Cincinnati got a 34-17 win at South Florida on Thursday night, but a pair of Bulls defenders stood out even in the losing effort.
The first is junior DE Jason Pierre-Paul, a JUCO transfer who is making plenty of noise with his size (6-foot-6, 265 pounds), length and strength. Pierre-Paul anticipates the snap and gets off the ball and around the edge quickly, and he also uses his hands and long arms well to disengage from blockers against the run.
Pierre-Paul put his motor and feel for angles on display as well, getting down the line at one point and showing explosiveness in his hips by uncoiling on the ball carrier. He also registered a pair of quarterback hurries and deflected a pass that was intercepted by teammate Nate Allen.
To see where Pierre-Paul fits on Scouts Inc.'s draft board, for a look at other top prospects from South Florida and Cincinnati, and for notes from around the country, become an ESPN Insider.
Pierre-Paul does not have much experience against the highest level of competition and is still raw, but with his size, athletic ability and quickness he has the potential to become an early round pick.
• Fellow Bulls DE George Selvie also continues to look quick off the edge. Selvie has a quick first step and excellent closing burst, and he is a tough and instinctive player. He does a great job using his hands to hold the point against the run, and is very good taking a step outside and staying tight when running loops back to the inside on line twists. Selvie's nonstop motor also netted him a sack and a forced fumble. He is a little tight in the hips and does not change directions in space all that well, but Selvie has done nothing to hurt his early-second round grade.
• South Florida S Nate Allen has good instincts in coverage and did a nice job recognizing and disrupting a bubble screen against Cincinnati, reading the play and getting downhill quickly. Allen also stayed in the throwing lanes when the Bearcats' quarterbacks scrambled and made it tougher for them to find open receivers on broken plays.
However, we have concerns about Allen in run support. He lacks ideal aggressiveness, needs to work harder to get off blocks and is more of a catcher than a thumper as a tackler. Allen does not seem to welcome contact, and he also takes poor angles at times. In fact, it was a missed tackle by Allen that allowed Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros to break a 75-yard touchdown run.
Allen likely won't play in the box at the next level but his coverage skills are enough to earn him a second-round grade at this point.
• Bulls CB Jerome Murphy is blessed with athleticism, quickness, fluid hips and good anticipation in coverage, but Murphy killed himself against Cincinnati. He had three costly penalties, including a third-down personal foul that extended a Bearcats drive, and he also dropped what should have been a pair of interceptions after doing a good job of anticipating and undercutting routes.
Mental errors in coverage could also be an issue. Murphy was late recognizing a tight end streaking down the middle in the fourth quarter and was caught in a trail position before making the tackle just short of the goal line. He could have turned momentum in his team's favor at times but simply did not make plays, and his lapses in discipline and awareness make Murphy a middle-round prospect.
• Cincinnati QB Tony Pike injured his non-throwing wrist and was unable to finish the game but before exiting he confirmed all the things we like about his game. Pike was impressive sidestepping pressure in the pocket, staying calm and poised and keeping his eyes downfield. He made a great play in the second quarter, evading Selvie near the Cincinnati goal line before rolling left, opening his hips and delivering a strike to the sideline for a first down.
Pike shows excellent mechanics and accuracy, even on the run, and he is smart enough to know when to eat the ball and take a sack. He rarely forces throws and has coach Brian Kelly's offense down cold. Pike also showed toughness trying to play through the injury, but he has a thin frame and will need to add some bulk in order to stay healthy in the NFL. Overall, he rates as a potential early second-rounder.
• Bearcats WR Mardy Gilyard had a quiet game with USF keying on him and throwing a lot of double coverage at him, but Gilyard continues to show good route awareness. He finds open areas and catches the ball well, and Gilyard is very elusive after the catch. He did a good job staying patient and taking advantage of the few openings he got against the Bulls.
Gilyard is still a bit raw, though. He is more quick than fast and is not going to run away from many defenders, and his transitions out of breaks are not great. Gilyard also lacks ideal size and when all is said and done he should come off the board in the middle rounds.
Around the nation
• Officials with the Cincinnati football team don't know the severity of the injury to Pike's left wrist. Pike (Scouts Inc.-rated No. 41) broke the same wrist last season and had a plate inserted. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports: "The plate that's in there shifted," UC coach Brian Kelly said. "He might need surgery, but we won't know until he sees a specialist."
• Florida's defensive ends, Carlos Dunlap (No. 1) and Jermaine Cunningham (No. 40), will provide the rush against Arkansas this weekend, but who will anchor the inside? "The Gators may be without their two starting defensive tackles," reports the Orlando Sentinel. "Both season-opener starters are doubtful to play against the Razorbacks. Lawrence Marsh, who was in a soft cast leaving practice Thursday, has being struggling most of season with a sprained ankle, and Jaye Howard has been slow to fully recover from a bruised knee."
Coach Urban Meyer told the Sentinel the Gators may need to try different packages: "I think we'll use Joker [the 3-3-5 package], especially with whom we are playing, but you want to have your four-down package as well," Meyer said.
• Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen (No. 25) says the bitter taste of defeat still lingers in his mouth from the 38-3 beatdown USC administered to the Fighting Irish last season. It doesn't help that he knows a lot of USC players. "I was getting text messages before I came in here, you know those guys talking smack," Clausen told the Ft. Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette. "My buddy (USC running back) Marc Tyler was texting me. Then (USC safety) Will Harris got on his phone and started texting. I know all those guys, and we always joke around with each other. We all hang out together. It is a rivalry, but it is a friendly rivalry."
• When Texas and Oklahoma meet on Saturday, the game will feature seven of the Scouts Inc. top 100. And while Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford (No. 4) and Texas QB Colt McCoy (No. 19) will get a majority of the ink heading into the game, versatile Longhorns WR Jordan Shipley could affect the game in more ways than either QB. "He just looks like an ordinary guy," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables told the Associated Press. "But he's got a little mini cape that he puts on when he gets out there on the field."
• There will be no shortage of talent on the defensive side of the ball when Alabama and South Carolina meet. Three of the 12 Lombardi Award finalists -- Alabama LB Rolando McClain (No. 11) and DT Terrence Cody (No. 39), and South Carolina LB Eric Norwood (No. 53) -- will be in the game. The Birmingham News reported: "The coaches put me in position to be successful, and our defensive line does such a great job up front," McClain said. "It was also good to see Terrence Cody selected as a semifinalist ... because he is one of those players up front that makes our job easier as linebackers."