Tag:Jerrell Powe
Posted on: May 11, 2011 5:48 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 3:07 pm

Finding the Fits -- Defensive Tackles

Over the last week and a half I have been highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

The quality and depth of the 2011 defensive tackle class was one of the real strengths of this draft. Rather than focus on top 15 picks like Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley for this post, however, I wanted to continue to highlight other, lower-drafted prospects who I feel could surprise because of their combination of talent and schematic fit. For all of the hype that Detroit has gained for adding Fairley, it is worth noting that both he and Ndamukong Suh are both best suited to the three-technique position in Detroit's 4-3 scheme. One of them -- or perhaps veteran Corey Williams -- is going to be taking on an awful lot of double-team blocks on the nose to free up the other. The combination of Fairley and Suh inside could be special, but it isn't as clean of a schematic fit as some have suggested.

Here are the links for the other positions:
Players are listed alphabetically.

Quality Fits:

Jarvis Jenkins, Washington Redskins: One of the real upsets of the draft occurred when Jenkins was selected earlier (No. 41) than his much more celebrated linemate at Clemson, defensive end Da'Quan Bowers (No. 51). Though Jenkins wasn't as highly decorated as Bowers, he did play a significant role in taking on blocks and freeing up a stunting Bowers to rack up easy sacks. Jenkins played defensive tackle in a four-man front at Clemson, but his long arms, good strength and surprising lateral agility make him an intriguing switch to the five-technique defensive end position in the 3-4. 

Drake Nevis, Indianapolis Colts: Before and after Tony Dungy famously brought the "Tampa 2" defense to Indianapolis, the Colts had long valued undersized, penetrating defensive tackles. Nevis, 6-1 and 294 pounds, lacks the bulk and strength most teams are looking for inside, but his ability to collapse the pocket makes him an ideal fit for the Colts -- and at No. 87 overall, he presented very good value considering the early runs on defensive linemen in this draft and the Colts' need for help on the defensive interior.

Jerrell Powe, Kansas City Chiefs: Though I  have reservations about some of the Chiefs' other picks of the 2011 draft, Powe was potential steal, especially considering that the All-SEC selection fell all the way to the No. 199th overall pick. At 6-2 and 335 pounds Powe possesses the ideal measurements of a 3-4 nose guard, an area of concern for the Chiefs. Had Powe come out after the 2010 season, he might have been a second or third round selection. A terribly disappointing 2011 season, however, pushed him down the board. There is no denying Powe's talent nor his fit in this scheme. The payoff on this late 6th round gamble could be significant should the Chiefs be able to light a fire under Powe.

Questionable Fit:

Stephen Paea, Chicago Bears: Like the three teams listed above, the Chicago Bears entered the 2011 draft with considerable needs along their defensive front, especially inside at defensive tackle. The Bears elected to release former first round pick Tommie Harris and may need to fill a hole at nose guard should scheduled free agent Anthony Adams play elsewhere next season. Like Adams, Paea is shorter than most teams want at defensive tackle and relies on a combination of explosive strength and leverage to control his opponent. Should the Bears plug Paea in at nose as a replacement for Adams, I don't know that the former Beaver will prove as successful as Adams has been in Chicago. Simply put, Paea is not a particularly instinctive defender. He'll blow up his share of plays due to his incredible strength (Combine record 49 reps of 225 pounds), but he won't make many plays outside of the guard-center-guard box. Even worse, Paea is not ideally suited to take over for Harris. Besides the lack of instincts, Paea isn't particularly quick, making him a tough projection as a three-technique who is expected to penetrate and create havoc in the backfield. I like Paea's upside, his value in the mid second round and the fact that he'll be reasonably protected by Julius Peppers on the outside. However, Paea is not the dominant force his reputation has led some to believe.

Posted on: February 5, 2011 6:03 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2011 6:04 pm

NFLPA Game Review

It was a civil war of sorts, as "Texas" and "Nation" squads faced off in the first NFL Player Association Game this afternoon on CBS College Sports Network, a new reincarnation of the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Challenge.

The first thing to know about college football all-star games is that evaluating talent purely off of that tape is fallacious. Players and coaches have one game to put together a game plan, and participants are rotated in and out throughout the contest so getting a rhythm or significant statistics is very difficult. 

Scouting talent while sitting at the Super Bowl media hotel is also difficult--however, there were some plays and players that caught my eye.

The most talented prospect in this game wasn't difficult to discover, even when watching in a public place; Nation DT Kenrick Ellis (South Carolina/Hampton) was continually putting pressure on Texas squad interior offensive linemen to push the pocket, plug up a lane against the run, or hustle to the ball outside the tackles. The 6-5, 336-pound tackle also forced a bad snap by otherwise stellar center Tim Barnes (Missouri) in the red zone in the fourth quarter, leading to a missed field goal.  

The game's MVP, Northwest Missouri State defensive end Roberto Davis, ended up in the backfield regularly in practice before making a sack and forcing a fumble on the day. A late add who scouts didn't really take notice of, even when at the NWMS campus, his ability to get under the pads of taller tackles, driving them in the backfield, will make teams go back to the tape.

Two other Texas defensive linemen made their stamp on the game late, Eddie Jones (Texas) and Jerrell Powe (Ole Miss) combining to stuff a fourth-and-goal run to seal the victory. Jones has a nice combination or speed and strength to be a strong-side 3-4 linebacker or 4-3 defensive end in the right system. Powe did not dominate in this game as many though he could, but he did make himself known by getting into the backfield when not facing double teams (which wasn't often). 

Both Ellis and Powe could be very high picks because of their size and relative athletic ability, but both also have issues (Powe-age, pass rush ability; Ellis-suspension from South Carolina) that could make them bargains in the second or third rounds in the Kris Jenkins mold.

Two intriguing quarterbacks, Josh Portis (California-PA) and Taylor Potts (Texas Tech) played well on the day. Portis used his legs to move the ball on a couple of occasions and a strong arm to hit short and intermediate routes. He and fellow Combine invitee WR Stephen Burton (West Texas A&M) had one of the best plays of the game; a perfectly-thrown deep ball down the right sideline which Burton caught while fighting off a corner. He was a bit erratic as the game progressed, but flashed the ability to originally took him to Florida and Maryland (the double-transfer will need to address his jumping colleges with scouts). 

Potts was named the game's Offensive MVP after going 9-for-15 for 107 yards and a touchdown; his practice week was the best of all quarterbacks, as well. And though his elusiveness in the pocket is significantly less impressive than Portis', his NFL size, fair arm, usually-tight spiral and accurate intermediate throws may make a team think he is worth a late-round selection.

One group of players difficult to evaluate in practices are linebackers because they don't get a chance to tackle. Tressor Baptiste (Texas A&M Kingsville),  Brian Duncan (Texas Tech), Adrian Moten (Maryland), and OLB Spencer Paysinger (Oregon) also quick enough to wrap up receivers and running backs in the backfield or towards either sideline. Baptiste and Paysinger were especially active, always appearing to be around the ball. 

Another player who made an impression in practice this week was Texas cornerback Josh Gatlin (North Dakota State), who had a nice high-point interception in the red zone on an underthrown pass. He also displayed nice press ability on the line, like he did in practice, but struggled to stay with receivers when playing off or in trail coverage.  Miscommunication with S ChrisProsinski (Wyoming) allowed a big play down the seam from QB Jeff Van Camp (Florida Atlantic) to WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (Iowa) near the end of the game. DJK stepped up with some plays today, especially on that late drive to give his team a chance to win, after an average week of practice.

Nation corner Vince Cuff also had some ups and downs in the game. He has the speed to stay with any receiver, and made an excellent leap in the air to knock down a pass. But he was five feet from the receiver during the play instead of on his hip pocket, forcing him to make the leap to get the ball--something scouts will notice on tape. Cuff also displayed toughness in the run game by cutting down FB Robert Hughes (Notre Dame) inside the hashes and tackling receivers immediately after the catch. His lack of size (5-10, 177), however, prevented him from making key tackles or staying with more physical receivers. 

Though explosive plays were at a minimum in this contest, Nation receiver Jock Sanders (West Virginia) and Texas running back Chad Spann (Northern Illinois) each made fans say "wow" with an exciting run. Former North Carolina QB T.J. Yates stepped up in the pocket to find Sanders over the middle in the third quarter, then the diminutive 5-6 receiver made a lot of yardage on his own with spectacular cuts and elusiveness through traffic. Spann showed great balance on a play later on, putting his hand on the turf after getting hit to stay upright and lower his shoulder to pound a would-be tackler after getting a chunk of yards.

Unfortunately, Nation WR Kris Durham (Georgia) and Texas WR Ricardo Lockette (Fort Valley State) aided in the game's lack of offense by starting the game with dropping passes. This was not surprising given their propensity to do so during practice. Another receiver with troubles holding onto the ball this week, UCF WR Jamar Newsome, got popped by his own guy (and some help from opposing CB Kevin Rutland from Missouri) to fumble a kickoff in the first half. All three receivers made good catches later, however, to earn back from respect from scouts.

Nation QB Nathan Enderle (Idaho) did little to help his stock in this game today, coming up short on intermediate and deep throws, and struggling to make any throw on the run. A mid-round prospect to start the year, a rough season and underwhelming NFLPA Game week give him only a slight chance to be drafted. 

Another Combine participant, Texas guard Isaiah Thompson (Houston), also struggled mightily--as he did in practice. Defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye (South Carolina) used quickness and violent hands to run by Thompson early and often, and Ellis pushed aside Thompson later to get to unimpressive QB Ryan Colburn (Fresno State) later on.

Reading through this summary review of the NFLPA Game, you'll notice that in most cases, players perform in games as they did during practice week. This is an axiom coaches have followed as long as the game has been played. 

So although NFL scouts do not rely solely on an all-star game tape to evaluate a player, they typically aren't surprised by the game's flow or outcome.

Posted on: February 1, 2011 8:34 am

TEX vs Nation game boasts impressive roster

What the Texas vs Nation Game lacks in history, it sure is making up for in talent.

Renamed the NFLPA Game this year, the senior all-star game has only been operating since 2007. When it began, it was considered to be roughly the equivalant of the Hula Bowl, featuring a few draft-worthy prospects but certainly not ranking with the East-West Shrine Game or Senior Bowl.

This year's class, however, boasts a roster that can match the Shrine Game and, unlike the Senior Bowl which scouts complain caters to the media as much as NFL personnel, the Texas vs. Nation game makes things easy on scouts. Teams are given "unbelievable access to the players" according to one long-time scout, making the interview process that every team makes a priority during these events a much more efficient process.

Most importantly, the San Antonio-based game is developing quite a reputation for talent. According to the game's official website, 93% of the 2009 roster (111 of 119) went on to sign NFL contracts. CEO Kenny Hansmire and Player Personnel Consultant John Murphy deserve a great deal of credit.

There is legitimately mid round talent at every position and plenty of sleeper candidates throughout the roster, as well. Below are my top ten prospects for the Texas and Nation teams. For a look at the complete roster, click here .

Texas Team (players born in Texas or played collegiately there)

  • Josh Portis, QB, California (PA)
  • Denarius Moore, WR, Tennessee
  • Robert Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic
  • Derek Newton, OT, Arkansas State
  • Byron Bell, OT, New Mexico State
  • Jerrell Powe, DT, Mississippi
  • Ugo Chinasa, DE, Oklahoma State
  • Colby Whitlock, DT, Texas Tech
  • Spencer Paysinger, OLB, Oregon
  • Kevin Rutland, CB, Missouri

Nation Team

  • Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho
  • T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina
  • Derrell Johnson-Kouilianos, WR, Iowa
  • Willie Smith, OT, East Carolina
  • Curt Porter, OT, Jacksonville State
  • Kendrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
  • Christian Anthony, DE, Grambling
  • Adrian Moten, OLB, Maryland
  • Dominic DeCicco, S, Pittsburgh
  • Mark Legree, S, Appalachian State

As you'd expect from NFLDraftScout.com , we'll be represented in San Antonio throughout the week of practice. Fellow senior analyst Chad Reuter will be checking in with daily practice reports that will be either featured stories on the main site or here on the blog.

Posted on: December 4, 2010 5:29 pm

Ole Miss NG Jerrell Powe coming out

Mississippi nose guard Jerrell Powe surprised many with his announcement a few weeks ago that he was considering returning for another season of college football.

Apparently he's reconsidered, as the 6-2, 320 pounder is indeed going to make himself eligible for the 2011 NFL Draft, as the University of Mississippi's official athletic website is reporting .

“I have struggled for a long time about this decision, but in the end, it’s time for me to move on,” Powe said. “I really appreciate everything Ole Miss has done for me. I plan on coming back and supporting my school and my team for the rest of my life. I am in my prime right now and I feel it is in my best interest to start using my ability to earn a living for me and my family.

“I am very thankful to the Ole Miss family, the coaching staff and my teammates for the support I have been shown these past few years.”

Quite frankly, Powe would have been better served coming out after last season. Powe earned second team All-SEC honors in 2009, racking up 34 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss.

This season, with opponents focusing their blocking schemes on stopping him, Powe has seen his numbers drop. While he again earned Second Team All-SEC honors, he only posted 27 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks this year.

More important than his statistics, the explosive power and quickness that Powe had demonstrated in 2009 was only seen in flashes this year.

Powe's ability to clog up running lanes as a prototypical 3-4 nose guard makes him a very valuable commodity. Despite his hype , he is no lock to make the first round. A strong performance at the Senior Bowl, however, could turn around his stock quickly.

Posted on: November 19, 2010 9:51 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2010 9:55 pm

The five prospects I'll be scouting this weekend

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.

Because I'm scouting them in real time these players make an early impression, often leading to consideration as my Prospect of the Week or Diamond in the Rough.

Even more often, however, it 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 and I break down six more players in Filmroom Notes, update our Top 32 prospects overall, Top 10 per position, Risers/Fallers for multiple games and offer extensive previews of the next week's action. I boast about our product for a simple reason: Having seen everything else out there - it is the most complete weekly NFL draft guide on the planet. 

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.

DE/OLB Chis Carter, Fresno State: Fresno State ranked second to last in entire country last season with only nine combined sacks. This season, they rank sixth with 27 sacks through nine games. A big part of that is the play of 6-2, 240 pound pass rusher Chris Carter, who has nine sacks, himself this season. Carter will be going up against Boise State junior left tackle Nate Potter, a legitimate NFL prospect. The winner of this individual battle could go a long way in determining whether Pat Hill's bunch is able to throw a scare into the No. 4 team in the country. This game begins at 9:30 pm EST tonight and will be televised by ESPN.

WR Jerrel Jernigan, Troy: Draft enthusiasts certainly know Jernigan's name by now, but they'll get an opportunity to see NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 rated senior WR against an SEC defense Saturday morning when the Trojans travel to meet Steve Spurrier's No. 17 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. Jernigan is only 5-09, but he can fly. He'll see time as a receiver, returner and potentially even in some Wildcat formations. The Gamecocks feature a superstar receiver of their own in sophomore Alshon Jeffery, but don't be surprised if Jernigan is statistically up to the challenge. This game begins at 12:21 pm EST Saturday and will be televised by ESPN.

DT Jerrell Powe, Mississippi:
Entering the season Powe was viewed as a potential Top 10 prospect. Now, his disappointing season has him fighting to remain in the top two rounds. Powe reminded the media this week that he could return for another year. An academic non-qualifier previously, Powe is on pace to earn his Criminal Justice degree and thereby trigger an NCAA rule that would grant him another season if he wanted to put off an NFL career. It has been a disappointing season for Powe and for the 4-6 Rebels (1-5 in the SEC), in general, but a strong performance Saturday against LSU could be just the breakout each needs. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

DT Christian Ballard, Iowa: Everyone knows that this game pitts two of the top senior defensive ends in the country in Ohio State's Cameron Heyward and Iowa's Adrian Clayborn. Ballard rarely gets the media attention, but I assure you, scouts know him well. In fact, I've had some tell me they believe Ballard could prove to be a first round pick based on his athletic upside. The 6-4, 298 pounder has experience inside and out, making him one of the more verastile defensive linemen in the draft and one potentially capable of playing effectively in the 3-4 and 4-3. Ballard has had his moments in previous games I've scouted, but hasn't dominated. His play could prove critical in this game. If Iowa is able to contain Terrelle Pryor with just their front four, they could pull off the upset at home. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.

QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas : Though I'm not nearly as high on Mallett as some, I certainly do recognize that he has a first round arm. His poise and feet will be tested Saturday night against a physical and aggressive Mississippi State team playing at home. I don't care what Mallett's statistics are at the end of the game. Bobby Petrino's offense leads to big numbers. Remember Brian Brohm and Stefan LeFors under Petrino at Louisville?  I want to see how Mallett's accuracy is affected if the Bulldogs are able get him moving throughout the pocket. This has been a concern of mine throughout Mallett's career and it was the reason why the SEC star collapsed late against Alabama. If Mallett has improved in this area, it could lead to a significant jump up draft boards -- especially with the continued struggles of the senior quarterbacks.  This game begins at 7:00 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.

Those interested in scouting "alongside" me Friday night and throughout Saturday's action can follow me on Twitter @RobRang .

Posted on: November 18, 2010 12:23 am

NG Jerrell Powe to return to Ole Miss for 2011?

I featured Mississippi nose guard Jerrell Powe over the summer as one of the more intriguing senior prospects in the country and a potential first round prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft. 

It seems that Powe might have other ideas rather than joining the 2011 draft, according to a report today from Kyle Veazey of The Clarion Ledger .

Powe, listed as a senior on the Mississippi website, has only used three years (including this one) of his four seasons of athletic eligibility.

As has been well documented, Powe has had numerous run-ins with the NCAA regarding his academic eligibility. In this case, however, an NCAA rule may actually end up helping him. Student athletes who were once academic non-qualifiers can earn an extra year of eligibility if they prove they are on pace to graduate. As Veazy details in his report, Powe is on schedule to graduate in May with a degree in Criminal Justice.

The 6-2, 320 pound Powe is viewed as the top nose guard prospect in the country by some scouts. His 2010 season, however, has been a disappointment and thus, in some ways a microcosm of the Mississippi program this year. Powe has accumulated "only" 20 tackles, including 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks this season.

Still, while Powe hasn't been as successful this year as expected, his potential decision to return for another season of collegiate football would be surprising. Due to the fact that he was ruled ineligible to play for three years, he'll already be entering the NFL a bit older (turns 24 in March) than most prospects.

Powe didn't sound like his age was a concern, however.

 "We'll sit down at the end of the year, send in a draft analysis, and see where I'm at and then make the best decision from there," Powe said.
Posted on: September 30, 2010 1:40 pm

5 Most Disappointing Prospects through September

In this week's issue of Draft Slant, I list a handful of breakout prospects that scouts had graded as either late round or free agents in the preseason, but through the first month of the college season have greatly exceeded expectations and are rising fast.

Without giving away the identities of the players, themselves, I can tell you that the players listed come from a variety of conferences from the SEC to the WAC.

While that article is reserved for our premium subscribers, I thought I'd list a group of five players whose stock is going in the exact opposite direction over the first month of the season.

Players are listed alphabetically.

RB Mario Fannin, Auburn: I touted Fannin as much as anyone heading into the season as a potential breakout star and while I still maintain that he has talent, there is no denying that he's again struggling this year with the issues (injuries, fumbles) that had sidetracked him in the past. Part of a rotation for the Tigers, Fannin had seven touches for 79 yards and two touchdowns in the opener againt Arkansas State. Since, however, the Auburn coaching staff has apparently lost faith in his ability to get the tough yards and hold on to the football, as he has accumulated only eight touches for 28 total yards (and no scores) since.

QB Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: Despite earning preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year accolades, scouts had plenty of concerns about Johnson's pro prospects before the season have even begun. Now, after an ugly four interception game against the likes of Florida International, scouts are even more concerned that Johnson, while talented, simply lacks the accuracy and football IQ to handle the adjustment to the NFL. Once considered a potential Top 50 prospect, Johnson now appears destined for the 5th or 6th round... at best.

QB Jake Locker, Washington: There are a great many jumping off Jake Locker's bandwagon after a disastrous performance against the Cornhuskers two weeks ago. In reality, Locker was struggling with accuracy and the reading of defenses in the two previous games (BYU, Syracuse, as well). Locker's No. 1 status has always been a projection that would come true IF he made similar gains under Steve Sarkisian that he made in his first year under the former USC quarterback coach. So far, Locker hasn't made those gains. Some scouts, in fact, wonder if he's regressed. Locker remains in the hunt to be the first senior QB off the board (and thus a potential high first round selection), but the time has come to stop making excuses for him. In his second year of this offense and his fourth as a starting quarterback, Locker needs to show better recognition and accuracy if he is going to be successful in the NFL.

NG Jerrell Powe, Mississippi: As proof of what a roller coaster ride scouting can be, Powe would have made my list of the "safer" prospects heading into this season. He was a standout, even dominant performer, at times times last year. This season, however, Powe has struggled mightily. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that Ole Miss rotates their defensive linemen. Some also may be due to the fact that he's playing this season as much as 60 pounds lighter than he's played in the past. Either way, the explosive power and consistency Powe had shown last year simply hasn't been there in the Rebels' first four games.

WR Terrance Toliver, LSU: Toliver was viewed by many as the top senior receiving prospect in the country heading into the season. He certainly was touted as a potential future high round pick as a prep star. Unfortunately, Toliver and the LSU offense, as a whole, has struggled this season. Toliver has only 11 catches through the first four games for 96 yards. The 6-4, 206 pounder with reported 4.4 speed has yet to catch a touchdown this season.

One could make the argument that the host of players suspended or injured so far this season should also be included on this list. I have too much respect for our readers to take the easy way out and list the likes of North Carolina's DT Marvin Austin, FS Deunta Williams, WR Greg Little, South Carolina TE Wesley Saunders, West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan (all suspended for one or more games) or injured players like Houston QB Case Keenum, etc. and the like among this list. With serious off-field or health questions, they are certainly falling -- or at least on the cusp of falling -- in the eyes of scouts. However, the players I listed above are falling because they simply aren't producing on the field to the level scouts expected heading into the 2010 season.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 11:08 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 1:06 pm

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely

Each week as part of my and fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter's preparation for our weekly Draft Slant feature I list five prospects that I'll be focusing on during Saturday's games.*

I list the players here, but those of you who would like to scout "alongside" me, you can follow me on Twitter @RobRang .

OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College:
There is a great deal of debate among scouts as to who is the top senior offensive tackle in the country. Castonzo has his share of supporters and it isn't difficult to understand why. Castonzo, 6-7 and 308 pounds, is light on his feet and has the strong BC reputation of producing quality NFL offensive linemen helping him. Castonzo is high cut, however, and struggles with the bull rush. He'll be facing an athletic and physical Virginia Tech defense Saturday. I'm very curious to see how he fares. Game begins at 12:00 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.

DL Marcell Dareus, Alabama: Like most college football fans, this is the game I'm most looking forward to watching. Dareus didn't do much in his first game back from his two game suspension (one TFL against Duke) to start the season, but he and the rest of the Tide's ability to get Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett moving will be key in this game. Scouts want to see if Dareus is as dominant without Terrance Cody, Lorenzo Washington and Brandon Deaderick taking the pressure off of him. Dareus stars as a defensive end in Nick Saban's 3-4 scheme, but is being heavily scouted by 4-3 teams who like him as a defensive tackle, as well. Though Dareus is only a junior, scouts tell me he's a virtual guarantee to come out after this season. Game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

RB Evan Royster, Penn State:
For all of his success, Royster has always struck me as a better college player than NFL prospect. He's shown enough courage, leg drive and burst to be successful in a one-cut offense (ala Arian Foster, Ryan Grant), but like these two NFL standouts, I don't see the straight-line speed or wiggle that typically earns anything higher than a mid round selection -- despite terrific production over his career. That production came in the past, however, as Royster has really struggled this season. In fact, he only eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the season last week in the Nittany Lions' third game of the year. Penn State hosts an underrated Temple squad Saturday. This will either be the game Royster gets back into the groove or truly begins to slip out of the minds of NFL scouts. Game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by Big Ten Network.

OG Andrew Jackson, Fresno State: "The President" has helped Fresno State be one of the best power rushing offenses over the past few seasons, earning All-WAC honors each of the past two seasons. (Of course, some guy named Ryan Matthews helped too). Jackson, however, has never had to face a defensive line with the strength and athleticism that Ole Miss boasts. Jackson is big (6-5, 295) and strong, but so too is NG Jerrell Powe. This game certainly isn't getting the hype of this weekend's monster games, but with the Rebels already getting upset at home once this year and Pat Hill's reputation for his team playing the big boys tough, I think this game could be a better scouting opportunity than most think. Game begins at 7:30 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.

DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State: Boise State has defeated their share of top opponents over the years. Many across the country won't be impressed by a home victory over the Beavers. They should, however, as the Beavers feature two of the most dynamic all-purpose weapons in college football in the Rodgers Bros. and a legitimate first round caliber defensive tackle in Paea. It is Paea that might actually play the bigger role in the Beavers' upset bid Saturday night. In nearly all of Heisman contender Kellen Moore's toughest games, he's enjoyed stellar pass protection. Paea's ability to collapse the pocket from the inside could be especially troublesome for Moore, who at 6-0, 187 pounds simply doesn't have the height to throw over constant interior pressure. Paea's game has always been his ability to hold up to double-teams in the running game. There won't be a better time for him to prove to scouts that he can rush the passer than this game. Game begins at 8 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

* While I'm generally focus on the senior prospects, I have to admit that I'm also keeping a close eye on underclassmen quarterbacks Andrew Luck , Nick Foles and Mallett -- especially considering how poorly the top senior QBs have faired thus far this season.

Luck should continue his strong start to the season (10 TDs/O INTs) against Notre Dame. Luck could miss his underrated senior WR Ryan Whalen, but the reality is the Irish simply aren't gifted enough defensively to slow down this offense.

Foles will be facing a physical and talented Cal defense that was embarrassed last week by Nevada. This is a home game for the Wildcats, but don't be surprised if the Golden Bears give him a tougher test than he's had all year long.

I'm not as high on Mallett as others seem to be, but acknowledge that two of the primary concerns I've had for him in the past -- poise in the pocket and overall mobility -- he's shown significant improvement in thus far this season. Of course, he hasn't faced a defense like Alabama's yet. Mallett's performance against the Tide -- good or bad -- could prove every bit the story that Jake Locker's struggles against Nebraska were.

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