Posted on: November 25, 2011 11:42 am
Edited on: November 25, 2011 2:57 pm

Prospects aplenty to watch in LSU vs. Arkansas

The battle between No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Arkansas hasn't received nearly the same hype as the clash LSU had with Alabama just a few weeks ago.

It certainly should, however. The game carries just as much BCS implications and features several high ranking pro prospects, as well.

Here are the top prospects for both sides. This game begins today at 2:30 pm Eastern Time on CBS.

LSU Tigers:

CB Morris Claiborne, 6-0, 185, junior
Overshadowed last season by Patrick Peterson, Claiborne has emerged as the elite cover corner in the country in 2011 and a potential top five pick. He leads the team with four interceptions, including a pivotal one in LSU's win over Alabama.

WR Rueben Randle, 6-3, 208, junior
Despite his lanky frame, Randle has emerged as the Tigers' best big play threat, averaging 19 yards a catch. He leads the team in catches (39), receiving yards (755) and receiving touchdowns (eight), though he has become less of a factor in recent weeks with Jordan Jefferson and his running skills from the quarterback position taking a larger role in LSU's offense.

OT Alex Hurst, 6-6, 340, junior
A mountain of a man who has contributed significantly to LSU's power running game, Hurst entered the season having already been recognized by SEC coaches and media as a likely all-conference pick.

OLB Ryan Baker, 6-0, 236, senior
An undersized weakside linebacker, Baker devoted himself to the weight room in the offseason with Kelvin Sheppard leaving for the Buffalo Bills (via the third round) and gained 12 pounds of muscle.

TE DeAngelo Peterson, 6-3, 236, senior
With only 15 receptions for 163 yards and a single touchdown this season it might be hard to imagine Peterson as an draft-worthy prospect, but scouts are intrigued by the former wide receiver's combination of size and speed.

SS Brandon Taylor, 5-11, 195, senior
The younger brother of former LSU standout safety (and San Francisco 49ers' 2009 draft pick) Curtis Taylor, Brandon has emerged as one of the Tigers' most dependable defenders, leading the team with 61 tackles and earning the right to wear jersey No. 18 -- an honor bestowed upon the player teammates and coaches feel best exemplifies what a Tiger is supposed to be on and off the field.

RB Spencer Ware is a bulldozing back who I anticipate playing a critical role in this game for the Tigers against a vulnerable Arkansas run defense. He, like star defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, is a true sophomore however, and therefore ineligible for early admission into the NFL draft. The NFL only allows players at least three years removed from their high school graduation eligibility.

Arkansas Razorbacks:

WR Joe Adams, 5-11, 190, senior
A speedster who is equally dangerous as a punt returner and out of the slot, Adams is flying up draft boards. He leads the country with three punt returns scored on touchdowns, including this dazzling one against Tennessee a few weeks ago.

DE Jake Bequette, 6-5, 271, senior
Having secured eight of Arkansas' 20 sacks this season, Bequette has essentially been a one-man wrecking crew for the Razorbacks. Blessed with good size and athleticism he was developed into one of the better middle round defensive end prospects in the draft. A strong showing on this national stage could help him secure a spot on one of the top all-star game rosters.

WR Greg Childs, 6-3, 217, senior
Childs entered the year among the most highly touted senior receivers in the country, but he's been slow to recover from the damaged patella tendon that ended last season prematurely. Childs has excellent size, body control and hands, but is running out of time to prove his speed has returned and that he's healthy.

ILB Jerry Franklin, 6-1, 245, senior
A Second Team All-SEC pick last year, Franklin is once again pacing the Razorbacks in tackles this season with 87 stops, including 10 tackles for loss. The Tigers' downhill power running and the lateral agility of LSU's option runners is going to put a lot of pressure on Franklin and Arkansas front seven defenders in this contest. I expect a strong game with a gaudy stat line.

TE Chris Gragg, 6-3, 235, junior
A former wide receiver, Gragg still lacks the bulk most teams are looking for at tight end, but he's flashed this year as a mismatch threat down the seam, actually entering this game as the reigning Mackey Award Tight End of the Week based off his eight catch, 119 yard (and a score) performance last week against Mississippi State.

WR Cobi Hamilton, 6-3, 209, junior
Hamilton gets lost a bit in the shuffle of Arkansas' great receivers, but as the only underclassman of the group he's best in position to become a favorite of Tyler Wilson, who also has a year of eligibility remaining. Hamilton currently ranks fourth on the team with 29 catches, but his 15.2 yard per catch average is impressive considering his size.

FS Tramain Thomas, 6-0, 204, senior
Instinctive, athletic and possessing good ball skills, Thomas is one of the better options in a relatively weak senior crop of safeties. He leads the team with four interceptions this season, as he did last year in earning Second Team All-SEC honors. Thomas isn't likely to get tested often in this game considering how little LSU typically throws the ball, but he'll certainly have to be steady in run support.

QB Tyler Wilson, 6-3, 220, redshirt junior
Wilson stepped in for Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks have suffered virtually no drop-off this season. Some of the credit must go to Bobby Petrino's scheme, which has proven to be effective at moving the ball at every level he's coached. A good deal of credit should go to Wilson, as well, however, as he has legitimate arm talent and is a much more mobile passer than Mallett, so the Razorbacks don't have a statue in the pocket to protect. This will be Wilson's stiffest test this year as the LSU secondary is the best in the country. Considering the other juniors likely to leave school early this season, scouts don't anticipate Wilson heading to the NFL early. Should he return, he'll certainly be among the more closely scrutinized passers for the 2013 draft. 

WR Jarius Wright, 5-10, 180, senior
Joe Adams has been getting a great deal of attention over the past few weeks due to his dazzling production, but make no mistake Wright is the go-to receiver in this offense. He leads the team with 61 receptions, has almost double the receiving yards (1,002) as Adams, Arkansas' second leading receiver (595) and has over three times as many touchdown receptions (10) as any other Razorback (Adams and Hamilton are tied with three each). Though he boasts very good speed and is a more reliable route-runner and hands-catcher than some of his teammates, Wright will have to prove to scouts that he can play special teams if he is to improve upon the 5th round grade NFLDraftScout.com has currently assigned to him. 

This game begins today at 2:30 pm Eastern Time on CBS.

Posted on: November 24, 2011 12:21 pm

Will ride on bench spark Aggies WR Jeff Fuller?

Texas A&M head coach is looking for a spark from his senior receiver Jeff Fuller. In benching him last week against Kansas, he may have served notice that the Aggies will need Fuller to play well against rival Texas tonight.

Fuller has been one of the most disappointing prospects this season. The 6-3, 220 pounder earned First Team All Big 12 honors last year with 72 catches for 1,066 yards and 12 touchdowns. Entering the season he was widely considered among the top pro prospects of the 2012 senior class earning first round grades from some scouts.

This season, however, Fuller has really struggled with drops. He has caught 56 passes for 602  yards and four touchdowns but has been overtaken by junior Ryan Swope as the Aggies' most dependable receiver. Being overtaken as the primary target in an offense wouldn't necessarily be noteworthy to scouts, but in this case it is. Fuller is the most prolific receiver in Texas A&M's history, owning the career records in virtually every category.

To be fair, Fuller has shown a great deal of toughness in battling through several injuries this fall. A hamstring that kept Fuller out much of fall camp was just preview of injuries to come. Fuller has been hampered with injuries to his ankle and knee as well and suffered a concussion against Texas Tech.

Due to his struggles, Fuller has slipped significantly on NFLDraftScout.com's board. He entered the year projected as a first round pick. He's now our 14th rated receiver and viewed as the No. 122th rated prospect, overall.

Texas A&M's move to the SEC next year makes tonight's game all the bigger. Fuller (and quarterback Ryan Tannehill) could help his pro stock significantly with a strong performance in the pressure-packed atmosphere. This may be a weaker than normal season for Texas, but the Longhorns always feature a strong secondary and this season is no different. The Longhorns rank first in the Big 12 in pass defense and have allowed only two more touchdowns passing this season (nine) than they've had interceptions.
Posted on: November 23, 2011 10:55 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:52 pm

Report: Luck is indeed leaving Stanford early

   It'll be a happy Thanksgiving for a few general managers likely to be perched at the top of next year's NFL draft.

   Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck plans to enter the 2012 NFL Draft according to a Yahoo Sports report, which cites two sources in saying Luck won't be back for a fourth and final college season.

   The redshirt junior, considered the No. 1 overall prospect since the start of the 2010 season, surprised most when he decided after the Cardinal won the Orange Bowl to return for his redshirt junior season in 2011 to finalize his degree in architectural engineering. The Charlotte Observer reported in January that Luck, not Cam Newton of Auburn, was the Panthers' top-ranked prospect. When Luck returned, Newton was the No. 1 overall pick and has put up gaudy statistics starting since Week 1.

   Luck has started since his freshman season and given head coach Jim Harbaugh, who recruited him to Palo Alto, moved on to the 49ers, some saw Luck as a sure bet to follow him to the pros.

   Harbaugh said Luck is the anti-franchise quarterback in that he doesn't follow any "social expectations in his life." As one example, Harbaugh said some of Luck's closest ties outside of the Stanford locker room were with intellectual professors.

     On the field, Luck has been portrayed as the total package at a position considered the most important to winning in the NFL.  He's expected to be a Heisman Trophy finalist and will leave Stanford with a number of passing records and marks for wins, including many that previously belonged to Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.

   NFLDraftScout.com projects Luck as one of three or possibly four quarterbacks who will be first-round picks in 2012
, assuming multiple juniors, including Luck and Southern California's Matt Barkley, opt to leave school early.

   He's been scouted heavily by the Indianapolis Colts, who at 0-10 are the most likely team to hold the No. 1 overall pick. All other NFL teams have at least two victories.

   The Colts' situation could be interesting from many angles. Luck received direct counsel from injured All-Pro Peyton Manning, who played all four years of his eligibility at Tennessee, when weighing his draft-vs.-Stanford decision in January. Manning wants to return to the Colts next season. But he's had three neck surgeries and his health status is very much unknown.

   Indianapolis, which signed Manning to a five-year, $90 million contract in July, can release Manning in March and avoid the final four years of his contract. That would clear the path for luck, a player management and owner Jim Irsay said has to be considered if indeed Indianapolis drafts at the top spot in April.

   Vice chairman Bill Polian, who built his previous teams around quarterbacks -- Jim Kelly in Buffalo, Kerry Collins in Carolina and Manning with the Colts -- has scouted Luck on multiple occasions in person. Polian and Manning said they've discussed the scenario, but have not shared what factors will dictate the direction the team takes in March and April.

Jeff Reynolds,

Posted on: November 21, 2011 3:36 pm

"Significant" knee injury clouds Gray's stock

A right knee injury characterized by Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly as "significant" will almost certainly finish running back Jonas' Gray breakout senior campaign. The injury may, in fact, end his collegiate career.  

The injury occured during Saturday's win over Boston College. While results of the MRI have not yet been released, sources close to the Notre Dame program believe that Gray tore his MCL and perhaps other ligaments, as well.

The injury is a particularly sad one for Gray, as he'd finally become the productive runner he was hyped to be when signing with Notre Dame as a highly touted prep player.

Gray, 5-10 and 230 pounds, had rushed for 791 yards and a team-leading 12 touchdowns so far this season. He entered the campaign having rushed for just 309 combined yards over his first three years with the team and had started only one game (he rushed for 18 yards on nine carries in 2009 against Purdue) during that time. 

This year, however, Gray had appeared to have a new lease on life. Blessed with surprisingly quick feet and athleticism for a back of his size, Gray teamed with 6-0, 215 pound junior Cierre Wood to give the Irish their most formidable rushing attack in years.

Due to the fact that Gray has not used a redshirt during his collegiate career, he may elect to petition the NCAA for a medical hardship. Considering that the injury occurred so late in the season, however, the NCAA isn't likely to rule in his favor.

As such, the injury could force Gray to begin preparation for any chance at being drafted (or signed as a free agent) in the NFL earlier than he would have hoped.

Even with Gray's impressive senior campaign he is viewed by NFLDraftScout.com as a marginal prospect, at best. Gray is currently ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 55 running back for the 2012 draft. As a point of reference, last year there were 31 running backs (including fullbacks) drafted.

Posted on: November 18, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 2:40 pm

Five Prospects I'll Be Scouting Closely Saturday

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.

DT Kendall Reyes, Connecticut: Reyes wasn't a highly touted prospect when signing with UCONN, but has built himself into a legitimate top 100 prospect. Experienced inside and out, teams running the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, alike, will be interested in acquiring his services. Reyes will have his hands full against a much improved Louisville team, but with a strong showing the senior could secure a spot on one of the premier all-star game rosters. This game begins at noon ET and will be televised by ESPN.

DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State:  The afore-mentioned Reyes is underrated in some circles. Few outside of the SEC know much about Cox, a 6-4, 295 pound junior who has been running the conference ragged. Cox, you may be surprised to learn, has earned the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week three times this season. Arkansas generally does a great job of protecting the quarterback, but Tyler Wilson will certainly have to keep his eyes open for this Bulldog.  This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be broadcast by CBS.

OT Mike Adams, Ohio State: When Adams, Terrelle Pryor and three other Buckeyes were suspended over "Tattoo-gate" last season, I made the argument that the man whose stock might be impacted the least was Adams. The reasoning behind it was simple -- Adams was the best prospect of the group. The 6-6, 320 pounder has proven to be worth the hype thus far in his abbreviated senior campaign, though he'll get a tough test Saturday against a very talented Penn State defensive line. Adams is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior at the position and, quite frankly, the only senior tackle I've seen this year that I've given a first round grade.  This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN/ABC. 

QB Matt Barkley, Southern Cal: A week after the Oregon Ducks' talented (albeit young) secondary shut down the presumptive No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal offense, Barkley and the Trojans will get their chance. The Ducks contained Luck in large part due to the fact that Stanford was missing their top speed threat on the outside, senior wideout Chris Owusu. Barkley could be without his star receiver, Robert Woods in this contest, as the sophomore is battling nagging shoulder and ankle injuries. Barkley is blessed to have better weapons on the outside to help shoulder the possible loss of Woods, but this matchup nonetheless poses quite a challenge for my No. 2 rated prospect overall.  This game begins at 8:00 pm ET and will be televised by ABC. 

QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor: Possessing quick feet and a strong, accurate arm, RGIII has been dazzling, at times, this season. He is fortunate to have one of the more criminally underrated wideouts in the country in senior Kendall Wright, an explosive playmaker that some scouts have compared to DeSean Jackson. This combination has been enough to beat the also-rans on Baylor's schedule, but with the Sooners coming to town Saturday night, Griffin will need to be able to spread the ball around to have much of a chance. Griffin has steadily maintained that he's likely to return to Baylor next season, but a strong performance against a team as talented as Oklahoma could create such a buzz that he'd have to explore his potential NFL options sooner than maybe even he expects.  This game begins at 8:00 ET and will be televised by ESPN.

Posted on: November 16, 2011 1:54 pm

Scout: Penn St was worst place in country for us

A few days ago my CBS colleague Mike Freeman pointed out that many NFL scouts wouldn't miss Joe Paterno at Penn State due to his dictorial control of the program and the complications his control made in evaluating prospects.

Freeman quoted an anonymous scout as saying Penn State was "one of the worst places in the country to try and do your job."

I spoke to a high level scout, myself, who echoed that sentiment and provided even more specifics.

"The comment doesn't surprise me at all. Penn State has been the worst place in the country for scouts," he said. "Most schools and their [coaches, trainers] are pretty damn good to us. They're willing to work around our schedules and answer our questions because they realize the relationship they have with the league. If their players get drafted, it is only going to help them recruit more talent."

The scout didn't want to mention other schools that make scouts' jobs difficult, but did point out that USC under Pete Carroll and that Alabama under Nick Saban have been particularly welcoming to scouts.

"You could go into their facilities most days and as long as you were respectful of their time and preparation for their next opponent, they'd help us do our job. At Penn State, you literally only had two or three days a year where you could go in and scout players. It got to the point where a lot of guys didn't even take the trouble of going there. We'd do a lot of the scouting and interviews of Penn State players during all-star games and in individual workouts."

The scout didn't seem to think that the lack of access contributed significantly to the fact that Penn State has produced some of the more memorable busts in NFL draft history, but was willing to acknowledge the possibility.

"No team drafts a player that they haven't done their complete homework on, so I don't think [the limited access] played a critical role. Still, the more information you have about a player, the better... and Penn State made things more difficult."
Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:36 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 3:38 pm

Arkansas WR/RS Adams flying up draft boards

So much has been made of the bigger, stronger receivers likely to be available in the 2012 draft (like Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Marvin McNutt, etc.) that a few of the undersized speedsters aren't getting the recognition they deserve.

One such example is Arkansas wideout and return specialist Joe Adams.

Adams entered the season on the radar of NFL scouts, but he was viewed as a clear-cut secondary option in the Razorbacks' passing attack behind Greg Childs and Jarius Wright. With Childs struggling through recurring knee problems, however, Adams has stepped to the forefront a bit more, demonstrating the elusiveness and speed to contribute in both roles to an NFL team.

Some scouts, in fact, tell me that Adams has gone from a likely very late round prospect into possible Top 100 consideration based on playmaking skills that some have compared to Percy Harvin and DeSean Jackson's. Adams is currently rated by NFLDraftScout.com as a 3rd-4th round pick and our No. 90 prospect overall.

I had hoped to sneak a peek at the Arkansas/Tennessee game Saturday, but wasn't able to do so prior to my Monday morning deadline for the Weekend Review.

In catching two passes for 52 yards and a touchdown as well as returning his third punt for a score this season (and fourth of his career) in a 49-7 thrashing of the Volunteers, however, Adams deserves mentioning.

His punt return in the waning seconds of the first quarter Saturday seemed to deflate the Tennessee sideline. Adams made at least six defenders miss on the return, scoring from 80 yards out. The three punt returns this season by Adams leads the NCAA and earned him Special Teams Player of the Week honors from the SEC.

Here is a link to the video of Adams' return on Youtube, courtesy of dwdyem2001

Posted on: November 14, 2011 3:43 pm

Texas RB Whitaker tears up knee; NCAA career over

The 2011 season has been the second consecutive rough one for Mack Brown and his Texas Longhorns.

Unfortunately, one of the team's few bright spots this season has now been lost, as well.

Senior running back Fozzy Whitaker tore the MCL and ACL in his right knee during the Longhorns' 17-5 loss to Missouri, Saturday.

The injury and subsequent surgery to repair the ligaments will officially end the NCAA career for Whitaker.

The 5-10, 202 pound Whitaker had struggled with injuries throughout much of his career at Texas. When healthy, however, he had demonstrated the lateral agility and straight-line speed that every NFL scout is looking for in a running back and kick returner.

Though his senior season was cut short, Whitaker may have already shown enough to intrigue scouts. He posted 955 all-purpose yards this season for the Longhorns and led the team with nine rushing touchdowns. He showed an ability to make big plays at critical moments for Texas, including returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry and achieving the same feat the week after against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. No player in Texas history had previously scored on 100 yard+ kickoff returns in consecutive games.

Largely due to Whitaker's durability questions, he is currently rated as the No. 23 running back in the 2012 draft by NFLDraftScout.com.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com