Patriots Scouts: Checking In On SEC

PatriotsInsider.com has confirmed that The New England Patriots have sent their scouting department to check in on the SEC this weekend. Here's one game where the Patriots can get a close look at both top offensive lineman and a program with a history supplying the NFL With defensive backs.

Patriots Insider has confirmed that New England scouts will be on hand for Saturday's Arkansas - South Carolina game. According to Scout.com NFL Draft expert Chris Steuber, the Patriots are one of at least three NFL teams expected to be in attendance to scout this classic: Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams.

Here is a list of the players they will look at:

Arkansas:
DE, Antwain Robinson, Senior
RB, Michael Smith, Junior
OT, Jose Valdez, Senior
C, Jonathan Luigs, Senior

To Note: At 4-5, Arkansas sits at the bottom of the SEC looking up at perennial powerhouses Alabama, Texas, and Florida, each which has beaten the Razorbacks.At 249.67 yards per game, Arkansas has the second best passing offense in the conference (29th overall).

How they fit:

Jonathan Luigs, Alabama -- The 2007 Rimington Trophy winner.

The Patriots most certainly are looking at Arkansas' offensive linemen in this matchup. center Jonathan Luigs is considered one of the top interior linemen in the conference, winning the Rimington Trophy in 2007 - awarded to the top center in the nation. At 6-foot-4, 314 he has the size to take on defensive tackles in the NFL, and could move into the starting lineup for a number of NFL clubs.

The offensive line has had to shuffle players in and out week-to-week this season leaving more questions than answers for head coach Bobby Petrino. Tackle Jose Valdez is one of the few linemen aside from Luigs to remain a constant on the line.

Running back Michael Smith has done well, but struggled last week against Tulsa carrying 23 times for just 67 yards. Still, Smith led all SEC rushers by averaging nearly 124 yards per game (9th best in the nation). At just 5-foot-7, 173-pounds, Smith may be too small for NFL clubs. That is unless teams want to consider 5-foot-6 Chargers running back Daren Sproles or 5-foot-7, Jaguars back Maurice Jones-Drew as too small.

The Patriots continue to try to find a healthy guard to replace the oft-injured Stephen Neal. Former Big 12 standout Billy Yates doesn't look like he's the answer.

South Carolina:
MLB, Jasper Brinkley, Senior
OLB, Eric Norwood, Junior
CB, Captain Munnerlyn, Junior
CB, Carlos Thomas, Senior
SS, Emanuel Cook, Junior
RB, Mike Davis, Senior
WR, Kenny McKinley, Senior
TE, Jared Cook, Junior
OT, Jamon Meredith, Senior
K, Ryan Succop, Senior

 

To Note: The Gamecocks have the 2nd best pass defense in the nation according to NCAA statistics, yielding just 144 yards per game.

They also have the 3rd best defense overall in the nation yielding just 250.67 yards per game, ahead of even top ranked Alabama which is yielding a little over 251 (4th overall).

How they fit:

Of the prospects for South Carolina who are sure to be on the Draft board, the most intriguing prospect for New England is offensive tackle Jamon Meredith. Three years ago (2006) the Patriots took a chance on one of the most highly thought of linemen coming out of the Pac 10 that season - California's Ryan O'Callaghan. O'Callaghan had some injury issues to deal with so teams passed over him, until the Patriots stepped up to select him in the fifth round. Since selecting O'Callaghan, the Patriots have struck out with nearly every other lineman they've drafted because of the need to develop those players over time. One they did hit with is Nick KAczur, but off-field issues have to concern the team.

Jamon Meredith South Carolina Gamecocks Nov 25, 2006 (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

With Meridith, scouting reports indicate he's a high round Draft pick. He's a player who won't be on the board for very long, according to NFL Scout Tom Marino who gives Meridith an "A" Draft grade (1st or 2nd round). At 6-foot-5, 301 pounds, the South Carolina native already has the build to fit in at the tackle position, one the Patriots desperately need to address in the Draft. The question is whether they want to give up on former third round pick Nick Kaczur, who has started at right tackle since the Patriots drafted in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft out of Toledo.

Despite Meridith and standout Tight End Jared Cook, it's the Gamecock's defense which has drawn much attention from NFL scouts in the past decade. Ten defensive backs have been drafted by NFL Teams in the past ten years.

Two players to keep an eye on are Gamecock corners Carlos Thomas and Captain Munnerlyn. Yes, that's his actual name. Not much feedback is out there on Munnerlyn, but Thomas is on a number of teams' radar. South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson thinks the underclassmen will be back for another season.

"We've had a lot of traffic in here with NFL scouts," Johnson told the Knoxville News recently. "The majority of their focus has been on our seniors. We don't get a lot of chitchat from them about the other guys."

Linebacker Jaspar Brinkley has worked hard to return from a knee injury his junior season. He's considered the best available defensive player on the team according to Scout.com's Draft rankings.

Brinkley, Cook and Munnerlyn all have middle round grades according to Marino, exactly the place the Patriots would typically like to select a player at those positions.

 

MORE:
No Missing Pieces in Sout Carolina's Defense (knoxnews.com)

Arkansas Football News
South Carolina Football News

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