For the rest of the summer, the National Football Post will break down every team in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) to identify players who may warrant interest from NFL teams in the 2010 draft.
The Auburn Tigers are never at a loss for athletes, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. This year is no different as the Tigers feature one of the nation’s top senior pass rushers as well as a junior safety who looks bound for a lofty draft grade.
Here is our first look at Auburn’s draft-eligible prospects for 2010.
Ben Tate: No. 44, RB, 5'11", 217 lbs
A thick, well-built back with good hands out of the backfield.
Runs behinds his pads and does a nice job squaring his shoulders after contact and driving his legs for additional yards. Exhibits a strong lower body and consistently is able to break arm tackles at the line of scrimmage and run to daylight.
Has a good first step and gets up to speed quickly, but he isn’t going to separate from defenders at the next level. However, he’s a patient runner, has some wiggle in the open field and is a solid blocker in pass protection.
Impression: An instinctive, tough SEC runner who will find a way to contribute at the next level.
Montez Billings: No. 84, WR, 6'2", 188 lbs
A tall, long athlete who lacks some coordination and struggles adjusting to poorly thrown balls.
Isn’t real physical and doesn’t offer much as a run blocker on the outside.
Possesses the straight-line speed to consistently get behind defenses and threaten cornerbacks deep. However, he’s a raw route runner who gets too leggy when asked to get out his breaks and lacks the ability to cleanly separate down the field.
Impression: Has the height and speed, but isn’t a polished route runner and struggles adjusting to the football.
Lee Ziemba: No. 73, OT, 6'8", 305 lbs
A tall, long-armed athlete with impressive agility and balance in space. Does a nice job getting down field and hitting a moving target. Showcases impressive coordination for a guy his size and has a bit of a mean streak as an in-line blocker.
Uses his length to engulf defenders at the point and exhibits the lower body strength to drive them out of the play. Lacks body control when asked to cut block and consistently fails to drop his pad level and cleanly chop down defenders.
Extends his arms well in pass protection and does a nice job getting his hands inside and moving his feet on contact. Possesses clean footwork on his kick step, but isn’t the most explosive athlete and will struggle reaching the corner vs. NFL speed rushers.
Impression: Has a nice-sized frame with good length and coordination, but may be best suited to play on the right side in the NFL.
C/OT Ryan Pugh: No. 50, OL, 6'4", 288 lbs
A quick, nimble-footed offensive lineman who does a great job on the move getting out to the second level and hitting a moving target. Possesses the body control to cut down defenders in space and is very coordinated in pass protection.
Has a quick kick-step on the outside and does a nice job mirroring defensive ends in space.
However, he lacks the girth, size and length needed to play OT in the NFL and is a better fit inside.
Impression: A gifted athlete who has the coordination and footwork to play in the NFL, just not as an offensive tackle.
Tommy Trott: No. 5, TE, 6'5", 238 lbs
Relies on his quickness and technique in the run game and does a nice job getting around his targets and gaining inside position. Can the hold the point of attack and seal defenders away from the play initially, but lacks the overall girth and power to stay on his blocks for an extended period of time.
Isn’t a real gifted athlete in the pass game. Seems to lumber in and out of his breaks and lacks the burst to consistently gain separation in man coverage. However, he knows how to find soft spots underneath and does a nice job securing the football and absorbing the big hit.
Impression: Is never going to be much of a threat in the pass game at the next level and needs to add more girth and power to warrant a roster spot as a blocking TE.
Antonio Coleman: No. 52, DE/OLB, 6'2", 257 lbs
Lacks the first step to consistently fire off the ball and turn the corner on athletic offensive tackles. But he exhibits impressive lateral mobility and makes it tough for offensive linemen to mirror him in space.
Uses his hands well as a pass rusher and knows how to keep himself clean off the edge. Is at his best on his inside move where he successfully drops his pad level and exhibits the natural leverage to fight through blocks.
Lacks overall strength and struggles when linemen get into his frame. Doesn’t exhibit the lower body girth to consistently hold the point of attack and struggles disengaging when offensive tackles get their hands on him.
Impression: His quickness and natural leverage as a pass rusher make him ideally suited to stand up and rush as a 3-4 OLB.
Zach Clayton: No. 98, DT/DE, 6'3", 288 lbs
A flexible defensive lineman who plays with a good pad level and proper technique inside. Does a nice job firing off the ball on time and is consistently is one of the first defensive linemen moving. Showcases the ability to gain initial leverage, drive his legs through contact and walk offensive linemen into the backfield.
Displays good instincts on the outside as a DE and consistently stays at home on misdirection plays.
Needs to do a better job using his hands when shooting gaps inside as he has a tendency to lead with his shoulder when trying to knife through a hole and is easily stalled at the point of attack.
Impression: A tough, smart lineman who’s better suited as a penetrating one-gap DT than a base DE.
Jake Ricks: No. 91, DT, 6'4", 298 lbs
Not the most flexible defensive lineman and struggles firing off the ball with a low pad level. Has a tendency to simply catch blocks and rarely disengages and finds the football.
Works hard in pursuit and is a good straight-line athlete. However, it takes him too long to shed blocks and he looks content to simply steer offensive linemen toward the play instead of shedding them.
Doesn’t use his hands to gain inside leverage and is washed out of plays too easily at the point of attack.
Impression: Lacks girth and doesn’t showcase the technique or willingness to shed blocks.
Mike Blanc: No. 93, DT, 6'4", 288 lbs
Lacks girth and overall base strength, struggles holding up inside vs. the run game and can be washed out of plays too easily. Doesn’t do a good job controlling blocks at the point of attack and is only effective when asked to shoot gaps and attack up field.
He lacks some awareness off the snap and doesn’t consistently find the ball.
Impression: Displays some burst and quickness to penetrate, but lacks power and is washed out of plays too easily.
Josh Bynes: No. 17, ILB, 6'2", 235 lbs
A young middle linebacker prospect who displays his lack of experience by consistently biting on play-fakes and taking himself out of position. A good athlete, but is so raw with his instincts and technique that it negates his ability to close on the football.
He’s fluid in space and can run sideline to sideline, but struggles with his drop and at times will turn his back to the play instead of backpedaling.
Lacks technique and balance taking on blocks in the hole and doesn’t do a good job using hands, as he consistently just throws a shoulder into the opposing blocker.
Impression: Has a lot of natural ability but is still very young and raw in most aspects of his game.
Walter McFadden: No. 6, CB, 6'0", 178 lbs
Showcases good awareness and does a nice job breaking off his assignment and closing on the football. Displays an explosive first step out of his breaks and exhibits good balance in his backpedal. Is patient in his drop, but gives up too much cushion to throw underneath.
Doesn’t always trust his instincts and at times will second-guess himself. Is long, but lacks girth and isn’t a real physical tackler, more of a drag down guy. Likes to keep his eyes in the backfield and isn’t the most polished out of his breaks, however, he possesses good deep speed and can turn and run with most NFL receivers.
Impression: A long, lean corner with good ball skills and closing speed, but his footwork causes him to get crossed up at times.
Mike McNeil: No. 26, FS, 6'2", 205 lbs
An athletic free safety prospect who displays good balance and burst out of his breaks. Showcases impressive range vs. both the run and pass game and consistently takes proper angles toward the ball carrier and wraps up.
Has a nose for the football and exhibits the instincts to consistently diagnose plays quickly. Is very fluid in his drop and does a nice job sinking his hips and changing directions. Attacks the line of scrimmage with reckless abandon and does a nice job avoiding blockers and breaking down to make the tackle.
A very polished safety for only being a junior.
Impression: A smart, instinctive safety who has big time starting ability at the next level.