Blog Entry

Five Prospects to Watch -- Championship Weekend

Posted on: December 3, 2011 11:54 am
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Each weekend 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.

QB Case Keenum, Houston: Considering that the Houston Cougars are the only other FBS team other than No. 1 ranked LSU to have finished the regular season undefeated, I understand the pressure to rank them highly. That said, there are a host of teams currently ranked inside the top 20 that I'd pick to beat Houston, currently ranked No. 6. The biggest reason for Houston's success this season has been the stellar play of Keenum and this explosive offense. At 6-1, 210 pounds Keenum lacks prototypical size for the NFL and scouts question whether his arm strength and accuracy is exaggerated in an offense that relies so much on timing and short to intermediate routes. Keenum has faced one defense this season that ranks in the top 50 in stopping the pass, so his NCAA-leading 4,726 yards may be a mirage -- at least when it comes to the NFL. Still, his production and toughness are undeniable. A strong performance against an athletic and physical Southern Miss defense could help Keenum get an opportunity in a big-time all-star game. This game begins at noon ET and will be televised by ABC.

QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor*:  The fact that RGIII has shot up to No. 15 in my latest Big Board tells you that I am on board with his projection to the NFL. That said, Griffin will be facing a tough test against the Longhorns, who boast the top pass defense in the Big 12. Texas put a damper on Texas A&M Ryan Tannehill's stock last week. Can they do the same to Griffin this time? The matchup is especially interesting considering that Griffin may still be feeling some of the lingering effects of a concussion suffered last week against Texas Tech. A big game here could vault Griffin even higher up scouts' draft boards and make him an obvious finalist for the Heisman Trophy. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be broadcast by ABC.

TE Orson Charles, Georgia*: At 6-3, 242 pounds Charles doesn't possess the traditional size scouts are looking for at tight end. However, his agility, speed and reliable hands make him one of the country's most dangerous receivers at the position and he's a much stouter blocker than you might expect. I've ranked him as the top tight end in the country for much of the season, though strong play by Stanford senior Coby Fleener and a couple of other underclassmen make the position one of the year's most competitive. LSU is in the position they are largely due to their extraordinary collection of talent in their defensive backfield. They haven't faced many combinations of quarterback (Aaron Murray) and receiver talent as what Georgia brings. If Georgia is to pull off the upset, Charles will have to have a strong game. This game begins at 4:00 pm ET and will be televised by CBS. 

DE Andre Branch, Clemson: At 6-4, 270 pounds Branch has the size to remain at defensive end in the NFL, but what could really boost his stock is the fact that he appears to have the athleticism to translate to 3-4 outside linebacker, as well. Branch's teammate, defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, has generated most of the hype this season, but it is Branch who has enjoyed the better year. Branch leads the ACC in both tackles for loss (16) and sacks (10.5). He'll be facing an exciting young quarterback in Logan Thomas, who at 6-6, 254 pounds is nearly as big as Branch and also athletic enough to avoid him. A strong game by Branch in this game and I'll have a tough time continuing to keep him out of my top 32. This game begins at 8:00 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN. 

DT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State*:  Due to Michigan State's improbable comeback Hail Mary victory against Wisconsin earlier in the year, this game is one of the most intriguing of Championship Weekend. Despite the fact that Worthy enjoyed a solid performance in Round One (three tackles, including a tackle for loss), he wasn't dominant. Two factors may make him considerably more so in the rematch. For one, Worthy will be fortified by the return of sophomore defensive end William Gholston, who was suspended for the first game against Wisconsin. Secondly, Worthy likely won't have to play against Peter Konz, the Badgers' center who isn't expected to play due to an ankle injury. Worthy has first round talent, but his inconsistency troubles me. If he isn't a factor throughout this game, the junior could slip out of my top 32 prospects. This game begins at 8:17 pm ET and will be televised by FOX.


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