National Football League
September 26, 2008
Draft King Analysis
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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Oregon State freshman RB Jacquizz Rodgers burst onto the national spotlight in a major way last night. Rodgers (or "Quizz" like the announcers on ESPN were calling him) ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns in leading Oregon State to an unexpected 27-21 victory over #1 ranked USC.
At 5'6" (some say 5'7" but I don't buy it), Rodgers doesn't have the size of a prototypical running back. But Oregon State had the freshman in there for a reason (along with his brother, sophomore WR James Rodgers), and Quizz showed an amazing ability to bounce between holes opened by the offensive line. Rodgers possesses an incredible ability to step from side-to-side; I've had no less than three people comment to me that Rodgers looked like someone who was using the L2 and R2 buttons in EA Sports' NCAA Football 09 video game.
If you've ever played the game Whack-A-Mole, you might recognize that Rodgers' play was something akin to that. The USC front seven, heralded as being a dominant force, would rush to one rushing lane to make the tackle... only to see Quizz suddenly disappear and reappear one spot over. He was able to make that sort of amazingly quick side-to-side move even beyond the front line, flustering defenders that were otherwise making spot-on tackles and hitting with full force on most every other play.
Even when a defender was in position, Rodgers proved to be tough to tackle, with the massive USC defense in many ways appearing to be unaccustomed to tackling 5'6" running backs. To point, USC was flagged for two horse collar tackles in the first quarter. I'm not a fan of the horse collar tackle rule (which we likely would not have had in college or the pros had Roy Williams' horse collar tackle of Terrell Owens ended with Owens suffering a severely sprained ankle and a fractured fibula in December 2004), but with the horse-collar rule working to his advantage, Rodgers became even more of a challenge to bring down.
It's also worth noting that Rodgers was one rushing yard shy of 100 in Oregon State's loss at Penn State. Quizz has shown amazing ability against two great defenses, and it will be fun to watch where he goes from here. If he can stay healthy, Beaver fans could be in for a real treat. Rodgers set the career Texas high school state-record with 136 touchdowns. We'll see if he can break the Oregon State team record of 59 career TDs set by Ken Simonton from 1998-2001.
Perhaps the most frightening thing for USC, even beyond the loss, was the injury late in the game to star MLB Rey Maualuga. Frequent visitors to this site should be very familiar with him by now, a charismatic leader who passed up being a likely top 10-15 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft to come back to school for his senior season. Would the Patriots really have taken Jerod Mayo at #10 if a talent like Rey Maualuga was on the board at that point? We'll never know, but any way you cut it, Maualuga is a very talented player.
The diagnosis of Maualuga at this point is that he has a right knee sprain and that he will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of his injury. Regardless of what team you pull for, Maualuga is a hard player to cheer against. He has an amazing presence on the field, he plays with great energy on every play, and he has persevered despite losing his father to brain cancer his freshman year of college.
How good is Maualuga? There had been Heisman talk for him before Thursday night, which is virtually unheard of for a linebacker. There's no word yet on a timetable for his return, pending the aforementioned MRI Maualuga will undergo on Monday. If the injury turns out to involve ligament damage, then that would clearly impact not only his status for the rest of the season for USC, but also his projected draft point in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Tomorrow should be an interesting day for many of the top teams in the country, particularly those that are salivating over the #1 spot in the polls that USC will soon vacate. The Alabama at Georgia game will be very intriguing (how did CBS not get that game?), while at the same time Oklahoma faces a home test against an unbeaten TCU team. Throw in Illinois at Penn State and a few other fun matchups, and it should be a great day of college football.