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. I also try to tweet comments on prospects throughout Saturday's action. You can follow me on Twitter @RobRang.
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.
RB Tauren Poole, Tennessee: There are some huge games this weekend, but few have the longstanding rivalry that Tennessee-Florida boasts. Poole is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 7 rated running back, but he boasts a combination of size, speed, elusiveness and power that could translate into a starter at the next level. When you take into account all of the talented underclassmen, Poole is our 16th rated RB and that seems waaay too low based on the tape I've seen. With a strong game against an athletic Gator defense playing in front of their home crowd, he could get my vote to move up significantly in our rankings. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.
DT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington: For all of the attention that Jake Locker and running back Chris Polk gained for their roles in Washington's surprising Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska in January, the emergence of this 6-3, 337 run-stuffer was a critical piece tot he puzzle. Ta'Amu and the Huskies will be facing a more motivated Huskers offense this time around, so it will be fascinating to see how these two teams perform in the rubber match. A strong performance in this game could lead to the underdog Huskies giving Nebraska a tough game and also push Ta'Amu into legitimate first round consideration. He could follow Phil Taylor and BJ Raji as recent run-stuffers whose strong senior seasons catapulted them into the top 32. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.
DT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State: One could argue that for Michigan State to beat Notre Dame, the pressure is most on senior quarterback Kirk Cousins.However, considering the way the Irish defense has played, Cousins could have a field day. The greater pressure (and thus, why I, scouts will be paying close attention) will be on the Spartans' defense to bottle up the Irish offense. Worthy shows flashes of the penetrating quickness and power that can result in a first round pick, but needs to be more consistent. This game could go a long way in determing whether Worthy (a junior) should consider making the early leap to the NFL. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by NBC.
OLB Sean Spence, Miami: It wasn't that long ago when Miami-Ohio State would have ranked as the top game of the weekend. Now, for many it has become an after-thought. Not to me, however, and certainly not to scouts. Spence is one of the better chase linebackers in the country, but is undersized. He struggled handling Terrelle Pryor last year in this contest. While Pryor is obviously now an Oakland Raider, it will be interesting to see if Spence remembers his atypical performance a year ago and improves his open field tackling this time around. I expect that he will. This game begins at 7:30 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.
QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma: In case you haven't seen my Top 32 "Bigger Board," let me just say right now that I'm lower on Jones than most. While he undeniably has an NFL combination of size and arm strength, I question whether he has the accuracy and poise to be an elite pro quarterback. The fact that he's coming out of a spread offense that significantly inflates his production and typically protects him from pressure doesn't help his cause at all. However, to beat a fast, aggressive Seminoles' defense in Tallahassee, Jones will have to show improved accuracy and calm in the pocket -- which could lead me to re-evaluate him quickly. There is legitimate NFL talent on both sides of the ball for both of these programs. No one has more riding on their performance, however, than Jones, a junior passer who some compare to Sam Bradford and view as a potential top five pick in the 2012 draft. This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.