Off The Radar Prospects: A Pair Of Grizzlies
So far in our Off The Radar series, we've looked at FCS prospects Timothy Flanders, a running back at Sam Houston State, and Marcus Williams, a cornerback at North Dakota State. Now, we check out a pair of prospects in the Big Sky Conference.
In the last 10 years, Montana has had seven players selected in the NFL Draft -- including Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann (2008, 5th round). This year, there are two Grizzlies who are worth a look.
Danny Kistler Jr. is a giant (6-foot-8, 315 pounds) and has been a cornerstone of Montana's line since arriving in Missoula. He started all 11 games at right tackle in 2012 when he was first team All-Big Sky, and started 14 games at right guard in 2011. His versatility should be viewed as a plus; Kistler is the type of lineman you want on the inside on 4th-and-1, and have your back run right behind him.
His pass protection is average, though he's already well-coached by offensive line coach Scott Gragg, a former second-round pick out of Montana who played 11 seasons in the NFL. An NFL line coach will see him as a project -- a project with fantastic upside. I wouldn't be surprised if he drops to the later rounds, but make no mistake, Danny Kistler Jr. is an NFL offensive lineman.
Jordan Tripp is going into his fourth year as starting linebacker, who already has 235 career tackles, 24 tackles for loss and seven fumble recoveries. He also scored two touchdowns in 2012 -- one on an interception and another on a fumble recovery. He is a play-making linebacker with average speed and decent size (6-3, 237). He was named to the AP All-America 3rd team last season, but the best part about his year was that he showed he could bounce back from the season-ending injury he suffered in 2011.
Tripp is a leader on defense, a model of consistency. He can drop back and cover a tight end, he can blitz and put pressure on the quarterback, and he can even stuff the run. His hands aren't too bad either. There aren't many holes in his game. He isn't the fastest linebacker so he may get beat on runs every now and then, but he is not slow or sluggish at all. With his great reaction time, he's able to recover rather smoothly.
He's off the radar right now, but after the 2013 season, don't be surprised to hear his name a lot more. I think he's got a good shot at making an NFL roster in 2014, and if he can prove himself, he has the talent to start at outside linebacker for an NFL team.