- Steve Muench, Scouts Inc.
The images of Alabama's blowout win over Notre Dame in the BCS title game are still fresh, but until we see the coach-copy tape of the game it's important not to overreact one way or the other to the performances of the notable prospects in the game.
On the other hand, the telecast provides some insight into what scouts should be looking for when they examine that all-22 film of a group that includes five players who have first-round potential.
Here are notes from the national championship game that I will reference when watching the coach-copy tape and other tape on these players. Some underclassmen (noted with an asterisk) have said they will return to school, but they could change their minds and these notes will still be useful down the road if they do return to campus.
G Chance Warmack (Grade: 96; 6-foot2⅜ 325 pounds)
Just as he has done all season, Warmack continued to control defenders at the line of scrimmage and hold up in pass protection. His ability to cover up linebackers in space is also impressive. He did a good job climbing up to the second level and getting a body on Notre Dame ILB Manti Te'o midway through the first quarter and again midway through the second.
CB Dee Milliner* (94; 6-0¾, 197)
There's a lot to like about how physical Milliner was at the line of scrimmage against Fighting Irish TE Tyler Eifert, but he won't get away with that much contact at the next level. In addition, Milliner failed to turn and locate the ball on a controversial incompletion call with 11:21 left in the first quarter. However, he did a better job locating the ball when asked to turn and run with WR DaVaris Daniels early in the third, tipping the ball and allowing a teammate to come down with the interception.
OLB C.J. Mosley* (91; 6-2, 234)
Mosley intends to come back to school, but he carried a late-first round grade prior to the announcement and lived up to it in this game. He did a good job scraping down the line and filling as soon as he located the ball carrier, and showed above-average closing speed chasing mobile Irish QB Everett Golson in the second quarter. While RB/WR Theo Riddick beat Mosley on a fourth-quarter touchdown catch, Riddick is a tough matchup for any linebacker and the initial coverage appeared sound.
DT Jesse Williams (96; 6-3.5, 320)
Williams made it tough to run inside and was an effective lead blocker when lined up in the backfield in goal-line situations. He didn't seem to have a game plan as a pass-rusher, though, and Alabama kept him fresh with a steady rotation. Williams, who hurt his knee against Georgia in the SEC championship game, sustained what appeared to be a lower-body injury in the fourth quarter.
OT D.J. Fluker* (84; 6-6, 335)
Fluker fought with Notre Dame DE Kapron Lewis-Moore throughout the night. Lewis-Moore won with quickness and hands initially, but Fluker stayed with it and showed better overall power. However, he appeared to have problems with speed off the edge midway through the second quarter.
C Barrett Jones (79; 6-5, 302)
Jones struggled with the size and power of Notre Dame NT Louis Nix at times, but turned in a consistent overall performance. His footwork was sound and he did an above-average job in terms of hand placement, though it appeared he could have been called for holding on a lot of plays.
In addition, Jones showed toughness playing though a Lisfranc injury in his left foot that will require surgery to fix. And on a side note, anyone who has played offensive line can appreciate him standing up to QB A.J. McCarron after a miscommunication between the two late in the game.
RB Eddie Lacy* (71; 5-10, 220)
Lacy's offensive line deserves a ton of credit for his 20-carry, 140-yard performance. Still, no player potentially helped himself more than Lacy. He missed some seams -- notably on the first play of the game -- but his vision and patience appeared above average. He also ran through arm tackles and flashed the ability to press the line of scrimmage before bouncing outside. While he dropped a pass he should have caught, Lacy hauled in two others, including a touchdown.
S Robert Lester (63; 6-1.5 215)
It's tough to tell a lot about defensive backs from television copy, but Lester appeared to show above-average route recognition and awareness when lined up over in the slot early in the second quarter. He also made a sound one-on-one tackle on Theo Riddick later in the quarter that may have prevented a long run.
TE Michael Williams (61; 6-6, 270)
Williams holds his own as a blocker against down linemen better than most tight ends. Size plays a role, but so does toughness. And even though Notre Dame bit on play-action and turned him loose on a first-quarter touchdown catch, Williams did a nice job catching the ball with his hands away from his frame.
ILB Manti Te'o (95; 6-1, 248)
There's no sugarcoating it: Te'o struggled in this game. For starters, he didn't show great instincts. He was late locating the ball and didn't recover in time to make the tackle on Lacy's first touchdown run. He also bit on play-action and was beaten on Williams' first-quarter touchdown catch. Finally, Te'o failed to wrap up as a tackler, and I counted at least three notable missed tackles in the first half.
DT Louis Nix III* (91; 6-3, 325)
Another potential late-first rounder who appears headed back to school, Nix could get off blockers quicker at times but has above-average upside as a two-gap nose tackle. He held his ground and he flashed the ability to control Barrett Jones at times. Nix left the field with an injury in the third quarter and appeared limited when he returned.
TE Tyler Eifert* (88; 6-6, 250)
Officials ruled Eifert did not come down with the aforementioned jump ball against Milliner, but he has shown good ball skills all season and consistently wins in those instances. He also showed excellent effort after a first-down catch with 6:08 left in the first quarter. Officials initially ruled a loose ball after the play a fumble, but that call was overturned on replay.
Eifert did drop a pass he should have caught late in the third quarter, but he worked hard before and after the catch. He did a decent job getting into position when blocking in space, but did have problems holding up in pass protection.
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (74; 6-3⅝, 304)
Lewis-Moore left late in the first half with what is reportedly a serious leg injury, which combined with a knee injury that cost him the final six games of the 2011 season would hurt his stock. Still, he's an underrated player who showed good toughness at the point before sustaining the injury.
WR Theo Riddick (66; 5-10⅜, 197)
Riddick showed good burst when he found a seam early in the second quarter, and did a great job shaking Mosley on his touchdown catch. He simply didn't get much room to work as a runner or as a receiver over the middle.
Steve Muench looks at the performances of notable NFL prospects in the BCS title game.