BATON ROUGE, La. -- As I headed, slowly -- oh so slowly -- down the road in front of Tiger Stadium and toward Lot 408, where I was to park for Saturday's Auburn-LSU game, I couldn't help but think about how both teams would hold up in "Death Valley" on this 92-degree day.
As it turns out, one did, and one didn't.
This game featured plenty of draftable prospects, but LSU's true sophomore running back, Leonard Fournette, turned this scouting trip into a one-sided affair.
LSU's draftable prospects had a solid Saturday, but it's impossible to write this piece without mentioning two LSU sophomores and the forgettable efforts of almost the entire Auburn defense, including pretty much all of the prospects I studied.
When scouting, it can be difficult to get a good feel for prospects if you spend time trying to see everything and everyone on every play. Here is what I saw from the prospects I studied in LSU's blowout win over Auburn.
Running back Leonard Fournette
Fournette was incredible. He was an impatient back last season, but was much more patient Saturday, and his lower-body strength and big-play burst were on full display. I waited all season for Fournette to look like Adrian Peterson last season, when Fournette was a freshman, and it never happened. As he broke tackles and showed burst around the edge, he had that "All Day" look.
Right tackle Vadal Alexander
Rumor has it that Alexander wanted to move to tackle to show NFL scouts what he can do, but I'm still unsure if he has the athleticism to project as a tackle rather than a guard at the next level. Alexander rarely had to pass set against Auburn defenders pinning their ears back on Saturday. Alexander struggled to get good angles on second-level blocks, but he didn't struggle with his power. He was able to make defensive tackles cave in with his down blocks and jolted linebackers when he got his hands on them. I still see Alexander as a powerful, drive-blocking right guard in a power scheme in the pros.
Center Ethan Pocic
Pocic showed outstanding effort on Saturday. He has the length and background to play tackle or guard in a pinch. Pocic played with excellent timing on his combination blocks and worked his feet into proper position throughout the game. Athletic and technically sound, Pocic has my attention despite having average strength.
Linebacker Kendell Beckwith
Beckwith has smooth arms and legs without much cut or definition. He does his job, playing with strength and leverage. Beckwith is solid in pursuit, but he's nothing special and is not a great athlete. He spent too much time sitting back and letting the play come to him rather than playing downhill on Saturday. He's a heavy tackler with some intimidation as a hitter.
Cornerback Tre'Davious White
He's the real deal in coverage and that isn't going to change. White plays with elite feet and is very sticky to his assignment. He needs to improve against the run, and doesn't show much dog in him when blocked, preferring to just ride with the block rather than fight to get off. He brings no thud as a hitter, but is willing to step up and commit to the tackle when he's unblocked and being challenged by the offense. He had a solid day as a punt returner with one good return and consistent decision making.
Strong safety Jamal Adams
It was impossible to ignore Adams, a sophomore, in the first half. He storms downhill in run support and is like another linebacker at times in sub packages. He showed good range, making an interception in the first half, and is a big hitter. He looks like LSU's next big-time safety.
Quarterback Jeremy Johnson
I went into this season studying Johnson as a potential early NFL draft entrant as a pocket passer. He no longer commands that type of respect as a prospect. As a passer, he has continued his trend of hurried, impatient play. He was staring down routes and missed a couple of easy throws that should have been automatic. Most alarming is that he doesn't appear to have a good feel for where the safeties are located on the field. As a runner, Johnson looked better than expected, showing good top-end speed on his 65-yard touchdown run. As a passer, he is way behind where he needs to be.
Wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams
Williams was a complete non-factor in the game until catching a touchdown pass on a simple out route from the slot with six minutes to go. Williams was a willing and effective blocker in the running game. He was also able to get inside leverage and beat his man over the top in the first half before watching Jeremy Johnson's pass sail over his head for an interception. Williams is a body player with size who works from the slot but isn't overly athletic.
Defensive tackle Montravius Adams
Adams showed decent power at the point of attack, with an ability to get some penetration with arm-over moves. Adams has a stout lower half and can man his gap with power, but he didn't have an impact on the line of scrimmage nearly enough for his talent level. He can stay square and flow with the play when engaged, but I would like to see him work to get unglued from the blocker earlier and not just sit on the block contently. He has decent power at the point.
Linebacker Cassanova McKinzy
It was a disappointing game for McKinzy, as he never stepped up to meet the challenge of the LSU rushing attack. He was too often unaware of blocks coming from the perimeter and found himself getting sealed. He lost leverage in his gap when challenged by climbing offensive linemen. McKinzy was a willing hitter but didn't show up like he needed to on Saturday.
Linebacker Kris Frost
Like McKinzy, this senior linebacker didn't step up and rise to the challenge for Will Muschamp's defense. He was too often slow to flow to the ball and lacked quickness and urgency. At one point in the first quarter, I wondered if the heat was getting to him because he looked so sluggish. He was not in on enough plays and stayed too high at the second level rather than attacking downhill and winning the battle of angles. Frost could have attempted to make a tackle on Fournette's second touchdown, but Frost wasn't hustling down the field. Frost made 10 tackles, but none were solo tackles.
Cornerback Jonathan Jones
He showed the quickness and ability to turn and run that is needed as a cover corner, but he was extremely disappointing when asked to handle his business against the run. Jones is undersized (listed at 5-foot-10, 181 pounds) and played like it when tasked with tackling or getting off of blocks on the perimeter. Jones was trucked by Fournette on one run (no big deal, given Fournette's incredible performance), but was also juked in space as a tackler, which shouldn't happen. Jones is a nickel-corner prospect with cover talent, but if he can't handle the physical part of the game to an acceptable level, his draft stock will suffer.