by David Syvertsen (follow him on Twitter)
· Friday night will be my first look at the top defensive tackle in the country this year. Star Lotulelei of Utah is being projected as a top 5 pick next spring. At 6’4/320, he has the size and girth combined with the short area quickness to earn a starting spot in the NFL right away. He can explode out of his stance and not only hold his ground against double teams, but will often split them and re-route the ball carrier. His strong hands and powerful base make him a very tough assignment for a lone blocker. What I want to see however, is more ability as a pass rusher. If I’m taking a defensive lineman that early in the first round, I want more impact plays. Lotulelei lacks pursuit speed and does not show much of an effort to make an impact outside of the tackle box. I’ll need to see more out of him before a top 5 grade is given out.
· Saturday night, Nebraska takes on UCLA. Cornhuskers defensive end Cameron Meredith has started every game since the start of 2010 and will be drafted on day three. He lacks the ideal explosion that NFL scouts look for in edge rushers. However there is some ground made up with his functional strength and aggressive style of play. He can deliver a pop to the blocker, stand him up, and make his move. The bull rush is used too often, but he is light enough on his feet and the hands are strong enough to make me believe he can add to his arsenal and up his stock with a strong showing this year.
· One of the Bruins assigned to block Meredith will be tight end Joseph Fauria. At 6’7/255, Fauria looks the part when he is in the open field. Very agile, flexible for a kid his size and will make things happen with the ball in his hands. He can adjust to the poorly thrown ball by twisting himself while in the air, and he can bring in a lot of catches away from his body. With his length, that is a huge difference maker. What I want to see on Saturday though is a more physical player. At his size, Fauria should be able make an impact as a blocker. Instead he plays with his head down, butt high, and arms bent. He rarely gets a push. He is used as a trap blocker where he comes across the line and attacks an unblocked defensive end, a play where he should blow a defender up. Instead he is hit back in to the running lane, collapsing the trap. Some guys have the toughness, some don’t.
· New Mexico tight end Lucas Reed was shut out in week one, with zero receptions. He is one of the tight ends on a short list that I think can surprise and make a big impact in the NFL right away. The size (6’6/250) is there, and he has natural foot quickness to get him in and out of breaks. He is a tough player to cover and with a better quarterback situation, I think his name would be better known. The blocking part of his game has come a long way since weighing 210 pounds as a freshman. He will certainly be tested at Texas when faced up against two potential first round defensive ends. While the push isn’t there yet, he shows a lot of effort and focuses on the correct technique to stay low max out his power output. This may be the best defense he plays against in 2012, thus the opportunity will be a great one.