Wisconsin senior offensive tackle Joe Thomas, a sure-fire top-10 pick had he declared last year, looks fully recovered from a torn ACL in his right knee suffered in January's Capital One Bowl against Auburn.
Thomas played all four quarters in a season-opening 35-14 win over Bowling Green two weeks ago. Despite surrendering a sack to senior defensive end Devon Parks, he seemed confident in the strength of his knee and was very productive as a run blocker for the Badgers.
Thomas has not lost the balance, quickness or strength at the point of attack – skills that had some observers calling him one of the best offensive linemen to have played in the Big Ten in the last 20 years. So far he has been able to overpower foes who aren't big-time defenders, but his true contest will come Sept. 23 when Wisconsin faces Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Badgers will also take on Penn State and Iowa in November.
- Louisville senior running back Michael Bush, who suffered a season-ending broken right leg against Kentucky two weeks ago, may have played his final down of college football.
Bush, like most other highly rated prospects, purchased an insurance policy in case he suffered a career-ending injury. Right now, that policy covers him until he signs a pro contract, which would have occurred in mid-to-late spring of 2007.
All similar policies are one year in length, and if a player were to sustain a career-ending injury, he would receive a one-time payout equal to the value of the protection listed. However, if a player suffers an injury that is not initially considered to be career-ending, he will have only three games to play before making or having such a payment decision made.
Thus, if Bush were to play for Louisville next season, even with a new policy in place, his broken leg would keep him from receiving full, career-ending coverage past the third game of the year. So while he might have a minor amount of liability or funds available to him should he suffer a second major injury, the circumstances would likely lead him to declaring himself eligible for the 2007 NFL draft.
- Notre Dame defensive end Victor Abiamiri, who has set his sights on becoming this generation's "Nigerian Nightmare," has yet to have a breakout performance to match his four-sack effort against Stanford in last year's final regular-season contest. The senior did not produce any big plays against Georgia Tech, but played pretty well (and by most accounts to a draw) against highly rated Penn State senior offensive tackle Levi Brown.
Brown was clearly stronger at the point of attack and stuffed the athletic Abiamiri on several run plays, but on several passing downs he struggled when lining up over Abiamiri's outside shoulder. That problem enabled the Irish pass rusher to record one sack on the afternoon. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Abiamiri posted a team-high eight sacks as a junior and will now have another chance to shine this Saturday against Michigan's top offensive lineman, right tackle Jake Long.
- Senior quarterback Trent Edwards has seen Stanford struggle to an 0-2 start with losses to Oregon and an initially overmatched San Jose State squad. However, those games have allowed the underrated Edwards to impress West Coast scouts by showcasing his strong arm, improved accuracy and better-than-advertised athleticism.
His five-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio this season shows continued maturity, but there is one negative stat over his last 13 starts (22 TDs, eight INTs) that has scouts watching him closely: He has been sacked 32 times. Edwards has some mobility, but is a pure pocket passer. Still, he holds the ball too long at times and fails to look-off his first read. If he continues to improve and raise his completion percentage, Edwards could rise into that "next" group of quarterbacks challenging to be among the top five taken off the board next April.
- Notre Dame offensive guard Dan Santucci may not get the same coverage or acclaim as his fellow teammates on offense, but anyone that watches his tapes from the first two games and back into last season will notice a consistent blocker with flashes of dominance and a real nasty streak when finishing his blocks.
The senior holds up well when asked to make blocks on the move and in pass protection, and was consistently on top of his defender in Saturday's win over Penn State. He should get a featured matchup against Michigan junior defensive tackle Alan Branch, who has the type of size (6-foot-5, 335 pounds) and strength to bull-rush most opponents. But Santucci uses his hands very well and his technique should be able to withstand the punishment.
A former defensive lineman, he brings that type of mentality and aggressive play on a weekly basis and is being seen as a Jeff Hartings type of NFL prospect as more than a few area scouts have him rated as the top guard on their draft board.
- Tennessee senior defensive tackle Justin Harrell, who inquired about declaring early for the 2006 NFL draft, will miss the rest of the season after suffering a ruptured bicep in his left arm against Air Force. The injury will require surgery, but it should allow him to return at 100 percent next year if he decides to request an extra season from the NCAA. (He would not immediately qualify for a medical redshirt since he was redshirted as a freshman.) Harrell had been given a second-round grade by the NFL advisory board this past January, but he opted to return to Knoxville hoping to become a possible top-20 choice this year.
- Hawaii senior defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis recorded six tackles and a pair of QB hurries against Alabama in the Warriors' season opener. Virtually unknown outside of a few West Coast scouts, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Alama-Francis recorded 7½ tackles for loss and five sacks as a junior, making him a dark horse pass rusher among the evaluators that have had the chance to watch his tapes. He is a former basketball player with long arms and has a very quick first step. He also has the type of long, lean frame built for adding weight and strength as he matures over the next few years.
- Purdue senior wide receiver Kyle Ingraham will sit out this season in order to concentrate on his academics after being declared ineligible by the NCAA. He has stated to team officials that he plans to return to the Boilermakers for his final campaign next year. His height (6-foot-8) and long arms gained him a lot of early attention, but his average speed had created some issues as to what type of pro prospect he could be.
- Penn State senior running back Austin Scott has decided to accept a medical redshirt after missing the Nittany Lions' first two games while trying to overcome ankle and knee injuries. Scott will have one year of eligibility remaining, but he will also not have to face the challenge of teammate Tony Hunt, a senior who currently leads the team in rushing.
SMALL SCHOOL WONDERS
- Remember this name: Kendall Langford. The junior defensive lineman from Hampton is the "next big thing" to come from a historically black college program. Currently being coached by former NFL cornerback Jerry Holmes, the 6-foot-6, 290-pound Langford has played both end and tackle, as he possesses tremendous athleticism to match his long wingspan and non-stop motor. He blocked one of three kicks against Grambling State, then added five tackles in a key MEAC win over Howard last weekend. Langford should challenge to be the highest drafted player ever to come out of Hampton (cornerback Cordell Taylor was chosen 57th overall by Jacksonville in 1998).
- Humboldt (Calif.) State senior linebacker Trey Randall returned to action after nearly two years away from the game with an amazing performance against Central Washington. He led the Lumberjacks with 13 tackles (three of them for losses) and 1½ sacks while making two crucial fourth-down tackles, one of which came at the goal line. The Louisiana-Lafayette transfer sat out after transferring from the Division I-A program, then lost last season due to an academic issue that developed from a transcript error. The 6-foot, 220-pound prospect is playing weakside linebacker this season, but he also has played strong safety in the past. With 40 times between 4.53 and 4.56 seconds, Randall has the speed to be evaluated at both positions in the postseason.
- Wisconsin-Whitewater wide receiver/return man Derek Stanley, a speed demon with a reported 40 time of 4.28 last spring, took his Division III success to a whole new level in his team's opening-week 75-14 destruction of Lakeland College. The senior caught eight passes for 196 yards and four touchdowns and returned two kickoffs for 33 yards, and he also recorded one tackle and forced a fumble on special teams. Oh, he did all of this in just two quarters of play. At 5-foot-9 and 183 pounds, Stanley has average size, but his ability to stretch the field – even on reverses – has already captured the attention of a handful of Midwest area scouts.
- Mansfield (Pa.) senior offensive lineman Jamar Foulks, who is playing his third year inside at center after moving out to left tackle as a junior, is following in the footsteps of Bloomsburg's Jahri Evans, who was drafted by the Saints after great success as a blocker in the PSAC. At just over 6-foot-3 and 340 pounds, Foulks is very well proportioned with the type of thick lower body that can anchor an interior line spot in the NFL. He also moves fairly well for his size and brings good intangibles, being a team leader and making all the calls for his linemates.
- Yale senior offensive lineman Edward McCarthy, who has played both center and offensive tackle during his college career, has put area scouts from NFL teams on notice that he has the size (6-foot-4, 320), technique and intelligence to be further evaluated. To date, three to five teams have shown legitimate interest in his ability by sending scouts to watch both practices and games.
- Southeast Missouri State senior punter David Simonhoff has averaged 45.7 yards per punt on his first nine attempts of the season, including a long of 71 yards. He has a terrific leg, having averaged 42.8 yards per punt as a junior, and he should put himself on the path towards securing one of the few NFL combine spots reserved for specialists like him.