From Scout Team To Stardom?
USC QB Mitch Mustain
They led the way on the scout teams in 2007, and now they'll get their chance to shine in 2008. Which top practice players, like former Arkansas QB Mitch Mustain at USC, are ready to make an impact and be some of college football's new stars?
From Scout Team To Stardom
What 2007 scout teamers are ready to star in 2008?
statistics were non-existent. Their importance was underrated. Their
futures? Pretty bright, if last fall’s practice sessions are any
indication of success down the road.
While scout team players are confined to the sidelines for home games,
and don’t make road trips, they perform a valuable function on campuses
across the country, mimicking the upcoming opponent. No, they don’t
make any headlines for good impersonations, but they do make plenty of
impressions on coaches that’ll inevitably be looking to fill openings in
a two-deep the following season.
Scout teams are generally comprised of redshirting freshmen, transfers
sitting out a season, and walk-ons hoping to someday earn a
scholarship. The best of these entry-level upstarts are honored as the
Offensive or Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year at annual
post-season banquets. The best of that collection of 200 or so
award-winners are being cited here as rising stars that are ready to use
that anonymous scout team experience as a launching pad to much greater
exposure in 2008.
25. CB Courtney Viney, UCLA – Undersized at just 5-8 and 155
pounds, Viney has the quickness and instincts for the position that’ll
earn him playing time in 2008, especially with Trey Brown and Rodney Van
out of eligibility. A feisty player with great feet, he has lockdown
potential provided he doesn’t get caught too often on an island with
physically imposing receivers.
24. DE Julian Miller, West Virginia – Johnny Dingle’s early
departure to the NFL creates some room on the depth chart for young
players like Miller, a rangy pass rusher with a great burst off the
edge. He stood out throughout practices last fall, now needing to add a
little more bulk and improve at disengaging from blockers.
23. DE Myles Caragein, Pittsburgh – Caragein was born to play for
Pitt, the type of blue-collar lineman that really gets Dave Wannstedt
thinking nostalgic. An intense competitor and former wrestling champ in
Pennsylvania, he’s got a non-stop motor and the size and power to move
inside if asked. Caragein is an old-school Panther with the personality
and work-ethic to be a big hit in the Steel City.
22. WR Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin – After two uneventful seasons
in Madison, it’s time for Kendricks to turn his massive physical gifts
into on-field production. One of the biggest, fastest, and most
athletic of the Badger receivers, he’s built in the same mold as Travis
Beckum, Wisconsin’s tight end that moves with the grace of a super-sized
21. S Sam Proctor, Oklahoma – Although he’s still adapting to
playing on defense, Proctor has the size-speed combination to force his
way on to the field as early as next fall. A former star quarterback in
high school, he stood out in practice last season as a 6-0, 210-pound
playmaker, a poor man’s Jeremy Maclin of Missouri.
20. LB Aaron Gresham, Florida State – Tough, smart, and
instinctive, Gresham is the quintessential middle linebacker, a leader
in the huddle and on the sidelines. While not exactly off-the-charts
athletically, he’s the type of defender that knows how to get from Point
A to Point B in a hurry. Think former South Florida LB Ben Moffitt.
19. RB Bradley Stephens, Texas A&M – With Jorvorskie Lane and
Mike Goodson returning this season, there won’t be many carries for
Stephens, but that shouldn’t stop the Aggies from getting the freshman’s
feet wet in 2008. More Goodson than Lane, he’s bright, unassuming, and
extremely difficult to corral in space. With four years of eligibility
left, the Aggies are set at the position for the foreseeable future.
18. LB Terrance Pritchett, Oregon –
An outstanding all-around prospect at outside linebacker, Pritchett
plays with emotion, keen instincts, and terrific sideline-to-sideline
speed. He added weight to a frame that can handle it, making enough
impressions on the scout team last year to contend for a spot on the
two-deep this spring.
17. LB Ian Thomas, Illinois – Thomas represents yet another
example of how Ron Zook and Mike Locksley have raised the talent level
in Champaign by casting a net that reaches well beyond the Midwest.
While not that big, he plays fast and with a mean streak, raising the
possibility that he and Martez Wilson could give the Illini one of the
most athletic pairs of outside linebackers in the Big Ten for the next
16. DE Conrad Obi, Colorado – Dan Hawkins went across the country
last year to bring this Georgia commit back to Boulder, hoping he’ll
provide some answers for the Buffs’ sagging pass rush. At 6-3 and 250
pounds, Obi is built like an outside linebacker with a sudden burst off
the snap and great speed around the tackle.
15. TE Nate Chandler, UCLA – Have the Bruins unearthed a
reincarnation of Marcedes Lewis? Maybe. Long and lean with soft hands,
Chandler redshirted in 2007 to prepare for an increased role in 2008.
UCLA has struggled to get much production from the tight end position
the last two years, but he’s the type of receiver that’s capable of
changing that trend.
14. QB Curtis Pulley, Kentucky – After playing sparingly in 2005
and 2006, Pulley redshirted last season, mimicking the opponent’s best
player, such as Louisville QB Brian Brohm and Arkansas RB Darren
McFadden. A terrific all-around athlete at 6-4 and 205 pounds, someone
might be aping him next fall if he can win the job to replace Andre
Woodson and become a more consistent pocket passer.
13. OT Sam DeMartinis, Cal – One of the nation’s most recruited
tackles in 2007, DeMartinis will begin his climb up the Bear depth chart
this spring. Technically sound and well above average as a pass
protector, he has an incredible upside in Berkeley, especially as he
adds more muscle to a 6-6 frame that can comfortably handle the extra
12. LB Oliver Aaron, Arizona State –
Although not heavily recruited, Aaron emerged last fall as one of the
most intriguing of the Sun Devil rookies. An exceptional all-around
athlete at 6-2 and 210 pounds, he’s big enough to play weakside
linebacker and plenty quick to handle pass coverage as a safety.
Although slotted to be part of a deep corps of linebackers, it’ll be
tempting to move him to strong safety as Josh Barrett’s replacement.
11. QB Jason Forcier, Stanford – Last spring, Forcier traded
playing quarterback at Michigan to playing for a former Michigan
quarterback, Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. One of the top-rated
hurlers of 2005, he can make all the throws, but is also very dangerous
outside the pocket, an element that could separate him from incumbent
Tavita Pritchard when the two duke it out this spring.
10. WR Taiwan Easterling, Florida State – A gifted athlete that
was drafted by the Florida Marlins and can play both offense and
defense, Easterling was a revelation on the scout team last season. At
5-11 and 190 pounds, he looked comfortable catching passes in practices,
but could also shift to cornerback if a need develops.
9. WR Brandon Clear, Clemson – Clear is the next in a growing
line of tall, physical receivers Clemson that can get behind opposing
secondaries for long gainers. Better known for his role in Two-A-Days,
an MTV reality series, the 6-4, 205-pounder has the straight-line speed
and vertical leap to wreak havoc as an alternative to Aaron Kelly.
8. WR Michael Calvin, Cal – There’s an APB out for quality pass
catchers around Strawberry Canyon, great news for young and restless
players, such as Calvin. A 6-3 flyer with 4.5 speed, he really turned
heads on the scout team, preparing to fill the void left by the
departures of DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, and Robert Jordan.
7. DT Matt Masifilo, Stanford – After watching Masifilo in
practice for a few months last fall, Cardinal coaches are eager to get
its prize recruit of 2007 on the field. An intense competitor that
fielded offers from more than half of the Pac-10 members, Masifilo is a
6-3, 270-pound interior lineman with the quickness to get penetration
and make plays for minus yards.
6. RB Shariff Harris, Pittsburgh – Obviously, LeSean McCoy is the
franchise in Pittsburgh for the next few years, but it never hurts to
have a complementary change-of-pace in the backfield. Harris flashes
the potential to be that type of a back for the Panthers, a powerful,
north-south runner that could have contributed last season if he was
5. DT Christian Tupou, USC – While Tupou doesn’t have
otherworldly measurables for an interior lineman, he proved in practice
that he’ll play with a surly attitude and a no-quit motor. He gets off
the ball in a snap and is very strong at the point of attack, qualities
that’ll help him push fro playing time on a line that loses tackle
Sedrick Ellis to graduation.
4. LB D.J. Holt, Cal – It’s only a matter of time before Holt is
a very important part of the Bear defense. A stacked deck at the
position means he might have to wait until 2009 to start, but he has the
athletic ability and pass rushing instincts to be a factor on the second
unit and special teams this year. A defensive end in high school, he’s
only going to get better after learning the nuances of playing middle
3. DE Adewale Ojomo, Miami – Ojomo was mentored by Calais
Campbell last year. Next year, he might be succeeding him. Ojomo used
his first year with the Hurricanes to get bigger, stronger, and better
acquainted with the system and new challenges. A playmaker with
outstanding closing speed, he’s begun to fill out a slight frame, step
one to getting on the field in 2008.
2. QB Robert Marve, Miami – It’s about time that Quarterback U.
develops a passer worthy of that moniker. Marve is hoping to be that
guy. He has good arm strength and can make all the throws, mixing in
the ability to scramble out of the pocket and make plays with his feet.
Almost fully recovered from last July’s serious car accident, Marve’s
the heavy favorite to win the starting job since Kyle Wright has
graduated and Kirby Freeman transferred to Baylor.
1. QB Mitch Mustain, USC – The last time Mustain had a national
spotlight, he was going through a messy divorce with Arkansas, a program
he led to eight wins as a true freshman in 2006. That brief bout with
anonymity is about to change. After excelling on the Trojan service
team last season, he’s about to embark on a can’t-miss battle with Mark
Sanchez to determine John David Booty’s successor behind center.