No. 8 Oklahoma at No. 17 Miami
Miami gets into the spotlight for the second straight week, but this time fans should get a much better performance from the Hurricanes who didn’t do much of anything well in the rain and muck in Blacksburg. They’ll play host to a resurgent Sooners team that is close to having its on-field leader back, but in his place is a rising youngster who could be the difference in the game.
Here are some of the top pro prospects to keep an eye on when these two teams take the field…
Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy (6-4, 290) – The talented junior has made himself an indispensable player inside for the Sooners. McCoy is almost immovable inside even though he doesn’t fit that perfect nose-tackle size/weight combo. He can play either a three or zero-technique, depending on the system employed. McCoy is strong at the point and he can really collapse the pocket when he’s motivated. He has helped lead the Sooners to two-straight shutouts – the first time they’ve done that since 1987 – and they rank first in the nation in scoring defense (4.67 ppg), tackles-for-loss (34) and rushing defense (40.7). He isn’t the athlete that former Sooner and current Chicago Bears DT Tommie Harris is, but he’s not far off the pace. He’ll likely declare following the season and if he does he’s almost guaranteed to be a top 10 selection.
Oklahoma OT Trent Williams (6-5, 312) – Williams is a big-time offensive tackle prospect and should grade out as a solid first round selection when it’s all said and done. He’s a really good athlete and he’s got great feet. I love his long arms and how he keeps pass-rushers at bay, mirroring them and using his athleticism to shield them from the quarterback. Last year, QB Sam Bradford was rarely rushed and that had a lot to do with Williams’ abilities as a pass-blocker. He’s average as a run-blocker, but he has the tenacity and skill to be a solid in this area as well. I expect him to go in the top 15 next April because tackle prospects with his abilities tend to get over-valued, but he’s probably a better value pick a little bit later in the round.
Oklahoma LB Travis Lewis (6-2, 234) – He’s only a redshirt sophomore, but Lewis oozes pro potential every time he steps on the field. He’s a premier athlete with outstanding size and speed (4.55). Last year he broke Brian Bosworth’s freshman season tackles record by posting 144 stops, 11.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and four interceptions from his weakside position and he’s already leading the Sooners again in tackles. Lewis uses his athleticism to get into his zone-drops quickly and he get great depth when asked to cover a tight end or a slot receiver. He’s also got great instincts and he wraps up well when he arrives at the ball. Could he come out after only two years of playing for the Sooners? When you have the potential he does and could possibly be a top 20 selection, you have to think long and hard about it.
Other Sooner players to keep an eye on: G Brian Simmons; CB Dominique Franks (jr.); LB Ryan Reynolds; RB Chris Brown; RB DeMarco Murray (jr.).
Miami LB Darryl Sharpton (5-11, 235) – I kept my eye on Sharpton last week when the Hurricanes played Virginia Tech and he struggled at times shedding blockers, but he’s still a solid inside run-stuffer. He likes to bring the wood on every play and at times can get caught up in the trash. He doesn’t protect his legs well, but he takes on the fullback in the hole and diagnoses well. His size might limit him at the next level because he isn’t fast enough or fluid enough to play outside.
Miami LT Jason Fox (6-6, 315) – There’s nothing that I saw last week that makes me think that Fox won’t continue to shoot up draft boards. He handled his battle with Virginia Tech’s myriad pass-rushers who use speed more than strength to cause problems and I saw him get out on a couple of screens, showing nimble feet and the ability to track defenders in the open field. I’d still like to see Fox be a better drive-blocker in order to be the complete package, but he’s adequate in that area.
Other Hurricane players to keep an eye on: S Randy Phillips; TE Dedrick Epps; RB Javarris James; DT Allen Bailey; LB Colin McCarthy.
One of the top matchups in the country this week is an SEC battle as LSU travels to play Georgia between the hedges in Athens. The Bulldogs feature a multi-dimensional attack that has QB Joe Cox handing off to sophomore RB Richard Samuel and throwing it to super-sophomore WR A.J. Green.
Samuel is a bruiser who already has an NFL body and Green is a playmaker from almost any point on the field. Both will be players that will help keep the Bulldogs at the top of the SEC East while they are still on campus.
Defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens aren’t spectacular and don’t get a lot of push up front, but they’re consistent and jam things up in the middle, allowing their athletic linebackers to flow to the football and make plays. Also, keep an eye on junior S Reshad Jones who loves to fly around and cause violent collisions.
The Bayou Bengals have a ton of talent, but they haven’t really meshed as of yet. LT Ciron Black and WR Brandon LaFell are probably the top offensive pro prospects on LSU’s roster. Black will be an outstanding right tackle in the NFL, with his size and intelligence while I could see LaFell being a nice number two receiver once he gets to the pros.
LSU always seems to have stud defensive linemen and this year three stand out. DTs Charles Alexander and Al Woods stuff the run and cause problems inside, allowing DE Rahim Alem to make plays off the edge.
S Harry Coleman flies around and always seems to be around the ball while three corner prospects – Chris Hawkins, Jai Eugene (jr.) and Patrick Peterson (so.) – lock things down on the outside.
It should be a fun battle outside between Green and Peterson, two rising stars in the SEC.
It’s hard to believe I’m saying this, but the matchup between UCLA and Stanford this weekend could be the best game on the slate in the Pac 10 and that includes the game taking place in Berkeley between USC and Cal.
UCLA features one of the stingiest defenses in the country and the Bruins might have the best interior defensive lineman in the country in Brian Price a stout run-stuffer who can also get penetration and collapse the pocket on passing downs.
Helping out on defense will be LB Reggie Carter, an underrated inside linebacker who should move up draft boards with a solid senior season and post-season workouts. Senior CB Alterraun Verner and sophomore S Rahim Moore, who already has five picks so far this season, lock things down in the secondary for UCLA.
On offense, the Bruins have always been known to have some top talent, but this year they are so young, it’s hard to pinpoint anyone who has a chance to get their name called during the draft. One player I could see contributing to a pro roster is WR Terrance Austin who might find his way onto a roster as a slot receiver and as a return man.
Stanford RB Toby Gerhart has been over-sold by head coach Jim Harbaugh to the pro scouts, but there’s no denying his abilities as a runner. The problem is, he isn’t elusive and he always seems to take the full hit from the defender. That works just fine in college, but in the NFL it usually results in a very short career.
Two defensive players to keep an eye on are DE Erik Lorig and DT Ekom Udofia. Both could be late round selections for teams. Udofia has an excellent burst while Lorig is an underrated pass-rusher.
A very young player that appears to have a very bright future is Stanford QB Andrew Luck. The redshirt freshman is only starting his fifth game, but he’s smart and he comes from great bloodlines (Oliver Luck is his father). He’s got an above-average arm and he’s a good athlete so he can escape trouble if necessary. By the time he leaves Palo Alto he could end up being the best signal-caller do don a Cardinal uniform since John Elway.
Other games to catch if you can: No. 22 Michigan at Michigan State; Washington at Notre Dame; Florida State at Boston College; No. 25 Georgia Tech at Mississippi State; Auburn at Tennessee; No. 7 USC at No. 24 California.