Wednesday, December 27|
Prospects shine in Blue-Gray
By Mel Kiper
With the practices for the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic hampered some by inclement weather conditions in Montgomery, Ala., it wasn't easy for the NFL scouting departments to garner an accurate evaluation of the prospects.
Even so, there were a number of players who were at least able to create a positive impression with the way they went about their business, both during the practices as well as on game day.
Here are some of the players who appear to have upgraded their draft status in Monday's Blue-Gray game:
David Rivers, QB, Western Carolina -- The transfer from Virginia made the most of his senior season at the Division I-AA level, then enjoyed a solid week of practice in Montgomery. He's a good athlete, moves around well in the pocket, and also throws a nice, accurate, catchable ball. For the game, Rivers was 13-of-22 passing for 237 yards and one TD.
Mike McMahon, QB, Rutgers -- Showcased a strong arm, although he could develop a little more touch. Demonstrated quick enough feet to avoid the initial pass rusher and allow third or fourth options to open up late. McMahon completed 16 of 28 passes for 284 yards and three TDs.
Chris Barnes, RB, New Mexico State -- Even though he may not be a home-run hitter, Barnes garnered positive commentary with his aggressive, determined running style and good hands out of the backfield.
R.J. Bowers, FB, Grove City -- Impressed with his focused approach and toughness. Operating at fullback for the first time, Bowers made the smooth transition. And forget the drop on game day; he also showed that he could present a pass-catching option when called on.
Richmond Flowers, WR, Tennessee-Chattanooga -- Caught everything thrown his way on game day, finishing with 12 receptions for 169 yards and TD grabs covering 48 and 21 yards. The Duke transfer is more quick than fast, shows a great deal of competitive spirit, and has well above-average, natural pass-receiving skills.
Alex Bannister, WR, Eastern Kentucky -- Wasn't a stickout performer in practice, but delivered a solid effort in the game, finishing with seven receptions for 124 yards.
Jonathan Carter, WR, Troy State -- Shows the ability to come through with the impact play. This was evidenced on game day when he hauled in a TD reception from Rivers covering 75 yards.
Kenny Clark, WR, Central Florida -- Looks the part from a physical standpoint and shows good hands. But at the workouts before the draft, he'll have to prove he has the speed and quickness necessary to gain a separation from skilled NFL cover men.
Steve Smith, WR, Utah -- The 5-foot-9, 178-pounder garnered positive commentary with his tremendous speed as well as his punt-return skills. You also have to like Smith's aggressive approach.
Kenyatta Jones, OL, South Florida -- Didn't always perform up to the level expected at South Florida, but he appears to have the necessary raw talent to make the successful transition to the pro level.
Mathias Nkwenti, OL, Temple -- Powerful lineman, bench-pressing nearly 500 pounds. Nkwenti really impressed from a physical standpoint, gaining momentum heading into the combine/individual workouts.
Kris Jenkins, DT, Maryland -- Big (6-5, 300), strong, and athletic, Jenkins shook the under-achiever label this season for the Terrapins, becoming a more productive, consistent defensive tackle in the ACC. At the Blue-Gray practices, he made the most of the opportunity, receiving a great deal of positive commentary.
Otis Leverette, DE, Alabama-Birmingham -- The former JUCO transfer impressed with his physical potential. The 6-6, 277-pounder shows the necessary closing speed and has improved his overall technique when getting after the quarterback.
Morlon Greenwood, LB, Syracuse -- Although more of a finesse player, Greenwood's speed and range definitely turned some heads.
Edgerton Hartwell, LB, Western Illinois -- Excellent prospect from the Division I-AA level, showing the mettle to operate at middle linebacker or on the outside.
Michael Stone, CB, Memphis -- Enjoyed a solid week in Montgomery, showcasing the necessary cover skills.
Delvin Hughley, CB, Jacksonville St. -- Worked at free safety rather than his customary cornerback spot at the Blue-Gray practices, but he was still able to make his presence felt at that spot.
Jimmy Williams, CB, Vanderbilt -- Converted running back with the athleticism and recovery speed to become a factor at the pro level if he continues to improve from a technical standpoint.
Richard Newsome, DB, Michigan State -- Lacks ideal size for a safety spot and isn't quite as fast as you prefer for duty on the corner, but even so, Newsome is still a prospect worth monitoring very closely in the coming months. That's because with the pads on, he makes plays. This was evident on game day when he intercepted a pass from Rivers and returned it 39 yards for a TD. In the NFL, his future could be as a nickel back and special teamer.