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NCAA Football

NFL Draft: Prospect Preview – Week 1 (Thurs. Games)

Welcome to Prospect Preview. A first hand guide of who to keep an eye on when your watching this weekend’s game. For now I’m focusing on seniors, especially early in the season, because while Juniors are usually the bulk of first round selections, we just don’t know who will declare.

Click here for Player Rankings for information on some of the prospects.

South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt – 7:00 PM EST ESPN

When South Carolina has the ball:

The obvious one is the Gamecocks Marcus Lattimore, but since I’m focusing on seniors early in the season, keep an eye on C TJ Johnson. He has great size and heading into the season has a draftable grade. He had 13 starts last season and was a 3rd team SEC selection. Johnson does a great job opening running lanes in the middle of the line for Lattimore and should be a riser as the season goes on.

Others to watch:

South Carolina’s RB Kenny Miles and TE Justice Cunningham and for the Vandy defense, CB Trey Wilson and DT Rob Lohr

When Vanderbilt has the ball:

This is when you should watch the game. Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers, younger brother of Aaron, has a solid arm, but must improve on his accuracy and decision making. RB Zac Stacy offers intriguing size and any RB who has had success in the SEC is enough to keep an eye on. Stacy rushed for almost 1,200 yards in the SEC last season along with 14 TD’s.

South Carolina has several defensive prospects, led by DE Devin Taylor. At 6’8 he has great size and nice burst off the line and will appeal to either 4-3 or 3-4 teams in the NFL. In the Linebacking corps, Shaq Wilson at ILB, and Devonte Holloman are two guys to watch. Keep an eye on Holloman; the hybrid defender has good speed with solid size which is way South Carolina moved him to OLB. He projects to more as a Safety in the NFL. In the secondary, DJ Swearinger looks like a mid-round prospect after finishing with 80 tackles and 3 interceptions last season.

Others to Watch:

Vanderbilt’s OG Josh Jelesky and South Carolina’s DT Byron Jerideau

UCF vs. Akron – 7:00 PM EST ESPN3

When UCF has the ball:

Not much pro potential in this game, but there are a few sleepers to keep your eye on. OG Theo Goins was an honorable mention CUSA selection and has started 22 games in his career. At 6’4 317 he has NFL size.

Others to Watch:

UCF’s C Jordan Rae and WR Quincy McDuffie and Akron’s S Josh Richmond and LB Troy Gilmer

When Akron has the ball:

UCF’s S Kemal Ishmael is the best pro prospect in this game. He led the Golden Knights in tackles last season and has solid size. Look for an improvement on his ball skills in this game; he had zero interceptions and only 2.5 pbu’s last season.

Others to Watch:

UCF’s DE Troy Davis and Akron’s WR Marquel Suel

Washington State vs. BYU – 10:15 EST ESPN

When Washington State has the ball:

Marquess Wilson will jump off the screen, but as far as senior prospects, you’re going to want to keep an eye on QB Jeff Tuel. He has nice size and with Mike Leach’s offense he will put up gaudy numbers. He’s an underrated athlete and shows intelligence on the field that could make him a reliable #2 in the league.

BYU has a pair of LBs to keep an eye on in OLB Brandon Ogletree and ILB Uona Kaveings. Kaveinga is the one you want to watch. He was named to the Butkus Award Watch list and shows solid quickness and sideline-to-sideline ability.

Other to Watch:

BYU’s DT Romney Fuga and DE Eathyn Manumaleuna. For Washington St WR Gino Simone could impress in the Cougars open offense

When BYU has the ball:

OG for the Cougars Braden Hansen should be a day two pick in April and is the top senior prospect in this game. He possesses excellent strength and is a mauler in the run game. He will be going up against an experienced defensive line, so he gets a solid test out of the gate.

OLB Travis Long will appeal to NFL team who run the 3-4. With the Cougars moving to a new 3-4 alignment, Long will have his chance to show what he can do. As a DE last season, he finished with 8 sacks and 3 tackles for a loss. His high motor is something you should easily notice.

Others to Watch:

BYU QB Riley Nelson and Washington St Saferty Tyree Toomer.

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Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports

Follow him on Twitter @JeremyCabler and @RantSports