BBD Staff Writer: Joseph Curtis
Florida State won the final BCS National Championship Game, 34-31, rallying back from an early 21-3 Auburn lead to win the game on a two-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin with just 13 seconds remaining in the game.
Led by athletes such as Benjamin and Auburn running back Tre Mason, who made a big play of his own when he scored a go-ahead, 37-yard touchdown for the Tigers with just 1:19 remaining in the game, both teams have a number of potential early-round NFL draft prospects.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State, R-So.
-Gets hands on cornerback and drives him back as a blocker
-Flagged for a false start
-Found hole between two defenders, came back to ball and made a catch but in his chest
-Nice shimmy as he approached defensive back to beat him, adjusted and reached low for catch
-Ball hit hands and bounced out
-Weak fake right then turned inside, ball hit hands but incomplete
-Shifty fake off line, jumped and caught pass in stride, clean hands catch
-High points ball in tight coverage for game-winning touchdown
Overview: A 6’5”, 234-pound receiver, Benjamin immediately sticks out on the Florida State offense. His size is his greatest asset and should draw interest from NFL teams.
His potential as a matchup nightmare was no more evident than on the game-winning touchdown. He did what he had done all season by using his size and athleticism to high-point the ball where only he could get it.
As a catcher, he has large hands that engulf the ball, but as he did several times in this game, he sometimes elects to body catch the ball rather than reaching out and snagging it with his hands.
Despite his size advantage, it seems he hasn’t really learned how to utilize it outside the red zone. He needs to use his size to box out defenders and create space, especially since he’ll have a difficult time creating separation with his route running.
Benjamin is an intriguing prospect, but should he declare for the upcoming draft, he will likely fall to Day 2 in a cluttered draft class of wide receivers.
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State, Jr.
-Got into center’s body, got hands out, shed and got tackle
-Stuffs center, reroutes and sheds, assists on tackle
-Very slow get-off, playing upright
-Fast off line, quick hands but slows down after initial contact
-Gave up on one play after initial contact, just stood
-Threw lineman back off a quick burst to pick up a tackle
-Ripped at offensive lineman’s arms, discarded blocker to arm tackle ballcarrier’s feet
-Clubbed blocker’s hands away, filled gap and stood up runner
-Nice swim move through line of scrimmage
-Pancaked offensive lineman, stepped over him for tackle for loss
-Clubbed lineman aside, sat in hole and stuffed run
Overview: A playmaker in the middle of the Florida State defense, Jernigan might have had the biggest impact of any defensive player in this game.
Regularly shedding blocks and stuffing the run throughout the game, he forced Auburn to run around him. This was evident when he was off the field in the fourth quarter and Auburn ran the ball up the middle several consecutive plays.
He displays excellent quickness off the snap, active hands and good strength. That said, he regularly took plays off and took himself off the field on one of the most pivotal drives of the game, which will bring about questions about his motor, stamina and passion.
Teams will wonder which player they will get with Jernigan, but his playmaking ability should make him a first-round pick and possibly the first defensive tackle off the board.
Christian Jones, LB, Florida State, Sr.
-Read run, sat in cutback lane and took down runner
-Read run outside, beat lineman outside to stand up runner
-Put lineman on back on PAT attempt
-Thrown off by chip block
-Maintained ground against double-team block, broke free and pursued runner
-Thrown off by blocker, pursues wrong player on read option
-Held flat zone, reacted quickly to ball
-Spied quarterback, came too close and lost quarterback in pursuit
-Got inside arm free and stopped runner in lane
-Held outside contain, giving runner nowhere to go
-Read read-option properly, mirrored runner and stopped him for short gain
Overview: A naturally athletic linebacker, Jones also displayed good instincts and intelligence against Auburn.
Predominantly playing strong-side linebacker, he took on blockers and held the edge. He played disciplined football but also knew when to give up his position to try and make a play.
His most desirable trait may be his versatility. He showed he could shed blocks and pursue against the run, drop into coverage and blitz. While he is not elite in any of those capacities, he does a respectable job and has room to grow.
Jones is a solid fit for a team looking for a three-down linebacker and could become one of the steals of this draft.
Lamarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State, Sr.
-Blitzed off edge, overpursued and could not change directions quickly enough
-Leaped over the top of the line of scrimmage on a run blitz
-Filled outside to force running back out of bounds
-Overran play to open huge hole
-Picked up unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing hand to opponent’s face after play
-Chased down runner to shove him down for tackle
-Patient in backpedal, made a quick turn and took a good angle in pursuit
-Fast to flat, not fooled by juke and made a diving tackle
-Recovered fumble by teammate on interception return
-Blitzes, planted foot then changes direction for sack
Overview: Joyner may have been the pound-for-pound toughest player on the field. At 5’8” and 190 pounds, Joyner plays much larger and throws his body around without concern.
While his aggressive style of play is arguably his most desirable trait, it’s also his greatest weakness. He is an intense payer who plays every play at full-speed, but he also shows the tendency to overrun plays and even be susceptible to fakes underneath.
He has an excellent closing burst that he utilizes against both passing and running plays. That acceleration, along with good instincts, enables him to regularly be around the ball and around plays. He didn’t attempt to wrap up on tackles often against Auburn, however, instead just going for hard hits and throwing his body around.
Joyner has bounced between cornerback and safety, so his fit at the next level is still not clearly defined, but his no-holds barred playing style is appreciated and should garner interest.
Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State, Sr.
-Extended arms, shed block, and made tackle in pursuit
-Stayed away from block, sets up near hole then jumped in for tackle
-Allows tight end to get first down in soft zone coverage
-Gave up outside contain to allow a big run
-Swallowed up by an offensive lineman and walked back away from a play
-Gave up edge, got outran to flat and gave up touchdown
-Avoided block to make a shoelace tackle
-Squeezed between linemen at point of attack to make tackle
-Took a good outside angle to hold runner in backfield
Overview: Like his teammate Lamarcus Joyner, Smith is another smaller-than-desired yet aggressive defender. A lean 6’3” and 218 pounds, he looks more like a safety but displays good range and surprising strength.
While he is aggressive around the ball and consistently in situations to make plays, it also costs him. Breaking contain to try to make a play on the ball carrier provides both good and bad results.
His range and ability to weave through traffic is impressive. He was able to run through chaos, keep his feet clean and emerge on the other side ready to make a play a few times during this game. When he went head-to-head with offensive lineman, however, he was swallowed up by blocks and had trouble getting away.
Smith is small and will have to bulk up his frame or possibly make a move to safety, but his range and aggressiveness will be valued on draft weekend.
See page 2 for notes on Auburn’s top prospects.
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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Auburn, BCS National Championship Game, Chris Davis, Christian Jones, Dee Ford, Florida State, Greg Robinson, Jay Prosch, Kelvin Benjamin, Lamarcus Joyner, Scouting Notes, Telvin Smith, Timmy Jernigan, Tre Mason