There’s a major battle taking shape in College Station tomorrow. One which has captured the fascination of the sporting media and will be closely monitored by NFL scouts. Besides the Texas A&M/Alabama game on Saturday, here’s what scouts will be monitoring in four other contests.
1) Will Saturday be a statement game for Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews? Rewind to September of 2012, just as a new season was about to kick-off. At that time we rated Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews slightly ahead of teammate Luke Joeckel. Both played well during their junior campaign but Joeckel’s performance against LSU stood out to scouts. As we know Joeckel left for the NFL and was the second pick of April’s draft. Matthews remained at A&M and moved to left tackle. Now, just as Joeckel did last season against LSU, Matthews has a chance to make a statement tomorrow when he faces the stable of talented pass rushers Alabama will hurl in his direction. Junior linebackers Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard as well as defensive end Ed Stinson all have top 45 potential in the NFL draft. Each is a forceful defender with the ability to disrupt the action behind the line of scrimmage. It’s as much an opportunity for the three members of Alabama’s defensive front seven as it is for Matthews. The nation’s other top senior offensive tackle prospect, Jake Lewan of Michigan, was dominant in his match-up against Notre Dame. Scouts will be watching to see how Matthews responds.
2) David (Will Sutton) versus Goliath (Ryan Groy). Its an interesting contrast in styles; Arizona State’s explosive Will Sutton, who is constantly around the action versus the mauling style of Wisconsin’s Ryan Groy, who manhandles opponents. Sutton plays like a first rounder but was handed fifth round grades by most area scouts. Groy ranks as early as a third round prospect by midwest scouts. Sutton has size limitations, measuring under 6-feet, 1-inch and 285-pounds, so his ability to beat the bigger, stronger Groy will leave an impression.
3) Is Oregon receiver Josh Huff up to the challenge? One can make the argument Huff faces his stiffest competition of the year on Saturday when Oregon battles the Volunteers. Tennessee has a pair of developing NFL prospects at cornerback in junior Justin Coleman and third year sophomore Brian Randolph. Both possess solid ball skills and have a knack for knocking away passes. Factor in hard hitting safety Byron Moore (senior) and its easy to see why Huff, who we grade as third round material, has his work cut out for him.
4) Can Deandre Coleman make any plays against the Ohio State offensive line? I’ve been critical of Coleman and feel he’s overrated by many. Coleman has been graded as a second round choice by some. We rank him as a fourth rounder. Several scouts stamped him as a last round pick. The issue with Coleman is his playing style; he’s much more a two down, gap occupier versus a true play maker. While there’s a need for that type of player in the NFL, their value as a top 100 selection in the draft is debatable. Coleman can prove he’s more than just a space eater against the formidable Ohio State offensive line he’ll be facing. Four of the Buckeyes five starters are seniors who will be in an NFL camp next year, either as draft picks or signed free agents.
5) Can Yawin Smallwood slow down the Maryland running game? The Maryland/UConn contest should be interesting for a few reasons. Foremost it’s the return of Randy Edsall to Stoors after the former Huskie disappeared into the darkness two and a half years ago. It also marks a battle between the lethal Maryland running game, which has averaged 280 yards on the ground in each of its first two games, against Yawin Smallwood, one of the better linebacker prospects in the nation no one talks about. The junior is a three down defender with tremendous instincts. In the only game UConn played this season, a horrible loss to IAA opponent Towson, Smallwood racked up 16 tackles. He’s a scheme diverse prospect who should be all over the field Saturday night.