Matthew Alkire is the co-founder of Scout's Notebook, which primarily focuses on the scouting of NFL prospects before they enter the draft. Matt has received training from an NFL scout and is responsible for the Big 10, Big East, Big 12, MAC, MWC and Independents as well as any other major I-A, II-A,II, III and NAIA prospects. You can join their website for free at www.scoutsnotebook.com .
Mike Ragone, TEThe first things I come away with watching Mike Ragone play are his initial burst and athletic build. Seeing the type of build he has and the skill set he brings to the field, I can't help but think of Miami's Greg Olson. Mike looked a bit slow without the ball in his hands, but when it's in his hands he turns up field and has the acceleration that you won't see out of a lot of tight ends. I was very impressed with his ability to pick up yards after the catch, either by using his speed or breaking tackles and running hard. He plucks the ball out of the air and adjusts well to poorly thrown balls. He does a nice job avoiding linebackers and find soft spots in the defense. He looks natural as a receiver and can be lined up wide or in the slot, which will allow the staff to create a number of match-up problems for defenders. Ragone does look like a willing blocker who does a nice job at the second level sustaining his blocks. Mike looked a bit stiff in the hips and deliberate, however at his size he is still physically maturing and it is a common issue with taller players. The only thing I saw that I think he could work on is coming back to the ball a bit more aggressively. He did a good job with this at times; however he will need to be more consistent with it at the next level. I know it's picky, but coming from a family of tight ends it was pounded in my head, so I had to mention it.
Kerry Neal, DE
Kerry Neal is a player who looks athletic enough to play up or down. I was impressed with the burst he shows off the snap and his ability to get into the backfield and disrupt a play. He shows good closing speed and gives the ball carrier a physical, wrap-up tackle. One thing that stuck out to me was that Neal plays under control. Sometimes an athletic edge rusher type will come to the ball recklessly and hurt the team as much as he helps it. Kerry played under control and did a nice job keeping contain on numerous plays. He used his hands well at the point of attack to shed blockers and position himself. He showed good awareness both for where the ball carrier was and when the ball was in the air. He also made an interception on a tipped ball in one of the clips I watched. As a tight end, Kerry looked physically dominant, but was very, very raw. With his size and athleticism, the coaching staff will be able to be creative in the way they use Neal. He could stand up and play some outside linebacker or put his hand on the ground.
Jimmy Clausen, QBI spent extra time on Clausen given the amount of attention he has been given throughout the recruiting process as I was curious myself if his play warranted the hype he's receiving. Before getting into what I saw on film, let me say that Steve Clarkson has done a great job teaching Jimmy the fundamentals of the quarterback position. Jimmy has an ear level set up with an extremely quick release. He almost reminded me of a Jeff Tedford-coached signal caller with the way he holds and delivers the ball. The set up enables him to have a very short and extremely quick release. He shows a consistent throwing motion regardless of the pass he is making. Clausen is already very mechanically sound, decisive and confident in the pocket. He has good pocket presence and also has the athletic ability to avoid the pass rush and give himself more time in the pocket. If he needs to, he can also make a play with his feet. One of the more impressive things I saw regarding his ability to move around is that he's constantly keeping his eyes downfield and looking to make the play with his arm. A lot of quarterbacks at any level will get pressured and lose their composure, however, Jimmy looks poised and under control in these situations. As a passer he is extremely accurate both on the move and when set in the pocket. He throws to spots instead of waiting for his receivers to become open. He anticipates the route his receiver is running and releases the ball to a spot while that target is coming out of their stem. I was impressed with the timing and precision of his passing. His arm strength is easily above average for a player at his level. I spend most of my time evaluating NFL prospects, and as you'd probably imagine, spend a fair amount of that time on the quarterback position. I can say with complete confidence that Jimmy is more physically gifted and fundamentally sound then some of the seniors I watched just a couple of months ago. The question remains – Is he worth the hype he's received? From what I saw on film I believe he is worth every bit of it. Now he'll need to continue to work hard at the next level and continue to get better.
Aaron Nagel, LBI watched film of Aaron at both running back and strong safety; however since he is coming to Notre Dame as a linebacker prospect, I'm going to talk about how he translates to that position. Aaron's QAB (quickness, agility, burst) was one of the more encouraging things I observed when watching him play. He has fluid hips and looks natural when changing directions. In coverage he showed good closing speed and has the range to cover from sideline to sideline. At times he came up into the box in run support and looked to have good instincts, flowing to the ball naturally. Nagel took good angles and was a solid open field tackler. One thing that stood out to me was that Aaron was a four-year varsity starter for Lemont and has an extremely high GPA. When you keep in mind the mantra of Charlie Weis, "hardworking, intelligent, and nasty," it seems to me that Nagel is a perfect fit. What remains to be seen is what our "ideal" player is at both outside linebacker positions. If our ideal SAM or "Apache" linebacker is more of a safety/linebacker hybrid, rather then the traditional, larger player, then Aaron should fit in nicely at that spot.
Duval Kamara, WRDuval is a prospect that I really think has the potential to be one heck of a player at the next level. He's got excellent size and the frame to add a bit more muscle mass as his body matures. Duval does a lot of things well, and I was reminded of a few players while watching him. The first thing I look for in a receiver is their attitude towards the ball while it's in the air. Do they merely want to make the catch or do they take possession of that ball while it's in the air? A receiver needs to have the attitude of "that's my ball" and do whatever it takes to get their hands on it. Duval seems to have this attitude. He looked to be a good downfield receiver and showed the type of speed that should allow him to be a nice deep threat for the Irish. He does a very nice job of locating the ball in the air and adjusting both his route and his body to make the catch in traffic. Watching him do this, I was instantly reminded of Southern Cal's Dwayne Jarrett. Jarrett has a sometimes uncanny ability to locate the ball and come down with it and Kumara showed a bit of that in his play. The second player I saw some of while watching his film was Terrell Owens. Don't worry, I mean the skill set, not the attitude. Duval's posture and the way he runs really reminded me a lot of Owens. He's got the burst and strength to take a short route, use a stiff arm and take off downfield, picking up RAC yards. Watching they way he almost gallops in the open field, I couldn't help but think of 81 running down the field. I'm obviously not saying he'll be that type of player, but just relaying the things that came to mind while watching this young man play. Rob Ianello has developed some excellent collegiate receivers in Lee Evans and Bobby Wade, so it will be exciting to see what he can do with yet another talented young player in Kamara.
Steve Paskorz, ATHThere wasn't a whole lot of tape of Steve at linebacker, so I'll talk about him as an athlete and what he brings to the table. As a running back Steve was very decisive and hit the hole with authority. Paskorz is a very tough runner who is tough to bring down and breaks tackles well. He looked to have good speed and was quick in and out of his cuts. I have a pet peeve about wasted motion at the running back position and there was virtually none of it with Steve. Even though he was playing running back, I saw a very physical player which will translate well to the linebacker position. It was hard to tell what Hampton runs on defense as the fronts were changing, and at times there were anywhere from two to four down linemen, however it seemed to me the coaching staff was simply moving Steve around and allowing him to use his athleticism to disrupt the play. He lined up at the line of scrimmage as what looked to me like a 3-4 OLB on some plays and back as a traditional 4-3 OLB on others. I mentioned before that I saw a physical player and nothing changed there watching him on the defensive side of the ball. Paskorz does a nice job playing contain against he run and keeping proper position to string plays wide and allow his teammates to help out. On a specific play he engaged the RT off the snap, used leverage with his inside shoulder to shed the blocker, then engaged the FB and occupied him, stringing the play wide and allowing other defenders to stop the play. While those little things may not always stand out, the fundamentals he showed on that play are important. Some fans are hesitant to take such a productive offensive player and move him to the defensive side of the ball, however I think Steve has the talent to be a very good linebacker. When I evaluate players every year, the most impressive defenders always come from the Southeastern Conference. While it's true that the talent pool in the south is overflowing, there is a difference between the SEC and the rest of the conferences nationwide. That difference is, in the SEC, the athletes play on the defensive side of the ball. Paskorz is the type of athlete that could make a great impact on the defensive side of the ball for Rick Minter and the Irish.