Mon, Sep 10, 2018
By Jim Nagy
Head Coach Dabo Swinney has gone with a platoon system at QB these first two weeks and it was Kelly Bryant’s big game experience that got him the nod over true freshman Trevor Lawrence in the fourth quarter when the Tigers needed to hold a lead. Few venues in all of college football are more difficult to play in than Kyle Field and the poise Bryant showed in some critical moments was impressive.
While his overall numbers were far from eye-popping (12-of-17, 205 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT), Bryant showed good poise down the stretch and finished 7-of-9 for 124 yards in the second half. Bottom line, he protected the ball and did enough for his team to leave College Station with a victory.
Sources at the school say that Bryant is one of the most popular guys in the Clemson locker room and by seeing how supportive he was with Lawrence on the sidelines you can see why.
As a passer, there was one specific throw in the first quarter that stood out on Saturday night. On third-and-15, Bryant looked left, came back right, and threw a strike on a deep dig to sophomore WR Amari Rodgers, who converted into a 64-yard gain. Scouts still want to see more consistent accuracy from Bryant but on this particular play he showed improved eyes and feet from ’17 tape. He also stepped into the throw and got drilled in the sternum upon delivering the ball. Nobody has issues with his toughness.
From a physical perspective, Bryant no doubt has the size, strength, and mobility that teams are looking for at the next level. As a runner, he is not overly dynamic but he is expected to test well at the Combine (6.92 three cone, 33.5 VJ, 10’5” BJ at 220 lbs.) and some NFL teams we have spoken with are already considering him as a projection player to another position.
The Reese’s Senior Bowl has been a great platform for successful college QB like former University of Michigan product Denard Robinson and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller to start making the conversion to another spot. After strong performances in Mobile, Robinson became a fifth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013 and Miller wound up a third-rounder with the Houston Texans in 2016 so having Bryant get a jump-start on an eventual position switch might make great sense.
Clemson staffers promote Bryant as a natural athlete and good basketball player, which will lead some NFL teams to project him to another offensive skill position like WR or U/F-type TE. One coach noted that he also played on the defensive side of the ball in high school so an experiment at safety will be considered by creative scouting staffs that are willing to think more outside-the-box.
The Reese’s Senior Bowl is scheduled to see Bryant and the Tigers play live on Oct. 27 in Tallahassee against Florida State.
PREVIOUS WINNERS: Will Grier (West Virgnia)
MISSISSIPPI STATE DE
It was a challenge coming up with a Week 2 defensive “senior of the week” considering there were so many lopsided games on Saturday. In total, there were 36 games in which one team scored at least 50 points, 14 where one team scored over 60, and three teams (Miami, Texas Tech, and Ole Miss) put up 70-plus. We wanted to select a player that stood out in a somewhat competitive Power-5 game so we went with Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat. In Mississippi State’s 31-10 win over Kansas State, Sweat consistently played with the upper-hand at the point-of-attack, finishing with 3 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack.
Sweat is part of a senior-laden Bulldogs team that landed the second-most players (9) of any school on our Senior Bowl Watch List. New Head Coach Joe Moorhead inherited a stacked defensive front, led by Sweat and true junior DT Jeffrey Simmons, and the Bulldogs held the Wildcats to only 3.2 yards per carry (113 yards on 35 attempts) and 4.8 per pass play (100 yards on only 9 completions).
In scouting, sometimes your perception of a player is greatly shaped by the initial exposure—good or bad. My first look at Sweat came in a fall camp scrimmage back in August 2017. That day, Sweat flashed intriguing pass rush ability by getting multiple sacks. But I tried to temper my enthusiasm because State had moved their regular starting left tackle, eventual Senior Bowler and Houston Texans third-rounder Martinas Rankin, to center so Sweat was going up against an overmatched underclassman. Fast-forward to the regular season last year and Sweat led the SEC with 10.5 sacks so obviously what I was seeing was real.
On tape, the best thing Sweat does is beat people his excellent length. He has over 35-inch arms and more than an 85-inch wingspan and, most importantly, he knows how to use his reach advantage. He is a lean-muscled, good-looking dude and he is most effective working off a long-arm move as a rusher. Last weekend, he was matched against K-State All-American and fellow Senior Bowl Watch Lister RT Dalton Risner on Saturday and there were times where Sweat simply locked-out and used his leverage to win the matchup of top prospects.
Maybe the biggest takeaway from my trip to Starkville three weeks ago was how much Sweat appears to have grown up. Coaches said the Michigan State transfer is doing all the right things on and off the field but seeing him work with the younger defensive linemen at practice showed me that he is maturing.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for NFL scouts will be determining whether or not Sweat fits their specific scheme. There is little doubt about his talent but teams will need to figure out if Sweat is best suited for 4-3 DE and/or 3-4 OLB at the next level. Spending a week in Mobile and going thru all the drills and 1-on-1’s will go a long way in helping him prove his versatility.
We will have a scout at the Sept. 29 game in Starkville when former head coach Dan Mullen brings the Florida Gators into town.
PREVIOUS WINNERS: Gerald Willis (Miami)
|Jim Nagy is the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl. He spent 18 years in the National Football League. In his time in the NFL, Nagy worked as an area scout in the West, Midwest, and Southeast regions, as well as in a national scouting capacity for four years with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a part of six Super Bowl teams and four Lombardi Trophy winning clubs (Green Bay Packers XXXI, New England Patriots XXXVIII and XXXIX and Seattle Seahawks XLVIII).|