Sorry for the delay; been backlogged with other stuff, but some information about Georgia Tech's draft possibles. While little is definite at this point in the process, it's conceivable between two and, if stars align, five players could be drafted, all of them players recruited by coach Paul Johnson in his first two years. Three seems the most likely. Tech has had one player drafted in each of the past two years, wide receiver Stephen Hill last year and running back Anthony Allen in 2011. Tech had four players - defensive end Derrick Morgan, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, safety Morgan Burnett and running back Jonathan Dwyer - selected in 2010. The last five-player Tech draft class was 2004 - linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive end Tony Hargrove, linebacker Keyaron Fox, offensive tackle Nat Dorsey and wide receiver Jonathan Smith.
1. Former Georgia Tech defensive end Izaan Cross looks like a fourth- or fifth-round pick to ESPN draft analyst Steve Muench. Cross helped himself with his play at the East-West Shrine Game, according to Muench, among a number of observations made about Tech’s draft hopefuls.
To Muench, Cross didn’t overwhelm, but showed good power and use of his hands. Muench noted that, even when he couldn’t reach the quarterback on pass rush, he got his hands up in the air to disrupt passing lanes.
“He didn’t have great burst or speed, (but) he moves pretty well laterally,” Muench said. “He did a pretty good job of getting around blocks.”
His greatest strength, to Muench, is his ability to defend against the run. Cross was measured at 6-foot-2, two inches shorter than his listed height at Tech, but has 33-inch arms, which is “not great, but it’s not a liability,” Muench said.
Cross looks like a nose tackle in a 4-3 defense to Muench and a possible end in a 3-4. That versatility should help him in what is a deep class for defensive tackles.
2. Cornerback Rod Sweeting didn’t have a good week, in Muench’s estimation. Sweeting looked solid at times, he said, but also had some trouble with his footwork.
“I don’t think he’s an elite athlete, but I think he’s athletic enough and quick enough,” Muench said.
From watching Sweeting’s 2011 game tape, Muench anticipated that Sweeting would make more plays this season. As was the case with a number of players, Sweeting struggled through the season. He finished with one interception, in the Sun Bowl, though he led the team with seven pass breakups. Muench noted one play from the Shrine Game week when he undercut a route to position himself for an interception only to have the ball slip through his hands. Muench saw him as a sub-package cornerback.
Muench said that he dropped Sweeting’s grade while raising Cross’, so they’re now about in the same 4-5 slot. Sweeting does have good size for a cornerback – 5-11, 182.
3. While defensive tackle T.J. Barnes was at the Raycom All-Star Football Classic, Muench offered to go back and look at Barnes’ video from the ACC Championship game.
“He flashes a little bit,” Muench said. “He’s definitely strong, but he’s not a great athlete by any stretch, but he moves well enough for a player his size to contribute at the next level.”
To Muench, Barnes, despite his size, is not the classic two-gap defender who can eat up two blocks, because first, he plays with a narrow base, and second (and probably more importantly), his height (6-7) puts him at a leverage disadvantage since it’s harder to keep his pad level low. Against FSU, Seminoles linemen were able to move him laterally with double teams in their zone-blocking scheme.
“He’s just not that guy that’s going to be a stout 3-4 nose tackle that’ll consistently occupy blockers, in my opinion,” Muench said.
Muench sees him as a late-round pick or possible undrafted free agent. Due to his size and his flashes of playmaking ability, “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone took a chance on him late,” Muench said.
Barnes can likely help himself a great deal if he is fit and conditioned for Tech’s pro day.
4. Muench passed along comments from colleague Kevin Weidl, who saw former A-back Orwin Smith at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, Calif. Weidl’s observation was that Smith showed decent vision and ability to read blocks, which stand as positives for Smith. Given that Smith didn’t have to pick holes like a traditional tailback in the Tech offense, the fact that he was at least passable at that skill with a week’s practice indicates some natural ability. That, coupled with Smith’s quickness and good hands, bodes well.
“If you can see that improve over the course of the week, it’s encouraging that he can carry that out and continue to do that and get better,” Muench said.
Smith projects as a late-round pick, according to Muench.
5. Guard Omoregie Uzzi was invited to the Shrine game but did not play due to an injury, according to game organizers. That obviously leaves a question to be answered for scouts when he is evaluated. Unfortunately for Uzzi, the week represented his best opportunity to showcase his pass-blocking ability.
He will likely get worked over a good bit at Tech’s pro day, which takes place March 14.
“They will ask him to move laterally, they’ll look at 10-yard splits to see how quick he is coming out of his stance,” Muench said. “There’s other ways of evaluating whether he can make the jump to the pro-style system.”
Uzzi, listed at 6-3, 300, may want to put on more good weight. The weights of guards drafted in 2012 – 293, 300, 309, 312, 314, 316, 319, 320, 321, 324, 325, 335, 343. Tech coaches have wanted linemen to play lighter, so that may not be a great challenge.
My thanks to Muench. You can follow him on Twitter at @muenchespn.
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