Tag:Cam Newton
Posted on: January 23, 2011 6:00 pm
 

QBs, OTs ones to watch in Mobile

NFL scouts, front office executives and coaches are heading to Mobile, Alabama today to scout every one of the prospects in the 2011 Senior Bowl.

Much of their attention, however, will be focused on two positions -- quarterback and offensive tackle.

As two of the premium positions in today's NFL, quarterback and offensive tackle are typically among the areas to focus on. The 2011 class is especially competitive at these positions, however, making the battles between the top-rated passers and blockers all the more intriguing.

Consider that while Washington quarterback Jake Locker remains a likely first round prospect, I've spoken to scouts whose teams currently rank other seniors just as highly. For some teams, a strong week by TCU's Andy Dalton or Iowa's Ricky Stanzi could vault them ahead of Locker.

The "second tier" quarterback talent available in this draft, in fact, is one of the year's hidden strengths. Considering the risk I see in Locker, Auburn's Cam Newton and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, it might prove wiser for teams with quarterback needs to look elsewhere in the first round and grab a Dalton or Stanzi (or Devlin, Ponder, Enderle) a frame or two later.

The competition is perhaps even more intense at offensive tackle. Having spoken to representatives from four clubs in the past two weeks about the tackle class, I've yet to find any consensus as to the order they will (or should) be drafted.

If there is a "favorite" it is probably Colorado's Nate Solder. I, however, have serious reservations about his technique, especially against speed rushers. He's expected to work out very, very well and therefore build some momentum as the draft approaches, but he certainly has flaws.

Unfortunately, for teams needing tackles, so too do the other top rated tackles. Boston College's Anthony Castonzo lacks the bulk most teams prefer. He may be the best pass blocking left tackle in the draft, but he's struggled to generate movement in the running game. Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi is the opposite. He can dominate as a drive blocker, but gets too high in pass protection and doesn't have the footwork, in my opinion, to remain on the left side in the NFL. I've rated Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod as the top tackle throughout much of the year, but his wide shoulder, narrow hip makes him top-heavy and therefore inherently vulnerable to bull rushes and good double-moves. He, too, might be best served as a right tackle. USC junior Tyron Smith has the feet and wingspan teams want in a left tackle, but he's quite raw and remains a projection, having played right tackle throughout his abbreviated career with the Trojans.

The beauty of any all-star game is that strong performances there can impact player rankings. 

For this year's Senior Bowl, the rankings of senior prospects - especially at quarterback and offensive tackle -- could wind up completely re-shuffled.
Posted on: January 21, 2011 1:31 pm
 

Favre aiding agent recruit Cam Newton

For those of you who just can't imagine football without Brett Favre, there is the following nugget from The Sports XChange's Len Pasquarelli in his new Tip Sheet.*

*Lights, Cameron, action: So what's Brett Favre up to these days, given that he has opted to retire, and that this time his departure from the game seems official? Well, one of the things occupying his time, besides riding the tractor around the farm in Hattiesburg, Miss., The Sports Xchange has learned, is the recruitment of Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. Word is that Newton's choice of agent representation is imminent - possibly as early as Friday - and that one of the finalists is Bus Cook, who represented Favre during his entire 20-year NFL career. Favre was part of the interview process when Newton met with Cook, and reportedly spent about 20 minutes talking with the Auburn star. It's a pretty good bet the two weren't swapping fishing tips. The other agents believed to still be in the hunt for Newton, as least as this was being written: Joel Segal, Peter Schaffer, and the newly-formed Pat Dye-Jimmy Sexton alliance. The representation for some of the other top quarterbacks in the 2011 draft: Both Blaine Gabbert of Missouri and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas are said to have hired Condon. And word is that David Dunn has landed Washington's Jake Locker. Condon, by the way, has represented five of the past seven No. 1 overall choices and five of the seven top quarterbacks chosen in the 2004-2010 drafts.


Agents using former or current players to help recruit new clients is hardly a new strategy. It is interesting that Cook is using Favre in this way, however. Favre is a superstar, an obvious first ballot Hall of Famer whose name and style of play is as recognizable as any in the history of the game. Unfortunately, his off-field actions have become just as consistent of a source of news as his play on the field recently.

As a prospective NFL quarterback with his own off-field concerns, Newton can relate, potentially making Favre a brilliant recruiting tool by Cook.

Despite what some may think, NFL teams don't typically put a great deal of thought into which agents players sign with. While certain agents are known in the scouting community as being particularly aggressive in their contract demands, trade requests and holdouts, most agents serve as little more than the link between the player and the team.

Newton's choice of agents, like those of the other top quarterbacks that Pasquarelli cites in his piece, make up some of the most successful companies in the industry -- and are counter to a odd year in which some of the biggest names in college football have opted to sign with lesser known agencies. Patrick Peterson and Nick Fairley, for example signed with Patrick Lawlor and Brian Overstreet, respectively, according to Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal. 

Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

*This piece hasn't been published yet. For last week's Tip Sheet, click here.
Posted on: January 13, 2011 9:59 pm
 

Newton's upside could result in a Top 10 pick

Heisman Trophy winner and national champion Cam Newton made the announcement Thursday we all knew was coming -- he's forgoing his senior season at Auburn and declaring early for the 2011 NFL Draft.

Newton is entering the draft at the perfect time. With the success of Michael Vick this season (as well as rookie Tim Tebow), there is increasing evidence that a multi-purpose threat like Newton can be successful in the NFL. Furthermore, the poise he demonstrated both on and off the field this season has impressed scouts.

With Newton, however, it is best to temper our expectations of what he can do immediately at the pro level.

Newton's dominant junior campaign in Gus Malzahn's offense does not mean that he'll take the NFL world by storm. Quite the opposite is possible, in fact.

Like virtually every quarterback playing in today's college football, Newton will have to make significant adjustments to the complexities of the NFL game. The beauty of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's spread option offense is that it simplified Newton's reads. For most plays the quarterback only had to make one or two checks. If his options were covered up, he simply ran the football. He did most of this out of the shotgun.

In the NFL, he'll be asked to drop back from center more often, make multiple reads before and after the snap and won't have the luxury of simply running half of the time. Essentially, he'll be forced to make twice as many decisions in half the time. 

The BCS Championship game perfectly encapsulated the positives and negatives of Newton's game.

On the one hand, it was clear that Newton had a long ways to go in reading defenses and in his footwork. He was badly fooled by some of Oregon's coverages, resulting in a 1st quarter interception. Of even greater concern is that Newton failed to set his feet on many of his simplest throws, diminishing his accuracy as critical moments -- such as on the 4th and goal flutter ball that died in front of fullback Eric Smith.

But for the poor plays that every armchair quarterback watching the game saw Monday night, scouts couldn't help but acknowledge his rare blend of size, arm strength and mobility. Newton showed the ability to fire the ball down the sideline to shred Cover-2. He repeatedly bought time in the pocket with his mobility. And when he left the pocket, he was a load to bring down, carrying defenders on multiple occasions for first downs.

Clearly Newton needs time to develop before he can be expected to lead an NFL team. In terms of pro-readiness, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Washington's Jake Locker, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and even lesser prospects like Florida State's Christian Ponder and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi rank ahead of him.

As we've seen on so many occasions in the NFL, however, the draft is all about upside.

And in the eyes of most scouts, there isn't a quarterback in this draft who can match's Newton in that category.

If Newton is able to alleviate teams' concerns about his so-called character red-flags, he could enjoy a steady rise up the board, perhaps winding up as the first or second quarterback selected in 2011. With QB-needy teams like the Panthers, Bills, Cardinals, 49ers, Titans and Redskins all drafting in the top ten, it isn't difficult to imagine one of these clubs rolling the dice on his potential.

His rise could be very similar to the one that saw Vince Young bump Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart in 2006.

Remember, they too, were considered more pro-ready, at the time.

Posted on: January 10, 2011 1:45 pm
 

This one on one matchup will decide BCS Champion

Breaking down No. 1 rated Auburn and No. 2 Oregon in the weeks leading up to tonight's BCS Championship, what is most clear is why these two teams went undefeated.

The Tigers and Ducks each boasted a rare combination of schematic and athletic advantages over their prior opponents. Their spread option offenses not only put their athletes in position to make big plays, their skill position players have the elusiveness and speed to take full advantage.

What is also clear is that the two teams match up very well against each other.

Auburn has been able to simply out-score their SEC opponents, protecting a pass defense that ranked 106th (out of 120 teams) in the FBS. Though Oregon's running attack, led by Heisman finalist LaMichael James, rightly gets most of the attention, how Auburn's secondary is able to handle the passing of Darron Thomas will be key. Few realize that Thomas tied Stanford's Andrew Luck with a sparkling 28 touchdown passes to lead the Pac-10 during the regular season -- or that the sophomore Thomas accomplished this with 28 fewer attempts.

Auburn has the beef inside with Nick Fairley and an active inside linebacker in Josh Bynes to potentially slow James, but it won't do any good if Thomas and the Ducks' prolific passing attack gets hot against the Tigers' vulnerable secondary.

It is the Oregon defense's ability to match up against Heisman winner Cam Newton, however, that will ultimately determine whether the Pac-10 or SEC champion will get to hoist the BCS Championship trophy.

Oregon isn't as heavy on the defensive line as the Tigers, but possess their own playmaking defensive tackle in Brandon Bair, who led the Pac-10's interior defensive linemen with 15.5 tackles for loss.

If Bair is capable of collapsing the pocket, it will allow Oregon to keep their back seven in coverage and allow the Ducks' inside linebacker Casey Matthews to serve as a spy of sorts against Newton.

SEC teams have tried and failed to incorporate a spy against Newton. Newton has proven far too athletic for linebackers to handle him and much too big for safeties.

Matthews is neither particularly physical nor speedy, but does present a different problem for Newton and the Tigers -- he is one of the country's most instinctive defenders and, just as importantly, more reliable open field tacklers.
 
If Matthews is able to corral Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner will have to rely on just his passing to beat the Ducks. While NFL scouts would certainly love to see Newton's accuracy in the pocket put to this type of test, Auburn fans would not. Oregon's secondary has long been a strength (consider they've sent Patrick Chung, Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward and Walter Thurmond into the NFL the past two years) and feature two sophomores in cornerback Cliff Harris and free safety John Boyett headed that way. Newton has impressed with his passing ability, but if forced to stay in the pocket, he could struggle against this athletic secondary.

Clearly, there are many factors that could determine a game this closely matched, not the least of which is how each team handles the long layoff.

In the end, however, the winner of Newton and Matthews' one on one matchup is most likely to determine the 2010 BCS Champion.
Posted on: December 10, 2010 10:25 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2010 11:23 am
 

Heisman Favorites a Menagerie of Pro Prospects

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton enters Saturday's Heisman Ceremony as the prohibitive favorite to take home the award, but he's hardly the only one of the four finalists with a bright NFL future.

In fact, some scouts believe Newton, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck , Oregon running back LaMichael James and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore – all underclassmen – all have a chance at NFL success, reversing a recent trend of Heisman candidates whose games simply didn't translate to the pros.

Newton, who led the country with 49 touchdowns and has carried Auburn to its first BCS Championship Game, is the most polarizing NFL prospect of the group.

There is no denying Newton possesses first-round tools. In joining 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as the only players in FCS history to have scored 20 touchdowns passing and rushing in the same season, Newton has dazzled scouts with his athleticism and strong arm. 

Scouts remain split, however, on how well the junior will be able to make the transition from Gus Malzahn's spread option offense to a pro-style scheme. After all, his success has come in an offense that emphasizes his athletic strengths and simplifies his reads. For as dominant as he's played, Newton has only this season's 13 starts at the FCS level, quite a small sample set for scouts to determine his pro readiness.

These concerns don't extend to the redshirt sophomore Luck, whose recognition of defenses and pinpoint accuracy have made him the favorite to be the first pick of the 2011 draft should he declare early.  The Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year broke John Elway's Cardinal record with 28 touchdown passes this season.

Newton and Luck will hear their names called in the first round should they leave for the pros following this season.

James is also highly regarded by pro scouts, though at 5-feet-9 and 185 pounds, he lacks the bulk to hold up as a full-time starter in the NFL. James' production for the Ducks has been staggering. He broke the Pac-10 freshman rushing record last year with 1,546 yards and promptly broke the sophomore record this season with 1,682 yards, which led the FCS. While James offers dynamic playmaking skills due to his agility and speed, teams will have a hard time justifying a pick earlier than the third round on a situational back.

At first glance, Moore lacks the size to be considered an elite pro prospect. The Broncos list their record-breaking passer at 6-feet, 191 pounds. Perhaps not surprisingly, scouts question if Moore has the arm strength to compete in the NFL, as well.

Moore has shown remarkable accuracy throughout his career, however, and is a virtual coach on the field. He reads defenses quickly and shows great anticipation, completing 71 percent of his passes for 3,506 yards and an eye-popping 33 touchdowns against only five interceptions this season.

Moore doesn't possess the measureables to warrant high-round consideration, so he may be the most likely of this group to return in 2011.

Should he do so - and enjoy similar success with senior receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis moving on to the NFL - Moore could force scouts to look past his physical shortcomings and instead focus on his moxie and ball placement; traits that could earn him at least a late round selection.

For complete draft coverage from NFLDraftScout.com click here: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft

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: 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. 


Posted on: November 18, 2010 1:44 pm
 

For Locker, it may be tonight (vs. UCLA) or never

Part of the reason why there has been so much attention heaped upon underclassmen quarterbacks Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallett (among others) has been the disappointing play of senior NFL passing prospects Jake Locker and Christian Ponder.

Locker's play has been particularly troubling this season due to the expectations that he make similar gains in Year Two under Steve Sarkisian as he'd made last season.

Locker has struggled with consistency in reading defenses and with his downfield accuracy.

After missing Washington's last game -- a blowout loss on the road to No. 1 Oregon -- Locker is running out of time to turn around his senior season.

Tonight, in a home showdown with former Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel and the UCLA Bruins, he'll get a significant test.

For as bad as the Bruins (4-5, 2-4 in the Pac-10) have been this season, they feature some legitimate NFL talent on the defensive side of the ball, including potential high round prospects Akeem Ayers (OLB) and Rahim Moore (FS).

Ayers' athleticism makes for a particularly interesting matchup for Locker. UCLA has enough speed on defense that Locker may not be able to simply run for first downs -- he'll have to throw for them -- giving pro scouts an opportunity to see how he'll fare in a pressure situation.

The Huskies (3-6, 2-4 in conference) need to win their final three games to assure an invitation to a bowl game. Washington has not been to a bowl game during Locker's career.

Each Friday, I highlight five prospects I'll be focusing on during Saturday's games. Locker, however, would certainly rank among those I'll be scouting closely this week.

Many football fans will elect to watch the pro game tonight (Chicago vs. Miami on NFL Network). I, and more importantly, many NFL scouts will instead be focusing on UCLA vs. Washington.

This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised on 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