NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa
The overreactions can be heard for miles. Talk radio, school message boards, and hobby shops nation wide are blown apart by one meaningless release: the AP top 25. Fans of schools at the top are already crowning themselves, while the un-ranked schools of the world have their fan bases’ already up in arms (I’m looking at you Texas).
However through all the meaningless chaos, one glorious fact is upon us: College football is around the corner. Opening weekend always provides some great, highly anticipated match ups. Lets highlight a few, along with the individual prospects you should be paying attention too.
#21 Texas A&M @ #9 South Carolina : SEC Network 6 pm est
It isn’t often that the first Thursday game of the season provides such a big and important match up, but this year is the exception. Columbia will be rockin’ as they welcome the post Johnny Football Aggies. South Carolina, who is the preseason favorite to win the SEC east essentially must win their first game if they hope to get to Atlanta (SEC Championship). Even with absorbing the loss of DE Jadeveon Clowney and QB Connor Shaw, Coach Suppier believes this might be his best team yet in Columbia. A&M will score points under talented sophomore signal caller Kenny Hill, but will it be enough to win on the road? I see it as a close game to start, with the Gamecocks pulling away late.
RB Mike Davis: A bowling ball runner who will no longer be flying under the national radar. The post Connor Shaw offense will rely on him heavily, a projected 1-2 round pick.
OT Corey Robinson: Currently a top 10 prospect at his position, the redshirt senior is the anchor of the line standing a massive 6’7, 348 lbs.
OG A.J. Cann: The versatile left guard has a team high 38 starts under his belt, and is arguably the best guard in college football. A possible first round pick.
DT J.T. Surratt: The leader of the rebuilt Gamecock defensive line, Surratt is a physical gap clogging DT. Currently a mid-round grade, all eyes will be on Surratt to step up as the only returning starter on the d-line.
Other prospects to watch : FS Kadetrix Marcus, SS Brison Williams, TE Rory Anderson (hurt), QB Dylan Thompson
OT Cedric Ogbuehi: Could contend to be the number 1 pick if he plays well this year depending on who is on the clock come spring. Ogbuehi will be a four year starter, however this will be his first at left tackle (og 2 years, RT 1).
OG Jarvis Harrison: A versatile guard who can play any of the interior positions, he should project as a mid-round prospect.
TE: Cameron Clear: The 6’6 275 lb tight end figures to be an essential part of the Aggie offense in 2014. Dismissed from Tennessee after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, Clear has the physical traits to be a top tier tight end at the next level. A relative unknown after only catching four passes last year, I think Clear is an underrated prospect to keep an eye on.
Other prospects to watch: DB Deshazor Everett, WR Malcome Kennedy, FS Floyd Raven Jr.
Boise State vs #18 Ole Miss (Georgia Dome) : ESPN 8 pm
The post Chris Peterson era begins when the Broncos take on Ole Miss in the Georgia Dome. Remember that star studded Rebel recruiting class of 2013? Well there sophomores now, and the Rebels are a dark horse for the SEC crown. Led by senior QB Bo Wallace, the Rebels are hoping to kick off their season with a win in a big neutral site game vs a pesky Boise State club. I expect the SEC athletes to overwhelm Boise State, cruising to a two score win.
Ole Miss Prospects
FS Cody Prewitt: The First Team preseason All-SEC safety (6’2, 215lbs) will be commanding the Rebel defense. Prewitt is both a ball hawk (SEC leading 6 INTs in 2013) and an enforcer. With another good campaign, Prewitt could be a 2nd round selection or higher.
DE C.J. Johnson: The former 5 star middle linebacker has found a home at DE. Johnson missed 9 games last season due to injury, and his presence was certainly missed.
WR Laquon Treadwell: My favorite prospect on the team. He’s just a sophomore (not draft eligible in 2015), but already may be the most dynamic receiver in the SEC. The 6’3 212 lb speedster was SEC freshmen of the year catching a freshmen school record 72 catches for 608 yards and 5 touchdowns. Keep your eye on him.
Other prospects: SS Serderius Bryant, QB Bo Wallace, CB Senquez Golson & DE Robert Nkemdiche (Soph)
Boise State prospects
WR Matt Miller: Good size (6’3 215 lbs) and better-than-you-think speed, Miller is the main prospect to keep your eyes on for Boise who projects as a mid to late round pick.
West Virginia vs #2 Alabama (Georgia Dome) ABC/ ESPN2 3:30 pm
The Crimson Tide begin their championship or bust 2014 campaign in the Georgia Dome vs West Virginia. From a prospect standpoint, just watch everyone wearing an Alabama uniform and there’s a decent chance they have a shot to play at the next level. They have five stars backing up five stars. I expect the Tide to roll, big.
SS Landon Collins: He may be the best safety the SEC has scene since Eric Berry. Collins is a flat out play maker, who will be a top end first round pick next spring if all goes to plan.
WR Amari Cooper: Cooper (6’1, 202lb, 4.40) is arguably the number 1 receiving prospect, even after a disappointing sophomore season. Cooper himself said he had to change his attitude if he wanted to fulfill his potential, lets see whathappens as a Junior.
RB T.J. Yeldon: The talented runner tallyed insane numbers over 2 seasons, but he must be at his absolute best to beat out upcoming sophomore stud Derrick Henry for carries. A bigger back with speed and vision behind that offensive line with the weapons on the outside means a lot of sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators.
OG Arie Kouandjio : Younger brother to Cyrus, Kouandjio is the latest really really good Tide offensive linemen. A projected late first round pick if all goes well.
DT Brandon Ivory: The big, powerful, run stuffing is the key cog to Nick Saban’s defensive front.
Other prospects: OT Austin Sheppard, WR Christion Jones, RB Kenyan Drake, C Ryan Kelly, DT Darren Lake, ILB Trey DePriest, ILB Denzel Devall, RB Derrick Henry (Soph)
West Virginia prospects
RB Dreamius Smith, DE Shaquille Riddick, OG Mark Glowinski
#1 Florida State vs Oklahoma State (Cowboys Classic @ At&t Stadium, Arlington) ABC 8 pm
Like Alabama, Florida State is just loaded with prospects. The defending champion Florida State Seminoles will take the field against a potent foe in Oklahoma State. Many are riding this off as an easy win for the ‘Noles, especially with Heisman winner Jameis Winston back at QB. However, I see this one as a close good ole fashioned shootout. Cowboys QB J.W. Walsh and RB Desmond Roland will help supply the offense to try and keep up with the ‘Noles. Eventually I expect the defending champions to win, but I believe this will be closer then most suggest.
Florida State prospects
QB Jameis Winston: If he comes out after his junior year, Winston should be no worse then a top 5 pick. Don’t be surprised if he takes home another Heisman trophey before his college days are done, a feat not accomplished since Archie Griffin
RB Karlos Williams: The former safety has made a home at running back, and figures to lead the ‘Noles rushing offense this season. Williams is currently projected in the 2-3 round range.
WR Rashad Greene: Has led the ‘Noles in receiving three years in a row, and his numbers figure to only go up with Kelvin Benjamin leaving to the NFL.
TE Nick O’Leary: Grandson to Jack Nicklaus, O’Leary is starting to make his own name for himself. Arguably the number 1 TE prospect for next spring.
OT Cameron Erving: Considered a top five OT prospect by most, Erving could be a first round pick next spring.
CB P.J. Williams: Leader of the secondary. Williams is a playmaker who can flat out cover as well. Should be a first round pick.
DE Mario Edwards Jr.: Explosive first step can get him around most ACC OT’s by it self. Contender for a first round pick.
Other prospects: CB Ronald Darby, OG Tre Jackson, SS Tyler Hunter, DT Desmond Hollin
Oklahoma State Prospects
DT James Castleman: Mainly a one technique DT, Castleman will have to lead the front 7 and play phenomenally if the Cowboys wish to slow down the ‘Noles O.
Other prospects: OT Dan Koenig, RB Desmond Roland.
#14 Wisconsin vs #13 LSU (Texas Kickoff Classic, Houston) ESPN 9 pm
In my opinion, the Texas Kickoff Classic is the game of the weekend. Wisconsin will rely on their star RB Melvin Gordon to carry the load. Last year, Gordon was used a lot on jet sweeps attacking the edge. It may sound like a broken record but it’s true: the SEC speed is just on another level. Wisconsin must get creative with Gordon to attack John Chavis’ defense. I expect the Badgers to overload the line and use their strength (O-Line) to try and run it down LSU’s throat. I cant wait to watch the #1 ranked high school RB of 2013 Leonard Fournette in his college debut. LSU will also lean on stud freshmen receivers Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn. Leaning so heavily on newcomers makes me nervous about my pick, but I’ll assume Les Miles has something insane up his sleeve that is so crazy it will work, so I’ll say the Tigers win a close one.
OT/OG La’el Collins: Collins played left tackle last year and was dominant. At the next level he can play either OT or G, and should be a first round selection.
OG/OT Vadal Alexander : Like Collins, Alexander is a very versatile player. He has some work to do, but should be at least a day 2 selection.
DE Danielle Hunter: In 10 starts last season he recorded 57 tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks. Critics say he has a “questionable motor”, I say he hasnt played enough football yet to tell, and he may be just diving into his potential.
Other prospects: RB Terrance MaGee, FS Ronald Martin, RB Kenny Hilliard, DE Jermauria Rasco
RB Melvin Gordon: Dynamic. Game changer. Explosive. Only small question I have with him is can he carry the load without James White. Probably a first round pick or high second come spring.
DT Warren Herring: An important player on the 2 deep in previous campaigns, Herring will be a full time starter for the first time in his career. LSU will provide a big test for him.
Other prospects: TE Sam Arneson, OT Rob Havenstein, OG Dallas Lewallen
Other games I’ll keep an eye on this weekend and you should too are No.7 UCLA @ Virginia (noon, ESPN), No.5 Ohio State @ Navy (Noon, CBS Sports Network), Appalachian State @ Michigan (Noon, ESPN2), BC @ Umass (3pm, ESPN3), SMU @ #10 Baylor (Sunday 7:30pm, Fox Sports 1) and Miami @ Louisville (Monday, 8pm, ESPN)