Oklahoma State OT Russell Okung
It’s finally upon us football fans. Last night the college football season kicked off and Saturday has several good matchups that feature a bunch of talented players who NFL scouts will be keeping an eye on this fall. AFI Draft Editor Scott Eklund takes a look at one of the top games, the players involved and previews several other players for fans to watch…
No. 13 Georgia at No. 9 Oklahoma State
Both teams are loaded with talent and it will be fun to watch the explosive offense of the Cowboys take on the stingy defense of the Bulldogs. Everyone talks about Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 and while Georgia is one of the nationally recognized teams in the SEC, no one seems to be talking about them much this fall, but this should be a great matchup of teams and could go a long way into making either one of their seasons a special one.
Oklahoma State OT Russell Okung (6-6, 305) – Everyone wants to talk about the skill guys on the Cowboys’ roster, but Okung has a chance to be drafted in the top 10 just off of his upside. He reminds me a lot of last year’s second overall choice, Jason Smith. Both have outstanding feet and athleticism, but Okung has one other thing you love in an offensive lineman – nastiness. He gets after it against some of the top pass-rushers in the country on a weekly basis and he’s battle tested. Fans should watch him closely because he could easily move into the top five with an outstanding senior season.
Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant (6-2, 210) – Bryant – a junior – doesn’t have big time top end speed, but he’s got everything else you want in a wideout. He runs well and has outstanding body control. At times he loses a bit of focus and can drop some passes that he should catch, but for the most part his hands are great and he makes plays both down the field and he can take it the distance with his open-field running skills. The other thing he does well is block down field. It would be a shock if he returned for his senior year because at this point he’s the top wideout on the board.
Oklahoma State CB Perrish Cox (6-0, 195) – Cox had a run-in with the law recently when he was arrested for driving with a suspended license, but it’s expected that he will play this weekend against Georgia with his head coach Mike Gundy stating the team will handle things internally. Cox’s size, speed and athleticism make him a player to watch this fall. He’s got a very good chance of ending up the top-rated senior cornerback in the country this year. An added bonus is the fact that he’s a great return man as well.
Other Cowboy players to watch: QB Zac Robinson; RB Kendall Hunter (jr.); G Andrew Lewis; LB Andre Sexton; LB Orie Lemon.
Georgia DT Jeff Owens (6-1, 306) – The Bulldogs have two great defensive tackles in Owens and Geno Atkins and both can get pressure on the QB, but they’re even better at stopping the run. Last fall, Owens missed the entire season with a knee-injury suffered in the first quarter of Georgia’s season opener against Georgia Southern, but as a sophomore in 2007 he posted 27 tackles, four tackles for loss and 22 quarterback hurries while starting 18 games. He’s got a quick first step and he uses his hands well. He uses his bulk well to anchor vs. the run and if his knee is 100%, he should be a guy that gets consideration for the second or third round next April.
Georgia DT Geno Atkins (6-1, 290) – Atkins and Owens form the best D-tackle tandem in the country and are a big reason the Bulldogs should be one of the better defenses in the country this fall. Atkins is a perfect three-technique tackle who can get pressure on the quarterback using his outstanding quickness and burst. He led the Bulldogs in 2008 with 34 quarterback pressures while starting all 13 games. While Owens is rated higher right now, Atkins may end up getting the nod before his teammate from some teams.
Georgia WR A.J. Green (6-4, 190) – Green is only a true sophomore, so he’s not eligible to be drafted next April, but he is a phenom. He’s a silky smooth route-runner who showed outstanding maturity as a true freshman in 2008, leading the Bulldogs with 963 yards receiving while finishing with 56 receptions and eight touchdowns. He’s got great hands and he can get deep even though he doesn’t have that extra-gear most deep threats have. Where he does most of his damage is in the intermediate routes where he can catch the ball and then make a play with his legs. He’s one to keep an eye on this fall.
Other Bulldog players to watch: QB Joe Cox; CB Prince Miller; S Bryan Evans; WR Michael Moore; DE Roderick Battle.
Another game to keep an eye on with the amount of talent that will populate the field is No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 7 Virginia Tech. Alabama is loaded with talent on defense, but their leader up front is DT Terrence Cody a 6-4, 365 pounder who anchors well against the run and shows enough burst to get after the quarterback at times. Cornerbacks Javier Arenas and Marquis Johnson are also players to watch.
Alabama also has one of the top receivers in the country in Julio Jones who is only a sophomore. He’s big (6-4, 220) and he can run. While he made plenty of plays down the field, scouts want to see him run more intermediate routes and how he is with the ball in his hands in the open field.
The Hokies lost their top running back to a knee injury the first week of camp, but the left side of their line – G Sergio Render and T Ed Wang – has two players who will get long looks from pro scouts. Wang is a great athlete while Render is grinder who uses his outstanding strength and explosion to be a mauler in the running game.
Lastly, if you get a chance to watch the Missouri/Illinois game that will be played in St. Louis, sit down and enjoy the offensive show. Both teams have a lot of young talent, but the Tigers have a player in LB Sean Weatherspoon who has posted 285 tackles in two seasons and he’ll get consideration as one of the top linebackers available next spring.
Illinois has WR Arrelious Benn who was the number one wideout in the country as a senior in high school and he’s done nothing to disappoint since arriving in Champaign. He’s big and physical and he’s got above-average speed. He’s also outstanding with the ball in his hands. He’s about as complete a player as there is at the receiver position in college football and he’s only a junior.
I also like what QB Juice Williams brings to the table with his running ability and smarts. He’s progressed nicely as a signal-caller since he started as a true freshman in 2006 and this year he could be a darkhorse for the Heisman if he gets off to a good start.
Other games to catch if you can: Minnesota at Syracuse; Maryland at No. 12 California; No. 20 BYU at No. 3 Oklahoma; Baylor at Wake Forest; Nevada at No. 23 Notre Dame.