This week, Josh Norris of Rotoworld.com (@JoshNorris on Twitter) talks to us about Missouri and the Tigers NFL draft prospects, how much trouble he thinks Missouri will have trying to block the Gamecocks defensive ends and what scouts might be thinking at this point about Marcus Lattimores NFL stock.
... Josh, weve had a few tough weeks with my trying to force you to find NFL prospects on the rosters of East Carolina and UAB, but were in better territory now. Tell us who Missouri has who is going to make waves at the next level.
Finally, we get to talk about some guys. They have three or four really promising guys. Ill start right at the top. Zavier Gooden, he goes about 6-2, 230 and the guy is super athletic, can really close on the ball, and what he does best is his aggressive attitude. They played against old school football (in Georgia) and what he does really well is meet running backs or blockers in the hole, and hes not afraid of lowering his shoulder and filling the lane. Because of his size and speed, he probably projects as a weakside linebacker at the next level, but hes mainly playing strongside, so I think Gooden is someone who absolutely could be taken in the top 64. After that, you have Sheldon Richardson, a defensive tackle. He goes 6-3, 295 pounds, someone who has great burst, very strong, but he doesnt use his hands enough to extend and see whats going on in the backfield. Instead, he loves to pick a side, and that took him out of plays a lot (against Georgia), but hes very good upfield. I really think he can give T.J. Johnson a lot of trouble because he loves to get in the backfield and chase and get after quarterbacks. And then on the offensive side of the ball, I dont know if you saw the game against Georgia, but Missouris offensive line was just dreadful, and I dont think theyll be any better this week against you guys because South Carolina has even better rushers than Jarvis Jones and whoever else Georgia puts out there. They have an offensive tackle, Elvis Fisher, who got hurt against Georgia, but what the Gamecocks basically need to do is just speed rush because their offensive linemen cant handle it. The offensive guy to look for is the quarterback James Franklin, who has been in the news this week because he refused those pain-killing injections prior to the game. Then you have T.J. Moe, who is a gritty, tough slot receiver who runs about 5-11, 200 pounds, makes all the difficult catches in traffic, but hes very limited as an athlete. I think he can really make some plays in the second level at the slot because James Franklin can really spread defenses out laterally and throw vertically. T.J. Moe is kind of his outlet receiver I guess.
... Moving on to South Carolina, Marcus Lattimore has not looked great through three games. Hes averaging 78 yards per game and has failed to get 100 in five of the last seven games. Has his stock slipped some or do people think this is an aberration?
Its tough because hes a junior, but obviously all the scouts know his name because he has been so prolific early in his career. I dont know if hes shown the same level of burst that he has had in recent years, but he still has that physical nature to break tackles and still has a decisive cut. I dont think hes been favoring the leg as much as he did in week one or as maybe he did in the preseason. I think more than his yards per game is his yards per carry and its right under 4.9, which is OK for college football. But I think for how limited the South Carolina offense is right now, that number is fine. I think hes doing fine. Obviously (scouts) want to see how things progress, and Im not sure hes going to declare, but its a difficult year and it really does take a full year to recover from that type of injury.
... On the defensive side of the ball, safety D.J. Swearinger will miss Saturdays game due to a one-game suspension for a flagrant foul. Now that the NFL is being so vigilant about head-to-head contacts, will scouts have to start grading against guys who dont tackle illegally too often?
In the NFL, unless its an extreme circumstance, the player is just fined. They cant do that at this level so the next best thing they can do is suspend them for a game or a half. I havent really spoken to any evaluators about that, but I wouldnt see that as a negative. I still think that style of play is what they are taught. I dont think that anyone is conforming to that (new rule), and if they are its not hitting them as high but instead lowering the target. I havent seen his hit, but I know it was termed a defenseless receiver. Theyll just be fined at the next level, which isnt the teams problem. Its a personal problem. Swearinger is absolutely fine. Obviously, this would be a great game to play because of James Franklin and the Missouri offense. He would have to move all over the field, but I dont think (the hit) messed up his draft stock at all.