GREEN BAY- My sojourn to Titletown is over, but not before I had a chance to attend practice on Thursday and the scrimmage on Friday night. Here are three under-the-radar players who impressed me:
1) BRANDON SAINE- A few years ago, Jim Tressel called his star player “as good as a receiver as any running back in America.” The disgraced former Ohio State coach wasn’t lying for once. Saine is very skilled out of the backfield. He has soft hands and he reacts naturally to throws. He was also the most dependable pass protector among all the backs I watched the past two practices. He’s going to get plenty of snaps this season. In fact, if he had better natural running skills, he might never leave the field.
2) JAMARI LATTIMORE – More than a few people scoffed last summer when I wrote that this young man was a better player than Vic So’oto. That opinion is no longer debatable. While So’oto is sinking down the depth chart at outside linebacker, Lattimore is thriving on the inside. A year ago, his terrific speed and explosiveness were often negated by athletic offensive tackles who outweighed him by as much as 100 pounds, but those same attributes will cause interior linemen fits. He’s not ready just yet, but don’t be surprised if he’s competing with D.J. Smith for A.J. Hawk’s starting position a year from now.
3) JERRON MCMILLIAN – M.D. Jennings is receiving a lot of attention because he’s currently one of the two safeties on the field in sub-packages, but I’m not sure how long that’s going to last. McMillian will be the better player; it’s only a matter of time. The fourth-round pick from Maine is extremely raw, but he’s much more talented than Jennings. He’s bigger, faster and stronger. He also appears to be smart, coachable and hardworking. Once he stops thinking and just starts reacting, he’s going to get on the field. Whether that happens in the next few months or not until the 2013 season is the only question.