Scout.com has confirmed that representatives from the Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Saturday afternoon to see No. 8 California take on the 2 – 0 Golden Gophers.
Four of the teams in attendance will send high level scouting executives to scout the talent on the field; the Packers are sending Executive V.P., General Manager and Director of Football Operations Ted Thompson; the Ravens will be represented by Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz; the Saints are showing interest by sending Assistant Director of College Scouting Brian Adams; and Scott Studwell, Director of College Scouting for the Vikings, will make the short trip to check out a few of the nations premier playmakers.
Two of those playmakers, Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker and California cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson, will see a lot of each other on Saturday. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Decker has the size advantage against Thompson, who stands at just 5-foot-9, 191 pounds. And so far this season, Decker is on pace for a career year after he had a standout junior campaign where he caught 84 passes for 1,074 yards and seven touchdowns. In the Golden Gophers first two games this season, Decker has caught 19 passes for 296 yards, but has yet to get in the endzone, and it will be up to Thompson and the Golden Bears secondary to keep him off the scoreboard.
Decker is an intelligent, dependable pass-catcher who’s always in position to make a big play. He’s quick off the line and has a size/speed combination that makes him a difficult matchup for most defenders. He displays outstanding awareness and works well with the quarterback; offering him a big target. He can play in the slot or on the outside, has an understanding of all routes, plays with excellent body control, and extends to make the reception away from his frame. He’s a threat downfield and over the middle; locates soft spots on intermediate routes and possesses enough elusiveness to make plays after the catch. He has to improve his blocking downfield and become a factor without the ball in his hands. He’s a hard worker and a natural athlete who strives to be the best.
Thompson is one of the best cover corners in the country and is off to a good start this year, but in a year where a lot is expected out of him, especially after he recorded 70 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, two sacks and four interceptions last year, he hasn’t produced up to his capabilities. In Cal’s first two games, Thompson has just six tackles and has defended two passes. His statistics aside, Thompson is a physical playmaker who has lockdown potential. Even though he lacks elite size, his quickness and ability to cover allow him to be successful against bigger receivers. He has smooth hips and transitions well with receivers vertically. He has a good burst to the ball and positions himself well to disrupt a play. He has tremendous ball skills and can turn defense into offense instantly. He’s a special athlete who’s not only a quality cover corner, but a dynamic punt returner as well.
Cal also features one of the nations premier running backs in junior Jahvid Best. Minnesota will have their hands full trying to contain the 5-foot-10, 195-pound phenom, who over the last two weeks has averaged 14 carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Another junior that’s proving he deserves to be mentioned amongst the top at his position is quarterback Kevin Riley. At 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, Riley has great size and a strong arm and is coming into his own as a signal caller this year. In two games this year, Riley has completed 65-percent of his passes for 446 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
For the teams in attendance looking to bolster their defensive front, versatile lineman Tyson Alualu will receive plenty of attention. An athletic force in the trenches, Alualu can line up at DT in the 4-3 or at DE in a 3-4. He’s quick off the ball, plays with leverage and has the ability to change direction at top speed. He uses his hands well and gets penetration by pounding the interior with his strength. He has to work on his technique and can’t rely on his strength on every play to get after the quarterback. He’s excellent in pursuit and can track down a ballcarrier off the edge. He possesses a high motor and is a hard worker. He’s a mature player that’s looking to get better. Alualu had an outstanding season in 2008 where he recorded 62 tackles, 11 for a loss and six sacks, and has recorded seven tackles and a half a sack so far this year.Here are more prospects that will be featured on Saturday that scouts will keep an eye on. From Minnesota: CB Traye Simmons, LBs Simoni Lawrence, Nate Triplett and Lee Campbell, junior QB Adam Weber and junior OG D.J. Burris. From California: WRs Verran Tucker and Nyan Boateng, OG Chet Teofilo, OT Mike Tepper, and juniors; MLB Mike Mohamed, DE Cameron Jordan, CB Darian Hagan and FS Chris Conte.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.