Darren Page, DLD Lead Scout
The Arizona Wildcats kick off team previews from the Pac-12 with a focus on senior prospects to watch as soon as the college football season rolls back around. A few guys stick out as players who should be in the conversation as worth being drafted 11 months from now. Players are in alphabetical order.
Mickey Baucus, OT
Baucus is one of two tackles on Arizona who cracks this list as viable prospects heading into 2014. Week one of his senior season will be his 38th career start for the Wildcats.
This is a tackle with raw tools that are intriguing. He’s massive. Arizona lists him at 6’8” 305 pounds. Baucus moves well for a tall tackle. His feet are light for lateral movement and his knees have a little bend to them. He has long arms and fires them well to lock out defenders and control.
A question mark with Baucus comes from the offense he plays in. Opposing ends often play contain roles instead of bringing their full arsenal of rush moves. His matchup with Anthony Barr is the perfect example of that. One of his bigger issues is his first step. He can get his second and third steps down but is too slow to get off the ball. Baucus has some issues with speed rushers and cutoff blocks as a result.
He also needs to play with better pad level (as much as possible) and deliver a punch quicker. His showdown with Carl Bradford highlighted issues against rushers who can get to his chest. Baucus has the size and feet to make it, he just needs to put it all together.
Tra’Mayne Bondurant, S
Bondurant jumps out to me on tape. He is now Arizona’s best defensive player with the departures of Marquis Flowers and Shaquille Richardson. For a few reasons, he may not be their best defensive prospect.
Versatility in safety prospects is important and Bondurant doesn’t really have it. He plays a “spur” position for the Wildcats in their 3-3-5 defense, which puts him in the slot or even on the line of scrimmage full time. That’s the only place Bondurant projects to NFL playing time as well.
Bondurant makes his impact felt most frequently as the force player, meaning a contain role. He plays off blocks with ease and is aggressive coming forward. He also has a knack for making plays. In his last two seasons, he totaled 18.5 tackles for loss, 6 interceptions, 2 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. Bondurant is an instinctive and aggressive player who still has discipline.
Those skills make him an effective player in a college game that sees offenses stretch the field horizontally. The NFL is a different game of course. Bondurant isn’t a big or strong defensive back. He’s also not an overly fast one. His severe lack of technique to back pedal and plant on routes makes him a liability in coverage at times. Those are areas of his game that must sharpen up.
Fabbians Ebbele, OT
Ebbele is the other bookend on the Arizona offensive line. Like Baucus, 2014 will be his fourth season as a starter. Ebbele is even bigger at 6’8” 211.
He’s probably too tall for his own good. Ebbele is too much of a waist-bender, which means issues with balance and struggles to sustain blocks. Lack of coordination limits his movement skills as well. Ebbele doesn’t cover ground in space quickly and his feet aren’t overly quick either.
He fits the profile of a power run blocker who can move opponents off the ball. He does his best work squaring up defenders and driving them backwards. As a whole though, he’s still too raw in terms of footwork and technique for a player who has that many starts under his belt.
Jourdon Grandon, S
Grandon fills out the Arizona trio of safeties at the free safety position. He’s the least impactful of the three. The positives I have on him are that he’s closer to 6’0” than the others and has some spatial awareness for the position.
In the end, his indecisiveness is a big concern. Grandon tends to bounce around in coverage, not decisively closing on route runners to dissuade throws or play the ball in the air. He also is far from a nard-nosed player, feeling his way around the box quite often.
Grandon doesn’t have a big effect on games, which isn’t always the worst thing for a centerfield safety. His role in the defense doesn’t always ask him to do a lot, and he certainly obliges. More big plays and more physicality is needed.
Steven Gurrola, C
Gurrola enters his second season as the starting center for the Wildcats after transferring in from junior college. He’s the point man in the zone-blocking scheme that Rich Rodriguez employs.
That’s what he’ll be if he ever makes it in the NFL. At 6’2” 291, Gurrola is on the smaller side of the center spectrum. He isn’t a mauler as a run blocker by any means, which is predictable. Footwork and technique have to be there for him, but it’s a work in progress.
Gurrola has a fine lateral step for scoop blocks in the zone attack. Outside of that, his feet are poor. He doesn’t get his second and third steps down very quick. Most of the time it looks like he’s playing in mud. Gurrola is nowhere to be found in linebacker land, too limited an athlete to quickly climb up the field. His pass blocking is satisfactory, but issues come up against power rushers from the inside. Overall, there’s a long way to go.
Austin Hill, WR
A torn ACL just prior to the 2013 season set Austin Hill back. How quickly he acclimates after a year off the field will be the story. Hill is still Arizona’s best prospect and it’s not a contest.
Two things stand out immediately. Hill is listed at 6’3” 210 and plays every bit as big as that. He shields the ball with his frame and utilizes his size advantage. The second is that his hands are vacuums to the football. No matter how poorly the ball is placed, he contorts and gets his hands to it. Few footballs ever get to his stomach or his chest and fewer end up on the ground.
Hill also has something to bring after the catch. He’s very quick to turn up the field and battle for tough yardage. Some receivers are more reliant on space and ball placement to get yards after the catch. Hill does a better job creating them out of tight quarters.
Translating Hill to the NFL isn’t a difficult task. He gets open in the seam, across the field, and underneath. He caught 13 touchdowns in 2012, showing off his red zone value in the process.
For Hill to round himself back into an early round type of receiver, he needs to be back to full health in 2014. He isn’t the most explosive athlete, but he has to get back to baseline levels. It would also benefit him to show ability to play X receiver as he was utilized from the slot almost full-time in 2012.
Jesse Scroggins, QB
Scroggins is lightly penciled in as the 2014 starter. He’s a junior college transfer via USC who has yet to start a collegiate game. Scroggins sat behind B.J. Denker in 2013. Experience is obviously a huge question mark. Previous quarterbacks of Rich Rodriguez have had difficult (or non-existent) transitions to the NFL due to offensive scheme.
In a limited sample size, the 2014 Arizona spring game, Scroggins struggled. He threw a head-shaking interception after failing to look off a safety. His ball placement was all over the place. Quarterback coaches will have nightmares about his mechanics. Scroggins is too rigid in his throwing motion, too deliberate with his footwork, and not consistent with base and trunk rotation. The most glaring issue is that he sticks to one read then pulls the ball down to run.
At a listed 6’3” 208, Scroggins has more than adequate size measurements. He has plenty of arm for throwing down the field. During a lull in the action at the spring game, Scroggins launched a ball 75 yards down the field to show off his arm. Velocity isn’t an issue when his mechanics are decent either.
It will take Scroggins time to settle into the starting job, so be sure to check back in on his progress later in the season.
Jared Tevis, S
Tevis projects as the best NFL prospect on Arizona’s defense from this early stage, but he has similar ailments to the other safeties. Tevis is not a height/weight/speed safety in any way. He makes his mark with decisiveness and football intelligence.
He doesn’t have the box presence of a guy like Bondurant, though he plays in it quite often. Tevis occupies the “bandit” position in the 3-3-5. He is more or less the Swiss Army knife of the Wildcats defense. Tevis is willing to throw his body around but little comes of it.
His impact is bigger in coverage. Tevis has skilled feet and a clean back pedal. That allows him to limit separation in man coverage by planting to drive on routes. He also uses his hands to disrupt route runners with physicality. Plays on the ball are few and far between however. He also doesn’t drive on the ball in a hurry from deeper alignments.
Tevis projects as a depth safety with special teams value. It’s tough to see him becoming a much better player than he is right now. Staying the course during his senior season may not be enough to see him get drafted though.
Junior to watch: David Richards, WR