NEPD Staff Writer: Matthew Jones
Nebraska was one of the few Big Ten teams to have a decent outing on Saturday. However, it didn’t come without a price.
Read on to see how the 2013 NFL Draft prospects performed.
QB #3 Taylor Martinez* (6’1″, 200, 4.40)
Awkward, exaggerated throwing motion with a noticeable windup
Inconsistent footwork and often makes throws while off-balance
Makes a number of accurate throws from the pocket to begin the game
Attempts an outside throw and is nearly intercepted by the cornerback
Connects on a corner route downfield for a 26-yard TD to Kenny Bell
Has the speed to beat the defense to the edge on a quarterback run for eight
Overthrows his target in the end zone on a long third down attempt
Gets zip on the ball while throwing on the run towards the sidelines
Led Nebraska down the field for a quick touchdown in the two-minute drill
Finds Kyler Reed in the end zone for a diving touchdown reception
Overview: Martinez had an efficient game throwing the ball (especially in terms of overall ball placement), but his throwing motion remains far from ideal. The Cornhuskers attempted to showcase him as a passer, but he still doesn’t look like an NFL-caliber quarterback. His athleticism should earn him some looks as a conversion candidate.
RB #22 Rex Burkhead (5’11″, 210, 4.50)
Broke free for a 57-yard touchdown run on Nebraska’s third offensive snap
Rotates out of the game for the start of Nebraska’s second offensive drive
Goes low for an effective blitz pickup on Taylor Martinez’s touchdown pass
Runs hard through contact and profiles as a between-the-tackles back in the NFL
Exited the game with an MCL sprain in his left knee during the early second quarter
Overview: Burkhead turned in an impressive performance before injuring his MCL. Unfortunately, he didn’t receive enough carries to turn in a full evaluation, but he runs with power and is capable of breaking big runs as well.
TE #25 Kyler Reed (6’3″, 230, 4.65)
Lines up in the slot and catches a pass over the middle for a gain of eight yards
Also used in a two-point stance just off of the tackle in the run game; doesn’t block
Allows Jamie Collins to win the edge and pressure Taylor Martinez
Ran downfield and nearly made an impressive TD catch in double coverage
Made a diving 18-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter on a seam route
Martinez appeared to look for Reed whenever he was in trouble (esp. end of third)
Overview: Reed was much more integrated into the offense than Ben Cotton, Nebraska’s more prototypical tight end (6’6″, 255.) The Cornhuskers attempted to use Reed as a blocker, but his deficiencies in that aspect of the game were obvious. He will have to contribute as an H-Back at the next level.
OG #61 Spencer Long* (6’3″, 310, 5.30)
Actively sustains a block throughout a passing down; keeps hands and legs active
Is able to pull to the left and make a second-level block in the run game; missed later
Gets beat by Jamie Collins’ speed and allows Taylor Martinez to get sacked
Seems to have trouble finding defenders to block; stands around too often
Doesn’t get a great push in the run game despite his size and work ethic
Somewhat inconsistent in terms of sustaining blocks and locking on against the pass
Works hard and flashes a mean streak but is not always able to finish the play
Overview: Long is unlikely to forego his senior season; his size and tenacity were on display, and he looked athletic, but he would benefit from returning to school. He must work on his awareness and improve his strength in order to sustain blocks and finish plays.
DT #55 Baker Steinkuhler (6’5″, 290, 4.95)
Long arms allow him to keep blockers from getting into his pads
Demonstrates active hand use when attempting to disengage from a block
Showcases the motor to chase plays on the opposite side of the field
Uses a swim move to penetrate into the backfield on a passing down
Drew a double team against the pass and ended up on the ground
Gets turned away from the play by one offensive lineman too often
Pancaked by his opponent on a rushing play which results in a first-down
Focuses too much on penetration; reckless gap discipline against the run
Overview: Steinkuhler’s stock dropped after a disappointing junior campaign, and he didn’t play very well in this game either. His best fit is as a five-technique in a one-gap scheme, although he must play with more discipline against the run.
DE #34 Cameron Meredith (6’4″, 260, 4.80)
Struggles to shed a block and fill his gap against the run; turned away from the play
Is able to scrape down the line and tackle the RB out of bounds on the sideline
Drops into a zone coverage but lack of awareness leads to a first down throw
Gets sucked inside on a read option and is beat to the sideline by Chris Campbell
Is fooled by the quarterback and abandons his gap, surrendering a first-down
Was able to get into the backfield with a relentless bull rush
High motor allows him to get in on plays which he initially wasn’t involved in
Looks a little bit slow getting off the ball, which impacts his pass rush
Won the inside on a rush early in the fourth quarter and recorded a pressure
Overview: Meredith plays hard and is big enough to play at the next level, but his lack of awareness stood out in this game. His motor and range could allow him to develop into a rotational pass rusher but his instincts must improve, especially against the run.
ILB #51 Will Compton (6’2″, 230, 4.70)
Blitzes effectively up the middle; chooses gap well and pressures Campbell
Fails to protect his legs and is tripped up by an offensive lineman on a rushing play
Blitzes again on a passing down in the second quarter and recorded a sack
Solid fundamental tackling technique; hits hard and wraps up runner on contact
Looks somewhat athletic in his coverage drops but could struggle against big targets
Is a little bit stiff in the hips when attempting to change directions suddenly
Overview: Compton impressed with his blitzing acumen and plays with a fiery temperament well-suited to special teams. He may be a bit undersized but his intensity should earn him consideration for a reserve role at the next level.
K #96 Brett Maher (6’0″, 185)
Missed a pair of first-half field goals including an ugly 41-yard attempt
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI GOLDEN EAGLES
DT #98 Khyri Thornton* (6’3″, 300, 5.30)
Bulk allows him to anchor and stay on his feet against the run
Isn’t able to get very much push in the passing game; not very many rush moves
More athletic in space than expected; takes wide angles and can cover some ground
Wasn’t much of a factor in either facet of the game but size is intriguing
Thompson rotated out of the game in the third quarter
Overview: Thornton won’t be declaring for the draft this year, but his build is impressive enough to earn him consideration in the 2014 NFL Draft. At this point, he looks like a backup defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme; he may not have the length for a 3-4.
DE/OLB #8 Jamie Collins (6’3″, 240, 4.60)
Lined up on both sides of the field depending on offensive formation
Looks a little bit thinner than his listed weight and doesn’t play with power
Blitzes up the middle and is able to sack Taylor Martinez for a loss of eight yards
Loses backside contain and misses a tackle on a pass, allowing a big gain
Gets pushed way off of the line of scrimmage in the run game; can’t disengage
Blitzes off of the edge and beats Kyler Reed for a quarterback pressure
Was able to tackle Martinez in the backfield by quickly diagnosing a QB keeper
Best fit in the NFL would be as a 4-3 weakside linebacker; lacks bulk for 3-4 OLB
Overview: Collins is the most impressive member of Southern Mississippi’s football team; his athleticism makes him an appealing developmental candidate. He must get stronger and improve his instincts in order to carve out a role on an NFL defense.