BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino
The goal for Alabama (11-1) this season was to win their third consecutive National Championship, but a memorable loss to Auburn cost them that opportunity, leaving them to settle for facing Oklahoma (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl (Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Alabama has consistently produced NFL talent, and this year is no different. Two Alabama defenders, C.J. Mosley, and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, will likely be among the first players drafted at their respective positions in May. Quarterback AJ McCarron will be playing his final game for Alabama, looking to prove to scouts he can be as successful a professional quarterback as he has been a college quarterback.
For Oklahoma, two long-time starters in center Gabe Ikard and cornerback Aaron Colvin bring their college careers to an end as they look to solidify their draft stock against Alabama.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama, Sr. (6’2’’, 232 lbs)
Mosley has been a true playmaker in his time at Alabama on one of the nation’s best defenses. With more than 100 total tackles each of the past two seasons, Mosley is a dominant, physical inside presence and an all-around talent.
Mosley is an instinctive run defender who trusts his eyes and makes tackles all over the field. Shedding blockers and shifting through traffic are concerns for most linebackers, but not for Mosley.
He looks very natural when dropping into pass coverage. He stays connected in man coverage and does a great job of reading quarterbacks’ eyes. There is no reason to take him off the field in nickel packages. He has five career interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns, but has had his share of dropped interceptions that were right in his hands.
When he isn’t dropping into coverage, Mosley can also pressure the quarterback as an effective blitzer. He is a true every-down linebacker.
Inside linebackers rarely garner consideration as top-10 draft selections, but Mosley could be a player who ranks very high on draft boards this year.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama, Jr. (6’6’’, 310 lbs)
With reportedly more than 60 scholarship offers, Kouandjio was heavily recruited out of high school. The Crimson Tide entrusted him to take over as their blindside protector as a sophomore in 2012. He started every game since and has fared very well.
Two of the first traits to stand out about Kouandjio are his huge frame and extremely long arms. He has the body type that NFL teams look for in offensive tackles.
Run blocking is a major area of strength for Kouandjio. He creates a lot of movement as a run blocker and can move defenders at will. He finishes blocks extremely well.
Kouandjio is a solid pass blocker, but this is where his game needs refinement. While Kouandjio can get into his pass set quickly and doesn’t usually allow pressure, he has technical issues that need to be addressed. Inconsistent hand placement and waist-bending can get him in trouble and cause balance issues. As a result of these balance issues, Kouandjio is susceptible to getting beat by inside moves.
Kouandjio is outside the top tier of offensive tackles eligible for the 2014 draft class, but he has the potential to be a first-round selection with plenty of upside.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama, Jr. (6’1’’, 208 lbs)
Solidifying the back end of the excellent Crimson Tide defense is junior safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. A playmaker in the secondary, Clinton-Dix is behind many of the Crimson Tide’s big plays on defense.
Clinton-Dix has good size and athleticism for his position. He has a nose for the football and is always around the play. His willingness to fly to the football, strong tackling skills and good tackling angles make Clinton-Dix a very sound safety in run support. You can also see him frequently blitzing from the secondary and making plays near the line of scrimmage.
Clinton-Dix does a good job of keeping things in front of him in pass defense and is aggressive pursuing the ball. Alabama plays single-high safety defenses often, which leaves Clinton-Dix with a lot of ground to cover. Some of his instincts in pass defense can improve, but overall, he can be trusted as a center-fielder in the secondary.
Clinton-Dix has put together a good resume and will likely be the top safety drafted if he declares.
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama, Sr. (6’4’’, 214 lbs)
McCarron has been the the signal-caller throughout Alabama’s dominant run over the past three seasons. For his career, he has averaged 8.7 yards per attempt with a completion percentage of 67 percent, and has thrown 75 touchdowns against just 13 interceptions.
McCarron is a very intelligent football player. His fundamentals are sound, he is smart with the football and he is a solid decision-maker. Impressively, McCarron had a span of 291 passing attempts between 2011-12 without throwing an interception. He goes through his progressions methodically and understands how to read defenses.
From a physical standpoint, McCarron is not extremely athletic. He has good movement within the pocket and can avoid pressure, but is not much of a threat to run with the ball. Overall, however, his skill set translates favorably to what is needed to succeed in the NFL.
McCarron has been a heavily-debated prospect this year, but I think he compares favorably to Bengals second-round pick Andy Dalton.
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma, Sr. (6’, 192 lbs)
Colvin has played in every game since stepping foot on Oklahoma’s campus and has had a productive career. He has primarily played cornerback but has spent time at safety as well.
Colvin’s best trait is his instinctiveness. He has a natural feel for the game and coverage concepts. Colvin plays with good technique and awareness. He has proven himself to be an effective blitzer and willing run defender.
The knock on Colvin will be his limited athletic ability. He has slow feet and change-of-direction quickness. It takes him too long to get to his top speed and by the time he does, he has often allowed significant separation to his opponent. This might make him more of a safety prospect, as he is at his best when he can keep the play in front of him and read the quarterback’s eyes.
Colvin’s best NFL fit might be at safety, a position at which he looks like a mid-round prospect.
See page 2 for analysis of more of the Sugar Bowl’s top prospects to watch.
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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Aaron Colvin, AJ McCarron, Alabama, Anthony Steen, Bowl Games, Bowl Previews, Brennan Clay, C.J. Mosley, Cyrus Kouandjio, Deion Belue, Ed Stinson, Gabe Ikard, Game Previews, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Jalen Saunders, Kevin Norwood, Oklahoma, Prospect Previews, Sugar Bowl, Trey Millard