Each week I list the five prospects that I'll be focusing on. 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.
Those interested in scouting "alongside" me can follow me on Twitter @RobRang.
Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.
WR Julio Jones, Alabama : For some, the one on one showdown between Randy Moss and Darrelle Revis was the best wide receiver-cornerback battle of the year. For me, this is the matchup I've been waiting to see. Jones and Peterson each played well in their matchup last year. Jones may have had the more impressive statistics (four catches for 102 yards, including a 73 yard touchdown), but none of these grabs came against Peterson, who finished with three tackles and three passes broken up despite battling cramps. The fact that I have Peterson going No. 2 overall in my first round mock draft (higher than any cornerback has ever gone) gives you an ideal as to how high the LSU corner ranks on my board. That said, I'm higher than most on Jones, as well. He isn't as polished as some of the other highly touted wideouts due to Alabama's reliance on the running game, but I've seen improvements in his route-running this season and I love the size, strength and toughness he brings to the position. The toughest adjustment most collegiate receivers have to make when going to the NFL is handling the added physicality of the pro grame. I characterized Hakeen Nicks (over the more highly touted Crabtree, Maclin, Harvin, etc.) as the rookie wideout likeliest to have the greatest immediate impact two years ago due to his physicality and body control. I see a similiar skill set in Jones. This game will be televised by CBS and will begin at 3:30 pm EST.
QB Andy Dalton, TCU : The fact that No. 3 TCU is heading to No. 5 Utah for a game with legitimate BCS implications and yet only minimal television coverage is precisely what is wrong with the inequity of today's college football system. If this were a showdown among two undefeated teams in an automatic qualifier conference like the Big Ten, ACC or SEC this would unquestionably be the biggest game of the weekend. Instead, only those of us fortunate enough to have CBS' College Sports channel will get to watch what could be an instant classic. TCU has based a great deal of their success over the years on their defense, but if they are to win this game, Dalton will have to play well. He didn't last year in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State. This game is particularly interesting for Dalton due to the fact that his favorite receiver, senior Jeremy Kerley will often be covered by Utah junior cornerback Brandon Burton -- one of the best, if underrated young corners in the country. This game will be televised by CBS College Sports and will begin at 3:30 pm EST.
SS Shiloh Keo, Idaho: Some questioned our sanity when NFLDraftScout.com rated former Vandal guard Mike Iupati as a potential first round pick before last season even began. Their safety, Shiloh Keo also popped off the tape and began this year among our top five prospects at the position. Like many of you, I haven't seen much of Keo thus far this season. That is because I've been waiting to see him in coverage against a dynamic offense. With Colin Kaepernick and the No. 3 nationally rated Nevada offense coming to town, Keo will have the opportunity to answer questions about his coverage skills. This game won't get mentioned by many, but in terms of a player's stock, few games will be bigger than this one is for Keo. This game will be televised by televised by ESPN and will begin at 5:00 pm EST.
OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA: At 6-4, 254 pounds, Bruins' junior outside linebacker Akeem Ayers is as gifted an outside linebacker prospect as there is in the entire country. The Bruins have struggled with consistency this season, but Ayers has been one of the few bright spots. His numbers (45 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks) aren't eye-popping, but scouts love his versatility and upside. I'm very interested to see how Ayers performs against Oregon State this weekend. The Beavers may lack the big play offense of their arch rival Ducks, but their pro-style offense and the excellent running of junior back Jacquizz Rodgers will be a truer test of Ayers' talents. This game will be televised by Versus and will begin at 7:00 pm EST.
QB Nick Foles, Arizona: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will get all of the hype leading up to this contest and for good reason. However, I've spoken to NFL scouts that are very intrigued with Foles, as well. Foles, a junior, was leading the Pac-10 in passing yards per game before sustaining the knee injury that kept him sidelined for the past two weeks. Like most quarterbacks operating out of the spread offense, most of Foles' passes are in the short to intermediate range -- precisely the areas that Stanford's 3-4 defense is designed to counter. If Arizona is going to beat Stanford this week, Foles will have to play well and he may have to attack downfield. How he performs in that test may determine if he is a legitimate top 50 prospect or just another product of the spread offense. This game will be televised by ABC/ESPN and will begin at 8:00 pm EST.