Blog Entry

Mano-a-Mano, Conference Championship Week

Posted on: December 3, 2011 11:35 am
 

This weekend's slate of college football games brings more quality than quantity, as conference championship games limit the number of potential match-ups for the final edition of "Mano-a-Mano."

There are still plenty of individual battles for scouts to watch -- they're just all occurring in a few contests. That's why the ACC, SEC, Big 10 championship games, as well as the de facto Big 12 CG in Stillwater Saturday night, dominate this week's list.

Because players move around based on different formations and what coaches see as favorable match-ups, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.

All times Eastern.
"*" Denotes an underclassman

1. Oklahoma CB *Demontre Hurst (#6/5-9/182/4.46)/Jamell Fleming (#32/5-11/192/4.54) at Oklahoma State WR *Justin Blackmon (#81/6-1/215/4.54)
8:00 pm, ABC

The Sooners' pass defense needs to live up to its potential against the Cowboys' wide-open attack led by Blackmon and senior QB Brandon Weeden (#3/6-4/218/4.92). Hurst and Fleming are willing to challenge receivers like Blackmon at the line of scrimmage, but they will probably play off more often than not to try and stay with him on deep routes. They'll also need to close on crosses when in man, though, which is easier said than done. Look for Weeden to make a quick throw if his All-American receiver gets a lot of cushion, and for the 28 year-old signal caller to test the Sooners' corners ability to play the jump ball against the taller Blackmon in the end zone. Weeden need only ask Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill, who threw three interceptions and had five passes broken up by the Sooners' secondary four weeks ago, about Hurst and Fleming's ability to take away receivers on the outside.

2. Georgia CB Brandon Boykin (#2/5-10/183/4.44)/*Branden Smith (#1/5-11/176/4.39) vs. LSU WR *Rueben Randle (#2/6-3/208/4.57)
4:00 pm, CBS

The top-ranked Tigers are far down the list among FBS schools in passing offense (#100), but that doesn't mean they are bereft of receiver talent. Randle has had four 100-yard games this season, including his nine catch, 134-yard effort against Arkansas last weekend. He wouldn't beat Boykin or Smith in a foot race, but his crisp routes and superior size could allow him to separate downfield if the corners get too aggressive jumping short patterns. Georgia's small but tough defenders could make plays, however, if LSU QB Jordan Jefferson stares down Randle or fellow junior Russell Shepard as his first read. The time they've been given on offense (Boykin at WR, Smith RB) and Boykin's return ability also shows they can break off big runs (or score) after the interception.

3. Wisconsin RG Kevin Zeitler (#70/6-4/318/5.26)/C *Peter Konz (#66/6-5/315/5.16) vs. Michigan DT *Jerel Worthy (#99/6-3/310/5.04)
8:00 pm, FOX

Worthy started off the teams' October matchup hot, penetrating through graps to blow up plays, but wasn't much of a factor as the game wore on as the strong top 75 value Zeitler, potential first round pick Konz and stout future pro redshirt sophomore LG Travis Frederick kept him under control. If Konz can't go because of his high ankle sprain, then Frederick slides to center again and another redshirt sophomore, Ryan Groy, steps in to take on Worthy. The junior defensive tackle flashes great talent, but if he is unable to make plays in the backfield due to average flexibility and lacks the stamina to chase ball-carriers in the fourth quarter, teams will not grade him as a first-round prospect.

4. Clemson CB Coty Sensabaugh (#15/6-0/185/4.56) vs. Virginia Tech WR Jarrett Boykin (#81/6-2/218/4.64)/Danny Coale (#19/6-0/200/4.43)
8:00 pm, ESPN

Tech mostly relies on ACC Player of the Year RB David Wilson (a probable top 50 pick if he declares as a junior) but 6-foot-6 athletic redshirt sophomore Logan Thomas has the arm to move the ball through the air to Boykin, Coale, and other young receivers. Sensabaugh is another lean, tough Clemson corner in the mold of Crezdon Butler; he'll challenge the bigger Boykin while they run down the sideline and is a secure enough tackler to bring down Coale in the intermediate zone.

5. Georgia OLB *Jarvis Jones (#29/6-2/247/4.74) vs. LSU *Chris Faulk (#76/6-6/325)/*Alex Hurst (#72/6-6/340/5.22)
4:00 pm, CBS

The SEC title game doesn't necessarily have a ton of senior prospects like the other conference battles on Saturday night, but a few underclassmen will enter this year's draft or their performance in this game will influence teams' thoughts about them going into next season. Jones is a USC transfer who is displaying the playmaking chops (ranks in the top ten nationally with 19.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks) to earn top 40 grades as a redshirt sophomore. Both LSU tackles also have pro aspirations, however, with Faulk and Hurst both mountain-men on the edges but sometimes lacking the lateral agility and recovery speed to handle elite rushers like Jones -- who will likely line up on both sides of the line in this game to use his closing speed and hustle to chase QB Jordan Jefferson. If Jones proves himself able to get off blocks to stop runs outside, scouts will like his skill set even more.

6. Wisconsin WR Nick Toon (#1/6-2/220/4.52) vs. Michigan State CB *Johnny Adams (#5/5-11/175/4.42)/FS Trenton Robinson (#39/5-10/195/4.46)
8:00 pm, Fox

Adams and Robinson, along with sophomore Isaiah Lewis, shut down Toon fairly well in the teams' first game. The son of 1985 first round pick Al Toon only connected with Russell Wilson twice for 58 yards in East Lansing, and Robinson intercepted a pass that went over the senior receiver's head down the middle because he hadn't turned his head to see Wilson's throw. Adams' aggressive nature makes him susceptible to the big play, however, and Toon capable of getting inside his man to take the skinny or post for a touchdown -- so Robinson will need to use his corner-like speed and ball skills again to ensure Wilson-to-Toon isn't a deadly combination.

7. Clemson DEs Andre Branch (#40/6-4/260/4.77)/*Malliciah Goodman (#97/6-4/278/4.67) vs. Virginia Tech LT Andrew Lanier (#72/6-5/306/4.87)/RT Blake DeChristopher (#62/6-4/312/5.10)
8:00 pm, ESPN

DeChristopher earned the ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy for his work on the right side this season. The four-year starter joins Lanier in facing NFL-caliber defensive ends including Branch and Goodman. Branch does not turn the corner as fluidly as scouts would like, but he anchors against the run to keep David Wilson from getting the sideline -- something Goodman will also have to do consistently to funnel plays to the Hokies' linebackers and prevent DeChristopher from sealing the edge for his junior running back. Branch may also work in space a bit, as well as rush QB Logan Thomas from a stand-up position; he's shown enough of these things in recent weeks to intrigue scouts looking at him as 3-4 linebacker.

8. Georgia LT Cordy Glenn (#71/6-5/348/5.28) vs. LSU DE Kendrick Adams (#94/6-5/255/4.87)
4:00 pm, CBS

Glenn moved from left guard to left tackle for this season and after a slow start has settled into the position. His bend and lateral movement have been questioned by scouts, however, and those aspects of his game will be challenged by Adams and the Tigers' sophomore studs Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery -- both of whom have eight sacks this season. Adams does not have the elite speed of Mingo and is not as athletic as Montgomery, but could earn respect from NFL teams by beating Glenn and senior RT Justin Anderson (#79/6-5/342/5.36) off the edge with his workmanlike effort.

9. Clemson DT Brandon Thompson (#98/6-2/310/5.04)/Rennie Moore (#94/6-3/268/4.83) vs. Virginia Tech RG Jaymes Brooks (#68/6-2/308/5.05)/LG Greg Nosal (#75/6-5/298/5.27)
8:00 pm, ESPN

Clemson not only presents problems for offensive lines on the edge with Branch and Goodman, but also inside with Thompson and Moore. Thompson is a wide-body nose guard with active hands and quick feet for his size. He doesn't make plays in the backfield as regularly as the kniving Moore, whose relatively slight frame belies his toughness inside. But the stout Brooks and athletic Nosal match up well vs. Thompson and Moore. Brooks also has nice mobility to go along with his squat build, giving him the versatility to earn high grades from NFL teams using different types of blocking schemes.

10. Wisconsin CB Antonio Fenelus (#26/5-8/190/4.49)/*Marcus Cromartie (#14/6-0/182/4.52) vs. Michigan State WR Keshawn Martin (#82/5-10/190/4.44)/B.J. Cunningham (#3/6-2/216/4.59)
8:00 pm, Fox

Fenelus and Cromartie limited the elusive Martin to just 41 yards on five receptions in their first match-up, as both have the speed and tackling ability to wrestle him down or take him out of bounds before he gets a head of steam. Cunningham caught six balls for 107 yards and a score in October, with a 35-yard score that he actually caught among linebackers inside before turning on the jets to run the last 25 yards into the end zone. And Martin's biggest play was actually a 34-yard touchdown run on a double-reverse. So not only will Fenelus and Cromartie need to play well to contain these two receivers, but all 11 Wisconsin defenders.

Honorable mention

Iowa State WR Darius Reynolds (#7/6-1/208/4.54) at Kansas State CB David Garrett (#27/5-8/175/4.58)
12:30 pm, FSN

Wyoming DE Gabe Knapton (#52/6-3/252/4.79) at Colorado State OT Paul Madsen (#76/6-4/310/5.26)
2:00 pm, Mountain

UNLV WR Phillip Payne (#4/6-3/205/4.62) at TCU CB Greg McCoy (#7/5-10/182/4.43)
2:30 pm, Versus

Texas LG David Snow (#78/6-4/295/5.28) at Baylor DT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (#90/6-2/335/5.06)
3:30 pm, ABC

Wisconsin DT Patrick Butrym (#95/6-3/285/5.14) vs. Michigan State LG Joel Foreman (#67/6-4/315/5.43)
8:00 pm, Fox

Fresno State WR Devon Wylie (#7/5-10/185/4.38) at San Diego State CB Larry Parker (#29/5-11/170)
Fresno State OT Bryce Harris (#70/6-6/300/5.27) at San Diego State OLB Miles Burris (#9/6-2/235/4.73)
8:00 pm, CBS Sports Network


--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter   Follow him on Twitter @ChadReuter  

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