We’ll focus on just two games this week in what’s a scaled down schedule, especially after last Saturday’s full slate of impact games. Still, these two contests include a developing quarterback, playmaking tight end and dominant linebacker.
Cal vs Utah
10PM EST ESPN
It’s a battle of the unbeatens in the PAC 12 as an upstart Cal teams takes on Utah. Besides battling for upper hand in the conference fans will become acquainted with a junior signal caller scouts consider one of the best at his position as he faces off against a talent laden Utah defense.
Jared Goff has been highly regarded in scouting circles the past two seasons. As I noted in August, while Chad Kessler of USC is the highest rated senior quarterback in the nation it’s Goff who scouts like best in the PAC 12. He’s smart, athletic and accurately places passes throwing from the pocket or on the move. Goff does a terrific job with his reads as well as his decision making and needs only to physically mature and round out his game.
Saturday night’s contest against Utah is a major test for the junior as the Utes defense contains no less than seven NFL prospects.
Scouts are beginning to take a liking to Jason Fanaika, the senior defensive end that’s developing a complete game. UCLA transfer Kylie Fitts is also getting a lot of looks from scouts at the other defensive end position. Linebacker Jared Norris has moved into the second day of the draft and defensive back Tevin Carter is headed in that direction. And there’s more.
The prospects on the Utes defense are rising up draft boards based on early season play and scouts want to see how Goff performs against this talented group.
Arkansas vs Alabama
7PM EST ESPN
A somewhat downtrodden Arkansas program showed signs of life last week against Tennessee while Alabama already has one loss and must win out for a chance to play in the conference title game.
Entering the year Hunter Henry was one of the higher rated junior tight ends in the nation and considered a match-up nightmare for SEC opponents. Hunter is a nice sized athlete with natural pass catching the skills as well as the ability to quickly get down the seam and create mismatches. He’s off to good start posting 20 receptions in five games and averaging 13.4-yards per catch, but just one touchdown.
Against Alabama Hunter will need to step up his game and keep his head on a swivel.
The Tide’s Reggie Ragland was graded as the top senior linebacker by area scouts coming into the season. Ragland is nasty and mean but also an instinctive defender that constantly makes positive plays. He’s efficient, forces the action up the field and shows decent range out to the numbers in pursuit.
If there’s one criticism of Ragland’s game it’s the inability to stay downfield in coverage and swifter athletes exploit this weakness.
Can Ragland cover Hunter when the ball is in the air? Does Hunter have what it takes to stand up against a physical Alabama defense? A lot is riding on the line for both players.