Prospect(s) of the Week: Jimmy Kennedy & Michael Haynes
Coming into 2002 the word for both Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Haynes was similar; good players with a lot of upside but potential but prospects that both underachieved as juniors. Each impacted or controlled the game from their spots on the line flashing brilliance early in their career, leaving scouts in awe of their possibilities at the next level, before hitting a bump in the road during the 2001 campaign.
For his part Jimmy Kennedy always looked like a man amongst boys from the day he stepped on campus in State College. A former offensive lineman in high school, he is a mammoth, wide bodied defender yet athletic, agile and fluid moving about the field. The first time we personally scouted him was the opening game of the 1999 season when the highly ranked Nittany Lions played host to the fourth ranked Arizona Wildcats, a game that turned into a lopsided affair for PSU. Sitting high above the seats in the far reaches of Beaver Stadium's press box on a very hot Saturday afternoon, one player stood out in both dimension and ability from up above; Jimmy Kennedy. Starting mid-way through the season as a red-shirt freshman, Kennedy combines catlike quickness and overwhelming power to destroy blockers and disrupt plays before they ever take shape. His closing burst on the ball carrier is impressive but even more spectacular is watching the 350-plus pound Kennedy immediately change his angle of attack, pursue the action from the backside and run down opposing backs or signal callers. As a sophomore Kennedy started to come of age registering 42 tackles with six sacks and eight tackles for loss, even though the defensive unit was without the services of LaVar Arrington or Courtney Brown. Constantly doubled and tripled by opponents, Kennedy was able to get penetration up the field, devastating opponents on his way to the action.
Quick off the snap, Kennedy is light on his feet and moves very well for such a huge man. He plays low with leverage and has absolutely no making plays out to the flanks. He does get sloppy as he tires and at times is rather easily wired in blocks or slow to shed when he should annihilate opponents. Kennedy's instincts are a step behind his physical skills and he's a bit slow locating the action.
A nice kid, maybe too nice for his own good, Kennedy needs to develop a mean streak and keep his weight in check but possesses all the physical skills needed for an "impact defensive player" and what a team looks for in the first pick of the draft; that is when he plays to those skills. If the right coach, atmosphere and attitude are combined at the next level Kennedy can be a perennial All Pro.
For his part Haynes also wowed us as a sophomore in 2000 as a relentless pass rusher that efficiently defended the run, and we ranked him accordingly. A tremendous athlete that plays the game with terrific explosion and suddenness, he proved us wrong as a junior when his performance slipped, many thinking his 6-foot 2-inch frame could not handle the bulk he purposely added. From eyeballing several Nittnany Lion games this season it looks as though Haynes is back at it, chasing quarterbacks around the field or pursuing running backs from all angles and making positive plays for sixty minutes.
With a tremendous first step off the snap, Haynes keeps his pads low, getting leverage on opponents and a lot of momentum up the field. Relentless in his pursuit of the action, he displays speed in either a straight line or laterally and is fast enough to run down ball handlers from behind. Deceptively strong, Haynes holds his ground against blocks or defeats them altogether and his play against the run is more than adequate. A little short at defensive end, Haynes could be an easy target for big tackles at the next level, something that could push him 15-20 slots lower than he playing grade warrants.
Anyway you cut it both Kennedy and Haynes are quality prospects at hotly desired positions teams always look to on draft day. Right now we project Kennedy as a top five selection with Haynes hearing his name called during the initial 40 choices, possibly squeaking into round one. Each are dynamic, game impacting linemen that can be a force at the next level if they hit their upper most potential.