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.
Southern Miss vs. Nebraska – 3:30 EST ABC/ESPN2
When Southern Miss has the ball:
There isn’t much on the Southern Miss offensive that you should look for other than OT Jason Weaver. He was a second team All-CUSA last season after coming from the JUCO ranks. At 6’5 302 pounds, he might be better suited inside at Guard.
DE Cameron Meredith and DT Baker Steinkuhler is a pair of mid-to-late round defensive lineman to keep an eye on. Steinkuhler was a top recruit coming out of the prep ranks, but never really dominated like many hoped. He has nice size and show the ability to stop the run and plug running lanes. Meredith isn’t flashy, but he’s both better than average against the run as well as the pass.
When Nebraska has the ball:
Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead will get the touches and yards, and is defiantly at RB at the next level. He runs hard and tough to bring down. Nebraska also has a pair of TE’s who should play at the next level with Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed. Both had 15 receptions and are solid blocking TE’s as well.
Southern Miss LB Jaime Collins is the best prospect on this field. He’s ideal for 3-4 teams and has exceptional speed. Lives in the backfield with his quick first step, and looks very comfortable in space. 1st round potential.
Clemson vs. Auburn – 7:00 EST ESPN
When Clemson has the ball:
I have Clemson RB Andre Ellington as my number one senior RB heading into the season. He’s explosive and creative in open space. I want to see him develop more as a receiver to maintain that ranking. C Dalton Freeman should get a look late into the draft as a good run-blocking center.
I’m interested in seeing how CB T’Sharvan Bell can come back after a gruesome knee injury last season. In the past he has shown solid ball skills and good speed. Not sure he’s a draftable prospect, but he could stick around as a priority free agent.
When Auburn has the ball:
RB Onterio McCalebb finally gets his chance to shine. He’s a versatile RB who can contribute in many ways and that will appeal to NFL teams. TE Phillip Lutzenkirchen is a versatile pass-catcher with soft hands and WR Emory Blake has day 2 potential. Blake is an above average route runner who has yet to show his entire skill set due to inconsistent QB play.
DE Malliciah Goodman is a solid DE prospect but doesn’t really doing anything great. Teams in the 4-3 looking for a solid run stuffer with potential to be a good pass rusher will find interest in Goodman in the mid-rounds. SS Rashad Hall is great in run support and but lacks the speed to be a solid cover guy. Hall was Clemson’s leading tackler last season with 89 tackles.
Wyoming vs. Texas – 8:00 EST Longhorn Network
When Wyoming has the ball:
DE Alex Okafor should have a field day against the Wyoming OTs. He’s versatile and has the ability to play standing up and with his hand on the ground. I want to see if he got stronger against the run, which is an area that could use improvement.
FS Kenny Vaccaro will also make his presence felt. He can play either S spot, but excels when he can play close to the line and us his strength to stop the run.
When Texas has the ball:
Fresh off an Olympic appearance, WR Marquise Goodwin will show scouts what he can do on the football field. He has great long speed with solid hands that will appeal to scouts. I want to see if his route running has improved over the course of the offseason. WR DJ Monroe could also catch scouts eye’s with his versatility and home run ability.
For the Cowboys, SS Luke Ruff is a guy that forces you to notice him. He registered over 100 tackles last season and does a good job in run support. It will be interesting to see him against the trio of Longhorns RBs
Michigan vs. Alabama – 8:00 EST ABC
When Michigan has the ball:
It’s going to be tough to truly scout QB Denard Robinson because he’s not a QB at the next level. He will have to make a move to either RB or WR, so when you watch him, see how he operates in space. He has quick feet and can make people miss. WR Roy Roundtree brings experience to the WR spot and will be asked to become a playmaker for the Wolverines with the departure of Junior Hemingway. Roundtree isn’t the biggest WR, but he does ability after the catch and shows solid hands. OG Patrick Omameh is a strong run blocker with experience for the Wolverines.
Alabama offers a trio of prospects on the defensive line led by DT Jesse Williams. Williams will appeal to 3-4 teams as a run stuffing NT. DE Damion Square is above-average run stuffing DE who started for the ‘Tide last season while DE Quinton Dial is a fringe prospect with potential as a 5-tech in a 3-4.
I’ve given OLB Nico Johnson a conservative pre-season grade since he has yet to be “the guy” for Alabama, but this season is a great opportunity and is someone I’m really looking forward to seeing.
In the secondary, SS Robert Lester will be all over the place. 2012 could be somewhat of a make or break season for Lester in terms of draft stock. With Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron both playing in the NFL, Lester will have a bigger spotlight on him this season. He’s a centerfielder-type who has excellent ball skills and plays solid man coverage.
Juniors to watch: OT Taylor Lewan for Michigan and LB CJ Mosley and CB Dee Millner for Alabama
When Alabama has the ball:
Alabama has two first round prospects playing right next to each other in OG Chance Warmack and C Barrett Jones. Even though Jones will at center, he has the ability to play anywhere on the line, and is arguably the best lineman prospect in this draft.
TE Michael Williams is big specimen who does an excellent job as a 3rd OT on the line in running situations. If he could develop as a WR, than his stock will certainly be on the rise.
For Michigan, they have someone on each level that you should keep an eye on. DE Craig Roh has a solid skill set and should be comfortable in either the 3-4 as a 5-tech, or in the 4-3. Roh is very physical and strong at the point of attack.
ILB Kenny Demens was the Wolverines leading tackler, and aside from Mike Martin, their best defender. He finished the season with 94 tackles and 3 sacks. Demens is a true MLB for a 4-3, and could also play inside in a 3-4.
At safety Jordan Kovacs is a solid in the box safety that has shown struggles against the pass.
Juniors to Watch: RB Eddie Lacy and OT DJ Fluker for Alabama
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports