Each weekend I list the five senior prospects I'll be focusing on. These are players who appear to have challenging matchups that will help determine how well they'll be able to make the transition to the pro game.
A noteworthy performance (either positive or negative) can result in the player being profiled in our upcoming edition of Draft Slant, NFLDraftScout.com's weekly PDF file for premium subscribers.
Last week I profiled Michigan State inside linebacker Greg Jones, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller, LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis and UCLA defensive tackle David Carter. Nevis enjoyed a spectacular game against Florida and earned my Prospect of the Week honors. Miller wasn't as impressive as his statline would lead you to believe -- something I went over in detail in the current issue of Draft Slant.
Here are this week's Five to Watch:
OLB Mark Herzlich, Boston College: One could make the argument that Herzlich should be a focus each and every week, considering his amazing recovery from Ewing's Sarcoma. I'm particularly interested in how he does in this game considering the versatility of the Florida State offense and the weather. On the one hand, considering Herzlich's recovery, it may not be realistic to expect that he'll handle the heat and humidity of this game as well as his teammates. However, with the regular season halfway over, scouts have to be sure that Herzlich is getting back into real football shape. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.
RB Delone Carter, Syracuse: Carter has been impressive this season, rushing for 524 yards and five touchdowns so far. That said, his opponents have been less than impressive -- Akron, Washington, Maine, Colgate, South Florida. Without Greg Romeus, this Pitt defense isn't as dominant as we may have expected heading into the season, but Dave Wannestadt will have this team crowing the line of scrimmage to slow down the Orange rushing attack. How Carter handles the extra attention will be key. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.
OT Lee Ziemba, Auburn: Tiger quarterback Cam Newton has been as impressive as any young passer in the country so far this season, but his veteran offensive line, including Ziemba, have been a major contributor to his success. The biggest difference I've noted in the success this year of the Razorbacks hasn't been the improvement of their talented passer, Ryan Mallett, but greater speed and physicality of the Arkansas defense -- especially in the front seven. Ziemba, who isn't a great athlete and may have to move to OG in the NFL, will have his hands full in this contest. How he and his linemates hold up could be the determining factor in one of the best games of the week. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.
WR Niles Paul, Nebraska: Paul is one of the nation's top senior receivers. In fact, I'm convinced that the versatile athlete (WR/RS) would contend for All-American honors if he played on an offense that featured him. Instead, he's relegated to only a few receptions a game for a Cornhuskers team that has been able to beat teams only running the ball and playing their typical stellar defense. This is a proud Texas Longhorn defense that Paul and his teammates will be facing, so the running may be tough. Paul won't face a better secondary all season long (well, except in practice) than this one -- at least until he earns an invitation to the Senior Bowl. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.
OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin: It is only because I list the games in chronological order that I have Carimi placed this low in the post. In reality, his one on one showdown against Ohio State's Cameron Heyward is far and away the best individual matchup of the weekend. If the Badgers can successfully run on the Buckeyes and keep Terrelle Pryor on the sideline, they have a chance to pull off the upset against Ohio State. Heyward will often line up against Carimi. At other times, he'll slide inside a bit and line up against senior guard John Moffitt, himself a solid NFL prospect. It should make for an excellent scouting opportunity for all three prospects, which is why this game is expected to have a dozen or more NFL scouts on hand. This game begins at 7:00 pm EST and will be telvised by ABC/ESPN.