2014 BCS National Championship Game Prospect Preview: Florida State vs. Auburn

Tre Mason became a star in Auburn’s run to an SEC championship this season. (Photo: John David Mercer — USA Today Sports)

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn, RS So. (6’5’’, 320 lbs)

Greg Robinson has blossomed into one of the top players at his position in the entire country in his second season as Auburn’s starting left tackle.

Though Robinson does not touch the ball, one could say the Auburn offense runs through him because of his ability to create significant movement in the run game. For an Auburn offense that ran the ball 676 times this season and passed only 258 times, Robinson played a huge part in the Tigers making it to the National Championship Game.

Robinson is an elite run blocker. His technique, hand placement and leg drive are flawless. He generates incredible power from his legs that shifts through his hips and to his arms, which allows him to dominate his opponents. He has a strong initial punch and creates huge running lanes for his backfield. He can sustain and finish blocks at an extremely high level.

Robinson is an excellent second-level blocker. He anticipates where linebackers will be and seals them off with authority. He can also breakdown in space against secondary players to block them downfield.

Robinson is not nearly as polished as a pass blocker, which can be partially blamed on the system Auburn runs. Robinson is not asked to pass protect as frequently, leaving that area in his game less developed. When he does pass block, his protection schemes usually involve a moving pocket. That said, his pass blocking is an area of weakness when projecting him to the NFL.

His lack of depth on his initial kick-step creates balance issues. He doesn’t use his length to his advantage to ride rushers past the quarterback either. His foot speed and change-of-direction skills, however, are solid. All of his flaws as a pass blocker are correctable, and his skill set suggests he can become a more than adequate pass protector.

Given the system Auburn runs and his dominance as a run blocker, staying at school might not improve his game much. He is a top-15 talent if he declares for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Tre Mason, RB, Auburn, Jr. (5’10’’, 205 lbs)

The SEC Offensive Player of the Year and sixth-place finisher in Heisman Trophy voting this season, Tre Mason has had a sensational junior campaign for the Tigers with 1,621 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. With 283 carries in 2013, Mason has been the horse behind Auburn’s top-ranked rushing attack that has averaged 335 yards per game.

Mason is a patient runner who allows plays to develop and then accelerates through holes with excellent upfield burst and behind his pads. He is a disciplined ball carrier who generally sticks with play designs, and it has worked well for him. Much of Mason’s work is done for him due to the terrific run blocking ability of the Auburn offensive line, but Mason executes his role well and takes advantage of every yard available.

Mason can run through arm tackles with a strong forward lean. He lowers his shoulders on contact and consistently falls forward for extra yards. Overall, he has good speed and power.

One of the positives of playing in Auburn’s run-heavy offense is the variety of plays Mason can execute. Whether it’s a power run, zone run, misdirection, counter, off-tackle or cutback play, Mason has the experience and success of performing well in a variety of designs.

Mason is a willing but largely unsuccessful pass protector. He knows where to be, but doesn’t block with proper technique. Used sparingly as a receiver with just 11 receptions this season, Mason will need to exhibit he can contribute as a receiver out of the backfield to improve his draft stock.

Averaging 26.4 yards per return with two touchdowns, Mason has been a solid kick returner throughout his career.

Auburn’s scheme has both taken full advantage of Mason’s skill set and inflated his ability with his role. That said, at a position not highly valued in the draft, Mason is viewed as a mid-round prospect.

Dee Ford is Auburn’s leading pass-rusher. (Photo: Derick E. Hingle — USA Today Sports)

Dee Ford, DE, Auburn, Sr. (6’2’’, 240 lbs)

After 6.5 sacks in his first 29 career games as a freshman and sophomore, Ford had 6.5 in just 11 games last season as a junior. This season, Ford has amassed 8.5 sacks, including several in big moments in wins against Texas A&M and Georgia.

Ford is an undersized speed rusher who flashes good burst off the ball. Aside from a rip move combined with speed, he does not offer much diversity in his pass-rush moves. He can apply good pressure when his motor is running, but it doesn’t consistently run.

As the season progressed, Ford began countering his upfield rush with a solid move to come back underneath the tackle which helped improve his pass rush. His angles to the quarterback have also developed steadily this season.

Ford does not offer much against the run. He looks to rush the quarterback first on every snap before playing the run, often leaving him too far up field to contribute in run defense. This might be how he is coached, but it leaves his ability to recognize plays in question.

Ford can make an impact in the NFL as a pass rusher, but his limitations in run defense and play recognition limit his draft stock. He is valued as an early Day 3 draft selection.

Chris Davis, CB, Auburn, Sr. (5’11’’, 200 lbs)

Davis will forever be remembered for his 109-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown on the final play of Auburn’s season-defining, 34-28 victory against then-No. 1 ranked Alabama that ultimately propelled the Tigers to a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.

With a 20.1 yard punt return average, his NFL future projects primarily as a returner and to provide depth at cornerback.

Davis is best when covering short routes, where he can use his quickness to mirror his opponent and play the ball. He is not as successful defending down the field as he is easily out-muscled and doesn’t have great ball skills. In three seasons as a starting cornerback, he has yet to intercept a pass.

The major concern in Davis’ game is his lack of physicality. He appears to want nothing to do with offering help in run support or coming up and tackling short completions. He is not good at jamming opponents at the line of scrimmage in press coverage, and he is not a good enough cover cornerback to be unwilling to contribute closer to the line of scrimmage. His lack of aggression and physicality brings his ability to play on special teams coverage units into question.

Davis has shown many flaws over the course of his three seasons at Auburn, but he does have two large stages in the National Championship Game and Senior Bowl to convince he has the ability to contribute in the NFL. As I see it, he is a late-round prospect.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Auburn, BCS National Championship Game, Bowl Games, Bowl Previews, Bryan Stork, Cameron Erving, Chris Davis, Christian Jones, Dee Ford, Devonta Freeman, Florida State, Game Preview, Greg Robinson, Kelvin Benjamin, Lamarcus Joyner, NFL Draft, Prospect Previews, Rashad Greene, Telvin Smith, Terrence Brooks, Timmy Jernigan, Tre Mason

One Response to “2014 BCS National Championship Game Prospect Preview: Florida State vs. Auburn”

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