Tag:Oklahoma
Posted on: May 4, 2011 8:24 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Running Backs

Over the next two weeks I will be 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.

With quarterbacks the focus yesterday , I'll move to the next highest profile prospect on the offensive side of the football with the running backs.

Before I break down a few backs that I believe are great (or in the case of one, troubling) fits with their respective NFL franchises, I did want to point out the statistical anamoly that was last year's running back class. There were 24 running backs selected in 2011 -- exactly double the number of runners who were drafted a year ago. The 12 true running backs selected in 2010 was the lowest total in modern league history.

Anyway, back to the point. Here are a few backs whose fit in their NFL schemes I believe could result in surprising success.

Players are listed alphabetically, not in the order in which I see their fit with their respective teams.

Good Fits:

Jamie Harper, Tennessee Titans: The Titans boasted one of the more exciting 1-2 punches in football just a few short years ago with Chris Johnson and LenDale White. White's penchant for trouble, however, led to his trade to Seattle and ultimately his falling completely out of the NFL. Harper, at 5-11 and 233 pounds, has a similar powerful build as White and might possess the softest hands of any back in this draft.

Roy Helu, Washington Redskins: Mike Shanahan is well known for his ability to find late round diamonds in the rough at running back and in Helu, he may have scored yet another one. Helu is an upright runner who didn't always run with the toughness and physicality some teams would prefer. He does, however, possess the ability to stick his foot in the ground and get downhill quickly. With very good straight-line speed (4.40), he is an ideal fit in Shanahan's zone scheme.

Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers obviously boast one of the league's best all-around backs in Frank Gore, so Hunter isn't about to win the starting job here. However, the 49ers best back-up to Gore is another powerful runner in Anthony Dixon. Hunter's agility, speed and hands out of the backfield make him a nice fit for the 49ers, especially considering the fact that the sooner they play rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the more likely they are going to need secure outlet receivers.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons: Rodgers is in a similar position behind Michael Turner in Atlanta as Hunter is behind Gore in San Francisco. The former OSU standout, however, is actually a very different back than Hunter, though the two are similarly sized. Rodgers is a good fit in Atlanta's drive-blocking, power-base rushing attack. Rodgers, all 5-6, 196 pounds of him, is a surprisingly powerful runner who will score his first NFL touchdown by burrowing his head into the chest of an unsuspecting defensive back rather than dancing around him. How do I know? I've watched him win First Team All Pac-10 honors all three years of his career at OSU. He'll prove a steal at the No. 145 pick.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins: It is a shame that Thomas' name is last alphabetically, as I believe he could have the most immediate impact of this year's rookie runners and therefore should be more prominently featured. The Miami Dolphins are thought likely to consider adding a significant free agent runner like DeAngelo Williams since they're likely to lose Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, but considering how much emphasis Tony Sparano places on running the football, Thomas could still impress as a rookie. Thomas runs a bit too upright for my taste, but has good vision, is surprisingly agile and possesses good acceleration for a back of his size (6-0, 230). Depending on what the Dolphins do in free agency, you could be looking at a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year in Thomas, who led the Big 12 in rushing yards his only two seasons in the conference. 

Questionable Fit:

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys drafted Murray to potentially fill-in or replace the big play potential lost whenever Felix Jones is sidelined. While they received better value in Murray in the third round than they did with Jones as the No. 22 overall pick of the  2008 first round, the team could be getting a similarly finesse back who relies on his speed and hands to make big plays, rather than demonstrate the instincts or toughness to be a consistent force. The Cowboys, of course, boast lots of talent in the backfield and won't have to lean on Murray to be a feature back. Murray has fantastic hands out of the backfield and in that way is a nice schematic fit, but in the physical NFC East division, his role could be just that and very little more.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Give Newton a "B" on the "Final Exam"

Cam Newton's quarterback coach George Whitfield, Jr. characterized the Heisman winner's performance at the Scouting Combine two weeks ago as a "pop quiz" and today's Pro Day workout as the "final exam."

Carrying the analogy further, it was clear Tuesday afternoon that Newton had studied hard for the big test, making significant improvement from the Indianapolis quiz, but also evident that he still has a ways to go before he can count on making the Honor Roll as an NFL passer.

Newton completed 50 of his 60 scripted passes on the day, demonstrating better timing and accuracy on some of the throws that troubled him at the Combine -- most notably the outs, comebacks and deep balls. He was the victim of several drops, diminishing his completion percentage somewhat, but also was helped out, at times, by receivers making some very good catches and adjusting their speed to track the football.

Most importantly, Newton showed improvement in taking snaps from center. Newton actually took snaps from a center Tuesday, rather than simply dropping back as he did at the Combine. This not-so-insignificant difference obviously greater replicated an actual football game and only made Newton's improvement in his dropback and timing all the better.

Newton still has a tendency to sail his passes high and wide, however. Had you asked me to assign a letter grade following the Combine throwing session, I would have given him a "D." Perhaps that seems harsh, but considering that after tossing a few easy passes to receivers during the gauntlet drill, Newton only completed 11 of 21 passes (and these weren't drops, mind you) on the day, the 60% it takes to get a "D" in my book is actually higher than Newton' completion percentage on the day.

On Tuesday, however, I thought Newton deserved a "B" for his efforts. He certainly did not demonstrate the spectacular accuracy I had witnessed firsthand at Sam Bradford's Pro Day last year. Newton wasn't as accurate as Mark Sanchez during his Pro Day a year earlier -- another workout I attended.

However, Newton did demonstrate all of the physical ability tools scouts are looking for -- and, again, showed significant improvement. Considering that it has been less than two weeks since the pop quiz, that is all most teams were looking for...



Posted on: March 8, 2011 9:07 am
 

What to look for in Cam's Pro Day workout

In yet another example of the undying thirst this world has for all-things football (and more specifically all-things Cam Newton), Auburn Pro Day workout will be broadcasted live today by ESPN3.com and the NFL Network.

The workout should feature defensive tackle Nick Fairley, offensive lineman Lee Ziemba and linebacker Josh Bynes, among other notable draft-eligible prospects for the BCS Champion Tigers, but, of course, the focus will be on the Heisman-winning Newton.

The pressure is on Newton to perform well after he struggled in his Combine throwing session. Newton's inaccuracy in Indianapolis caught some off guard as the reviews from his media-only workout outside of San Diego drew rave reviews. You can watch much of that workout here .

So, what does Newton have to do today to boost his stock?

In a word, improve.

After completing the easy ten-yard tosses to receivers during the gauntlet drill, Newton completed only 11 of his 21 passes at the Combine. Newton's struggles were due to the fact that his timing was off in his dropback from "center." He was a bit slow dropping back, forcing him to hurry his throwing motion. Too often he was throwing off his back foot with the ball leaving his hand too at an upward arc. This led to many of his passes sailing on him, especially on the deep out route, a pass requiring timing with his receivers.

Today, watch to see if Newton's timing is improved. It should be, as he'll be throwing to receivers he knows, as opposed to those he passed to in Indianapolis. Also, watch to see if Newton is stepping into his throws. This is essentially the weight distribution piece you've heard analysts refer to in the past.

Besides just the throwing session, it will be interesting to see how Newton's teammates rally around him. One of Newton's greatest attributes, according to scouts, is his leadership. Newton hadn't let the pressure of the big stage affect him in Auburn's undefeated season, but we might have seen cracks in the armor with his poor throwing session at the Combine. Newton needs a strong showing today. He also needs to show that he's having fun and be encouraging to his teammates. Today may really be all about Newton, but he can't let on that he believes that. This is Auburn's Pro Day, after all, not just Newton's.

I was on the field to watch the Pro Days that sent Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford's respective stocks soaring. I anticipate a similarly spectacular and stock-boosting performance from Newton today. If we don't get it, perhaps Chad Reuter and I will have to change the No. 1 overall pick in each of our current first round mock drafts.

Fairley, too, could see a boost or drop based on how he performs today. For all of the concern about his "soft" body at the Combine, there is no denying his spectacular workout. The natural athleticism that has caused me (and many others) to characterize him as the most naturally talented prospect in the draft was on display there. What will be interesting to scouts will be if Fairley's conditioning has improved or lessened in the eight days since he worked out at the Combine.

Every NFL team is expected to attend the event. In fact, some are predicting that it will be the most heavily attended Pro Day of all time. This is all the more impressive considering that Arkansas and Oklahoma are hosting their Pro Day workouts today, as well. Auburn's Pro Day begins at 1:30 pm EST.
Posted on: March 7, 2011 1:59 pm
 

Rivera, Elway among those going to Auburn Pro Day

The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, owners of the top two picks of the 2011 draft, will be well represented at Auburn's Pro Day tomorrow.

Darin Gantt of the Rock Jill Herald reports that Carolina will send head coach Ron Rivera to the workout. Broncos' Vice President of Football Operations John Elway announced via his Twitter account that he, too, will be making the trip. Don't be surprised if every team in the league is represented at Auburn's Pro Day.

Quarterback Cam Newton is an obvious attraction, but getting a bit lost in the hype over the Heisman winner is the stock of defensive tackle Nick Fairley. One could argue that the Panthers and Broncos need help at defensive tackle every bit as much as at quarterback, especially considering the fact that both clubs invested high round picks in Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow, respectivley, just last year.

The timing of Auburn's Pro Day is a bit inconvenient for scouts as Arkansas and Oklahoma also have their Pro Days scheduled for tomorrow.

With so much interest in Newton and Fairley, most teams will likely choose to go to Auburn's workout over the others. However, the Arkansas Pro Day is very intriguing, as well. Talented, but troubled quarterback Ryan Mallett will be throwing, of course, which is reason enough to attend the workout. Mallett enjoyed a spectacular throwing session at the Combine and thus, doesn't have quite as much riding on his physical performance Tuesday as Newton, who struggled with accuracy in Indianapolis.

That said, teams truly interested in drafting Mallett may want to attend his workout to gauge more than just his physical skills. How Mallett interacts with his former teammates (and they with him) could give clubs a greater feel for his leadership potential at the next level.


Posted on: January 2, 2011 10:06 pm
 

Five most impressive prospects from New Years Day

Taking the extra 24 hours to review all six of the New Years' Day bowl games, I've come up with a list of the five draft-eligible players who I felt enjoyed the strongest performances.

In New Years' fashion, I'm putting them in reverse order, starting with the No. 5 performance and finishing with the player I thought was No. 1 on the day of ones (1-1-11).

5. OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State : Those that followed me on Twitter yesterday (I had 55 posts) they know that I'm quite high on the Bulldogs' left tackle. Sherrod doesn't have elite quickness off the edge, but rarely allowed pressure from Michigan pass rushers during the Gator Bowl. Sherrod's ability to pop the defensive end and switch off to blitzing linebackers (essentially blocking two men) gave quarterback Chris Relf plenty of time to attack the Wolverines' vulnerable secondary. For Relf, who completed only 55.5% of his passes and threw only 10 touchdowns during his 12 regular season starts, it was his most impressive performance of the year (completed 78.3% of his passes for 281 yards, 3 TDs and an INT). In fact, Relf's 18 of 23 passing was the most efficient of any New Years' Day quarterback, helping him earn MVP honors. The credit should go just as much to Sherrod as Relf.
 
4. RB Jordan Todman, Connecticut: The Oklahoma Sooners knew heading into the Fiesta Bowl that if they could contain Todman, the No. 2 rusher in the FBS (behind Oregon's LaMichael James), they'd almost surely be victorious. The Sooners won easily, but like nearly every other opponent this season, they couldn't stop Todman from rushing for over 100 yards. It was Todman's agility, burst and determined running, in fact, that served as the Huskies' only offensive spark in the 48-20 loss. I remain concerned about the 5-09, 195 pound Todman's ability to hold up long term in the NFL, but the Huskies apparenty aren't. Todman rushed 32 times for his 121 times against the Sooners -- the fifth time in final six games of his Connecticut career in which he had at least 30 attempts.

3. C Mike Pouncey, Florida: It hasn't always been easy this year for Pouncey, who, of course, took over at center for his twin brother, Maurkice - Pittsburgh's first round pick last April. Mike more than held his own yesterday against Penn State, however, clearing the way for interior running lanes, providing stellar pass protection up the middle and -- perhaps most impressively -- showcasing the nimble feet to pull and hit moving defenders downfield. Pouncey's size and agility make him a better fit at guard in the pros, but in a showdown of two of the best senior interior lineman in college football yesterday, Pouncey was more consistently impressive than Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski.

2. QB Andy Dalton, TCU: It wasn't that Dalton put up staggering numbers against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl (15/23 for 219 yards and a TD), but the poise he demonstrated in helping the Horned Frogs to their biggest win ever will not only help secure his place in TCU history, it will unquestionably boost his stock with NFL scouts. With their defense and special teams, TCU knew they could win the game as long as Dalton didn't attempt to win the game on his own. He didn't, playing within himself by making key reads, using his legs to buy time and pick up yardage and taking the occasional shot downfield. In doing so he atoned for the mistakes (three INTs) he made in TCU's loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl last year and reassured scouts that he has the mettle to handle the big stage.

1. DL Marcell Dareus, Alabama:
There were any number of Crimson Tide players that deserved acknowledgement for their 49-7 thrashing of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl - not the least of which was RB Mark Ingram or WR Julio Jones - but the most dominant 'Bama player on New Years' Day was Dareus. He dominated the Spartans offensive line, easily handling one on one blocks and splitting double-teams, as well on his way to the backfield. Those that didn't watch the game may point out that Dareus had only three tackles (two TFL including a sack) and thus couldn't possibly warrant the top spot. As is often the case with dominant defensive linemen, however, Dareus' penetration and three QB hurries often gave his teammates easy opportunities to pad their own statistics. 
Posted on: December 3, 2010 9:22 pm
 

Five prospects I'll be focusing on 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.

TE Rob Housler, Florida Atlantic: It might seem silly to list a second tier prospect like Housler on "Championship Saturday" but Housler and Troy receiver Jerrel Jernigan rate as two of my favorite "sleepers" of the 2011 senior class. I've gushed about Jernigan plenty in the past, but Housler is also one to watch. Though lighter than scouts would prefer, the 6-5, 228 pound Housler certainly possesses the receiving skills teams are looking for in today's hybrid receiving specialists. Housler, in fact, hardly qualifies as a sleeper anymore. NFLDraftScout.com currently ranks him as our No. 4 overall senior tight end. This game begins at 2:00 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.

DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State:
Though I expect Oregon to ultimately prevail in this latest playing of the "Civil War," I'm very excited to see how the Ducks contain the Beavers' strongman defensive tackle Paea. Paea nearly singlehandedly beat USC a few weeks ago, earning my Prospect of the Week honors, as well as recognition from the Pac-10 -- and that was against Trojan center Kris O'Dowd, one of the better center senior center prospects in the country. If the Beavers were to pull the upset, it will likely be because Paea and his defensive line cohorts are able to control the line of scrimmage. This is the recipe that Cal used in slowing down the Ducks' potent offense. Should the Ducks (and Auburn) win, this game could provide an intriguing look as to how Oregon might scheme against Auburn's superstar defensive tackle, Nick Fairley in the BCS Championship game. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.

QB Cam Newton, Auburn: Hmmm, why might this be an interesting game to watch? Considering the BCS Championship, Heisman Trophy and a potential first round pick for Newton are all riding on this game, there is plenty of intrigue in this contest. South Carolina is in the SEC Championship game despite a pass defense that ranked 10th in the SEC, so Newton should have plenty of windows to throw through in this game. I'd be surprised, however, if South Carolina doesn't get a little creative with their rush packages, perhaps dropping more defenders into coverage so as to force Newton to stay in the pocket and beat them with his mind and arm and not his legs. Can Newton continue to dazzle with all the eyes of the sporting world watching? This game begins at 4:00 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

QB Christian Ponder, Florida: While he has certainly struggled at times this season, I remain firm in my belief that Ponder can be a successful NFL quarterback. He'll certainly be tested in this contest, as unlike Newton (who, again, is facing one of the worst statistical pass defenses in the SEC), Ponder is going against a Hokie unit that ranks second in the ACC in pass defense. In fact, defensive coordinator Bud Foster's group has stolen nearly a third more interceptions (20) than they've allowed touchdowns (14) this year. For FSU to win this game, Ponder will have to play well. This game begins at 7:45 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.

WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma: At an estimated 5-11, 185 pounds, Broyles lacks the size of many of the other top receiver prospects in country. With his only moderate size, many scouts will question whether he has the strength and toughness to handle the physicality of the NFL. There isn't a tougher, more physical defense in college football than Nebraska's. I look forward to seeing how Broyles (and running back DeMarco Murray, for that matter) handle this challenge. This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.

The action typically happens too fast on Saturdays for me to blog my thoughts.

For those interested in scouting "alongside" me, however, you can follow me on Twitter @RobRang . I'll be posting comments on these and other games all day long.
Posted on: December 1, 2010 1:32 pm
 

Bradford, Pierre-Paul earn Rookies of the Week

There have been few weeks this season easier to pick out my NFL Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Week than this past weekend's action.

St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford was spectacular in the Rams' defeat of the Denver Broncos. In completing 22 of 37 passes for 307 yards, a career high three touchdowns and zero interceptions, Bradford has passed the Rams into first place in the NFC West. St. Louis is currently tied with Seattle atop the divisional race at 5-6, but owns the tie-breaker after having beaten Seattle earlier this year.

The strong performance continues what has been a spectacular rookie campaign for Bradford. As Sports Illustrated's Peter King noted, Bradford appears well on his way towards unanimously winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award considering the spectacular performance he's put on lately while the Rams battled back into first place. Over the past six games, Bradford has completed 64.3% of his passes for 1,307 yards and a sparkling 11-1 TD to INT ratio.

This type of production is nothing new to  Bradford, of course, who used a dazzling 50-8 TD to INT ratio his sophomore season to win the Heisman Trophy and take Oklahoma to the 2009 BCS Championship game.

Unlike Bradford, who has started every game for the Rams, the Giants' first round pick, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had struggled to make a consistent impact this year.

Playing against a Jacksonville team that many thought would consider Pierre-Paul (and ultimately selected defensive lineman Tyson Alualu), the former South Florida product was spectacular, doubling his previous career highs in tackles (eight, including six solos) as well as registering the first two sacks and forced fumbles (two) of his young career.

While I was among Pierre-Paul's biggest critics heading into the draft, Pierre-Paul deserves credit for his breakout performance. The Giants, blessed with one of the league's best collections of pass rushers, have often moved Pierre-Paul inside to defensive tackle on obvious passing downs. There, Pierre-Paul's marginal hand technique and marginal strength is exposed and his best attribute -- his spectacular speed and overall athleticism -- has been more easily contained by opponents. This, of course, wasn't the case against an injury-depleted Jacksonville offensive line.

It is worth noting, however, that prior to Pierre-Paul's strong game against the Jags, he'd recorded only 11 tackles in 11 games.

Pierre-Paul's stellar play beat out New England cornerback Darius Butler, who on Thanksgiving Day against the Lions put on a show. McCourty's two interceptions in the Pats' 45-24 road victory showed off the athleticism, IQ and ball skills that made him one of the best all-around corners in the 2011 draft.


Posted on: November 26, 2010 1:03 pm
 

Five Prospects I'll be Focusing on 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.

QB Cam Newton, Auburn : Newton has been dazzling this season and could lock up the Heisman Trophy with a strong performance against Alabama. More importantly to those of us eager to see how well he'll translate his game to the NFL is how well Newton is able to decipher the exotic blitz and coverage schemes Nick Saban and his staff have devised. In terms of Newton's pro stock, this is the most important regular season game of his life. This game begins at 2:30 pm EST Friday and will be televised by CBS.

CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado : The Buffs don't get a lot of national exposure considering their struggles recently, but this important Big 12 showdown against Nebraska will pit Smith, one of the top senior cornerbacks, against a receiver in Nebraska's Niles Paul every bit his match in terms of size and athleticism. The Cornhuskers, of course, rely mostly on their running game and should be able to do so again Friday to beat an overmatched Colorado team. How Smith is able to keep up with the multi-talented Paul, however, should give scouts a good idea as to how the 6-2, 205 pound Smith will be acclimate to the speed of the NFL. I've spoken to scouts who have compared Smith to former Pro Bowler Chris McAlister. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST Friday and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DE/OLB Dontay Moch, Nevada: The pre-game hype will focus on the offense, but it could be whatever defense shows up in the Boise State-Nevada showdown that gives their team the victory. Moch enters this game as the country's active career leader with 60.5 tackles for loss. The 6-1, 242 pound Moch lines up as a defensive end for the Wolfpack, but projects best as a standup pass rushing OLB in the NFL. Moch wowed scouts in the spring by clocking in at 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but there are concerns that Moch is overly reliant on his speed. While fast in a straight-line, scouts are more interested to see how well he changes directions. Moch won the WAC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior (61 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks) and is on pace to exceed those totals this season (52 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks). This game begins at 10:15 pm EST Friday and will be televised by ESPN.

QB Jake Locker, Washington: The Huskies have struggled with teams that are more physical on the offensive and defensive lines than they are and that is precisely what awaits them Saturday against Cal. Washington and California are each fighting for their bowl lives and the Golden Bears have revenge on their side after the Huskies trounced them 42-10 last season in Seattle. Locker entered the year rated by most (including me) as the No. 1 prospect in the country based largely on how he played down the stretch last season. His best game was his last one -- againt California -- in which he completed 19 of 23 passes for 248 yards and three TDs (0 INTs) and ran for another 77 yards and two scores. A performance like that would almost surely result in a win for the Huskies and spot back in my first round projection. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST Saturday and will be televised regionally by Fox Sports.

WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State*: With the three top-rated teams in the country playing on Friday, there hasn't yet been a great deal of focus on this year's Bedlam rivalry outside of the state of Oklahoma, but it's coming -- after all, the Big 12 South division title is riding on this game. This game features two of the elite young receiver prospects in the country in Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles and Blackmon -- the favorite to win the Biletnikof Award as the nation's best at the position. Blackmon has been spectacular this season, catching an eye-popping 94 passes for 1,560 yards and 17 touchdowns. It is his consistency that has been perhaps most impressive. Blackmon has caught at least five passes for at least 125 yards and one touchdown in every game he's played this season (he missed the Kansas State game). A redshirt sophomore, Blackmon is eligible to leave OSU early for the NFL. He hasn't faced a secondary as talented as Oklahoma's yet this season, so this game provides scouts an excellent opportunity to see him matched up against quality athletes and a sound defensive scheme.  This game begins at 8:00 pm EST Saturday and will be televised by ABC/ESPN. 


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