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Blog Entry

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely Saturday

Posted on: September 23, 2011 3:43 pm
 
Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

Because I'm scouting them in real time these players make an early impression, often leading to consideration as my Prospect of the Week or Diamond in the Rough.

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

QB Ryan Lindley, San Diego State: Throughout Brady Hoke's tenure as the Aztecs' head coach, Lindley demonstrated the live arm and understanding of defenses to help turn around the San Diego State program. Now, with Hoke on the opposite sideline, the pupil will have his opportunity to show up the teacher. Lindley is a bit of a gun-slinger. He's shown a willingness to throw off his back foot and into coverage a bit more than I'd like, but he does possess the size, arm and accuracy to be a legitimate NFL prospect. He currently ranks 8th on NFLDraftScout.com's QB board for the 2012 draft. Michigan isn't loaded defensively, but they are certainly a step up athleticism-wise from anything the Aztecs will see this season. Furthermore, I want to see how Lindley handles the noise and pressure in such a hostile environment.  This game begins at 12:00 pm ET and will be televised by The Big Ten Network.

WR Greg Childs, Arkansas:  Ryan Mallett and Knile Davis received much of the attention last season, but the most consistent performer last season for Bobby Petrino was his high-flying junior wideourt, Childs. Childs, of course, suffered a knee injury that robbed him of any thought of coming out early. He was hobbled early this season coming back from the injury and missed last week's game due to a death in the family. Against what I believe is the best coached and most talented secondary in the country, Childs will definitely have his work cut out for him. However, when healthy, Childs has shown a combination of size, speed and body control to rank as a legitimate top 50 prospect. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by CBS.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: A former wide receiver who only made the switch to quarterback last season after the incumbent starter struggled, Tannehill has made as much progress as an NFL prospect as any player in the country. The improvements he's made in reading coverages, setting up and delivering passes and simply understanding the nuances of Mike Sherman's pro-style attack in less than a full season operating at quarterback have been impressive, leading some scouts to view Tannehill as this year's out-of-nowhere first round pick. Tannehill certainly isn't coming out of nowhere in my mind, nor that of NFLDraftScout.com. We've rated him the top senior QB prospect in the country since August. Tannehill and his Aggies face their first real test this weekend, however, as they host Oklahoma State, who boasts their own legitimate pro QB prospect in Brandon Weeden and his Biletnikof-winning receiver Justin Blackmon. Sure, I want to scout this game because it pits two top ten teams, but don't fool yourself, this is a huge showdown for the quarterbacks. This game begins at 3:30 ET and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DE Andre Branch, Clemson: Quite frankly, I wasn't impressed with the play of Florida State's left tackle Andrew Datko in last weekend's game against an athletic Oklahoma defense. Branch boasts the combination of size, strength and speed that could also give Datko troubles, which is why I want to focus on him. Those wanting to see one of the better senior prospects at any position in the country can simply look to Branch's left, as senior defensive tackle Brandon Thompson has been impressive, thus far. In past games that I've wanted to focus on Branch, Thompson has stolen my attention. We'll see if Branch can't steal back some thunder in this exciting ACC matchup. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN. 

CB Cliff Harris, Oregon: Heisman finalist LaMichael James was the primary reason for Oregon's rise to the BCS Championship game last season, but Harris was arguably the most dominant player on the team, earning All-American honors as a returner and ball-hawking cornerback. His well-documented off-field troubles have hurt his stock, as has his spindly frame (5-11, 168). Harris hasn't seen much time yet this season as he works his way back into head coach Chip Kelly's good graces. The Ducks will be sure that Harris is on the field against an explosive Arizona offense, however, that features their own talented pro prospects in QB Nick Foles and WR Juron Criner. How the slim Harris matches up with Criner (6-4, 215) should give scouts a good idea as to how well he'll handle the bigger, more physical receivers of the NFL. This game begins at 10"15 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN2.

p.s. At the request of some diehard Seahawk fans, I'm also including the QBs to watch this weekend. They are:

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State visiting Texas A&M. 3:30 pm ET on ABC/ESPN
Landry Jones, Oklahoma hosting Missouri. 8 pm ET on FX.
Nick Foles, Arizona hosting Oregon. 10:15 pm ET on ESPN2.
Matt Barkley, USC visiting Arizona State. 10:15 pm ET on ESPN.*

*As well as Lindley and Tannehill, mentioned above.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com