After a weekend which saw a major shake-up in college football’s top end rankings, the schedule simmers down a bit. And while this weekends may not effect the BCS rankings, it offers the potential to shake up draft boards in war rooms around the league.
Alabama vs Tennessee: Battle on the Edges
Few teams in the nation can match the talent Tennessee puts on the field at the offensive tackle position. Senior Juwan James is all over boards and graded anywhere from the late first round selection to a last day pick. Junior Antonio Richardson, who’s expected to enter the draft, is top 20 talent. Both have suffered ups and downs this season but when on their game they can be dominant. Enter Alabama, whose pass rush has been slightly disappointing. Senior Ed Stinson, graded as a top 60 choice by NFL scouts and a potential first round pick by TFY Draft, has posted just 1.5 sacks and 2 tackles for loss thus far in 2013. Juniors Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson have not fared much better. Each came into the season with top 75 grades yet Hubbard has just 2 tackles for loss while Dickson matched the tackles for loss number and added 1 sack. The trio from the Crimson Tide is in danger of watching their draft stock move south while James and Richardson have the opportunity to draw praise from scouts in this contest.
Can Brett Hundley handle the pressure?
Brett Hundley or Marcus Mariota? That’s been a topic of conversation for weeks and the two face off tomorrow as UCLA travels to Oregon. As reported during podcast of October 15th, I’m told scouts love Mariota yet feel Hundley is overrated. Four days after that podcast Hundley struggled during the Bruins loss to Stanford, tossing a pair of interceptions. The test will be just as tough for Hundley against the Ducks, whose secondary possesses three draftable prospects. Avery Patterson moved to safety this season and is moving up draft boards thanks to his improved play. The senior has posted 35 tackles, 1 interception and broke up 3 more passes in 2013. Junior Terrance Mitchell is on a tear with 4 pick-offs and 3 more PBU’s. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, another junior and the best of the bunch, has two and two (int’s/PBU’s) and sits second on the team with 41 tackles. Besides the talented secondary, the Ducks defense can also rush the passer, producing 20 sacks in the team’s seven games. They’ll be coming at Hundley from all angles and the junior must prove he can withstand the pressure, make good decisions and deliver accurate passes.
Stephon Tuitt, its time to step up
I’ve been an outspoken critic of Tuitt since re-watching the 2012 film. The junior is a tall lineman who plays tall and shows more flashes than consistency. Granted he is returning from off season sports hernia surgery and too his credit, Tuitt has upped his game in recent weeks. Yet despite this I still think Tuitt is a prospect best suited for the bottom third of round one. Tomorrow Notre Dame faces the speedy, versatile offensive attack of Air Force and they’ll have to do it without nose tackle Louis Nix, who’ll be on the sidelines with a knee injury. Its an opportunity for Tuitt to display his athleticism and prove he can get the job done without Nix lining-up on the inside.
Ra’Shede Hageman- The fastest rising defensive lineman with marginal production
As I tweeted last week Hageman is rising up draft boards faster than any other senior defensive lineman. Scouts love his athleticism but his paltry stats are a concern. 24 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack exemplify his pedestrian production this season. One interception, an additional 6 pass break-ups and 2 blocked kicks represent the natural athleticism which has scouts enamored. Saturday’s contest against Nebraska, on of the better scoring and rushing offenses in the Big Ten, is a measuring stick for Hageman and the Gophers. The Cornhuskers lost senior Spencer Long, considered the team’s best interior blocker, to a knee injury just a few weeks ago. Hageman now has the opportunity to exploit lesser talent from a big name program and prove he’s meshing his athletic ability into football skill. A big push in the final half of the season could secure Hageman a spot in the draft’s initial 25 selections.
Marqise Lee vs Keith McGill: The Unknown faces off against the First Rounder
At the time of this posting USC receiver Marqise Lee, who suffered a knee injury in late September then re-aggravated the situation last week against Notre Dame, is expected to take the field against Utah on Saturday. The junior, highly rated coming into the season, has played below expectations in 2013 as has the entire Trojan team. Lee possesses the skills to be a number one receiver in the NFL but his draft stock has taken a hit this year. Saturday he’ll face Keith McGill, Utah’s underrated cornerback quickly moving up draft boards, as mentioned in our podcast earlier this week. Another returning from an injury of sorts, McGill missed the entire 2012 season with a serious shoulder issue but has elevated his game this season. Thus far McGill has 1 interception and 7 pass break-ups to his credit, progressing almost weekly on the field. Its an opportunity for Lee to prove his knee injury is a non-issue while McGill gets a crack at stopping the best receiver he’ll face all season.