As a whole, mid-major programs have grown significantly over the past decade and have produced an impressive list of NFL-caliber players in that period.
Today, the National Football Post breaks down four of the more intriguing mid-major prospects who will be eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft.
Emmanuel Sanders, Southern Methodist: No. 17, WR, 6'0", 173 lbs.
Sanders displays a good initial burst off the line and gets on top of opposing defenders quickly. He possesses impressive body control over the middle of the field and adjusts well to the football.
He reaches top-end speed quickly and has the ability to get down the field consistently and stretch defenses vertically. Sanders is a flexible athlete who drops his hips well out of his breaks and can run away from man coverage.
However, he isn’t a really clean route runner and has a tendency to get sloppy with his footwork when changing directions. He lacks physicality off the line and can be rerouted easily and/or knocked off routes down the field.
Sanders possesses a good feel for the pass game underneath and does a nice job working back toward the football.
He showcases good quickness in the open field and has the ability to create yards after the catch. However, he isn’t a real natural plucker and lets the ball get into his body.
Impression: Sanders possesses an intriguing skill set and exhibits the tools to separate at the next level, but he needs to become a more polished route runner down the field.
Bryan McCann, Southern Methodist: No. 6, CB, 6'0", 176 lbs.
McCann is a tall, lean corner who possesses a long set of arms and good overall physicality for his size. He looks comfortable in press coverage and does a great job delivering a compact punch and rerouting receivers off the line.
He is very flexible in his drop and possesses the footwork to sit into his back-pedal and keep his feet under him when breaking on the football. He displays an explosive first step and can click and close quickly on the play.
However, he lacks the same type of technique and polish in off-coverage, has a tendency to become a bit of a waist bender, and gets too straight-legged in his drop.
But he showcases good fluidity when asked to turn and run down the field and exhibits the balance in his footwork to get back up to speed instantly. He possesses good range in coverage and makes it tough for receivers to get behind him.
McCann is a solid open-field tackler who takes good angles toward the ball but lacks power in his upper body and struggles disengaging from blocks on the outside.
Impression: McCann is a gifted press corner who has the speed to turn and run with NFL receivers. He needs to polish his footwork up in off-coverage but has the ability to play man-to-man in the NFL.
Ali Villanueva, Army: No. 82, OT/TE, 6'10", 283 lbs.
Villanueva is a tall, long-armed athlete who lacks girth in his frame and actually looks thin for the position. He is an impressive bender for his size and does a nice job sitting into his stance on the line and bursting off the ball in the run game.
He showcases the athleticism to reach a moving target at the second level and does a great job dropping his pad level and cutting defenders down in space.
However, he hasn’t played much football in his life, and it shows. He looks a bit confused trying to carry out his assignments but always seems to find someone to hit.
Villanueva plays top-heavy and isn’t a natural knee bender in pass protection. He does a nice job extending his arms on contact but can be jolted at the point of attack and struggles anchoring vs. the bull rush. He is very raw with his footwork and technique and struggles staying with his blocks because of it.
Impression: Villanueva is far from a finished product but possesses a lot of upside to his game and just needs some time and good coaching to play in the league.
He will be playing wide receiver this year at Army (no, that’s not a typo) and could also receive some interest as a TE.
Caleb Bostic, Miami (Ohio): No. 44, OLB, 6'3", 228 lbs.
Bostic is an athletic, run-and-hit linebacker who showcases an impressive first step out of his breaks and closes very quickly on the ball.
He does a nice job cleanly sitting into his drop in pass coverage and is tough to gain separation from. He possesses an explosive first step off the edge and has the burst to threaten the corner.
However, he has a tendency to rush too high and is consistently pushed past the play. He doesn’t play with natural leverage and is consistently overwhelmed at the point of attack and sealed away from the ball.
Lacks ideal body control in pursuit and has a tendency to overrun plays and not wrap up on contact.
Impression: Showcases good athletic ability for the position and closes very quickly on the ball. However, he lacks physicality and isn’t suited to play on every kind of NFL defense; he is limited more to a Cover 2 scheme.
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