Eye On the Midwest: The Big Game

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In his latest Eye on the Midwest blog, area scout Ethan Waugh checks in to talk about some of his recent scouting trips and how he spent his Christmas holiday.**

The last game I attended this fall was the Ohio State-Michigan matchup in Ann Arbor. Certainly the game is one of the premier rivalries in all of college football – not only is pride for both schools and both states at stake, but in this year's edition Ohio State needed to win to clinch the Big-10 championship and Michigan needed to win to become bowl eligible.

The atmosphere surrounding the game certainly meets the expectations. Just trying to get to the stadium from the highway is a battle, and once you inch closer to campus you can see house parties and tailgate parties on every block. There are 110,000 people at the game and seemingly just as many outside the stadium.

Both teams really improved over the course of the year. Michigan battled injuries throughout the fall, but the guys in the senior class really performed well. Defensive end Brandon Graham played a great game against Ohio State, accounting for two sacks and five tackles-for-loss.

He has been a disruptive force all season.

For the Buckeyes, senior safety Kurt Coleman had another great game. He snagged a pair of interceptions and generally made his presence felt around the ball all day.

Following the game, I drove south to scout Louisville, Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, and a couple of other schools during the early part of the week.

On Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, I flew to Richmond, VA, for the East Coast Bowl – the first All-Star game of the season. This All-Star game invites only players from non-FBS schools, and although the players may not be household names, there were a number of prospects in attendance. All of the players arrived on Wednesday evening and the scouts in attendance used the time to measure and interview each player.

On Thanksgiving morning we got up early and drove to an indoor sports facility in Richmond to put the players through physical testing. Much like the Combine or a pro timing day, we tested each player in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump, short shuttle and three cone drills.

Despite having little time to train for the tests following the end of their seasons, a number of players tested extremely well. Following the testing, I finished up a few interviews with a handful of players prior to their Thanksgiving dinner. Fortunately the restaurant in my hotel was open on Thanksgiving and I was able to have a turkey sandwich for dinner – a significant improvement over the gas station fare I enjoyed in 2008.

LaMarcus Coker, a running back from Hampton, emerged as one of the stars of the East Coast week. Coker began his career at the University of Tennessee prior to transferring to Hampton. He ran an excellent 40-yard dash and dominated the game, rushing for over 200 yards – showing that he has football speed in addition to track speed.

All of our reports on the senior class were finalized during the first week of December.

At this point, each scout has a firm grasp on the regular season performance of each prospect in his area. Over the holidays, we will be touching base with some of the coaches and staff at the schools in our area to gauge how injured players are recovering and to see if anyone was nicked up in their bowl game.

After the first of the year, All-Star game season really takes off.

There is essentially one All-Star game a week throughout the month of January. We will have a few scouts at each of the games, but every year our entire scouting department is present at the Senior Bowl.

Following the Senior Bowl, all of the scouts head back to team headquarters in Santa Clara for meetings, then straight to the Combine, and then directly on the road to pro days in March. Before you know it, draft day will be upon us.

Fortunately, l was able to be home for Christmas this year. We did not make any trips to see relatives; we just planned on focusing on our kids. They are at a great age to enjoy the whole spirit of the holiday. Luckily, my wife is on the ball and all of our Christmas shopping was complete by the time I got back in town.

Hopefully everyone had a great time during the holidays with their families and I wish you all a happy New Year.

I will check back in 2010!

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