NFL Scouts Notebook: Clemson-N.C. State

A solid Thursday night match-up that included several nice middle level NFL prospects. Overall, it was a well-played game and we got more than we expected, especially from the Clemson Tigers.

Clemson- North Carolina State

October 16, Raleigh

Clemson


Ben Hall / TE / 87: Hall really did not see the field much until the second half when Clemson's starting tight end went down with an injury (more on that later). Yet when he was inserted into the line-up Hall's sheer athletic ability was apparent to see. Blocking with good pad level, Hall bends his knees, adjusts well and is strong at the point of attack. Quick releasing off the line of scrimmage, Hall runs well laterally and adjusts backwards to the errant throw, displaying soft, natural hands with the ability to pluck the ball from the air. Far from the finished product, Hall looks more athletic than a football player to this point, and must pick up the intensity of his blocking as well as the nuances of the position. This may be difficult for him to do on the college level, as the player starting ahead of Hall is a year younger and a very good football player. When he does enter the draft Hall is a practice squad/developmental type prospect worth the time investment.

Derrick Hamilton / WR / 21: Quick and elusive, Hamilton looks perfect for the slot and as a return specialist at the next level. Immediately releasing off the line, he is an excellent route runner that gets separation from defenders and effectively runs after the catch. Hamilton is a little lazy with his concentration and peeks before he has caught the ball, which leads to dropped passes. More worrisome is his timid style of play, as Hamilton seems to fold at the slightest bit of contact and has big ears with exceptional hearing, allowing him to hear footsteps coming from all directions. Hamilton has been one we have watched and liked from a skill standpoint but must really put it all together.

Chad Jasmin / FB / 10: Jasmin's running ability really brought the Tigers back late in the game and he displayed the skill to be an interior ball carrying threat. He is both quick through the hole yet at the same time powerful and displays good speed for a big back. Patient, Jasmin waits for the holes to develop and displays strong legs and hips, which enables him to break tackles. Still there are questions that need to be answered; is Jasmin a fullback or feature runner? Clemson rarely uses a lead fullback in its' spread offense so Jasmin's blocking skills are a relative unknown. Ditto for his ability to be an every down ball carrier as Jasmin is the third runner on the depth chart. He could be very much like Ben Hall; a talented prospect that slips through the cracks on draft day because of limited playing/starting action.

John Leake / LB / 45: The inspirational leader of the Tiger defense, Leake threw his body around the field all game, flying to the action then sacrificing his body to make the tackle. He quickly keys the action then fills the gaps in run defense, fighting to make positive plays. Besides being a fiery leader Leake is also intelligent and does a solid job making the defensive calls and adjustments. He is small, so much so that he has great difficulty moving laterally through the trash and cannot get off blocks once engaged at the point. I do not think Leake can play in a traditional four-three alignment but rather should be effective on the inside in a 34 scheme.

DeJuan Polk / DT / 97: Polk was a pleasant surprise as he looks as though he has gained both bulk and strength. Quick off the snap, Polk displays a nice first step, good hand technique and keeps his pads low, playing with leverage. He can quickly alter his angle of attack to make plays laterally up and down the line of scrimmage. Even with this, Polk was being handled at the point and really wore down as the game progressed. Right now, he looks like a potential back up at the three techniques.

Khaleed Vaughn / DE / 56: There was a lot of doubt as to whether or not Vaughn would play as injuries have sidelined him recently. Still, late in the battle, with the game on the line, he was inserted into the line up and had a positive effect. Vaughn is a nice athlete who keeps his pads low, plays with good leverage and speed. Quick off the snap, he can twist or stunt, collapse down the line and makes many plays laterally. He is also a hard working guy that makes sure to get his hands up and bat away the pass if he cannot get to the quarterback. He is small and will be handled in one-on-one blocking. Whether he will be a defender that lines up in a three point stance or is one that stands up over tackle in a three-four needs to be sorted out but we feel Vaughn can play at the next level.

Greg Walker / OL / 78: Walker, a natural guard, lined up at right tackle and did an admirable job. Walker displays explosion, strength and jolt at the point. Driving opponents off the line, he gets a lot of movement from his run blocks and easily holds the point in pass protection. Though he is not light on his feet, Walker quickly gets out to the second level, taking linebackers from the action and can block on the move. He adjusts and slides laterally yet overall lacks the great footwork and blocking range. Walker is a nice athlete and could be a solid mid-to-late round choice with a definite future at the next level.

Charlie Whitehurst / QB / 6: It was easy to see why Willie Simmons transferred to Furman after scouting Whitehurst Thursday. An exceptional athlete, he is growing as a passer and complete quarterback. Whitehurst stands strong against pressure in the pocket, sees the rush then steps up to avoid it. Tough, he will take a hit in order to get the pass off and constantly challenges the vertical game. Whitehurst did not force his passes rather did a solid job of going to the safe, underneath outlet when nothing else was available. Relatively accurate, even on the move, he displayed good zip on his outs and shorter passes. While Whitehurst put air, under his deep throws, he cannot drive the pass downfield and the ball wobbles. He needs to improve his fundamentals but Whitehurst, only a red-shirt sophomore, has the skills to play in the NFL.

Kevin Youngblood /  WR / 17: Youngblood was not very active at all during the game yet is a big, imposing target that comes back to the ball, shields opponents with his large frame and extends or adjusts for the pass. Youngblood lacks the soft hands and is a pure possession wide out that lacks the playing speed to beak it deep. Size alone makes him an enticing receiver prospect for the next level.

Others: Several Tigers made impressions on us, first of which was Yusef Kelly, a bruising interior runner with good ball handling skills and the size scouts want. Donnell Washington is a huge defensive lineman with the skills to be lined up at several different positions. He is a load in the middle that gets a lot of up field push. Corner Justin Miller has a lot of skills and abilities to play at the next level. Red shirt sophomore Bobby Williamson looks like he has the making of a complete and total tight end and will be a very good prospect for the future. Must keep an eye on receiver Tony Elliott, a fifth year senior. He made many plays and the light may be finally going on.

North Carolina State


Jerricho Cotchery / WR / 82: Not as active as we expected, Cotchery is a big target with nice hands and a feel for the wide out position. He will extend and expose over the middle, adjusts nicely to errant throws and has a great sense of timing. Cotchery looks the pass in and does a terrific job making the reception running full tilt. He is not that fast and rarely gets deep separation. Early in the season, Cotchery was on fire and good pre-draft workouts could land him late in the first day.

Sean Locklear / OL / 54: Like Greg Walker of Clemson, Locklear is a natural guard who looked out of place at right tackle. Late in the game, he was moved inside and seemed more comfortable. Locklear is a tough lineman with a great feel for the position. He stays square using body positioning to wall defenders from the play, fights with his hands and jolts defenders, turning them from the play. Patient, he does not overextend into blocks and controls the opponent once engaged at the point. Locklear is not a knee bender or leverage blocker but rather an arm wrestler who lacks the top footwork and is a little bit stiff. He is a late round pick that could develop into a starter at the next level.

Philip Rivers/ QB / 17: Heading towards the draft Rivers will be the guy that will draw more debate than any other prospect; the player you'll see rated anywhere from the first round until the seventh frame. For our two cents he fits in somewhere in between and Thursday night was a perfect example. From an intangible point of view Rivers rates with the best in the nation; his vision, pocket poise, field wherewithal and command of the offense is impeccable. Very, very tough, Rivers stands in the pocket, buying as much time as possible for receivers then waits till the absolute last second before releasing the pass, even if it means getting clobbered. Rivers leads receivers on the crossing patterns and shows zip on the short passes. On the other hand, Rivers tries to do too much at times, which costs him. His throwing motion is awful; he pushes the pass, side-winds the throw or directs it to the target. He has an elongated throwing motion, which slows the delivery of the ball. Rivers also lacks the big arm. In watching him, we would liken Rivers, in manner and intellect, to Bernie Kosar. For all his faults there are a lot more positives than negatives and the positives Rivers possesses cannot be taught. That said, the team that drafts him best not try to alter his style or they may well ruin Rivers.

Patrick Thomas / LB / 52: We had been high on Thomas after watching him on film over the summer but he disappointed us a bit Thursday. Fluid with top sideline-to-sideline range, Thomas is very disciplined and stays with his assignments, working to make the play. He breaks down well, fires up the field and flies around the action. At times Thomas does over pursue or take himself out of the action. He cannot get off blocks once engaged and did not make a whole lot of plays. Still, we think he has the stuff to be a good weak-side linebacker at the next level.

Others: NCSU has a pair of dominant young defenders. Mario Williams is an imposing yet athletic defensive end that makes many plays up the field on out to the flanks. Manny Lawson is a tall, slender linebacker that should grow into an outstanding prospect on the strong side. In the beginning of September, we reported that highly rated offensive tackle Chris Colmer was missing time with a shoulder injury. Again, Colmer was not in the line-up last Thursday and the team said they do not know when to expect him back.

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