Posted on: January 13, 2011 9:59 pm
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 11, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2011 11:53 pm
The Auburn Tigers won the Bowl Championship Series thanks to the play of two juniors, Heisman winning-quarterback Cam Newton and All-American defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Typically, the quarterback gets most of the credit for a win like this. But in a surprising 22-19 defensive battle, Fairley is the one being talked about the most.
His stat line of five tackles, three for loss, a sack and forced fumble is very impressive. He played a fine game on the college game's biggest stage. But despite all of the headlines and proclamations about his future as the number one pick, scouts breaking down his performance found plenty of things that need to improve before considering him a dominant NFL player.
Fairley certainly flashed the upper body and hand strength that he used all season to make 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks against sophomore Carson York and seniors center Jordan Holmes and guard C.E. Kaiser. Multiple times he pushed York or Kaiser aside using pure strength to reach a running back coming through the hole. On a handful of other plays, he used violent hands and quickness to swim over and swipe his man aside to penetrate into the backfield.
His most impressive play came with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. A simple but strong swipe vs. York, who got caught leaning and lost his balance, allowed Fairley attack Thomas, planting him in the ground and forcing fumble that was recovered by Oregon.
The first-team All-SEC showed versatility by playing inside or outside, depending on the situation. Hie stood up against Holmes playing the one-technique spot, walking down the line while engaged to get into plays. He did this to create traffic on the play that resulted in a safety, as well as the team's big fourth-and-one to stop Oregon from scoring on one possession in the second half.
He even showed some nimble feet dropping into coverage on zone blitzes twice during the game, though a lack of fluidity and flexibility made it tough for him to make tackles in space.
The first series of second half, showed the good and bad of Fairley's game. He exploded off the snap on one play but left tackle Bo Thran (the line's only pro prospect), stood him up then pushed him back a couple of yards. Fairley did eventually stand his ground to swallow up RB LeMichael James, who was running with his head down in traffic instead of looking for the available cutback lane. Then Fairley looked what some call a "dirty" side, turning James helmet into the dirt after the play was over, receiving a personal foul penalty.
And two of his three tackles for loss came on busted assignments. In the first half, when York thought he had passed Fairley onto the already-engaged Holmes on one play. QB Darron Thomas was a sitting duck, but got rid of the ball for an incompletion. The second TFL came when Thomas failed to read an unblocked Fairley correctly, getting planted into the turf for a red zone sack instead of handing to RB LaMichael James, who would have walked into the end zone.
NFL teams won't be running that sort of play, and Fairley shouldn't count on too many missed assignments from veteran pro linemen. York and Kaiser are also not NFL-caliber players, which scouts will also note when grading this performance.
Fairley missed a couple of opportunities to make plays in the backfield once beating his blocker because he lacks the ability to bend. In fact, he stands straight up after the snap quite often, which will cause him leverage problems against NFL linemen. He also looked inconsistent in his ability to recover from cut blocks around the line of scrimmage.
On two occasions, it looked while watching live that Fairley exploded into the backfield with impunity, but Oregon's blocking schemes had actually taken advantage of his aggressiveness to allow him through while a screen pass made big yardage -- the second time resulted in the Ducks' first touchdown for James to the left side.
Fairley's stamina will also be questioned, because although he sat out a few series, he got lazy in fourth quarter. He stood around on multiple plays, including a crucial on third-and-10 on Oregon's final touchdown drive. He also guessed at the snap instead of reacting because he was tired, getting offsides call to put the ball on the two-yard line.
He was a non-factor on Oregon's late touchdown, and found himself on the ground for fifth time (once with help of a blitzing teammate) on the two-point conversion.
Fairley should be congratulated, and quite proud, of his play this year and his team's BCS title. Considering where the program was a couple of seasons ago, this was quite an accomplishment—and he has plenty of good tape for scouts to peruse.
But the things I've pointed out, watching this game through scouts' eyes, must be examined when the Panthers consider him for the number one overall selection in April. Sometimes the hype surrounding a performance overwhelms the truth of what was done on the field.
When at his best, Fairley could be a Kevin Williams-type difference-maker at the next level. If he lacks the penetration ability to play the three-technique like Williams, he could be a very successful Jay Ratliff-type nose tackle. But some scouts consider him a potential one-year wonder, potentially make him the next Ryan Sims.But that's a gamble teams will be lining up to take.
--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter
Posted on: January 11, 2011 8:47 am
Edited on: January 11, 2011 12:54 pm
For those who have watched Auburn's Nick Fairley dominate the competition all year long, last night's performance against Oregon in the BCS Championship game was no surprise. Even the comparisons to the Detroit's Pro Bowl rookie Ndamukong Suh used by ESPN announcer Kirk Herbstreit had been used before.
The reality is, however, many had not seen Fairley play until last night's game -- including some NFL general managers.
The 6-5, 299 pound Fairley was his typically disruptive self, posting five tackles, including three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Oregon tried beating with with traps, double-teams and having QB Darron Thomas "read" him in an effort to slow down the big fella and nothing worked consistently.
The All-American finished his junior season with an eye-popping 60 tackles including nearly half of them behind the line of scrimmage (24 for a loss of 106 yards) and 11.5 sacks.
And yet for as dominant as Fairley was last night, he isn't likely to have moved himself into position to be taken with the first overall pick.
Why? There are two reasons.
For one, scouts are rightfully afraid that he is a bit of a one year wonder. Fairley did little to stand out in his first season at Auburn after transferring from Copiah-Lincoln Junior College in Mississippi. Starting two of 13 games, Fairley posted 28 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss.
There is no denying Fairley's talent - I've had scouts tell me he's the most gifted player in the country - but few teams have been willing to gamble a high first round pick on a "one year wonder" at defensive tackle since some high profile busts of similar players in the early part of the decade. The Browns (Gerard Warren), Jets (Dewayne Robertson) and Saints (Johnathan Sullivan) each devoted top six picks to flashy SEC defensive tackles whose stock was based largely off of one dominant season and that tantalizing thought of "upside."
More importantly, Fairley is simply a poor fit for the 3-4 defense Carolina may incorporate if they do hire San Diego's defensive coordinator Ron Rivera as is being widely reported.
EDIT - Rivera played and coached extensively out of the 4-3 alignment during his time with the Bears (player and coach) and Eagles before becoming the Chargers defensive coordinator --
Fairley's best attribute -- his explosive burst upfield - makes him a prototypical fit as a three-technique defensive tackle in the 4-3 alignment -- just as he was being used last night (and all year long) by Auburn. His long arms make it possible that he could make the transition to the 3-4, but it would be a waste of his talents to put him at defensive end in the odd man front, especially considering that the "money" man in this alignment is at nose guard. Fairley, for as dominant as he is, is special due to his quickness, not extraordinary strength -- a requirement to play the zero technique in the 3-4.
Of course, with Carolina expected to strongly pursue any trade offers out of the No. 1 pick, a teaming built around the 4-3 and willing to gamble on Fairley's upside could still make him the No. 1 pick.
As always, for the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com.
Posted on: January 10, 2011 1:45 pm
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 25, 2010 1:19 pm
On this winter holiday for many, I thought I've provide my readers with my own gift, of sorts.
The following are the five individual matchups I'm most looking forward to scouting over the upcoming bowl games.
West Virginia FS Robert Sands vs. NC State QB Russell Wilson: The 6-4, 221 pound Sands is considering leaving WVU after this, his junior season. Sands is allowed to freelance a bit in the Mountaineers' 3-3-5 defense, but is a natural playmaker who can bring the thunder as a hitter. His instincts and coverage skills will be tested against Wilson. A strong game by Sands could push him into the 2011 draft, where he'd rate among the best free safeties in a weak class needing help from the juniors if there are to be many candidates worthy of a top 75 grade. This game is scheduled for 6:30 pm EST on Tuesday, December 28th.
Washington WR Jermaine Kearse vs. Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara: Many will point to Husky quarterback Jake Locker as the player to watch in this contest and for good reason. His 4 of 20 performance in the team's first matchup in October is considered by some to be the game that sent his stock sliding this year. (Loyal readers know that is not necessarily the case.) The reality is, without sudden and massive improvement by Washington's offensive line, Nebraska's defense should again be too much to provide Locker a chance in this game. If the 6-2, 205 pound Kearse, however, is able to shake free early for some big plays against Amukamara, Locker and the Huskies have a chance. Locker relies on the junior as his favorite target. When Kearse has been shut down, so too (generally) has Locker -- making this one on one battle a key in the most anticipated rematch of the bowl season. This game is scheduled for 10 pm EST on Thursday, December 30th.
Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd vs. Miami CB Brandon Harris: Both the 6-3, 228 pound Floyd and the 5-11, 195 pound Harris are expected to leave for the NFL following this game. Harris has the agility, speed and physicality to eliminate most receivers, but Floyd's significant size advantage makes this an intriguing test for the Canes' star. Though teams are often hesitant to move around their corners to match up all game long against wide receivers, eliminating the big play Floyd from Notre Dame's arsenal might be the easiest way of crippling Brian Kelly's offense. This game is scheduled for 2 pm EST on Friday, December 31st.
TCU OT Marcus Cannon vs. Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt: Last year it was the one on one matchup between Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan and Iowa left tackle Bryan Bulaga that in my mind was the elite battle of the bowl season. This year it is Cannon and Watt. Watt is moved all over the Badgers' defensive line and it is this versatility that has been maddening for opponents to protect against and left NFL scouts salivating at his versatility in the pros. Watt, however, will have his hands full when playing against the Horned Frogs' left tackle, a 6-5, 350 pound behemoth with shockingly quick feet. Bulaga shut down Morgan last year, cementing his place in the first round. I have Cannon firmly in the second round, at this point, but if he's able to slow down Watt, arguably the most dominant defensive lineman in the country, he'll skyrocket up draft boards. This game is scheduled for 5 pm EST on Saturday, January 1st.
Auburn QB Cam Newton vs. Oregon ILB Casey Matthews: Opponents have tried to keep a "spy" in to protect against Cam Newton's running all game long. The strategy has largely failed despite the fact that defenses have often resorted to their most athletic linebackers or physical safeties to do the job. Matthews isn't a spectacular athlete or terribly physical, but he might be the most instinctive linebacker in the country and among the surer tacklers. This one on one battle could dictate how well Newton is able to move the Auburn offense with his legs -- which could wind up as the key to the BCS Championship. This game is scheduled for 8:30 pm EST on Monday, January 10th.
On behalf of the entire NFLDraftScout.com crew of analysts Chad Reuter and Chris Steuber, editors Derek Harper and Jeff Reynolds, website tech expert Brian Hitterman and publisher Frank Cooney I wish you and your loved ones a very safe, happy and (hopefully football-filled) holiday season.
As always for the very best in pro football draft coverage, check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here.
Posted on: December 10, 2010 10:25 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2010 11:23 am
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 8, 2010 12:32 pm
As you can imagine, I spent a great deal of time poring over tape and conversing with scouts before releasing my Top 32 Pro Prospects regardless of their draft class.
Some of who may be wondering why there is no Jake Locker (Washington QB) or Michael Floyd (Notre Dame WR) or Janoris Jenkins (Florida CB) on the list. Did I forget them or simply rank others ahead of them?
The quick answer is that I considered everyone but there were some tough cuts to the list. Here are the next 5 players that just missed out. Some were even among my original Top 32 but were late cuts due to questions about their size or readiness for the pros.
33. ILB Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State: Burfict, only a true sophomore, just missed out on my original Top 32 article. Fans across the country may not know him or only know him due to his penchant for picking up personal fouls at the worst possible times, but in my opinion Dennis Erickson has the most explosive inside linebacker in the country and a future 1st round pick.
34. OT Tyron Smith, Southern Cal: Considering that all 24 of his career starts have come at right tackle and that his lanky frame (6-5, 285) and quick feet make him better suited on the left side, I am not among those who feel Smith should leave after this, his junior season. There is no denying Smith's upside, however, which is why I was included him in my latest projection of the 2011 first round.
35. OG Rodney Hudson, Florida State: The Seminoles' senior left guard - and my choice for the 2010 Outland Trophy - is among the better guard prospects I've scouted due to extraordinary balance and footwork. The problem is, at only 6-2, 284 pounds, he's so much smaller than most he's going to struggle against the behemoth DTs in the NFL. If correctly placed in a zone-blocking scheme, however, I have no doubt his agility will make up for it.
36. RB Michael Dyer, Auburn: South Carolina true freshman Marcus Lattimore made my Top 32, but Dyer, also in the class of 2014, isn't far behind. While I love Lattimore's physicality, Dyer could ultimately emerge as the better pro prospect because his agility and compact frame make him less likely to absorb the same punishment as the Gamecocks' star. His stats (950 rushing yards, 5 TDs) don't do him justice. This kid is a future superstar.
37. DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State : Paea was on my original list, but the 2010 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year slipped amid concerns about his size (6-1, 312) and ability to pressure the passer. I love his strength inside and feel he can make an immediate impact in the pros. Considering he only played one season of football in high school, there is still a lot of upside here.
Posted on: December 3, 2010 9:22 pm
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.