College area scout Todd Brunner is back for year two of his Brunner's Blog. Brunner has had a busy week, and it's not over yet. Catch up with him in this latest blog….
I started this week on the road on Sunday by driving up to the University of Buffalo. That's a good 6 ½ hour ride from my house, so I left right around noon. Since I have satellite radio I normally try to play my trips out so that I can listen to our game during my drive. Since we weren't playing until Monday night I obviously couldn't listen to us, so I ended up following the Eagles-Packers game. The final score of that game didn't really indicate how the Eagles seemed to dominate the Packers because Green Bay ended up winning the game 16-13 with the Eagles coughing up two big fumbles that really cost them.
I stayed in Buffalo Sunday night and went to the University on Monday morning to watch tape. Since I had seen them play the week prior at Rutgers I already had a chance to physically observe the kids, see what they looked like and how they moved around. Still I wanted to get a more thorough feel for these guys because when you watch a game live, you don't get too rewind the tape and watch each guy on each play. At a game, you really just look at one guy at a time on either side of the ball. During the game I kept my eyes mostly their center Jamey Richard and their defensive end Trevor Scott.
After wrapping up my tape study at Buffalo, I headed on down to Penn State to catch practice Monday afternoon. I met up at practice with our Director of College Scouting David McCloughan who had been there watching tape that morning. It was a long drive for me to get over there but I made it just as practice started so it was good timing on my part.
David and I met on some of the Penn State guys and then also discussed some of the guys from the smaller schools that I liked and wanted to fill him in on. After practice, he drove over to Rutgers and I stayed overnight because I had to go into Penn State the next morning and watch tape.
It is a little different going from a smaller school to a large school. Buffalo is considered a mid-major and they play in the MAC conference, but the two programs actually play each other this week. The biggest difference is their facility. At Buffalo, the offices are right in the stadium and so are their locker rooms. Their weight room is not as big, nor is their stadium. Penn State on the other hand is huge, holding over 105,000 people, and their football facility is unbelievable. Their weight room alone might be the size of our entire facility in Santa Clara. So, in other words, Michael Robinson was spoiled!
After watching tape I headed to the hotel to write up some reports and then had a chance to take my niece, who is going to school at Penn State, out to dinner. I made it back just in time to watch kickoff for our game which was at 10:30 ET. As tired as I was I knew I couldn't fall asleep because whenever we're playing I get too wound up. It was a quarter to two o'clock in the morning when it was over, but I didn't care because I was happy too see us come away with the win. I really liked the way our corners played. They really shut down a potent offense, and I was excited to see after the way the offense struggled during the game how they picked it up. Alex Smith was able to take them right down the field and score the touchdown to win the game. It was gratifying and it helped give me the energy boost I needed to get out of bed less than five hours later to head to the school. When you lose a game, it's not as fun to head into a school because you just feel somewhat deflated.
Although I was mostly studying our corners when we were on defense, I did look a little at Levi Brown who is starting at right tackle for Arizona. Levi was in my area so I watched him often last year and was curious to see how he's coming along as a rookie. The only play that really stood out by him in the game was that he did chase down Walt Harris after he made his interception to prevent Walt from getting in for the score.
As for our corners, I thought they played excellent. I was really interested to see Nate since he was one of our high-profile additions and I think he really lived up to his billing.
I also watched Joe Staley a little bit and I thought he played well. From the short time we were out at training camp, you could see he is going to be a very good player. He has all the ability in the world. Since this was his first game starting and it was a Monday night, you didn't know if he was going to have the jitters or not, but he looked very comfortable and he didn't miss a beat since the preseason. I think that kid is going to be a very good player.
From Penn State I drove down to Maryland where I watched tape on those guys Wednesday morning. They were getting ready for their game against West Virginia on Thursday night, which was the whole reason I was going down there. Normally on a short week like that you're not allowed to go into the school, but they let us come in on Wednesday so that was nice to get some tape work done and get prepared for the game. I looked at almost a dozen kids from Maryland on tape and then saw them live in the game.
I was also able to get a good look at West Virginia which is also a school in my area. They have a ton of speed this year, especially at the running back and quarterback positions.
One of the smaller schools that might not be a surprise this year, but that people on the west coast might not know much about is the University of Delaware. They have a quarterback who I've talked about before – Joe Flacco. Every scout I've talked to that has gone to visit Delaware has looked at this kid. I actually saw them play live last Saturday night and the kid is very, very impressive. He's definitely somebody to keep your eye on because you'll hear his name later in the year and again come April.
I think Penn State is going to be strong this year. They've started 2-0 and they play Buffalo this week which is a game they should win, but you never know. Just look at Appalachian State versus Michigan. That was an enormous upset. However, Penn State is very well coached and I think they'll be a force in the Big 10. I'd be very surprised if this Buffalo game is not another W for them.
West Virginia is also going to be very good this year with all that speed that they have. They played really well against Maryland, beating them 31-14. West Virginia has had a great team and a great offense, but their defense has been suspect and pretty much their Achilles heal. I really thought their defense stepped it up against Maryland and played really well. They showed a lot of speed on defense and several guys with play-making ability. They're definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Big East, as well as Rutgers.
Rutgers has a game this week against a I-AA opponent so that should be a win for them. They won't really get into the meat of the schedule until they start to play some of the other Big East schools in a few weeks. I'm interested to see how it turns out because the Big East has been talked down around the rest of the country. People think Big East football isn't that good, but I believe there are a lot of top teams in the Big East this year. You've got South Florida, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Rutgers and Pitt- all teams that have started out 2-0 this year, so it's a pretty good conference.
One of the big college games this weekend is Michigan versus Notre Dame and both programs are 0-2. It's a surprise to most everyone that one of these programs is going to start the season 0-3. I think that would be tougher on Michigan because with the week one upset, they are really taking some heat. They began the season with such high expectations, ranked fifth, and this start has been very poor. Their head coach is getting chastised and one more loss would just fuel that fire. On the opposite spectrum is Notre Dame, a program that has almost been given a hall pass because people expected this to be a rebuilding year for them. They lost Brady Quinn and they had three quarterbacks playing in their opening week, and have now settled on Clausen. Still, whoever starts out 0-3 is going to be in for a long and tough year.