Blog Entry

Five Prospects I'll Be Scouting Closely Saturday

Posted on: November 26, 2011 11:15 am
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Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL. 

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks. 

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here. 

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

RB Dan "Boon" Herron, Ohio State: Herron appeared poised to enter this season as one of the Big Ten's few superstars at the skill positions. After all, he'd shown an NFL-caliber combination of size, power and speed and had already rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 29 touchdowns on the ground. Suspended for the first five games of the season due to Tattoo-Gate, however, this has been a lost year for the senior, who enters the annual showdown with Michigan having only rushed for 556 yards and two touchdowns this season. Michigan has a solid run defense and know the Buckeyes are going to try to control the clock to keep Denard Robinson off the field. Other than a senior all-star game, this may be Herron's best chance this season to impress scouts. This game begins at noon ET and will be televised by ABC.

ILB Audie Cole, North Carolina State:  For all of the talk this season about underclassmen inside linebackers Manti Te'o, Luke Kuechly and Vontaze Burfict (among others), Cole is quietly earning top 75 grades from some scouts. Big (6-4, 239) and athletic enough to move back to outside linebacker, Cole is viewed as one of the more versatile linebackers in a relatively weak senior class. He's getting plenty of Senior Bowl buzz and should perform well in his final home game against a Maryland team that features the run. This game begins at 12:30 pm ET and will be broadcast by ESPN3.

ILB Donta Hightower, Alabama: As you can tell from my Top 32 "Big Board," of the so-called elite Alabama defenders, I'm lowest on Hightower. In terms of their ability to play in the NFL I rank the top draft-eligible Crimson Tide defenders as Dre' Kirkpatrick, Courtney Upshaw and Mark Barron over Hightower, a 6-4, 260 pound redshirt junior. Hightower is clearly more explosive this year than last as he further heals from the torn ACL that ended his 2009 season prematurely, but still doesn't have the lateral agility and straight-line speed most teams operating out of 4-3 are going to be looking for at linebacker. A move to defensive end is possible. Teams operating out of the 3-4 will certainly like Hightower's bulk and explosive hitting in their scheme, however. I'm curious to see Hightower have to defend in the open field, something I expect an Auburn team currently averaging 183.5 yards on the ground to force him to do. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by CBS. 

TE Coby Fleener, Stanford: All of the hype in this contest is going to revolve around Andrew Luck and the possibility that this is his last game in Palo Alto -- as it should. We all know Luck is a terrific prospect, so I'm going to focus my attention elsewhere, including with Luck's senior tight end, Fleener, who despite being rated by most scouts as the top senior tight end in the country virtually all season long, he's received very little national attention. One can certainly understand why the scouts love him. While not a legitimate in-line blocker at the next level, the 6-6, 245 pound Fleener has rare speed and soft hands and is averaging a guady 19.7 yards per catch. Fleener will be matched up much of this game against another legitimate NFL prospect in Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, so this should be a battle worth keeping an eye on. This game begins at 8:00 pm ET and will be televised by ABC. 

DE Devin Taylor, South Carolina: In reality, I could have listed several of the Gamecocks' and Tigers' defensive linemen in this game as this is definitely the area scouts will be closely watching in this game. Without a doubt, in terms of pure talent, this game features the best collection of defensive line talent of the day. At 6-6, 260 pounds the redshirt junior Taylor has as much physical upside as any of them, though he's not the same consistent difference-maker as his senior teammate Melvin Ingram. I'll be spending a lot of time watching the Clemson defensive line, as well, as end Andre Branch and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (both seniors) are each capable of taking this game over, themselves.  This game begins at 7:45 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN2.


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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com