Week 14 Prospect Match-up: Iron Bowl provides big stage
Know the top NFL prospects to watch this weekend in the pivotal matchups on the college football landscape
ALABAMA | AUBURN
Saturday, November 30, 2:30 p.m.
Auburn, Ala. – CBS
The annual Iron Bowl is one of college football’s top rivalries and the 2013 edition won’t be any different. Alabama is ranked No. 1 and will play for its fourth National Title in the last five years if the Tide can defeat Auburn and get past the SEC Championship Game. Meanwhile, Auburn still has BCS National Championship hopes of its own and an upset win over Alabama followed by a victory in the SEC Championship Game might be enough to catapult them past Ohio State and into the No. 2 spot. Regardless, this match-up has huge National Title implications and provide a big stage for NFL scouts to evaluate next level prospects. Auburn ranks second in the country in rushing offense, averaging 320.3 rush yards per game, and Alabama is fourth nationally in rush defense, giving up just 91.3 yards per game on the ground – something has to give in this match-up.
Alabama QB A.J. McCarron vs. Auburn Defense
The career statistics, most notably wins vs. Top-25 opponents (12-2), are impressive, but if senior QB A.J. McCarron (6-3, 214, 4.84, #10) wants to win the 2013 Heisman Trophy, he’ll need a signature performance against Auburn. With the top-shelf talent at his disposal, McCarron utilizes his weapons well and understands situations, avoiding the critical mistake. Three years ago, Cam Newton used the Iron Bowl as a platform to lock up the Heisman Trophy and advance to the BCS Title Game. Can McCarron do the same? The stage will be his to show Heisman voters that he’s deserving of the prestigious honor, but also to show NFL scouts that he has the talent to be more than simply a game manager in the NFL.
Alabama LOT Cyrus Kouandjio vs. Auburn DE/OLB Dee Ford
Alabama has produced several impressive offensive line prospects in recent memory and junior LOT Cyrus Kouandjio (6-5, 310, 5.12, #71) is the latest with first round potential. He looks the part and has the athleticism to cover a large area, using quick feet and natural body control to contort his frame and engulf rushers. Kouandjio will often line up with senior OLB Dee Ford (6-2, 240, 4.72, #30) across from him on defense. He leads the Tigers in sacks (8.0), tackles for loss (11.5) and quarterback hurries (14), all career-bests and numbers that rank him among the SEC’s top pass rushers. Ford has lived in the backfield this season, but Kouandjio provide a strong test as he protects McCarron’s blind side.
Alabama WR Kevin Norwood vs. Auburn CB Chris Davis
Before this season, sophomore WR Amari Cooper received most of the praise as the top Alabama pass-catcher, but senior WR Kevin Norwood (6-1, 195, 4.58, #83) has been the most consistent receiver for the Tide in 2013. He leads the team in receiving yards (493) and touchdown catches (6) and is setting career-bests due to his athleticism and ballskills. Norwood won’t wow with his size or speed, but he is a reliable target who will have his hands full in this match-up against Auburn senior CB Chris Davis (5-10, 200, 4.54, #11), who leads the Tigers in tackles (55). Davis leads the SEC in passes defended per game (1.3) and is also an impact returner with a 22.5 punt return average, including one for a score.
Auburn RB Tre Mason vs. Alabama WLB C.J. Mosley/FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
For a player who leads the SEC in rushing, Auburn junior RB Tre Mason (5-9, 205, 4.50, #21) is still a very underrated NFL prospect. In 10 starts this season, he has rushed for 1,153 yards and 17 touchdowns, both tops in the SEC and career-bests. Mason doesn’t have the same bulk as Trent Richardson, but they have a similar compact run style with the blend of quickness, balance and strength to make guys miss and power through contact. Two big reasons why Alabama’s run defense is ranked top-five nationally: senior WLB C.J. Mosley (6-2, 232, 4.65, #32) and junior FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6-1, 208, 4.54, #6). Both are equally strong vs. the pass and the run and potential to be top-20 draft picks.
OTHER CRIMSON TIDE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
SLB Adrian Hubbard, RS junior (6-5, 252, 4.76, #42)
RG Anthony Steen, RS senior (6-2, 310, 5.22, #61)
DE Ed Stinson, RS senior (6-3, 292, 4.87, #49)
CB Deion Belue, senior (5-11, 183, 4.48, #13)
WR Christion Jones, junior (5-11, 185, 4.53, #22)
LG Arie Kouandjio, RS junior (6-5, 315, 5.28, #77)
OTHER TIGERS PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
FB Jay Prosch, RS senior (6-0, 258, 4.67, #35)
DT Jeffrey Whitaker, senior (6-3, 310, 5.32, #54)
DE Nosa Eguae, RS senior (6-2, 269, 4.84, #94)
WR Sammie Coates, RS sophomore (6-1, 201, 4.48, #18)
LOT Greg Robinson, RS sophomore (6-5, 302, 5.38, #73)
DT Gabe Wright, junior (6-2, 296, 4.98, #90)
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH:
FRESNO STATE at SAN JOSE STATE
Friday, Nov. 29, 3:30 p.m.
San Jose, Calif. – CBS Sports Network
WHEN THE BULLDOGS HAVE THE BALL…
This match-up is all about the quarterbacks and when the Bulldogs have the ball, senior QB Derek Carr (6-3, 215, 4.78, #4) will have the stage. He leads the country in touchdown passes (39) compared to just four interceptions and has the passing skill-set to be one of the top quarterbacks drafted in May. Carr’s top target is RS sophomore WR Davante Adams (6-2, 205, 4.56, #15), who is only one of two FBS receivers who have reached triple digit catches. Adams vs. senior CB Bene Benwikere (5-11, 192, 4.53, #21) will be fun to watch.
WHEN THE SPARTANS HAVE THE BALL…
When the Spartans are on offense, everyone’s attention will switch to senior QB David Fales (6-2, 220, 4.93, #10), who lacks some of Carr’s physical gifts, but he sees the field as good as anyone. He will probably fall just short of his 2012 production, but his stats are still impressive with 27 touchdowns and 3,642 yards. If Fales can match Carr throw-for-throw and drive-for-drive, then he will have a chance to upset the Bulldogs and help his NFL grade. With Noel Grigsby out, senior WR Chandler Jones (5-10, 175, 4.52, #89) has stepped up for SJST.
OTHER FRESNO STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
TE Marcel Jensen, RS senior (6-5, 258, 4.82, #89)
LOT Austin Wentworth, RS senior (6-5, 304, 5.18, #72)
CB L.J. Jones, RS senior (5-10, 180, 4.49, #6)
WR Isaiah Burse, senior (5-11, 180, 4.56, #1)
OTHER SAN JOSE STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
LB Vince Buhagiar, senior (6-3, 244, 4.86, #36)
LB Keith Smith, senior (6-0, 230, 4.74, #31)
WR Kyle Nunn, senior (6-2, 209, 4.70, #19)
RG Nicholas Kaspar, senior (6-3, 302, 5.26, #75)
OHIO STATE at MICHIGAN
Saturday, Nov. 30, Noon
Ann Arbor, Mich. – ABC
WHEN THE BUCKEYES HAVE THE BALL…
Could this be the final regular season game for junior QB Braxton Miller (6-1, 215, 4.46, #5)? Possibly, but while he’s consistently improved this season, Miller still needs time to develop as a passer in Columbus before he’s ready for the NFL. A prospect who is ready for the next level is senior RB Carlos Hyde (6-0, 235, 4.62, #34), who is running with the decisiveness that was missing in past years. One of the top match-ups to watch is in the trenches when senior LOT Jack Mewhort (6-6, 308, 5.08, #74) faces junior DE Frank Clark (6-2, 276, 4.68, #57).
WHEN THE WOLVERINES HAVE THE BALL…
While Miller has improved at the quarterback position, junior QB Devin Gardner (6-4, 212, 4.64, #98) has seemed to regress in his development. Gardner is able to escape and pick up yards with his legs, but he has struggled to show consistency as a passer and there is no question he could use another year in college. With junior CB Bradley Roby (5-11, 192, 4.39, #1) announcing that he will go pro after the season, the NFL questions shift to junior OLB Ryan Shazier (6-2, 230, 4.58, #2), who is coming off a monster game last week vs. Indiana.
OTHER OHIO STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
SS C.J. Barnett, senior (6-0, 205, 4.59, #4)
WR Corey Brown, senior (5-11, 190, 4.38, #10)
LG Andrew Norwell, senior (6-6, 316, 5.33, #78)
C Corey Linsley, RS senior (6-3, 298, 5.24, #71)
OTHER MICHIGAN PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
LOT Taylor Lewan, RS senior (6-7, 315, 5.09, #77)
ROT Michael Schofield, RS senior (6-6, 306, 5.24, #75)
WR Jeremy Gallon, RS senior (5-8, 187, 4.52, #21)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, RS senior (5-10, 200, 4.58, #28)
CLEMSON at SOUTH CAROLINA
Saturday, Nov. 30, 7 p.m.
Columbia, S.C. – ESPN2
WHEN THE TIGERS HAVE THE BALL…
Clemson senior QB Tajh Boyd (6-1, 225, 4.64, #10) will leave college with several school and ACC records, but he has never been able to beat the cross-state rivals from the SEC. He had a forgettable performance vs. Florida State, but a strong outing in this game could help erase that from scout’s memories. This will likely be the final collegiate home game for junior DE Jadeveon Clowney (6-5, 274, 4.56, #7), who has only two sacks this season. Can he go out big? This might be final home game for junior CB Victor Hampton (5-10, 202, 4.52, #27) as well.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS HAVE THE BALL…
Most scouts had low expectations for senior QB Connor Shaw (6-1, 209, 4.64, #14) this season, but he has shown excellent improvements with his mechanics and downfield touch. His confidence and toughness will endear him to NFL teams, giving him an outside chance to be drafted. Besides Clowney, another underclassman pass rusher who could be on his way to the NFL is junior DE/OLB Vic Beasley (6-2, 235, 4.64, #3), who leads the team in sacks (10.0) and tackles for loss (17.0). Will he decide to skip his senior season? Strong chance of that.
OTHER CLEMSON PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
WR Sammy Watkins, junior (6-1, 205, 4.47, #2)
LOT Brandon Thomas, RS senior (6-3, 315, 5.24, #63)
RB Roderick McDowell, RS senior (5-9, 200, 4.47, #25)
DT Grady Jarrett, junior (6-1, 295, 5.16, #50)
OTHER SOUTH CAROLINA PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DE Chaz Sutton, RS senior (6-4, 263, 4.82, #90)
CB Jimmy Legree, RS senior (5-11, 187, 4.52, #15)
OG Ronald Patrick, senior (6-2, 315, 5.34, #67)
WR Bruce Ellington, RS junior (5-9, 196, 4.54, #23)
NOTRE DAME at STANFORD
Saturday, Nov. 30, 7 p.m.
Stanford, Calif. – FOX
WHEN THE IRISH HAVE THE BALL…
The top prospect match-up in this contest will be in the trenches, specifically when Irish LOT Zack Martin (6-4, 305, 5.22, #70) squares against Stanford DE/OLB Trent Murphy (6-6, 261, 4.86, #93). Murphy leads the FBS in sacks (13.0) and is among college football’s leaders in tackles for loss (19.0), but Martin is arguably the best left tackle he’ll face all season. Senior ILB Shayne Skov (6-2, 245, 4.95, #11) doesn’t have the elite speed NFL teams covet, but he does have the instincts, aggressiveness and finishing ability that makes him appealing.
WHEN THE CARDINAL HAVE THE BALL…
With junior NG Louis Nix (6-2, 352, 5.17, #1) out for the rest of the season, more will be expected from junior DL Stephon Tuitt (6-5, 303, 4.89, #7), who will see more snaps inside. Both Nix and Tuitt will likely choose the draft’s first round over returning to South Bend after the season. It’s been a somewhat disappointing season for senior CB Bennett Jackson (6-0, 185, 4.52, #2), but he could help himself if he’s able to limit Stanford junior WR Ty Montgomery (6-2, 215, 4.52, #7), who last week recorded four touchdowns on just five receptions.
OTHER NOTRE DAME PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DE Prince Shembo, senior (6-1, 252, 4.76, #55)
LG Chris Watt, RS senior (6-3, 312, 5.24, #66)
WR T.J. Jones, senior (6-0, 195, 4.54, #7)
ILB Dan Fox, RS senior (6-3, 245, 4.82, #48)
OTHER STANFORD PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DE Josh Mauro, RS senior (6-6, 282, 4.98, #90)
RB Tyler Gaffney, RS senior (6-0, 226, 4.57, #25)
LG David Yankey, RS junior (6-5, 314, 5.08, #54)
RG Kevin Danser, RS senior (6-5, 296, 5.73, #76)
TEXAS A&M at MISSOURI
Saturday, Nov. 30, 8 p.m.
Columbia, Mo. – ESPN
WHEN THE AGGIES HAVE THE BALL…
How will RS sophomore QB Johnny Manziel (6-1, 210, 4.45, #2) respond the week following his least impressive performance at the college level? This is likely his final regular season contest as an Aggie so look for Manziel to play inspired football. He’ll face a pair of pass rushers who will be looking to take his head off, senior DE Michael Sam (6-2, 255, 4.74, #52) and junior DE Kony Ealy (6-5, 275, 4.77, #47). But Sam and Ealy won’t have it easy against LOT Jake Matthews (6-5, 305, 5.08, #75) and ROT Cedric Ogbuehi (6-5, 300, 5.15, #70).
WHEN THE TIGERS TIDE HAVE THE BALL…
The Missouri offense has a solid running game, but it’s the tall trees at receiver that helps the Tigers sustain drives. Seniors WR L’Damian Washington (6-4, 205, 4.39, #2) and WR Marcus Lucas (6-4, 220, 4.58, #85) both win with speed and size and should find consistent success against the Aggies’ defensive backs. Senior QB James Franklin (6-2, 230, 4.72, #1) played well last week, his first start since returning from his mid-season injury, but there are questions about his NFL future, grading as more of a PFA than draftable prospect.
OTHER TEXAS A&M PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
WR Mike Evans, RS sophomore (6-5, 225, 4.58, #13)
WR Derel Walker, senior (6-2, 185, 4.59, #11)
RB Ben Malena, senior (5-8, 195, 4.54, #1)
LB Steven Jenkins, RS senior (6-2, 220, 4.65, #8)
OTHER MISSOURI PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
CB E.J. Gaines, senior (5-10, 195, 4.44, #31)
LOT Justin Britt, RS senior (6-6, 315, 5.28, #68)
ILB Andrew Wilson, RS senior (6-3, 240, 4.72, #48)
RB Henry Josey, RS junior (5-10, 190, 4.49, #20)
UCLA at USC
Saturday, Nov. 30, 8 p.m.
Los Angeles, Calif. – ABC
WHEN THE BRUINS HAVE THE BALL…
Although his season tailed off some, RS sophomore QB Brett Hundley (6-3, 227, 4.68, #17) is still one of the most physically gifted passers in the country. And there is a chance this could be his final game in Los Angeles if Hundley decides to test the NFL waters. It might also be the final regular season game for junior LG Xavier Su’a-Filo (6-3, 305, 5.18, #56), who turns 23 years old on New Year’s Day. USC senior DE Devon Kennard (6-3, 260, 4.86, #42), who missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, leads the Trojans in sacks with eight.
WHEN THE TROJANS HAVE THE BALL…
Neither junior WR Marqise Lee (6-0, 195, 4.49, #9) or senior RB Silas Redd (5-9, 200, 4.53, #25) made the trip to Colorado last week, but they’re expected to play in this contest, likely the final home game for both. Redd was considered one of the top senior RB prospects prior to the season, but injuries have really put a dent into that belief. With 17.0 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks on the season, senior OLB Anthony Barr (6-4, 248, 4.48, #11) is still short of his totals from last year (21.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks), but nonetheless, he has been impressive.
OTHER UCLA PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DL Cassius Marsh, senior (6-4, 262, 4.92, #99)
WR Shaq Evans, RS senior (6-1, 210, 4.52, #1)
ILB Jordan Zumwalt, senior (6-3, 236, 4.72, #35)
LB Eric Kendricks, RS junior (6-0, 228, 4.67, #6)
OTHER USC PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
LB/SS Dion Bailey, RS junior (6-0, 210, 4.58, #18)
DT George Uko, RS junior (6-3, 285, 5.02, #90)
TE Xavier Grimble, RS junior (6-5, 255, 4.72, #86)
CB Torin Harris, RS senior (6-0, 190, 4.49, #4)
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