College area scout Todd Brunner checks in for his latest Brunner's Blog, updating you on some of the college players who are capturing his eye. **
I left you after my last blog as I was leaving for visits to Marshall, West Virginia and Penn State.
First up was Marshall, a team that is struggling right now but yet staying in good spirits. I took a look at a handful of guys, one being their quarterback Bernard Morris. You might have seen some of their games on TV this year because they're part of that Conference USA TV schedule, and have thus played two games on ESPN on Tuesday and Sunday nights. Morris is a guy who scouts are projected at a different position when it comes to the NFL. A lot of scouts have compared him to Brad Smith, a Missouri quarterback who is now playing for the Jets on special teams and as a wide receiver.
It was also my second visit to West Virginia this year and I went in there to finish up reports on a handful of prospects. They're doing very well this year and they're back in the BCS title hunt as they have moved up to third in the standings, which is something they are very happy and excited about. They have really improved on defense throughout the year, and one particular player who has played very well for them after transferring from the University of Michigan is Ryan Mundy. Mundy is their starting free safety who took advantage of a NCAA rule that has since been abolished. The rule allowed for a player who went to a D-1 school and graduated to still transfer to another D-1 school, as long as they had a year of eligibility remaining. Mundy has done very well and is definitely the quarterback of their secondary.
When you've been scouting as long as I have, you start to develop relationships with people at different schools, and you then tend to root for those people who you are fond of. I first met Coach Rich Rodriguez when he used to coach at Glenville State College which is a small school in West Virginia. Every time I go in to West Virginia, he's a coach I make sure that I talk to, and we always recollect about the times at Glenville State. I was glad to see him stay at West Virginia last year after he had offers to go elsewhere. It's a big change for fans and the alumni when a coach changes schools after having a lot of success, but it's also a big deal for scouts. When you're used to somebody and you like that person, you cross your fingers when they do in fact leave and just hope they bring in somebody who is similar. Fortunately, he stayed put!
The Penn State visit also went really well. I arrived there in the afternoon in time for practice, and Coach Paterno was probably in the most jovial mood I have ever seen that guy in. He came over and started talking to me and an older scout from the Raiders, and it was the first time I had seen him that happy and energetic as far as it pertained to the scouts. Normally when we go in there, he will say hello to us, but nothing like this. He can be sarcastic in a fun way from time to time, but this was much more than that and it was nice to see. Penn State has always had restrictions for the scouts and they're only open for one or two weeks and that's it. That's just how it's been for as long as Paterno has been there, and I'm used to that so it's not a big deal, but he did throw me off a bit.
While I was there I took a look at their linebacker Dan Connor who's one of the Butkus Award finalists for the nation's top linebacker. On the offensive side of the ball, I looked at quarterback Anthony Morelli and running back Rodney Kinlaw. I studied them carefully during that day's practice and then went back in the next day to watch tape. When I had made my prior visit into Penn State they had only played two games so it was nice to get in there again when they're in the heart of the Big 10 schedule and see some tape of their games against some tougher competition.
Last Monday, I drove to Delaware State to look at a few guys who I had checked out earlier in the year. They ended up winning the MEAC conference which gave them an automatic birth into the I-AA playoffs.
From there, I went up to Delaware because I wanted to sit down with their quarterback Joe Flacco. There was another scout from Jacksonville who was there and he and I got to sit down and talk with Flacco for about 45 minutes, ask him questions and get a chance to know him. You want to see how he talks, how he reacts and just how he is. It went well and I'm glad I got a chance to do that. That's not something you get to do at every school, but I have a really good relationship with the offensive coordinator at Delaware since we were both graduate assistants at Temple back in the early 1990s, and so he was able to set this up for me. Flacco's a good kid. He is what he is on the field. He's very personable, he's quick on his feet, he understands things, he's bright-eyed and he talks well. Wherever he ends up next year, he going to fit right in once he grasps the system, and he will make an impact in the league.
I have put in a lot of time on him because I will have more opportunities to look at a lot of the other quarterbacks in my area. For instance, I know Matt Ryan will be going to the NFL Combine and the Senior Bowl. I think Flacco will go to the Combine, but since he's from a smaller school I wanted to make sure I got to know him as well as possible. That way, when we go into our meetings later on, I have crossed my T's and dotted my I's and I have everything ready to go.
After I left Delaware, I headed to the airport and caught a flight up to Boston so that I could squeeze in one last visit at Boston College.
Scot McCloughan likes us to back into some of these schools that we see early in the year a second time and that's something I appreciate. Most of the time, when you see a school early, they've only played a few games. When you go in later in the year, they've had a chance to get into their conference schedule and we're able to solidify our grades on players so we really feel good about them.
They had just dropped two games in a row when I went in there, but they seemed to have maintained a very positive attitude which showed when they went out to Clemson this past week and won. On paper, that might not have been a game they should have won but they pulled it out. They've been playing tough and resilient, and although they may not be the best athletes in the world, they're making plays.
Obviously, I looked at Matt Ryan again, but they also have a running back named Andre Callender and a left tackle named Gos Cherilus who I wanted to look at on offense. Defensively, there were also a handful of guys I wanted to see in linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a safety Jamie Silva and corner DeJuan Tribble, who's a very good player.
I also squeezed another trip in late last week to the University of Virginia. I've already blogged about Chris Long, son of Howie Long, but I primarily wanted to see some more games on him. He's having a tremendous year and he's one of the top defensive linemen and maybe even one of the top players in the nation right now.
This week's schedule is pretty light. I'm just wrapping up a lot of things because our reports are due in early December, but on Monday I did head up to a school in Staten Island called Wagner to look at their kicker who has really emerged. He's a big kid and he handles both their punting and kicking. He has a strong leg and he's hit two 53-yard kicks and one from 56 yards, and is somebody to keep an eye on.
At the end of this week, there is an all-star game called the East Coast Bowl. It's been around for a couple of years now. I attended it last year, and I'm going down again this Friday for practice. Even though it's called the East Coast Bowl, there are schools from all over the country including Eastern Washington and Nebraska. Players are invited if they're from NIAA schools on up to I-AA. They have two practices before playing on Saturday, so I'll get a chance to see both teams practice.
Last year, there were almost 40 guys from that game who were at least invited to NFL camps. I'm not sure how many guys were drafted total. I do know there was a cornerback from the University of Albany in New York who was drafted by the Eagles in the sixth round and is currently playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.
I'll let everyone know how it goes in my next blog.