Notes from the road: Wisconsin-Purdue

This past Saturday featured two of the Big Ten's best as the Purdue Boilermakers hosted the Wisconsin Badgers in a battle for first place in the conference. The game was of particular interest to NFL scouts as both teams have top prospects playing for them. Our man Brent Foshee was on the sidelines in Lafayette, Indiana taking in the action for all four quarters and here's his report.

Though Big 10 rules prevent professional scouts from gaining access to either the press box or the sidelines,  many of the scouts who were present were watching Kyle Orton, Taylor Stubblefield, Antaj Hawthorne, Erasmus James and other top prospects.

Wisconsin's defense stifled Kyle Orton and the Purdue offense in the first half.  Badger Erasmus James, who's having a monster senior season and is making a big move up draft boards,  constantly applied pressure on Orton and made several big plays behind the line of scrimmage against the run.  In addition to displaying strength and a quick first step, James gave maximum effort at all times.  James left the game in the second half due to a sprain ankle and will sit on the bench next week when UW takes on Northwestern.  The same cannot be said for the Badgers highest rated prospect, defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne.  Hawthorne looked like the best player on the field for a snap or two then disappears for stretches at a time playing uninspired football.  Jason Jefferson, another top defensive tackle prospect for the Badgers, defeated one-on-one blocking and hustled in pursuit of ball carriers all day but did not show superior strength or athletic ability.  End Jonathan Welsh played only in the first half, but is a pass rusher who maximizes his superior speed on every play.  Welsh is very thin and looks almost like a wide receiver, which is why many project the collegiate defensive end to outside linebacker in the NFL.  Kalvin Barrett may have been the Badgers best defensive tackle of the day.   A former offensive guard, Barrett got push up the field which forced Purdue to double team him for much of the evening.  Scott Starks impressed with his coverage skills and willingness to defend against the run.  Though he is short, Starks displayed solid fundamentals and was rarely tested by Orton.  Another defensive back who impressed was saftey Jim Leonhard.  Physical against the run, Leonhard makes up for his lack of size by getting a good break on the ball.

Offensively the Badgers were not as impressive.  Their highly touted line had trouble all night with Purdue's pass rushers and linebackers.  Morgan Davis, the Badgers left tackle, is slow footed and has difficultly playing in space.  Sized well, Davis will likely be limited to the strong side, or possibly guard, at the next level.  Jonathan Clinkscale and Dan Buenning had difficulty all night opening holes and neither showed the ability to pull effectively or play in space.  Clinkscale does not appear to have a mean streak and instead of finding a defender to hit he frequently waits for one to come to him, and then he simply holds his ground instead of attacking assignments.  Center Donovan Raiola got good push in the running game but had difficultly in space or on the second level, which was strange for the usually nifty blocker.  The ineffective play of the Badgers offensive line hampered Wisconsin tailback Anthony Davis.  Davis is a smallish back that is neither strong nor fast.  He did do a nice job in the passing game but did not show speed or power.  Darrin Charles is a physical receiver that should get a look based on his size alone.  He runs good routes yet is not a deep threat.  Conversely, Jonathan Orr is a deep threat that does not run good routes.  Brandon Williams is a quick dependable receiver.  He runs good routes, does a nice job in running after the catch, and shows the ability to find the soft spot in the zone.

The day started off poorly for Heisman Trophy contender Kyle Orton, even before the games first snap.  Warming up against the wind, Orton under threw every receiver on deep routes.  He has great accuracy and good velocity on short and intermediate routes but may not have the arm strength to drive the ball downfield.  Orton locks onto his primary target and tends to force throws.  While he is good avoiding pressure and throwing on the run, he tends to release the ball off his back foot and his footwork was inconsistent throughout the night.  Orton's favorite target, Taylor Stubblefield, is a physical receiver.  Stubblefield had several uncharacteristic drops on Saturday and while he is fearless going over the middle he lacks speed and must rely on double moves to get down field, behind opponents.  The Boilermakers two young offensive line prospects Tyler Moore and Matt Turner both did a nice job of holding the point in pass protection but neither is a mauler and both must get stronger.

 

Purdue's lone defensive prospect is cornerback Antwaun Rogers.  Rogers shows good reaction and adequate speed but is a sloppy player who stares down the quarterback and has only a token backpedal.

Brent Foshee is editor of Colts Insiders and has worked with the TFY Draft Preview scouting players for two years.


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