Category Archives: NFL Draft film room

Zi’Yon Hill-Green: Name change, but same game

It is not often that a player changes his name. In Zyon Hill’s case, the Father’s Day change to the new name (nearly a half-year ago) was an ode to his stepfather. Chris Green had been raising Hill since he was one years old.

On the field, there haven’t been many alterations for the 6-foot, 290-pounder’s game. He has always played bigger than his size and that has resulted in a number of challenges over time.

Entering the team’s final game against Texas State, Louisiana needs Hill-Green to put his best foot forward. A win could ensure the Ragin Cajuns a sixth win and possible bowl berth.

But there is more on the line for Hill-Green.

Over the years, he’s dealt with a bevy of scrapes and bruises that have forced some missed starts. In 2021, he even missed time due to a lower body injury.

“His career here started with an injury…..in the summer when he got here,” ULL-head coach Michael Desormeaux said. “It seems like for him it’s been battling that, managing that and pushing through those things his whole career. Our kids see him every day, they know the shape that he’s in after a game.” (https://ragincajuns.com/news/2022/10/31/football-michael-desormeaux-press-conference-oct-31-2022.aspx).

It has truly been a full body experience for the sixth-year Super Senior.

Zi'Yon Green-Hill working in the pregame vs. UAB in 2020
Green-Hill (No. 4 pictured) put together one of the better performances in school history this past season,

Despite the setbacks, Hill-Green’s school-record 21.5 career quarterback sacks have come due to a combination of quickness, lower body torque and endurance. Frequently, he has been at his best late in games (see Georgia Southern ’20).

The former Catholic High School (La.) product plays like he weighs at least 20-to-30 more pounds with the heavy-handed approach taking on guards or double teams. Not only does he fight versus double teams, but he can win by playing to half a man as a pass rusher. All in all, it has resulted in an impressive total of 33 tackles for losses. Hill-Green is a big reason the team has played in four conference championship games the last four seasons.

It is a not a fact that gets lost on first-year Louisiana head coach Michael Desormeaux, who himself put up two 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a former standout quarterback at the school.

“On the field, it’s easy to see how important he (Hill-Green) is,” Desormeaux explained. “In the run game, the throw game, he’s constantly putting pressure on the quarterbacks. He wins one-on-one battles. He commands a double team and when he doesn’t get one, he’s a problem for the other team.”

And on the days when Hill-Green has not been able to practice due to the myriad of injury hiccups?

“He’s coaching the D-line, the other guys that are in there,” said Desormeaux. “It’s not a day off for him. That’s why he is able to go out and perform at a high level. The guy knows the defense front and back.”

Hill-Green posted just one tackle versus Florida State in a 49-17 defeat last weekend.

Facing a pass-oriented offense this time around against Layne Hatcher and the Texas State Bobcats, can Hill-Green pick up at least a half-sack to break the school record?

Perhaps as long as things get back to normal and don’t change as they did a week ago.

NickNok

No matter when you turn on the film, Wisconsin OLB Nick Herbig shows up.

To the tune of 21 quarterback sacks and 36 tackles for losses over a three-year period (through 11-19-22).

Look no further than last year’s 2021 Las Vegas Bowl.

In that contest, he was dominant from the first through fourth quarter.

Final stat line: 7 tackles, 2 QB sacks, 2.5 TFLs

But his presence shows up well beyond the numbers.

In the Iowa contest a couple of weeks ago, he set the edge versus offensive tackle Jack Plumb on the first play of the game. The result? He dropped him to the ground with a simple two-hand jolt.

Is Herbig even 6-foot-2? That is the question many NFL teams will have to ponder when projecting him to the outside or inside exchange linebacker spot (most likely Will linebacker).

New Orleans Saints linebacker Zach Baun had a similar impact as a rush artist for the Badgers, but has since struggled in his transition to off the ball linebacker in the NFL.

The difference?

Baun was much more of a one-year wonder in terms of dominant production.

Herbig has averaged over a tackle for loss per game (1.2) since arriving on campus three years ago.

And how he does it is different.

He sets the edge versus tight ends (see 3rd QTR, Las Vegas Bowl ’21-Chenal’s tackle for loss).

By no means are there not repetitions where he can look outmatched versus longer personnel (see vs. Diesch, 3rd and 9, 2nd QTR, Las Vegas Bowl ’21). At the same time, however, his combativeness allows him to run through bigger tackles off the edge with an element of ferocity (QB sack, 4th QTR, vs. Scott, Las Vegas Bowl ’21).

He bends his knees well to break down for space tackles and generally plays with solid footwork. He gets on top of offensive tackles due to no false steps coming off the line of scrimmage.

“It’s a great presence. Him rushing off the edge, it’s nothing like it,” Badgers cornerback Alexander Smith explained. “He’s one of the best in the country. It helps us a lot on the back end and in the secondary. We don’t have to cover for that long.” (https://madison.com/sports/college/video_485364cb-be3e-5051-a9a8-ffd3ba138a2b.html).

Nick Herbig (No. 19 pictured) walked out over Arizona State's tight end Jalin Conyers in the 2021 Las Vegas Bowl
Wisconsin’s Nick Herbig leads the Big Ten in sacks (through 11-19-22), but he has also broken up six passes over the last two seasons.

Herbig does flash some coverage capability dropping into the curl-hook areas of the field on some of the team’s zone blitz concepts (see NMSU ’22), but has largely been used to create havoc in the backfield.

Can he snap the pictures in a timely fashion to produce in an exchange linebacker capacity?

Will it matter if Herbig continues to defeat tackles? His suddenness complements enough pop to jolt back offensive linemen.

Even if he doesn’t make it at that position, however, there are other examples of players in his size/weight/speed ratio who have begun to have success rushing the passer.

While many point to Baun’s slow transition to the NFL, what about New Orleans Saints 2019 seventh-round draft pick Kaden Elliss? Elliss had to wait to get an opportunity as a late-round draft pick, but he has slowly turned into a viable pass rusher at 238 pounds.

In fact, Elliss has nearly as many starts this season (six) as Baun’s over a three-year period (seven).

In Herbig’s case, the actual final measurements (he was just over 200 pounds entering Wisconsin) could be the most important part of his evaluation process.

Regardless of the weight, everyone believes in the recipe. Just ask Wisconsin’s top pro prospect and fellow team captain, defensive tackle Keeanu Benton:

“Nick’s a dawg,” Benton said. “Even when he was gone (due to injury), he was bringing that energy on the sideline. Making sure everybody was upbeat. That’s my dawg. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him.” (https://badgerextra.com/a-healthy-nick-herbig-changes-wisconsins-defense/video_6b99a110-45ee-5821-ada2-ccb27aa6d202.html).

Just in the Nick of time

There has to be a place for Appalachian State’s Nick Hampton on the next level.

If there is a play to be made, the Mountaineer will find a way to make it. In 2022, he changed his number from 31 to nine. There has been no subtraction from his steady four-year run of production.

Over the course of the last four seasons (through 10-2-22), Hampton has tallied 36 tackles for losses. That total includes 24.5 quarterback sacks.

Not bad for a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder.

Nick Hampton OLB Appalachian State
There are few defenders who have been productive as Mountaineers OLB Nick Hampton.

So how does he consistently win rushing the passer?

Although relatively high in his two-point stance, he can turn the corner when running the hoop. Hampton uses his 81-inch wingspan to keep blockers off of his frame when twisting from the outside-in on stunts (3rd and 9, 3rd QTR, ECU ’21).

Cleaning up the false step that he has getting out of his two-point stance at either outside linebacker spot could be a focus. Even with it, he transfers speed-to-power on occasion versus much bigger offensive tackles.

Nick Hampton lines up on the kickoff team
Nick Hampton has made a number of plays on the team’s kickoff team during the course of his career.

Team have to prepare for the work he puts forth on the kick coverage units as well, where his skill at dislodging from blockers has paid dividends in the past (see 1st QTR, ECU ’21).

In 2022, Hampton has gotten off to another fast start after finishing second in the Sun Belt Conference with 11 quarterback sacks as a junior.

The former Westside High School (S.C.) product puts up amazing numbers in the weight room (600-lb sumo deadlift according to Appalachian State’s website-https://appstatesports.com/sports/football/roster/nick-hampton/7624) and matches them with similar production on the field. He should impress with his testing numbers whenever he declares for the draft.

However, it is the numbers he puts up on the field that continue to draw praise from opposing teams.

Want proof?

Check out his miles per hour when chasing some of college football’s fastest players (runs down ECU RB Keaton Mitchell, 3rd QTR, ECU ’21).

Mitchell hit 22.6 miles per hour on an 81-yard touchdown run against Old Dominion in 2022. This is this fastest time recorded in college football this season.

So how fast is Hampton?

He gets to most of his destinations in just the Nick of time.

Avila continues to flash voracity

The TCU running game has been on fire this year and part of the reason revolves around the team’s interior offensive line. Led by Esteban Avila (6’4 339) and SMU transfer Alan Ali (6’5, 300), there are a number of possibilities down-to-down with their inside run schemes.

Look no further than TCU’s fourth quarter goal line touchdown against SMU two weeks ago. The Mustangs aligned in a three-man front with two stacked linebackers. Ali (6’3, 300) sat on zero-or-one-technique nose guard Terrance Newman early in the down, allowing Avila to quickly climb to SMU linebacker and Oregon transfer Isaac Slade-Matautia. After left tackle Brandon Coleman controlled defensive end DeVere Levelston, it provided a walk-in touchdown for running back Emari Demercado.

Earlier in the third quarter, Avila flashed an adequate ability to get out in front for Demercado on a screen pass that netted a big gain for the Horned Frogs. On the play, Avila hit a moving target in space (LB Shanon Reid) to open up hidden yardage for Demercado.

Both of these plays occurred while Avila manned the left guard spot.

When Ali left the game briefly in the third quarter due to injury, Avila slid over to the center position. This is the spot he started at during his second-team All-Big 12 campaign as a junior. As a left-handed snapper, he is most comfortable in pass protection going left, but his overall awareness remains more than satisfactory at the position.

TCU Steve Avila practicing center snap vs. SMU in 2022
TCU offensive lineman Steve Avila, pictured, has started at all of the three interior line spots for the Horned Frogs. He moved to center for a couple of snaps against SMU when starter Alan Ali went down to injury.

The question for NFL teams will inevitably revolve around his projection in zone-based run schemes. The Horned Frogs All-Big 12 lineman most likely projects in a man blocking scheme due to a few hiccups reaching opponents laterally on a consistent basis. With that said he started at all three interior line spots as a sophomore in 2020. The theme has continued thus far in 2022.

The four-year starter gobbles up defenders half or equal to his size and -once he gets his hands on the opposition- can be tough to dislodge from down-to-down. The quick hands alternate when punching while sitting down to anchor. His trunk strength and bulk frequently wins for him in the elevator battles without having to jump around to catch his opponents.

As is typical of most Horned Frogs, Avila showcases voracity on the field.

Here’s Johnny

The Florida State Seminoles (4-1) lost a hard-fought 31-21 contest to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1) last weekend, but it did not take away from the early season performance of wide receiver Johnny Wilson (6’7 235). The Pacoima, California native and Arizona State transfer had limited productivity for the Sun Devils due to a 2021 hamstring injury.

Wilson’s touches go back-and-forth depending on the team’s game plans from week-to-week. What doesn’t get noticed is the blocking downfield that has been at least adequate through five games. This provides him with possibilities as an F or H-back-type for the next level.

It has not all been perfect.

FSU WR Johnny Wilson versus LSU in Week 1 of the 2022 campaign
Wilson (No. 14 pictured) is often required to use his 6-foot-7, 235-pound frame to block opponents in the run game.

In some of those cases, Wilson has overrun crack block opportunities versus safeties (see vs. Burns, 3rd QTR, LSU ’22). In addition, the former Sun Devil was unable to corral a potential slant-and-go touchdown grab in the end zone versus the cornerback when LSU safety Jay Ward knocked the ball out of his hand (3rd QTR, LSU ’22).

Those missed chances do not erase the numerous pass interference penalties he has drawn versus quick, fluid cornerbacks (see Clark, Louisville ’22). The stride length (five yards in first three steps) presents different pictures for cornerbacks. Wilson tallied nearly 150 yards in this contest (7 receptions, 149 yards, TD vs. Louisville ’22). He turned around Cardinals safety Kenderick Duncan, Jr. on a post route that led to a 69-yard catch-and-run. His full extension high-point touchdown grab in the fourth quarter versus cornerback Jarvis Brownlee, Jr. was artistic. All three of his touchdowns this season have come in the fourth quarter.

There are still some high-level opponents for him to overcome the rest of the year. NC State’s defense should provide one-on-one opportunities if they commit to stopping FSU’s powerful ground game. Can they shut down the Seminoles three-headed monster of running backs Treshaun Ward, Trey Benson and Lawrance Toafili? The trio has combined for nine rushing touchdowns. Conversely, the Wolfpack defense is allowing a measly 3.4 yards per carry and ranks 15th nationally in rushing defense (as of 10-3-22).

If so, then Wilson’s size and catch radius have to win in isolation on the outside for the Seminoles. Perhaps surprisingly, FSU ranks 35th nationally in passing offense (278 YPG) thus far in 2022. This represents nearly a 77-yard improvement over last season’s final totals. Wilson’s 18.8 yards per reception (19 catches) certainly ranks as a big part of the team’s sudden resurgence through the air.

Tomorrow’s performance could bring more spotlight for the budding star in Tallahassee.

Here’s Johnny.

2021 Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl, In-game report, 12-21-21: SDSU vs. 24) UTSA

The 2021 Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl was the first of two bowl games in three days to take place at Toyota Stadium, the home of the FC Dallas Burn. The game pitted two teams that entered the game with a combined total of 23 victories. In a contest that largely lived up to the billing, the Brady Hoke-led Aztecs (12-2) took over the contest in the second half to win 38-24. It was just the second loss for the 24th-ranked Roadrunners (12-2), who have turned into one of the nation’s up-and-coming programs under Texas high school coaching legend and 2021 C-USA Coach of the Year Jeff Traylor.

DraftNasty’s Corey Chavous’ in-game report goes into quarterback Lucas Johnson, who recently entered the transfer portal, along with RB Greg Bell, OG William Dunkle, OT Zachary Thomas, TE Daniel Bellinger, PK/P Matt Araiza and DE Keshawn Banks, among others.

CJ Baskerville celebrating his interception in the 2021 Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl
Baskerville (No. 34 pictured jumping) had nine tackles and one interception to earn Defensive MVP honors in the 2021 Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.

Chavous discusses who won the highly-anticipated battle between UTSA offensive tackle Spencer Burford and SDSU defensive end Cameron Thomas. In addition, he goes inside the bowl game MVP performances from wide receiver Jesse Matthews and safety CJ Baskerville.

2021 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl, In-game Report, 12-18-21

The 2021 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl featured a battle between the 12th-ranked BYU Cougars (10-3) and the UAB Blazers (9-4) in Shreveport, Louisiana on December 18th. DraftNasty’s Corey Chavous breaks down the game’s turning points, the state of both programs and the top pro prospects on each of the teams. In a back-and-forth battle, the Blazers outlasted the Cougars.

The Blazers were led by running back DeWayne McBride (5’11, 215, SOPH), who rushed for 183 yards on 28 carries behind an offensive line featuring LT Kadeem Telfort (6’8, 335, R-JR) and RT Colby Ragland (6’5, 315, R-SR). Chavous breaks down both in the video, along with their star deep threats in tight end Gerrit Prince (6’5, 240, R-SR) and junior wide receiver Trea Shropshire (6’3 195, JR).

UAB redshirt senior tight end Gerrit Prince caught four passes for 43 yards and two touchdowns in the 2021 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl.

On the other side, BYU had a stalwart of its own in star running back Tyler Allgeier (5’11, 220, R-SOPH). Allgeier finished with 192 tough yards and averaged 7.1 yards per carry. Playing without injured quarterback Jaren Hall (6’1, 205, SOPH), the team turned to the Romneys, Baylor (6’2, 195, SOPH) and Gunner (6’2, 195, JR) to get it done in support. But it was one of BYU’s freshman defenders who stood out. Find out who it was in Corey Chavous’ video in-game report.

Rashawn Slater OT-Northwestern: “Slater slayin”

Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater has all of the requisite tools to suggest he can become an intriguing starting option for NFL teams. The 37-game Big Ten starter is light on his feet and finishes assignments with tenacity. Despite weighing in the 305-pound range, Slater plays a much bigger game on Saturday afternoons. The Clements High School (Tex.) product has shown an ability to play on either side of the offensive line.

Rashawn Slater pictured in the 2018 SDCU Holiday Bowl
During his career, Slater (pictured in the 2018 Holiday Bowl) started at both tackle spots for the Wildcats.

Zach Wilson QB-BYU: 2021 NFL Draft Preview

Former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson led the Cougars to two bowl victories and three bowl game appearances during his three-year run in Provo. After recovering from injury setbacks as a sophomore, he led his team to an 11-1 record in 2020. Prior to injury in 2019, Wilson faced what proved to be the stiffest competition of his career. In a three-week span, BYU took on Tennessee, Southern Cal and Washington. He found a way to win two of the three contests. We look back at some of best moments during the stretch.

Tutu Atwell WR-Louisville: 2021 NFL Draft Preview

Louisville wide receiver Tutu Atwell had already left his mark with the Cardinals in just two seasons on campus. The speedy 5-foot-9 wideout is perhaps the ACC’s toughest one-on-one tackle in the open field. The former Miami Northwestern High School (Fla.) Miami-Dade County Player of the Year starred as a quarterback at the prep level. His on-field savvy is present when diagnosing either zone or man coverage. Atwell led the ACC in receiving yards in 2019 (1,276) and finished second in receiving touchdowns (12). While he didn’t repeat the success in 2020, he stills ranks as one of the more electrifying players in the 2021 NFL Draft.