Prospect Matchup: Week 4
Know the top NFL prospects to watch this weekend in the pivotal games on the college football landscape
TENNESSEE | FLORIDA
Saturday, September 21, 3:30 p.m.
Gainesville, Fla. – CBS
The Tennessee and Florida football programs are accustomed to being in the national spotlight, but both are off to rocky starts in 2013. But nonetheless, it's Florida and Tennessee, meaning both teams will bring their best for this rivalry game and a lot of NFL talent will be on display. The Volunteers have lost eight straight to the Gators and it hasn't been close, with double-digit margins in the past six meetings. Tennessee hasn't won in Gainesville since 2003 and the Vols are licking their wounds after a 59-14 drubbing to Oregon last week. Florida has had two weeks to think about its loss to Miami so it will be interesting to see which Gators team shows up in this contest. The top matchup to watch in this one is the Tennessee offensive line vs. the Florida defensive front -- both sides have numerous NFL prospects who will be challenged.
Tennessee LT Antonio Richardson/RT JaWuan James vs. Florida BUCK Ronald Powell
The Volunteers have one of the best offensive tackle tandems in the country and they’ll be tested against Florida’s pass rushers, specifically junior DE/OLB Ronald Powell (6-3, 235, 4.62, #7). A former five-star high school recruit, he missed the 2012 season due to a torn ACL, but has returned with a vengeance so far this season and leads the Gators with a pair of sacks and constant pocket pressure. Junior LT Antonio Richardson (6-6, 332, 5.16, #74) is NDS’s top prospect in this game and can be as good as he wants to be with his wide base, smooth set-up and the foot quickness to mirror. Senior RT Ja’Wuan James (6-6, 324, 5.28, #70) isn’t as gifted as Richardson but is powerful in the run game.
Tennessee RG Zach Fulton/C James Stone vs. Florida DT Dominique Easley
While the strength of the Volunteers’ offensive line is on the edges, the interior blockers have NFL potential as well. Senior RG Zach Fulton (6-5, 324, 5.34, #72) holds his own at the point, using fundamentals and a stout anchor. He isn’t the most mobile player in space, but has enough foot quickness to recover and impede rushers before they can collapse the backfield. Senior C James Stone (6-3, 302, 5.27, #64) doesn’t play with the powerful base that Fulton does, but he does just enough to get the job done. Florida senior DT Dominique Easley (6-2, 283, 4.93, #2) has bounced between end and tackle over his Gator career, but his quick first step and active motor is a deadly combination.
Florida RG Jon Halapio/C Jonotthan Harrison vs. Tennessee DT Daniel McCullers
While Tennessee’s offensive line has more experience, Florida has a pair of seniors in the middle of their offensive front who have attracted attention from scouts. Senior C Jonotthan Harrison (6-3, 302, 5.22, #72) isn’t overpowering, but has good awareness and works hard to sustain, getting into position quickly and playing with proper pad level. He’ll be helped by senior RG Jon Halapio (6-3, 320, 5.28, #67), who is expected to make his return to the field after missing most of the summer and the first two games due to a torn left pectoral muscle. They’ll have their hands full with mammoth senior DT Daniel McCullers (6-6, 351, 5.18, #98) who has the size and brute power to overwhelm blockers.
Tennessee WRs vs. Florida CBs Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson, Jaylen Watkins
The Volunteers lost their top-four receiving targets from a year ago and are breaking in a lot of talented, but inexperienced pass-catchers at the position. They’ll have a tough time against Florida’s talented secondary, which boasts a trio of future NFL Draft picks. Junior CB Loucheiz Purifoy (6-0, 185, 4.47, #15) is unrefined and needs to pay more attention to his technique, but his raw ability is fun to watch. While talented, he isn’t as polished as the Gators other two cornerbacks: senior Jaylen Watkins (6-0, 182, 4.48, #14) and junior Marcus Roberson (6-0, 195, 4.52, #5). Both have room to improve in press and run support, but Watkins and Roberson are both silky smooth with the hips and quickness to thrive.
OTHER TENNESSEE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
ILB A.J. Johnson, junior (6-2, 240, 4.73, #45)
RB Rajion Neal, senior (5-11, 212, 4.53, #20)
SS Byron Moore, RS senior (6-0, 195, 4.62, #3)
DE Jacques Smith, senior (6-2, 245, 4.76, #55)
LG Alex Bullard, RS senior (6-2, 300,5.22, #78)
DT Marlon Walls, RS senior (6-2, 285, 5.01, #58)
OTHER FLORIDA PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
HB Trey Burton, senior (6-2, 225, 4.59, #8)
RB Mack Brown, RS junior (5-10, 213, 4.59, #33)
OLB Darrin Kitchens, senior (6-2, 230, 4.76, #49)
FS Cody Riggs, RS junior (5-9, 190, 4.46, #31)
WR Quinton Dunbar, RS junior (6-1, 195, 4.56, #1)
FB Hunter Joyer, junior (5-10, 235, 4.67, #41)
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH:
CLEMSON at NC STATE
Thursday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Raleigh, N.C. – ESPN
WHEN THE TIGERS HAVE THE BALL…
The Clemson offense has one of the most explosive QB-WR tandems in the country with senior QB Tajh Boyd (6-1, 225, 4.64, #10) and junior WR Sammy Watkins (6-1, 205, 4.49, #2). Both have the ability to be top-15 NFL draft picks in May. Boyd lacks ideal height, but he is a smart, mature passer with the arm strength to grip-and-rip. Watkins isn’t an “elite” level prospect, but he has instant acceleration with the explosive athleticism to create with the ball in his hands. Senior LT Brandon Thomas (6-3, 305, 5.24, #63) projects inside in the NFL.
WHEN THE WOLFPACK HAVE THE BALL…
The top prospect match-up to watch in this contest might be between NC State senior LT Rob Crisp (6-7, 302, 5.32, #78) and Clemson junior DE Vic Beasley (6-3, 228, 4.68, #3). Crisp has battled injuries over his career, but is a flexible, long lineman with enough foot quickness to shut down rushers off the edge. Beasley is in the Barkevious Mingo mold as an undersized, but athletic end, showing the dip and bend to find his way around blockers and into the backfield. Senior TE Asa Watson (6-3, 237, 4.68, #82) needs to prove he can stay healthy.
OTHER CLEMSON PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
RB Roderick McDowell, RS senior (5-9, 195, 4.47, #25)
OLB Quandon Christian, RS senior (6-2, 226, 4.68, #34)
WR Charone Peake, junior (6-2, 202, 4.42, #19)
OLB Stephone Anthony, junior (6-2, 235, 4.59, #42)
OTHER NC STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
CB Dontae Johnson, senior (6-2, 195, 4.58, #25)
DE Darryl Cato-Bishop, RS senior (6-3, 266, 4.82, #92)
WR Quintin Payton, RS senior (6-3, 212, 4.59, #88)
QB Pete Thomas, RS junior (6-5, 234, 4.98, #4)
BOISE STATE at FRESNO STATE
Friday, Sept. 20, 9 p.m.
Fresno, Calif. – ESPN
WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL…
The Boise State offense isn’t quite at the level they were when Kellen Moore was running the offense, but there is still NFL talent on the Broncos offensive roster. Senior LT Charles Leno Jr. (6-4, 298, 5.21, #78) is a former tight end who enters his third year as a starter and second on the left side of the offensive line. Seniors C Matt Paradis (6-2, 295, 5.26, #65) and RT Chris Tozer (6-4, 316, 5.31, #62) are also worth watching on the Broncos’ offensive line. CB L.J. Jones (5-10, 180, 4.49, #6) is the Bulldogs top senior defensive prospect.
WHEN THE BULLDOGS HAVE THE BALL…
The top NFL prospect in this game is senior QB Derek Carr (6-3, 215, 4.78, #4), the younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr. His mechanics and ability to handle pressure are question marks, but he has the arm strength and gutsy attitude to push the ball downfield. One of his top targets is senior TE Marcel Jensen (6-5, 258, 4.82, #89), who doesn’t have ideal speed but is a good-sized target and needs to be more involved in the end zone. Junior DE Demarcus Lawrence (6-3, 245, 4.73, #8) is Boise State’s top defensive NFL prospect.
OTHER BOISE STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, RS senior (6-3, 303, 5.08, #43)
WR Geraldo Boldewijn, RS senior (6-3, 215, 4.52, #17)
TE Gabe Linehan, RS senior (6-3, 248, 4.87, #87)
WR Matt Miller, RS junior (6-2, 218, 4.59, #2)
OTHER FRESNO STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
WR Davante Adams, RS sophomore (6-2, 205, 4.56, #15)
LT Austin Wentworth, RS senior (6-5, 304, 5.18, #72)
WR Isaiah Burse, senior (5-11, 180, 4.56, #1)
OLB Nat Harrison, RS senior (6-2, 240, 4.84, #90)
SAN JOSE STATE at MINNESOTA
Saturday, Sept. 21, Noon
Minneapolis, Minn. – ESPN2
WHEN THE SPARTANS HAVE THE BALL…
Coming off a mediocre performance against Stanford, San Jose State senior QB David Foles (6-2, 220, 4.93, #10) needs a strong bounce back game against Minnesota’s defense. He doesn’t have elite arm strength, but he makes it look easy in the pocket with his awareness and feel. Foles will need to keep an eye on Minnesota senior DT Ra’Shede Hageman (6-6, 312, 4.95, #99), a projected top-40 overall prospect. He is an athletic specimen with the strength and length to overwhelm blockers and finish.
WHEN THE GOLDEN GOPHERS HAVE THE BALL…
Minnesota has only one senior starter on offense, LT Ed Olson (6-6, 310, 5.37, #58), who is a better athlete than expected, but is still a longshot to be drafted in May. For the San Jose State defense, senior CB Bene Benwikere (5-11, 192, 4.53, #21) is one of the more underrated cornerback prospects in the country and has top-100 potential. The Spartans also have a pair of linebackers on defense worth watching: seniors OLB Vince Buhagiar (6-3, 244, 4.86, #36) and ILB Keith Smith (6-0, 230, 4.74, #31), who leads the team with 30 total tackles.
OTHER SAN JOSE STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
WR Noel Grigsby, RS senior (5-10, 175, 4.52, #23)
RG Nicholas Kaspar, senior (6-3, 302, 5.26, #75)
WR Chandler Jones, senior (5-10, 175, 4.52, #89)
TE Travis Lorius, RS senior (6-5, 248, 4.86, #86)
OTHER MINNESOTA PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
SS Brock Vereen, senior (5-11, 202, 4.49, #21)
OLB Aaron Hill, RS senior (6-1, 231, 4.74, #57)
TE Moses Alipate, RS senior (6-5, 281, 4.79, #28)
DT Roland Johnson, senior (6-1, 286, 5.04, #92)
UTAH STATE at USC
Saturday, Sept. 21, 3:30 p.m.
Los Angeles, Calif. – ESPN2
WHEN THE AGGIES HAVE THE BALL…
One of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country is junior QB Chuckie Keeton (6-1, 200, 4.67, #16), who plays like Colin Kaepernick’s little brother. He doesn’t have the same size as the 49ers quarterback, but he can beat defenses with his arm and his legs, flashing the exciting ability that makes him tough to read. The top senior prospect on the Utah State offense is snapping Keeton the ball, senior C Tyler Larsen (6-4, 312, 5.17, #58). On defense, USC senior DE Morgan Breslin (6-1, 250, 4.67, #91) is undersized, but has a quick first step.
WHEN THE TROJANS HAVE THE BALL…
While the quarterback situation is a question mark for Lane Kiffin’s offense, junior WR Marqise Lee (6-0, 195, 4.49, #9) is arguably the best wide receiver in the country and could be the first player drafted at his position next May. The Trojans also have an athletic weapon at tight end with junior TE Xavier Grimble (6-5, 255, 4.72, #86), who has the size and body control to be an impact receiver. On defense, the Aggies top senior prospect is probably CB Nevin Lawson (5-10, 186, 4.52, #1) who doesn’t look like much but more than holds his own.
OTHER UTAH STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
OG Eric Schultz, senior (6-3, 308, 5.32, #66)
CB Devonta Glover-Wright, senior (6-0, 170, 4.52, #4)
FS Maurice Alexander, senior (6-1, 212, 4.64, #5)
WR Travis Van Leeuween, RS senior (6-2, 195, 4.54, #7)
OTHER USC PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
SS Dion Bailey, RS junior (6-0, 210, 4.58, #18)
RB Silas Redd, senior (5-9, 200, 4.53, #25)
DT George Uko, RS junior (6-3, 285, 5.02, #90)
OT Kevin Graf, RS senior (6-6, 300, 5.24, #77)
ARIZONA STATE at STANFORD
Saturday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m.
Stanford, Calif. – FOX
WHEN THE SUN DEVILS HAVE THE BALL…
Senior RB Marion Grice (6-0, 205, 4.54, #1) has been a touchdown machine for Arizona State and has contributed to the Sun Devil offense as a rusher, receiver and blocker. The Wisconsin offense kept his big plays to a minimum and it won’t get any easier for Grice against Stanford’s stout front-seven. Seniors DE Trent Murphy (6-6, 261, 4.86, #93) and ILB Shayne Skov (6-2, 245, 4.95, #11) are the heart of the Cardinal defense. Murphy has first round potential and Skov needs to continue to show scouts that he’s back at full healthy.
WHEN THE CARDINAL HAVE THE BALL…
While Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota receive most of the attention as the conference’s top young quarterbacks, RS sophomore QB Kevin Hogan (6-4, 225, 4.64, #8) deserves to be in the conversation. He isn’t on the same level as former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, but he has a lot of favorable skills that project him to the next level. Arizona State senior DT Will Sutton (6-0, 292, 4.94, #90) was among the nation’s leaders last season with 23.5 tackles for loss, but he has played slightly heavier in 2013 and hasn’t been as productive.
OTHER ARIZONA STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
OLB Carl Bradford, RS junior (6-1, 241, 4.73, #52)
FB Chris Coyle, RS senior (6-2, 224, 4.67, #87)
SS Alden Darby, senior (5-11, 195, 4.50, #4)
OT Evan Finkenberg, RS senior (6-4, 296, 5.17, #62)
OTHER STANFORD PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DE Ben Gardner, RS senior (6-4, 275, 4.97, #49)
FB Ryan Hewitt, RS senior (6-4, 246, 4.86, #85)
DE Josh Mauro, RS senior (6-6, 282, 4.98, #90)
RB Tyler Gaffney, RS senior (6-0, 221, 4.57, #25)
AUBURN at LSU
Saturday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m.
Baton Rouge, La. – ESPN
WHEN THE TIGERS HAVE THE BALL…
The LSU defense returns only four starters from last season and is forced to replace numerous NFL draft picks, but the Tigers just reload down in Baton Rouge. Junior DT Anthony Johnson (6-3, 305, 5.29, #90) has flashed big time potential but he finally looks ready to take his game to the next level in 2013. On the back end of the defense, LSU has missed Eric Reid at safety, but senior SS Craig Loston (6-1, 209, 4.56, #6) flashes the same type of punishing hits and overall range. Both Johnson and Loston have top-40 potential in May.
WHEN THE TIGERS HAVE THE BALL…
After a slow start last season, most wrote off senior QB Zach Mettenberger (6-5, 238, 5.18, #8) as a legitimate NFL prospect, but he is proving doubters wrong, continuing his success in 2013 from the end of last year. He has shown better confidence and is quicker working through his reads. On the ground, the Tigers have relied on two backs: senior RB Alfred Blue (6-1, 220, 4.59, #4) and junior RB Kenny Hilliard (5-11, 232, 4.63, #27). The top prospect for Auburn is on the defensive side of the ball: senior LB Dee Ford (6-2, 238, 4.72, #95).
OTHER AUBURN PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
FB Jay Prosch, RS senior (6-0, 247, 4.67, #35)
DT Jeffrey Whitaker, senior (6-3, 307, 5.32, #54)
CB Chris Davis, senior (5-10, 198, 4.54, #11)
DE Kenneth Carter, senior (6-3, 287, 5.23, #92)
OTHER LSU PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
ILB Lamin Barrow, RS senior (6-1, 232, 4.76, #57)
FB JC Copeland, senior (6-0, 272, 4.84, #44)
WR Jarvis Landry, junior (6-0, 195, 4.49, #80)
WR Odell Beckham, junior (5-11, 187, 4.50, #3)
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