After a rather ho-hum weekend the college schedule really picks up on Saturday. Challenges loom for some of the top rated prospects around the nation and there are also match-ups between lesser known players which scouts will be watching.
1) NIU’s underrated secondary prospects against Purdue’s aerial attack. While many will focus their attention on one time Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch, league scouts are monitoring Jimmie Ward and Dechane Durrante of Northern Illinois. Ward moved to safety as a senior after playing cornerback the prior two seasons and presently leads the NIU defense in tackles and interceptions. We grade Ward as a late round pick though scouts stamped him as a priority free agent. Durrante missed most of last season with injury but has been productive stopping the run and defending the pass since his return. We grade the junior as a middle round pick. Purdue has struggled to win games all season long yet continues to employ an offense which relies on the passing game. Almost 75% of the teams offense has been through the air this season, setting up a terrific challenge for Ward and Durrante.
2) Struggling Andrew Jackson faces the option attack of Navy. Jackson, whom many consider one of the better inside/middle linebacker prospects in the nation, has struggled all year long. After a terrible game against Tennessee he was pulled from the starting line-up and now Jackson has his hands full against Navy. He should be able to over power the Midshipmen yet his questionable instincts and inability to make plays outside the box could lead to big gainers for the Navy running game. Prior to the season we stamped the senior as a 4th round pick while scouts graded him as a late rounder.
3) The Tide secondary versus Donte Moncrief. We briefly touched on this match-up during or Tuesday night podcast but its worth mentioning again. Against Alabama in week three, Texas A&M sophomore Mike Evans, a game controlling receiver with speed, chewed up the Tide’s secondary. Enter Moncrief who’s listed measurements are close to Evans as are his play making skills.
4) Can the Razorback pass rushers penetrate past Jake Matthews? Matthews is understandably rated as one of the top senior prospects in the nation at any position. The left tackle is off to a terrific season and presently projects as a top 12 pick in the 2014 draft. Scouts are also fond of Arkansas senior Chris Smith, whom they stamped as a potential second day pick. We mentioned Smith’s teammate, fast rising junior Trey Flowers, last week. Smith and Flowers have accounted for 8.5 sacks this season as well as 10.5 tackles for loss. Most would expect Matthews to be up for the challenge but protecting the blind side from slightly undersized yet quick, athletic pass rushers will be a good test for him.
5) Ed Reynolds, meet the Cougars high octane passing attack! Chatter out of Palo Alto has scouts loving Stanford junior Ed Reynolds. Coming off his All-American campaign of 2012, the safety is already exceeding the expectations of scouts this season. Reynolds, who totaled six interceptions as a sophomore last year, has registered one in three games thus far. But here comes Washington State and its offense which averages almost 330-yards passing each game this season, albeit against some crummy competition. More than just making plays on the ball, scouts will be watching to see if Reynolds plays assignment football and shows top instincts against such an aerial assault. Based on his play the past twelve months there’s no reason to believe he won’t meet expectations.