BBD Staff Writer: Joseph Curtis
Michigan State and Iowa faced off Oct. 5 in a tough matchup of Big Ten conference foes. The Michigan State defense, which ranks fourth in the nation allowing just 274.38 total yards per game, dominated the Iowa offense until they rallied for two touchdowns just before halftime. Iowa’s momentum was short-lived, however, as they failed to score in the second half and Michigan State came out victorious, 26-14.
Iowa boasted a top running attack coming into the game, averaging 244.4 yards per game on the ground, but were hold to just 23 rushing yards by the Spartans defense.
That Spartans defense has a number of 2014 NFL draft prospects, while Iowa has a couple of players on NFL radars as well.
TE #86 C.J. Fiedorowicz
-Holds backside block
-Breaks jam at line, makes good catch on throw behind him, loses balance and falls short of first
-Jumps out and gets good initial position on block, but doesn’t get hands on him quick enough
-Crisp route runner for guy his size
-Lines up in slot and makes grab for touchdown despite being held and falling down
-Holds his own against defensive lineman in pass protection, extend arms played with good base
-Good reaching catch while keeping stride
Overview: What stands out most about C.J. Fiedorowicz is his size and presence on the line of scrimmage. He is a very good blocker, perhaps better than some of Iowa’s offensive linemen. He had a few plays where he got in bad position or didn’t get on his man’s face quickly enough, but he routinely showed good drive and strength as a blocker.
As a receiver, his size (listed at 6’7″ and 265 pounds by Iowa’s official athletics website) is his greatest advantage. While he looked slow at times versus Michigan State, his height proves to be a difficult matchup. Despite catching only three passes for 21 yards versus the Spartans, he showed good hands and seems to have a wide catch radius.
Fiedorowicz rarely worked downfield, with most of his routes within five to 10 yards. With the matchup problems he potentially brings to the table, it would have been nice to see him work the seam or get some jump-ball scenarios against Michigan State.
Nonetheless, he looks to have the ability to at least be a good target. He presents issues with his size while he is also a very good blocking tight end.
LB #31 Anthony Hitchens
-Chased running back to edge; moves laterally, shifts hips and burst through runner
-Stretches run to boundary then makes tackle for loss
-Stays disciplined and stays with running back on screen, tackle for loss
-Solid wrap-up tackle while sprinting to ball carrier
-Gets to runner from backside and cleans up play
-Issues covering middle of the field
-Lets receiver past him in coverage
-Good run support, looks to make plays downhill
-Good in backside pursuit, weaves through traffic well
-Flashes nice closing burst
-Caught peaking inside and late to outside run
Overview: Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens had a nice game but both his strengths and weaknesses were at the forefront.
Hitchens is a very good run defender who recognizes plays early but stays disciplined, holding his assignment until he has the opportunity to make the play. He could use some bulk to help take on blocks, but displays a great closing burst that allows him to make plays in the backfield and quickly get out to the flat. His burst is also evident when he tackles, as he drives through ballcarriers while wrapping up.
As a pass defender, Hitchens leaves something to be desired. He does fine covering the middle zone, but is a liability in man coverage who doesn’t stay close to his man.
LB #28 Denicos Allen
-Fast but looks small, even smaller than some defensive backs on field
-No match against blockers on blitz
-Tough, nonstop motor
-Overruns receiver screen, receiver goes untouched for touchdown
-False start on special teams
-Got in backfield but cast aside with stiff arm by running back, able to make ankle tackle
-Nearly sacked quarterback on twist, but got through without being blocked
-Tough, doesn’t back down
Overview: Denicos Allen is a tough linebacker with an outstanding closing burst and good instincts. However, Allen’s most glaring issue as a prospect is his size.
Listed at 5’11” and 218 pounds by Michigan State’s official athletics website, he looks smaller than some of the defensive backs on his team. While he plays aggressive and doesn’t back down from bigger players, his lack of size shows as he struggles to disengage from blocks. He struggles as a pass-rusher as offensive linemen easily outmuscle him.
Still, Allen is explosive in the open field and takes excellent angles to the ball. His speed allows him to keep up in the passing game well. He could possibly be an asset in a nickel linebacker-type role as a pass coverage player.
LB #40 Max Bullough
-Blitzed ‘A’-gap with ease but taken out of play by fullback
-Instinctive, good feel for where things are going
-Fluid movement, flies around the field easily
-Regularly wraps up on tackles
-Doesn’t play downhill, very read and react player
-Having difficult time covering TE Fiedorowicz, called once for holding in end zone (declined)
-Takes on blockers, but overran the play several times
-Seems to be always around the ball
-Loses composure when struggling in coverage, gets away with some holds
-Comes on blitzes but little impact on pass rush
Overview: Max Bullough is an athletic, rangy linebacker with good instincts. While Bullough displays a good feel for playing the run, he has a difficult time during passing downs.
He had the tough matchup against C.J. Fiedorowicz throughout this game. Bullough wasn’t beat by Fiedorowicz’ four-inch height advantage or his better bulk; Bullough just couldn’t stay with him downfield. Bullough even resorted to holding Fiedorowicz at times to keep from losing him too much.
It seemed Bullough struggled to commit to coverage as he continued to look in the backfield. Even when not covering Fiedorowicz, Bullough often did not get deep enough to cover his area.
Against the run, Bullough was strong at the point of attack and showed excellent range to make plays all over the field.
Bullough’s biggest issue is whether can play all three downs in the NFL or whether he can only play running downs. At this point, he has a ways to go as a pass defender.
See page 2 for more Michigan State prospects.