Bowl Notes and Underclassmen Talk

by Tommy Lawlor  –

* Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert has declared for the draft.  The first time I ever really paid any attention to him was the Nebraska game in 2009.  Gabbert was terrible.  I dismissed him as a spread QB that would struggle against a good defense.  In retrospect, I didn’t appreciate how good the Husker D was.  They shut down Colt McCoy and Texas last year.  They shutout Arizona in last year’s bowl game.  They dominated Jake Locker twice this year.  That game was more about Nebraska than Gabbert.  I see that now and appreciate that Gabbert is a good QB.

Todd McShay loves the kid.  He sees Gabbert as the #2 QB.  I don’t feel that strongly about him.  Gabbert has good size.  He has a solid arm and is an accurate passer.  He’s looks solid mechanically.  I need to study tape on him to get a better feel for his decision making and ability to handle pressure.    

* UNC Safety Deunta Williams broke his lower leg in the Tar Heels bowl game and that will certainly affect his draft status.  He won’t be ready for the Combine.  He might be able to schedule a late Pro Day, but the injury will keep him from getting in top shape for whatever workout he tries.  Good player.  He’ll now slide down a couple of rounds and could be excellent value for someone.

* Jake Locker had another tough day against Nebraska, going 5-16-56 in the air.  He did run for 83 yards and a TD.  He showed toughness and leadership in the Huskies big win over the Huskers.  Congrats to Locker for winning a bowl game.  That had to be a sweet finale to what has been a tumultuous career.  I can’t see anyone taking Jake in the Top 10, but I think he’s got too much potential to make it out of the 1st round.

* Alabama just destroyed Michigan State.  A lot of guys played well for the Crimson Tide.  TE/HB/FB Preston Dial had a good game.  He caught 4 passes for 55 yards.  On one of the catches he leapt over a defender and got additional RAC yards.  I didn’t think Dial was nearly that athletic.  Nice move.  QB Greg McElroy was efficient as a passer, but his highlight was a good block that cleared the way for Julio Jones to score on an end around.  Most QBs are terrible at “blocking”, but Greg helped on the play.

The defense also came to play.  Marcell Dareus was a disruptive force.  He had a couple of TFLs (1 sack).  On one play MSU had a RB slide over to cut block him while the OL slid protection the other way.  Bad idea.  Dareus used his hands to fend off the cut block and then he got a big hit on the QB.  He’s only a Junior, but I think he’s bound to come out.  LB Courtney Upshaw was the star of the day.  He had 5 tackles, a FF, and 3 TFLs (2 were sacks).  Upshaw (6’2, 263) is a Junior OLB.  He had a very good season.  You have to wonder if this game will make him think about coming out.  3-4 teams would be very interested.

* Florida Center Mike Pouncey played well in the Gators win over Penn State.  He was excellent at pulling and blocking on the move.  You can see his athleticism and skill.  Some guys are athletic enough to pull, but can’t block out in space.  Other guys are terrific blockers, but can’t get out wide or upfield.  Pouncey is good in both areas.  He had a great cut block of a DB that cleared the way for a rushing TD along the left sideline.  Pouncey did have a bad snap in the game, an issue that has plagued him all year.  NFL teams can view him as a G or C.

Penn State RG Stefen Wisniewski (6’3, 306) had a good showing vs the Gators.  He is a very good run blocker.  He’s not a massive Guard like some teams prefer, but could thrive in the right system.  This is the kind of guy that Terrell Davis ran behind in Denver for so many yards.  Wonder if the Skins will have any interest?  Do they have any picks left?

* A lot of guys are now declaring for the draft.  Here are some interesting names:

TE Kyle Rudolph – Notre Dame
CB Brandon Harris – Miami
CB Aaron Williams – Texas

WR Torrey Smith – Maryland
ILB Akeem Ayers – UCLA
RB Shane Vereen – Cal

The first 3 have a real good chance to be 1st round picks.  The next 3 are good players, but I don’t know if they go in the 1st round.  There are other guys who have announced, but aren’t as notable.  Things will get crazy for the next week or so.  Andrew Luck is the big fish.  I’m assuming he comes out.  There was a report on Twitter that Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers is leaving early.  That’s not a surprise.  He had a great year.

I’ll post some thoughts on the BCS games on Thursday.  Lots of big time prospects to talk about.

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