Tag Archives: Michigan State

2019 NFL Draft: Cornering the market

The 2019 NFL Draft has long been lauded for a deep class of interior and exterior defensive linemen. One position -although devoid of Top 10 talent- that has unique depth is the cornerback spot. We take a look at three players from that position group.

Justin Layne 6’2 185 Michigan State

Layne has a smooth style accompanied by defensive end-like arm length (33″). The former college wide receiver posted 30 touchdowns as a prep level star at Benedictine High School (Ohio). For a taller corner, he flips his hips relatively well in man-to-man coverage. We were surprised at his ability to react off of the wide receiver’s block of the safety in crack-and-replace situations to tackle.

The former Spartan needs to monitor allowing his motor-press technique turning into a backpedal at the line of scrimmage. This has allowed easy access on quick slants. On the plus side, however, this same technique keeps him in the hip pocket of receivers. In these instances, he is adept at playing through the hands of wideouts with his back turned to the quarterback in man-to-man coverage (PBU, 4th QTR/5:07, Utah State; PBU, 4th QTR/5:07, Penn State vs. Johnson).

NFL teams hold Layne in relatively high regard and we expect him to possibly come off the board at least by the end of Day 2 next weekend.

Corey Ballentine 5’11 196 Washburn

Ballentine averaged nearly 31 yards per kickoff return as a junior at the Division II level. In 46 career games, he forced four fumbles and displayed a knack for blocking kicks (three in 2018). The first-team All-MIAA performer uses adequate technique in press-man coverage and has shown the ability to close on crossing routes that break away from him. Despite recording just five interceptions in school, he has a natural feel and comfort finding the football due to his footwork, hip flexibility and confident disposition.

Ballenine posted a 10.51 100-meter time for the Washburn track & field squad. The 2018 Cliff Harris Award winner posted an 11’3″ broad jump at the 2019 NFL Combine.

For him to transition from the D2 level to the pros, the 2018 Cliff Harris Award winner will have to concentrate on playing a little bit lower in his stance. This would eliminate him from reacting too dramatically to hard jab steps, which he has a tendency to do on occasion. Teams that have Ballentine in mind will be comforted by the fact that he was a part of the team’s kickoff and punt return units, while also returning the kickoffs referenced earlier. The former Washburn track & field sprinter posted a 21.2-second time in the 200-meters while in school.

Jordan Brown 6’0 201 South Dakota State

We were fortunate to see Brown play in person during the team’s playoff contest against Kennesaw State in December 2018 and we were impressed with his down-to-down awareness. The Jackrabbits team captain is another former wide receiver with the skills to play off-man or bump-and-run.

Brown (pictured pointing) finished his career with 148 tackles, 6 TFLs, 4 FFs, 8 INTs and 27 PBUs. He was a two-time first-team All-MVFC selection and AP third-team All-American in 2018.

The Kennesaw State contest required him to play disciplined football because of the Owls’ diverse triple-option attack. His fourth quarter plant-and-drive on a quick three-step hitch created a tip that was intercepted by a teammate. The turnover sealed the game for the team. He believed his indicators and drove on the football with force. We were not as impressed with his inability to protect his thigh boards in this game, but he has exhibited solid tackling technique on film. Maintaining eye control will be key for Brown in his next level ascension (see Southern Illinois ’18).

Central Michigan vs. Michigan State, 9-29-18: In-game report

An in-state rivalry pitted the Big Ten against the MAC. Michigan State used a stifling run defense to defeat Central Michigan, 31-20.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:

48 Kenny Willekes (6’4 249) Michigan State DE- Junior

Willekes is the most impactful player on the Spartans defense through four games this season.  The junior defensive end added another sack on Saturday to set his total at four for the season. Willekes showed a strong bull rush against Central Michigan and used a rip move to get upfield and force a sack to end the first half. The Rockford, Michigan native anchors a defense that has held opponents to under 70 rushing yards in each game this season. If there is one weakness in Willekes game it’s his lateral quickness.  The junior got caught lost in space when a toss came his way and he couldn’t get outside quick enough to turn the run back inside. The former walk-on should continue to be a factor in the Big Ten and has a game reminiscent of ex-Spartan and former San Francisco 49er Marcus Rush. 

3 Sean Bunting (6’1 181) Central Michigan CB- Junior

Bunting rose to the challenge of blanketing the Spartans best wide receiver, Felton Davis (6’4, 200), on Saturday.  Despite giving up a few inches, Bunting was able to get in Davis’ chest with a quick punch to get the receiver off of his routes.  Bunting used the press coverage to his advantage to pick off a pass in the red zone. The interception was Bunting’s eighth in his career.  Michigan State managed just 185 passing yards and Bunting was a huge reason why.  Look for the junior to continue to add to his already impressive resume’. 

14 Brian Lewerke (6’3 220) Michigan State QB- Junior

Head coach Mark Dantonio  is no stranger to coaching NFL-caliber quarterbacks: Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer, Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook have all spent time in the NFL after their years in East Lansing. Lewerke has the potential to add himself to the list and is the most athletic of the bunch.  The junior quarterback used his legs to rush for two touchdowns against the Chippewas.   After sitting in the pocket, Lewerke turned his back to the pass rush and scored a touchdown to give MSU a 14-3 lead.  The physical tools are all there for Lewerke but you would like to see the junior quarterback cut down on the turnovers.  The Phoenix native threw an interception to the aforementioned Bunting, which he could have thrown away instead of forcing it to Davis, who after being jammed at the line ran a slant that allowed the cornerback to come underneath the route. For the season, Lewerke has thrown five touchdowns and five interceptions.  As the Spartans deal with injuries at their skill positions and along the offensive line, more will be asked of the junior quarterback in terms of decision-making. 

2018 Preview: Maryland Terrapins

Season outlook

The Maryland Terrapins enter the 2018 season looking to become bowl-eligible for the second time under third-year head coach D.J. Durkin.  Amid a controversial summer that included the sad circumstances and death of freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair, Durkin was placed on administrative leave. Highly-regarded assistant coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada will serve as the team’s interim head coach in Durkin’s absence.

After a disappointing 2017 season, Terrapins fans are hoping for a return to a bowl game in 2018.

Last season, the Terps finished 4-8 overall and 2-7 in the Big Ten. Maryland has been able to put points on the board under Durkin and with a strong offensive line led by center Brendan Moore (6’3, 302), that should remain the status quo in 2018. Last year, the Terps lost their two top quarterbacks: junior Tyrell Pigrome (5’11, 205) and sophomore Kasim Hill (6’2, 234), to season-ending injuries during the first two weeks of the season. Maryland will have to shore up the quarterback position during summer camp. On defense, Durkin has led top-level units at both Florida and Michigan, but that side of the ball hasn’t enjoyed the same success in Maryland. Senior defensive end Jesse Aniebonam (6’3, 260) suffered a fractured ankle during week one of last season but if he can return healthy in 2018, he could make life a lot easier on the Terps defense. 

Troy’s player to watch

6 Ty Johnson 5’10 212 RB-Senior
With D.J. Moore entering the NFL (2018 NFL Draft, 1st Round, 24th overall pick), Ty Johnson will take over as the featured weapon in Canada’s offense. Johnson finished last season with 875 rushing yards and six total touchdowns. The senior running back’s production is a good gauge for the Terrapins offense. In the Terrapins four wins last season, Johnson averaged 9.9 yards per carry. In its eight losses, he averaged just 4.5 yards per carry. Canada has had stops in Wisconsin, Pittsburgh and LSU over the last six years. All of those schools have hung their hats on running the ball, which could lead to increased production for Johnson. 

Game of the season

September 15th vs. Temple
Maryland has some marquee matchups on its schedule but the home opener against Temple will be a big one. The Terrapins have to play Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State in conference play, which means racking up wins in the non conference schedule will be key in order to qualify for a bowl game.

DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch

9 Byron Cowart 6’4 293 DL-Junior

In just a little over two seasons at Auburn, Cowart (No. 9 pictured) posted 15 tackles, one and a half tackles for losses and one forced fumble.

Cowart, a former five-star recruit who originally played at Auburn, enters the Terrapins program with a lot to prove.  He left the Tigers in the fall of 2017 and enrolled at Hillsborough Community College to ensure he wouldn’t lose a year.  The former Florida Class 6A Player of the Year dealt with injuries during his previous stint and never seemed to get into a flow.  Technically, he has to play more to his frame when fighting pressure from offensive linemen.  On the plus side, he demonstrated enough versatility to play both defensive end and defensive tackle in limited SEC action.  When motivated, he has the power and strength to be a block destructor.  After doing so, he can re-map his courses and close distances in short areas.  His speed/power ratio seems to be a fit for the Big Ten.  Will it translate?

Prediction: 4-8

Maryland will miss out on a bowl game for the second straight season, according to Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson. The Terps will fall to Texas in the season opener, Temple, Michigan State and Ohio State at home and on the road to Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and Penn State. 

2017 SDCCU Holiday Bowl Preview: Washington State vs. Michigan State

Despite identical 9-3 records, two teams with different offensive styles will square off in this year’s Holiday Bowl.

Michigan State and Washington State will meet on Dec. 28 in San Diego. Luke Falk, a 6-foot-4, 223-lb. senior quarterback, leads the charge for the Cougars. Junior running back L.J. Scott is the workhorse running back for Michigan State.

The Spartans come into the game on a two-game win streak and seemed to have righted the ship after a 3-9 season a year ago.

The Cougars were blown out in the Apple Cup but started the season 6-0, including a key win against USC.

Players to watch

Washington State

Luke Falk QB-Senior

Falk is the best player on the Cougars and possibly the best player in the conference. Mike Leach’s air raid attack will try and spread out the Spartans and push the ball down the field. Falk’s top two receivers from the regular season -Tavares Martin Jr. and Isaiah Johnson- Mack- have both left the team, which means Falk will have to find production elsewhere.

Renard Bell WR-Freshman

Renard Bell will be asked to pick up the production left by Martin Jr. and Johnson-Mack.  Bell, a freshman, worked the slot during the season and could cause trouble for the Spartans, who on occasion give up chunk yardage in the passing game. Bell’s three catches for 101 yards were the difference in an early season win against the Trojans and in the Holiday Bowl, he could have the same impact.

Michigan State

Josiah Scott CB-Freshman

When Luke Falk struggles, it’s because he tries to force the ball into tight coverage. Falk threw three interceptions against Washington and will have to beware of MSU’s outstanding freshman cornerback. Scott’s 11 starts this year were the most by a true freshman in the Mark Dantonio-era.  Dantonio, a former secondary coach, doesn’t usually give playing time to younger corners unless he sees something special and Scott is something special.

L.J. Scott RB-Junior

L.J. Scott had an up-and-down season but out of the running back trio MSU employs, Scott is the most lethal.  Scott is the most NFL- ready prospect on the offensive side of the ball and finished the season with 788 rushing yards.  As long as Scott, who struggles with fumbles, can keep the ball off the ground he figures to have a strong game against a small Cougars defensive line. Look for MSU offensive coordinator Dave Warner to run the ball early and often in an attempt to keep the ball out of Falk’s hands.

Prediction

Michigan State 28 Washington State 23

—Troy Jefferson, DN Staff Reports