SAN ANTONIO-Regardless of the sport, all star games are typically a letdown despite the amount of talent participating. After a few days of seeing the players in action I allowed myself to once again get excited about the game, but the harsh reality of lack of preparation time and cohesion immediately made itself evident.
The special teams are lax, there's little timing in the passing game and the offensive line doesn't have time to become the five person unit of one, or balled fist of fury, or whatever fortune cookie saying I’m plagiarizing. That said, it's still fun to watch the individual talents even if the overall product makes one miss the authentic football of Gus the Kicking Mule.
I only watched the game once but I figured I’d pass along my thoughts and other musings I might have had from my time in San Antonio. This isn’t as in depth as I wanted it to be but I was also watching six future Longhorns.
I thought it was telling that Corey Robinson beat who many people think is the best corner in America, Kendall Fuller. Robinson wasn't able to make the play due to being held (would have been called in a real game) but he had Fuller beat. I think Robinson will be productive quicker than most people realize, and enrolling early certainly helps my assertion.
Greg Bryant looked the part, but he didn't have many lanes. I would have loved to have seen him on the run where Derrick Green got the edge. Bryant also had three receptions and that's something I noted that I liked about him last week. He's not Marshall Fualk as a receiver, but maybe he can add some Ricky Watters duality in the screen, wheel and circle route game.
At the risk of sounding like Jaylon Smith superfan #1! yet again, or Beano Cook talking about Ron Powlus, I thought he flashed a lot of ability. Like many superior defensive athletes, Smith has a tendency to go behind blockers rather than engage through the blocker's proper shoulder. When that was mentioned to me by a coach in San Antonio, I immediately thought of former Longhorn linebacker Derrick Johnson. It was this knock against Johnson that propelled him out of the top ten in the NFL draft. It was said that Johnson was a finesse linebacker, whatever the hell that is.
Johnson's last two years in the NFL have been his best and he's been playing inside linebacker in a 3-4. You can't make the Pro Bowl at that position by not being able to shed blockers and get to point ‘b’ in a hurry.
I don’t see this as a real concern for Smith. If anything, it’s less of one because he appears to be every bit as athletic as Johnson if not more so and will be even bigger and stronger than Johnson in time.
As athleticism in football continues to evolve I think you’re going start seeing guys like Smith in the middle, if you can find them. He could certainly play in the middle in a pass heavy league like the one Texas is in. Maybe not in his first year, but Smith will push 240 pounds with ease.
While he’s still in the 220 pound range, the outside is obviously his best place because he doesn’t have to worry about rush hour traffic in front of him as much and his speed in coverage is a boon to any pass defense scheme. In a time when covering tight ends with man coverage is becoming increasingly harder, Smith is the ultimate specimen at linebacker.
So, as a Notre Dame diehard, you’re probably fretting about Smith being over-hyped and not living up to his billing. As a person with an interest in Texas, I had the same concerns with Sergio Kindle, a Dallas linebacker that came into the college game with similar fan fare to Smith.
Both players were good running backs (Kindle was all state on both sides of the ball) but projected to outside linebacker. The problem with Kindle was he had trouble with the nuances of linebacker and was far more suited to coming forward than the spontaneity of diagonal drops and reads. Will Muschamp recognized this and simplified things for Kindle by pinning his ears and tying a steak around the quarterback’s waste, thus removing any concerns about Kindles bustability. If you’re former Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts, you’re well aware of this, even if you can’t remember it.
I see Smith as a superior prospect to Kindle and believe he could play any linebacker position, or even rush end, as his body matures.
Smith was active in the game yesterday, totaling 4 total tackles including one beautiful read and react play where he shot through an opening to make the tackle for loss. It’s that type of play that tantalizes, but Smith will also have to show the ability get off blocks rather than accept them and still make the play.
Al-Quadin Muhammad is going to be fantastic, but seeing someone religious immediately picking the U made me chuckle. Maybe he can attend “church” with Uncle Luke and Nevin Shapiro? Too bad, he would have looked great in South Bend, but I guess Legends isn’t exactly South Beach. That was a weird ‘football’ decision, if it was one.
I thought Torrodney Prevot held up well and the fact that someone with his slight frame isn’t manhandled on every play is phenomenal in itself. Like Muhammad, Prevot plays with great bend and leverage which allows him to use the strength he does have in his legs. The two players are very similar as high school players, but because of his size, Prevot looks to have the ability to play in space, though he’s very inexperienced in that regard. I learned this week that A&M views him as a defensive end all the way, so apparently they’re not worried about his ability to add significant weight. Prevot may be a player we all forget about until he’s a junior all conference performer after three years of development.
Prevot’s best play was stringing along an outside run which allowed help to arrive and assist with the tackle.
My final word on Prevot; because of ND’s scheme being multiple, I’d think you guys should be more excited about landing Prevot than a team like Texas that is largely 4-3 or base nickel. As a situational guy, he has the most value at a school that has more situations. His best fit and function is Notre Dame and I hope for his sake he makes that choice.
I definitely liked what I saw from Eddie Vanderdoes. Because he’s not drawn as perfectly as the Vitruvian Man he’ll be called ‘blue collar’ and ‘workmanlike’. One day, Dan Dierdorf will tell us, “You know what Eddie Vanderdoes brought with him to the stadium today? Huh, I’ll tell you what Eddie Vanderdoes brought. He brought his lunch pail, that’s what he brought.”
Vanderdoes may not look the part, or Dutch, but he definitely is the part. Not sure about the Dutch. You can have the best motor in the world, but it’s not going to help if you don’t have the ability. Vanderdoes is much more athletic than people credit him with - nice first step - and getting into the backfield a couple times yesterday is testament to that. The fact that he looks like he’s about to submit a plumbing bid may even work in his favor.
Well Domers, I can see by this empty glass of Courvoisier that my time is up. Do the Godly thing tomorrow and beat Little Nicky.
If anyone ever wants my thoughts on a Texas kid that Notre Dame is targeting, you can find me @EricNahlin.