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Tag:Alfonzo Dennard
Posted on: February 28, 2012 2:06 pm
 

Top CBs fail to close gap on Claiborne

NFLDraftScout.com has four strong cornerback prospects rated as potential first-round picks, and LSU's Morris Claiborne remains at the top of the position as none of the elite prospects particularly stood out during testing drills at the Scouting Combine on Tuesday.

North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins is hovering around the top 10, and ran an impressive 4.46-second 40-yard dash, compared to Claiborne's 4.50. Alabama's 'Dre Kirkpatrick posted a 4.51, while Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard ran a 4.55. All were very respectable times. (Combine 40 Times)

Dennard flipped the script a bit with an impressive 37-inch vertical jump, while Kirkpatrick (37), Claiborne (34.5) and Jenkins (33.5) lagged behind him a bit.

While Claiborne said he believes his speed helps separate him from the other top cornerbacks, he pointed to technique when asked to describe his game.

"More of a technician, and trying to funnel the guys instead of getting real physical with them at the line all the time," said Claiborne, who considers himself a better man coverage corner than zone.

The biggest mover of the day was clearly Central Florida's Josh Robinson, who torched the 40 in 4.33 seconds. He also led the defensive backs with a 133-inch broad jump and finished second in the position group with a 38 1/2-inch vertical. Currently projected as a fourth-round pick, Robinson figures to ride the wave up the draft board a bit leading into the pro day season.

Posted on: January 2, 2012 8:24 am
 

Six New Year's Day* matchups to watch

Due to New Year's Day falling on a Sunday this year all of the traditional bowl games played on this day were moved to Monday. For football enthusiasts it just means an extension of an already dramatic college football season.

Whether you are a hardcore fan preparing yourself to watch every second you can of the six games on tap today or just want to have a handy Who-To-Watch guide for the few minutes you get to sneak away from your job to check the game, I've got you covered with one head to head matchup NFL scouts will be watching.

Here they are:

TicketCity Bowl

Penn State DT Devon Still vs. Houston C Chris Thompson: The 6-4, 310 pound Still currently ranks No. 8 on NFLDraftScout.com's 2012 board for all prospects. Opposing him is Houston's Thompson, a 6-2, 285 pound technician who we rank as a likely free agent (rated No. 38 amongst centers). Don't think that the Cougars won't have a plan for Still and the rest of a talented Penn State defensive line. The beauty of Houston's spread offense is that it gets the ball out of Case Keenum's hands so quickly that often bigger, more athletic pass rushers are limited in what role they can have. Couple that with the fact that Thompson is a wily veteran who earned his second consecutive All-Conference USA honors this season (last year he won it playing guard) and we have an interesting matchup to start off the day.

Capital One Bowl

Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard vs. South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery: Scouts circled this one in red ink, and Jeffery should do the same. He's against the clock to prove he's not overhyped in an offense that caters to his natural skills. Jeffery, a junior, has a 6-inch and nearly 25-pound advantage on the Nebraska senior cornerback. Dennard's late-season push to work back into first-round conversation would get an exclamation point if he muzzles the gifted but undisciplined Jeffery.

Outback Bowl

Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy vs. Georgia C Ben Jones: There may not be a defensive tackle in the country blessed with a more impressive combination of burst off the snap and strength than Michigan State's junior defensive tackle. Playing in the SEC, however, has prepared Jones for just this type of matchup. While the All-SEC center may lack Worthy's power and athleticism, the senior is tough-minded, technically sound and a legitimate top 75 pro prospect, in his own right. If nothing makes you happier during the holidays than a good old fashioned battle in the trenches, this is the showdown to watch.

Gator Bowl

Florida DT Jaye Howard vs. Ohio State C Mike Brewster: Just like in the Outback Bowl, I expect the television analysts to focus on matchups between the skill position players in the Gator Bowl but winner of the Gator Bowl will likely be the team that gets more from their senior in the middle. Howard is quietly among the better, all-around senior defensive tackles and is being viewed by some 3-4 clubs as a possible conversion to defensive end. Brewster isn't flashy but is a tough guy who always competes and is starting his 49th consecutive game. Each is listed by NFLDraftScout.com as potential mid round picks.

Rose Bowl

Wisconsin FS Aaron Henry vs. Oregon RB LaMichael James: The key to stopping the "Quack Attack" is the same as it is with most offenses: take away the running game. Without a dominant front line, the Badgers will have to demonstrate extraordinary discipline in the back half of their defense. Fortunately, they boast a terrific all-around defender in Henry, a former cornerback who has earned all-conference honors after each of his two seasons at free safety. Scouts, of course are even more familiar with James as he's led the country in rushing yards the past two years. If James is to leave Oregon after this season as those close to the program expect, notching yet another 20-plus carry game (he has seven this year) against a traditionally stout defense could help convince scouts the 5-9, 195-pound back has the toughness to be successful in the NFL.

Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma State FS Markelle Martin vs. Stanford TE Coby Fleener: If there is a safety in the country with as many responsibilities looming as Wisconsin's Henry, it is Martin. At 6-1, 198 pounds Martin doesn't have the bulk scouts generally prefer, but his coverage skills and penchant for the big play have made him NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior at the position. It will be those coverage skills that are put to the test against Andrew Luck and his favorite target, the 6-6, 245-pound Fleener. With little speed on the flanks, Stanford's passing game attacks the field down the middle. As such, the winner of this one on one battle could very well determine the Fiesta Bowl champion.



Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:24 pm
 

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

QB Kirk Cousins, Michigan State:  Of the second tier quarterbacks in the 2012 draft class, Cousins remains one of my favorites. He doesn't possess an elite arm and, as such, could be challenged in this matchup against a Nebraska defense that features one of the better press corners in Alfonzo Dennard. Representatives from the Senior Bowl have made it known that Cousins is among the quarterbacks vying for an invitation. With the rest of the games on the 6-1 Spartans' schedule very winnable, a strong performance in this game could not only put MSU in position for a big time bowl game, it could give Cousins a chance to impress scouts in Mobile. This game begins at noon ET and will be televised by ESPN.

DT Jaye Howard, Florida:  Howard isn't flashy, but is quietly having a career year for the Gators. In fact, Howard has already surpassed his previous career high of 29 tackles with 33 so far this season, including 2.5 for loss. Georgia's monstrous redshirt sophomore Kwame Geathers will get more of the hype entering this game and deserves it... I'm more interested, however, to see if Howard is able to make some plays despite facing a talented Georgia offensive line, including Bulldogs' center Ben Jones -- who some believe is the elite senior in the country at his position. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by CBS.

ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State: The Kansas State Wildcats are one of the better stories so far this season, but I do not believe they have the talent to compete with an Oklahoma team that must be smarting after their upset loss last week against Texas Tech. One of the few Wildcats that has flashed NFL-caliber talent this season is junior linebacker, Arthur Brown, a transfer from Miami. At 6-1, 225, Brown lacks the bulk most teams are looking for at inside linebacker, but his athleticism and closing speed could intrigue 4-3 teams looking for a weakside prospect. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN.

DE Andre Branch, Clemson: Many believe that Tech's triple option offense will present Clemson with their biggest regular season challenge to a potential berth in a BCS bowl game. (I'd argue South Carolina could have something to say about that.) For the Tigers to slow down the Yellow Jackets, Clemson's defensive ends will have to show remarkable discipline. This hasn't always been a strength for Branch and the rest of the Clemson defensive line, which typically are asked to pin their ears back and rush the quarterback. At 6-4, 260 pounds Branch has enough athleticism to chase ball-carriers wide. This game begins at 8:00 pm ET and will be televised by ABC.

QB Matt Barkley, USC: There are many out there who believe Barkley is simply a game-manager blessed to have a great deal of talent around him. I am not among them. In fact, I rate the USC junior signal-caller behind only Andrew Luck as the elite prospect potentially available for the 2012 draft. As such, I'm excited to see what Barkley will do in the heavily anticipated showdown against Luck and an underrated Cardinal defense Saturday night. Barkley doesn't possess a monster arm nor the great size that traditionally result in a top five pick. I've been consistently impressed with his poise in a collapsing pocket, however, as well as his leadership as well as his short to intermediate accuracy. Most importantly, I like his footwork and accuracy when rolling out and in play-action -- staples of the pro game. This game begins at 8:00 ET and will be televised by ABC.


Posted on: October 3, 2011 3:57 pm
 

Cornerback the strength of 2012 draft?

With a full month of the college and NFL seasons now in the books, we can now take a look at the talent likely to be available in the 2012 draft and compare it to the areas of concern for most professional teams.

Though I'd argue that none of the cornerbacks in the upcoming draft class appears to be as good as gifted as No. 5 overall pick Patrick Peterson (Cardinals), what is becoming increasingly obvious is that the cornerback class, as a whole, is much stronger than in most years.

Durability and off-field concerns have certainly reared their ugly heads at the position as Nebraska senior Alfonzo Dennard has struggled to return from a pulled leg muscle and two of the better ball-hawking corners in the country -- North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins and Oregon junior Cliff Harris -- had noteworthy run-ins with police during the off-season.

That isn't to say any of the three of them is likely to slip out of the first round should their issues be resolved to NFL teams' satisfaction prior to the April draft.

As everyone knows, the NFL has morphed into a league dependant on the passing game. This fact makes quarterbacks and strong passing attacks critical to offensive success. At the same time, it drives up the value of pass defenders -- whether they be pass rushers or defensive backs.

The 2012 class of safeties does not appear to be an overly talented one. At cornerback, however, there is a great deal of talent. Besides the three players I've already mentioned, I'd be surprised if Alabama's 'Dre Kirkpatrick, LSU's Morris Claiborne, Virginia Tech's Jayron Hosley -- all juniors -- aren't selected in whatever first round they choose to make themsevles eligible. I currently list six cornerbacks among my top 32 prospects for the 2012 draft.

Some argue that by spreading the defense out elite cornerbacks can be taken out of the game. There certainly is ample evidence to argue this considering that so many pro offenses are now utilizing three, four or even five receivers per snap.

My argument against this theory, however, is that spread offenses are only going to drive up the value of cornerbacks. Cornerbacks with Hosley or Harris, for example, while perhaps not ideal run defenders or possessing the size teams would like to slow the Andre or Calvin Johnsons of the world, might prove perfect cover options for the smaller, quicker slot receivers that are proving so integral to today's top passing attacks.

This doesn't appear to be a case of teams needing help at one position and therefore grading players at that position of need higher than normal.

These guys just might be that good.

For some NFL defenses weary of giving 300+ passing yards to even average quarterbacks, the help can't come soon enough.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 3:53 pm
 

Nebraska CB Dennard still out with muscle pull

Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was rated by some scouts as the elite senior prospect in the country heading into the 2011 season.

He won't be able to maintain that lofty grade if he doesn't recover soon from the pulled leg muscle that has kept him out of the first two games.

Dennard pulled the muscle in mid August and despite head coach Bo Pelini characterizing his star cornerback as "getting a lot closer" last week, Dennard did not play in Nebraska's victory Saturday over Fresno State.

Dennard, according to a report from Husker Extra, will not practice Monday. His status for Nebraska's first real test this weekend against the University of Washington is once again in doubt.

Asked if Dennard would be able to suit up against a Washington team that upset Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, Pelini was noncommittal, offering only a "We'll see."

Steve Sipple, the author of the article for Husker Extra predicted that Dennard would sit Saturday.

Dennard, a shade under 5-10 at 205 pounds, boasts a terrific combination of agility, speed, instincts and physicality when healthy. He earned All Big-12 accolades last season with 30 tackles, seven passes broken up and four interceptions -- including one against Washington in their first meeting last year.

Dennard is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior cornerback and currently ranks No. 8 on my Big Board.

The Nebraska defense has been a stifling one throughout much of Pelini's tenure, but the unit struggled, at times, last week against a typically feisty Fresno State team. The Bulldogs, known for their head coach Pat Hill's mantra of playing "Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere" led at the half 17-14 and was down only 28-26 early in the fourth quarter before Nebraska pulled away with a big kick return and run to extend their lead and make the game appear lopsided. Fresno entered the contest a four touchdown underdog.

Washington, on the other hand, has demonstrated a surprisingly efficient offense given the graduation of Jake Locker to the NFL. True sophomore quarterback Keith Price has actually been a statistical upgrade over Locker thus far, completing 70% of his passes with seven touchdowns against only one interception. Of course, these numbers were posted at home against Eastern Washington and Hawaii.


Posted on: August 17, 2011 6:40 pm
 

Top-rated CB Dennard out indefinitely

Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard has strained a leg muscle and his return date is unknown, according to head coach Bo Pelini, who announced the news to media following Wednesday's practice.

The 5-10, 205 pound Dennard is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior cornerback and was the highest graded senior prospect at any position for some pro scouts. NFLDraftScout.com currently rated him second behind Alabama junior Dre Kirkpatrick among all potentially eligible cornerbacks for the 2012 NFL draft.

Despite being a bit overshadowed last year by teammate Prince Amukamara (the New York Giants' first round pick), Dennard received First Team All Big-12 accolades after posting 30 tackles, 11 passes broken up and four interceptions. I've had scouts theorize that some of the reason why Amukamara "slid" to the 19th pick last April was that teams were surprised to see on tape that Dennard was actually the more consistent player among the two.

The injury isn't thought to be serious, so there remains the possibility that Dennard will be able to return in time for Nebraska's opener against Chattanooga September 3.

Dennard can't afford to miss too much time, however. While physicality and toughness are considered two of his strongest suits, the reality is some teams are going to have a hard time giving a first round grade for a player who technically measured in at little more than 5-09 and a 1/2" despite the fact that Dennard is a rock-solid 205 pounds. Dennard missed most of the Missouri game and the entire Iowa State contest last year with a concussion.
Posted on: December 30, 2010 3:36 pm
 

Unfair to expect much from Locker tonight

Jake Locker and his Washington teammates face Nebraska tonight in the Holiday Bowl in what is clearly the most intriguing re-match of the bowl season.

Locker and the Huskies were blown out 56-21 at home by the Cornhuskers on September 18. Locker only completed 4 of 20 passes in the game for 71 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions in what was the worst performance of his career.

Locker has been better since, engineering upset victories over USC, Oregon State and Cal since and leading Washington to to three consecutive wins to assure the Huskies of their first bowl berth since 2002.

He hasn't been so good, however, to expect the type of performance against Nebraska tonight that should significantly impact his draft stock.

The reality is Washington simply lacks the bulk and talent up front to protect Locker from Nebraska's formidable defensive line, led by junior defensive tackle Jared Crick and senior defensive end Pierre Allen. Making matters even more complicated for Locker, the Huskers boast arguably the best cornerback duo in the country in Prince Amukamara, NFLDraftScout.com's top rated senior prospect at any position, and junior Alfonzo Dennard, a Second Team All-Big 12 pick, who has already announced his intentions to return to Nebraska for his senior season despite the fact that he'd best - at worst - a second round pick in the 2011 draft.

Locker is blessed with a solid receiving corps, including a legitimate NFL talent in junior Jermaine Kearse, but Nebraska has the secondary to force him to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, the Huskies are as reliant on their wide receivers as any team in the country when it comes to the downfield passing game.   Locker has only completed six passes to his tight ends all season long and saw starting tight end Chris Izbicki leave the team following the regular season. His backup, freshman Marlion Barnett, has four catches for 31 yards for his career.

If the Huskies have a chance in this game it will be due to the running of redshirt sophomore running back Chris Polk and Locker. Locker could be very decisive and accurate with the football tonight and still post ugly numbers that will undoubtedly draw criticism from media.

Having spoken to various scouts recently about Locker's stock and the expectations for him vs. Nebraska, their feeling is that Locker's stock isn't likely to go down after this game - even if he struggles just as badly against Nebraska tonight as he did in September. Of course, should Locker surprise Nebraska (and scouts) and performs very well despite the Huskies being overmatched physically at nearly every position, his stock has a chance to rise significantly.

The most likely scenario, however, has Locker and the Huskies again struggling against Nebraska. If Locker is going to re-emerge as a first round guarantee, it will almost surely happen in the next bowl -- the Senior Bowl -- approximately a month from now.

For the very best in NFL draft coverage, the place to go is NFLDraftScout.com
Posted on: October 7, 2010 3:20 pm
 

1st round preview tonight with Neb-Kansas State

The 2010 season has featured several big conference matchups thus far on Thursday nights, but none bigger than tonight's showdown between two Big 12 unbeatens in Nebraska and Kansas State.

By virtue of their 27-20 victory over conference rival Iowa State a few weeks ago, Kansas State hosts this game in first place over Nebraska in the Big 12 North division. This, despite the fact that the Cornhuskers are currently ranked No. 7 in the country (AP) and boast a sparkling 4-0 record, including an impressive dismantling of Washington in Seattle.

While the Cornhuskers and Wildcats have matching records, there is a significant disparity in talent on the two rosters, which is likely to give Nebraska the win in this contest.

Nebraska's stellar defense features as many NFL prospects as any unit in all of college football. Senior cornerback Prince Amukamara was rated the No. 1 senior prospect in the country regardless of position by NFL scouts heading into the season. The corner playing opposite him, junior Alfonzo Dennard, is playing like a future first round pick, himself. Senior safety Eric Hagg, who at 6-2, 210 pounds has seen snaps at cornerback, both safety positions and even linebacker, is among the more versatile defenders in the Big 12.

On the defensive line, junior defensive tackle Jared Crick is a proven playmaker and senior defensive end Pierre Allen is a rising name in scouting circles this year.

Nebraska's spread option offense helps them put up points quickly. The play of redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinzez is a huge reason why. Michigan's Mr. Versatility Denard Robinson gets so much attention (and deservedly so), but Martinez (with 1,028 all-purpose yards and 10 scores) has been spectacular through the first four games. If wideout/returner Niles Paul played for an offense that featured him, he might be viewed as the top senior receiving prospect in the country. At 6-1, 220 pounds, he boasts an ideal frame and athleticism for the pro game. The Cornhuskers feature some intriguing second-tier NFL prospects on the offensive side of the ball, as well, including running back Roy Helu, tight end/receiver Mike McNeill.

As I mentioned earlier, Kansas State does not boast the talent that Nebraska does. That said, in senior running back Daniel Thomas, they have arguably the top senior running back in the country.

Thomas, 6-2 and 228 pounds, is a former JUCO All-American quarterback, made a splash last year in his first season in the Big 12, earning Offensive Newcomer of the Year with 1,265 rushing yards. Though his height concerns some scouts, there is no denying that Thomas is a natural runner with good vision and balance -- true rarities for backs of his size.

Nebraska's defense is so stout I don't expect Thomas to be particularly effective in this contest. If he is, however, it will unquestionably move his stock that much higher in the eyes of NFL scouts.

Be sure to tune in tonight (ESPN, 7:30 pm EST). I assure you, NFL scouts will be.

 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com