Junior college transfers Nick Fairley and Cameron Newton led Auburn to a national championship last season. Here are 25 newcomers who could immediately help their new teams.
3. Cornelius Carradine, DE, Florida State, 98 Carradine is a physical force off the defensive edge and has demonstrated that through 26 sacks over the past two seasons at Butler County. This past season, the 6-5, 250-pounder piled up 16 sacks showing a rare mix of power and speed around the corner. His early enrollment at Florida State should lead to him making an early impact this fall. He is a player that is ready both physically and athletically for big-time football.
11. Jacob Fahrenkrug, OG, Florida State, 92 After transforming his body during his time at North Dakota State College of Science, Fahrenkrug has turned himself into a force on the offensive line. As an offensive guard, the massive prospect is a road-grading physical lineman that looks poised to step in somewhere along the starting five for Florida State as an early enrollee.
The Hokies stand alone, and they'll do it again in 2011 -- with a new quarterback. The biggest reason for the vote of confidence is the manageable nonconference schedule. The Hokies should go 4-0 against nonconference opponents App State, ECU, Marshall and Arkansas State. Projected wins over Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest leave the Hokies looking for three more to keep the streak alive. Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Boston College, Clemson and a bowl opponent will provide ample opportunities to do so.
I fully expect Virginia Tech to be 9-3 or 10-2 when FSU plays them in the ACC Championship Game next December.
1. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State The ‘Noles are finally on a northern trajectory again, and Fisher deserves a ton of the credit. It was no coincidence that the program had its first 10-win season in seven years, knocking off Miami and Florida in the same season for the first time since the 1999 national championship campaign. Surprising South Carolina and Steve Spurrier in the Chick-fil-A Bowl was an exclamation point for a team that’s about to become real trendy in the offseason. Not only does Fisher have Florida State on the verge of a resurgence, but he’s doing it after succeeding an icon of the sport, Bobby Bowden.
Christian Ponder has raised a lot of flags the last couple of days despite having some obvious strengths. The biggest issue is his delivery--he throws with his arm and elbow much more than anyone else here. It’s no wonder he has had elbow troubles and if he doesn’t change his fundamental throwing motion he always will. The accuracy is strong and he doesn’t lack zip, however; he probably has the biggest gun here despite the arm-y throwing style. I am also concerned at how quickly he makes decisions. There have been several instances where he took an extra half-second to process what he was seeing and it let the defender make up enough ground to make a play, when if Ponder would have been quicker he would have had a nice completion. On Tuesday he was a count late to see a wide open Preston Dial down the field and gave Ahmad Black enough time to read and recover. There was a play today where he missed seeing Anthony Allen (GT RB) alone in the flat (both the safety and LB sucked to the TE) and forced a ball down the field. I watched him after he threw it and he immediately saw Allen and just nodded. But he made a great throw on a bootleg where the defense took away his TE and he fired a ball on the dead run into a tight spot. He’s got decision-makers firmly divided in opinion as well--one longtime NFL QB standing within earshot was gushing about him and thinks he’s the best QB here, but another NFL alum QB thinks he won’t last 3 years with his throwing style. The health concerns are weighing higher on my mind than before.
Florida State C Rodney Hudson is having a very strong week. Incredibly athletic for a center even though he ate a lot to get up to 291. I like him better at center than guard. TCU’s Jake Kirkpatrick is a better center prospect than any on the North squad as well.
• The South's offensive line collectively impressed, with the O-linemen consistently winning against the South's defensive linemen. The standouts included Florida State OG Rodney Hudson and Baylor OG Danny Watkins. Watkins' backstory is very interesting; more on that Thursday on ProFootballWeekly.com. Hudson, meanwhile, might be a center on the NFL level, but he's played guard all week, and with Thursday the final practice in front of NFL coaches and evaluators, you have to wonder if he's going to get any extended work at the position.
MOBILE, Ala. — The quarterback play has been uneven this week, but Florida State’s Christian Ponder took a big step forward at the South practice on Wednesday. Ponder has been knocked this week, but he was impressive in drills and he showed a strong arm. He was on point with all of his throws. He has big-time potential as a pro quarterback.
Of all three South quarterbacks, Florida State's Christian Ponder looked to be by far the most polished and NFL-ready. The medical questions surrounding his shoulder and elbow will be major concerns over the next few months and beyond, but he told me today that he's experienced no red flags in pre-Senior Bowl tests, and he threw in a way that would indicate good health. Ponder has great fundamentals - he gets the ball out very quickly from a high carriage, he has the arm to make all the short-to-intermediate throws, and he can put a little zip on the ball as well - he threw a beautiful right sideline rainbow to Courtney Smith(notes) of South Alabama, and Smith unfortunately couldn't come up with the catch. But it was thrown right to him, over the defender.
Ponder reminds me a bit of Mark Sanchez(notes) in that his deep arm is a bit undersold. He'd be a good fit in a West Coast offense - perhaps the best in this draft class - because he does have an understanding of all the underneath stuff. At times, he'll get a bit precious and try to take a little bit off a throw, and he can lose accuracy in these situations. But the Ponder I've seen at the Senior Bowl meets the expectations I had from the better aspects of his game tape.
Florida State guard Rodney Hudson, who went to high school in Mobile, impressed as well with adept technique that allows him to play with more power than you'd expect from his 6-2, 290-pound frame. He plays low pre-snap and explodes into defenders, getting under pads and locking on very well. Hudson may transition to center at the NFL level unless he finds a team that has no issue with lighter guards. Then again, he might add 10 pounds and become a real problem for opposing linemen.
I thought Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder really threw the football well today and very quietly is having the type of week he needed in order to give a real boost to his draft stock. He’s a balanced athlete in the pocket who can make all the throws and seems very confident reading the defense, deciphering information and getting the ball out on time. We know the guy had it from the shoulders up, but after watching him throw the ball as a senior his lack of zip on his passes were a real concern. However, after having some time to heal up and recover from all the bumps and bruises that really hurt him during the year, Ponder finally looks healthy and has quieted all my concerns about him physically. -Wes Bunting (probably the most respected public draft scout)
-As for the quarterbacks, I am thoroughly disappointed with this crop. I loved Christian Ponder coming into this week, and while his injury checked out (see Monday's Daily Notes) and his velocity was there, he was a bit erratic on the outside. I still like his deep touch and quick release which he showcased today, and he's still the best QB on this South roster.