lb. defensive end who is probably not skilled enough to switch to linebacker, so he instead fits best in a 4-3 front where he can disrupt. He did a lot of that last year, making 20 tackles for losses, tying for the lead in NCAA Division I. He is an excellent pass rusher who had 10 sacks last year. Look for a team like the Vikings to go after a player like Graham.
Iowa at Penn State (ABC 8:00 PM EST)
Iowa upset the Nittany Lions in Iowa City last year, ruining the national title hopes of Penn State. They want revenge and this time they’re at home. The teams are fairly evenly matched, but Iowa comes in with some key injuries. That should be the difference, so look for Penn State to even the score here from last season and get the victory. Here is hoping for an entertaining, close matchup.
Iowa WR Trey Stross (#86)
Stross is a 6’4 receiver who also adds great leaping ability. A good athlete, he has become the Hawkeyes go-to guy this season. With All Big-10 caliber TE Tony Moeaki ailing and either out or limited for this game, this would be a great opportunity for Stross to show he is more than a mere solid college player. Came into this year with 570 career yards receiving, but already has 167 on 11 receptions this season. Stross isn’t overly fast or quick, but if he can use his height, leaping ability and good hands consistently as a receiver, he can be effective enough to at least get a look from the NFL.
Iowa RT Kyle Calloway (#60)
A massive 6’7″ 315 lb. tackle with All Big-10 type ability. Last year he was on the 2nd team. Not as hyped as Junior left tackle Bryan Bulaga (who has been injured much of this year), but a very good NFL prospect who comes from a program with excellent offensive line history and coaching. The Patriots have at least three of their young tackles locked up long term and that may reduce their interest in Calloway, but if he slips far enough, Calloway very well could be someone that they consider taking given Bill Belichick’s relationship with Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz,. Some reports on Calloway say he isn’t tenacious or competitive enough and this could hurt his chances if NFL teams begin to buy into that. Today is a chance for him to shine versus a top notch opponent in Penn State.
A 306 lb. All American candidate, Odrick would likely be an end for the Patriots. He is strong, athletic and productive. Very impressive as a pass rusher from the inside. Strong and stout enough to hold up inside in a 4-3 as well. In fact, Odrick is a major reason the Nittany Lions are fourth in the nation against the run. Teammates say Odrick is a passionate player who plays with furor and a (mostly) controlled rage. That bodes well for his future. He likes football. As Odrick himself recently told The Big Ten Network “I don’t want to be a good player. I want to be a great player.” Music to our ears, Jared. He’s well on his way. Watch him today and see for yourself.
A big time recruit when he came to Happy Valley, Wallace’s career has been somewhat disappointing. He’s been a good kick returner, but as a corner he has struggled to get onto the field as anything more than a nickel or dime back. Coming in as one of the top corners out of high school, no one could have predicted he’d have made only 4 starts through his junior year. He’s had some injury and academic issues that have contributed to that, but now as a senior he’s rotating at one corner spot with fellow starter Knowledge Timmons. He seems to have accepted that as a good soldier, and he’s started to show progress on the field that may warrant increased time. Wallace may be one of those hidden gems that go late or undrafted, but there is no question he has NFL talent and size at 6’1, 195. A team could find a real steal here. His struggle to become a starter is an issue, but a team should look at his improved play and good attitude this year, and his upside potential, and give it some consideration.
E-mail Greg Doyle at email@example.com