NCF Nation: Mike Iupati

If you were looking for a sign that the nonautomatic qualifying conferences are catching up to everyone else, look no further than the first round of the NFL draft.

Four players from the nonautomatic qualifying conferences were picked in prime time last night matching the number of non-AQ players who were picked in 2005.

Six total players were picked from 2006 to 2009, including three in 2008.

Early Thursday via Twitter, I guessed that three players would go and maybe a fourth if certain positions and needs were up for grabs. I also thought that Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati would be the first non-AQ picked. Boise State fans rebuffed that claim and said cornerback Kyle Wilson would be the first non-AQ player taken.

Alas, we were both wrong.

So, if you were asleep, living in seclusion or in jail, here’s another look at the non-AQ players who were selected in the first round of the NFL draft:

No. 12: San Diego Chargers -- Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

No. 17: San Francisco 49ers -- Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho

No. 29: New York Jets -- Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

No. 31: Indianapolis Colts -- Jerry Hughes, OLB, TCU

Non-AQs to watch as NFL combine nears

February, 19, 2010
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Players from nonautomatic qualifying schools are steadily moving up ESPN Scouts Inc.’s draft board.

With a week before the NFL scouting combine, Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati leads all non-AQ players as the top prospect. He’s the No. 1 guard in the draft and he and Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson have consistently been projected as first round picks.

But in Todd McShay’s blog Friday, Fresno Sate running back Ryan Mathews appeared as the No. 32 player in the upcoming draft. Mathews is a junior, so the first time scouts will really get to see his speed and agility is during the combine next week. Mathews is on the bubble between the first and second rounds and the combine could definitively move him one way or the other.

McShay also noted that after watching film, he found some players to watch as we head into the combine, and Utah receiver David Reed and Fresno State receiver Seyi Ajirotutu have cracked that list.

According to McShay, Reed “… should develop into a very good No. 3 receiver at the next level and is worth the investment late in Round 3.” McShay also writes that Reed should be taken over, “players such as Danario Alexander (Missouri), Jacoby Ford (Clemson) and Freddie Barnes (Bowling Green).”

For Ajirotutu, McShay writes that he needs some polishing, but could be a steal on Day 3 if some teams aren’t able to get a big-bodied receiver in the first three rounds.

Obviously, both Reed and Ajirotutu will have to impress scouts at the combine, but what they’ve shown on film already has piqued interest.
The Senior Bowl helped the draft stock of a couple players from the nonautomatic qualifying conferences, according to Todd McShay’s most recent mock draft. Insider

Idaho guard Mike Iupati is projected to be the No. 16 overall draft pick and Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson is projected to be the No. 25 pick.

Prior to the Senior Bowl no non-AQ players had cracked the first round of McShay’s mock drafts.

Both Iupati and Wilson earned high praise from ESPN.com’s Scouts, Inc. during the week leading up to the Senior Bowl. Both players were impressing coaches and scouts and continued their strong play through the game.

Both players are currently among the hottest on the draft board and could further improve their draft status at the NFL Scouting Combine later this month.
Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati was already considered the best guard heading into the 2010 NFL draft, but his play during Senior Bowl practices is confirming that spot.

Iupati (6-foot-6, 325 pounds) has been so good that Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl of Scouts Inc. write that Iupati could turn into a late first-round pick, making him the only non-AQ player projected to go in the first round.

“There is not a weakness in Iupati's game when he's lined up at guard,” the Scouts Inc. trio wrote in their North Team practice report. “His quick first step, lateral quickness, and long arms make him a dominant force inside, and he is a nasty finisher who is not satisfied until defenders are on their backs.”

Iupati’s play is no surprise to those of us who followed Idaho this season. In every game, even against top teams such as Boise State, Iupati was the most-dominant offensive lineman on the field. Almost no one got to Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle from Iupati’s side of the line. He was a consensus All-American and the first Idaho All-American since 1957.

While Iupati is gaining a lot of praise now, his journey toward being a first round draft pick is just starting. He needs to finish the Senior Bowl on a high note and then make a great showing at the NFL combine to move into the first round in April.
Mel Kiper doesn’t have any love for the non-AQs in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

There are no non-AQs players listed on Kiper’s first mock draft, which was released on ESPN.com on Thursday. Not even TCU defensive end (who could be considered an outside linebacker in the pros) Jerry Hughes, who was considered a late first-round pick on his NFL evaluation after his junior year, was able to crack the top 32. Hughes didn’t make Todd McShay’s first round either.

Kiper does list his top five players per position, which is a little kinder to players from teams outside the Big Six.

Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati is the best guard available in the draft and TCU linebacker Daryl Washington is the second-best inside linebacker behind Alabama’s Rolando McClain and before Florida’s Brandon Spikes.

Kent State fullback Jameson Konz and BYU fullback Manase Tonga are the No. 3 and No. 4 fullbacks, respectively, available.

Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour is considered the fifth-best quarterback in the draft and Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews is considered the fifth-best running back.

Toledo kicker Alex Steigerwald is the fourth-best place-kicker and East Carolina punter Matt Dodge is the third-best punter available this year.

It is important to note that these rankings are before the senior bowls and the NFL combine, and those two events have been known to alter the first three rounds quite a bit.
TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes has said repeatedly that he decided to stay at TCU for his senior season instead of jumping to the NFL because he wanted to win a Mountain West Conference title.

[+] EnlargeJerry Hughes
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesAt this point, it doesn't appear Jerry Hughes would be a first-round pick in April's draft.
Hughes not only helped the Horned Frogs to their second-ever Mountain West title, but also the school’s first undefeated season since 1938 and the school’s first-ever BCS bowl appearance.

But in trying to help his team achieve its goals, Hughes might have slightly hurt his own future endeavors.

Hughes said this summer that the NFL’s College Advisory Committee evaluated his play and considered him a late first-round or early second-round pick. But ESPN.com’s Todd McShay doesn’t have Hughes in his first round mock draft which he released Tuesday. Hughes also isn’t listed among Scouts Inc.’s Top 32 players.

He is, however, listed on Mel Kiper's Big Board at No. 23.

According the ESPN.com’s NFL Draft Tracker, Hughes, who is listed as an outside linebacker, is considered the sixth-best outside linebacker in the draft. He’s the No. 65 player overall.

However, if you go by McShay's rankings, there is hope for Hughes as a potential second-round pick. McShay has four outside linebackers listed in his first-round mock draft -- Texas’ Sergio Kindle is the first at No. 13, Penn State’s Navorro Bowman is No. 16, North Carolina’s Bruce Carter is No. 18, and Clemson’s Ricky Sapp is No. 25.

Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon and South Carolina’s Eric Norwood also are listed ahead of Hughes, and whether Hughes is taken in the second or third round depends on the needs of the teams drafting.

Hughes is not even the highest-ranked player from a nonautomatic qualifying school. Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati earned that spot as the No. 43 overall player. Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews, who is a junior and has yet to determine whether he’ll leave school, is ranked No. 45. Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson is ranked No. 54.

Hughes is a consensus All-American for the second consecutive season, but his numbers are down from where they were a year ago. He has 11.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss heading into the bowl season. Last year, he had 19.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks. All of his sacks in 2008 were solo.

The only knock in Hughes' draft profile is his height (6-foot-13/4) and his bulk (252 pounds) which are described as adequate and marginal.

Obviously, this is a rough mock draft. The bowl season has yet to start and we all know that draft projections tend to change after the NFL combine in February. But this gives us all an idea of where certain players might fall in April.

Sporting News honors 10 non-AQ players

December, 15, 2009
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The Sporting News came out with its All-America lists Tuesday and 10 players from the nonautomatic qualifying schools, including two on the first team, made the cut.

TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes, who has made the first team of every All-America team that’s been published this season, and Central Michigan punt returner Antonio Brown were the two players on the first team. This is Brown’s first All-America first-team selection.

Here’s a look at the players who were honored:

FIRST TEAM

Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU

Antonio Brown, PR, Central Michigan

SECOND TEAM

Mike Iupati, OL, Idaho

Daryl Washington, LB, TCU

Matt Dodge, K, East Carolina

LaVon Brazill, PR, Ohio

THIRD TEAM

Freddie Barnes, WR, Bowling Green

Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU

Zane Beadles, OL, Utah

Rafael Priest, CB, TCU

Must admit that Brown and Brazill are a bit of a surprise, but deserving since they were two of the best punt returners in the country. It's also surprising to see Barnes and Pitta fall to the third team. Both were more deserving than the current selections.

TCU's Hughes adds more honors

December, 14, 2009
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TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes continues to rack up the postseason honors.

This past weekend, Hughes was named the 2009 recipient of the Lott Trophy, which is given to the nation’s defensive IMPACT player of the year, and he was also named to the 2009 FWAA All-American team.

The Lott Trophy is the first college football award to equally recognize athletic performance and the personal character attributes of the player. TCU will receive $25,000 for its general scholarship fund for the award.

Hughes was named the 2009 Hendricks Award winner earlier in the week. That award is given to the nation’s top defensive lineman.

The FWAA All-American honor is the third major All-American team Hughes has been named to so far this season. He was also a Walter Camp All-American and an American Football Coaches Association first team All-American.

Joining Hughes on the FWAA All-American list are three other nonautomatic qualifying players. Bowling Green receiver Freddie Barnes, Utah offensive lineman Zane Beadles and Idaho offensive lineman Mike Iupati also were named first-team performers.
Seven players from the nonautomatic qualifying schools were named to the 2009 Walter Camp Football Foundation All-America team.

The Walter Camp All-American Team, which is in its 120th season, is the oldest All-American team in the country.

TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes was selected on the first team for the second consecutive season after finishing with 11.5 sacks for the undefeated Horned Frogs.

BYU tight end Dennis Pitta also made first team after leading the Cougars with 57 catches for 784 yards and seven touchdowns.

Idaho offensive guard and Outland Trophy finalist Mike Iuapati was a first team lineman after helping the Vandals rank 10th in the country in total offense.

Bowling Green receiver Freddie Barnes, Utah offensive lineman Zane Beadles, Houston quarterback Case Keenum and Boise State defensive back Kyle Wilson were all named to the second team.

Suh claims Outland and Bednarik awards

December, 10, 2009
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Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh picked up back-to back-awards in a five-minute period as he claimed the Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman and the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation's best defensive player.

Suh continued a Nebraska tradition, becoming the eighth Cornhusker and first since Aaron Taylor in 1997 to earn the Outland Trophy, beating out Russell Okung of Oklahoma State and Idaho's Mike Iupati.

In the process, Suh has been a part of a stunning turnaround in the Nebraska defense.

"It's been a tough ride but got some strong guys back there. My class especially has been through some kind of hell," Suh said. "But having a great coaching staff and great defensive gurus like (Nebraska coach) Coach Bo (Pelini) and (Nebraska defensive coordinator) Carl Pelini. We learned the best from them. We want to continue to improve and get better as we do through the year."

Suh said he hopes to represent all of the offensive and defensive linemen as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in New York City. He becomes the first interior lineman since Warren Sapp of Miami in 1994 to be nominated.

"That's a crazy feeling. I never expected it," Suh said. "After the Missouri game there was some Heisman talk. But I never expected to be there. I'm very proud of it. I talked to a couple of guys when I was at the Lombardi Award and hopefully want to represent those guys in the right way.

"All the guys up front -- the offensive linemen and defensive linemen -- I definitely want to be that person to represent them and happy to do it."

Earlier, Suh overcame Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody and Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes to become first Cornhusker and third Big 12 player to win the Bednarik Award.
All of college football’s major awards will be announced tonight live on ESPN during The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards show hosted by Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. The show will take place at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Three players from the nonautomatic-qualifying schools are up for awards tonight -- Houston quarterback Case Keenum is competing for the Davey O’Brien, Bowling Green receiver Freddie Barnes is vying for the Biletnikoff Trophy and Idaho guard Mike Iupati in contending for the Outland Trophy.

Keenum is up against Texas’ Colt McCoy and Florida’s Tim Tebow, Barnes is facing Texas’ Jordan Shipley and Notre Dame’s Golden Tate, and Iupati has Oklahoma State Russell Okung and Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh.

Here’s a look at what Keenum, Barnes and Iupati have accomplished this season:

Case Keenum, QB, Houston

Keenum led the nation in total offense (429.31 yards per game), passing (419.15 ypg) and touchdown passes (43), and led Houston to wins over three automatic-qualifying teams, including then-No. 5 Oklahoma State, and its first national ranking since 1991. He’s thrown for more than 500 yards four times this season and for more than four touchdowns six times. Keenum threw for 5,449 yards (fourth-highest total in FBS history) and 43 touchdowns with just nine interceptions this season. Keenum averaged almost 100 yards more of total offense than the next best quarterback.

Freddie Barnes, WR, Bowling Green

Barnes led the nation in receptions per game with 11.50 and ranked second in the country in receiving yards per game with 129.25. He led all Mid-American Conference receivers with 129 receptions, 1,482 yards and 14 touchdowns. Barnes posted double-digit receptions eight times this season, including a career-high 22 catches against Kent State. In that Kent State game, he also had a career-high 278 yards, his only 200-yard receiving game, but one of eight 100-yard receiving games of the season.

Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho

Iupati is the anchor in the middle of an Idaho line that helped its offense become the nation’s No. 10 total offense with 451.33 yards per game. The Idaho passing offense, led by quarterback Nathan Enderle, was 11th in the country at 290.58 ypg. Both of those averages are the highest Idaho has produced in Iupati’s four seasons with the program. Iupati is widely considered one of the top offensive guards in the current NFL draft class.
Three players from nonautomatic-qualifying schools have been named first-team All-Americans by the American Football Coaches Association.

TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes, BYU tight end Dennis Pitta and offensive lineman Mike Iupati all were named to the 25-player team.

The AFCA All-America team, in place since 1945, is the only All-America team chosen exclusively by coaches.

Last season, Utah kicker Louie Sakoda was the only player from a nonautomatic-qualifying team on the list.

Hughes has 15 tackles for loss, including 11.5 sacks, and a career-high 54 stops. He anchors the nation’s No. 2 defense.

Pitta is the nation’s top pass-catching tight end with 57 catches for 784 yards and seven touchdowns.

Iupati helped pave the way for Idaho to rank No. 12 in the country in total offense with 451.33 yards per game. The Vandals also had the 23rd-ranked scoring offense with 31.83 points per game.

Idaho OG named Outland finalist

November, 24, 2009
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Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati has been named a finalist for the Outland Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation’s best interior lineman.

Iupati has helped Idaho rank No. 14 in the country in total offense with 444.18 yards per game and helped protect quarterbacks Nathan Enderle and Brian Reader, who are averaging 281.09 yards in the passing game.

Idaho is 7-4, its best record since joining the FBS, and is headed to a bowl game for the first time since 1998.

Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung are also finalists for the award.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

The Outland Trophy honored seven players from the nonautomatic qualifying schools on its watch list this week.

The Outland Trophy is award by the Football Writers Association of America annually to the nation's best interior linemen -- tackles, guards and centers -- on either side of the ball.

Since the award began in 1946, five players from the current nonautomatic qualifying schools have won -- Army's Joe Steffy (1947), Utah State's Merlin Olsen (1961), BYU's Jason Buck (1986), Air Force's Chad Hennings (1987) and BYU's Mohammed Elewonibi (1989).

The last non-AQ to appear as a finalist was Utah's Jordan Gross in 2002.

The Outland Trophy also will consider adding players to the watch list in early October.

The Outland Trophy is the third oldest award in major college football. The winner will be announced on the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show on Dec. 10.

2009 OUTLAND TROPHY WATCH LIST

Zane Beadles, Utah, OL
Nick Charles, Air Force, G
Chris Fisher, Louisiana-Lafayette, C
D'Anthony Smith, Louisiana Tech, DT
Mike Iupati, Idaho, OL
Torrell Troup, UCF, DT
Andre Neblett, Temple, NT

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