We’re looking at a pair of games here on PD College Scout today, looking at some of the top players in these games, and seeing if they might be a good fit for the Patriots somewhere down the line.
Illinois at Purdue
(Noon EST ESPN2): Two disappointing teams get together, Illinois at 1-5 and Purdue at 2-5. Illinois is especially disappointing as they came in thought to be a team capable of being in the Top 15 and have been terrible. Head coach Ron Zook could be in trouble if they don’t turn it around the rest of the way. Purdue is under a first year coach, so he’ll get more time. And they did pull off a shocking win last week versus Ohio State that made their year. They have lost numerous other close games and really could have at least 2 or 3 more wins then they do.
Illinois Quarterback Juice Williams
(#7): An extremely talented athlete, Williams has suffered with hamstring injuries this year. He has never been a very accurate quarterback, but could make plays on his feet and throw on the move. That has been taken away by his physical condition often times this year. Williams at times has flashed great ability during his career, but its been very inconsistent. His accuracy and touch remain issues. His physical ability give him a chance as a project, but he may also be able to convert to another position. Good size, when he does run is very elusive and strong. Tough to bring down. Sometimes throws dumb interceptions or tries to do too much. Good student, smart and works hard at football.
Illinois DE Doug Pilcher
(#95): A hard-working player with plenty of playing experience for the Illini. Pretty good, but not great, pass rusher with 10 career sacks in 41 games. Plays hard and has enough ability to do a lot of different things, but not great at anything. Probably not skilled enough to play linebacker, which means he’ll have to play for a team other than the Patriots at 265 lbs. Probably a second day choice who could develop into a solid NFL backup, but not great potential.
Purdue WR Aaron Valentin
(#17): A former JUCO player who is just now developing into a decent college receiver. Is a better kick returner than receiver at present, but has a lot of ability and size to improve as a WR with experience. This year he has shown a lot of improvement as a receiver, already doubling in 7 games the total yards he put up last year. Averaging less than 12 yards per catch this season, but does have speed and moves to get downfield. Has a lot of big-play ability. Can take a short catch and turn it into a long gainer. With only 2 years of major college experience, he is a bit green. But his ability make him a nice mid-round pick who could develop into a great NFL receiver with more coaching and experience.
Purdue DT Mike Neal
(#92): A inside player for the Boilermakers who could play outside for the Patriots in a 3-4. A leader for Purdue who is also a co-captain, this is a player the Patriots are sure to like. Neal is a solid all-around player who could bulk up a little bit, but also has good natural skills including nice pass rush ability. Has 9 career QB sacks.
Oregon State at USC
(8:00 PM ESPN Gameplan): Oregon State pulled off a shocking win last year versus USC that prevented the Trojans from having any shot at a National Championship. It was the second win in three years versus USC for the Beavers and USC doesn’t lose many Pac-10 games. The Trojans will certainly want revenge tonight but Oregon State is 4-2 and has a solid team that is well-coached and they should at least hang in there and make it a game.
Oregon State LB Keaton Kristick
(#32): A very active, athletic LB who makes a lot of plays but is probably too small to fit with the Patriots. Can do it all, including get out in coverage. Kristick has had some issue with losing feeling in his shoulder twice this year. Could be a minor injury, but all NFL teams will be keeping a close eye on that. Shows up all over the field, but just does not fit the Pats system.
Oregon State CB Patrick Henderson
(#3): A short, slot cornerback with good special teams ability. Has one career interception as he has been a backup until his senior year. Has very good kick return ability. Playing some more this year, but still a role player. The fact is, Henderson isn’t a great college player. But he has enough ability to be invited to a NFL camp and perhaps eventually play in the NFL with some work. He is strictly a slot corner, but combined with his speed, return ability and strong ability to cover on special teams, he may over time be able to be a better NFL player than college player.
USC T Charles Brown
(#71): The athletic Brown plays on the left side of the line for USC. He is a very good athlete who played tight end earlier in his career. Has played on the right side some and can possibly even move inside in the NFL. Not overly powerful, but athletic and quick on his feet with good height and the ability to put on more weight. Was Honorable Mention All Pac-10 last year. His athletic ability should get him drafted but he will added need strength to play in the NFL. Probably a mid to late round pick who could eventually become a NFL starter, but not right away.
USC CB Kevin Thomas
(#15): A solidly built corner who was riddled with injuries early in his USC career, which prevented him from ever earning much playing time. Last season, was finally healthy for 13 games and was a solid contributor at nickel back. Picked off 3 passes and also a standout special teams player. Became a starter this year and is playing well with 20 tackles and a sack on a corner blitz. Has good size and is a very good athlete. Could be a steal, but may work himself up higher in the draft with continued good play. A little older than most prospects, he is 23 already and will be 24 during his rookie NFL season. His health issues could be a question for NFL teams. Has good hands and speed and checks in at 6’1″.