NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Only three conferences remain as we continue to preview and pick out the top Senior prospects on each team heading into the 2012 college football season. This week we turn out attention to one of the powerhouse conferences, the Big XII, a conference which routinely produces top NFL talent year after year. Who are the top Senior prospects on each team in the conference this year?
Continue reading to see the top Senior prospects in the Big XII.
Terrence Williams, WR – Moves into the #1 WR role now that Kendall Wright is in the NFL. A long and tall wide receiver, with NFL caliber speed. Has the ability to separate from defenders and create space for himself. Needs to be more consistent in order to be considered the type of prospect Kendall Wright was. I’m not buying that he is a first round WR, but he is poised to have a huge season in Art Briles high flying offense.
AJ Klein, ILB – Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Big XII as a Junior. Klein’s scouting report via James Christensen “Klein is a versatile inside linebacker that is able to make plays in both zone and man coverage, when blitzing, as well as against the run. He recognizes the play quickly and is a sure tackler when he gets there. I would be surprised if Klein makes it out of the top 100 picks in the 2013 NFL Draft.”
Jake Knott, OLB – “Knott isn’t as polished as his counterpart Klein, but has a little more athleticism. He also has a knack for finding the ball and making a play, be it forcing a fumble, tipping a ball or picking off a pass. He sees time at both inside and outside linebacker, showing skills in coverage as well as attacking the run.” – J.Christensen
Tanner Hawkinson, OT – Former tight end recruit, who moved to OT once he arrived on campus. Has started 36 straight games, playing both LT and RT. Hawkinson has good length, plays light on his feet and possesses the mobility to be a legitimate NFL prospect. Hawkinson needs to get stronger and needs to stay engaged with defenders longer. It’s safe to say that Hawkinson is a mid-round OT and will get a chance to improve that grade throughout the season under a new regime.
Toben Opurum, OLB – Opurum started his career as a running back at Kansas, but switched to defense after his freshman season. Last season he emerged as the best pass rusher on the Jayhawks defense. Plays the hybrid “buck” linebacker position, which is similar to a DE/OLB role in an NFL defense. At 6’1″ 250 pounds, Opurum has the size as well as the athletic ability to develop into a situational pass rusher. As one would expect Opurum is very raw, but has flashed enough pass rush potential to be considered a late round NFL draft pick.
Arthur Brown, ILB – Fast, athletic middle linebacker who flies to the football. Has become the leader of the K-State defense and has a knack for making big plays. Struggled at the Miami(FL), but has blossomed since he arrived in Manhattan, KS. Undersized, but instinctual. Brown is quick to diagnose plays and has good range. Movements are fluid. Best suited to play either ILB in a 4-3 defense or weak-side LB in a 4-3. The brother of Philadelphia Eagles 7th round pick RB Bryce Brown.
Nigel Malone, CB – Quite possibly the best CB in the Big XII, although much less heralded. Came to Kansas St. as a JUCO transfer last year and led the Big XII in interceptions with seven. Feisty corner with great ball skills. Doesn’t back down from the big time receivers. Showcases good flexibility in his backpedal and good fluidity opening and closing. While Malone has a lot of refining to due, especially to his technique, he has all the physical tools to become a high pick in the NFL Draft.
Collin Klein, QB – I call Collin Klein Tim Tebow with better throwing potential. Klein is a beast around the goal line and can easily plow through the defensive line for rushing touch downs. Klein shows more potential as a passer than Tebow did while in school, even though he has an awkward delivery. He has pretty good arm strength and has shown the ability to make some difficult throws. Accuracy is a question mark right now and so is decision making. With his athletic ability and potential development as a passer, Klein is a legitimate NFL QB prospect.
Landry Jones, QB – The biggest enigma in college football. Has the size and natural throwing ability (accuracy + arm strength) to be a very good NFL QB. But, as he has been scrutinized more, it seems more chinks in the armor develop. Really struggles when facing pressure and gets happy feet. Jones seems to pick out a WR pre-play and then stares him down most of the time, leading to a lot of interceptions. Decision making can be poor at times and forces throws. Really struggled when Ryan Broyles got hurt mid-way through last year. This is a huge year for Jones and he must show improvement in decision making.
Demontre Hurst, CB – Will take over #1 CB role from Jamell Fleming. Hurst is a fearless CB, with very good speed and explosive breaks on the ball. He’s not afraid to tackle and shows willingness to make plays in run support. Although he only has had two interceptions combined the past two years, he has impressive ball skills. Managed to break-up 11 in back to back years, and it’s only a matter of time before he starts picking those off. Hurst measures in at just under 5’10″ tall, so his future might be as a slot CB in the NFL.
Lane Taylor, OG – Big and physical Right Guard prospect who has started 36 games in his career. Taylor can wear down opposing lineman and was one of the leaders in the conference in “knock down blocks”. While Taylor isn’t overly quick out of his stance or on his feet, he has shown the ability to be a reliable pass blocker. Taylor won’t be talked about much this season he is a very good offensive line prospect for the upcoming draft.
Quinn Sharp, K – I don’t normally include kickers on this list, but Sharp is widely considered to be the best kicking prospect in the country. Sharp doubles as the kicker and punter and is a prospect at both positions. Led the nation in touchbacks last year with 61 while going 22-25 on FG attempts with a long of 46. Also, posted an amazing 46.3 yards/punt average last season. Sharp will be one of the few kickers that gets drafted next April.
Blaize Foltz, OG – Fotlz is a physical freak and one of the top ranked guards for next years draft. TCU claims that he has a 580 bench press and 800 pound squat. With those numbers, you can just imagine how powerful Foltz can be at point of attack. Can develop into a “road-grater” at the RG position if he can stay healthy. Has overcome a torn ACL and other various injuries throughout his career.
Alex Okafor, DE – Okafor is one of the top defensive end prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft. While he isn’t as explosive a pass rusher as teammate Jackson Jeffcoat, Okafor is a more well-rounder player. Okafor is strong against the run and does a good job of setting the edge. He gets off the ball very well and can get off blocks. Okafor has all the makings of a strong-side defensive end at the NFL level. He won’t be a top ten pick, but will be in the discussion for the first round.
Kenny Vaccaro, SS – Vaccaro is one of James Christensen’s favorite players in the 2013 draft class. Vaccaro seriously considered entering the 2012 NFL draft, but decided to return to Austin. Has the size and speed to become a first round safety this year. Vaccaro makes plays all over the field. He is physical and strong enough to be a stud in run support. What separates Vaccaro from other strong safeties is his ability to cover. Vaccaro can move down and cover the slot, he shows the ability to get good jams on receivers and run with them. Isn’t a liability in coverage and could play any defensive backfield position on the field. Also, an excellent special teams player who exudes confidence. Vaccaro is one of the most complete safety prospects to come along in a while.
LaAdrian Waddle, OT – Waddle is a 6’6″ 330 OT, who was selected to the All Second team Big XII last year and is a 1st team All-Conference selection this season. Waddle mans the LT position on the Red Raiders offensive line. Is one of the best pass blockers in the conference, but has limited upside potential. When I have watched him this summer, he looked like he wore down as games went on and struggled with conditioning.
Cody Davis, SS – Led the conference in tackles per game with 6.55. Was one of the only consistent players on the Texas Tech defense last year. Davis does struggle in coverage at times and is at his best when he can come down in the box and focus on the run. Davis was and All-Academic selection and the leader of the defense. Davis could find himself in a special teams role at the NFL level.
Tavon Austin, WR – Explosive play maker, will most likely be a slot WR in the NFL and a very good one. Austin is unstoppable with the ball in his hands. He shows great quickness, especially in and out of his breaks, the ability to stop/go on a dime and the ability to separate from defenders. Can get lazy at times and loses focus, resulting in drops. Also, utilized as a punt returner and should be one of the best in the nation this year. Austin’s size is going to be his biggest question mark (just how small is he?). He won’t be a first round pick, but he will here his name called early on day two of the draft.
Geno Smith, QB – One of the most talented QB in college football. Possesses a combination of athletic ability, accuracy, arm strength and leadership skills, that make him a potential first round draft pick. Smith plays in the wide open Dana Holgorsen offense, where receivers are usually wide open and a lot of screen passes are thrown. Smith will have to answer the questions about being a system QB. His mechanics and footwork in the pocket will need to improve as well. I’m not sure Smith has ever taken a snap from under center and that is yet another question mark he will have to answer to. While some analysts consider Smith a 1st round QB, it’s more likely he is picked in rounds 2-3.