LSU DE Sam Montgomery faces a tough battle against Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel this weekend. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)
By Matt Feminis
Special to Stlouisrams.com
LSU vs. Texas A&M at Kyle Field (College Station, TX), Saturday 11 a.m. ESPN
Rarely do you get a college game featuring direct individual matchups involving four future pros, but that is the case this weekend in College Station:
DE Sam Montgomery*, LSU vs. OT Luke Joeckel*, Texas A&M
Montgomery was a starter as a redshirt freshman in 2010 before suffering a season-ending torn ACL injury. That’s a distant memory now, as Montgomery is entrenched as LSU’s right defensive end thanks to his combination of size, athleticism, energy and disruptive ability. He does not “wow” as an edge rusher, as he shows just an average get-off (short first two steps) and needs to develop his arsenal of moves, but he flashes a bull rush, is able to compress the pocket, keeps working to the quarterback and can really run and close when he smells blood in the water. A high-motor defender, Montgomery plays on his feet and gives good effort in pursuit — chases plays to all directions. He also defends the run squarely and rarely is moved off the line, as his length creates room to work — can press tight ends or control blockers, locate and shed. Montgomery does not consistently dominate single blocking like an elite rusher, but he’s clearly on an ascending path and has an NFL starter’s skill set. He could develop into a Calvin Pace-type player capable of lining up as a 4-3 left end or 3-4 left outside linebacker. Coming off a two-sack performance against South Carolina, Montgomery will be one-on-one with Joeckel most of the afternoon, as A&M rarely deploys an inline tight end.
Joeckel isn’t a prototypical, blind-side dancing bear — lacks elite arm length and foot quickness — but he’s very, very good. A third-year starter, Joeckel is experienced and dependable in pass protection given his terrific balance (rarely on the ground) and ability to shuffle, slide and mirror. He understands how to fortify his base and can re-anchor or recover to push rushers wide. He works his hands and feet in unison, showing an efficient, effective kick slide and short punch, and he exhibits good hand placement and pop-and-recoil quickness. Overall, Joeckel understands leverage and positioning, plays with awareness (handles stunts and blitzes) and is fairly polished despite being a true junior. He could stand to improve his hip snap and incorporate more power into his game as a run blocker, but Joeckel provides confidence he will maximize his talent and become a long-term starter in the NFL, be it on the left or right side. How he fares against the speed of LSU’s rushers will help determine if he can handle the blind side at the next level, but Joeckel is a better prospect than players such as Gabe Carimi, Eben Britton and Mitchell Schwartz, all of whom were selected late first round/early second round.
DE Barkevious Mingo*, LSU vs. OT Jake Matthews*, Texas A&M
At first glance, Mingo looks physically immature amidst the collection of big, strong linemen in the SEC, but he erases all doubt as soon as he unleashes his signature, eye-popping edge burst. A sinewy, 6-5, 240 pounds, Mingo’s (a.k.a. “KeKe”) long arms and frenetic relentlessness make him difficult to engage and control. And while he’s still growing into his lean, rangy, projectable frame, his rare combination of explosion, athleticism, flexibility and frightening closing speed enable him to wreak havoc as a pass rusher and pursuit player. Not surprisingly, Mingo needs to bulk up in order to tussle inline at the point of attack, and could stand to play with increased pop and power in his hands, but he possesses obvious upside and impact playmaking potential as a stand-up rusher or wide-nine, ears-pinned right end. His production (20 tackles, three for loss and two sacks) does not jump off the page thanks to snoozers against North Texas, Washington, Idaho and Towson, and he faces a tall order attempting to best Matthews while containing the crazy-legs scrambling exploits of quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Before you ask… yes, he is. Jake Matthews is one of those Matthewses. His father, Bruce is a Hall of Fame offensive lineman; his grandfather, Clay Sr., played for the 49ers in the 1950s; his uncle, Clay Jr., was a Pro Bowl linebacker for the Browns in the 1980s; his older brother, Kevin, started at center for the Aggies (2008-09) and is a backup for the Titans; his younger brother, Mike, is a freshman lineman for the Aggies; his cousin, Clay III, is an All-Pro linebacker for the Packers; and cousin, Casey, is a linebacker for the Eagles. Needless to say, Jake Matthews has NFL bloodlines. Fortunately, Jake has more than a last name going for him as a prospect. In Joeckel and Matthews the Aggies have perhaps the premier offensive tackle tandem in the nation and one of the best in recent years. Not surprisingly, Matthews is well-schooled and technically sound. He has a thick trunk and stout anchor to thwart a charge, as well as excellent feet to kick slide, shuffle, slide and mirror. He’s a patient pass protector with terrific balance, coordination and posture who is comfortable on an island. He also uses his hands well — punches effectively, protects his frame and can latch onto and control defenders despite what appears to be average arm length. Just a 20-year-old junior, Matthews could stand to get stronger and better handle inside moves. He also traps/pulls infrequently and is not required to fire off flatbacked and drive defenders off the line very often. With that said, he shows initial quickness to gain an angle, block down and pin defenders inside. A trustworthy pass protector, Matthews is an advanced blocker with desirable intangibles on the fast track to becoming a low-risk, plug-and-play selection.
Marshall vs. Southern Mississippi at Carlisle-Faulkner Field at M.M. Roberts Stadium (Hattiesburg, MS), Saturday 6:00 p.m., CBS Sports Network
WR Aaron Dobson, Marshall — A confident, highly athletic flanker with very good size, Dobson, who was an all-state football and basketball player in West Virginia, offers intriguing fluidity and playmaking ability. For evidence, look no further than Youtube, where his spectacular one-handed touchdown grab against East Carolina last season has been viewed nearly two million times. While he lacks elite top-end speed and runs a limited route tree at Marshall, Dobson accelerates smoothly and has loose hips to sink into cuts. He works back to the ball and looks to get upfield and pick up yards after the catch. Dobson also distinguishes himself by getting after it in the run game as an aggressive, physical stalk blocker.
OLB Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi — At 6-4, 240 pounds with a long-limbed, rangy build, Collins possesses starter-caliber size and athletic ability, including intriguing speed and short-area burst — can redirect, accelerate and close in a hurry. He’s also a bender capable of dropping into coverage. In his last 20 games dating back to last season, he’s posted 146 tackles, 29 1/2 tackles for loss and 11 1/2 sacks with 11 pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble. However, Collins does not dominate mid-major competition and his tape leaves you wanting more, in part because he leaves production on the field— limited instincts, lackluster pursuit effort and inconsistent lasso tackling. In fact, he didn’t garner first- or second-team all-conference recognition from Conference-USA coaches. Given everything that goes into an evaluation, he’s an interesting prospect whose ultimate draft standing could be a wild card.
Collins lost his parents when he was just six years old and was raised by his sister. A high school quarterback and linebacker, he originally committed to Auburn before signing with Southern Miss, where he’s played (under two coaching staffs) safety, linebacker and now “bandit” end in a 4-2-5 scheme. He operates from a two- and three-point stance, but he’s miscast with his hand in the dirt, as he lacks bulk strength and is weak at the point of attack (plays tall and soft-shouldered against the run). Despite having long arms to play off blocks, he does not use his hands violently to disengage. As a pass rusher, he lacks power and sophistication and exhibits intermittent tenacity. Collins is a run-around, flash linebacker who likely will test very well and be drafted on measurables and athleticism alone, as he could project to a variety of positions in multiple schemes, but his finesse playing style and inconsistency could turn off some teams.
Sleeper of the Week: WR Alex Amidon*, Boston College
Amidon doesn’t look the part — size and length are merely adequate — nor does he play at a school known for producing NFL receivers — B.C. hasn’t had a receiver drafted since Kelvin Martin in 1987 — but he has traits to stick at the next level. Amidon was born in England before moving to New England when he was nine. He took to football in high school, where he played quarterback, receiver, cornerback and kick returner while serving as a two-time captain. He also excelled in track, and is a well-conditioned athlete thanks to a lifetime of extensive stamina training for sprints and distance.
Amidon has benefitted from the Eagles’ new offensive system and the continued development of quarterback Chase Rettig, recording 41 receptions for 688 yards (16.8-yard average) and four touchdowns through six games, including big performances against Miami and Clemson. He lines up outside and inside and has quick feet and hands to get off press and release cleanly. He has good balance and is a crisp route runner — understands how to stem/nod, is quick into cuts with little wasted movement and works back to throws. He also shows toughness and concentration to work traffic areas. Amidon is a heady player who navigates zones, knows where the sticks are and works to uncover. While he accelerates quickly, he does not have elite top-end deep speed to separate vertically and is not a go up-and-get it guy. He also lets some throws into his body and occasionally drops throws he shouldn’t. As a blocker, he’s willing but short on length and functional strength to sustain on the outside. Amidon is a niche player, but he could make a living working the slot and executing option routes, and has the look of a prospect who would interest the hometown Patriots. Boston College travels to Georgia Tech on Saturday.