Posted by Walter
In my "next big thing" column, I promised that certain players would emerge from Bowl Season either as rising stars for 2007, or promising draft picks in the next NFL draft. I consider myself a man of my word, so luckily the players on the field kept that promise for me. For this particular bowl honor roll I didn't choose guys like Colt Brennan or Dwayne Jarrett. We already know how good those guys are. Instead I tried to choose lesser known players who made a statement that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future.
But first, a few "I told ya so's."........
Andre Woodson: 20-28 passing, 299 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
He's 6'5'', 240 lbs. with perfect mechanics and a rocket arm. Remember Tim Couch? Yeah, neither will anyone in Lexington after next season.
Sami Stroughter: 8 catches, 87 yards, 1 TD
Do people outside of Corvallis realize that this guy caught 74 passes for 1293 yards this season? Does anyone at all realize this came a season after he caught 5 balls for 58 yards? Has anyone ever improved more in one season in the history of the game?
The others on the list you'll hear more from soon enough. Onto the new studs.............
Sam Hollenbach, QB Maryland
His stat line (15-24, 233 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) may not wow anyone too much, but I absolutely loved what I saw from this senior and it may have been enough to get him drafted. There is not doubt that Hollenbach has ideal size to be an NFL signal caller. He stands 6'5'' and 220 lbs. There is also no doubt he has the arm strength, as anyone on Purdue can attest to. Hollenbach also sports picture perfect mechanics. He holds the ball high with his elbow even with his shoulder, and delivers passes with a straight over the top motion. While he has been erratic at times during his Maryland career, playing in the ACC he has managed to post three straight completion percentages of 61%. That is outstanding accuracy for a potential late round pick. The knock on Hollenbach has been his interceptions which he will have to cut down if he wants to be an NFL quarterback. But, as his completion percentages attest, he definitely has the ability to throw the ball where he wants to. Hollenbach showed against a very solid Purdue defense that he is well worth a gamble in the late rounds.
Chase Coffman, TE Missouri
Coffman was all over the field against Oregon State catching 5 passes for 83 yards and a TD. Only a sophomore, Coffman has been outstanding in his first two seasons at Missouri, but because he doesn't play for Texas or Oklahoma nobody seems to know about him. Coffman is huge at 6'6'' and 245 lbs. and with his frame he has plenty of room to add weight. By the time he enters the NFL draft we could be talking about a 260 lb. monster TE. But size is one thing, athleticism is another. And Coffman has that in spades. He runs incredibly well for a man his size, and he has very soft hands. Against Oregon State he displayed great body control when going up for passes, and knack for making big catches. More than anything else about Coffman's game, though, was just how smooth and natural he looked catching and running with the football. You can't discount that when evaluating a player. Coffman looks like he was born to catch passes. He looks like a potential elite NFL tight end.
Casper Brinkley: DE South Carolina
Usually it is Jasper, not Casper, Brinkley getting all the pub. True, Jasper, the Gamecocks MLB, makes more tackles than his twin bro, but against Houston it was Casper making the big plays. A novice football fan could watch a whole game without understanding Casper's value to the South Carolina defense. He doesn't make a ton of tackles, and you're not going to hear his name all that often. But he is a guy coaches love. Casper is a perfect anchor end (strong side defensive end). He plays with perfect technique, always gets his hands on the tight end, and is never caught out of position. He takes on blocks, holds his ground, and forces plays inside to his teammates. Against Houston, several times they tried to get the corner on Casper with no success. He didn't make the tackle, but he made the play. At 6'3'' and 250 pounds Casper will have to add some weight to play end in the NFL. If he does, he would be an invaluable player in any 4-3 scheme.
Charles Johnson: DE Georgia
Johnson was overshadowed all season by his more heralded, and more one dimensional, teammate Quentin Moses. Fact is, after watching Georgia's dismantling of Virginia Tech Johnson is the player I like better. Moses is a classic speed rusher. He is skinny and fast and doesn't really have much interest in stopping the run. Johnson, on the other hand, is solid and strong. He stands 6'2'' and 270 lbs. He is a rock against the run and a bull to pass protect. While Johnson doesn't possess the same type of straight line speed as Moses, he makes up for it with as quick a first step as any end on the planet not named Dwight Freeney. Watching him against Virginia Tech you'd think he knew the snap count. While some team will waste a high pick on Moses, another team will get a far more versatile and valuable player in Johnson.
Tony Hunt: RB Penn State
I love Tony Hunt as an NFL prospect. True he is probably never going to have a 50+ yard run in his NFL career. True he might not ever rush for more than 1200 yards in a season. True he isn't a gamebreaker like LT or Reggie Bush. Blah blah blah blah. Tony Hunt is the best type of player because he understands what he is, and what he isn't. What Tony Hunt is, is a 230 lbs. battering ram of a running back who is not afraid to tote the rock 30+ times a game. Hunt was at his absolute best against Tennessee carrying the ball 31 times for 158 yards. For reasons that I will explain in a future column, I don't believe you win Super Bowls with gamebreaking backs (there's a reason Barry Sanders never would have won a super bowl). You win Super Bowls with battering rams, who never, and I mean NEVER, get stopped for negative yards. Hunt is a positive yardage machine, and he never fumbles. He reminds me so much of Antowain Smith who the Patriots rode to two super bowl victories. Hunt is a back you can win with on the next level.
Sean Lee: LB Penn State
Maybe you haven't hear of Sean Lee, the sophomore in State College. Maybe you've hear more about Pozslusny, Connor and Tim Shaw. Maybe you should start paying more attention. Though a bit undersized at 6'2'' and 220 lbs. Lee was all over the field against Tennesee. A classic weak side linebacker, Lee can run from sideline to sideline making plays. Against Tennessee he even got in on a couple of sacks as a result of superb blitz timing. Anyone who watched Penn State's bowl victory knows that Lee was the defensive MVP of that game and a star in the making. Expect Lee to slide in for Paul Poszlusny (widely considered one of the best LB in Penn State history) in 2007 without much of a dropoff in production from the position. He may not get the media hype of Poszlusny, but anyone who watches the Nittany Lions will know how gifted he is.
Harry Douglas: WR Louisville
While most scouts and fans love his partner in crime Mario Urrutia more, it's Douglas who is the most productive Cardinals reciever. True he doesn't have all of the measurables (he stands only 5'11'' and 170 lbs.) but what Douglas does have is the numbers. 70 catches for 1265 yards and 6 TD to be exact. What is most impressive is that Douglas really came on at the end of the year, notching three straight 130+ yard days, culminating in his 10 catch 165 yard coming out party against Wake Forest. If both he and Urrutia return, they will form the most powerful recieving duo in the nation in 2007. Douglas reminds me quite a bit of another former Louisville WR who was thought to be too undersized for the NFL....Deoin Branch. I think he worked out pretty good.
Cornelius Ingram: WR Florida
Ingram was the most intruiging NFL prospect I saw in last night's BCS championship game. Ingram is listed as a TE but in actuality he is a WR. He is big at 6'4'' and 225 pounds and is only a sophomore so he has plenty of time to develop. What impressed me most about Igram, though, was the way he caught the ball. Ingram is a smooth, fluid pass catcher. He always catches the ball with his hands and never fights it. You can't teach that. Whether running in stride or settling into a vacated zone, Ingram always caught the ball with his hands and refused to let it get into his body. Watching him do this was a thing of beauty. I have not seen a player this season not named Dwayne Jarrett who looks more comfortable catching the football than Ingram. He is going to be a special player.
Chris Petersen: Head Coach Boist State
Wow. I can't say enough about Petersen. I know he will give the credit to his offensive coordinator, but we all know tht he was the one behind the hook and lateral, the WR pass, and the statute of liberty. I've never seen gutsier or better clutch play calling in my life, and I probably never will. So many times coaches freeze up with the game on the line, Peterson was at his absolute best. It was almost like he was in a zone calling plays. Like an NBA three point shooter, or an NHL goalie. The statue of liberty call was my favorite. He knew he had the perfect play for that situation, he was saving it for it. But how many coaches in the country would have chickened out and either kicked the ball or called a more conventional run (especially seeing as the Broncos had the nation's leading TD scorer in the backfield). My guess is well over 95% would have chickened out. Not Petersen. After the game both QB Jared Zabransky and RB Ian Johnson said that once they heard the play call, Statute left, they knew the game was over.