Friday, November 13, 2009

Draft Watch: Iowa @ Ohio State

1) In the Trenches: Iowa’s top two prospects on the offensive side of the ball are their tackles, junior Bryan Bulaga (25 career starts) and senior Kyle Calloway (34 career starts). Bulaga is the crown jewel and could be next in the line of Big Ten top-ten picks at offensive tackle. The conference has produced three in the last three years—Wisconsin’s Joe Thomas (third pick in 2007), Penn State’s Levi Brown (fifth pick in 2007) and Michigan’s Jake Long (first pick in 2008). Iowa is no stranger to the top of the draft—Robert Gallery was the second overall pick in 2004. Heading into the season Bulaga appeared well on his way, coming off an outstanding sophomore campaign which he capped off with a dominant performance against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. However, his junior season did not start off the way he expected as he missed significant time early on with an undisclosed illness. Still, no one doubts his first round talent—at 6’ 6” and 315 pounds he has the size, feet and athleticism to man the all-important left tackle position. On the right side, Calloway has started the last nine games and has improved his stock this season. Not as talented as Bulaga, Calloway has proved more agile than many expected and at 6’ 7” and 315 pounds, size is not an issue. Taking on the stellar Buckeye defense is an opportunity for both of these big uglies to make an impression in front of the talent scouts in attendance.

Putting the Iowa blocking bookends to the test will be one of the fiercest defensive end duos in the nation—Ohio State juniors Thaddeus Gibson and Cameron Heyward. While they are equally dangerous, their styles of play are very distinct, as are their dimensions. Heyward, the son of Ironhead, checks in at 6’ 6” and 287 pounds, while Gibson is 6’ 2” and 240 pounds. When speaking to College Football Insiders Radio in an interview earlier this season, Heyward discussed his attributes, “I have a lot of power. It works to my advantage. I can play defensive end and it gives us a chance to be versatile. We have guys like Thad [Gibson]…we can be strong sometimes and we can be quick.” Gibson will likely shift to outside linebacker at the next level—and hopefully achieve better results than former Buckeye Vernon Gholston—while Heyward will continue to play with his hand on the ground. That is not to say the powerful Heyward lacks explosiveness, just ask Penn State. The junior is coming off his top game of the season against the Nittany Lions: 11 tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks. Heyward now leads the team with his five sacks and tops the defensive line with 36 tackles. Gibson (33 tackles) has four sacks among his team-high 10.5 tackles for loss. “He’s one of the best pass-rushers on the team and he’s so versatile—he can go up and under, come off the edge…but he also has a lot of power. Thad’s one of the strongest guys on our team,” Heyward said of his fellow end. It will be fun to watch how these two disruptive ends fare against the blocking duo of Bulaga and Calloway.

2) Pryor Progress: If the play in the trenches isn’t sexy enough for you, let’s talk some TP. When he arrived at Ohio State, Terrelle Pryor brought with him the reputation as a can’t-miss prospect—he’s 6’ 6”, 235 pounds and runs like the wind. He is physically gifted, but his development at quarterback hasn’t been as smooth of a ride as anticipated. Pryor is getting opportunities to air it out—averaging 22.4 pass attempts per game—but those chances have yielded inconsistent results. His completion percentage is down from 60.6 percent as a freshman to 54 percent this season and while his touchdowns are up from 12 to 15, so are his interceptions from four to nine. Pryor still struggles to read defenses, find the open receivers, and connect with them even when he makes the right decision. He has thrown three touchdowns with no interceptions in the Buckeyes’ last two games, but he also failed to complete half of his passes against both New Mexico State and Penn State. Pryor is still a long way from being a pro passer, but has two years of eligibility remaining after this season to make some progress.

3) Iowa Defense:
While most people have focused on Iowa’s lack of an explosive offense, the Hawkeyes have won so many close games because their defense has been so stout. They are in every game because of that defense and that should be no different this week. Iowa is ranked third in scoring defense (15.9 points per game), pass defense (173 yards per game) and total defense (291.7 yards per game), while leading the conference in pass efficiency defense and turnovers created with 26.

Coming into the season everyone knew about senior MIKE Pat Angerer and he has done nothing to hurt his draft stock. Angerer, whose name suits a middle linebacker perfectly, is second in the Big Ten with his 106 stops. He is a bit undersized at 6’ 1” and 235 pounds, but has underrated game speed and is a very instinctive defender. In addition to being a fierce hitter, Angerer is also solid in coverage, which makes him a three-down player. Senior SAM A.J. Edds is solid linebacking prospect in his own right, bringing more in terms of size at 6’ 4” and 244 pounds. Edds is not the tackling the machine that Angerer is, but is a good athlete with three interceptions to his credit. Neither gets after the quarterback, which has a lot to do with Iowa’s scheme—they don’t blitz very often. Their leading sacker is junior end Adrian Clayborn who, at 6’ 3” and 282 pounds, has both the size and athleticism to be an impact player. He leads Iowa with his 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Coming off the edge on the other side is sophomore Broderick Binns (five sacks) who is even more athletic and ready to blossom as a pass rusher. On the inside, juniors Karl Klug (6’ 4”/258 pounds) and Christian Ballard (6’ 5”/285 pounds) make things happen with their quickness. Each has three sacks, with Klug second on the team with his 10 tackles for loss. Ballard can also play defensive end. Their top defensive back is junior Amari Spievey (6’ 0”/190 pounds), who is among the top cover men in the nation. Spievey is not a risk taker, as he plays with sound technique and rarely gives up the big play. Look for him to match-up with Ohio State’s big play wide out, sophomore DeVier Posey (45 receptions, 672 yards, 7 touchdowns), often on Saturday.

Photos Courtesy of Iowa Sports Information, The Ohio State Department of Athletics