Tag:Juron Criner
Posted on: January 29, 2012 12:22 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2012 1:15 pm

WRs steal the thunder, boost stock in Senior Bowl

As usual, the quarterbacks generated most of the hype throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl. But during the game Saturday it was their receivers who stole the spotlight as the North defeated the South, 23-13.

Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams shrugged off a fumble in the first quarter to catch six passes for 116 yards for the South, demonstrating the elusiveness and pure speed that helped him return four punts for touchdowns this season, earning the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year award. For his efforts Adams was named the Senior Bowl's "Outstanding Player" for the South squad.

Arizona's Juron Criner, also of the South, was quiet early in the game but connected with college teammate, quarterback Nick Foles, to the tune of four catches for 50 yards and the South's only touchdown, a 20-yarder with 12:55 left in the game. Criner finished with six catches for 77 yards.

Those receivers managed to stand out despite lackluster play by the quarterbacks. Just as he was throughout the week of practice, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, for the North, was the most impressive quarterback in the game.

He completed only five of 11 passes overall, with a touchdown and an interception. However, that one touchdown pass, a 41-yarder to Arizona State's Gerrell Robinson with 11:44 left in the third quarter, gave the North a 23-13 lead and enough cushion to hold on for a victory.

MVP honors for the game went to North running back Isaiah Pead, who was also Offensive Player of the Year for Cincinnati in the Big East. In the game, Pead collected 31 on the ground and 98 yards on punt two punt returns, including a 60-yarder that was the highlight of the first half.

Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, the most consistent of the South team's quarterbacks throughout the practice week was the worst of the six passers Saturday, completing nearly as many passes to the defense (two interceptions) as he did to South receivers (five completions) for just 56 yards.

Other Senior Bowl standouts:

--Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Undeniably the most talented player in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, Coples continued his dominant week of practice with an MVP-caliber performance in the game. Coples, a shade under 6-6 and 281 pounds, was a consistent threat off the edge and used his long arms and obvious upper body strength to rag-doll pass blockers on his way to the quarterback. Perhaps the most impressive play of the game from Coples, however, came as a run defender. He shook off a block from Iowa State right tackle Kelechi Osemele and with one arm stopped the momentum of running back Isaiah Pead and threw him to the ground for a two-yard loss on 3rd and goal. If Coples played with the same intensity throughout his senior season that he did throughout the week in Mobile, he might have been the easy choice as the top defensive prospect in the 2012 draft.

--Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati: The game's MVP was easily the most explosive running back in this. He demonstrated his unique straight-line speed and agility by accelerating through holes and making defenders miss as a running back and punt returner.  Despite taking on return duties late in his senior season, Pead showed good vision and courage in attacking seams as he averaged 49 yards on the two opportunities. He demonstrated not only athleticism, but also the willingness to cut back inside against the grain and finish his runs.

--Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Despite playing with a little less consistency that scouts would like, the 6-7, 323 pound Adams impressed throughout the week of practice with his ability to maintain squarely in front of speed rushers and play with a reliable base against bull rushes. Adams played with much better consistency Saturday, controlling his opponent throughout the contest and distancing himself as the elite offensive line prospect in the Senior Bowl.  Adams surrendered a sack in the 3rd quarter to Alabama's Courtney Upshaw but held up well initially to my top-rated senior prospect and only allowed the coverage sack on Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson after protecting for several seconds.

--Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: While Martin wasn't able to break free for the splashy plays that his North teammate Pead did, it was the former Bronco running back who was the best running back in Mobile throughout the week of practice and he followed that up with an impressive game. Martin showed good burst to and through the hole, as well as the vision and acceleration to gain yardage in chunks as a running back and kick returner. Having impressed scouts with his obvious dedication to the weight room by sporting a chiseled physique during Monday's weigh-in, Martin showcased that his attention to details isn't just limited to lifting weights. He provided excellent effort blocking downfield on a 41-yard touchdown catch by Robinson.

--Bobby Wagner, ILB, Utah State: Like Martin, Wagner initially caught the attention of NFL scouts by showcasing a powerful build on his 6-0, 241 pound frame during Monday's weigh-in. With defenders asked not to take ball-carriers to the ground throughout the week of practice, Wagner wasn't able to wow scouts with what he does best -- tackle -- until the game. He certainly did on Saturday, anticipating and closing quickly on ball-carriers and then wrapping up cleanly to tie with South Carolina safety Antonio Allen to lead the game with seven tackles. Wagner also proved his playmaking ability, recording  a tackle for loss and an interception of Weeden in the first quarter.

For much more Senior Bowl content from NFLDraftScout.com, click here.
Posted on: January 25, 2012 6:29 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 6:36 pm

Arizona WR Criner quieting critics at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala -- Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner saw his stock slip before his senior season even began amid concerns about family and personal health issues. 

While those issues will still need to be investigated fully by NFL teams, the playmaking skills that he demonstrated throughout an record-breaking career with the Wildcats have helped him stand out this week for the South Team at the Senior Bowl.    

Though I still have reservations about Criner's straight-line speed, he's shown enough in that category to eat up the cushion against off-man coverage supplied by a cornerback group for the South that is as strong as any position playing in the 2012 Senior Bowl. Criner runs precise routes and has excellent body control to adjust to the ball while it is in flight. He demonstrated this in beating North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins, my 21st overall rated prospect in the 2012 draft on a deep ball midway through Wednesday's practice.    

Criner's ability to track the ball and make big plays haven't ever been the question. After all, he caught 75 passes for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns in just 12 games as a senior and this was a drop-off from the year before when he earned All-American honors with 82 catches for 1,233 yards and 11 scores. Though he certainly doesn't possess the big play speed of Arkansas' Joe Adams or Houston's Patrick Edwards, he's frankly been a more reliable target this week than either of the other two big possession receivers NFLDraftScout.com currently rates ahead of him -- North Carolina's Dwight Jones and Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller.
I spoke to a high-ranking team official who recently met with Criner to get a better gauge as to the level of concern he, personally, had with Criner's off-field issues.

"I'm not concerned at all," the official said. "That stuff was overblown by the media. The coaches there [Arizona] say he is a good kid.  He's gone through some tough stuff but I don't know of anything that would cause his stock to be impacted by it."

Posted on: September 23, 2011 3:43 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.

Because I'm scouting them in real time these players make an early impression, often leading to consideration as my Prospect of the Week or Diamond in the Rough.

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 Ryan Lindley, San Diego State: Throughout Brady Hoke's tenure as the Aztecs' head coach, Lindley demonstrated the live arm and understanding of defenses to help turn around the San Diego State program. Now, with Hoke on the opposite sideline, the pupil will have his opportunity to show up the teacher. Lindley is a bit of a gun-slinger. He's shown a willingness to throw off his back foot and into coverage a bit more than I'd like, but he does possess the size, arm and accuracy to be a legitimate NFL prospect. He currently ranks 8th on NFLDraftScout.com's QB board for the 2012 draft. Michigan isn't loaded defensively, but they are certainly a step up athleticism-wise from anything the Aztecs will see this season. Furthermore, I want to see how Lindley handles the noise and pressure in such a hostile environment.  This game begins at 12:00 pm ET and will be televised by The Big Ten Network.

WR Greg Childs, Arkansas:  Ryan Mallett and Knile Davis received much of the attention last season, but the most consistent performer last season for Bobby Petrino was his high-flying junior wideourt, Childs. Childs, of course, suffered a knee injury that robbed him of any thought of coming out early. He was hobbled early this season coming back from the injury and missed last week's game due to a death in the family. Against what I believe is the best coached and most talented secondary in the country, Childs will definitely have his work cut out for him. However, when healthy, Childs has shown a combination of size, speed and body control to rank as a legitimate top 50 prospect. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by CBS.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: A former wide receiver who only made the switch to quarterback last season after the incumbent starter struggled, Tannehill has made as much progress as an NFL prospect as any player in the country. The improvements he's made in reading coverages, setting up and delivering passes and simply understanding the nuances of Mike Sherman's pro-style attack in less than a full season operating at quarterback have been impressive, leading some scouts to view Tannehill as this year's out-of-nowhere first round pick. Tannehill certainly isn't coming out of nowhere in my mind, nor that of NFLDraftScout.com. We've rated him the top senior QB prospect in the country since August. Tannehill and his Aggies face their first real test this weekend, however, as they host Oklahoma State, who boasts their own legitimate pro QB prospect in Brandon Weeden and his Biletnikof-winning receiver Justin Blackmon. Sure, I want to scout this game because it pits two top ten teams, but don't fool yourself, this is a huge showdown for the quarterbacks. This game begins at 3:30 ET and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DE Andre Branch, Clemson: Quite frankly, I wasn't impressed with the play of Florida State's left tackle Andrew Datko in last weekend's game against an athletic Oklahoma defense. Branch boasts the combination of size, strength and speed that could also give Datko troubles, which is why I want to focus on him. Those wanting to see one of the better senior prospects at any position in the country can simply look to Branch's left, as senior defensive tackle Brandon Thompson has been impressive, thus far. In past games that I've wanted to focus on Branch, Thompson has stolen my attention. We'll see if Branch can't steal back some thunder in this exciting ACC matchup. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN. 

CB Cliff Harris, Oregon: Heisman finalist LaMichael James was the primary reason for Oregon's rise to the BCS Championship game last season, but Harris was arguably the most dominant player on the team, earning All-American honors as a returner and ball-hawking cornerback. His well-documented off-field troubles have hurt his stock, as has his spindly frame (5-11, 168). Harris hasn't seen much time yet this season as he works his way back into head coach Chip Kelly's good graces. The Ducks will be sure that Harris is on the field against an explosive Arizona offense, however, that features their own talented pro prospects in QB Nick Foles and WR Juron Criner. How the slim Harris matches up with Criner (6-4, 215) should give scouts a good idea as to how well he'll handle the bigger, more physical receivers of the NFL. This game begins at 10"15 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN2.

p.s. At the request of some diehard Seahawk fans, I'm also including the QBs to watch this weekend. They are:

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State visiting Texas A&M. 3:30 pm ET on ABC/ESPN
Landry Jones, Oklahoma hosting Missouri. 8 pm ET on FX.
Nick Foles, Arizona hosting Oregon. 10:15 pm ET on ESPN2.
Matt Barkley, USC visiting Arizona State. 10:15 pm ET on ESPN.*

*As well as Lindley and Tannehill, mentioned above.

Posted on: September 18, 2011 12:59 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2011 2:00 pm

Injuries pile up for Stanford in impressive win

Andrew Luck and the rest of No. 6 rated Stanford were impressive in their first conference victory last night at Arizona, but the Cardinal did not escape the game without injury.

Three players critical to Stanford's success this season suffered injuries.

The scariest injury appeared to be with junior inside linebacker Shayne Skov, who suffered an apparent injury to his left leg while attempting to tackle Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner. Skov struggled off the field, unable to put any weight on the injured limb. Last season, he emerged as Stanford's most consistent defender, leading the team with 84 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks on his way to honorable mention all-conference honors. UPDATE: Stanford head coach David Shaw told reporters Monday that an MRI taken on Sunday showed that Skov's knee injury is serious enough that he will miss the remainder of the 2011 season. 

With Luck directing the offense, it might appear that Stanford could keep scoring points with a collection of high schoolers at the skill positions. That theory could be put to the test as Luck's two favorite targets were the "other" important Stanford players who went down with injuries in the first half against Arizona.

Tight end Coby Fleener and wide receiver Chris Owusu -- both seniors and virtual locks to be selected by NFL teams this April -- each went down with injuries. Fleener suffered what appeared to be a concussion early on. Owusu appeared to have bruised his shoulder. Fleener is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior tight end and second rated prospect at the position, overall. Owusu isn't rated nearly as high, but his versatility as a receiver and returner are nonetheless impressive.

Stanford is fortunate that while their Pac-12 schedule has now begun in earnest, their late September slate includes some of the easiest opponents the conference has to offer, namely hosting UCLA and Colorado before traveling to Washington State. Before they take on anyone, however, Stanford has their bye.

The timing couldn't be better for a 3-0 team licking their wounds after an impressive 34-10 victory at Arizona.

Posted on: September 8, 2011 3:36 pm

WR showdown tonight loses luster without Criner

While many of the football-loving community is eagerly anticipating the kickoff to the NFL season tonight, there are sure to be plenty of scouts focusing on another game -- the showdown between two of the most explosive offenses in college football in Arizona and Oklahoma State.

One of the primary reasons for scouts attending the game in Stillwater this evening was to watch Wildcat wideout Juron Criner. Unfortunately, rather than be able to compare and contrast him to Cowboys' star Justin Blackmon, scouts will have to focus their attention elsewhere, as Criner did not make the trip due to an "illness."

The 6-4, 215 pound Criner missed about a month of off-season workouts this past year dealing with "personal and family issues," according to Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. However, when he returned to the practice field, onlookers reported that he looked fit and every bit the playmaker he'd been in the past. Last season Criner enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in the school's history, catching 82 passes for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns and earning First Team All Pac-10 accolades.

He seemed ready to put all of the distractions behind him with a strong opening performance last week, as well, catching six passes for 151 yards and a touchdown against Northern Arizona. Criner's impressive stat line was enough to earn him a spot on my fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter's Risers list for the first week.

While Criner's play last week was impressive, the ambiguity of his malady and absence from this game will cause scouts to question exactly what is going on with the Arizona wideout.

There are plenty of rumors circulating as to why Criner mised so much off-season time. Whether this latest absence has anything to do with his previous departure from the program will almost certainly be a question scouts ask when they see him next -- whether that be on campus, at a post-season all-star game or at the Combine.

Posted on: August 31, 2011 8:56 am

Food allergies the culprit for sluggish QB Foles?

University of Arizona quarterback Nick Foles received a significantly lower grade from some NFL scouts heading into his senior season than many anticipated considering the fact that the 6-5, 245 pounder's production and success in the desert since transferring from Michigan State in 2008.

Having discussed Foles with a number of scouts over the summer, there are a some with concerns about whether he is simply a product of the Wildcats' spread offense, whether Foles has the arm strength to be successful in a traditional NFL attack and if he has the athleticism to avoid defenders. As such, Foles is currently rated 9th among quarterbacks potentially available for the 2012 NFL draft.

I plan to scout Foles in person this season to get a better impression of Foles arm strength. What I (and scouts) may not have to wait to see "on the hoof," however is improved athleticism and stamina from Foles, at least according to an interesting article from Anthony Gimino of The Tuscon Citizen.

According to the article, Foles discovered during the off-season that he was allergic to several foods, including milk, eggs and whey protein -- a staple of the protein shakes the quarterback had consumed all of his life.

Rather than make me nauseous or break out into hives like how allergies affect some, Foles' body reacted with "slight swelling and general sluggishness." Now that he has stopped eating these three items, Foles estimates that his body fat has dropped 3 to 5 percent. Foles still weighs in at around 245 pounds, but is noticeably leaner, according to Gimino.  

“My biggest allergy was whey protein,” Foles said. “It wasn’t doing anything for me, and it was actually making me have a food-allergy reaction.

“I had drank whey protein shakes my whole life, and when I got off them and started taking different supplements and proteins, I noticed a huge difference in the weight room and my body fat going down. My muscles were recovering better and my strength was going up. Just everything.”

Foles earned Honorable Mention All Pac-10 honors last season (impressive considering that he was competing against Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Jake Locker, etc.) despite missing two starts (Washington, UCLA) due to a sprained right knee. Foles completed 67.1% of his passes for 3,191 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He led Arizona to impress late comeback victories over Iowa and Cal and very nearly pulled off late wins over Oregon State, USC and state-rival ASU, as well.

Foles appears poised to take the next step as a prospect this season. He'll be aided by a strong receiving corps, including potential All-American Juron Criner.

With a strong senior season, Foles would appear to be a front-runner for one of the top all-star games. There, he might get his best opportunity to prove he can be successful in a pro-style offense.

That could lead to Foles being the first Wildcat quarterback selected in the NFL Draft since the Seattle Seahawks nabbed John Conner with the 25th pick of the 10th round back in 1985. Eddie Wilson, selected by the Detroit Lions with the 10th pick of the second round is the only Wildcat quarterback to have ever been picked within the first seven rounds of an NFL draft.

Posted on: July 20, 2011 8:30 pm

Mike Stoops: WR Criner "here and ready to go"

There has been a great deal of speculation as to the health and readiness of All-American wide receiver Juron Criner during the off-season, but according to his head coach, the 6-4, 215 pound wideout is "fine" and "here and ready to go."

Criner earned First Team All Pac-10 honors this past season with a record-breaking campaign, catching 82 passes for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, he missed a scheduled trip to ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut during the off-season due to personal and family troubles and the rumors began to really get going after Criner was, according to a television broadcast, hospitalized after neurological testing.

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, however, expects his star receiver to be available when  Arizona opens up fall camp August 4.

"We anticipate having Juron," Stoops said. "He had some family issues that were concerning over the summer, and those are personal. We anticipate him being the same player - or a better player - than he was a year ago."
Criner demonstrated a knack for big plays earlier in his career, notching nine touchdowns among his 45 catches (for 582 yards) as a sophomore. He took his game to another level last year, however, and obviously the Wildcats are hopeful he can make the same jump in production in 2011.

As productive as Criner has been, he rates only as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 7 senior wideout entering next season. This grade is largely based on the fact that Criner has questionable deep speed. NFLDraftScout.com estimates him as capable of running the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds.

Should Criner be able to return and enjoy another big season in 2011, he'll likely get plenty of opportunities to prove that his production isn't simply a by-product of Arizona's spread offense and the talent of quarterback Nick Foles, also viewed by NFLDraftScout.com as a potential NFL prospect. With a pro-caliber combination of size and overall athleticism, Criner could appeal to all-star game scouts and certainly will rank among the senior wideouts pro scouts will be most interested in putting the stopwatch to come the off-season.

Posted on: June 30, 2011 5:27 pm

If Criner can't play, other Wildcats will suffer

Arizona's Juron Criner, NFLDraftScout.com's No. 7-rated senior wide receiver, reportedly has an undisclosed medical issue that could put his 2011 season in jeopardy. It was first reported by The Arizona Republic, and could have a domino effect on multiple Wildcats who have their eyes set on the 2012 NFL Draft.

Criner considered leaving school a year earlier after catching 82 passes for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior, often playing through nagging injuries. He's a deep threat who can rack up yards after the catch. The Republic contacted the Arizona sports information office regarding Criner, which said “We are unable to comment,” citing student privacy guidelines.

If Criner indeed is sidelined next season, it will also have a major impact on Nick Foles, NDS' fifth-rated senior quarterback who needs a very strong campaign to help boost his stock with a strong influx of junior quarterbacks expected to be available next spring - including Andrew Luck, Landry Jones and Matt Barkley.

It also wouldn't do any favors to the draft stock of running back Keola Antolin, NDS' No. 33-rated senior running back who benefits from Criner's ability to stretch the defense.

--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com