For the sixth straight week, our Reese’s Senior Bowl scouting team will be on 10-plus college campuses around the country. Follow @JimNagy_SB on Twitter all day Saturday to see up-close field-level videos on the following players (and many more):
Houston at Memphis | 7:30 pm ET | ESPN2
Houston WR Tank Dell: I was brought up in scouting hearing veteran evaluators say things like, “It’s a big man’s game”, but the exception is when you come across a smaller prospect who’s truly dynamic, and Dell is that guy. While we don’t have any verified measurables, the school lists Dell at 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, so NFL teams will definitely have size questions off-paper, but those concerns are mostly put to rest when you put on the tape. This is our staff’s second live look at Dell this season and his suddenness immediately got our attention the first time we saw him against UT-San Antonio in Week 1. Dell is one of the top slot playmakers in this year’s draft, and he could also be a starting punt returner at the next level.
17 TCU at 19 Kansas | Noon ET | FS1
TCU G/C Steven Avila: Gap scheme teams that play with big-bodied interior O-linemen are going to like the fifth-year senior and three-year starter Avila. We evaluated Avila over the summer as a center since he started 11 games there as a junior, but he moved to guard as a senior and that’s where we see him fitting best at the next level. Regardless of what position he ends up playing in the NFL, the fact that he has proven position versatility will help his draft stock in April. Our scouts got a good look at Avila in practice earlier this week, and the main takeaway was how mobile he was for a 330-plus-pound man. Right now, we have an eventual NFL starter grade on Avila.
Arkansas at 23 Mississippi State | Noon ET | SECN
Mississippi State LB Tyrus Wheat: Wheat is a bit of a ‘tweener in terms of his ideal position fit at the next level. However, odd-front teams that are looking for guys with the versatility to play on the line of scrimmage and off the ball will like him because he’s done both things during his college career. The fifth-year former JUCO product is listed at 6-foot-2 260 pounds. That makes him sturdily built to play downhill from a stacked alignment, and he also has disproportionately long arms (33 1/8 inches) to set the edge outside. Although he only has one sack thru five games this year, Wheat had 11 combined sacks his sophomore and junior seasons and he’s flashed enough pass rush ability to think he could be a part of a team’s sub-rush rotation as a pro.
Texas Tech at 7 Oklahoma State | 3:30 p.m. ET | FS1
Oklahoma State WR Braydon Johnson: There are plenty of reasons behind the Cowboys’ fast start, and Johnson’s big-play ability is certainly among them. The biggest thing that sticks out about Johnson is that he plays much bigger than he measures. NFL scouts measured him at a hair under 6 feet and 193 pounds last spring but he plays much bigger than that, both at the catch point and with the ball in his hands. Coaches tell us that Johnson will run well in the spring, and he consistently makes plays down the field, which explains his 21.2 yards per catch average this year and 17.3 yards per catch career average. Aside from the receiving skill set, NFL scouts will like that Johnson played extensively in the kicking game during his first three seasons in Stillwater.
Wisconsin at Northwestern | 3:30 p.m. ET | BTN
Wisconsin DT Keeanu Benton: From a sheer size standpoint, the Badgers’ three-plus-year starter is exactly what NFL teams are looking for at either the nose tackle or 1-tech position. At almost 6-foot-4 and 320-ish pounds with 34-inch arms, Benton takes up space and ties up blocks between the A-gaps for defensive coordinator/interim head coach Jim Leonhard’s defense. What makes Benton different from most shorter nose tackles—and what NFL teams like most about him—is his unusual 82 5/8” wingspan. Unlike most college plugger-types who rely on pad level and leverage to win, Benton mainly uses his length and good upper body strength, and the flash plays where he tosses blockers are what scouts will be selling during draft meetings after the season.
11 Utah at 18 UCLA | 3:30 p.m. ET | FOX
Utah QB Cam Rising: This year’s quarterback group for the Senior Bowl is greatly unsettled right now, but one guy who we’ve been high on since seeing him throw in person at the Manning Passing Camp this summer is Utah’s Rising. We were at the Utes’ Week 1 loss at Florida and Rising was not at his best that night in “The Swamp.” Since then, to his credit, Rising has bounced back with four straight good games, including last Saturday’s four-touchdown performance against an underrated Oregon State defense that features a pair of NFL prospects at cornerback. Rising does a lot of things NFL scouts will like, and our bottom-line opinion is that he just knows how to play the quarterback position. He has both poise and moxie, he’s a good touch thrower, and he has enough mobility that defenses must account for it.
Army at 15 Wake Forest | 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN3
Army EDGE Andre Carter: This will be our staff’s first look at one of the higher ceiling prospects in this year’s EDGE class, West Point’s Carter. There hasn’t been a service academy prospect in a long time, maybe ever, receiving the amount of NFL draft buzz that Carter got over the summer, and the hype, to a degree, is warranted. While NFL scouts don’t view him as a first-round pick like many in the media have projected, Carter undoubtedly has a cool combination of length (over 6-foot-6 and 81-plus wingspan) and agility to develop as both a run defender and pass rusher. Opponents are giving him a lot more extra attention this year after he posted 14.5 sacks, so he’s managed only two sacks through the first four games so far. Our staff will be focused primarily on his frame and growth potential on Saturday because that will greatly determine what he ends up becoming as a pro.
Washington State at 6 USC | 7:30 p.m. ET | FOX
USC CB Mekhi Blackmon: Our staff had some love for Blackmon’s cover ability last year when he was at Colorado, and we’ve heard good things from coaches since he got to USC in the offseason, including the work he’s done covering Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison in practice. Aside from a few handsy interference calls, Blackmon has held up well in man coverage this season against some quality receivers who will play at the next level. We like his reactionary ability to stick with people at the break point, and he also does a nice job of covering verticals down the field. Both of Blackmon’s interceptions this season have come when he made excellent plays on the ball, a goal-line pick where he tipped it to himself against Stanford, and a one-handed, over-the-shoulder play versus Oregon State.
Texas A&M at 1 Alabama | 8 p.m. ET | CBS
Alabama S DeMarrco Hellams: The Tide’s “other” safety, as most draft followers have read/heard much more about Jordan Battle up to this point, Hellams has already made some game-changing plays so far this season, like a critical pass breakup on a deep ball versus Texas and a forced fumble that he recovered himself last week against Arkansas. We’ve always liked Hellams’ urgency flying up in run support and he already has as many pass break-ups (three) through five games as he did in each of the past two seasons. Saturday night against the Aggies will be our first trip up to Tuscaloosa this fall, and since Texas A&M has no senior starters on offense, we’ll be focused entirely on Hellams and the other seven seniors on the Crimson Tide defense.