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Wisconsin TE, Indiana DEs worth watching

11/6/2009

Scouts Inc. is in Bloomington, Ind., this week to take in the Indiana-Wisconsin matchup, and a tour of the renovations to Memorial Stadium and the Hoosiers' new 25,000-square-foot weight room got the weekend off to an impressive start.

As for what we expect on the field, there are a handful of prospects we'll have our eye on:

Wisconsin TE Garrett Graham -- He first caught our eye in last year's game against Indiana, and this year Graham has continued to run good routes and show strong hands to snatch the ball away from his frame. He is not the fastest tight end but has the savvy to find soft spots in zone coverage and the body control to adjust to poorly thrown balls.

The area we'll really be watching is whether Graham has improved at the point of attack as a run-blocker. He has not shown the core strength to create much movement and can be seen falling off his blocks at times, so we want to see him sustain his blocks and stay engaged throughout the play. His blocking is holding him back, but if Graham can show improvement he could boost his stock from the third- or fourth-round area.

Wisconsin RB John Clay -- Clay has impressive size (6-foot-2, 247 pounds) and athleticism, and we expect him to get at least 30 carries against Indiana. He runs with power and balance and shows good lateral movement for his size, but we'll be watching to see what kind of burst he has through the line of scrimmage. There are also some durability issues surrounding Clay, and some wonder whether he can hold up given the heavy load he shoulders each week. We expect the junior to come back to school next season.

Indiana DE Greg Middleton -- He is at his best rushing the passer thanks to a quick first step to get around the corner and his ability set up offensive tackles using outside-inside double moves. Middleton also does a good job staying tight to the line while running loops and stunts.

However, his motor is inconsistent, and sometimes he is undisciplined anchoring the edge against the run. Middleton can get caught peeking in the backfield or slanting inside at times and needs to do a better job playing his responsibility to avoid giving up the corner. Overall, he ranks as a late-round prospect.

Indiana DE Jammie Kirlew -- Kirlew is a bit undersized (6-1, 254), but his motor and effort are impressive. He uses his hands well on the edge and plays his responsibilities, and Kirlew flashes the ability to get down the line in backside pursuit and close to the outside. He also has a quick first step and bends well around the edge. Kirlew is a late-round prospect because of his size, but not one you want to bet against given his effort level.

Indiana S Nick Polk-- An under-the-radar prospect who began his career as a wide receiver, Polk has great ball skills in coverage, takes good angles and is aggressive going after the ball. He also has great change-of-direction skills and should test off the charts in postseason workouts.

Polk's instincts and recognition skills are still developing, though. He is late breaking on the ball at times and needs to improve his awareness against play-action. Polk could also be more aggressive and take better angles in run support. Add in a torn ACL last season and other various nicks and dings, and he is a late-round prospect.

• Virginia Tech OT Ed Wang was beaten cleanly off the edge early in Thursday's win over East Carolina but recovered nicely and showed improvement as a run-blocker.

Wang moved well in space and did a nice job climbing to the second level to get a body on linebackers, and he was quick out of his stance and took good angles to wall off defenders. He also showed more aggression and urgency with his punch and seems to be making strides in the running game.

Getting beaten with a hesitation move on the first series of the game is a bit concerning because Wang didn't show the lateral mobility to stay with the defender, and his quick feet are normally one of his biggest assets. He will have to avoid being caught flat-footed by defenders who can use quickness and power to get to his body if he wants to remain in the third-round area.

Around the nation

• When Boise State travels to Ruston, La., to take on Louisiana Tech (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2), the Broncos and CB Kyle Wilson (No. 70) will bring one of the nation's best defenses with them. "It's phenomenal," Tech coach Derek Dooley told the Monroe (La.) News-Star. "There's no program that can win like they've won without having great defense. What does the defense do? It keeps giving their offense chances: three-and-out, boom, punt, great field position."

• California RB Jahvid Best (No. 19) says he will play Saturday against Oregon State, but he has been held out of practice this week because of a concussion. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "Best sustained his injury Saturday against Arizona State, though he wasn't diagnosed with a concussion until Monday. He downplayed the symptoms, saying it 'felt like a headache to me.'"

&#8226 Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy (No. 17) has been a force during his four-year career in Oxford, but injuries have made his last season a tough one, especially from a performance standpoint. "There's times he's been a force, where they have to worry about where he's located and put four hands on him," UM coach Houston Nutt told the Clarion-Ledger. "But then at times, we'd like to get a little more from him."

• Oklahoma heads to Lincoln, Neb., to take on the Huskers on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC), and two of the nation's top defensive lineman will be featured when Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy (No. 2) and Ndamukong Suh (No. 3) take the field.

One of the reasons McCoy is not in the NFL and is still with the Sooners is a promise he made to his late mother. "I like college football," McCoy told the Lincoln Journal Star. "But I told my mother I would graduate. That's the main reason."

McCoy's mother suffered a brain aneurysm and died unexpectedly just before he reported to fall camp in 2007. He is scheduled to receive his degree next month.