While most scouts that hoped to attend won't be going to see future first rounder Matt Barkley play against Georgia Tech, scouts will need to be their to check out the host of USC talent, both seniors and potentially declaring juniors, play against a highly mediocre Georgia Tech team. While scouting against an option offense isn't ideal for defensive players isn't ideal for scouts, it's still worth checking out the host of talent USC has.
As for Georgia Tech, they'll hope their talented pass rusher and crew of running backs can hang with Lane Kiffin and the USC Trojans.
Notes by Mark Dulgerian and Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting
Matt Barkley, QB, USC - #7, 6’2, 230 (OUT)
Barkley has been ruled out of the bowl game after suffering a season ending shoulder sprain in the UCLA game, but he’s a highly touted quarterback entering the draft so he’s worth a mention. Post season workouts and medical examinations on his throwing shoulder will surely impact where he’s drafted. He had a disappointing season, seemingly regressing in his post-snap decision-making, and questions remain about his arm strength, especially now with the injury. Still, he’s strong in his pre snap diagnosis and throws with some of the best anticipation and touch in the draft. Ultimately, Barkley’s draft stock will likely rise once NFL teams see the intangibles for themselves. Barkley also spent 4 years as the “golden boy” and leader of the vaunted Trojans’ football program. In such a quarterback-needy league, don’t be surprised if a team overdrafts him in the 1st round despite grading out as more of a 2nd rounder.
TJ McDonald, S, USC - #7, 6’3, 205
Voted Most Inspirational by teammates, McDonald is the leader of the Trojans’ defense and actually leads the team in tackles coming into their bowl game. He hasn’t made the progress in his senior year many scouts were hoping to see after flashing big play ability throughout his career. He undoubtedly has top tier size, speed, and explosiveness for the position but he doesn’t always maximize it in his play. He is at his best when he can let plays develop in front of him and closing in however, there are still questions about his instincts and recognition in coverage. He is also prone to missed tackles caused by bad angles and launching his body at the ball carrier rather than breaking down and wrapping. Following much hype, his stock has slipped some this year and looks more like a late day 2 pick.
Khaled Holmes, OC, USC - #78, 6’4, 305
No one really got a feel for how valuable Holmes was to the Trojans’ offensive line until he sat out one and a half games due to an ankle injury he sustained in September. In short, an already average line fell apart. He is a well built, naturally strong athlete who displays excellent footwork and short area quickness on seals and traps but lacks the foot speed to consistently beat his man to the point on pulls and slips. He can drive his man off the ball on run plays and finishes. Holmes executes consistently and can also move to either guard position at the next level if needed.
Curtis McNeal, RB, USC - #22, 5’7, 190
McNeal was overshadowed by junior transfer Silas Redd, but McNeal still flashed when he was given opportunities this year. He’s small but he’s filled out and surprisingly strong enough to pick up tough yards between the tackles when needed. McNeal shows quick feet and has the sudden burst to attack holes and make the first man miss but he’s more of a 4.6-guy who lacks the top end speed to out run angles and win the edge on a consistent basis. His patience as a runner has improved and he didn’t bounce as many runs outside this year. He is adequate in pass protection, showing the toughness needed but has some technique work to do. He’s also never been a feature back and will likely play a support role for someone in the NFL.
Wes Horton, DE, USC - #96, 6’5, 260
Horton is an undersized end who may have trouble finding a home in the NFL as somewhat of a ‘tweener. He is long with good athleticism for a defensive end but he lacks the strength to play the run adequately and does not seem to possess the fluidity to play the OLB position. As a pass rusher, he displays a quick first step and can surprise OL with quick jolts to create separation off the edge. He has long arms that he can use to counter and keep OL out of his body but his number one flaw is his pad level. Too often he plays too high allowing linemen to engulf him at times and take him out of the play. His best shot is to continue to add bulk and strength to play the 5-technique against the run and pass. Teams will like his natural tools and could take a late round flyer on him.
Robert Woods, WR, USC - #2, 6’1, 190 (JR)
Woods has not declared yet, and there is some question on whether he will/should. He’s very polished as a route runner and shows outstanding football instincts on the field. He knows how to set up defenders using savvy head and shoulder fakes and shows excellent agility and change of direction skills to run the entire route tree. He is not a burner but has enough speed to threaten the top of the defense and adjusts the ball well. He will have the occasional drop, but other than that he’s ready to contribute as an NFL starter. Reggie Wayne comparisons are valid with Woods, and I wouldn’t expect him to last very long on day 2 if he declares.
Nickell Robey, CB, USC - #21, 5’8, 165 (JR)
Robey is awaiting an official NFL draft evaluation before making his announcement, but he projects as a solid 2nd rounder who could be in 1st round consideration if it weren’t for his diminutive stature. He’s a pure athlete and excels in man coverage where he has blanket skills. He’s valuable because he can also line up in the slot in nickel packages and mirror the ever-dangerous slot guys in the NFL. He is instinctive but, if caught guessing, possesses the recovery speed to keep from being beat deep. His size is his biggest limitation however, as bigger receivers can get a body on him and “win” air battles. Receivers can also use their frame to shield Robey from the ball. He is feisty however, and will wrap and slow the receiver long enough for the calvary to come and help.
Morgan Breslin, DE, USC - #91, 6’2, 250 (JR)
Breslin burst onto the scene this year as arguably the Pac 12’s best defensive lineman after transferring from the JUCO ranks. Extremely productive, recording 18 TFL including 12 sacks, Breslin is a gifted pass rusher. He is lightening quick off the ball and displays excellent change of direction ability. He is raw in terms of rush moves and must do a better job of squaring his shoulders to set the edge but he flashes natural power to dominate. He’s likely to return for another year but he should be in first round consideration this time next year.
Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech, #45, 6’3, 235 (JR)
Attaochu has a possible Top 10 NFL Draft pick on him if he continues to develop as a pass rusher, but has yet to do so on a consistent basis. Playing a rare college 3-4 defense, Attaochu plays quite a bit in coverage as well as in rushing the passer. He has fantastic vision as a rusher, and stunts and redirects very well with outstanding balance. He closes quickly and with force on the quarterback, and rarely is left in the backfield without forcing an errant throw or a sack. He stays low and powerful throughout his rush, and has a lot of energy and a high motor as a pass rusher. As quick and energetic rusher in college football this year, if Attaochu needs to develop more rush moves and as a coverage linebacker as well as play more consistent before he should declare and be a high draft pick.
Omoregi Uzzi, OG, Georgia Tech - #77, 6'3, 300
A physical upfield run blocker, Uzzi is strong off the ball with his upper half, showing great hand strength to get initial push. He’s experienced as a mobile blocker as well, flashing the ability to transiton blocks well, get upfield, and move laterally as a blocker. While he doesn’t have a chance to showcase all that much as a pass blocker, he has the length on the interior and bend to likely succeed there with more experience.
Rod Sweeting, CB, Georgia Tech - #6, 6'0, 184
An experienced, savvy cornerback, Sweeting uses his reaction/instincts as well as his length as a cornerback to consistently be active in coverage. Not an elite coverage cornerback, Sweeting seems to have a good understanding of the skills he has, and utilizes his length and body control to both make plays and not give up deep plays on a consistent basis either. Sweeting looks smooth in his transitions at cornerback, and could impress NFL teams with his experience and fluidity in his hips for his length.
Others to Watch
Isaiah Wiley, CB, USC - #14, 6’1 185
Jawanza Starling, S, USC - #29, 6’1, 195
Silas Redd, RB, USC - #25, 5’10, 200 (JR)
Kevin Graf, OT, USC - #77, 6’6, 295 (JR)
John Martinez, OG, USC - #59, 6’2, 300 (JR)
Tevin Washington, QB, Georgia Tech - #13, 6’0, 202
Orwin Smith, RB, Georgia Tech - #17, 6'0, 202
David Sims, RB, Georgia Tech - #20, 6’0, 218 (JR)
Izaan Cross, DE, Georgia Tech - #94, 6’4, 300