NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
A slower Saturday on the big game front? Perhaps. However the top NFL Draft prospects won’t be taking the weekend off – and neither should your television. Here are the most prospect oriented games to keep an eye on.
#22 BYU vs Michigan 12:00 ABC
Michigan has been trending upwards since Week 1, but possibly face their toughest test yet with BYU. Quarterback play will be big in this noon showdown. Michigan QB Jake Rudock has already thrown five interceptions, and likely won’t be able to overcome those mistakes against a talented BYU front. Freshmen BYU QB Tanner Mangum has played well thus far in a fill in role, but will likely need to go out and ‘win’ the game in the Big House as opposed to last week vs UCLA where the Cougars’ offense got extremely conservative with a fourth quarter lead on the road. I expect an ugly, close game. Cougars by a touchdown.
CB Wayne Lyons: Arguably Michigan’s top prospect, the Stanford transfer hasn’t been as much in the plans as many would have thought so far, however I expect that to change as the season carries on.
OLB James Ross III: Strong at the point of attack, Ross has been critical for the Big Blue defense thus far and has a shot to be a mid-late round prospect.
ILB Joe Bolden: Banks on his overall toughness and anticipation, has been a stout defender so far in 2015 and like Ross, has a good chance to hear his name called this spring.
Other prospects: DE Mario Ojemudia, OLB Desmond Morgan, FS Jarrod Wilson
DE Bronson Kaufusi: Quarterback prone to mistakes, especially in a dirty pocket. You may hear his name often vs Michigan.
WR Mitch Mathews: The senior was a major threat last week for 9 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown and figures to be a big part of the plans again to help his freshmen quarterback.
Other prospects: OT Ryker Mathews, WR Devon Blackmon
Tennessee vs Florida 3:30 CBS
Crucial SEC East matchup in The Swamp Saturday afternoon. Tennessee, losers of 10 straight in this rivalry, absolutely has to win to stay alive in the SEC East race. Tennessee is the more talented team, but has Tennessee’d multiple games in this rivalry over the last decade (as they did with Oklahoma), so this game is truly a tossup. It pairs two of the top cornerbacks in the country, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III and Tennessee’s Cam Sutton, both worth keeping an eye on. Also worth watching, a pair of 2017 NFL Draft RB prospects in Vols’ RB Jalen Hurd and Gators’ RB Kelvin Taylor. My gut tells me otherwise, but it means more to Tennessee, they are more talented, so I’ll take the Vols by 1 single point.
CB Vernon Hargreaves III: Widely regarded as the top CB in this class, Hargreaves III will likely not be matched up with just one guy, as Tennessee (for a reason not yet determined) will play 10-11 receivers.
WR Demarcus Robinson: Just three catches for 16 yards last week vs Kentucky, the Junior WR will have to get more involved for Florida to beat the Vols.
DE Jonathan Bullard: Versatile defender who lines up all over the field, Bullard was just named SEC defensive lineman of the week and is the main Gator to watch in the front-7.
CB Cam Sutton: I’ve been high on Sutton for quite a while now, and he hasn’t disappointed so far this year. The Vols have really struggled with their CB2 situation, but Sutton has been rock solid on defense and in the return game.
FS LaDarrell McNeil: He thought his season was over with a neck injury, only to return with an interception last week vs Western Carolina. McNeil is crucial to the back end of the defense, and although he lacks the ideal speed he makes up for it with anticipation and decisiveness.
QB Joshua Dobbs: I’ll be honest, after a lot of offseason hype I haven’t been impressed with Dobbs, nor new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. I’d like to see DeBord take the training wheels off this offseason before I get too brash with Dobbs however. It goes without saying, Dobbs must play well Saturday for a Vols’ win.
Other prospects: SS Brian Randolph, WR Pig Howard, WR Von Pearson, OG Kyler Kerbyson, OLB Curt Maggit (Hurt)
#9 UCLA vs #16 Arizona 8:00 ABC
UCLA has been hampered by injuries to stars while starting a freshmen quarterback, however remain road favorites in a hostile environment. Call me crazy, but that math doesn’t add up. I expect Arizona QB Anu Solomon to have a big night. All of the talk is on UCLA QB Josh Rosen (3 picks last week), but I think Solomon will be the true game changer. Big story here is UCLA CB Ishmael Adams (first-team All-Pac 12) has been reinstated, and should help a somewhat depleted defense. I expect a track meet, won by the home team. Give me the upset, 38-31.
DT Kenny Clark: Once he was the “forgotten star” in L.A., now he’s the man. Clark has been off to a fabulous start and looks to carry his dominance on the road and shut down a high flying Arizona offense.
CB Ishmael Adams: This 2017 Draft prospect was just reinstated to the program, and in just the nick of time as star CB Fabian Moreau is done for the season.
OLB Myles Jack: Devastating blow for Jack and the Bruins D, as Jack is out for the year (knee). It is UCLA’s third major season ending injury, joining DT Eddie Vanderdoes and CB Fabian Moreau.
WR Jordan Payton, WR Devin Fuller, C Jake Brendel
WR Cayleb Jones: Bigger body WR (6’3 215lbs) with nice fluidity for his ideal size, Jones has some room to go with legitimate upside. He lacks in his overall burst and speed, but could find a niche at the next level. He is questionable for Saturday.
LB Scooby Wright: A top 2017 prospect, Wright is practicing this week and may play after having surgery on a torn meniscus after the season opener.
Other prospects: OT Lene Maiava, DE Reggie Gilbert
#18 Utah vs #13 Oregon 8:30 FOX
I’m not jumping off the Ducks’ bandwagon just yet. Up next for the Ducks, Devontae Booker and the Utah Utes. I mention Booker first due to the simple fact that as Booker goes Saturday night, the Utes will go. My over/under on Booker carries is set at 32.5 (I like over). Meanwhile, Oregon comes into this game still trying to figure out exactly who they are. QB Vernon Adams Jr., even with the finger injury, Adams has played well for Oregon but hasn’t hit full throttle just yet. Prospect wise, I’m waiting to see these highly talked about Oregon playmakers help their QB and contribute with a big night. I think Utah hangs around, makes more than a few people in Eugene nervous, but eventually lose to the Ducks 34-30.
RB Devontae Booker: An absolute bell cow, Booker has carried the rock 31 times in back-to-back games. He may see even more than that total Saturday night to try and quiet the Autzen Zoo.
ILB Jared Norris: Goes without saying, ILB is critical to any defense trying to contain the Ducks. His speed will be tested, interesting to see how he stacks up.
DE Jason Fanaika: Former walk-on, Fanaika has earned everything he has received so far. Oregon is a prime game to launch his name into the NFL Draft talk for good with a solid outing Saturday.
OLB Jason Whittingham, P Tom Hackett
DL DeForest Buckner: This top prospect was stonewalled all too often in my opinion vs Michigan State, but bounced back to record his first sack of the season vs overmatched Georgia State last week. This Buckner figures to line up in and out vs Utah, which should only help him at the next level.
WR Bralon Addison: Addison showed up big time in the Ducks’ only real contest this year, snagging 7 passes for 138 yards vs Michigan State. He remains Oregon’s best threat out wide.
WR Byron Marshall: He needs to get involved. In 3 games, Marshall has caught just 8 passes (2 touchdowns) for 119 yards.
QB Vernon Adams Jr: He claim’s his index finger on his throwing hand (which is broken) is fine, however he remains a gametime decision. I believe in Adams as a developmental prospect, and hope we get to see this electric playmaker Saturday night broken finger or not.
Other prospects: LT Tyler Johnstone OG Matt Hegarty, OLB Christian French, ILB Joe Walker, OLB Tyson Coleman, DT Alex Balducci
Tags: Arizona, BYU, Cameron Sutton, Cayleb Jones, DeForest Buckner, Demarcus Robinson, Devontae Booker, Florida, Ishmael Adams, Jonathon Bullard, Josh Dobbs, Kenny Clark, LaDarrell McNeil, Michigan, Myles Jack, Oregon, Scooby Wright, Tennessee, UCLA, Utah, Vernon Hargreaves III