Originally posted on Optimum Scouting  |  Last updated 9/17/12

In a week that featured the first Tennessee/Florida game where both were ranked in 7 years, Louisiana Monroe nearly beating another SEC team, Notre Dame dismantle Michigan State, and USC fall to Stanford, there were many scouting notes to gather from this past weekend.

Tyler Bray looked more like a work in progress than a future 1st rounder, Notre Dame’s speed shut down Le’Von Bell of Michigan State, and scouting notes from the USC/Stanford game, Penn State/Navy game, and Northern Illinois/Army.

Tyler Bray Flashes More Serious Flaws That True Excitement
Tyler Bray’s (injury limited) sophomore season got many Tennessee fans and NFL evaluators excited for what the future may hold for the development of his talents. But this past weekend’s games against Florida did more to limit and maybe even turn negative the scouting excitement over the future of Tyler Bray.

Bray still showcased his quick, explosive release, his fantastic arm downfield, and willingness to take chances down field. However, it’s that gunslinger mentality combined with very sloppy mechanics and footwork that lead to the struggles for Tennessee. Under pressure, Bray seemed to choose between launching passes deep downfield into double coverage, or making a quick, obvious check-down calls that lead to near or actual turnovers. His reads/decisions are both concerning pre- and post-snap, consistently looking for either the big play (and over-trusting his receivers Justin Hunter and Cordelle Patterson) or the short dump off that doesn’t have any consistency.

If Bray can’t clean up his mechanics and footwork under pressure, make much better progressions/decisions downfield, and show more focus and decisiveness as a quarterback, he’ll have bigger concerns than just his NFL draft stock. He’ll be in store for a long SEC season if he can’t build off his Florida loss.

RELATED: Former Tennessee receiver Da'Rick Rodgers Kicked off Team, Heads to Tennessee Tech

Notre Dame Dominates Michigan State With Speed, Range, and Scheme
After re-watching what was an absolute domination of Michigan State, it’s clear Notre Dame has something defensive that they haven’t in a while: true speed, range, and fundamental play by their defense. Senior linebacker Manti Te’o is clearly the leader of this team and fits that defensive personality well. His fluidity as a runner in the open field, scrapping ability in downfield coverage, and quickness/speed to the ball on the edge is a tone setter for this defense. All game long, the defense forced junior runner Le’Veon Bell outside, forcing this offense to consistently struggle to move up and down.

Te’o’s style is a perfect fit for this defense, but his struggles through traffic, lack of great lower body force through blockers, and may struggle as an inside linebacker in most schemes. As for Bell, his explosive second step through the hole, powerful lower half to consistently drive forward, and (most importantly) his confidence in his natural ability and vision is what separates him as a runner. He wasn’t able to get upfield against the Notre Dame speed defensively, but his complete talents for a 230 running back are special.

As for the Michigan State defense, they contained Notre Dame for much of the game, outside of a handful of athletic plays by freshman quarterback Everett Gholston. His best offensive weapon, junior Tyler Eifert, was both covered with multiple defensive backs as well as not being featured enough in the offense.

Michigan State senior cornerback Johnny Adams was featured on Eifert on a few occasions, but for the most part, Adams wasn’t attacked much at all by Notre Dame. He did, however, showcase his suddenness in run support, aggressiveness and sound tackling ability, and physicality as a cover cornerback. Finally, Michigan State defensive end William Gholston has many concerns as a pass rusher (including lacking a speed rush, not a great motor, not very decisive in pursuit, takes poor angles in run support, lacks elite speed for range to the edge), but with his 6’7 size, ability to pinch the inside at an elite level, and upside as a likely 5-technique, Gholston still has a better than expected chance at the 1st round.

Head to the next page for our scouting notes from across the country by our staff.

General Scouting Notes from the Across the Country
-While Tyler Bray struggled all game long, his receivers flashed elite upside in juniors Justin Hunter and Cordelle Patterson. Hunter's ability to get downfield quickly and smoothly, attack the ball in air well with good route balance, and hands to make plays in traffic is what has NFL teams excited. But he'll need to bulk up, get more physical, and hopefully show more medium-based routes. Patterson shows great body positioning and has great hands in traffic, which has made him maybe Bray's favorite target.

-While he was discussed a week ago as well, Florida senior running back Mike Gillislee showed great patience through contact and up through the hole, the pad level to run through contact with balance, and has decisive routes upfield once he does get into the open field.   

RELATED: Scouting Notebook From Week 2: Nassib/Barkley Battle, Arkansas Loss, and Scouting Notes  

  -Before Saturday, the last time Matt Barkley completed less than half his passes in a game was in 2009 when he was a true freshman. Needless to say, Barkley struggled when faced with an excellent pass rush and a struggling offensive line unit. It was essentially the first time he has faced significant pressure throughout the entirety of the game and Barkley looked rattled at times. He did not look confident stepping into throws in the face of interior pressure and he was inconsistent in making proper pre snap adjustments at the line. His two interceptions were a result of bad reads and forcing the ball into coverage. While most quarterbacks would have likely had the same struggles Barkley had behind very subpar offensive line performance, it will be interesting to see how Barkley bounces back from such a poor showing. Despite all the bad, Barkley showed good toughness in delivering accurate throws outside the numbers under pressure and still managed to keep the Trojans in the game despite a total meltdown in pass protection.

-The All American safety USC TJ McDonald was exposed some as over aggressiveness and inconsistent pursuit angles led to big plays. McDonald is a hard hitting rangy safety with good straight line speed but he tends to get caught in over pursuit and ends up missing tackles as a result. Still, he showed the versatility to play the deep half as well as fly up for run support but he must learn to take better angles, especially when asked to make plays close to the line of scrimmage.

-Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas saw his stock rise after constantly creating pressure in the backfield and getting constant penetration to disrupt plays and making plays in the backfield. He is an explosive pass rush specialist who was able to use his quick first step to press the edge to create penetration as well as set up his teammates to collapse the pocket. He also showed very good ability to transition his body and flip his hips in picking up receivers out of the backfield in coverage.

-Stephen Taylor, Stanford running back, is another guy who really impressed and saw his stock rise after a strong outing. The Cardinal basically rode him in the run and pass game to control the time of possession. Taylor looks faster this year and was able to combine his trademark power with speed to break off a handful of large gains. He showed balance, strength, and burst through the hole and really looks like a 3 down workhorse back this year.

-On a day in which a smothering PSU defense overwhelmed Navy all afternoon, DT Jordan Hill was relatively quiet, only involved in a handful of tackles and a fumble recovery. However, Hill was extremely difficult to move inside, occupying blockers, keeping his linebackers clean all day.

-The primary beneficiary of Hill’s stoutness at the point of attack was ILB Michael Mauti, who again led the Nittany Lions in tackles with 12, including a huge 21 yard sack on 4th and 16, in the third quarter, with the Midshipmen on the outskirts of the red zone. Mauti, who finished with 2 tackles for loss, totaling 26 yards, was his usual disruptive force throughout the first three quarters, before exiting once the rout was on.

-Penn State OLB Gerald Hodges recorded the game’s lone interception when he undercut a Navy receiver to make a key red zone pick, with the game’s outcome still undecided in the first quarter. Hodges was active all day, both in the box and on the perimeter, breaking up another pass, and recording 5 tackles, including one for a 5 yard loss, when he flashed solid instincts and closing speed in snuffing out a screen.

-While Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch is just a junior, he showcased elite level touch two a varity of receivers. His most talented receiver, Perez Ashford, isn’t overly fast getting upfield after the catch, but his routes are consistent, decisive, and can catch vertically well. I was impressed enough with him to add him to our draft board. Also, fellow receiver for NIU Martel Moore also flashed ball grabbing skills, especially on vertical routes.

-Generally, each season provides a military academy prospect that has NFL upside despite the fact that he can’t play in the NFL next season. That player this year seems to be Army cornerback Josh Jackson, who has the physicality, length, and fluidity to be a consistent man cornerback. He did everything well and was rarely tested in the team’s loss to Northern Illinois.


Top 10…Draft Eligible Sack Leaders in the Country
Through just three games, it’s not easy to say who’s the best pass rusher in the country. It’s far too early to know what this production means, but for the most part, the production many of these rushers have put up likely will only continue to increase.

1. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State (JR) - 6.5 sacks
2. Travis Johnson, DE, San Jose State - 5 sacks
3. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M (JR) - 5 sacks
4. Trevardo Williams, DE, UConn - 4.5 sacks
5. Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU (JR) - 4.5 sacks
6. Travis Long, DE, Washington State - 4.5 sacks
7. Spencer Hadley, LB, BYU (JR) - 3.5 sacks
8. JD Griggs, DE, Akron - 3.5 sacks
9. DL Wilhite, DE, Minnesota - 3.5 sacks
10. Sio Moore, OLB, UConn - 3.5 sacks
10. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia - 3.5 sacks
10. Chris Jones, DT, Bowling Green - 3.5 sacks

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