Josh Norris, NFL Draft writer for Rotoworld.com, joined us this week to talk about big linemen. We discuss a report that Kelcy Quarles plans to enter the NFL Draft this season, and mammoth Mississippi State offensive guard Gabe Jackson, among other things.
The State: Let’s start this week talking about Kelcy Quarles, who had a big game against Missouri. What do people think about him and what do you think of him?
Josh Norris: This week, Tony Pauline reported that Quarles will likely enter, and Pauline even likes him as a Top 75 pick. I haven’t watched every snap of Quarles this year. I looked at him a bit from a distance when looking at (Jadeveon) Clowney, but I don’t think I see a Top 75 talent. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t enter. People have different reasons to enter the draft, and he can rise through the process if he can test well and things like that, but as a general thing, the rest of that defensive line other than last week against Missouri, didn’t really clean up the mess that Clowney started. Quarles, to me, was stuck at the line of scrimmage too much. If he can use his hands a little more, use foot quickness to find space and take advantage of it by getting to the backfield and disrupting a little more like he did against Missouri, I think that’s big. The first six games, eight games might not matter that much if he can finish out the season really strong because as I have talked about before interior penetration and disruption is much more valuable than edge penetration because it’s so much more difficult to avoid.
The State: Moving on Mississippi State, it always seems as if they have a big offensive lineman who is getting attention and this year is no different right?
Josh Norris: Yeah, this year it’s big Gabe Jackson, 6-4, 335, just a massive mauler. Last year, we saw three offensive guards go in the first round. It was Jonathan Cooper, Chance Warmack and Kyle Long, and really Kyle Long has played the best of them. Cooper hasn’t played this season because of an injury, and Warmack has been a bit more hesitant than I remember him at Alabama, but I am not sure if Gabe Jackson is in that mold. You look at Warmack, and he was probably the most consistent player at any position last year. Then you look at Jonathan Cooper and he was a very athletic mover in space. They loved that he can swing out on the edge and get to the second level, and really Kyle Long is no different than that. I don’t see that athleticism from Gabe Jackson. I think he’s more of an inline pusher, loves to run block more than pass protect. I obviously do think that he is an NFL caliber player. There is going to be so much more investment in centers and guards going forward because they want to stop interior pressure and protect that middle. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is ultimately a first round pick. I think he’s battling maybe Cyril Richardson down at Baylor as possibly the first guard. There’s also Jon Halapio from Florida. There’s Xavier Su’a-Filo from UCLA. It’s a tight contest and I don’t think anybody really stands out, but to me his lack of athleticism and foot quickness might hold him back compared to where other guards went last year.
The State: Anybody else on Mississippi State’s roster. I know quarterback Tyler Russell was one talked about as a fringe prospect, but he hasn’t had a good year.
Josh Norris: Tyler Russell, we talk about these other prospects being headaches because you see flashes and then they kind of trail off. His flashes are even less frequent, and they’re not that great. I bet he gets a chance somewhere, but I would be surprised if he is a draft pick. They also have a running back in LaDarius Perkins, who has been there a while, seems like forever. I don’t think he offers anything too shifty, too flashy, kind of a straight line guy somewhat in the mold of Vick Ballard who they had a couple years ago. Other than that, there is safety Nickoe Whitley, it’s kind of a down year and obviously there record shows it. Once again, as long as Mike Davis can hold onto that football, I would expect South Carolina to run away with this one.