In this series of articles we at BBD will look ahead to the 2011 season and give you the three best games to watch for each of our top 10 ranked prospects in order to evaluate their talents. We start with the glamour position of being the QB.
Click here if you missed Prospect Forecasting: Quarterbacks Part One.
6. Chandler Harnish-Northern Illinois
6’2, 221 lbs.
9/17 v. Wisconsin
JJ Watt may have been the most dominant DE to play at Wisconsin in some time but with his departure the pass rush duties will fall to DE Louis Nzegwu. Nzegwu is a lanky, athletic defender who is playing as a 43 end but fits better with his hand off the ground in a 34 scheme. Behind him are two very solid defensive backs in FS Aaron Henry, and CB Antonio Feneles. Henry is a do everything S, he plays in the box, he blitzes, he drops into coverage and he does all of these things well. He’s slightly limited in his range but he makes up for it by taking the proper angles on plays. Antonio Feneles is a developing CB who is limited size wise (5’9) but is has very active hands is very good at making plays (4 INT’s and 7 PBU’s). If Harnish is to be successful in this game he will have to make the proper reads and deliver the ball accurately.
10/22 v. UB
While it may have gone largely unnoticed last season, the University of Buffalo actually ended ranking 18th nationally in pass defense. Unfortunately UB has to replace 8 starters on defense and that includes every one of their defensive backs. However that 2010 defensive achievement was due in large part to the efforts of LB Khalil Mack who was a dominant force both in the backfield (4.5 sacks, 14.5 TFL, 8 QBH) and in pass coverage (10 PBU). If Harnish is able to avoid Mack he will still need to watch out for developing end Stephen Means (4.5 sacks, 5 QBH) coming off the edge. Should he have enough time to scan the field, picking apart a very inexperienced Bulls secondary could become a very easy task.
11/1 v. Toledo
Last year in this game Toledo got mollywhopped by Chandler Harnish both through the air and on the ground. Harnish had a combined total of 311 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. This year however Toledo hopes to return the favor, with 9 returning starters and their entire secondary still intact. That secondary is led by big CB Desmond Marrow (6’3, 210) who is bigger than all of NIU’s starting WR’s. Marrow is a physical CB who could give the Huskies WR’s big time issues trying to get off the line and into their routes. If the Huskies WR’s timing is thrown off then Harnish will need to be very aware of the pressure that DE Malcolm Riley will be bringing off the edge. Riley had 5.5 sacks and 10 TFL’s last year and at 6’3, 281 lbs is an absolute beast to try and handle.
7. Dominique Davis-ECU
6’3, 210 lbs.
9/3 v. South Carolina
Imagine coming up to the line as the QB and as you scan to your left you see DE Devin Taylor and to your right you see freshman phenomenon DE Jadeveon Clowney. Each end checking in at over 6’6 and 245 pounds. Scared yet? I don’t think Davis will be on opening weekend but he should be concerned. Taylor was a beast off the edge last year and if Clowney is even half of what he has been billed to be, Davis may want to make sure to check that his current insurance premiums are up to date. South Carolina also returns both starting CB’s including the up and coming Stephon Gilmore who led the Gamecocks in tackles (79) and INT’s (3) last season.
9/10 v. Virginia Tech
Back to back brutal games for Davis as he will be tested here against a turnover driven Hokie defense that ranked 40th last year in pass defense allowing only 205.57 yards per game. Leading the effort will be the nation’s leader in INT’s last year in Jayron Housley. Housley picked off 9 passes and broke up 8 others giving QB’s fits all year long. Backing up Housley is the always steady Eddie Whitley. Whitley may be slightly underrated coming into this year but don’t sleep on him, he provides great back stop support both in coverage and as a last line of run defense. The job of getting after Davis will fall to LB Bruce Taylor who at times last year seemed nearly unblockable while putting up 15.5 TFL, 6 sacks, and 12 QB hurries.
10/1 v. UNC
Davis and ECU may have the toughest out of conference schedule this year after having back to back games with South Carolina and VT to start the year. Just 3 weeks later they will find themselves playing yet another talented team in UNC. While players like Bruce Carter, Quan Sturdivant, and Kendric Burney are all gone, UNC is still fully loaded. It all starts up front with the play of DE’s Quinton Coples (BBD #1 overall player) and Donte Paige-Moss. These two ends combined last year for 108 tackles, 26 TFL’s, 17 sacks, and 13 QB Hurries. If Davis thought South Carolina was bad, UNC may be worse. Behind that dynamic duo sits one of the nation’s most athletic LB’s in Zach Brown. Brown is finally starting to figure out how to combine his off the charts athleticism with his improved football IQ and it could make for a very dangerous combo (#2 on Big Board).
8. Ryan Lindley-San Diego State
6’4, 215 lbs.
9/24 @ Michigan
Going to Ann Arbor is never easy, even with the Wolverines in transition, the Big House will be rocking and it will be a big test for Lindley. On the field Lindley couldn’t ask for a more favorable match-up when going up against a Big 10 team. Michigan finished last season ranked 112th in pass defense allowing 261.85 ypg and lacks any kind of a pass rush threat at the moment. The lone bright spots for Michigan is that nobody knows more about San Diego State than their old coach and current Michigan man Brady Hoke. Also the return of CB Troy Woolfork should help to stabilize a Michigan secondary that at times was hemorrhaging yards last year. This one could be one of the highest scoring matchups of the year and unless Michigan can find a pass rush, I’d expect Lindley to put up big numbers.
10/8 v. TCU
You can’t tell me that every MWC team won’t be gunning for TCU this year with them bailing for the Big East. The issue is that TCU was one of the top defensive teams in the country last year (#1 in Pass Defense) and comes off a huge Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. With LB’s Tanner Brock and Tank Carder returning for TCU yards will be very tough to come by for Ronnie Hillman. This will put even more onus on Lindley to take advantage of a TCU secondary that is replacing two starters and whose best cover corner is Greg McCoy. TCU runs that 3-3-5 defense so their fifth defensive back (WS Tekerrin Cuba) spends a lot of time in the box and isn’t a huge factor in coverage so one could argue they are replacing 3 of their four main coverage guys this year. Can Lindley take advantage of this depleted TCU secondary? We think so, but if there is anything we’ve learned recently it’s that you can never count TCU out.
10/29 v. Wyoming
I know what you’re thinking…Wyoming? Really? Yes really, Wyoming has the best CB in the country that you’ve never heard of in Tashaun Gipson. The 6’0, 208 lbs CB is an active and feisty CB who isn’t afraid to get in your face and be physical. He likes to gamble by jumping routes and will make QB’s pay for challenging him. Wyoming will try and bring some pressure with DE Josh Biezuns but the Aztecs should be able to handle him. We want to see Lindley go right after Gipson in this game, challenge him to make plays and challenge himself to beat him.
9. Aaron Corp-Richmond
6’3, 205 lbs.
9/3 @ Duke
Unlike BJ Coleman (whose game against Nebraska we profiled in Part 1) we expect Aaron Corp to be dominant against his FBS opponent in week 1. Duke ranked 96th in pass defense last year allowing 241.83 ypg and has to replace its top pass rusher in Patrick Egboh (4.5 sacks), its top returning sack artist is LB Kelby Brown with 1.5 sacks. Defensively CB Russ Cockrell could present some matchup issues with his size (6’0, 175 lbs.) but if Duke can’t put pressure on Corp it may not matter. I expect Richmond to win this game and for Corp to have a statement game to start 2011.
10/1 @ James Madison
Last year James Madison was an absolute defensive juggernaut, they finished ranked 12th in pass defense (160.45 ypg), 8th in total defense (286.91 ypg), and 3rd in scoring defense (14.73 ppg). This year they return 10 defensive starters and should be able to really test Corp all over the field. DE DJ Bryant and LB Pat Williams are going to be responsible to bring the pressure on Corp for the Dukes, while CB Taviean Coffee will once again be asked to provide blanket coverage. His likely assignment will be WR Tre Gray who is a big playmaker down the field.
11/19 v. William & Mary
This game is going to be one to watch because it’s going to be a battle of two senior QB’s (Corp v. Mike Paulus) who have transferred down from the FBS level (Corp-USC, Paulus-UNC) and have thus far in their careers struggled to stay healthy. Both prospects need to have big games in order to improve their stock and this game also may help to decide the CAA conference champion. The big test for Corp will be avoiding the pressure from DE Marcus Hyde (12.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks) and making sure his throws avoid CB B.W. Webb (9 career INT) at all costs. Hyde is an up and coming pass rusher, while Webb is quite possibly the top CB in all of the FCS.
10. John Brantley-Florida
6’3, 217 lbs.
10/1 v. Alabama
Brantley may not see another defensive backfield as deep and as good as Alabama ever again, not even in the NFL. Dre Kirkpatrick may be the most lockdown CB in the country, while SS Mark Barron may be one of the steadiest tacklers. FS Robert Lester is an absolute ball hawk with incredible range and speed, and even Dee Millner is developing into quite an accomplished CB and should only get better this year. These four combined last year for 235 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 24 PBU, and 15 INT’s. To put that into perspective those 15 INT’s were more than 77 teams had all of last year.
10/8/ v. LSU
Florida didn’t win the schedule lottery that Georgia did by missing the heavy hitters in the SEC West this year. For Florida they have back to back tests against Alabama and LSU. LSU provides us with a great early barometer by which to measure Brantley’s development and current skill level under Weiss. LSU’s defense could take a step back from their 2010 dominance and while they should still be very good they lack the playmakers in the back that a team like Alabama has. CB Morris Clairborne will lead the way in Tigers defensive backfield and he will have task or trying to lock down Deonte Thompson, Brantley’s #1 target.
10/29 v. UGA in Jacksonville, FL
I don’t care what they change the name of the game to, it will always and forever be known to me as the ‘World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party’, and it’s also one of those rivalry games that I love to scout and make sure never to miss. Georgia’s 34 defensive front should give us a good look at how Brantley can adapt to a defense he will not have seen much of. UGA should roll out one of the most athletic LB corps in the country, and has a playmaker at CB in Brandon Boykin. The biggest change to the defense may come in the middle as JUCO transfer John Jenkins will give UGA DC Todd Grantham his first real NT. If Jenkins is able to push the pocket and force Brantley to bail out and run for his life it won’t be a good day to be a Gator.
What do you think? What QB’s are going to surprise us, what QB’s are going to be disappointments?