College Football Preview – Week 3

by David Syvertsen   (follow him on Twitter for updates during games)

·      Saturday will be my first look at Ohio State junior Johnathan Hankins.  Hankins is the one guy that could give Star Lotulelei a run for being the first defensive tackle off the board in April.  At first glance, the 6’3/322 pounder looks soft and out of shape.  But he is freakishly light on his feet and can dance around a blocker just as effectively as drive through them.  I see a lot of BJ Raji (Packers) in him.  Hankins is a guy you can place anywhere along the interior of a defensive line.  He can make plays as a lateral pursuit guy, he can take on double teams to keep the linebackers clean, and he can penetrate the pocket.  There is a lot to like here.  He’ll be matched up against a fast and efficient California offense.  He is, by far, the top prospect in the trenches here.

·      Brian Schwenke will be playing center for California.  He is on a short list of players that will be matched up against Hankins and Lotulelei in the same season. Schwenke (6’4/300) is a third year starter with a nice frame and quickness for his size.  With a strong senior campaign, he could find his name called later in he draft.  He is a limited athlete.  But his reaction to the faster, quicker linebackers is above average.  His main issue pops up on tape when he is called to take on a player like Hankins by himself.  His hand placement is all over the map and a strong, savvy defensive tackle like Hankins will take advantage of that.  If Schwenke wants to be drafted in April, this game tape could go a long way to helping that.   

·      One of the better WR/CB matchups this weekend will take place at Louisville.  Cornerback Adrian Bushell is a physical cover man with good size (5’11/187).  He was 1stTeam All Big East last year, his first season in the conference.  Bushell has had some issues off the field.  He started his career at Florida and was eventually dismissed from the program.  Bushell has a good feel for the position.  Fluid and easy.  Right now he is mid round prospect that needs to show there is a physical side to him as a press corner.

·      He will be matched up against Tar Heels receiver Erik Highsmith.  Highsmith has been a frustrating player for the Tar Heels.  He has been involved in their offense since his freshman season.  The 6’3/195 senior has had an up and down career.  When on top of his game, Highsmith is a quick and efficient route runner that swallows the ball with his hands.  Easy catcher of the football.  He won’t burn many defensive backs downfield, but he sets them up throughout the game and can sneak past the defense and make the tough deep reception.  However his inconsistency will arise too often.  He gets lazy off the line and won’t show the burst.  He does not work back to the football. There is a late reaction underneath when he enters traffic.  Highsmith has the talent, size, and position-specific traits that could land him in the middle of the draft.  The key this year will be consistency.

·      Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell is a load.  He is the freak of the Spartans offense.  Bell is a junior that many are expecting to be an early declaration for the 2013 Draft.  At 6’2/244, the assumption for many is that he simply is a power back that needs to run north/south.  Wrong.  Bell has loose hips and can change direction on a dime. He has similar stop and go quickness to backs that are half his size.   Bell’s main asset is the ability to break tackles both in space and within the box.  Soft hands out of the backfield and an above average grade as a pass blocker combined with his rushing ability could land him in round one.

·      The Notre Dame defense has had strong start to the season against the run.  Middle linebacker Manti Te’o is regarded by one of the top defensive players in this class. Classic in between the tackle thumper that can control multiple inside running lanes.  Very smart, savvy player that rarely misses tackles.  His issue is in space.  Sub-par speed and and even worse agility.  Te’o may suffer from an evolving game that uses the run defenders less and less each year.  Good player with even better intangibles, but the lack of athleticism will hurt him in the end.  If he struggles to bring stuff Bell up the middle, his main strength on the scouting report will downgrade him even more.

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