Oregon Vs. Oregon State: Who Has The Better Defensive Prospects?
By Ken Scudero
There are a couple of schools in the northwest who have proven to be NFL breeding grounds. In the last five years, Oregon has had 17 players drafted and Oregon State has had 14 selected.
Two schools, one state, 31 NFL draft picks in five years . . . fairly impressive. Going into the 2014 Draft, both schools have a pair of exceptional defensive prospects who will definitely be selected in 2014.
But which pair is better?
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB
5-foot-10, 190 pounds
2012 Stats: 4 INT, 1 TD, 20 PD, 63 TT, 6 FF, 1 FR
Taylor Hart DE
2012 Stats: 8 Sacks, 11 TFL, 36 TT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 3 PD
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is your prototypical playmaking cover corner. Put the ball on your receiver, Ifo is there to bat the pass away. Float your ball a little bit, Ifo will catch it and gain some field position, if not run it back for a touchdown. He has ideal cornerback speed and above-average ability around the football. He was a running back and safety in high school and was the No. 1 defensive back in Southern California as a senior in high school. Defending an NFL offense is a whole other dimension, and Ifo could use some work on recognizing certain coverages (when to stay with his man and when to drop) but he is definitely NFL-ready and reads the quarterback's eyes well. He's a top 5 defensive back going into the draft and will most likely be selected in the late second/early third round (or perhaps higher? check Football.com's Preseason Big Board 2.0) .
Taylor Hart is a big defensive end who can clog running lanes and give the quarterback trouble on the run. He's a good tackler and I see him more as an inside defensive lineman than an end. He lacks the speed needed from the outside to get to the quarterback on a quick-step drop. His play recognition is above average and definitely something NFL scouts will see right away. He is excellent at realizing when the quarterback will keep the ball and when he will hand it to a running back. Hart has fourth round written all over him and if he drops lower than that, an NFL team will get a lot of value out of him, either at defensive tackle or end.
Rashaad Reynolds, CB
2012 Stats: 3 INT, 13 PD, 75 TT, 1 FF
Scott Crichton, DE
2012 Stats: 9 Sacks, 17.5 TFL, 44 TT, 1 FF, 3 FR, 3 PD
Rashaad Reynolds is a great all-around cornerback. He can tackle, he can cover, and he can read the quarterback's eyes. He's just as fast and flashy as Ekpre-Olomu. In fact, they are almost identical players. When watching their film, it's tough to tell the difference between them. Ekpre-Olomu has made more plays and intercepted more passes than Reynolds, so he has the edge but Reynolds isn't far beyond. Reynolds will be selected just after him, somewhere in the 3rd or 4th round.
Scott Crichton is a hard-working end who follows the football until the very end of the play. He's quick, has a great spin move, and is awesome at falling off blockers and making the tackle. He is an NFL-ready defensive end who can make an immediate impact for a defense. He has long arms and stops plays before they even begin. He's a better defensive end than Hart with his play-disrupting ability and speed. I don't think Crichton gets past the 3rd round. He's too athletic of a player to drop lower than that.
Who has the better pair of defensive prospects?
Before thoroughly researching all four of these student-athletes, I gave the edge to Oregon because I was more familar with Ekpre-Ololmu and Hart. But after watching more film, there isn't a doubt in my mind that Oregon State has the better pair of prospects. Ekpre-Olomu is the slightly better corner, but Crichton blows away Hart, in my mind. Both corners are speedy playmakers who can be interchangable but Crichton is an end who gets to the quarterback and forces mistakes. Hart is a good prospect; he's smart and quick to realize players but he doesn't have the athleticism Crichton has. Oregon State wins this year in the defensive category. Now the offense . . . that's another story.