Thursday, 25 July 2013

40 Players in 40 Days: Numbers 36 and 35

That’s right, it’s time for the first double dip in the countdown as well as the only time you will see a player from a certain pair of teams on this list. One player from both Colorado and Washington State made the list, and today I present both of them together. No of course I didn’t plan to do it like this* and yes, I actually do think Colorado and Washington State have a player good enough to be in the top 40.**Checking in at number 36 is Colorado Senior Defensive End Chidera Uzo-Diribe. Later at number 35 will be Washington State Safety Deone Bucannon.

*Actually did plan this
**No seriously, I think both of these guys are really good and they could at least crack the two-deep at Oregon or Stanford.

Once again, a quick recap:

40. WR Chris Harper, Cal
39. OLB/S Dion Bailey, USC
38. S Alden Darby, Arizona St.
37. LT Tyler Johnstone, Oregon

 (photo cred: Doug Pensinger - Getty Images)

Uzo-Diribe has lived an unfortunate career thus far. He’s actually been very productive, racking up 20 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks in three seasons, most of which has occurred in the past two seasons. Of course, he also happens to play for arguably the worst team in the conference history. Washington may have gone 0-12 in 2008 but it didn’t bookend that season with a one or two win season which is what Colorado has experienced. The Buffs have won exactly four games in two years since joining the conference. I also think Uzo-Diribe is treated somewhat unfairly because he is the best player on a defense that has surrendered 6.85 yards per play the last two years as well as 46 points per game last season (this is the part where you throw up in your mouth).

You can’t let those team numbers color your opinion of Uzo-Diribe on an individual basis. Whether you have a team of Uzo-Diribe and 10 stiffs or J.J. Watt and 10 stiffs the results are going to be the same either way. You will suck, and you will give up yards, a lot of yards. Uzo-Diribe had 7 sacks last season, good for 12th in the conference, ahead of more hyped players like Josh Shirley, Datone Jones, Cassius Marsh, Joe Kruger, and Wes Horton. I usually have videos to help supplement my point with these players however, I unfortunately can’t find anything today. When you search for “Chidera Uzo-Diribe” on YouTube you only get a few interviews. When you search for “Colorado Buffs Football Highlights,” this is the only result:

here is my deal with Uzo-Diribe. He’s mired in the worst losing culture I have ever seen in the conference. He’s asked to play DE in a 4-3, not at all suited to his size and athleticism, and he’s the only player on the field for CU’s defense who is worth a damn. Even Lawrence Taylor would fly under the radar in that situation. I honestly think Uzo-Diribe is going to turn into a solid pro player and there are at least a few other people who feel pretty good about him too. He might have to go to Canada and/or hang around on practice rosters for a while like Cameron Wake or Chris Clemons. But, given his natural size, his athleticism as a 3-4 OLB prospect, the production he’s put out despite his situation, and his captaincy of the Pac-12 all-name team, I feel confident saying Uzo-Diribe will be a tremendous sleeper prospect in the NFL Draft and a guy who could eventually become a superstar in the CFL and one day earn a decent NFL contract.

Side note: speaking of Colorado and the CFL, I’m writing this while watching a CFL game featuring Dan Hawkins as one of the coaches. Feel free to let some more vomit into your mouth Buffs fans.

Deone Bucannon’s stardom is a little easier to make a case for. First of all, I can just point to the 2012 All Pac-12 team, where Bucannon is a 2nd team member. More importantly, I can point out Bucannon’s impressive stats which include 106 tackles, sixth in the conference and second among non-linebackers. He was also fourth in the conference in solo tackles with 65. Bucannon also flashed play making ability against the pass by racking up four interceptions. The best stat based case I can make for Bucannon though would be the improvement of Wazzou’s defense over the course of the season.

(photo cred: Jake Roth - US Pressswire)
In the first four games of the season WSU gave up 471.5 yards per game against fairly weak competition (BYU, Eastern Washington, UNLV, and Colorado). That number improved drastically during the middle four games to 321 yards per game, a stretch that included match ups with Oregon, Oregon State, and Stanford (pre-Hogan but still). That number jumped up to 404.25 for the final four games but if you remove that one disastrous outing against Arizona State, the number becomes 385.33.

Bucannon was at the center of Wazzou’s defense and his production and leadership means he deserves a lot of credit for Wazzou’s massive improvement over the course of the season. Here’s a game tape of Bucannon against Oregon.

I’m not a particularly big fan of this game film because this wasn’t one of his better games but it’s the only extended film of Bucannon I could find online. Bucannon never does anything particularly special even on his interception which was just an awful throw by Marcus Mariota. But watching the film, you can see Bucannon is around the ball on every play and he never misses any tackles. He’s the most adequate player you can find without getting a player who truly wows you. Despite his production and what he means to the Cougars I don’t have him higher for a few reasons. He’s a senior and a three year starter so I think we’ve seen all he can do at the college level whereas most of the players in front of him on this list have more potential to develop into better playerswhile in college. Also, positions matter on this list and I just don;t think Safeties are as important as QBs, WRs, CBs, Linemen, etc. The bigger reason I have him lower is because despite being pretty much maxed out as a college player, he’s still only projected as a mid-round pick.

Still, Bucannon is one of finest Defensive Backs in the conference. I have him as the second best returning Safety in the Pac-12. He’s a great player and both he and Chidera Uzo-Diribe are wholly deserving of being top 40 players despite the poor teams they play on.

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