by David Syvertsen
Interesting matchup Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. Mississippi State gets their shot at dethroning Alabama on the road. They have been on the right side of the turnover ratio against their opponents, leading the nation in that category. One reason is senior cornerback Johnthan Banks (6’2/185). The third year starter already has 4 interceptions and one of the more impressive performances on tape among all defensive backs in the country. He excelled against the duo from Tennessee a couple weeks ago, and a new test will be placed in front of him at Alabama.
His length is a huge reason why Banks can consistently play the ball. At 6’2, he has the wingspan of someone that is 6’6. That combined with his body control and quick reaction makes quarterbacks think twice before throwing in his direction. I want to see a more physical player here though, a guy that can alter the receiver in press coverage. Banks appears to be high school-thin. He can be pushed around if the opportunity is there. I’m looking forward to seeing him match up against such a physical offense.
This will be my first in depth look at his teammate Corey Bloomfield (5’10/180). Bloomfield has been a big time playmaker his entire career with 10 interceptions to date over four years. He can play multiple roles in a secondary despite not being blessed with the top tier size. Big game for him.
This will be my first look at Penn State, as they play host to the Buckeyes. Two guys I will zero in are linebacker Gerald Hodges (6’2/237) and center Matt Stankiewitch (6’3/301), both seniors.
Hodges is the better NFL prospect of the two, a prospect that could land somewhere in the top 45. He is one of the more creative defenders I’ve seen at avoiding blocks and “sneaking” his way towards the ball carrier. He has good enough size but the ability to bend and make himself small leads him to the action untouched. Very effective in the box but the athleticism to pursue is there as well. He’ll be tested against a tricky offense led by Ohio State QB Braxton Miller.
Stankiewitch is far from an elite prospect, but few centers are. It can be tough to find the good ones at this position and Stankiewitch impressed me a few times last year. He doesn’t stand out in any particular aspect, but he is one of those guys that gets the job done week in and week out. My question is this; how can he hold up against an NFL caliber bull rush? He can stick to his defender as a run blocker, but hwo much ground does he give in to the pocket as a pass protector? His stiffest test of the season will be Jonathan Hankins. Athough Hankins is moved around all game, these two will see plenty of each other.
Check out Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson (6’7/303) in their highly touted contest against Notre Dame. I’ve seen him twice this season, and I think he can be right up there with guys in the top two rounds. He’s very long and moves well. He has had an interesting route to the blind side protector spot to say the least. He was a junior college quarterback and has experience at tight end, defensive end, and right tackle at Oklahoma. Johnson has a nice pop out of his stance and consistently gets his hands on the defender right away. While the powerful punch isn’t there, he keeps his arms extended and locked out. Easy bender at the knees, he plays with tremendous balance, which goes a long way.
His strength will be tested against one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the nation. Notre Dame’s Kapron Lewis-Moore(6’4/306) has impressed me in each of the three games I’ve seen him play. When considering what his role must be in a 3-4 scheme, Lewis-Moore fits the bill. He has NFL caliber strength and power, often appearing to be a few levels above his opponent. He derives tremendous force from his base, and he can knock away a blocker’s paws with ease with a strong swipe. I know he isn’t the sexy draft pick that piles up the statistics, but Lewis-Moore is the space eater that demands constant attention from offensive lines. Teams need this kind of player in the trenches.