This summer, the National Football Post is breaking down every team in the Football Bowl Subdivision(formerly known as Division I-A) to identify players who might warrant interest from NFL teams in the draft.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers finished with a record of 7-6 last year, their first winning season since 2005, and seem to be making solid progress under head coach Tim Brewster. They feature one of the nation’s top wideouts and look like a team that could surprise in the Big 10 this season.
Adam Weber: No. 8, QB, 6-3, 200
A polished quarterback who throws with a strong base and consistently strides into his passes. Displays a quick, high release point and exhibits good balance in the pocket. Does a great job avoiding pressure, keeping his eyes down the field and creating big plays in the pass game. Isn’t a real explosive athlete, but knows when to pick his spots and has the ability to break containment and manufacture a first down with his legs.
Lacks great arm strength and struggles fitting the ball into tight areas when he’s late with a read. Passes have a tendency to hang on him down the field, and he isn’t a guy who can consistently zip the ball outside the numbers. However, he’s an accurate passer who showcases good timing and relies on his ability to anticipate routes when asked to make NFL-type throws. Showcases good touch in the short/intermediate pass game and throws a very catchable football. Is still learning to go through his progressions, but deciphers information quickly and has the ability to improvise when a play breaks down.
Looks comfortable throwing on the move and possesses the athletic ability to quickly set his feet and accurately deliver the ball. Spins a tight spiral and has the confidence in his arm to take some chances over the middle of the field.
Impression: Is one of the better pure passers I’ve seen this year and looks like an ideal fit in a west coast scheme. He’s only a junior and has the ability to mature into one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Eric Decker: No. 7, WR, 6-3, 215
A natural wideout who showcases good body control and coordination when asked to go up and get the football. Finds the ball quickly out of his breaks and does a great job adjusting his body to the pass. Showcases natural instincts in the pass game, knows how to find soft spots in coverage and consistently works his way back toward the quarterback.
Exhibits a decent first step off the line, but isn’t a guy who can consistently run by defensive backs vertically. Isn’t real quick or physical off the line vs. press coverage, but he uses his jab step to create space and possesses strength to work himself free into routes. Possesses good game speed once he beats the press and has the ability to track the football and get behind defenders down the field.
Displays good balance as a route runner and demonstrates the body control to drop his hips and get out of his breaks cleanly. Isn’t real explosive when asked to change directions, but changes speeds well and does a nice job setting up defenders and sharply snapping off his routes. Extends his arms well away from his frame and consistently plucks the ball with his hands.
Isn’t a guy who will run away from defenders with the ball in his hands or make anyone miss in the open field. However, he does a good job getting north/south quickly after the catch and fighting for yards through contact.
Impression: A really coordinated receiver who showcases the ability to run the route tree and cleanly get out of his breaks. Isn’t the most gifted of athletes, but has more than enough speed to separate over the middle and making a living on the outside in the NFL. Possesses a skill set similar to Browns 2009 draft pick Brian Robiskie.
Simoni Lawrence: No. 21, OLB, 6-0, 218
Looks comfortable in space and does a nice job re-routing receivers off the line and dropping into coverage. Is a good athlete who possesses the straight-line speed to make plays in pursuit and can run sideline to sideline. However, he isn’t real instinctive in zone coverage and consistently allows receivers to find soft spots around him.
Lacks physicality and gets bounced around like a pinball when asked to take on blocks at the point of attack. Needs to do a better job dropping his pad level on contact and learn to play with more consistent leverage. Has a tendency to get too high and doesn’t possess the kind of frame or strength to consistently fill run lanes inside.
Impression: A SS/OLB tweener who possesses intriguing athleticism and range, but lacks power at the point of attack and will never be able to play inside the box as a linebacker at the next level.
Traye Simmons: No. 15, CB, 5-9, 189
Lacks physicality off the line and gets too high trying to re-route receivers in the pass game. Doesn’t possesses the balance to consistently keep his feet under him when asked to turn and run down the field. Struggles quickly getting out of his transition and lacks the second gear to make up for a false step.
Opens his hips too early in his back-pedal and has a tendency to get overextended with his footwork, which hurts his ability to break on the ball
Doesn’t showcase great instincts in the pass game and has a tendency to give up too much cushion in off-coverage. Concedes too many easy receptions in front of him and needs to do a better job playing against the down and distance.
Impression: Lacks instincts in the pass game and doesn’t exhibit the type of athletic ability to make up for his consistent false steps. Struggles finding the ball and lacks the physicality to handle NFL receivers off the line.
Be sure to check out the rest of my breakdowns at NationalFootballpost.com.