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Tag:Notre Dame
Posted on: February 28, 2012 3:13 pm
 

Below average safety crop exposed running 40s

With Alabama's Mark Barron the only player at his position considered by most talent evaluators to be worthy of first round consideration, it isn't news that the 2012 draft offers only a mediocre crop of safety prospects. 

The timing couldn't be much worse for NFL teams needing help at the position as the 2011 season was characterized by the emergence of several tight ends as legitimate downfield threats and the continued expansion of three and four receiver spread attacks. To combat the aerial onslaught, defenses are looking for big, athletic safeties.

The safeties were the final prospects to run the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine but with only a few exceptions they weren't able to reward scouts for their patience. In fact, of the 21 safeties invited to the Combine this year, zero recorded a time under 4.50 seconds. Worse, of the strong and free safeties given a top 125 grade by NFLDraftScout.com prior to the Combine, only Notre Dame's Harrison Smith (4.57) recorded a time under 4.66. 

South Carolina State's Christian Thompson just missed the mark, clocking in at exactly 4.50 according to the "official" times released by the NFL. And while the fast time certainly helps legitimize Thompson's athleticism, considering his low level of competition and inconsistent play over his career, frankly he may have needed the workout if he is to generate anything more than mid to late Day Three consideration. 

Similarly, scouts expected to see Vanderbilt's Sean Richardson work out well and he did -- enjoying the best all-around performance of any safety with a 4.52 time in the 40-yard dash, as well as demonstrating power (22 repetitions of 225 pounds) and explosiveness (38.5" vertical, 128" broad jump) but the concerns about him are about his agility, instincts and ball-skills. Richardson had just one interception in 49 career games, including 31 consecutive starts to finish his career. 

Barron was unable to work out due to his recovery from hernia surgery performed after the season. Teams looking for immediate safety help may have to either reach to take him or hope one of the bigger, more instinctive and physical cornerbacks of the 2012 class can make the adjustment to safety as an NFL rookie. 

Somewhere Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and a host of other receiving specialist tight ends are smiling... 
Posted on: December 30, 2011 12:04 am
 

FSU loses talented rSo CB Rhodes to knee injury

With a come from behind victory over Notre Dame in Thursday night's Champ Sports Bowl, the Florida State Seminoles took a significant step towards re-establishing themselves as a national force.

Unfortunately, redshirt sophomore cornerback Xavier Rhodes, one of the key players expected to help the Seminoles take the next step in 2012, suffered an ugly knee injury in the third quarter that could impact his ability for next season.

Though an ESPN sideline reporter characterized the injury as a "sprained knee" during the telecast, a source at the game said the injury "looks bad" and anticipated an MRI being ordered for Rhodes Friday.

Though only a redshirt sophomore, Rhodes had already established himself as one of the more intriguing press cornerback prospects in the country. The 6-1, 215 pound Rhodes had been enjoying a strong game matched up one on one with Notre Dame star Michael Floyd, proving the hype he'd begun to build with his play was well deserved. Though targeted on several occasions, Rhodes had helped limit Floyd, NFLDraftScout.com's top senior receiver for the 2012 draft, to only 3 catches for 22 yards in over a half of work.

On the play in which he was injured Rhodes collided with Floyd and safety LaMarcus Joyner competing for a pass down the left sideline. All three players hit the ground hard.

Rhodes initially popped up quickly off the sideline but then dropped suddenly to the ground, grasping his left knee in obvious pain. Florida State doctors quickly converged on him, and after a few moments, carefully helped off the field. Quickly thereafter it was announced that Rhodes had been ruled him out for the rest of the game with a sprained knee.

Floyd was able to return for a few plays, catching two passes for 19 yards, including a juggling five yard toughdown on the drive. He was limited the rest of the game due to what an ESPN sideline reporter characterized as a shot taken to his midsection. His absence clearly limited the Irish offense as they were out-scored 15-0 in the fourth quarter and eventually lost 18-14.

Floyd's inability to get back onto the field was disappointing. His injury, however, isn't likely to have any real effect on his pro stock.

For Rhodes, who some suggest had requested a grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, the extent of his injury could have a much greater impact. 

Including the Champs Sports Bowl, Rhodes recorded 43 tackles in 2011. He also defended five passes, with one interception this season. 
Posted on: December 11, 2011 11:47 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:49 pm
 

Report: Notre Dame ILB Te'o to return for 2012

Many NFL teams needing help at linebacker will wake up Monday morning to discover that one of the few potential first round prospects is passing up his chance at the NFL to return for his senior season.

According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, Notre Dame junior inside linebacker Manti Te'o announced Sunday at the Lott IMPACT Trophy Awards that he'll be playing for Notre Dame in 2012. Brian Hamilton's article also notes that Notre Dame has confirmed the news.

Te'o was rated behind only another junior -- Boston College's Luke Kuechly -- on NFLDraftScout.com's rankings of inside linebackers potentially available for the 2012 draft. Audie Cole from North Carolina State is the highest rated senior at the position but is currently graded as a 3rd round prospect and NFLDraftScout.com's No. 87 rated player. By comparison, Te'o is rated No. 27, overall. 

The 6-2, 255 pound Te'o signed with Notre Dame as one of the highest decorated prep prospects in the country. He proved an immediate difference-maker for the Irish and had steadily improved his stock throughout his career. Te'o was voted a finalist for the Butkus Award this year after leading the Irish in tackles (113), tackles for loss (13) and sacks (4.5). The junior still has the upcoming Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State December 29 to top the career-high 133 tackles he posted last  year -- the highest total from a Notre Dame player since 1983 (Tony Furjanic).

Te'o certainly has the build scouts are looking for at the mike position and he has ucommon speed for his size, as well. While he's not necessarily the thumper his size would lead you to believe, Te'o locates the ball quickly and is a reliable tackler. He has the athleticism and awareness for coverage and has some natural pass rush skills, as well. As such, scouts from 4-3 and 3-4 teams, alike, were intrigued by the Notre Dame linebacker.

One team that could be particularly disappointed to see Te'o return to Notre Dame might be the Buffalo Bills. The Bills' struggles to stop the run this season is one reason I had previously projected Buffalo to select Te'o in my latest first round mock draft.

Instead it appears that Notre Dame's Brian Kelly will be the coach boasting this difference-making linebacker next season.

Posted on: November 21, 2011 3:36 pm
 

"Significant" knee injury clouds Gray's stock

A right knee injury characterized by Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly as "significant" will almost certainly finish running back Jonas' Gray breakout senior campaign. The injury may, in fact, end his collegiate career.  

The injury occured during Saturday's win over Boston College. While results of the MRI have not yet been released, sources close to the Notre Dame program believe that Gray tore his MCL and perhaps other ligaments, as well.

The injury is a particularly sad one for Gray, as he'd finally become the productive runner he was hyped to be when signing with Notre Dame as a highly touted prep player.

Gray, 5-10 and 230 pounds, had rushed for 791 yards and a team-leading 12 touchdowns so far this season. He entered the campaign having rushed for just 309 combined yards over his first three years with the team and had started only one game (he rushed for 18 yards on nine carries in 2009 against Purdue) during that time. 

This year, however, Gray had appeared to have a new lease on life. Blessed with surprisingly quick feet and athleticism for a back of his size, Gray teamed with 6-0, 215 pound junior Cierre Wood to give the Irish their most formidable rushing attack in years.

Due to the fact that Gray has not used a redshirt during his collegiate career, he may elect to petition the NCAA for a medical hardship. Considering that the injury occurred so late in the season, however, the NCAA isn't likely to rule in his favor.

As such, the injury could force Gray to begin preparation for any chance at being drafted (or signed as a free agent) in the NFL earlier than he would have hoped.

Even with Gray's impressive senior campaign he is viewed by NFLDraftScout.com as a marginal prospect, at best. Gray is currently ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 55 running back for the 2012 draft. As a point of reference, last year there were 31 running backs (including fullbacks) drafted.

Posted on: November 19, 2011 11:40 am
 

Mano-a-Mano, Week 12

In addition to the prospects Senior Analyst Rob Rang wrote about in his "five players to watch" blog post, take a look at these memorable ten one-on-one match-ups (plus a slew of honorable mention selections) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.

Because players move around based on different formations and what coaches see as favorable match-ups, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.

All times Eastern.
"*" Denotes an underclassman

1. Virginia DE Cam Johnson (#56/6-3/270/4.76) at Florida State LT Zebrie Sanders (#77/6-5/307/5.25)
Virginia LT *Oday Aboushi (#72/6-6/310/5.20) at Florida DE *Brandon Jenkins (#49/6-3/265/4.69)
7:30 pm, ESPN2

Whether the Cavaliers or Seminoles have the ball, NFL scouts get to see a good pass rush prospect testing the resolve of a quality left tackle. Sanders has the athletic look of a blind-side protector, and has played well since moving over from the right side after four-year starter Andrew Datko decided to end his season to have shoulder surgery. Johnson brings a constant upfield push, which Sanders has the lateral agility and anchor to handle despite that svelte build. This means Johnson must use some counter moves against Sanders instead of relying solely on his up-and-under move to win the edge.

When the teams switch sides, Jenkins will be looking to convince scouts he's worth a top 40 pick by consistently turn the corner against the long, lean Aboushi. His production (7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) has dropped from 2010 (21.5, 13.5) but he's still smooth off the line and capable of tracking down Virginia QB Michael Rocco if the Cavs' junior left tackle cannot prove he has NFL-caliber anchor, bend, and the quick feet to mirror in pass protection.

2. Boston College CB Donnie Fletcher (#4/6-1/195/4.53) at Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd (#3/6-3/224/4.54)
4:00 pm, NBC

Fletcher intercepted his first pass of the season last week against North Carolina State (after picking up five in 2010), but gets his toughest test of the year in Floyd. Neither prospect will be among the fastest in their groups at the Combine, but Floyd's quick cuts will test Fletcher's ability to transition and drive short routes to prevent completions or limit yards after the catch. Scouts will also look to see if Fletcher has the recovery speed to handle double-moves from Floyd, or if he's best off moving to safety in the NFL to utilize his length and ball skills with the play in front of him.

3. Cal DEs Trevor Guyton (#92/6-3/280/4.86)/Ernest Owusu (#95/6-4/270/4.87) at Stanford LT *Jonathan Martin (#55/6-6/305/5.29)/RG *David DeCastro (#52/6-5/312/5.22)
Cal LT Mitchell Schwartz (#72/6-5/318/5.36) at Stanford DE/OLB *Chase Thomas (#44/6-4/240/4.76)
10:15 pm, ESPN

Right now Cal is best known in NFL circles for producing a defending Super Bowl champion and 2011 MVP candidate in Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But they've also had defensive linemen go in the first round in the last two drafts: Tyson Alualu (Jacksonville, 2010) and Cameron Jordan (New Orleans, 2011). And though Guyton and Owusu are not likely to be top 50 picks, they will give Stanford's top 20 prospects Martin and DeCastro all they can handle. Guyton has 9.5 tackles for loss despite playing mostly inside, but DeCastro's strength and footwork make him very difficult to beat. Owusu plays a lot like another current Packer, Jarius Wynn, with length, power, and impressive agility for a 3-4 end. Stanford's junior left tackle Martin plays with the wide base and nasty attitude to stop Owusu's advances, but he'll also have to keep his feet moving and hands active after initial contact to protect quarterback Andrew Luck -- while keeping an eye on Cal linebackers like senior Mychal Kendricks coming off the edge.

And like the Virginia/Florida State contest, this year's Big Game also features a good LT/DE scouting opportunity when the Bears are on offense. A four-year starter at left and right tackle for Cal, Schwartz's size is what scouts love -- but he is a bit more nimble than you would expect looking at his tall, long frame. Thomas can test that agility with a strong upfield-to-inside lane move, and will try to get his hands on Schwartz's numbers off the snap to see what sort of pass set and anchor the big man possesses.

4. Penn State DT Devon Still (#71/6-4/310/5.06) at Ohio State C Michael Brewster (#50/6-4/305/5.17)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN

Scouts expected Still to step up his game as a senior after a strong outing against Florida in last year's Outback Bowl (3.5 TFLs). He has not disappointed, using his elite combination and size and athleticism to rank sixth in the country with 16.5 tackles for loss. The tall, sturdy Brewster must help sophomore guards with Still and active junior DT Jordan Hill whenever possible, though both will undoubtedly line up in the B-gap to penetrate into the backfield before senior RB Dan "Boom" Herron even gets the handoff (which Still has been known to do) and while freshman QB Braxton Miller drops back to pass. Scouts won't just be looking at Still's highlight plays, though -- he needs to put forth play-to-play effort and keep his pads low enough to prevent Brewster and others from standing him up off the snap.

5. Oklahoma CBs Jamell Fleming (#32/5-11/192/4.54)/*Demontre Hurst (#6/5-9/182/4.46) at Baylor WR Kendall Wright (#1/5-10/190/4.42)8:00 pm, ABC

Robert Griffin III faces his toughest test of the season in a Sooners defense that, though far from stout, has playmakers on the outside like Hurst and Fleming that can challenge receivers. Wright doesn't have the size advantage here, but will attempt to help his quarterback move the ball through the air with his quickness and savvy in routes and strong hands. Hurst and Fleming aren't easy to shake off the line of scrimmage or after the catch on short throws, though their aggressive games can be used against them. But if Griffin and Wright can connect on timing routes and the occasional extended play in order to keep up with the yardage likely to be put up by Oklahoma junior QB Landry Jones, they will only increase the respect scouts already feel for their skills.

6. Southern Cal DE *Nick Perry (#8/6-3/250/4.59) at Oregon LT Darrion Weems (#74/6-5/302/5.40)
8:00 pm, ABC

Most of the hype surrounding the third major Pac-12 showdown in the last four weeks involves juniors USC quarterback Matt Barkley and Oregon running back LaMichael James. But Weems' play against Stanford's defensive line last week did not escape scouts, and he'll get another chance to impress them against Perry -- who had his own big game with 2.5 sacks against Washington last Saturday. Weems must prove his agility to prevent Perry from forcing quarterback Darron Thomas into hurried decisions, as well as continue to show his strength and knowledge of blocking angles when walling off any Trojans defender in his path so James and the Ducks' other speedy backs have room to run.

7. Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard (#15/5-10/205/4.49) at Michigan WR Junior Hemingway (#21/6-1/222/4.54)/*Roy Roundtree (#12/6-0/178/4.43)
12:00 pm, ESPN

If Michigan threw the ball more often (and more efficiently), this would be a higher-ranked matchup. And when Wolverines quarterback junior Denard Robinson and sophomore Devin Gardner do put it up, they'll probably try to stay away from Dennard. But scouts will have interest any time these talented players get their chance to prove themselves. Hemingway and Roundtree are legitimate NFL prospects, however, even if their statistics aren't among the NCAA leaders. Hemingway averages nearly 20 yards a catch with strong hands and physical play, and he'll most likely partake in hand-play with Dennard on the outside more often than will the wiry, quick Roundtree. Scouts appreciate that Dennard has five pass break-ups over the past three games, but would like to see him intercept his first pass of the year after he picked off four in 2010.

8. Cincinnati DT Derek Wolfe (#95/6-5/300/5.16) at Rutgers OG Desmond Wynn (#70/6-5/295/5.14)
12:00 pm, ESPNU

Cincinnati lost their starting quarterback, Zach Collaros, in the team's loss to West Virginia last weekend so the Bearcats' defense will need to step up to re-start the team's winning ways. Wolfe ranks seventh in the FBS with 14.5 tackles for loss and 15th in sacks with seven. Though not an elite athlete, he uses hustles and length to work past most college guards and even lines up at defensive end at times. Wynn, however, has the athleticism to cut off Wolfe's kniving moves inside and the strength to handle bull rushes from any of the UC defenders. So although this battle of mid-round prospects may not rank high on the "sexy meter", it will be worth a look for scouts and NFL draft fans.

9. Wisconsin CB Antonio Fenelus (#26/5-8/190/4.49) at Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins (#8/6-0/190/4.49)
3:30 pm, ESPN2 

Illinois' four-game losing streak has not made scouts sour on Jenkins' talent. He can snatch the ball from the air with his hands and make plays on shallow crosses and deep posts from the outside, even if his average size makes him more inclined to play in the slot at the next level. Fenelus' size is below-average, but his physicality at the line and downfield are not. He'll fight with Jenkins for deep balls, but will also have to prove to scouts he can make plays in trail coverage over the middle if they are to overlook his short stature.

10. Furman ILB Kadarron Anderson (#46/6-0/235/4.78) at Florida RBs Chris Rainey (#1/5-8/175/4.36)/Jeff Demps (#28/5-8/191/4.26)
Furman CB Ryan Steed (#1/5-11/190/4.52) at Florida WR Deonte Thompson (#6/5-11/200/4.44)
1:00 pm, ESPN3.com

Because the SEC schedules conference contests in early-to-mid September, Football Championship Subdivision (the former Division 1AA) foes get their chance at "the big boys" in November. The final score of this game may not be competitive, but NFL scouts hope two of the top senior prospects from the FCS will be. Steed has interceptions in four straight games, and although the Gators do not have an elite outside receiver prospect the speed and experience of Thompson could test him. Anderson ranks 11th in the FCS in tackles (11/game), but his ability to get off the blocks of Florida linemen and handle the elite speed of Rainey and Demps in the open field could go a long way in his final draft grade.

Honorable Mention

Cincinnati OT Alex Hoffman (#59/6-6/298/5.28) at Rutgers DE Manny Abreu (#51/6-2/260/4.76)
12:00 pm, ESPNU

Nebraska LT Jermarcus Hardrick (#50/6-7/320/5.32)/RT Marcel Jones (#78/6-6/320/5.29) at Michigan DEs *Craig Roh (#88/6-4/269/4.76)/Ryan Van Bergen (#53/6-6/288/4.84)
12:00 pm, ESPN

Minnesota WR Da'Jon McKnight (#6/6-1/212/4.54) at Northwestern CB Jordan Mabin (#26/5-10/180/4.57)
12:00 pm, Big Ten Network

Maryland DTs *A.J. Francis (#96/6-4/295)/*Joe Vellano (#72/6-2/285) at Wake Forest LG Joe Looney (#78/6-3/320/5.02)
3:00 pm, FSN 

SMU LT Kelvin Beachum (#70/6-3/306/5.52) at Houston OLB Sammy Brown (#8/6-2/240/4.67)
3:30 pm, FSN

Miami (Fla.) WRs Travis Benjamin (#3/5-10/175/4.36)/*Tommy Streeter (#8/6-4/215/4.62) at South Florida CB Quenton Washington (#2/5-10/195/4.50)
3:30 pm, ESPNU

Mississippi State CB *Johnthan Banks (#13/6-1/185/4.52) at Arkansas WRs *Cobi Hamilton (#11/6-3/209/4.57)/Greg Childs (#85/6-3/217/4.56)/Jarius Wright (#4/5-10/180/4.34)/Joe Adams (#3/5-11/190/4.38)
3:30 pm, CBS

Clemson DE Andre Branch (#40/6-4/260/4.77) at North Carolina State LT *R.J. Mattes (#79/6-6/305/5.19)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN

Washington CB *Desmond Trufant (#6/6-0/185/4.49) at Oregon State WR *Markus Wheaton (#2/6-0/178/4.47)/James Rodgers (#1/5-07/188/4.48)
3:30 pm, Fox Sports Pacific

Wisconsin RT Josh Oglesby (#67/6-7/330/5.38) at Illinois DE *Whitney Mercilus (#85/6-4/265/4.68)
Wisconsin DE Louis Nzegwu (#93/6-4/255/4.76) at Illinois OT Jeff Allen (#71/6-4/315/5.26)
Wisconsin WR Nick Toon (#1/6-2/220/4.52) at Illinois CB Tavon Wilson (#3/6-0/205/4.54)
3:30 pm, ESPN2

Miami (Fla.) DT Micanor Regis (#54/6-2/305/5.20) at South Florida LG Jeremiah Warren (#55/6-3/330/5.34)
3:30 pm, ESPNU

Louisiana Tech CB Terry Carter (#28/5-10/190/4.43) at Nevada WR Rishard Matthews (#15/6-1/215/4.54)
4:00 pm, TBA

Central Florida CB *Josh Robinson (#20/5-10/192/4.47) at East Carolina WR Lance Lewis (#1/6-1/209/4.50) -- if Lewis' right foot is healthy
7:00 pm, FSN

Virginia WR Kris Burd (#18/6-0/200/4.53) at Florida State CBs Mike Harris (#1/5-10/195/4.52)/*Greg Reid (#5/5-8/186/4.48)
7:30 pm, ESPN2

Boise State LT Nate Potter (#73/6-6/298/5.18) at San Diego State OLB Miles Burris (#9/6-2/235/4.73)
Boise State WR Tyler Shoemaker (#89/6-1/212/4.50) at San Diego State CB Larry Parker (#29/5-11/170)
8:00 pm, CBS Sports Network

Southern Cal DT DaJohn Harris (#98/6-4/310/5.16)/Christian Tupou (#44/6-2/300/5.06) at Oregon LG *Carson York (#77/6-5/292/5.20)/RG Mark Asper (#79/6-7/325/5.30)
8:00 pm, ABC


--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter    Follow him on Twitter @ChadReuter  

Posted on: November 12, 2011 11:45 am
 

Mano-a-Mano, Week 11

Mano-a-Mano, Week Eleven

In addition to the prospects Senior Analyst Rob Rang wrote about in his "five players to watch" blog post, take a look at these memorable ten one-on-one match-ups (plus a slew of honorable mention selections) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.

Because players move around based on different formations and what coaches see as favorable match-ups, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.

All times Eastern.
"*" Denotes an underclassman.

1. Alabama LG *Chance Warmack (#65/6-3/320/5.32) at Mississippi State DT *Fletcher Cox (#94/6-4/295/4.96)
7:45 pm, ESPN

Cox is this year's junior defensive tackle from the SEC climbing up draft boards with a break-out season (nine tackles for loss, four sacks). Though not as big or dominant as Nick Fairley or other elite tackles coming out of the conference, Cox has the length, athleticism, and power to be a top 40 pick -- especially if he performs well against Warmack, a thick, strong but mobile guard who will be an early-round pick whether he leaves school after this season or sticks around Tuscaloosa one more year.

2. Miami LT *Brandon Washington (#72/6-4/320/5.36) at Florida State DE *Brandon Jenkins (#49/6-3/265/4.69)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN

Jenkins had a big sophomore season in 2010 (21.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks) but hasn't matched those numbers in 2011 (6.5, 3.5). He still has the quickness off the snap and long arms to beat tackles in obvious pass rush situations, however, so the lateral movement and stamina of Washington will be tested. Jenkins will also need to hold his ground vs. Miami's widebody tackle (who may move back to guard in the NFL) in the run game to prevent redshirt sophomore Lamar Miller and junior Mike James from giving the Hurricanes balance.

3. Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard (#15/5-10/205/4.49) at Penn State WR Derek Moye (#6/6-4/210/4.54)
12:00 pm, ESPN

Once the pre-game discussion about Penn State's Sandusky Scandal dies down with the opening kickoff, two teams will try to win what seems like an unimportant game. When healthy, Moye is a big help to a Penn State offense needing both playmakers and balance (55th-ranked run game in FBS, 88th-ranked passing attack). Moye missed two games in October with a left foot injury, but came back vs. Illinois (2 catches, 29 yards) and had a bye week to heal heading into this highly-anticipated matchup for scouts. His 6-4 frame puts him a head above Dennard downfield, but the Huskers' corner has proven again and again his ability to negate receivers at the line of scrimmage with strong press coverage and climb the ladder to knock away sideline passes headed for a taller target.

4. Texas DE *Alex Okafor (#80/6-4/260/4.62) at Missouri RT Dan Hoch (#77/6-6/320/5.43)
12:00 pm, FX

Hoch is a sturdy three-year starter at right tackle who earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2010 and is a big part of why the Tigers rank tenth in the FBS in total offense. The big-bodied lineman faces a strong foe in Okafor, who has really come on during conference play using his strength and length on the edge to rack up seven tackles for loss and five sacks in the past five games. Showing he can turn the corner and take advantage of the inside lanes against the wide splits of the Missouri offensive line would be a nice feather in his cap.

5. Michigan State WR B.J. Cunningham (#3/6-2/216/4.59)/Keshawn Martin (#82/5-10/190/4.44) at Iowa CB Shaun Prater (#28/5-10/185/4.49)/*Micah Hyde (#18/6-1/185/4.53)
12:00 pm, ESPN2

Despite Iowa's inconsistencies, they put themselves in great spot to win the Legends division of the Big Ten with a win over an equally maddening Spartans team. Cunningham's play is a microcosm of Sparty's offense, following up a zero-catch performance against Nebraska with a three-reception, 104-yard game against Minnesota last Saturday. His thick build and downfield playmaking ability complements the underneath routes and quick screens that senior quarterback Kirk Cousins (who also fights his own battle against up-and-down play) throws to Martin. Neither of Iowa's corners are physically intimidating, but both can make plays using their length and tenacity if Cousins is late on his throws or Cunningham/Martin can't separate during the route.

6. Alabama-Birmingham LT Matt McCants (#71/6-6/295/5.26) at Memphis DT *Dontari Poe (#74/6-5/350/5.36)
4:15 pm, Comcast Sports South

Though McCants plays left tackle and Poe is listed at nose tackle on the Tigers' depth chart, scouts won't be surprised if these two of Conference USA's three potential top 100 picks (with Marshall DE Vinny Curry) meet up a few times Saturday afternoon. Memphis Co-DC Mike DuBose likes to move Poe around in three and four-man fronts, using him even outside either tackle at 6-5, 350 pounds because of his surprising agility and capability turning the corner at that size. The lean McCants would help his draft stock if he could anchor against the mammoth defender whether helping his guard inside or preventing Poe from reaching sophomore quarterback Jonathan Perry.

7. Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw (#41/6-2/265/4.76) at Mississippi State LT James Carmon (#77/6-7/330/5.43)
7:45 pm, ESPN

Mississippi State has a mammoth left tackle in Carmon, who is still learning the position after playing defensive line in 2010 and for two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (under DL coach and former MSU DT Dorsett Davis). He'll need to study up quick when Upshaw is lined up across from him, as Bama's top pass rusher threatens Carmon's somewhat stilted kick-slide with explosiveness and strong hands. NFL scouts love big linemen with good feet, and Carmon has similar athleticism to his past defensive linemen who switched to the other side of the ball. But he'll need to show more bend and be on top of his technique to keep Upshaw from chasing quarterback tandem senior Chris Relf and redshirt sophomore Tyler Russell.

8. Oregon LT Darrion Weems (#74/6-5/302/5.40) at Stanford DE/OLB *Chase Thomas (#44/6-4/240/4.76
8:00 pm, ABC

Weems leads an offensive line overshadowed by the Ducks' great talent at running back (juniors LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, freshman De'Anthony Thomas, as if you didn't know). This group of athletic positional blockers must be physical against a Stanford front line that plays with attitude and intelligence. Thomas' bull rush and relentless hustle towards the quarterback gives scouts a chance to see if Weems is strong and fluid enough an athlete to handle NFL defensive ends.

9. Wake Forest LG Joe Looney (#78/6-3/320/5.02)/RG Michael Hoag (#75/6-6/305) at Clemson DTs Brandon Thompson (#98/6-2/310/5.04)/Rennie Moore (#94/6-3/268/4.83)
12:00 pm, ESPNU

Looney is an under-the-radar guard prospect with enough size and athleticism to earn starter grades from NFL teams, but for the second time in three weeks he and Hoag faces a very strong interior defensive line (North Carolina's *Sylvester Williams, Tydreke Powell on October 29th). Thompson has a strong, wide build to push Looney into quarterback Tanner Price and the strong hands and active feet to rip off blocks to chase down plays outside the box. Moore's lack of size isn't troubling to the Tigers' defensive staff because he can handle his gap responsibilities as well as penetrate into the backfield to disrupt plays.

10. Maryland CB Cameron Chism (#22/5-10/190/4.52) at Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd (#3/6-3/224/4.54)
7:30 pm, NBC

Chism and his Terrapins teammates started with a bang when they took down Miami; his six tackles, forced fumble, and pick-six were a major factor in the team's 32-24 win. Since then, however, Maryland is 1-7, with the win coming over FCS in-state foe Towson. Chism has two other interceptions since the opener, including another score vs. Clemson, and hopes he can once again come up big in a quasi-home game at Washington D.C.'s FedEx Field when the nation tunes in on NBC Saturday night. He possesses the determined attitude on the outside to handle a big-bodied, strong-handed short, intermediate, and deep ball threat like Floyd. Notre Dame's leading receiver hasn't always been great, either, this season; USC limited him to 28 yards three weeks ago and he only managed 44 yards on five receptions against Wake Forest last weekend. But he's shown scouts over the past four years he can step up his game when Irish quarterbacks consistently deliver the ball his way.

 

Honorable Mention 

Nebraska LT Jermarcus Hardrick (#50/6-7/320/5.32)/RT Marcel Jones (#78/6-6/320/5.29) at Penn State DEs Jack Crawford (#81/6-5/273/4.79)/ Eric Latimore (#56/6-5/277/4.86)
12:00 pm, ESPN

Rice DE Scott Solomon (#35/6-3/270/4.79) at Northwestern LT Al Netter (#75/6-4/310/5.26)
12:00 pm, Big Ten Network

Texas DT Kheeston Randall (#91/6-5/305/5.07) at Missouri C Jayson Palmgren (#71/6-2/305/5.30)
Texas LG David Snow (#78/6-4/295/5.28) at Missouri DTs Dominique Hamilton (#90/6-5/305/5.24)/*Sheldon Richardson (#34/6-3/290/4.86)/Terrell Resonno (#93/6-3/295/5.08)
12:00 pm, FX

Ohio State C Michael Brewster (#50/6-4/305/5.17) at Purdue DT *Kawann Short (#93/6-3/310/5.22)
12:00 pm, Big Ten Network

West Virginia CB Keith Tandy (#8/5-10/199/4.54) at Cincinnati WR D.J. Woods (#3/6-0/182/4.49)
12:00 pm, ABC

Michigan State LG Joel Foreman (#67/6-4/315/5.43) at Iowa DT Mike Daniels (#93/6-0/280/4.84)
12:00 pm, ESPN2

North Carolina State WR T.J. Graham (#6/5-11/180/4.36) at Boston College CB Donnie Fletcher (#4/6-1/195/4.53)
12:30 pm, ACC Network/ESPN3.com

Duke LT Kyle Hill (#79/6-6/292/5.21) at Virginia DE/OLB Cam Johnson (#56/6-3/270/4.76)
Duke WR Donovan Varner (#26/5-8/175/4.53)/*Conner Vernon (#2/6-1/195/4.53) at Virginia Tech CB Chase Minnifield (#13/6-0/185/4.49)
3:00 pm, FSN

Michigan DE *Craig Roh (#88/6-4/269/4.76)/Ryan Van Bergen (#53/6-6/288/4.84) at Illinois OT Jeff Allen (#71/6-4/315/5.26)
Michigan WR Junior Hemingway (#21/6-1/222/4.54) at Illinois CB Tavon Wilson (#3/6-0/205/4.54)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN

Auburn LT A.J. Greene (#77/6-5/298/5.18)/RT Brandon Mosley (#75/6-5/305/5.22) at Georgia DT DeAngelo Tyson (#94/6-2/306/5.02)
3:30 pm, CBS

Washington DT Alameda Ta'amu (#74/6-3/337/5.22) at Southern Cal C *Khaled Holmes (#78/6-3/310/5.17)
3:30 pm, FX

Miami DE Marcus Robinson (#56/6-1/255/4.63) at Florida State OT Zebrie Sanders (#77/6-5/307/5.25)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN

Texas A&M WRs Jeff Fuller (#8/6-3/220/4.52)/*Uzoma Nwachukwu (#7/6-0/195/4.42)/*Ryan Swope (#25/6-0/206/4.53) at Kansas State CB David Garrett (#27/5-8/175/4.58)
3:30 pm, ABC

Wisconsin CB Antonio Fenelus (#26/5-8/190/4.49) at Minnesota WR Da'Jon McKnight (#6/6-1/212/4.54)
3:30 pm, Big Ten Network

UCLA CB *Aaron Hester (#21/6-1/206/4.49) at Utah WR *DeVonte Christopher (#10/6-1/200/4.62)
6:30 pm, FCSC

Alabama WR Marquis Maze (#4/5-8/184/4.49) at Mississippi State CB *Johnthan Banks (#13/6-1/185/4.52)
7:45 pm, ESPN

Louisiana Tech DE Matt Broha (#91/6-4/255/4.87) at Ole Miss RT *Bobby Massie (#79/6-6/325/5.17)
7:30 pm, Comcast/ESPN3.com

Oregon CBs Anthony Gildon (#18/6-0/182/4.57)/*Cliff Harris (#13/5-11/168/4.49/if not suspended) at Stanford WR Griff Whalen (#17/6-0/187)
8:00 pm, ABC

Hawaii WR Royce Pollard (#81/6-0/175/4.62) at Nevada CB Isaiah Frey (#28/5-11/190/4.52)
10:15 pm, ESPNU


--Contributed by Senior Analyst Chad Reuter    Follow him on Twitter  @ChadReuter  

Posted on: November 12, 2011 11:45 am
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Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:43 am
 

Mano-a-mano, Week Ten

In addition to the prospects Senior Analyst Rob Rang wrote about in his "five players to watch" blog post, take a look at these memorable ten one-on-one match-ups (plus a slew of honorable mention selections) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.

Because players move around based on different formations and what coaches see as favorable match-ups, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.

All times Eastern.
"*" Denotes an underclassman.

1. LSU Back Seven at Alabama RB *Trent Richardson (#3/5-11/224/4.52)
8:00 pm, CBS

If the talented Alabama offensive line and LSU defensive line negate each other in the run game on Saturday night, this year's "Game of the Millenium" could be determined by whether Heisman hopeful Richardson can defeat Tigers' linebackers at the second level. Thick weak side 'backer Ryan Baker (#22/6-0/236/4.77), fast Sam LB Stefoin Francois (#23/6-1/223/4.58), and inside guys former strong safety Karnell Hatcher (#37/6-1/223/4.64) and solid sophomore Kevin Minter, must keep their feet and wrap securely if they want to bring down Richardson before he turns a three-yard plow into a 10 or 20-yard gain. But let's face it -- few college defenders can chop down Richardson on first contact because of his thick frame, natural aggression and constantly-churning legs. That means the Tigers must swarm to the ball, with strong safety Brandon Taylor (#18/5-11/195/4.57), sophomores nickel corner Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu and leading tackler free safety Eric Reid helping out the linebackers to stop the Alabama run game.

2. North Carolina Defensive Ends Quinton Coples (#90/6-6/285/4.76)/*Donte Paige-Moss (#98/6-4/260/4.67) at North Carolina State OT *R.J. Mattes (#79/6-6/305/5.19)
12:30 pm, ACC Network/ESPN3.com

North Carolina's defensive line is among the deepest -- and hyped -- in the country. Coples has the size/length to start on three or four-man fronts in the NFL, while Paige-Moss has the size and athleticism that made former Tar Heels DE Robert Quinn a top 15 pick last April. They've combined for just 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in nine games (7.5, 4.5 for Coples), however, after putting up 29 and 17 (15.5, 10 for Coples) last season. Facing an All-ACC candidate in Mattes is not an easy way to increase that production; the redshirt junior left tackle is looking to prove his overall athleticism to scouts after showing strength and tenacity while starting at right guard and right tackle in his first two seasons on the field (though a torn ACL cost him the last four games of 2009).

3. Texas A&M CBs Coryell Judie (#5/5-11/190/4.48)/Terrence Frederick (#7/5-10/187/4.52) at Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles (#85/5-10/188/4.52)Texas A&M WRs Jeff Fuller (#8/6-3/220/4.52)/*Uzoma Nwachukwu (#7/6-0/195/4.42) at Oklahoma CBs Jamell Fleming (#32/5-11/192/4.54)/*Demontre Hurst (#6/5-9/182/4.46)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

This week's version of "Luck vs. Barkley" is A&M's athletic and strong-armed QB Ryan Tannehill (#17/6-4/222/4.65) against Oklahoma's junior pocket passer QB Landry Jones (#12/6-4/230/4.74). Scouts for teams needing a quarterback could use this game as a tie-breaker of sorts for the second or third spot in their rankings.

But NFL teams with a young passer already on the roster will be checking out this game, as well,since both Big 12 squads have legitimate NFL prospects at cornerback and receiver. Judie's hamstring has been a problem this year, and he'll need to be healthy to handle Broyles' crisp routes and elusiveness after the catch. The NCAA's all-time leader in receptions will also face stiff competition from Frederick, an ascending talent who gives no quarter to receivers of any size. When Tannehill is leading A&M's offense, he'll look for Fuller to use his size advantage and Nwachukwu his speed against Sooners corners Fleming and Hurst -- both of whom can take advantage of sideline and comeback throws Tannehill leaves too far inside.

4. South Carolina CB *Stephon Gilmore (#5/6-1/193/4.52) at Arkansas Receivers
7:15 pm, ESPN

Gilmore will be able to show NFL teams all of his skills no matter which of the Razorbacks' gaggle of receivers he may be facing Saturday night. He has the size and attitude to handle big receivers junior Cobi Hamilton (#11/6-3/209/4.57) and Greg Childs (#85/6-3/217/4.56) -- who has struggled coming back from last season's knee injury -- at the line of scrimmage or down the sideline. But scouts will be more interested to see if Gilmore can also handle the straight-line speed and quickness Jarius Wright (#4/5-10/180/4.34) and Joe Adams (#3/5-11/190/4.38) if in trail coverage or trying to chase them down after the catch in zone.

5. Missouri Defensive Tackle at Baylor C Philip Blake (#74/6-2/320/5.26)
7:00 pm, FSN

Danny Watkins took a circuitous route to NFL first round draft status, growing up in Canada, playing his first football in junior college before starting at left tackle for Baylor. Blake won't be selected that high and has played football for some time, but was also born in Canada and is advanced in age for a future rookie (Watkins turns 27 years old Sunday, Blake turns 26 later this month). He'll need to use his wide body and long arms to handle Missouri's trio of pro DT prospects: long and strong Dominique Hamilton (#90/6-5/305/5.24), athletic junior Sheldon Richardson (#34/6-3/290/4.86) and active DT Terrell Resonno (#93/6-3/295/5.08). The Bears have another big body up front, RG Robert T. Griffin (#79/6-6/330/5.38), who protects the team's athletic playmaking quarterback Robert Griffin III (who was actually born in Japan, where his father served for the U.S. Military). And no, that's not a typo -- the mammoth guard and unrelated 6-2, 220 pound quarterback have the same name.

6. Oregon Cornerbacks at Washington WR Jermaine Kearse (#15/6-1/208/4.50)
10:30 pm, FSN

The Huskies are one of college football's best stories that doesn't get talked about nearly enough. Washington fans can tell you that Kearse isn't the most consistent receiver in terms of his hands or physicality, but is a threat down the sideline to elude defenders after the catch when his game is on. Oregon's secondary has scoured by scouts for prospects over the years, but the 2011 group is a bit different. Three of the top four cornerbacks on the depth chart for this game are freshmen, and senior CB Anthony Gildon (#18/6-0/182/4.57) is erratic in his discipline outside. The wild card is junior CB Cliff Harris (#13/5-11/168/4.49), who packs a punch in press coverage that belies his wiry build, and also has the ball skills to knock away or intercept passes and had four punt returns for TDs in 2010. He may not play in this game, however, if unable to get out of head coach Chip Kelly's dog house because of an excessive speeding citation this summer and another traffic stop two weeks ago.

7. Michigan DEs *Craig Roh (#88/6-4/269/4.76)/Ryan Van Bergen (#53/6-6/288/4.84) at Iowa OTs *Riley Reiff (#77/6-6/300/4.94)/Markus Zusevics (#56/6-5/300/5.08)
12:00 pm, ESPN

Even though the Hawkeyes are coming off a brutal loss to Minnesota and the Maize-and-Blue is on top of the Legends Division of the Big Ten, Iowa still has games against the three teams tied atop the division in the Wolverines, Michigan State and Nebraska. To win any of those games, including Saturday's match-up, the team's two tackles must protect junior QB James Vanderberg. Reiff will face Roh (pronounced Row) on the weak side of the line on most plays; the more athletic pair should have good battles as Reiff tries to cut off Roh trying to use his length to turn the corner and anchors against the junior's relentless aggression. Van Bergen won't test the lateral movement of Zusevics (ZOOZ-uh-vicks) as much as the two-year starter's ability to hold his ground as the high-motor end attempts to push him into the pocket  a part of the somewhat lean right tackle's game in which he does not always excel. Both tackles will also have to seal their men inside or outside in order for bruising sophomore RB Marcus Coker (252 yards vs. Minnesota last week) to move the ball against an improved Michigan defense (ranks 35th in the FBS in total defense, ranked 110th after the 2010 season).

8. Purdue DT *Kawann Short (#93/6-3/310/5.22) at Wisconsin Interior Offensive Line
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Short was the Big 10 Co-Defensive Player of the Week against Illinois two weeks ago (3.5 TFL, 2 sacks), and played well in a loss to Michigan going up against senior center David Molk. This weekend, however, he really gets a chance to show NFL scouts he is a legitimate top 75 pick by taking on future pro starters junior C Peter Konz (#66/6-5/315/5.16), RG Kevin Zeitler (#70/6-4/318/5.26) and redshirt sophomore LG Travis Frederick (#72/6-4/330/5.27). Michigan State's Jerel Worthy found a bit of success against this group a couple of weeks ago, but was also redirected out of plays when unable to use his hands to disengage. Short will have to be more consistently quick off the snap to pressure QB Russell Wilson and agile/strong enough to maintain his gap discipline against the Wisconsin running game to be considered an elite prospect this year or next.

9. Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd (#3/6-3/224/4.54) at Wake Forest CB *Kenny Okoro (#6/6-0/190/4.49)
8:00 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Floyd's talents are well-known, as he's used his NFL size and strong hands to rank in the top 20 nationally in receptions and receiving yards per game. The Irish have not always fed him as often as they should, as Pittsburgh and USC kept him under 30 yards on four catches. Okoro's an under-the-radar talent at corner with good size, speed and aggressiveness for the position. A big game against Floyd could draw the notice of scouts looking forward to the 2013 draft.

10. Minnesota WR Da'Jon McKnight (#6/6-1/212/4.54) at Michigan State CB *Johnny Adams (#5/5-11/175/4.42)- Junior
12:00 pm, Big Ten Network

McKnight has been an underappreciated talent playing for a lowly Gophers squad, but last week's big win over Iowa gave him and junior QB MarQueis Gray (#5/6-4/240/4.56) a bit of a boost with scouts. Adams' competitive nature allows him to test McKnight's ability to get off press coverage and separate from/make plays against NFL-caliber corners downfield. In a deep senior receiver class, Minnesota's leading pass-catcher needs to have a big game against a good corner like Adams to get drafted come April.

Honorable Mention:

Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward (#19/5-11/188/4.53) at Florida WR Deonte Thompson (#6/5-11/200/4.44)
12:21 pm, SEC Network/ESPN3.com

Virginia WR Kris Burd (#18/6-0/200/4.53) at Maryland CB Cameron Chism (#22/5-10/190/4.52)
12:30 pm, ACC Network/ESPN3.com

Wyoming CB Tashuan Gipson (#4/6-0/203/4.57) at TCU WRs Antoine Hicks (#13/6-2/212/4.57)/*Josh Boyce (5-11/203/4.54)
2:00 pm, MTN

Northwestern LT Al Netter (#75/6-4/310/5.26) at Nebraska DE *Cameron Meredith (#34/6-4/260/4.79)- Junior
3:30 pm, Big Ten Network

Cincinnati WR WR D.J. Woods (#3/6-0/182/4.49) at Pittsburgh CB Antwuan Reed (#22/5-10/190/4.54)
Cincinnati LT Alex Hoffman (#59/6-6/298/5.28) at Pittsburgh DE Brandon Lindsey (#7/6-2/250/4.68)
7:00 pm, ESPNU

Houston OLB Sammy Brown (#8/6-2/240/4.67) at UAB LT Matt McCants (#71/6-6/295/5.26)
7:00 pm, CBS Sports Network

Arizona State DE Jamaar Jarrett (#92/6-5/262/4.90) at UCLA RT Mike Harris (#65/6-5/326/5.32)
Arizona State WRs Gerell Robinson (#8/6-3/222/4.58)/Mike Willie (#1/6-2/212/4.59) at UCLA CB *Aaron Hester (#21/6-1/206/4.49)
7:30 pm, Versus

Kansas State CB David Garrett (#27/5-8/175/4.58) at Oklahoma State WR *Justin Blackmon (#81/6-1/215/4.54)
8:00 pm, ABC/ESPN2

LSU CB *Morris Claiborne (#17/6-0/185/4.45) at Alabama WR Marquis Maze (#4/5-8/184/4.49)
LSU WR *Rueben Randle (#2/6-3/208/4.57) at Alabama CB *Dre Kirkpatrick (#21/6-2/192/4.49)
LSU RT *Alex Hurst (#72/6-6/340/5.22) at Alabama DE/OLB *Dont'a Hightower (#30/6-4/260/4.74)
8:00 pm, CBS

Louisiana Tech CB Terry Carter (#28/5-10/190/4.43) at Fresno State WR Devon Wylie (#7/5-10/185/4.38)
10:30 pm, ESPNU

--Contributed by Senior Analyst Chad Reuter   Follow him on Twitter @ChadReuter 

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