by Tommy Lawlor – http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com
* The BCS title game was a lot of fun to watch. I wasn’t pulling for either team. I just wanted a good game. And that’s exactly what I got. I was especially happy that the defenses showed up. That made you appreciate the big plays and touchdowns when they did happen.
The real key to the game is that Auburn was able to be more physical. RB Michael Dyer got 4 or 5 yards on dive plays. LaMichael James got stuffed. Auburn’s OL was able to open holes. Auburn’s DL was able to close holes. Dyer was strong enough to break arm tackles. He wore down Oregon as the game went along. James is a finesse runner and didn’t have the same effect. Oregon kept it close because they are so talented and resilient.
The star of the game was Auburn DT Nick Fairley. He had 3 TFLs (1 was a sack). He made a couple of other tackles. One of them was a key stop near the goal line. Fairley flowed to the ball and got James by the feet before he could get into the endzone. Oregon tried to beat Fairley with sucker plays. He caught onto that pretty quick and then showed good awareness when he was unblocked. He’d take a step upfield and then stop, realizing Oregon wanted him coming upfield. Auburn had Fairly drop back on some zone blitzes and he was effective doing that. Fairley looked like a terrific prospect. He was quick off the ball when he wanted to attack. He was stout when Oregon tried to run inside. Fairley located the ball well and hustled in pursuit. He has a great frame at 6’5, 298. If he can get up in the 315 to 320 range, that would be ideal for the NFL. I see some Albert Haynesworth similarities with Nick’s combination of size, strength, and quickness.
With Andrew Luck staying in school it is possible for Fairley to go 1st overall. The Carolina Panthers don’t have an impact player on the DL, and could especially use help inside. They could go with Da’Quan Bowers to give them a dynamic pass rusher. I don’t think it is completely out of the question for them to go after Cam Newton. He would give that franchise the star player that they have never really had. Julius Peppers and Steve Smith are elite talents, but neither guy is the kind of player who can carry a team on his back. Newton has that kind of potential. He also can sell tickets. The Panthers franchise could use a boost in that regard.
* As for Newton, he had a solid game against Oregon. His numbers weren’t great passing (20-34-265, 2 TDs, 1 INT) or running (22-64), but he made clutch plays and didn’t force things. He just ran the offense. RBs totaled 28 carries for 190 yards. Some times star players will force the issue and drag down the offense. Newton made two critical errors. He underthrew a pass to the FB in the endzone. The guy was wide open for an easy score, but Cam pulled the string and the ball was down at the guy’s feet. Looked like the FB still probably should have made the grab. Later in the game Newton had a receiver wide open down the field for a long TD. Cam overthrew him by a couple of yards. Should have been an easy TD. I don’t think Cam significantly helped or hurt his value with the performance.
* Oregon had a couple of prospects on defense. LB Casey Matthews did some good things. He was in on 6 tackles, had 1/2 a TFL, and a FF. The FF was a great hustle play. Matthews chased down Newton from behind and punched the ball out. Not only was it a big play, it came at a crucial time. Matthews got the ball back for his team late in the game and they were able to drive down and tie the game. Kenny Rowe had a more up and down game. He had 9 total tackles. 4 of them were TFLs (1 sack). Rowe did some good things around the LOS. 3-4 teams had to like what they saw. The problem came when he had to drop in coverage. Auburn players ran by him with ease and burned Oregon for big plays.
* I won’t get into all the underclassmen announcements. One player that did catch my eye was Eastern Washington RB Taiwan Jones. I was shocked that he came out. I watched a few EWU games and Jones really impressed me. Jones was 2nd in I-AA football in rushing yards per game. He is a good receiver and solid KOR. I’ll write up good notes on him down the line. You don’t often see guys from small schools leave early, but Jones did look like an NFL RB to me.
* The Shrine Game is coming up on Saturday. I’ll be talking about some players to watch during the week.