Saturday was highlighted by a number of upsets which will have a major effect on the national rankings. It was also a weekend where a pair of underclassmen defensive tackles stood out. Along with updated news on the underclassmen here are the Risers and Sliders for week twelve.
Andrew Billings/DT/Baylor: During an interview early Saturday morning on WEIR 1430, I was asked to name one junior prospect who would make an unexpected charge up draft boards. My answer? Andrew Billings. Hence it was more than gratifying watching his performance as Baylor knocked off Oklahoma State some 15 hours later. Billings finished the game with 2.5 tackles for loss as well as 2 sacks and was a dominant force throughout the contest. On one sack Billings bull-rushed a double team block, collapsing the pocket to bring down the quarterback. The big-bodied junior is an athletic, three down defender with the ability to line up at several spots in a multitude of schemes. He has all the makings of a mid-first round choice.
Kenny Clark/DT/UCLA: Clark has been a dominant force throughout most of the season and put his prowess on display during the Bruins victory over Utah. The stats were nothing outstanding, 4 tackles with 1 tackle for loss, but Clark’s ability to attract double team blocks and command the attention of Utah’s offensive line created opportunities for teammates. Like Andrew Billings the UCLA junior is a three down defender with potential in a variety of schemes. As reported several weeks ago Clark is expected to enter the draft and could slide into the late part of round one.
Tyler Matakevich/LB/Temple: The Owls are in the midst of a wonderful campaign spearheaded by their stingy defense, a unit led by Matakevich. The productive four year starter posted a team leading 11 tackles during the all important victory over Memphis, whose offense was held to no touchdowns and under 240-total yards. Matakevich is smart, tough and rarely makes mental errors but has size limitations (under 6-feet/235lbs). In many ways he reminds me of former Detroit Lion Stephen Boyd, a size limited fifth round pick who went on to become a three time Pro Bowl selection.
Darien Harris/LB/Michigan State: Harris is another who does not measure well for the tape but plays big time football. He posted six tackles during the upset victory over Ohio State, including some very important stops. It raised his season total to 71 tackles, ranking him second on the Spartans defense. Built more like a traditional weak-side linebacker, Harris will be good value on the draft’s last day as either a run stopping inside linebacker or a one-gap pursuit defender.
Bucky Hodges/TE/Virginia Tech: The tight end position will be dictated by underclassmen in next year’s draft and Hodges, who’s expected to enter the event, will be near the top. An imposing figure on the field, Hodges plays more like a possession receiver, displaying the ability to get downfield and snatch the ball from the air. He attracts the attention of opponents, as he did on Saturday against North Carolina, yet continually comes away with important receptions during the games critical moments. Still rough around the edges, Hodges carries a great amount of upside and grades as a top 100 pick.
Kolby Listenbee/WR/TCU: The Horned Frogs lost a close contest to Oklahoma as neither quarterback Trevone Boykin or star receiver Josh Doctson dressed. This made Listenbee’s performance all the more impressive. He caught just four passes but averaged more than 24-yards on each catch, finding the end zone once. The OU game was nothing out of the ordinary for Listenbee who has averaged 21.2-yards on 28 receptions this season (5 TD’s) after 18.4-yards on 41 catches a year ago. Possessing legitimate 4.4s speed, he’s the perfect compliment on the college level for Doctson and a true vertical threat for the next level.
Max Redfield/S/Notre Dame: The junior safety has improved his game immeasurably this season and is earning accolades from NFL scouts. He’s combined for 23 tackles the past three games, giving him 54 for the season, to go along with 3 pass defenses. Redfield offers good size and next level range. If he continues to progress on the field he could move into the second day of the draft in the not to distant future.
*Sleeper Prospect* Corey Davis/WR/Western Michigan: The younger brother of Titus Davis is the next member of his family making a mark in the MAC. The speedy receiver posted 76 receptions, 1114 receiving yards and 9 TDs this season, becoming one of the better deep threats in the conference. And though slightly off his numbers from a year ago (78/1408/15), scouts still consider Davis a legitimate middle round choice and potential fourth receiver in Sunday’s line-up.
Gunner Kiel/QB/Cincinnati: Entering the season many believed Kiel was a future first round pick, an opinion I never believed. He’s now struggling to remain a first team quarterback. Kiel was benched for ineffective play during the Bearcats disastrous loss to South Florida and before being pulled he was 8 of 15 passing with two interceptions. And while he’s a definite arm talent, Kiel’s reads and decision making leave a lot to be desired.
Kyle Carter/TE/Penn State: As a sophomore in 2013 Carter looked like a big time talent after catching 18 passes in just four starts. The following season he took a backseat to Jesse James and finished with 16 catches. Carter’s started just two games this season and has 12 catches to his credit. He offers solid computer numbers (6’ 3”/245lbs/4.75s) but seems very detached from the action.
Sources tell me UCLA guard Alex Redmond has “one foot out the door” and will enter the draft. Redmond has been described to me as a physical freak with upside but someone who needs to pull it together. I continue to hear Bruins tackle Caleb Benenoch is waiting on his grade from the advisory committee before committing to the draft.
For a number of weeks I’ve been hearing Mississippi State receiver Da’Runnya Wilson will enter the draft. I was recently told Wilson himself is telling people he’ll leave for the NFL once the season ends.
The feeling in Tennessee is cornerback Cam Sutton will enter the draft.
Changes in the Maryland program are likely to result in defections by underclassmen. I’m told Yannick Ngakoue is very likely to enter the draft. Ngakoue is a solid pass rushing defensive end who projects to outside linebacker on Sunday. There’s also a belief defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson could opt for the draft. Jefferson looked like an up and coming prospect in 2013 before missing all but three games in 2014 with a knee injury. Jefferson has looked good at defensive tackle (he lined up at defensive end as a sophomore) this season, posting 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.