by Tommy Lawlor – http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com
* I mentioned RB Taiwan Jones back in December as a player of interest for next year. I was watching his team in the I-AA playoffs and could immediately tell he was NFL material, but only a Junior. He surprised me by coming out this year. That’s just not common for small school guys. Jones posted great numbers for EWU. He was 2nd in I-AA this year with 145 rushing yards a game. He totaled 1742 yards and 14 TDs in 2010. Check out these numbers…in his career he averaged 7.7 yards per carry and 14 yards per catch. I guess you can tell Jones is a big play guy.
I finally went back and studied a game tape. I watched his playoff game vs North Dakota State. Jones was 20-230-1 in the game. Real impressive. He reminds me of Jamaal Charles. Jones is a speed back that loves to get outside. He runs hard, but does so smoothly. You see some guys in the open and they look like they are about to die. Jones just flies along smoothly. Don’t misunderstand me. He’s not some track guy that lacks running skills or toughness.
Jones has a thin build at 6-0, 194. He is deceptively strong, though. In the game I watched he never went down on first contact. He broke several tackles. On some runs in traffic he was willing to lower his shoulder and fight for yards. Jones has pretty good vision and footwork. He’ll start outside, then see a gap. He’s got the ability to plant his foot and cut sharply upfield. Jones has a terrific burst that allows him to fly through the hole. He is elusive in traffic, as well as out in space. There was one crazy play in the game. Jones should have lost 5 yards due to immediate penetration by a couple of defenders, but nifty footwork allowed him to bounce the run out wide and he gained 23 yards on the play. Not everyone can do these types of things.
I’m not sure Jones can be a workhorse runner in the NFL, but he can be a great complementary threat. He caught 64 career passes and has some KOR experience. This is a guy you get the ball to in space to see what he can do. Jones hasn’t been able to work out for teams while he recovers from foot surgery. He’ll do that in the next 10 days. I could see Jones sneaking into the bottom of the 2nd round if he checks out fine medically and has a good workout. Real fun player to watch.
* South Florida DT Terrell McClain is another player that is fun to watch. High motor guy. Limited playmaker with only 17 career TFLs, but don’t make too much of that. McClain was disruptive on a regular basis throughout his career. Very quick off the ball. Has good COD. Pursues very well (effort + speed). USF moved him around. They had him play NT, under tackle and even DE in their 3-man lines. McClain gets stuck on blocks at times, but it isn’t for lack of effort. He might be the hardest working DT in all of college football. McClain had a very good postseason. He was great at the Shrine Game and that earned him a spot in the Senior Bowl. He played well in Mobile. McClain might have worked his way into the bottom of the 2nd round. Real good 1-gap DT prospect.
* Teammate LB Jacquian Williams is an underrated prospect. He’s got okay size at 6’2, 231. He is a very athletic guy. He posted really good numbers at his Pro Day. Williams led USF in tackles and TFLs. He picked off a pass and had 2.5 sacks. Williams has the speed and range to make plays all over the field. He’s good on the attack, but can also sit back and chase the ball. Teams looking for athletic LBs should have interest in him as a mid-to-late round target.
* I haven’t said much about Cam Newton recently. One point that has been brought up is about him as a leader and how the locker room responded to him. People are not really looking at the big picture. Leadership comes in a variety of ways. Cam led with his play, his raw ability. Guys were going to follow him because he was so good. Anyone who has played basketball with strangers knows this dynamic. You play ball for a few minutes and one guy emerges as the best player. The other guys defer to him, whether it is talked about or not. You know at critical moments in the game to get that guy the ball. That same dynamic is likely what went on with Auburn. Not all 80 or so players had to love Cam. They had to respect his ability.
The NFL is a different story. Cam won’t be able to carry the team on his back in the same way. He won’t be dealing with boys and young men. Cam will be dealing with men…men that have families and who put food on the table by playing football. Much, much different situation. The locker room will still bend to him when he’s playing well and the team is winning, but all NFL players have peaks and valleys. Cam has to bond with his teammates in a different way so that he comes through the valleys okay.
I’ve never felt Cam to be a very genuine guy. Most of what he says feels scripted or rehearsed. At the same time, that is true of a lot of NFL players and coaches. Bill Belichick rarely comes off as genuine. Donovan McNabb can be very good at smiling and giving double-talk answers. Brett Favre always had a soap opera vibe. Were those press conferences or auditions for General Hospital? Cam may just be ahead of his college brethren in having a PR act established. He does need to work on the delivery. Right now his answers are like Jim Rome clones who write out their phone calls before going on the show…forced delivery and awkward results. Gotta sell it a little better. Don’t study Belichick. Mix in some McNabb, Favre and a shot of Tom Brady and the sky is the limit.