NFL Scouting News: Pittsburgh/Rutgers

In a contest which took almost four hours to complete, Rutgers won it's initial Big East game of the season while Pittsburgh suffered its' fourth contest of the year. For the most part the senior prospects on the field were of the mid-to-late round variety yet ten different NFL teams were represented with one general manager on hand in New Brunswick last Friday.

Scouts in attendance all agreed that Brian Leonard of Rutgers was the top NFL-prospect in the game, rating him over Panther receiver Greg Lee.  The junior is expected to enter the draft next April and he is already being compared to former Niner Tom Rathman.  The Jets scouts on hand took copious notes of Leonard's every move as did the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Both teams will be in the market for a multi-purpose ball carrier next April.  Most feel solid workouts will put Leonard into the top 50 selections of the draft.

Another underclassman who garnered the attention of scouts was Panther linebacker H.B. Blades.  Though hampered with an annoying groin injury this season, Blades was all over the field making plays Friday night.  His range and skill in pass coverage stand out and Blades is definitely a three down defender.  Houston Texans general manager Charlie Casserly was on hand to take in Blades performance and feels he'd be a terrific fit in a 34 defense.  Also on hand and impressed with Blades performance were the Cleveland Browns, who run a similiar defense. 

Ryan Neill of the Scarlet Knights also garnered a lot of attention throughout the evening as much for his hustle and tenacity as anything else.  Neill was all over the field, chasing to get involved in the action.  A smallish defensive end, Neill could fit a system such as the one employed in Chicago, who had a scout in attendance.  Cleveland also liked Neill as Browns head coach Romeo Crennel had success with a similar type of player in Mike Vrabel.

Pittsburgh has seen some very poor performances by highly rated NFL-prospects in the midst of their losing season.

Depending on which NFL-scouting service you believe, offensive lineman Charles Spencer graded out as the third best senior guard in the nation.  Spencer was kicked out to left tackle this year and has been a major disappointment.  Looking poorly conditioned, Spencer struggled all night protecting his quarterback.  Besides the Bears and Texans, the Miami Dolphins had a scout on hand who came away unimpressed after watching the big offensive lineman. 

Another highly rated Panther prospect who looked very ordinary was receiver Greg Lee.  After establishing himself as a playmaker and the "go-to guy" last year when Pittsburgh won the conference title then played in the Fiesta Bowl, scouts in attendance feel the big wide out could just be a product of the system.  While his stats from the game were impressive Lee dropped four passes, several which could've helped change the outcome of the game.  

General consensus from scouts on other players in the game;

-Safety Tez Morris of Pittsburgh is strictly a zone defensive back in the NFL who must make a living on special teams.  

-Panthers cornerback Josh Lay must also play in a zone system.  Besides very average technique, Lay has a bad habit of peaking in the offensive backfield which will cost him in a man-cover system.

- One Pitt prospect who looked reasonably effective was defensive lineman Thomas Smith. Tough to handle in the middle of the line, he is a prospect who makes plays up and down the line of scrimmage.  The teams represented on hand who run a 3-4 defense (Cleveland and Houston's Charlie Casserly) felt Smith has definite potential as two-gap lineman in the NFL.

- Rutgers receiver Tres Moses is watching his stock slip since being replaced as the team's return specialist.

- Scouts rarely talk about underclassmen, especially those not eligible for the upcoming draft.  Yet the feeling is Pittsburgh has two potential stars in the making.  True sophomore cornerback Darrell Revis and tight end Darell Strong are both being closely watched as future prospects.

Buffalo, St. Louis, Jacksonville and the New York Giants also had scouts on hand.

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