Once again the yearly battle between LSU and Florida will impact both the winner and loser in a major way. The victor will go down the stretch of the ’09 campaign a step ahead in the chase for the national title besides being the favorite to win the conference championship. The loser will likely have to avenge their loss in the SEC Championship game for an opportunity at a BCS bowl berth. One year ago Florida hammered LSU 51-21, then went on to be crowned National Champions. NFL scouts and league decision makers will be scouring this game as there are almost a dozen draft eligible players with top 60 potential. There are several great match-ups in this contest and Tony Pauline of TFYDRaft.com breaks it down for you.
Match-up: LSU’s defensive tackles vs the Pouncey twins
Charles Alexander turned down a chance to enter last April’s NFL draft after he was given another year of eligibility by the NCAA. In fact prior to his decision Alexander had received an invitation to the combine. Al Woods is a fourth year senior that’s been a consistent performer on the college level. Both are nice prospects with size and growth potential.
They have their work cut out for them as they face-off against the best brother-brother team in college football.
Center Maurkice Pouncey is turning into a dominant blocker on the pivot. In fact we’d go as far as saying the junior is the number one center prospect in the nation at this point. Maurkice is big, powerful yet also athletic and displays good movement skills. He can turn defenders off the line and create large running lanes in the middle of the field, or get out to the second level and annihilate linebackers. He has all the makings of a first round pick when he enters the draft.
Brother Michael Pouncey plays next to Maurkice at guard and is also a dominant blocker with a bright future at the next level.
This is an opportunity for Alexander and/or Woods to really impress scouts and elevate their draft stock. Productive performances against the impressive pair of blockers on the Gators line will leave a lasting impression.
Match-up: Brandon LaFell vs the UF secondary
Brandon LaFell is universally considered the top senior receiver available in next April’s draft. He gave serious consideration to entering the ’09 draft and there were reports of family members pressuring him to leave for the NFL. He’s a big, smooth pass catcher with a gliding style and very natural in all aspects of the position. LaFell constantly extends to make the reception away from his frame and displays both strong and soft hands. He offers potential as a number one at the next level and how early LaFell is selected in the first round will depend on how fast he runs prior to April and which underclassmen from the position enter the draft.
He goes up against a very tough Gator secondary on Saturday night.
Joe Haden is one of the brightest cornerback prospects from the junior class. There’s been much speculation as to whether or not he’ll enter April’s draft. Haden is physical and shows a lot of skill facing the action. Junior Ahmad Black is one of the most physical safeties in the nation. Black presently leads the Gators in tackles and is very effective up the field but does struggle with his ball skills. Safety Major Wright, another junior, is an underrated player who struggles to get playing time due to the depth of the Gators secondary. Wright is an adequately sized prospect with a complete game. He’s tough against the run and also displays solid skill in coverage.
LaFell’s courage will be tested as will his pass catching skills against the Gators dynamic secondary.
Match-up: LSU’s offensive tackles vs. Florida’s defensive ends
The breakdown of this match-up can be summed up by stating it features two of the most overrated players in the nation and a pair of underrated prospects.
When LSU tackle Ciron Black was a sophomore many anointed him as a first round pick. We never agreed with that opinion. Black is a well sized blocker and a better than average athlete. He also lacks balance, footwork and the strength to finish blocks. Now a senior, we presently grade Black as a late round pick and feel it may be necessary to move him inside to guard.
One the other hand his junior line-mate Joseph Barksdale is a legit mid-to-early round prospect. Barksdale is a big strong lineman with the ability to drive defenders off the ball run blocking. He plays with solid fundamentals and just needs to brush off the details of his game. He has a bright NFL future.
Florida has a pair of defensive ends, one who gets lots of hype and the other that gets the most from his ability.
Junior Carlos Dunlop passes the eyeball test and is an intimidating presence on the field. He flashes the ability to over-power opponents, bull rushing them off the line and creating a lot of pressure up the field. Dunlop is also a good athlete with the ability to string plays laterally out to the flanks. The problem for Dunlop is he does not make enough plays and his game is plagued with inconsistency. At his best Dunlop has top ten possibilities and can be used as a base end that lines up opposite right tackle or as a two-gap end. Right now he looks and plays like a boom or bust prospect.
Jermaine Cunningham does not have the size or the natural skills of his teammate yet gets a lot from his ability. Cunningham plays faster than his estimated 4.7 forty speed and bigger than his 248 pounds. He’s likely to be used as a 3-4 rush linebacker at the next level but may also get looks as a one-gap end.
The match-ups between these four players will be exceptional to watch and may go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Match-up: Brandon Spikes vs. Richard Dickson and Charles Scott
Brandon Spikes is the most dominant middle linebacker in the nation. He forces the action up the field, is stout defending the run and can be a nightmare on the blitz. Spikes plays with aggression, violence and his motor is always going full throttle.
He’s effective in the box and can chase down ball carriers to the sidelines. That said the middle linebacker struggles making plays in reverse and is not efficient in coverage.
The LSU offense will offer the power running of Charles Scott and tight end Richard Dickson, an efficient, overachieving tight end that produces as a pass catcher and blocker.
Scott has been slightly disappointing this season and NFL scouts are concerned he has not elevated his game. He showed signs of life last week against Georgia and a solid performance against the stout UF defense, and a tough run defender like Spikes, will get him back in the good graces of NFL scouts.
Dickson is a reliable pass catcher that comes through in the clutch. He’s by no means a true downfield threat but gets the job done when called upon. The few times Spikes is required to cover Dickson will be telling for the linebacker.