Scout Watch: Defensive Displays

The Packers will see several top defensive prospects this week, starting on Thursday night with Virginia Tech. Among the teams the Packers will see on Saturday is Florida, which features a pair of first-round junior prospects.

The Green Bay Packers will have a scout at Thursday night's Virginia Tech-East Carolina game — one of several games this week the Packers will be attending, according to Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber.

Vanderbilt vs. Florida

Florida has three top-10 position prospects among the seniors: top-ranked middle linebacker Brandon Spikes — who Packers cornerback/Heisman Trophy voter Charles Woodson believes should be a Heisman contender — second-ranked quarterback Tim Tebow and ninth-ranked defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (an outside linebacker in a 3-4).

Steuber, however, pointed to a junior — 5-foot-11 cornerback Joe Haden — as the one player to watch for Packers fans. Haden, who has two interceptions and two sacks, would be a first-round pick if he enters the draft, Steuber said.

"Joe Haden is a playmaking cover corner who plays with a degree of physicality," Steuber said. "He has good size and the ability to lockdown the opposition. He's quick backpedaling off the line, fluidly transitions with receivers and positions himself to make a play on the ball. He possesses a burst of closing speed that allows him to recover easily, and has the deep speed and athleticism to get vertical and defend a pass in midair. He has great instincts and is willing to defend against the run. Haden is a complete player and a future cornerstone defender of an NFL defense."

A second top prospect for Florida is 6-foot-6 junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap. At that size, he'd be an ideal fit at end in a 3-4 defense. Dunlap leads the Gators with six sacks and has batted down two passes in eight games. Last season, he had 9.5 sacks and was voted defensive MVP of the BCS Championship Game against Oklahoma, when he had 0.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for losses and a blocked punt.

For Vandy, keep an eye on cornerback Myron Lewis. Lewis, Steuber's eighth-ranked corner, is 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, and that's just the kind of cornerback the Packers desire. He had five interceptions and five sacks as a junior, and has three interceptions and two sacks this season.

"Lewis is a physical defender who can line up at cornerback or safety at the next level," Steuber said. "He uses his size to his advantage at the line of scrimmage, as he's able to muscle-up the opposition. He has good footwork and smoothly transitions with the receiver throughout his route. He runs well laterally and has the quickness to get downfield to defend the pass against bigger and smaller receivers. He has good awareness and the ball skills to change the momentum of a game. He's not only a good cover corner, but he excels defending against the run. He's tremendous in pursuit and is a reliable blitzer when the defense wants to attack. He has to continue to work on his agility, as he appears a little stiff in coverage. Lewis is a perfect fit at corner in college, but he translates best to playing free safety in the NFL."

Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina


Hokies DE Jason Worilds
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
The top player of interest for the Packers will be redshirt junior Jason Worilds. The 6-foot-2, 262-pounder is an impact player at defensive end — and has the tools to be a second-round prospect as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, according to Steuber.

This is at least the Packers' second game involving Tech.

Worilds tallied eight sacks and 18.5 tackles for losses last season. This year, he has only 3.5 sacks and six tackles for losses but has piled up 25 quarterback hits in eight games. He had two sacks against Miami last month, and he has blazing speed around the corner.

Plus, the Hokies have Steuber's top-ranked guard prospect, Sergio Render. The 6-foot-3, 313-pounder was a second-team all-ACC right guard last year, and is at left guard this year. He had 130 "pancake" blocks in his first three seasons, according to school stats.

"I just love going out and putting people on their butt, hitting people hard and sticking them on their backs," Render told Roanoke.com in September.

Also, keep an eye on both punters. East Carolina's Matt Dodge is Steuber's No. 2 punter while Tech's Brent Bowden is ranked third.

Baylor vs. Missouri

This game will include Steuber's second-ranked center, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound J.D. Walton of Baylor.

"J.D. Walton is a tough, durable blocker that controls the line of scrimmage," Steuber said. "He's an intelligent lineman who possesses great leadership qualities and a passion for the game. He's quick off the snap, uses his quick hands to get in on the opposition and works well with his linemates to stall the progression of a defender. He's strong at the point of attack, plays with good pad level, uses his strength to shield defenders and creates openings in running situations. He has great balance and is rarely off his feet. He plays with a high motor and gives maximum effort on every play. He has a nasty streak, finishes blocks and doesn't stop until the whistle is blown. He's not a great athlete and has to improve his quickness to get to the second level. He plays a bit stiff and doesn't possess great blocking range."

Missouri's main senior prospect is Sean Weatherspoon, who is Steuber's top-ranked outside linebacker. He had 320 tackles as a weak-side linebacker entering the season and has 73 in eight games this year, including nine for losses, 2.5 sacks and one interception. He is a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award given to the nation's best linebacker.

Illinois vs. Minnesota

The Gophers' Eric Decker is Steuber's third-ranked receiver prospect. In eight games, he's got 50 catches for 758 yards and five touchdowns. At 6-foot-3, he's got a combination of size and speed that the scouts crave.

The Illini have three top-10 prospects: No. 5 guard Jon Asamoah (6-5, 309), No. 10 tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (6-5, 274) and No. 10 quarterback Juice Williams, who got back on track last week in a rout of Michigan.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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