Saturday Slate: College Matchups to Watch for the 2015 NFL Draft

Eric Striker

NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa

Finally, big time conference match ups are on the horizon. In what looked to be a poor slate of games, Week 3 gave us some excitement we may not have seen coming. Boston College showed the country that yes, they do in fact play college football in the Northeast. The fighting Addazio’s upset USC 37-31 Saturday night. Quarterback Tyler Murphy led the Eagles’ and ran for 191 rushing yards, including the eventual game winning 66 yard touchdown run off a zone read.   Oregon rolled once more, so did Oklahoma against inferior competition.

UCLA was fortunate to defeat Texas in Jerry World in a game where Texas controlled throughout. QB Brett Hundley was knocked out of the game early, but the Bruins held off a feisty Texas bunch 20-17. And after their huge road win at Ohio State last week, Virginia Tech lost to border rival East Carolina at home 28-21 in a thrilling battle. ECU QB Shane Carden has impressed me this year, as he went for 427 yards and 3 touchdowns vs the Hokies. The Big Ten had another rough weekend. Iowa lost to rival and 2 score underdog Iowa State at home, and now the conference is an astounding 1-9 vs the other 5 “old BCS” conferences. Ouch.

Eyes on the SEC: While the BC upset was brewing on Chestnut Hill, the Kentucky Wildcats were pushing Florida for everything they wanted and more in the Swamp. The Gators eventually held on to win in triple overtime, but looked less than impressive in the effort. Alabama started slow, but eventually rolled at home vs Southern Miss. In what was the game of the weekend, South Carolina held off Todd Gurley and the Georgia Bulldogs 38-35 in Columbia. Gurley was once again stellar in the effort, carrying the ball 20 times for 131 yards and a score (had a 55 yard. TD run called back for holding, too). Tennessee proved they have the athletes to compete, however also proved how young they are. The more experienced and arguably most talented team in the country Oklahoma was in full control of that game start to finish, particularly on the lines. Now let’s move ahead to week 4, including a big time conference clash in the SEC.

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Florida vs #3 Alabama 3:30 CBS

Big time early season match up in Tuscaloosa. The Gators come in limping after a poor effort at home vs Kentucky last weekend. They looked bad last weekend, but I believe Kentucky is an improved team and this game has been circled on the calendar all offseason long. Florida will be ready. Alabama hasn’t hit their stride just yet, but the offense seems to be improving week to week. Seems like a mismatch game, but be careful: Florida has somewhat of an offense this year. They will be relying on RB Matt Jones (156 yards 1 TD vs UK) and QB Jeff Driskel to power the offense. Sophomore WR Demarcus Robinson had a coming out party last week, catching 15 balls for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns.   The Alabama secondary led by Landon Collins has been uncharacteristically suspect in the early season, especially to the big play. If Florida can press the issue and get some big plays early, I think they can hang around. Alabama has a running back by committee offense (8 players had a rush att. last week), but they are led by stud sophomore RB Derrick Henry (11 car. 73 yards vs USM). I think the Tide will get the win, but the Gators will make them earn it. ‘Bama by a score in T-Town.

Alabama prospects

SS Landon Collins: The eventual first round pick was all over the field vs Southern Miss last week, tallying 12 tackles. No picks for him this season though, does that change Saturday?

WR Amari Cooper: My #1 wide receiver prospect for the draft. Cooper has been near un-coverable in 3 games so far snagging 33 passes for 454 yards and 2 touchdowns.

RB T.J. Yeldon: Just 9 carries last game for Yeldon. Not so much his fault, just a lot of mouths to feed in that backfield. Henry will get more touches, but Yeldon looks as good as he has in his FR/SO seasons. Still a day 2 prospect.

OG Arie Kouandjio : Younger brother to Cyrus, Kouandjio is the latest solid Tide offensive linemen. A projected late first round pick if all goes well.

DT Brandon Ivory: Has played well to start the year. More of a tone setter then a game breaker at the DT spot.

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)

Florida prospects

DE/OLB Dante Fowler Jr. : Recorded his first sack of the season last week.   Huge part in containing ‘Bama QB Blake Sims scrambling on the outside this week.

C Max Garcia: Made the transition to C successfully in spring practice. Could be a mid-round draft prospect.

OT Chaz Green: Played alright vs. Kentucky. Alabama’s front line on D is a different animal this week. Will be tested.

WR Quinton Dunbar: 2 catches, 7 yards vs Kentucky. Must do better than that this week, as there are plays to be made down the field this year vs ‘Bama.

Other prospects: DT Leon Orr, LB Neiron Ball, LB Michael Taylor, OL Trenton Brown

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Mississippi State vs LSU 7:00 ESPN

Tiger Stadium. Night Time. I’d like LSU’s chances against anyone in the country in those circumstances. The Tigers are probably the second youngest team in the conference, but they sure are talented. Sophomore QB Anthony Jennings hasn’t exactly looked like Johnny Unitas so far, but he’s done what LSU has asked of him putting up some conservative numbers. Freshman sensation Leonard Fournette looks more comfortable in the backfield, but it’s senior RB Kenny Hilliard who has really impressed me so far this year. The senior RB has really helped his draft stock this year gaining over 5 ypc and 3 touchdowns on the young season. Sophomore WR Travin Dural seems to be the Tigers go to man, catching 12 passes for 370 yards and 4 touchdowns thus far. Mississippi State is confident though, and they should be. This might be the best team Starkville has scene in some time. QB Dak Prescott may not be in the forefront of the Heisman race has some people predicted preseason, but he has played well. On film he has improved in his mechanics most importantly. He will have to have the game of his life for MSU for them to stay in it. Prescott and junior RB Josh Robinson will have to control the clock and stay ahead of the chains for MSU to hang around. This will be a 4 quarter game in my opinion, but LSU will pull away late. My national championship pick will remain undefeated Saturday night, by 2 scores.

LSU Prospects

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: Has been extremely active to start the season. 15 tackles through 3 games for a true DE is tough to come by. Critics say he has a “questionable motor”, I say he hasn’t played enough football yet to tell, and he may be just diving into his potential.

RB Kenny Hilliard: The far less talked about LSU running back, but this year has proven to be the most valuable (at least so far). I expect him to get more than half the carries from here on out.

Other prospects: RB Terrance MaGee, FS Ronald Martin, DE Jermauria Rasco

MSU Prospects

OLB Benardrick McKinney: Very versatile and flexible in his alignments. Shows the potential on film but still very raw. LSU has some of the better tackles in the country, great matchup to watch.

FS Justin Cox: Former JUCO transfer, Cox is switching from CB to FS this year for the Bulldogs. Poor tackler at times, and his speed is in question. However, he shows good explosiveness to the point of attack which helps combat other flaws.

WR Jameon Lewis: Quite through 2 games, Lewis got comfortable last week and caught 6 passes for 76 yards. Lewis’ greatest attribute is his quickness (5’8, 185 lbs).

TE/FB/ATH Malcolm Johnson: Not really a tight end, not really a full back. Versatile player who has already hauled in 2 touchdowns this year. Beats you with his first step and I believe will be quick enough to be productive in the NFL.

Other prospects: CB Jamerson Love, QB Dak Prescott

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#4 Oklahoma vs West Virginia 7:30 FOX

Intriguing night game here. Oklahoma has arguably been the best team in college football over three weeks. They had some nervous moments but eventually ran away from Tennessee last week. This week they will be playing a better, more experienced team on the road, as opposed to the friendly confines in Norman. The OU defensive front 7 in their 3-4 alignment can be and has been devastating this year to opposing offenses. They have the athletes to show many different looks and can get pressure on the QB in a hurry. West Virginia QB Clint Trickett had a career day against Maryland Saturday, passing for 511 yards and four TDs on 37-of-49 passing. The Sooners must be worried about WR Kevin White as well, as he had 13 receptions for 216 yards vs the Terps. Oklahoma will be without top running back Keith Ford who suffered a small bone fracture in his right leg against Tennessee and will be “week to week”. This has all the criteria for a ‘trap game’, but I’m going to trust my eyes. Oklahoma impressed me last weekend and I think they will take care of WVU in Morgantown. I’ll say in the neighborhood of 45-31.

OLB Eric Striker: Impressed me on the national stage vs Tennessee. When he wasn’t making Vols QB Justin Worley run for his life he was stout against the pass in space. Phenomenal on tape exploding off the edge and loves to play in the backfield. I believe he eventually plays his way into the first round.

OG Adam Shead: Good arm length and quickness, needs to work on his feet though. Can tend to have bad technique at the point of attack up field.

OT Daryl Williams: Back to back All Big 12 honors for Williams. Looks the part of a stellar prospect but doesn’t always use his body the way he should. Room to improve.

DE Charles Tapper: 5 technique defensive end in the 3-4 scheme, Tapper gives the Sooners good flexibility along their front 7. Only 1 sack on the season so far, but he has played well on film.

Other prospects: OT Tyrus Thompson, ILB Frank Shannon, K Michael Hunnicutt, TE Blake Bell, CB Julian Wilson, DT Chuka Ndulue, DE Geneo Grissom

West Virginia prospects

QB Clint Trickett: Not one of the more talked about QB prospects around, but he has a chance to be. Light up Alabama (365 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 picks, 65% comp.) and Oklahoma in the same season and you’re going to be noticed. He can run when he has too and has improving footwork in the pocket. Good touch on short to medium range passes.

WR Kevin White: Had an enormous game vs Maryland last week going for 216 yards and 1 touchdown on 13 catches. Had 9 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown vs Alabama on opening weekend. A bigger target (6’3, 210 lbs), White just knows how to get open and has strong hands. Easily WVU’s go-to guy.

DE Shaquille Riddick, OG Mark Glowinski

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#22 Clemson vs #1 Florida State 8:00 ABC

The big story here is FSU QB and Heisman contender Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first half after he was seen shouting an obscene sexual phrase in the campus student union Tuesday. Another ‘not that serious, but what are you doing’ moment for Winston as he potentially can really put his team in a hole. Sophomore QB Sean Maguire will make his first career start under the bright lights agaisnt a talented and experienced Clemson defense. He is essentially being given the keys to the Lexus and being asked not to crash it. The explosive Clemson defensive front was flat out worn down at Georgia week 1 in the second half, but I think they hang tougher Saturday night (After all, no Todd Gurley for FSU). Vegas saw this as a complete mismatch, a 3 touchdown spread pre-Jameis being Jameis. Clemson is unsure at their QB position, as we may see up to even 3 players take snaps for the Tigers depending how the game goes. They will rely on their experienced defense to step up and make plays. Jameis will play in the second half, and as long as SO QB Sean Maguire doesn’t ‘crash the car’ in the first half I believe Florida State will win close. There’s just something about this team that I don’t believe in. They should run the table, but I see them losing a game they are expected to win at some point this year. Wouldn’t be shocked if it’s Clemson Saturday night.

QB Jameis Winston: Will be very interested to see how he starts the second half, particularly if things don’t go well right away.

RB Karlos Williams: Wasn’t a huge factor in the Cowboys Classic vs Oklahoma State. Nonetheless, I still like what I see from him. Possess the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield which will serve him well at the next level.

WR Rashad Greene: Where Williams didn’t make a big impact vs Oklahoma State in the opener, Greene picked up the slack and then some (11 catches, 203 yards, 1 touchdown). Great route runner and great hands. I love Greene as a pro prospect.

TE Nick O’Leary: Still not convinced he’s the best TE in America, but there is no denying his talented skill set. Scored for the first time against the Citadel in their most recent game, would like to see more of that consistently throughout conference play.

OT Cameron Erving: Considered a top five OT prospect by most at the start of the year and he’s done nothing to disprove that so far. Erving could be a first round pick next spring.

CB P.J. Williams: Was caught in some bad positions against Oklahoma State at times but all in all played well. Should be a first round pick if he plays like he can all year long.

DE Mario Edwards Jr.: Explosive, explosive, and more explosive off the line. Had a sack on opening night but got hurt a week later vs The Citadel (ankle). Said he’s fine and expects to play Saturday.

Other prospects: CB Ronald Darby, OG Tre Jackson, SS Tyler Hunter, DT Desmond Hollin

Clemson prospects

DE Vic Beasley: Must admit, not as high on Beasley as most. Not that it’s a bad thing, I just don’t see him as an instant impact guy at the next level (yet) as everyone else seems to believe. He is a playmaker no doubt, registering 13 sacks last season. I just think he doesn’t have phenomenal size and he’s a one dimensional player, unable to be an impactful run defender. Nonetheless, he’s currently slated to be a middle of the first round pick.

ILB Stephone Anthony: A big and physical linebacker. Will close on the hole downhill and smack somebody in the backfield. Tough to move and is good off blocks. Complete liability in pass coverage and doesn’t have great range. Not great at comparisons, but he reminds me of a younger Brandon Spikes on film.

DT Grady Jarrett: Good against the run. Plugs holes and can hold off blockers for the linebackers. Quick on his feet and can get through the offensive line with good athleticism for his size. I really like what I see of Jarrett when I broke down his film.

DE Corey Crawford: At 6’5, 270 lbs Crawford is quite the athlete to deal with opposite Vic Beasley. Great wingspan and a good first step. Good against the run and improving in pass rush situations. Him and Beasley must get to the FSU QB’s early and often to hang around in Tallahassee.

 

Some other games of note this weekend include Georgia Tech vs Virginia Tech, noon ESPN, Virginia vs #21 BYU 3:30 ESPN, Rutgers vs Navy, 3:30 CBS Sports Network, Miami vs #24 Nebraska, 8:00 ESPN2

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