Blog Entry

Reuter previews Saturday -- Five On the Spot

Posted on: September 17, 2011 10:15 am
 
The college football world is looking forward to Saturday night's tilt in Tallahassee where top-ranked Oklahoma faces number five Seminoles in the second game of a home-and-home series.

The Sooners got the better of FSU last season, 47-17, separating early and never looking back.

NFL scouts are eagerly awaiting this match-up, as well. Seven players from last year's game (three from Florida State, four from Oklahoma) were drafted last April. That number could double in 2012, depending on how many underclassmen declare for early entry.

The various players and match-ups scouts will be watching, whether in person or on the road, could fill this weekly preview article.

Seminoles junior quarterback E.J. Manuel made the list of players "on the spot" this week, but covering the other line-battles (FSU LT Andrew Datko vs. Oklahoma DE Frank Alexander, Seminoles' RT Zebrie Sanders vs. Oklahoma DE Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma LT Donald Stephenson vs. Florida State DE Brandon Jenkins) or the importance of occasional skirmishes between Oklahoma star receiver Ryan Broyles and sophomore star cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, in this article would neglect all of the other interesting stories on Saturday.

So as you wait for the Sooner and Seminoles to kick off Saturday night, or if your thirst for football is not quenched after the prime-time match-up is decided, make sure to check out these other players and match-ups that NFL scouts will be watching.

This week's Five on the Spot

1. Florida State QB E.J. Manuel

If the Seminoles are to make a national title run, Manuel must do something Christian Ponder could not often enough in Norman last September -- make plays. The 12th pick in the 2011 NFL draft completed 11 of 28 throws for just 113 yards and two interceptions. Whether FSU wins or not, the grade Manuel receives from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee after the season, should he attempt to test the waters as a junior, could also hinge on this nationally-televised game.

Manuel came in for mop-up duty last year, going four-for-eight for 109 yards and a score. Now the starter, he must fit the ball into the tight windows Oklahoma defensive backs allow him and lead his receivers so they can make plays after the catch. Scouts will also expect him to be decisive with the ball after making correct pre-snap reads, as well as keep his eyes downfield to make plays instead of scrambling for a few yards here and there to avoid pressure.

2. Arizona QB Nick Foles

When Stanford's All-Everything junior quarterback Andrew Luck comes to town, it seems as though there is less exterior pressure on the defense he faces than the quarterback taking the field after the Preseason All-American has gone back to the sideline. Foles is just coming off a battle against Oklahoma State passer Brandon Weeden, but being compared with Luck on a series-by-series basis will be even more difficult.

Foles is perfectly capable of making the quick decisions and delivering accurately to stationery targets in the short and intermediate game. He also has enough mobility to escape the pocket to make a play, though scouts comparing at Luck's athleticism and accuracy on the run to Foles' will see a chasm of difference. If he's going to be a pocket passer at the next level, however, he must show scouts he can hit receivers Juron Criner and David Douglas accurately down the seam or the sideline in order to stretch defenses vertically.

3. Miami, FL QB Jacory Harris

When Miami's depth chart for the Ohio State contest was released, many were surprised to see Harris' name on top. Head coach Al Golden stated that Harris won the job over the summer, and only the team's holding him out while the NCAA investigated his receiving booster benefits kept him from starting the opener.

Harris has been all potential, and not enough production, through his three years as the main starter for the Hurricanes. He's always flashed the ability to make plays down the field from the pocket, as well as on the run, but inconsistent accuracy and his proclivity to make the big mistake (he had an unacceptable 14-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio last year) have held him back from fulfilling his promise. A strong performance against the Buckeyes Saturday night in front of a national audience could finally get him on track to a draftable grade from scouts.

4. Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy

NFL teams are looking for a defensive tackle to show himself as the playmaker they seek in the top half of the draft's first round. Over the past two seasons, Worthy has flashed this ability, making 17 tackles for loss, 8.5 of which were credited quarterback sacks. A prime Saturday afternoon match-up against Notre Dame gives him a stage on which to state his case as the top tackle in the 2012 class.

The junior does have to battle right guard Trevor Robinson in order to pressure sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees. Worthy should have a quickness advantage over Robinson and the other Notre Dame linemen (he will move around a bit), but has not always been as fast off the snap as scouts prefer. His strength at the point of attack is usually not an issue, but Worthy must shed blocks with violent hands quickly and show the closing speed to chase running backs and bring down Reeds to earn elite prospect status.

5. Virginia CB Chase Minnifield

A Virginia cornerback has been selected in the second round of the NFL draft in each of the past two springs. Chris Cook went to the Vikings in the 2010 event while New England snatched up the talented but oft-injured Ras-I Dowling last April. As the son of former NFL Pro Bowl cornerback Frank Minnifield, scouts expect Chase (not necessarily a great name for a cornerback) to have similar value if he continues his strong play.

Minnifield has difficult challenge in front of him this weekend, however, as North Carolina comes to town with a bevy of big, strong receivers. Dwight Jones (6-4, 225), Erik Highsmith (6-3, 190), and Jheranie Boye (6-2, 190) will all line up across from Minnifield as the game goes on. The spindly, six-foot, 180-pound corner will show scouts something if able to hand-play at the line or down the field against those receiver, as well as fight for position on jump and 50/50 balls. Proving hands to make the interception (has 10 career picks), as well as knock away passes or dislodging them with a big hit, will also quiet any concerns about his physicality or play-making ability.

This content was provided by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter. You can follow Chad on Twitter @ChadReuter.
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