Ask the Scout - 10/13

Chris Landry, former NFL scout and current FOX radio analyst answers his weekly questions. Who does he feel are the top players in the country? Kyle Orton of Purdue is ranking out high thus far on Chris' list.

Can you give your brief thoughts on the Oklahoma/Texas game last week?

Chris Landry: Oklahoma displayed more balance on both sides of the ball but particularly offensively. You must make defenses work and cover the entire field and they did that well. Texas had no offensive balance whatsoever. They had no confidence in Vince Young's ability to make plays in the passing game versus Oklahoma's mixed zone coverages. They became one dimensional offensively and thus easy to defend. This game was for the taking as Texas did an outstanding job with kick and punt coverage and dominated field position for much of the first half. Defensively, they came up with more big plays in the past and put their offense in a plus situations. Vince Young has not progressed as a passer and the entire passing game continues to struggle. And, even when he made a nice throw, there was a dropped pass. Put simply, Oklahoma has just done a better job of developing players within their system than Texas.

How good is Wisconsin and can they win the Big Ten?

CL: They are very good defensively against the run and have a good running attack. Purdue runs the style of offense that tends to give Wisconsin troubles. This is a faster UW defensive unit so it should be a good match up. Purdue will run a lot of spread isolation sets in an effort to create mismatches in the passing game. Should Wisconsin pull it out, they have the schedule advantage as they do not have to play Michigan.

What are your thoughts on USC and California following their game?

CL: California outplayed USC for most of the game. They had success with both the pass and the run and fared better defensively than I thought they would. In the end, it was that USC knew how to react better in big game situations than Cal. USC is a solid unit and well coached but not as good as they were last year. Arizona St. should play them well this week.

How surprised were you in Georgia's performance versus Tennessee?

CL: Somewhat. With so much emphasis by Georgia in the LSU game last week, it usually leads to some degree of a letdown. Georgia was completely flat and never got on track. Tennessee played well but Georgia simply did not respond. Tennessee did a nice job with their zone coverage looks and did a nice job with blitz pressure. Offensively UT ran the ball quite well and Georgia failed to get off blocks all day.

Any mid-season projection on a national championship game?

CL: Same as my pre-season one, Oklahoma vs. USC. Neither is dominant but they have graded out the best thus far.

Who are Oklahoma's and USC's biggest obstacles?

CL: For Oklahoma, it's at Oklahoma St. and at Texas A&M. For USC, it's this week versus Arizona State.

Can Virginia beat Florida State in Tallahassee this week?

CL: I think they have a great shot. Al Groh has recruited very well and has a lot of weapons. They have a good running game with two good runners and a outstanding offensive line. Elton Brown is the top offensive guards in the country and Heath Miller the top tight end. Quarterback Hagans has given them a weapon with his option rollout looks and Defensively, they play Al Groh's style--- They attack the line of scrimmage well and have one of the best linebacking corps in the country.

Can you identify some of the best college players in the country by position at the mid-season point based on your film grading?

CL: QB- Kyle Orton- Purdue, Aaron Rodgers-Cal, Matt Leinhart-USC, RB- Adrian Peterson-Oklahoma, Reggie Bush-USC (slot), Vernand Morency-Okla St., Cedric Benson-Texas, Laurence Maroney-Minnesota, J.J. Arrington-Cal, Ciatrick Faison-Florida, Wali Lundy-Virginia, Ryan Moats-Louisiana Tech, WR- Braylon Edwards-Michigan, Taylor Stubblefield-Purdue, Mark Clayton-Oklahoma, Santanio Holmes-Ohio St., David Anderson-Colorado St, TE- Heath Miller—Virginia OT- Jamaal Brown-Oklahoma, Alex Barron-Florida St., OG-Elton Brown-Virginia, Davin Joseph-Oklahoma, C-Greg Eslinger-Minnesota, Ben Wilkerson-LSU, DT-Mike Patterson-USC, Anttaj Hawthorne-Wisconsin, Shaun Cody-USC, Travis Johnson-Florida St., Orien Harris-Miami, DE-Erasmus James- Wisconsin, David Pollack-Georgia, Manny Lawson—NC State, Mathias Kiwanuka-Boston College, Justin Tuck-Notre Dame, Jonathan Goddard-Marshall, Ryan Riddle-Cal-Berkeley, Baraka Atkins-Miami, Darryl Tapp-Virginia Tech, OLB-Derrick Johnson-Texas, Rocky McIntosh-Miami, A.J. Hawk-Ohio St., Lance Mitchell-Oklahoma, Michael Boley-So. Miss, Channing Crowder-Florida, A.J. Nicholson-Florida St., Tavares Gooden-Miami, Dale Robinson-Arizona St., ILB- Ahmad Brooks-Virginia, Leroy Hill-Clemson , Spencer Havner-UCLA, Robert McCune-Louisville, Kirk Morrison-San Diego St., D'Qwell Jackson-Maryland, S-Thomas Davis-Georgia, Brodney Pool-Oklahoma, Ernest Shazor-Michigan, Donte Whitner-Ohio St., Greg Threat-Miami, CB-Antrelle Rolle-Miami, Marlin Jackson-Michigan, Junior Rosegreen-Auburn, Darrent Williams-Oklahoma St., Spec- returners Reggie Bush-USC, Jim Leonhard-Wisconsin, Justin Miller-Clemson, Antonio Perkins-Oklahoma, Adam Jones-West Virginia, PK Mike Nugent-Ohio State.

Can you explain the roles in the cover 2 defense and it's origin?

CL: It was first made popular in the late 1970's with Chuck Noll and Bud Carson with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Former Steeler Tony Dungy teaches the best and most purest form of the cover 2. It is a defense ideal for the prevention of big plays. The corners are not asked to man up with receivers. They try to jam receivers at the line, redirect them and take responsibility for a zone. A safety typically gives the corner on each side of the field deep help, which is what we call playing halves. It is a safe, conserative coverage that defends the field with balance. The cover 2 encourages offenses to throw to tight ends and backs because it makes the middle of the field inviting. The defense takes away the outside threats and significantly reduces the chance of a big passing play. The beauty of the cover 2 is that it can be accomplished without premium cover corners. For a corner in man coverage schemes, raw athleticism and speed cannot be substituted. Corners playing cover 2 rely more on reading, discipline, instincts and technique. Good coaching can improve cover 2 more than it can improve man to man corners. You still need good athletes at corner because you cannot play cover 2 exclusively. Cover 2 defenses also want safeties and linebackers who would not fit other schemes. The safeties need ball skills and range to play halves. The linebackers have to be able to run and possess a feel for the passing game, especially the middle linebacker who has to drop in to coverage like a free safety whenever the slot receiver or tight end runs a vertical route. The drawback of the cover 2 is that it can make you a little soft against the run. It removes the safeties from the box and sometimes the middle linebacker. So, defenses playing a lot of cover 2 need for their tackles to be strong against the inside run and their corners bring down backs one on one on outside runs. Many cover 2 teams try to get a body in every gap, which forces running backs to bounce out on the edge, where they meet the cornerbacks. Against a very athletic running quarterback, a cover 2 has some holes as it has five guys underneath in coverage, so you really have to account for five potential receivers and does not account for the quarterback as a runner.

Why is the fullback not utilized as much in today's offenses?

CL: Because of the proliferation of 8-man fronts and zone blitzing, many offenses have abandoned the I-formation and two back running game in favor of spreading the field. If you have a dynamic tailback, I-formation football with a lead blocker is still an effective way to run the football. Ohio State, Miami and Florida State still do this quite a bit.
Chris Landry is a veteran NFL scout, having served with the Cleveland Browns, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and formerly ran the Indianapolis Scouting Combine. He now runs his own Scouting Consulting business where he scouts NFL and College personnel for NFL teams and help Universities and NFL teams in their Coaching evaluations and Searches. He can be heard nationally on FOX Sports Radio as their college football and NFL analyst.

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