Preparing For Hustle & Flow
The NFL Draft is just around the corner. Actually, that's a joke - it's happening at the end of April. That means there's still plenty of time to talk about various Big Ten prospects and any storylines surrounding them, without knowing what team they'll be going to, for two and a half months. NFL front offices aren't very happy about this, either.
But, the NFL Draft Combine is just around the corner (February 23-29), and that means the most promising draft entrants get to try and impress NFL suitors and improve their draft stock. If you've been invited, that's a good sign. If not, you still have plenty of chances to show that you belong on a 53-man roster. That goes for you, Jake Rudock, Sione Houma, Joe Kerridge, and all of Michigan's linebackers from last year.
But first, here's a 'who's who' of the stars to watch out for, with information pulled from CBS Sports:
|Pos.||Ht.||Wt.||Proj. Draft Round||Team||Total Combine Participants By That Team|
I culled that list by who was projected in the first two rounds, an even more exclusive club than who is invited to the Combine (since, basically, most of the first four projected rounds gets invited to the Combine). This way, you can get a better sense of where the top talent is coming from. What this doesn't give any sense of is depth - how many total players a team happens to be losing. We'll worry about that later. In the meantime, here are some assorted thoughts.
- All fourteen teams are sending at least one participant to the Combine. The most is obviously OSU. The fewest? Purdue (Anthony Brown), followed by Michigan (Graham Glasgow and Willie Henry), Northwestern (Dean Lowry and Dan Vitale), and Rutgers (Leonte Carroo and Steve Longa). In Michigan's case, take this as a sign that all the big reasons for that 10-win season are coming back.
- Yes, that is a whole bunch of names for OSU. Tight end Nick Vannett is projected to go in the third round, and Cardale Jones is slotted in the fourth or fifth. Towards the bottom of the barrel, you've got Tyvis Powell (5th round), Jalin Marshall, Jacoby Boren, and Chase Farris (seventh or undrafted). If you feel like doing some scouting of Vannett, here is footage of him against Michigan.
- Jalin Marshall really should have stayed in Columbus for a redshirt junior year. He was becoming a dangerous player, but he finishes his OSU career with 976 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, 175 rushing yards, and 754 yards as a returner.
- Leonte Carroo has some character issues and "ordinary" length, but if he brings the necessary work ethic once his job is on the line, he'll probably find a home in the NFL. He's currently projected as a third-round player despite the concerns, and he's going to excel at the combine.
- It has been an honor to watch Eric Murray, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, and De'Vondre Campbell go to work the last few years for Minnesota. Murray and BBC have length concerns as well, which is why they're not expected to go very high in the draft. Campbell has plenty of length, but isn't as athletic.
- This was a good year for fullbacks in the Big Ten, between Trevon Pendleton, Sione Houma and Joe Kerridge, and Andy Janovich. Janovich was the only fullback who got an invite to the Combine. Dan Vitale could end up as a fullback in the NFL, however, and he'd have plenty of experience to draw upon with the ball in his hands.
- The League is pretty low on Anthony Zettel, due to his size issues at DT and length issues at DE. Sometimes teams can get away with drafting against the grain, though (Seattle comes to mind here), and Zettel is a guy I wouldn't bet against. He can tackle trees, after all.
- Speaking of, there are a lot of great defensive linemen from the Big Ten this year. Willie Henry, Joey Bosa, Shilique Calhoun, Carl Nassib, Drew Ott, Yannick Ngakoue, Maliek Collins, Vincent Valentine, Darius Latham, Lawrence Thomas, Joel Heath, Adolphus Washington, Zettel and Austin Johnson - that's something the Big Ten can hang its hat on and use in recruiting.
Hitting the Links Is Gettin' Acerbic
Hats off to Mike on that one. Just kidding, I know his name's Gary.
Morgan Burke is something of a divisive figure. You will hear plenty of praise about him (and this article delves into why), and you will hear Purdue fans exalting that he's finally retiring. As far as the timing goes, this gives Purdue the opportunity to iron out things in the athletic department with a possible (probable) head coaching job opening up after 2016.
Alright, back to being acerbic.
Not a great situation for Darrell Hazell, though it just might make the top twenty-five moments of his tenure. Hey-ooo. No, seriously, it just might.
Every player mentioned is in the East, and four are in the MSU-OSU-UM circle of hate. Penn State is not invited.
CBS Sports has Joey Bosa as their top prospect, but Tennessee is looking for more talent and bodies along the offensive line. Laremy Tunsil would be competing with Taylor Lewan for the left tackle spot. Lewan started 6 games in 2014 and 15 games in 2015.
Also, if the debate over what to do with the #1 pick intrigues you, Music City Miracles has a persuasive argument for picking a defensive guy.
If you feel like brushing up on the coaching changes again, the Big Ten blog has you covered.
An interesting quote from Urban Meyer: "The top of the [Big Ten], it's a street fight. It's a street fight. It's not quite top-to-bottom yet, but they're coming ... right now it's still the SEC, and I think top to bottom, we're not where the SEC is yet. However, the top is pretty close." A fair assessment.
Just keep chipping away at it. Harbaugh, Meyer, and Dantonio have made some waves that stretch down south, but much of the conference is still on the lethargic side.
Fitz confirmed a week or two ago that his staff will be unchanged from last year to this year. At this point, Northwestern probably has to accept the good with the bad with Fitz. He's not going to change any time soon, a little like Brady Hoke in that way. I'd be stunned if the AD forced any kind of changes. Maybe Fitz picks up on some winds of change.
Credit: Jerry Lai, USA Today
Dean Lowry is heading to the draft, but there's a lot more talent remaining on Northwestern's D-Line.
This is a little extreme, and I'm pretty sure I'm not underestimating Ohio State. J.T. Barrett is phenomenal, definitely. Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano will be great together. There's athleticism up the wazzoo. Raekwon McMillan, Torrance Gibson, Bri'onte Dunn, and plenty of others are potential stars. The sky is certainly not falling with all the talent walking out the door.
But there is not enough experience on that defense, or veteran leadership in the locker room, to win multiple games in January. Only one team in the country gets to do that, and Ohio State definitely isn't that good. (Knock on wood.)
Here's a little more data about the Big Ten's 2016 class. A more well-done piece than the BTN article posted a week or two ago.
Ohio State makes the list; Michigan may or may not be interested in getting a lot of early commits like last year. There will probably be fewer satellite camp commits, for one. We'll see.
Chris Ash was reportedly under consideration, but he had too much experience.
I looked around but could not find out whether Jared Foley - the kid that Cardale Jones beat by a large margin on NCAA Football - is out of the hospital yet. Best wishes to him, and despite all the flack that Cardale has gotten, hats off to him for treating Jared like any other kid. Still, Cardale better show up this time, because the last challenge ended up not producing anything. Go Jared.