Ask The Scout

Author Chris Landry is a veteran NFL scout, having served with the Cleveland Browns, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and formerly ran the Indianapolis Scouting Combine.

Chris 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. Here is his weekly column.
What is the latest on the LSU's Nick Saban and the Dolphins job?

I talked to both sides this evening (Wed Dec 22). Nick is weighing the Dolphins offer and will likely have a decision within the next 24-48 hours. The Dolphins feel they have laid out a plan that will give Nick a great deal of latitude and power over the football operations. Nick began looking over the offer this evening (Wed Dec 22), and there appears to be no major obstacles. However, there are a couple of details that need to be worked out and that process will continue early tomorrow (Thurs Dec 23). The Dolphins believe they have their man. Nick is very meticulous and wants to be completely sure before making a final decision.
Who is going to get the U. Pittsburgh job?

Dave Wannstedt is back in the picture and now interested in looking into that job and he has always been their frontrunner. Matt Cavanaugh, offensive coordinator with the Ravens and former Panthers quarterback and current defensive coordinator Paul Rhodes as well as Bo Pellini, defensive coordinator at Oklahoma are the fall back candidates.
Las Vegas Bowl—UCLA vs Wyoming

UCLA will rely on the one-two punch of RBs Maurice Drew and Manuel White to pound away at an undersized Cowboys' defense that surrenders 184 yards per game on the ground. Wyoming will counter with QB Casey Bramlet, triggering a spread offense that features a deep stable of talented receivers, including standout Jovon Bouknight. Neither team ranks in the top-70 in the nation in total defense, so points should come in bunches.

The Bruins have the potential to absolutely dominate the Cowboys' run defense in this match up. Their offensive line averages 307 pounds across and is a group that is at its best when allowed to get into a physical contest. Bonde and Morris give the Cowboys good size up the middle, but DE Aaron Robbins is undersized at 248 pounds, as are OLBs Austin Hall and Guy Tuell. As a result, look for the Bruins to focus on the perimeter of the Cowboys' run defense. They have terrific size on the "weakside" of their offensive line with OG Steven Vieira (318 pounds) and OT Ed Blanton (345 pounds), and should be able to control the point of attack in the trenches. With Drew having three weeks to rest his ankle, and White serving as an adequate change of pace, the Bruins have the potential to grind it out on the ground in this game.

Olson has shown improvement down the stretch and has the weapons to generate some big plays through the air in this game. Bragg has been back for eight games, but it seems that he and Olson finally got on the same page for the first time this season versus USC, when Bragg finished with a season-high six receptions. With Bragg drawing attention on one side, there should be a lot of room for WR Junior Taylor and TE Mercedes Lewis to operate. Taylor has good hands and the ability to create mismatches against DCs Derrick Martin and Terrance Butler. Lewis is a young emerging playmaker at the tight end position, who will capitalize if the Cowboys get caught cheating their safeties up versus the run, or outside in deep support. So long as Olson protects the ball and doesn't give Wendling any opportunities to generate big plays, the Bruins should get a complete and balanced performance from their offense.

Quarterback Casey Bramlet provides the Cowboys with their only chance to keep up in this game. The junior has experienced a rollercoaster season due to inconsistency and durability problems down the stretch. The time off before the bowl game will allow Bramlet time to rest and reevaluate things. The good news for Cowboys' fans is that Glenn's spread offensive attack is a good system to help neutralize a bigger and faster UCLA defense. The Cowboys have a terrific vertical threat in Bouknight, and also have the depth at receiver with Dustin Pleasant, Tyler Holden, Jason Wallace, Josh Barge and Michael Ford to keep everyone fresh and continue to come after the Bruins in the passing game. The problem is that UCLA has been much more adept at defending the pass than they have been against the run this season. They should get good pressure from their front four, especially DT Kevin Brown and DE Bruce Davis, who have combined for 6.5 sacks on the season. The Bruins also have the athletes in the secondary and underneath, to limit Wyoming's big play potential in the air.

If the Bruins play well, they should control this game. Glenn's team has a load of character and has overachieved the entire season. The Cowboys can strike for some big plays from their spread passing attack, and they also have an edge in special teams that could serve as an equalizer. The problem is that UCLA is far deeper and more talented on both sides of the ball.
Boise Bowl—Fresno St. vs Virginia

Despite the season-ending injury suffered by RB Dwayne Wright early on, Fresno State's offense has remained dependant on the rushing attack. Anchored by LOT Logan Mankins, their offensive line has good overall size and terrific experience. It is a group that is much more efficient blocking for the run than it is protecting the passer. When RB Bryson Sumlin gets into a rhythm with a lot of carries early on, it typically leads to a good performance. The trouble for Fresno is that Virginia's run defense ranks 18th in the nation and has the potential to be smothering. The Cavaliers play a 3-4 scheme that requires its front three to play disciplined in a gap-control technique. The Bulldogs haven't faced a defensive front with as much size and speed as the one it will face in this game. If Virginia's defensive unit comes to play, it should suffocate Sumlin and force the Bulldogs out of character. QB Paul Pinegar has settled down after a miserably disappointing start to his junior season. Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti has simply limited Pinegar's attempts by focusing on the running game. Pinegar hasn't attempted more than 20 passes in the last five games, but he has completed 66.3 percent of his throws with 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions during that span. Pinegar will need to be accurate as an underneath passer against a Virginia cover-2 scheme that gives up a lot of short throws, but won't give up many plays vertically. Pinegar doesn't have any big-play receiving weapons, but he does have good consistency and depth with WRs Joe Fernandez, Jermaine Jamison and Adam Jennings.

Virginia's goal is always to establish its running attack That should be attainable against a Bulldogs' run defense ranked 66th in the country. Virginia doesn't have great size up front, but it has a technically sound and efficient offensive line that can be devastating in its own right. ROG Elton Brown and LOT D'Brickashaw Ferguson are two of the best in the nation at their respective positions, but there really isn't a weak link on the unit. With Brown likely to dominate DT Garrett McIntyre, and OC Zac Yarbrough capable of handling NT Donyell Booker, the Cavaliers have the potential to control the battle in the trenches. With a one-two punch like Alvin Pearman and Wali Lundy, things could get ugly quickly for the Bulldogs' defense. Pearman has taken over as the primary ball carrier, but both backs have more than 150 carries on the season. Pearman is averaging 5.3 yards per carry, and Lundy is averaging five yards per carry with an ACC-high 16 touchdowns. It's never good when a safety leads a defense in tackles, and that's exactly the case with the Bulldogs. FS Tyrone Culver has notched 59 total tackles on the season. MLB Dwayne Andrews and OLBs Marcus Riley and Alan Goodwin must do a better job of taking on and shedding blocks for the Bulldogs to stand a chance. Virginia's running attack averages 228 yards per game.

Quarterback Marques Hagans is a terrific athlete who will buy extra time and is capable of burning Fresno State if it doesn't play with contain. He also has been efficient for the most part as a passer this season. However, he doesn't have the arm strength or the weapons at wide receiver to stretch the field vertically. That will make life much easier on DCs Richard Marshall and Marcus McCauley, while also freeing up Culver and James Sanders to be much more active in run support and underneath coverage. The Cavs rely heavily on their running backs and TE Heath Miller in the passing game, as Pearman, Lundy and Miller have combined for 73 of the team's 161 receptions this season. Perhaps the most crucial match up of the game will be between Sanders and Miller. Sanders is an all-MWC performer, with good toughness and athleticism. His lack of size could cost him against Miller, who has become as proficient as any tight end in the country in terms of using his size and gaining separation.

A Pat Hill coached team is always dangerous, especially against a team that doesn't bring its "A-game". The Bulldogs have won five-straight and have enjoyed a second-half resurgence. They have enough balance on offense and confidence on defense to make things tough for a Virginia team that may sleepwalk into this game. However, the Cavalier's superior talent will eventually take over.
Insight.com Phoenix Bowl—Oregon State vs Notre Dame

Against a Notre Dame defense that ranks ninth in the nation versus the run, don't expect Oregon State offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to press his luck. Notre Dame is bigger and stronger up front, and MLB Mike Goolsby fills nicely against the run. The only way the Beavers can successfully gain yards on the ground is to use load-carrier Dwight Wright Jr. on counters, cutbacks and draws in order to catch the Irish over-pursuing or out of position.

The Irish pass defense has been atrocious, allowing 274.3 yards per game. The team's front-four pass rush has been virtually non-existent, outside of Justin Tuck's six sacks. Anderson still makes a lot of mistakes under pressure but is dangerous when given time. Against a secondary that lacks playmakers and has lost its confidence, he should enjoy success. WR Mike Hass is the primary target, but Anderson also has a versatile array of skill players to spread the ball around to, including 6-foot-7 TE Joe Newton and WRs Marcel Love and Anthony Wheat-Brown. Against a secondary playing a lot of cover-2 schemes, with its safeties playing the deep middle, Newton could play a key role as a receiver down the seams.

The Beavers take chances on defense and force opponents into a lot of mistakes. They use a lot of man-coverage on the perimeter, which allows them to be extremely aggressive with SS Sabby Piscitelli cheated up in the box and OLBs Jonathan Pollard and Keith Ellison coming as blitzers off the edge. In order to establish the run, the Irish will need to spread the Beavers out by using flexed tight ends and multiple-receiver sets. The key is to get some of the bodies out of the box in order to give their offensive line better blocking scenarios. RBs Ryan Grant and Darius Walker continue to split carries. Grant is a tough runner who is more reliable in terms of ball protection and blitz pick-up in the passing game. Walker is far more explosive. In a game where the Irish will need to strike quick on screens and draws in order to catch the aggressive Beavers out of position, Walker needs to get more touches. The Irish will need to prove they can throw first in order to loosen up the Beavers' attacking scheme. The best way to describe Notre Dame's passing attack is inconsistent. In certain games (Washington and Tennessee), Quinn succeeded at spreading the ball around to his different weapons. However, against teams like Boston College and Pittsburgh, Quinn and his receivers look completely out of sync. If the Irish are to keep up with Oregon State, they must do a better job of protecting Quinn, and he must do a better job of making throws to beat man-coverage. Oregon State DCs Brandon Browner and Aric Williams make up one of the better man-to-man cover corner duos in the country, and senior FS Mitch Meeuwsen is a ball-hawk. Quinn has the weapons at wide receiver in Maurice Stovall and Rhema McKnight to beat the blitz and provide big plays through the air. He must get into a groove early and have time to throw from the pocket. Otherwise, things could fall apart quickly for Notre Dame's offense.

After breaking both teams down on film, it looks as if this is an evenly matched game. Both offenses can move the ball in the air, and both defenses are stout against the run. There isn't a big discrepancy on special teams, but there is a difference in pass defense. Quinn will be working against the nation's 28th-ranked pass defense, while Anderson faces the 114th-ranked pass defense. With so many distractions during the break, it is difficult to imagine Notre Dame bringing its best game to Phoenix. So long as Anderson doesn't give the game away with turnovers, the Beavers likely will come out on top.
Which underclassmen (Juniors) would have a chance of going in the first round of this April's NFL Draft if they came out early?

EARLY FIRST ROUND—QB's Matt Leinhart of USC and Aaron Rodgers of California-Berkeley, OT D"Brickshaw Ferguson of Virginia and WR Mike Williams of USC.
MID FIRST ROUND- Ahmad Brooks, ILB at Virginia, DeAngelo Williams, RB at Memphis, Adam Jones, CB at West Virginia, Thomas Davis, S at Georgia.
LATE FIRST ROUND--- Heath Miller, TE at Virginia, Mathias Kiwanuka, DE at Boston College, resdhirt sophomore Channing Crowder, OLB at Florida, Justin Miller, DC at Clemson, Ciatrick Fason, RB at Florida, Rodrique Wright, DT at Texas and Brodney Pool, S at Oklahoma.
What do you think of the minority interviewing policy in the NFL?

It is a good policy appreciated more by those in the coaching profession but one that is vastly misunderstood by the media and fans. You cannot force someone to hire someone but it benefits everyone involved if we open up the interview process to as many qualified candidates as possible. Both the team (and school) and the candidates benefit and grow greatly from the interview process. Even if a team knows whom it wants to hire, interviewing multiple candidates only broadens the search just in case and gives exposure and interviewing experience to candidates. There may be no chance of that candidate getting the job but it is the next job that he may be better prepared for as a result.

For example, NY Jets coach Herman Edwards and Indianapolis Colts Tony Dungy interviewed several times before getting their first jobs. They struggled initially with the interview process but developed the polish in the process to eventually get their opportunity.

Back in the early 1990's, the Cleveland Browns had their sights on the hottest coordinator in the league, Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick. However, Art Modell gave a courtesy interview to an ex-Browns guy. While he had no chance at the job, he interviewed very well and word spread throughout the league. A year later he was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bill Cowher is now the longest tenured coach in the NFL.

Panthers coach John Fox thought the interview process was so important that before interviewing with the Panthers, he first participated in a mock interview with Ernie Accorsi, his general manager with the NY Giants at the time.

It is a candidates prerogative (minority or otherwise) to turn down an interview they feel as worthless or a sham. It's has been my experience, however, that being selected for an interview is a worthwhile process for that candidates future.
In the coaching fraternity, what college jobs are considered the best in their eyes?

The beauty is in the eye of the beholder as certain guys favor certain locations based on their geographical background. With that in mind, Texas and Florida because of facilities, resources and recruiting base and tradition. There are a number of schools which would fit in the next tier that have similar resources, talent bases, tradition and recruiting base. They would include Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma, Michigan, Ohio State, USC, Notre Dame, Miami and Florida State.

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