Shaun Hill was a tremendous leader on last season's squad and a productive college signal caller, but not a great pro-prospect. From a scouting point of view they have a boatload of junior talent on the offensive unit. Though a little undersized to be an every down runner, Bruce Perry is a productive ball carrier with great vision, better footwork and the burst of speed to bring it all together. He sees the field, finds the hole and sets up defenders only to make them miss, having them grasping at air. Perry is also tough and takes it to the inside, working to finish his runs. Perry needs to take his pass catching skills to the next level and develop that element of his game to get early draft consideration whenever he declares his eligibility, to make up for his inability to be a heavy-duty runner. Leading the way for Perry is an unheralded fullback, James Lynch, likewise a junior. Lynch is a hard-nosed, grind it out lead blocker that really likes contact and works at the details of the position. He is also a nice short-yardage runner. At this point in his career we'd consider him similar, but better, than Jamar Martin, recently selected by Dallas in the fourth round. Jafar Williams is a tall, agile, fluid receiver with speed. He gets down the field, up in the air and makes all the difficult catches in contorted positions. Williams is solid and displays consistent hands but must become more involved in the offense and step up to be the number one wide out this year, which will get him notice to eventually be an early pick. Another underclassmen pass catcher, tight end Jeff Dugans, also has a bright future. Effective as both a receiver and in-line blocker, Dugans is an athletic prospect growing into the position and becoming a complete tight end, which will garner him high grades in a year or two. To our minds possibly the best long-term prospect is left tackle CJ Brooks, a red-shirt sophomore. Brooks is athletic, agile and shows tremendous blocking range. He has size and size potential but is light on his feet and displays the ability to easily block the edge on pass downs or quickly get out and annihilate opposing linebackers on the second level. He needs to become more adept at quickly picking up his assignments, learn to use his blocking angles better and improve his overall instincts but Brooks has big time talent. There are a few seniors that will get looks. Matt Crawford, a heady and tough tackle, run blocks effectively and holds his own in pass protection. Crawford is a little stiff, does not break down well or show the ability to block in anything other than confined quarters, which will push him into the late rounds. The same can be said for Todd Wike but to a much larger degree, as he is efficient in a very small area, which will push him out of the seven rounds next April.
Obviously the headliner on defense is middle-linebacker EJ Henderson. A powerful force, Henderson is a game disrupting defender that destroys the opposition when let lose and sent up the field. Henderson also has a good head on his shoulders and does a fine job reading or anticipating the action, showing discipline and staying with his assignments rather than running around like a chicken with no head. While he gets depth on his pass drops and displays the skills to scrape laterally, he is best moving in a straight line and not a rangy linebacker with top sideline-to-sideline speed. Then there is the question of his neck/back injury. Last year flying home from the Senior Bowl we discussed the situation at length with a former player (All Pro lineman as a matter of fact) now working as an agent who pursued Henderson in the hopes of representing him had he left school. The seriousness of the injury was confirmed and there are some who feel his decision to stay in college for another year was based on the severity of the situation. Henderson had corrective surgery several weeks ago (which kept him out of spring practice) and though he seems to be on schedule for the season's first game, the end result remains to be seen. At the top of his game he is a first round choice in the middle slots (picks 10-20) but should he be red-flagged next February at the combine that will change. Durrand Roundtree may have some potential as an undersized pass-rusher and we like the future prospects of junior linebacker Mike Whaley, a fluid and athletic player with both strength and speed. Whaley, used mostly at the line of scrimmage, is best suited for the weak-side at the next level and possesses the physical skills to succeed but must improve his instincts and techniques.
We were so impressed with the talent on this roster we set up a pair of trips to scout the program in person (Notre Dame 8/31 & UNC 11/2) and will file live reports from both.