Even though the top signal callers entering the season (Cullen Harper, Curtis Painter and Hunter Cantwell) haven’t lived up to the hype, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any talent available in the senior class for next year’s draft. Over the last month, I’ve noted that Graham Harrell (Texas Tech), Nathan Brown (Central Arkansas) and Mike Reilly (Central Washington) are rising up draft charts and have the opportunity to play their way into a good position to be selected between the third and fourth rounds. A player that hasn’t received much hype and rarely gets discussed, even while posting incredible numbers, is Rice University’s Chase Clement. Just like another Chase (Daniel), who also hails from the State of Texas, he is undersized and a bit of an underdog. But, Clement is efficient and can dissect a defense with decision-making. In seven games this season, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound fifth-year senior has completed 64.4-percent of his passes for 2,192 yards, 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions. One thing that Clement offers an offense that Daniel doesn’t is his ability to make plays with his legs. Clement has also rushed for 345 yards on 90 carries and five touchdowns. This past weekend against Southern Miss, Clement torched the Eagles in a 45 – 40 win, completing 69.8-percent of his passes for 444 yards, six touchdowns and an interception. Over the last three weeks, Clement has been on fire completing 66.9-percent of his passes for 1,063 yards, 13 touchdowns and two interceptions, leading the Owls to a 2 – 1 record during that period. The best case scenario for Clement moving forward is to be a mid-round selection next April. He needs to have a good showing at a postseason all-star game and prove that he’s worthy of a team taking a shot on him as a developmental quarterback at the next level.
After recording 16 sacks last season, Middleton has only amassed one this year.
It’s always frustrating to see an elite talent struggle, especially after showing such promise the year before. There isn’t a player in the country having a more disappointing season than Indiana’s junior defensive end Greg Middleton. As a sophomore, Middleton had a breakout season where he recorded 16 sacks, and that sack artistry put him on the map as a player on the rise. He was quick off the line, used his hands and strength to his advantage and feasted on quarterbacks. But through seven games this season, Middleton has just one sack to his credit and looks a step slower. Prior to the season, I interviewed Middleton on a number of topics, and one question that I asked him was about his conditioning, and if anything had changed this offseason; “I gained a little weight, and now I’m just trying to get into shape,” Middleton said during an exclusive Scout.com Q&A back in August. “With the weight that I have on me right now; my conditioning never falls off too bad, as long as I keep working out. But for the most part I just put on more weight, and now I have to get comfortable at my size.” It appears the added bulk has affected Middleton in many ways. He’s struggling to get off double teams, he doesn’t move as well laterally and he isn’t getting off blocks consistently. Last season, Middleton had 50 tackles, 17 for a loss, and this season, he has only 10 tackles and his lone sack being the only play made behind the line of scrimmage. At one point, Middleton appeared to be a sure first round pick if he decided to enter the 2009 draft. But after what’s transpired this season, it would be wise for him to stay in school for his senior year.
When you talk about productive running backs in college football, you tend to think about the known names like Chris Wells, Knowshon Moreno, Javon Ringer, etc… But a player you probably never heard of is tearing up Division I-AA: Western Illinois’ Herb Donaldson. The 5-foot-10, 225-pound Donaldson over the previous two seasons amassed 2,908 yards on 492 carries (5.9 YPC) and 28 touchdowns. Through seven games this season, Donaldson has carried the ball 192 times for 1,092 yards (5.7 YPC) and 16 touchdowns. Donaldson has the opportunity to ascend similar to the way former Tulane running back Matt Forte did last season. Forte was once thought of as a mid-round selection prior to the draft process, but after showcasing a variety of skills and impressive speed at the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine, Forte ultimately heard his name come off the board in the second round (Chicago Bears). Donaldson possesses great size and vision, but his top-end speed is questionable. For Donaldson to climb up the charts the way Forte did last season, he will have to run well during the postseason and show he’s capable of being a receiver out of the backfield.
You have to feel for Boston College linebacker Brian Toal. The 6-foot, 239-pound Toal has dealt with neck and shoulder injuries during his collegiate career, which were magnified last season when he suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The injury required him to undergo season-ending surgery and take a medical redshirt to play a fifth-year at BC. This past weekend, Toal, who was having a great season recording 42 tackles, four for a loss and two sacks, broke his right fibula, which will end his career with the Eagles. When healthy, Toal is a physical, instinctive player, who uses his quickness to be a force against the run and to make plays in the backfield. Prior to the injury, I thought Toal had a shot at being an early fourth round selection. But with this latest injury, I don’t see him being drafted, as teams will be scared away by his injury history.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.