A Big 12 battle between team's with spots of talent at differing levels of their roster, the Kansas State offensive line, lead by fringe 1st rounder Cornelius Lucas, will hope to be enough to help this offense against the Texas defensive line and secondary.
That Texas defense, lead by Jackson Jeffcoat and Carrington Byndom, have the talent to have high NFL odds to be top 100 draft selections despite Texas's struggles this year, and this battle should be a nice test this weekend.
Cornelius Lucas, LT, Kansas State - #78, 6’9, 328
Easily Kansas State’s top NFL prospect, Lucas presents a rare combination of length and movement skills at the left tackle position. Still developing into his lean frame, Lucas blocks with surprisingly accurate hand placement for a second year starter and shows plus awareness for angles in the run game. Lucas’ ability to slip around defensive ends and cut off second level defenders enables Kansas State to run quite a bit of inverted veer option plays, a read option concept that gave Texas fits against Ole Miss a week ago. Performing well against top flight defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat could go a long way in securing Lucas a place in the first or second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
(JR) B.J. Finney, OC, Kansas State - #66, 6’4, 303
As solid a center prospect you’ll find in the Big 12, Finney appeals to both man and zone scheme teams, as he consistently locks and secures an inside fit on defenders. Finney shows good, not great quickness out of the gate, but does an excellent job of working his feet and hips into cutoff positions off the snap. Against Texas, Finney has the benefit of working up to a second level of linebackers that are often very late in reaching their run fits and hesitant to take-on blockers with their hands. Finney possesses the size, strength and short area quicks to be a starter at the next level, and doesn’t receive the pub that his play deserves.
Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State - #12, 6’1, 204
Zimmerman isn’t a fit for every secondary due to his inability to roll down into man coverage with slot receivers, but he is an experienced and intelligent field general at free safety. Often working from a two-high alignment, Zimmerman has mostly rolled down into the box as a robber-safety for K-State’s defense, due to the lack of vertical weapons their opponents have presented. Zimmerman will likely be operating from a deeper alignment against an explosive Texas receiving corps, providing an ideal matchup for NFL scouts to evaluate Zimmerman’s range.
Other Kansas State Notes
Senior back John Hubert (#33) already faced an uphill climb to the NFL level due to his diminutive frame and lack of speed, but had production and durability going for him. Averaging less than 3 yards per carry in his first two outings before rushing for over 100 yards versus UMass, Hubert simply isn’t a dynamic runner (just one rush over 20 yards on 46 carries). Hubert has a chance to make it at the next level but will likely have to do so as an undrafted free agent.
Junior receiver Tyler Lockett (#16) has led this team as an explosive downfield target in each of the previous two seasons, and steady developments in his route tree have been evident this season. Ball skills have been the issue with Lockett, however, as he consistently allows throws into his framework and fails to attack the football at the catch point. The tools are there for Lockett to be an ideal slot in the NFL, but he has to show more willingness to extend and be aggressive with his hand placement as a receiver.
(JR) Joe Bergeron, RB, Texas - #24, 6’1, 230
Getting leftover carries and short yardage totes for the Texas offense, Joe Bergeron continues to run with outstanding leg drive and contact balance between the tackles. Bergeron hasn’t received enough touches to get into a rhythm, but shows the power back skill set and blocking skills to be an immediate 3rd down back and short yardage ball carrier at the next level. With sophomore Jonathan Gray leading this backfield and Texas losing games, don’t be surprised if Bergeron declares for the NFL after this season.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas - #44, 6’5, 250
While his team is 2-0, Jeffcoat hasn’t played poorly and has instead improved with his hands at disengaging from blockers. Using more than just arm swipe maneuvers and actually placing his hands on the blocker, Jeffcoat is able to shed to either side and quickly run to flow. Ole Miss avoided him by moving the pocket and by running inverted veer option plays to the opposite side of the field. An ideal 3-4 outside linebacker projection at the next level, Jeffcoat will face his toughest competition this weekend against a potential first round left tackle in Cornelius Lucas. Jeffcoat typically works the edge with speed and quicks, which plays right into the hands of Lucas, who has rare length and can kick slide with surprising lateral range.
Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas - #23, 6’0, 186
Struggling to get off blocks or finish tackles in space, Byndom was simply outmuscled a week ago versus Ole Miss’ junior receiver Donte Moncrief. In addition to his inability to protect the sideline, Byndom also had a coverage lapse that led to a redzone score for Moncrief. Byndom showcases plus ball skills and range to his cover 3 drops, but pad height, transition footwork and balance at the top of the route are issues he has yet to correct. He’ll be facing a much different looking receiving corps against Kansas State, where the top two receivers are both shorter than 5’11.
(JR) Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas - #6, 5’10, 200
Covering freshman stud Laquon Treadwell last week, Diggs also struggled to support the run and work himself off blocks. Diggs played almost exclusively out of the slot and continued to impress with quick twitch athletic traits, foot speed and transition burst; still, he’ll have to a much more effective player against the run to maximize his draft talent. Likely to measure in below 5’10, but rocked up from a physique standpoint, evaluators will have to decide whether or not Diggs can be a full-service cornerback on the outside.
Other Texas Notes
Both starters on the right side of the line, senior guard Mason Walters (#72) and junior tackle Josh Cochran (#78) were knocked out of last week’s game due to injury and have been limited this week in practice. Walters is suffering from a hip injury, while Cochran is dealing with a shoulder injury. Both players are listed as questionable for the Kansas State game.
The top offensive line prospect for Texas, left tackle Donald Hawkins (#51) will likely kick inside to guard at the NFL level. Holding his own against the exceptionally talented freshman Robert Nkemdiche from Ole Miss, Hawkins is quick to setup, get himself into position and secure a firm, inside grip on opponents. Hawkins is at his best when crashing inside for down blocks and shows the balance to climb up to the second level for downfield blocks.
Among other notable injuries, quarterback David Ash (#14) is still recovering from a concussion injury that kept him out of last week’s game against Ole Miss. Ash’s slow internal clock and inability to manipulate pressure with subtle movements within the pocket were only magnified by Texas’ shaky offensive line play in their week 2 loss to BYU. Cleared medically and announced as Texas’ starter on Friday, Ash needs to be more efficient with his footwork to avoid taking another beating versus Kansas State.
Also, leading receiver Mike Davis (#1) is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. Not having Davis is a killer for Texas, as his controlled route movements and athleticism at the catch point have created big plays for this offense. Route balance, body control and ball skills make Davis a solid 4th round prospect, but he’ll need to be able to run tonight for Texas to avoid dropping a third consecutive game.