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» Futures: Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett

The Wildcats receiver isn't the best athlete you'll ever see, but Matt Waldman says he could be an effective pro with small improvements in his technique.

31 Oct 2011

One Foot Inbounds: Lucky

by Robert Weintraub

The game of the day, at least for me, took place at historic Legion Field in Birmingham. Alabama A&M stunned the number one team in the SWAC, Alabama State, 20-19 in the Magic City Classic. The deciding point was a blocked extra-point attempt midway through the fourth quarter. The good news for the Hornets? The ASU marching band, "The Miracle Band," outpointed A&M’s "Showband of the South" in the Battle of the Bands at halftime, thanks in large part to the Honeybees, a dance team comprised of amply proportioned ladies doing some sizzling moves.

As you may have guessed, I was in The Ham for the game in a production role, and didn’t return to Atlanta until late at night. Therefore, the only FBS action I saw live was the tail end of Stanford edging USC in triple overtime. I had the Trojans and 7.5 points -- when SC pick-sixed Andrew Luck with three minutes to play to go up by a touchdown, there was virtually no way I could lose -- unless the game somehow reached triple overtime, when the teams had to go for two, and USC failed to respond to an eight-pointer from the Cardinal.

Yep.

Making it worse was that USC was inches from scoring in the third frame, as Marqise Lee dove in but touched the sideline with 1/64th of his shoe. On the next play, Curtis McNeal fumbled (he had a heroic game until that point, with 145 yards and two touchdowns), and Stanford escaped with a 56-48 win, its unblemished record still intact.

I went back and watched a portion of the earlier action, and while Luck is clearly an excellent player, and may well be a super-duper pro, I still have a handful of questions. More to the point: if we have learned nothing else about the college-to-pros transition, we know that those shoals are littered with the shipwrecked careers of "can’t miss" prospects. Any time the media meme emerges that it would behoove a team to tank in order to draft a particular player, said player rarely delivers. Luck may be an instant success: a smart and physically gifted athlete who turns the fortunes of his new team 180 degrees. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t.

Also? He’s not the Heisman frontrunner, not based on his play and Stanford’s schedule in 2011. In the conversation, but not the leader.

Meanwhile, the Georgia schools are taking up a collection to send me out of town every weekend. The last time both UGA and Georgia Tech won on the same Saturday was October 8, and I was in Tallahassee that day. Hmmm. Mark Richt coached like his job was hanging on the result of the Florida game, which it probably was, going for it on a pair of fourth downs in the red zone. Touchdowns were the result both times, and the Dawg D squashed the Gators in the fourth quarter to win 24-20. The Bulldogs are noticeably fitter than a year ago (they did change strength and conditioning coaches after a flurry of second-half collapses last year), and have been sturdy late in games during their six-game win streak. UGA now has three straight winnable home games (only Auburn is a threat), then comes into town for the annual season-ender with Tech. 10-2 is certainly within reach, as is the SEC East title. It could prove hard to dump Richt if that is the result, much as AD Greg McGarrity may wish him removed.

Over on the Flats, the brainiacs at the Institute provided the answer to the problem that is the Clemson offense. It starts by establishing the quarterback run, which Tech had been unable to do against Virginia and Miami. Clemson is much softer up the gut, and Tevin Washington ran wild, with 27 carries for 176 yards and a score. His 56-yard run in the third quarter on third-and-six just after the mandatory Sammy Watkins touchdown closed the gap to 14 points was the game’s biggest play. After that, Tech executed the other part of its plan: forcing turnovers. The Tigers had four, which is an old bugaboo the team had avoided during its hot start to the season. Same old Clemson -- it’s unfair, but the cynics who insisted this game was coming were proven correct.

And they didn’t even get a chance to offset the loss in a Battle of the Bands.

TOEDRAGS

  • Wisconsin managed to give up another blind heave in the dying seconds to lose a Big Ten road game, this one at Ohio State, once again undoing a good comeback in the process. Don’t look now, but my doppelganger, Luke Fickell, is doing a nice job with the Buckeyes, and may well earn an extension. And in the same week as the tattoo parlor operator that got the program in Dutch heads for the pokey and a three-year bid.
  • Meanwhile, Braxton Miller is already a better quarterback than Terrelle Pryor -- discuss.
  • Marcus Lattimore, meet Wally Pipp. OK, maybe not, but Brandon Wilds filled in nicely for South Carolina, rushing for 114 yards in a must-win over Tennessee, 14-3. It helped that the Vols were a collapsed souffle on offense, managing a mere ten first downs.
  • Usually, snow is good for a passing game, while rain is bad news. Try telling that to Case Keenum, who threw for an FBS-record nine (nine!!) touchdown passes in a downpour as Houston destroyed Rice 73-34. You were probably watching Game 6 of the World Series, but this was equally un-sane. A nice tidbit comes courtesy of The Upset Blog: Keenum has now thrown for 1,507 yards against the poor Rice Owls in his career, which busts the old record Ty Detmer set for torching a single opponent -- he had 1,495 yards against New Mexico while tossing ‘em for BYU.
  • UCLA looked like a pee-wee team in the Arizona desert a week ago, then turned around and destroyed the boys from Berkeley, 31-14. Since leading Oregon 16-14 at the half three weeks ago, the Bears have been outscored 100-57 and lost three of four (including the Ducks).
  • The Golden Gophers are terrible, but apparently when the Floyd of Rosedale bronze pig trophy is at stake, they coalesce into a decent team. Minnesota takes home the oinker for the second straight year, in the process winning its first Big Ten game after three losses by an average of 38 points. Iowa sinks to 5-3, and has both Michigan schools and Nebraska still ahead.
  • Iowa State 41, Texas Tech 7. That’s the same Red Raiders bunch that put 41 on Oklahoma last Saturday. Across the Red River, Bob Stoops-haters spit up their sarsaparillas when that result flashed across bar TV sets.
  • Farewell K-State’s undefeated ride. It was fun while it lasted. Reality therapy came at the hands of Dr. Landry Jones and the angry Sooners, who trailed 17-14 early in the second quarter, then won 58-17. OK State, just to irk their rivals, scored 59 themselves in routing Baylor.
  • The "Coal Bowl" between Indiana of Pennsylvania and California of Pennsylvania was played on a blanket of snow. The game was close until Cal hit a Hail Mary at the end of the first half, and the Vulcans beat the Crimson Hawks 28-10. Going back to Cali!
  • OK, losing 27-10 to Louisville counts as a bad loss for Syracuse. A terrible loss, actually, especially coming off the West Virginia beatdown. Must have been some extra Big East motivation on the ‘Ville sideline.

OFI TOP 25

1. LSU
2. Alabama
3. Boise State
4. Oklahoma State
5. Stanford
6. Oregon
7. Arkansas
8. Oklahoma
9. Clemson
10. Virginia Tech
11. South Carolina
12. Nebraska
13. Kansas State
14. Houston
15. Michigan
16. Wisconsin
17. Arizona State
18. USC
19. Georgia
20. Southern Miss
21. Penn State
22. Cincinnati
23. Georgia Tech
24. Washington
25. Auburn

LOWSMAN TROPHY WATCH


1. Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State.
The Nittany Lions have been mostly unwatchable on offense this season, but the defense has been stellar, especially (natch) the linebackers. Hodges recorded an insane 19 tackles, along with a sack, a forced fumble, and a pair of deflections, as Penn St. beat Illinois in typical fashion, 10-7. JoePa’s Division I record 409th win as a head coach.

2. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College. With a dozen tackles (and a pick) in a win over Maryland, the brilliant Kuechly actually was under his average (16.9), thus hurting his chances of recording 200 tackles in a single season, which would be the equivalent of Bob Beamon shattering the long jump record in 1968 by nearly two feet. Kuechly now has 130 tackles in eight games. 70 more in four games would be Bigfoot territory for anyone else, but 17.5 per isn’t out of Kuechly’s realm.

3. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia. For all the attention given UGA’s to "dream team" of recruits, it was a transfer from USC that has been the biggest addition. Jones demolished Florida’s blocking with four sacks and a huge forced fumble as UGA drank the last cocktail.

4. Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas. The second straight week for Franklin, as the Hogs defense is making the crucial plays to keep their BCS hopes alive. Franklin turned around a likely loss to Vandy with a 94-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Oh yes, ten more tackles for Franklin as well.

5. Tyron Carrier, KR, Houston. Lost amid the Keenum frenzy was Carrier’s 100-yard kickoff return for his seventh career TD, tying C.J. Spiller for most ever in FBS.

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 31 Oct 2011

15 comments, Last at 02 Nov 2011, 6:08pm by Arkaein

Comments

1
by Evan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 3:37pm

You live in Atlanta, Weintraub?

2
by Mood_Indigo (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 6:32pm

Weintraub, try watching Luck's play earlier in the evening, perhaps before too many beers.

3
by Anonymouserer (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 8:42pm

Arguments against luck according to this article: Writer still has a "handful of questions" not ever great college player who goes Pro is great, and he's not the leader in the Heisman. Just an excellent dissection of Luck.............

4
by pbeez :: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 10:59pm

Yeah. Who is ahead of Luck and why? One of the major knocks against Luck is that it was hard to determine how he faces adversity since he doesn't deal with it much. He handled himself pretty well after that pick-6. Also the headline is about Luck but umm he doesn't come up until halfway through the main article.

9
by Arkaein :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 10:17am

I didn't see much of the game (recorded it since I wanted to see what Luck was all about, but haven't had a chance to watch it yet), but I think the point is that Luck doesn't have to be as good as advertised to still be worth the #1 pick.

The consensus seems to be that Luck is the more sure fire pick possible, a once in 10 years type of prospect. Most drafts don't have those. But maybe Luck is just an "ordinary" #1 overall prospect. Likely to be very successful, but not a sure thing.

From the bit I did see in the first quarter, I thought there were a few red flags. First off, I was worried when I learned how run-oriented Stanford was. The best QB in years should really be driving a pass-first offense. Second, on Stanford's opening FG drive Luck nearly gave away points by stepping up while getting hit and heaving a duck into the end zone. It almost got to the receiver for a TD, but two defenders were almost close enough to intercept as well. Just a bad decision that he won't get away with at the next level.

Obviously Luck has all the tools. His ability to throw accurately while running sideways looked Rodgers-like to me. However I can't help but worry about his lack of time in college, being only a Junior. Have scouts really seen enough tape on this guy to be so sure about him?

10
by speedegg :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 12:58pm

He's been a starter for 3 years, redshirted as a freshman.

11
by Arkaein :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 2:33pm

I know, but this is just the middle of his 3rd year. Most good NFL QBs played 3 full years, and many were 4 year starters.

When people were already anointing him as a sure thing after only 2 years of college, that seemed premature, and currently at only 2.5 years it seems like there could be flaws in his game that scouts don't have enough film to uncover.

12
by speedegg :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 3:50pm

True, but Leinhart was a 4 year starter and scouts whiffed on him: slow drop, long delivery, adequate arm strength, but difficulty with press-man coverage.

Luck plays in a run-oriented offense, so a bunch of his throws come off play-action and either-or reads. I think Phil Simms should've said he wants to see Luck throw the ball on 3rd and 9 down 2 scores. Stanford has been blowing teams out, so Luck hasn't been under pressure. I did think USC needed to blitz him more (Tampa-2? Why? Monte, why?).

Anyway, Luck had trouble with what looked like might be a deep out, but then most college QBs would have trouble with that anyway. Haven't really watched him to see if he has great accuracy like Rodgers or Bradford, but he seems to have good accuracy and ability to direct the offense.

13
by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 4:11pm

Arkaein, could you list the "many" who were 4 year starters?

Rivers at NC State...and Manning for Tennessee. Who else?

2-years: Rodgers, Brady, Vick, Flacco, Fitzpatrick

3-years: Brees, Romo, Eli, Roethlisberger

I tried to use a current definition of "good" based on stats or DVOA (or both because Rivers currently has a bad DVOA in 2011 but is better for his career obviously). Stafford and Schaub clock in at a shade less than 3 years because they took over for other guys.

Luck's right in the sweet spot. And, Rodgers and Brady show that you can be fantastic with only two seasons as college starters. There may be reasons Luck is overhyped...but his college experience isn't a strike against him at this point.

Good tests coming up with Oregon and Notre Dame...and possibly the Pac 10 championship game...and what should be a decent bowl opponent no matter how things play out between now and then.

14
by speedegg :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 4:39pm

Does Carson Palmer's 3.25 years as a starter count? If so, then add another 4 year starter to the list.

15
by Arkaein :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 6:08pm

I guess I was reaching a bit. I was thinking of Manning and Rivers when I made the comment, as those two have been two of the top QBs in recent years.

At this point Luck has clocked in 2.5 seasons, which is still on the low end. And I never meant to imply that players with less college experience can't be great, it's just that they shouldn't be considered sure fire prospects. I won't be surprised if Luck is a great NFL QB, but I won't be shocked if he comes out after this year and is a disappointment, either.

8
by Fake Phil Simms (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2011 - 6:37pm

What are you talking about? I didn't see any big time, pro-level throws from Luck. He had trouble with 18-yd deep outs and comebacks. Especially on that interception.

5
by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:40pm

Not familiar with any studies showing it's easier to pass in the snow. Familiar with many that show the opposite...except in cases where a Northern team that passes a lot is facing a team from the South that isn't used to defending in snow (the Pats had a big game against Arizona in the snow back in 2008). Wagering markets see totals shrink in snow, wind, and rain as a general rule...particulary with the combo of snow and wind.

The Houston-Rice game started in a downpour. Keenum threw a pick, and had a fumble returned for a TD. Then the rain lessened significantly before stopping. He had huge numbers after the downpour ended...but his team was down 17-7 during the downpour. That's clear in ESPN's write up here, with a quote from the Houston coach and a Rice player:

http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=313000248

Ohio State's TD wasn't a blind heave. They were trying to drive for at least a game-tying field goal with half a minute to go. The QB spotted a wide open receiver in the end zone and heaved it to him. It was a heave...but not anything like a blind heave or a Hail Mary. It's the last TD in this video package:

http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/video?gameId=313020194

Luck isn't trying to post Heisman numbers. He's throwing about 30 passes a game and letting his rushing attack due the bulk of the work vs. what's been a disappointingly easy schedule. He does have a 23-4 TD/INT ratio and a passer rating of 176.9. (Weeden for example has a rating of 154.3 and a 22-7 ratio, but is generating more raw volume on 43 passes per game) Schedule is about to toughen up. Maybe he'll get to face an SEC defense in a BCS championship game, or at least a representative Big 10 defense in the Rose Bowl. Oregon will have something to say about that. Maybe ASU too. His stat page is here:

http://espn.go.com/college-football/player/_/id/380470/andrew-luck

6
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2011 - 7:43am

Someone needs to tell me how MSU and OSU played games with almost no penalties. I am not a guy desperate to see flags but after watching WI d-linemen repeatedly get dragged to the ground and WI committing a few of their own I am wondering if there was an unstated directive given to B10 officials on ratcheting back on holding calls.

7
by J. Morse (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2011 - 11:20am

I saw Alabama State play at Eastern Michigan earlier this year, and I must say ASU's band put on the best performance I've ever seen. The Honeybees got a huge response from the home crowd.