Observations and analysis from the eighth week of the college football season, including thoughts about some of the nation’s top offensive prospects.
Late-developing senior QBs starting to make noise
As I wrote Friday regarding Sam Bradford, there’s simply no drawback to quarterbacks staying in school as long as possible if they hope to give themselves the best chance to be successful at the next level. Quarterback is a strange position—it simply takes some guys longer for the light to turn on. Here’s a look at three late-rising senior QBs who finally look to be coming into their own.
Bill Stull, Pittsburgh, 6'3", 215 pounds
After struggling mightily at times throughout the 2008 season, Stull really seems to be putting it together in 2009. He’s doing a great job working efficiently off the play-action game, taking care of the football and creating big plays down the field. Stull has thrown 16 touchdown passes already compared to only four interceptions, and is doing a much better job decisively going through his reads in the offense.
He’s always possessed the skill-set and arm strength to at least warrant NFL attention, but he’s now deciphering information much quicker and not forcing the ball into coverage. Stull has quietly been one of the nation’s top senior quarterbacks and has dramatically improved in all the mental aspects of the game from a year ago.
Sean Canfield, Oregon State, 6'4", 215 pounds
Any time a quarterback throws for 329 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and completes nearly 70 percent of his passes vs. a very talented USC defense, scouts take notice. And that’s exactly what Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield did Saturday, nearly leading the Beavers to another upset win over the Trojans. Canfield is a seasoned starter who has seen his fair share of ups and downs while at Oregon State.
However, he’s currently making the most of his opportunity to start for head coach Mike Riley and has displayed good timing, accuracy, and anticipation in the pass game. The lefty throws a really clean football and is currently completing 68.2 percent of his passes. Riley has already sent the likes of QBs Derek Anderson and Matt Moore to the next level, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Canfield be the next underrated Oregon State passer to stick on an NFL roster.
Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee, 6'4", 228 pounds
You have to wonder just how much better Jonathan Crompton could be if he were able to develop longer under Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin. Coming into the year, I didn’t considerer Crompton as a legit NFL prospect. Even after watching him early in the year vs. the likes of UCLA and Florida, he still failed to impress.
However, over the last two weeks, Crompton has shown the ability to work effectively off the play action/boot game and make some big plays down the field. His performance this past weekend vs. Alabama was particularly impressive, especially the way he led the Volunteers down the field on their final drive, made some big-time NFL-caliber throws, and put his team in position for a game-wining field goal opportunity.
He showcases a strong arm and can really spin the ball into tight spots when he gets it out on time. Crompton looks like a late bloomer who could develop into a much better player than his college tape would have ever indicated.
If you need an inch, he’ll give you a mile
Tennessee left tackle Chris Scott has to be one of the nation’s most underrated offensive linemen. He isn’t the most explosive or athletically gifted guy when asked to reach the corner in pass protection, but the 6'5", 346-pound tackle showcases the necessary body control, balance, and footwork off the edge to consistently keep the blindside of the pocket clean.
More important, he’s a downright dominant run blocker who generates great power as he uncoils his arms and consistently creates a push with his lower half. He possesses the athletic ability to stay on blocks in space and plays with the type of mean streak coaches love. Now, I don’t think he’s a left tackle at the next level. But his combination of power, fluidity, and body control makes him an ideal candidate to start as a right tackle or at either guard spot in the NFL.
They can do it all
Dexter McCluster, Mississippi, RB, 5'8", 165 pounds
The term “playmaker” is the best adjective I can come up with when evaluating Ole Miss’ Dexter McCluster. McCluster finished this weekend vs. Arkansas with not only seven catches for 137 yards and one touchdown, but also 22 rushes for 123 yards. He’s simply a threat to take it the distance every time he gets his hands on the football, and I can definitely see him playing a role similar to Percy Harvin with the Vikings—and being just as effective.
C.J. Spiller, Clemson, RB, 5'11", 195 pounds
Speaking of a guy who can do it all, Clemson’s C.J. Spiller finished with 310 all-purpose yards this weekend vs. Miami. He is not only cementing himself as the nation’s top senior running back, he’s also making a push as the nation’s top overall RB. With so much love being doled out to the likes of Cal’s Jahvid Best and Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer, Spiller at times seems to get lost in the mix.
But he’s an extremely gifted athlete in his own right who has the ability to create big plays in both the run and pass game. He’s found a way to consistently produce week in and week out vs. ACC defenses geared to stop him and looks like an instant impact player at the next level.
The more I watch Illinois QB Juice Williams, the more turned off I am by his play. Williams is physicality gifted and possesses such an impressive skill set, but he simply fails to recognize coverages and throws some of the worst interceptions you will ever see. If he’s to have any chance at making an NFL roster, it will be at another position—but even then his chances don’t look good.
I know Florida QB Tim Tebow is unstoppable in short-yardage situations, but something can be said about the lack of trust head coach Urban Meyer has in Tebow throwing the football in 3rd-and-goal situations. Tebow has looked like anything but an NFL-caliber quarterback for most of the season and has not had the type of year to make NFL executives feel overly confident about drafting him early.
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