Josh Norris of Rotoworld.com joins us for a third season to break down the rosters at South Carolina and each week’s opponent from an NFL perspective, and we started off strong in this chat. Norris and I talk about what Mike Davis needs to prove this season, the new “freak” on Texas A&M’s offense and the “talent-less I might even say Texas A&M defense,” among other things.
The State: Let’s start with Mike Davis. Mike has not come out and said it, but he has made it pretty clear this is his final year in college, which you kind of expect from running backs these days. What does he need to prove to improve his draft status this year.
Josh Norris: I think that health might be the No. 1. Obviously, the NFL doesn’t like to draft damaged goods in the early parts of the draft, the first three rounds I would say, especially in the first two rounds. In the past few years, we have had a drought of first round running backs. I think that will absolutely end this season and in fact I would be surprised if we see less than two in the first round this year. You know I’m a big fan of Mike Davis, was last year. He really surprised me and I even think South Carolina coaches with his long speed last year. I still don’t think that’s his calling card. I would say his calling card is decisive footwork and acceleration off of that. You see a lot of great runs where he puts his foot in the dirt at the second level and works around blocks, works to the open field and picks up some extra yards there. He’s not going to run away from defenses, I mean there are occasionally instances where he does, but his game is really less than 20 yards, picking up a lot of carries there. I would say one other thing that he needs to show, and I can’t remember if he did show it last year, is pass protection. We mention it over and over again that the NFL really does care about running backs who can pass protect and that’s what gets you on the field early. If you can pass protect and be a receiver, you are not solely a role player as a rookie. Right now I have (Georgia’s) Todd Gurley and (Wisconsin’s) Melvin Gordon III as the top two running backs in the draft. I would put Davis right after that, but there are some other contenders. Obviously, Karlos Williams from Florida State is a really intriguing talent, T.J. Yeldon from Alabama, Duke Johnson from Miami. It’s a really interesting group, but Mike Davis really reminds me of Doug Martin, and that’s a great comparison to make.
The State: But you do think it’s important for him to show he can stay on the field health-wise?
Josh Norris: Absolutely. I definitely think that especially because of the short shelf life of running backs, I think a lot of NFL teams will not give running backs second contracts unless the price starts coming down and keep drafting them every spring. What’d he miss one game last year and was banged up in some others? I guess there are reports that he’s not 100 percent healthy right now but he’s going to play anyway. I’m really excited to see him.
The State: Now looking at Texas A&M, we don’t have the Johnny Manziel vs. Jadeveon Clowney matchup that everybody wanted, so who on the Aggies roster impresses you and NFL people at this point?
Josh Norris: This roster was depleted a lot. Obviously, they didn’t really have defensive talent last year at all. Offensively, they have to fill in a lot of gaps but they have one extraordinary prospect in left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. He played guard one of his first two years when Luke Joekel was at left tackle and then last year Ogbuehi moved to right tackle when Jake Matthews was at left tackle, and now Ogbuehi is moving to left tackle. Man, this guy is awesome. He reminds me of Tyron Smith, the former I believe Top 15 pick from Southern Cal who is now with the Dallas Cowboys, just got big new deal. (Ogbuehi) is a freak athlete for this position, so mobile, so agile. His footwork allows him to get into position against edge rushers. Pass protection is his No. 1 attribute. I am not sure that people are ever going to call him strong or powerful in the running game. He’s more of an occupier than a road grader. The one game if anybody wants to watch where he really showed ups and downs last year, really the only game he was consistently tested was against Auburn and Dee Ford, who obviously was a first round pick. Dee Ford was really able to get into his chest and drive him back into the pocket. He showed early on in that game some weaknesses in terms of an anchor, but he was able to adjust Dee Ford down the rest of the game, and that showed me a lot. Another one that might be in the mold of changing from guard to tackle is Germain Ifedi. He is moving over to right tackle and he’s not as athletic, but once he gets you moving backward, he’s tough to stop. He’s a bit more upright, but he’s interesting. A couple more to hit on are true freshmen. Apparently this short slot receiver/running back Speedy Noil is being a freak out there. I know everyone always talks about Leonard Fournette at LSU, but I believe Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports said Noil might be his freshman of the year. He’s been that impressive. That might be their entire offense really, trying to get him the ball. Quickly, I mentioned some real deficiencies on defense, but apparently five-star freshman defensive end Myles Garrett has been really, really impressive. He’s been as advertised in practice. That could be their top defensive prospect.
The State: I agree with you and Bruce on Speedy Noil. I think South Carolina wins the game, but I think everyone is going to be talking about Speedy Noil on Friday.
Josh Norris: Yeah, I am excited to watch this game. I really do think the most important part of this game will just be (South Carolina) inserting a rushing attack and just wearing down talent-less I might even say Texas A&M defense, and just keep running the ball, running the ball and maybe doing some play-action passing off that.