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Tuls | Five takeaways from scouting #23 West Virginia vs #8 TCU

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Scouting Notes

Tuls | Five takeaways from scouting #23 West Virginia vs #8 TCU

#23 West Virginia Mountaineers vs #8 TCU Horned Frogs

10/07/2017

Amon G. Carter Stadium – Fort Worth, TX

Score: West Virginia (24), #6 TCU (31)

1. Travin Howard reinforces his status as a stud WLB prospect

I wrote about Howard earlier this season, and his play so far has only reinforced my initial opinion that he could be the NFL’s next valuable moneybacker. Whether that means playing the weak-side or a bit of a linebacker/strong safety hybrid, Howard has the sideline to sideline range and instincts to make plays all over the field.

He showed that against the Mountaineers on Saturday, roaming the middle of the field and taking ball carriers down with him. In coverage, he looked like his usual self, in position and making plays at the catch point. Some are going to knock him for size and frame, but he is going to be one of the steals on Day 2 in this year’s draft.

2. Although a limited receiver, Justin Crawford is a top senior running back in the 2018 NFL Draft class

No matter which defense West Virginia has faced, no one has been able to stall Justin Crawford and his momentum in the run game. His vision and patience to find creases and then explode through them with a slippery running style is what makes him so hard to defend and predict. Crawford both ran over and side-stepped TCU defenders for big gains on Saturday, including a 38-yard scamper. If Crawford were a more productive receiver, he would probably be in the mix for top-five running back consideration in this class.

3. Undersized TCU safety Nick Orr makes a name for himself

One of my favorite things in scouting is finding out about players you did not previously know about through their performance. Nick Orr, at 5’10, 180, was all over the field Saturday. Whether it was making clean open-field tackles or getting the lone interception in the game, Orr was the best defensive back on the field for either team in this game, and that is counting West Virginia’s strong safety Kyzir White.

4. TCU running back Kyle Hicks has up-and-down comeback performance

Kyle Hicks returned from injury with a stat line of 11 carries for 71 yards, including a 27-yard run, but his absence in the passing game was noteworthy. His balance and explosion was on full display Saturday, but his value at the next level is going to be as a change-of-pace third down back who can eat up defenses as a receiver. He made huge progress in this aspect last season, putting himself on the NFL radar, but he took a step back in this game.

This could be because it was his first game back from injury, but I expected more despite the flashes he showed as a runner.

5. Will Grier’s draft stock takes a hit with inconsistent ball placement and performance throughout

On the surface, Will Grier played well with over 300 yards passing along with three touchdowns and just one interception, but when you look closer, he also threw 20 incompletions on 45 pass attempts. He was inefficient throughout, but especially in the first half, as he just looked off from the beginning. I do not know what it is about Grier struggling early in big games, but West Virginia had the opportunity to put TCU in a big hole early in the game but failed to do so.

A lot of the blame unfortunately has to go to Grier’s inconsistent ball placement and decision making. He is aggressive on tight-window throws, but hesitant on the open ones. It is tough to read Grier, but his inefficient afternoon proved costly for the Mountaineers.

Jonah Tuls

Tuls is one of the lead NFL Draft analysts for Draftbreakdown.com and has been a key contributor to several other NFL Draft sites in recent years. At Draftbreakdown, Tuls provides macro-oriented NFL Draft coverage, including comprehensive player rankings, mock drafts and big boards for the site. Tuls has worked with some of the NDT Scouting staff previously before; he worked with National Scout Jon Ledyard to form the core of USA Today’s Draft Wire site for the 2016 NFL Draft season. His work there was centered around draft reports, with additional analysis and breaking news efforts as well.

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