Scouting notes from the road: Arkansas vs. Florida

A second consecutive Saturday in Gainesville and a very hot Ben Hill Griffin Stadium greeted us last weekend. While our emphasis were on the Razorback NFL-prospects, there was still plenty of talk and conjecture amongst scouts on some of the Gator players we mentioned last week.

First the Florida Gator prospects.  

Again Jonathan Colon impressed scouts with his ability to protect the blind side for a versatile/nimble quarterback.  And while his competition was not stiff, no Arkansas defensive end really got a sniff of the Gator signal caller when Colon was in the game.  This point was made very clear and is one all draft fans/college football fans should take note of; this weeks contest against LSU is a huge test for Colon.  Marcus Spears is considered by almost everyone as a first round lock next April and the initial senior defensive end that will be taken off the board.  Spears combination of speed, strength and athleticism will be a proving ground for Colon.  Should he contain Spears and hold his own Colon will inch closer into the drafts first day.

Several Gator underclassmen stood out against Arkansas junior receiver Dallas Baker.  A nice sized receiver, Baker has a lot of natural skill, soft hands and good bloodlines (his uncle is Wes Chandler).  Junior safety Jarvis Herring does not have the top size for centerfield but excellent cover skills and looks as though he could develop into a fine dime back at the next level.

Arkansas has only one senior prospect who'll be drafted April, that being Matt Jones.  What position he's drafted at or where he ultimately ends up is another matter altogether.  Jones is a true leader behind center, a tough competitor who always works to make something positive happen.  His skills carrying the ball are  solid as he combines strength, built-up speed and a lot of toughness.  As far as his passing skills, Cade McNown comes to mind as Jones is constantly scrambles around, finds the open wide out and releases the pass from all wild angles or cockeyed positions.  And while he puts the ball in the receivers general vicinity, Jones accuracy is below par.  In fact, were he able to place his throws better and lead receivers Arkansas may have well won the game.  Factor in Jones does not always do a good job finding the safety and his athletic skills are better then his quarterbacking abilities.

After watching him and discussing what other scouts thought about his performance here is what we can decipher; Jones will get an invite to the combine and workout at several positions.  He'll either be listed with the receivers or tight ends but will get a chance to throw the ball in the RCA Dome next February.  Conventional wisdom has him going early in day two as a receiver while others think a "quarterback guru" who is very involved in a teams draft process (Mike Martz, Mike Holmgren) could take a flier on Jones late in day one and work on changing that hideous throwing motion.

Our thoughts is right now Jones will be selected early in round four by a team that will try and develop him into a tight end.  It makes sense as Jones has excellent size/speed numbers for the position, offers growth potential and shows toughness in his running which should translate over to blocking prowess.  Factor in Jones has displayed solid hands when used as a receiver in the past.

Decori Birmingham is an aggressive running back that also did an adequate job with blocking assignments.  Showing adequate hands out of the backfield, Birmingham also has good straight-line speed but looks like a back-up at the next level whose main role would be to give the feature ball carrier a breather from time-to-time.

Defensive tackle Arrion Dixon is a leverage lineman with a quick first step.  Getting underneath opponents all day, he drove up the field and displayed good hand technique getting off blocks.  And while Dixon has a nice build his playing strength is marginal at best as he was held up by average blockers all day.  Still, we like him as a late round pick and a reserve at the next level in a 4-3 defense.

Finally, end Jeb Huckeba looks like he should be hauling down rebounds for the Razorback basketball team rather than rush the passer with his tall, slender build.  He has growth potential which must be met yet is a solid athlete and a consideration for a practice squad.

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