Darren Page, DLD Lead Scout
This season’s slew of bowl games opens with a matchup of two teams who hovered around .500, but will look to finish their season off the right way in Colorado State and Washington State. A high-scoring affair is surely in order. Colorado State and Washington State’s scoring offenses rank 28th and 60th in the country respectively. On the other side, their scoring defenses rank 78th and 91st respectively. Amidst all the points, there will be numerous prospects who project to be drafted in May.
#56 Shaquil Barrett, Buck LB, Colorado State
Rushing the passer is a slog against a Mike Leach offense. His Air Raid attack will spread the field and get the ball out quickly, but that doesn’t mean Barrett won’t have opportunities. Washington State’s offensive line has had its issues protecting Connor Halliday. The Cougars give up 2.5 sacks per game offensively, which ranks 91st in the country.
The Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year has the athleticism and pass rushing prowess to take advantage of his opportunities when Halliday holds the ball. Barrett will look to add to his sack total of 12 by disrupting Washington State’ offense from the edge. He gets off the ball with explosiveness that allows him to press the corner, often dipping his inside shoulder to clear the hands of the tackle.
Barrett may also have a role in coverage against Washington State’s reliance on swing routes. He has the fluidity in space and awareness in coverage to handle the job if it’s an assignment asked of him. His versatility as a defender and all-around game is one of his biggest assets.
The running game is where Barrett often comes up biggest, making plays in the backfield while maintaining assignments on a consistent basis. While Washington State is far from reliant on their ground game, enabling them to run the football effectively is a death wish for defenses. Barrett will be tasked with holding the edge, shedding blocks, and making tackles in a spacious box. His strength and hand usage at the line of scrimmage should prove to be too much for the Cougars run game, should they run at Shaquil Barrett.
#70 Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
One of the more talented centers in this the 2014 draft class and future Senior Bowl attendee Weston Richburg will be on display for the Rams offense. The experienced center will be making his 50th start in his college career.
Washington State will vary looks at the point against Richburg, with a head-up nose tackle used predominantly. It should have no effect on the production of Richburg. He’s a cerebral center who handles multiple fronts and makes calls on a consistent basis.
As a run blocker, Richburg is mobile into space and makes blocks at the second level on a consistent basis. Without a nose tackle, he will show off his ability to combo at the point and square up linebackers. He does handle nose tackles without problem, using his hands well to lock them up at the line of scrimmage and gain control on first contact. The Rams will pull Richburg around the corner, where his mobility is a difference-maker. Richburg’s handling of assignment at the point is a big reason why Colorado State back Kapri Bibbs is the eighth leading rusher in the country.
Interior pressure is largely non-existent with Richburg at center. He uses his hands to combat rushers and lock out, aiding his ability to anchor and hold his ground. The quickness of his feet allows him to work laterally in blitz pickup, something he may not see much of against the Cougars. Expect utter dominance from Richburg in pass protection.
#10 Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State
Though Crockett Gillmore has had an up and down college career in terms of production as a pass catcher, the potential on his frame and ball skills could aid his chances of being drafted.
As a receiver, Gillmore uses his 6’6” frame to extend away from his body and make catches, but could play even bigger than he does. He has issues separating from man coverage though, with struggles to change speeds as a route runner or separate out of breaks. Gillmore’s feet aren’t overly quick and a lack of explosiveness limits his ability to make receptions down the field.
Run blocking is an area where Gillmore has the most room for improvement and where he could truly develop into a legitimate NFL tight end. He certainly gives strong effort, often with fine enough technique. He struggles to lower his pads and generate power at the point of attack though, which limits his effectiveness against bigger defenders.
Crockett Gillmore may never be an explosive receiver at tight end, which makes his run blocking all the more important. It could be his ticket to a roster spot in the NFL.
#78 Jared Biard, RT, Colorado State
The towering right tackle is a strong spot on the Colorado State offensive line, but has issues in multiple areas of his game that could limit his NFL potential.
A lack of overall athleticism is Biard’s biggest limitation. He’s too leggy in his movements, with exaggerated steps in his kickslide and a tendency to play flat-footed. When combating speed rushers he tends to overextend and give up his inside too easily. That can only happen if he’s able to actually get sufficient depth off the line of scrimmage, which doesn’t happen often enough. An inability to use his length and fire his hands into rushers only compounds his issues. Pass protection is the area of his game most lacking at this point.
The 6’7” tackle’s inability to drop his pads limits his effectiveness as a run blocker. He certainly has the upper body strength to handle defenders when he lands his hands, getting them turned and wedging open holes on a consistent basis. If able to play with improved footwork and quickness, he could be a sufficient run blocker at the next level. The athletic limitations he possesses are a big issue at this juncture, which should be apparent.
#20 Deone Buccanon, SS, Washington State
As the most talented player on Washington State’s roster, Deone Buccanon is the player to watch for the Cougars. The first team All-Pac-12 safety is the catalyst of a talented secondary.
Buccanon’s biggest task is likely to come in run support against Colorado State’s ground game. The Rams average five yards per crack, which means safeties will come into play often. Lucky enough, Buccanon is as aggressive a safety coming into the box as you may find in college football. It’s not for lack of discipline either. He’s a reliable tackler who can also lay the lumber. Expect him to rack up a solid number of tacklers. He will need to be a presence in the box in order to slow down Kapri Bibbs.
The Cougars are likely to vary coverages on the backend, but Buccanon is a safety who should thrive in either zone or man looks. He may get matchups with Gillmore in man coverage. His backpedal is quite choppy and his hips lack fluidity, but his ability to plant and drive on the football with plus closing speed should suffice to compete with the tight end. In zone coverage, Buchanon typically drops underneath and makes plays on crossing routes. With an already impressive interception total at five, he will certainly be looking to add to it by luring a wayward ball from Garrett Grayson.
If able to finish out his senior season in style, Deone Buccanon should be the first player selected from this bowl game. His mentality and range from his safety position make all the difference.
#6 Damante Horton, CB, Washington State
Damante Horton may be the most unheralded yet highly talented player on the field in this game. He plays on the field side of the Cougars defense, often left on an island.
He’s undersized at only 5’10” 178. Horton uses his hands to compete with receivers and anticipates routes extremely well, which has him playing bigger than he actually is. The difference-maker is his footwork. He’s a highly adept in his backpedal, with light feet to drop and sudden feet to click and close on routes. Horton disables separation out of routes by anticipating and driving the receiver’s break. A lack of recovery speed could be his undoing on the outside if he gets overaggressive, something Brandin Cooks was able to take advantage of. If able to limit separation, Horton’s ball skills could allow him to add to his current interception total of five.
Horton is almost entirely uninvolved as a run defender, but is not hesitant to come forward and make tackles on the outside. He does a fine job wrapping and driving to haul ball carriers to the ground. His lack of size and strength is a concern and is something that could limit his prospects as an all-around cornerback in the NFL. It’s certainly likely this aspect of his game gets tested against the rushing attack of Colorado State.
Others to watch:
Colorado State CB Shaq Bell, Washington State K Andrew Furney