NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
The Orange Bowl didn’t turn out to be among the better games of New Year’s Day, but truthfully, it lived up to the expectations of many. The Northern Illinois Huskies earned a BCS berth as the result of a 12-win season in the Mid-American Conference, but against their toughest opponent of the year in the Florida State Seminoles, they were overmatched athletically on both sides of the ball.
There were some NFL prospects worth watching in this game, and as it turned out, it was a couple of late-round picks who stole the slow: Florida State running back/fullback Lonnie Pryor, who was named the game’s MVP after a 134-yard, two-touchdown performance, and linebacker Vince Williams, who made plays throughout the game and all over the field.
The following are more detailed evaluation of how Pryor, Williams and the top draft prospects in this game performed in the New Year’s Day nightcap:
Florida State DE Bjoern Werner (Jr.):
- Played majority of snaps at LDE
- Fakes outside rush, comes back to the middle and stops Lynch after very short run
- Goes unblocked off right side, runs slow delay rush at QB to force incomplete pass
- Goes unblocked on right side of line, sets the edge and gives Lynch nowhere to run on keeper, allowing his teammates to make stop in backfield for loss
- Gets pressure against right tackle and bats Lynch pass down
- Delayed rush off right side brings pressure against Lynch, helps force throw behind Moore
- Pushes right tackle inside on run stop, forces Lynch to run outside the tackles and into group of defenders
- Shuts down screen pass on right side with big hit — shows how good he is getting out in space and making a tackle
- Drew some double-teams over the course of game
- Beats pulling guard with his speed on the right side, brings pressure which forces Lynch to step up in pocket into tackle
Overview: A projected top-5 draft pick, Bjoern Werner didn’t stand out in the Orange Bowl the way he usually does, but he played a solid game. While he didn’t have any sacks, he brought pressure off the edge a fair amount, and was very solid against the run. Werner didn’t do anything to help his draft stock in this game, but he didn’t hurt it either.
Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes (Jr.):
- Matched up in one-on-one coverage against Martel Moore most of game, had him blanketed for most part
- Leaves cushion to give up 6-yard curl catch, but makes immediate tackle
- PENALTIES: Uncalled pass interference, grabs the left shoulder of Moore’s jersey and pulls him out toward right sideline on 3rd & goal — would have given NIU new set of downs; later does get flagged for pass interference, grabs Moore’s inside arm going up right sideline about 15 yards upfield
- Great reaction to tunnel screen, attacks quickly out of backpedal, makes a blocker miss and comes up to line to make initial stop on receiver for no gain
- Quickly sheds block attempt from Moore, comes up to line of scrimmage and mirrors Lynch running out to sideline, holds him to 4-yard gain
- Gets picked by a blocker which stops him from going across the field on crossing route with Martel Moore, gives up 11-yard touchdown catch
- Consistently makes tackle, very sound and can drive runner backwards
- Size and length as a cornerback stand out
- Went down with injury in middle of third quarter — back in next series
- Gives way too much cushion against Moore, 7 yards back of him wide open, but Lynch doesn’t throw his way
- Terrific pursuit into right side of field off corner blitz to shut down end-around, turn runner around the other way, take him down from behind; ball comes out after runner’s knee was down but ruled as fumble, nonetheless Rhodes recovers fumble 10-15 yards upfield
Overview: For the most part, Xavier Rhodes did exactly what he was expected to do in this game. He matched up against Northern Illinois’ best wide receiver, and with a couple exceptions, he blanketed him in coverage. He also had a terrific game against the run, making some big tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Rhodes is a physical cornerback with great size and length, and he is a sound tackler, and he showed all that tonight. His biggest issue in this game, and over the course of his junior season, was penalties: he should have been called for two pass interference calls, and needs to cut down on those at the next level, especially given pass interference is a spot foul in the NFL.
Florida State ILB Vince Williams:
- Lined up at both strongside and middle linebacker in this game
- Covers ground very well in space, has quick feet
- Moves very well laterally along the line of scrimmage
- Had SIX stops on gains/losses of 1 yard or less
- Blitzed from left side of formation to stop running back trying to cross line of scrimmage on right side for no gain
- Follows Lynch keeper to left sideline all the way, traps him at sideline for no gain
- Lined up inside, attacks tunnel screen on right side, hops over a defender on ground to make tackle at line for no gain
- Tackles with authority
- Reads keeper run to the right from the beginning, cuts off lane to the outside quickly and takes Lynch down with big tackle short of sticks on 3rd & 1 — showed great read-and-react instincts on this play
- Covers ground with speed by coming from middle of field close to line, track down Moore at end of 12-yard gain on downfield reception on left side
- As pressure from Werner forces Lynch up in the pocket, Williams finds a lane into the backfield, hits Lynch hard and takes him down for a sack
Overview: Williams picked the right time — his final collegiate game, and a BCS bowl at that — to have the best game of his career. On a very talented Florida State defense, he was the star against NIU, making big plays throughout the game. His instincts, speed and tackling ability really stood out in this game, and having come into the contest as a fringe draft pick, he may have done enough to secure his place in the late rounds of the draft.
Florida State QB E.J. Manuel:
- Consistent accuracy inside of 10 yards, struggled with accuracy on throws of 20+ yards
- Good footwork in the pocket, good drops from under center, but lines up mostly in gun
- Faced very little pressure over the course of the game
- Slips to turf on run attempt out of the backfield, goes down at line of scrimmage for no gain with room to run
- Outstanding ball fake on play action to hide ball behind his back, completely fooling NIU defense which sets up a wide-open screen to O’Leary with room to run
- 7-step drop with play action, sets his feet toward left side, hits receiver with accurate throw near sideline for 17 yards downfield — very accurate throw, clean footwork from under center
- Bobbles high snap, has to run out to sideline for no gain on busted play
- Low throw out of gun, pass deflected by defensive tackle
- Throws a tight spiral, gets good velocity on his throws
- Throws low on 15-yard comeback while rolling left, did not set his feet
- Hit as he threw, misses way long on throw 20-25 yards downfield going across field to left sideline
- Looking right as pocket collapses, good job switching to second read on the left, checking down to screen to Freeman which goes for big gain
- TOUCHDOWN: With pressure coming on inside rush from right side, Manuel rolls right and completes 6-yard pass to right rear corner of end zone for touchdown
- Next red-zone trip, misses three straight passes in goal-to-go, all inaccurate on his end
- Off play-action, does good job stepping up in the pocket away from pressure and checking down to screen
- Failed to step up and make plays in many 3rd-down situations
- Throws over the head of receiver on screen pass along line of scrimmage
- Steps up away from backside pressure, runs up through left middle and out to sideline to convert 3rd & 7 and gain 12
- Follows lead block from Wilder up left middle, scores 9-yard rush touchdown — good college runner, but doesn’t have the speed/power/moves to be much of a running threat at next level
Overview: E.J. Manuel had a good night passing the football in the Orange Bowl, but his performance should be taken cautiously. Most of his throws were short passes to open receivers within 10 yards, and he rarely had to throw under pressure.
That said, he was consistently accurate on short and intermediate throws, displayed good footwork and had good velocity on his throws throughout the game. He remains a projected mid-round selection as a developmental quarterback prospect.
More Florida State prospects and Northern Illinois prospects can be found on page two.