by David Syvertsen
The top one on one matchup this weekend will reside at NC State on Friday night when the Wolfpack take on the Tennessee Volunteers. Junior wide receiver Justin Hunter makes his return to the field for the first time since tearing his ACL in week 3 of 2011. He will line up across from arguably the top senior cornerback in the nation, David Amerson.
Hunter is a big play waiting to happen. He is 6’4 with long arms and flexibility, giving him a huge catch radius. His top asset is the ability to maintain body control when leaping after the football. As a freshman in 2010, he was one of the top downfield threats in talented SEC receiver pool. Catches the ball at the apex of his leap. Shows no hesitation in a crowd. Elite speed in the open field that will rarely be caught from behind. Less than 12 months removed from his ACL injury, Hunter will need to show that he has maintained that elite level of explosion. There is definite first round ability here.
Amerson set an ACC record in 2011 with 13 interceptions. Has great size (6’2/193) for the position and he gets after the ball like a receiver downfield. Mostly plays off the line where he is looking at the play in front of him. Plays high in his backpedal and does not have elite turn and run explosion. Physical player that can out-muscle most receivers in jump ball situations. Reacts quickly once the ball is in the air. Great return ability after the interception.
While we may not see Amerson up at the point of attack trying to attack Hunter in press coverage and run with him down the field, these two will see a lot of each other Friday night. Amerson’s struggles can be exposed by a talent like Hunter. Likewise, Hunter’s assets will be tested right away against of the ball-skill cornerbacks in the nation.
Michigan strong side defensive end Craig Roh is still raw from a positional perspective. He’s been bounced back and forth between linebacker and end a couple times, making the full time move halfway through his sophomore year in 2010. Listed at 280 pounds, Roh struggles to move well in space. He had trouble last year collapsing the edge. He did not show the explosion to beat blockers to a point. Struggled to disengage from a tackle’s hands. He’ll be matched up against two Alabama offensive tackles that have NFL futures Saturday night. His handwork and athleticism in space need to be on another level this season if he wants to be drafted in the middle rounds.
Clemson running back Andre Ellington opted to return for his senior season after receiving a third round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory board last January. Ellington is a big play waiting to happen once he reaches the edge of a defense. He has elite acceleration once he makes his cut and is heading north. Shows agility and balance when running through traffic with the extra gear once his mind is made up. The red flag on Andre however is the lack of power and strength when trying to break tackles. Too often he does go down on initial contact. Won’t shake his way out of the arms of a defender. He’ll be matched up against a very fast, aggressive Auburn defense. His athleticism will not be enough to get by. Against a legit SEC unit, Ellington will need to prove there is a decisive, physical component to his game.
Boston College has a handful of players that could have their names called in April past the middle rounds. The best of the bunch is defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey. Plantar fasciitis ended his 2011 senior season after just two games. He returns to BC this year in the best shape of his life and I’ll be curious to see what he can bring to the field. He may be shorter than the 6’2 that BC lists him at, but that goes to his advantage. Consistently wins the leverage battle with a low pad level and active, strong hands. Can get his shoulders below a blocker’s numbers, making him a slippery target. Ramsey is one of the more athletic interior linemen you will find in the country. His ability to pursue ball carriers rivals that of a defensive end, even some linebackers. He can make plays all over the field. At the next level, Ramsey will be a 3 or 4 technique. A guy this hard to block with this kind of speed in the open field will catch the attention of scouts.
Small school sleepers will often come in the nature of past blue chip recruits being dismissed from top tier programs. Arkansas State is home to wide receiver Josh Jarboe, formerly of the Oklahoma Sooners and Troy Trojans. Jarboe will begin his second year at Arkansas State this weekend, taking on the highly ranked Oregon Ducks. This will be a prime opportunity for him to prove he has NFL potential. At 6’3/215, Jarboe has the NFL body and speed to go with it. A very physical player with the ball in his hands, he easily fends off arm tackles and can get those vital extra yards after the catch. A brave player in traffic that shows minimal hesitation over the middle. Very strong stop and go ability. Has the responsibility of running a lot of double routes at Arkansas State. The maturity issues will obviously bring his final grade down a few rounds, but the talent is undeniable. This will be a major showcase for him.