Welcome to Prospect Preview: a firsthand guide of who to keep an eye on when you’re 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.
These will be the games that I’m watching this weekend.
Click here for Player Rankings for information on some of the prospects.
Auburn Tigers at Mississippi State Bulldogs – 12:00 EST ESPN
When Auburn has the ball:
We touched on Auburn last week, but RB Onterio McCalebb will once again have a chance to highlight his speed and ability to miss against a solid Bulldog defense led by CB Johnthan Banks. Banks will most likely be opposite of Tigers WR Emory Blake and will be one of the better matchups to watch in this game. Banks is a long 6’2 and possesses tremendous ball skills and entered the season as my number one ranked senior CB.
As far as other defensive prospect for the Bulldogs, keep a lookout for run stuffing DT Josh Boyd and OLB Cameron Lawrence. Boyd is a well-built DT that shows plus athleticism for his size. Boyd constantly found himself last season behind the line of scrimmage and should be in-line for a solid season.
Lawrence led the Bulldogs with 123 tackles last season and also added 2 interceptions.
When Mississippi State has the ball:
WR Chad Bumphis isn’t an overall impressive looking WR, but he has an intriguing skill set that could make him an option at the next level. Look for a potential matchup against Auburn CB T’Sharvan Bell who is still working his way back froma gruesome knee injury last season.
Florida Gators at Texas A&M Aggies – 3:30 EST ESPN
When Florida has the ball:
There are several solid prospects ion this game, but many of the top draft targets are underclassmen, For the Gators not much on offense other than PFA WR Omarius Hines who could matchup against CB Dustin Harris for A&M.
Texas A&M also has a couple of solid LBs led by OLB Sean Porter, one of the top seniors in this draft and ILB Johnathan Stewart.
Porter is extremely explosive and his closing speed is second to none. He knows how to get around blockers, and shows great football IQ. But what makes him appealing to NFL teams is his versatility.
Stewart led the Aggies in tackles last season and at 6’4 237, defiantly looks like an ILB at the next level. At this point he’s considered a late round target.
When Texas A&M has the ball:
This is the time to watch. Texas A&M’s trio of RB Christine Michael and WR’s Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu vs. the Gatos defense led by DT Omar Hunter, MLB Jon Bostic, and FS Josh Evans.
Michael is a very physical RB that won’t go down on first contact. His balance is probably his most impressive trait, and runs with good low center of gravity. This will be a good test for him against a solid defense.
Washington Huskies at LSU Tigers – 6:00 EST ESPN
When Washington has the ball:
Not much to report on as far as seniors are concerned, but there are a handful of juniors to watch. I will go in depth at a later time but, Huskies QB Kevin Price, LSU DE’s Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, ILB Kevin Minter, and S Eric Reid are the junior who will stand out above everyone else.
When LSU has the ball:
RT Alex Hurst will now be under a bigger microscope with LT junior Chris Faulk now out for the season. Hurst has nice size and is a day 2 pick this April. For the Huskies, watch CB Desmond Trufant who could be a second round pick. Trufant has speed, length and ball skills that NFL teams will covet.
LSU C PJ Lonergan and TE Chase Clement are also a couple more potential late rounds picks to watch.
Georgia Bulldogs at Missouri Tigers – 7:45 EST ESPN 2
When Georgia has the ball:
Last season WR Tavarres King flirted with going pro, but ended staying for his senior season and is one of the better senior WRs. Last week against Buffalo recorded 6 catches for 117 yards. A matchup against CB Kip Edwards should be a good one to watch.
WR Marlon Brown missed the team’s first game, and was limited in practices this week. If he does play, you’ll notice Brown’s elite size at 6’5 222 lbs. He has soft hands and runs well despite his large frame.
Aside from Kip Edwards, Missouri has a couple more prospects on each level of the defense. DE Brad Madison is solid DE with good pass rushing skills. He recorded a sack in last week’s victory, and has a good motor with active hands
The other person is OLB Zaviar Gooden, who will make you notice him. He finished with 6 tackles, 2 of which went for a loss, and an interception that he returned for 20 yards. He is quick with nice sideline-to-sideline speed. He plays physical and doesn’t shy away from contact. A solid 2012 could force Gooden into becoming a Top 75-100 pick.
When Missouri has the ball:
WR TJ Moe looks to take advantage of secondary that will be missing S Baccari Rambo and CB Sanders Commings. Bulldogs CB Branden Smith will be forced to matchup against the Tiger’s spread offense.
Another matchup to keep an eye on is LT Elvis Fisher vs. the Bulldogs O-line, including DE Cornelius Washington. Will Washington use his size/speed combo to get in the backfield.
NT John Jenkins is a true 3-4 NT who does an absolute fantastic job clogging run lanes. The tigers could have a tough time move the ball on the ground in the middle of that Georgia defense.
Illinois Fighting Illini at Arizona State Sun Devils – 9:30 EST ESPN
When Illinois has the ball:
The main prospect of note for Illinois when they are on offense is C Graham Pocic. At 6’7 he’s very tall for a C, but he moves well in space and dominates in the run game. Potentially he could move to Guard in the NFL.
For the Sun Devils, focus on OLB Brandon Magee and FS Keelan Johnson. LB Brandon Magee missed all of last season, but made a nice return back to action when he returned an interception for a TD. He’s not the tallest LB, but he’s quick in space, and very active.
Keelan Johnson is a nice safety who made a minimal impact in a week 1 victory over Northern Arizona. Doesn’t really excel in specific area, and at this point isn’t a draftable prospect.
When ASU has the ball:
RB Cameron Marshall has NFL size, but lacks sped to really be a factor at the next level. He’s more of a bruising RB who gets the tough yardage. He finished last week with only 14 yards on carries, but did score tow TD’s. Junior RB Marion Grice is the more dynamic of the tow RBs, and could steal carries from Marshall as the season goes one.
The Illini defense carries the best two prospects in this game with CB Terry Hawthorne and DE Michael Buchanan.
For Hawthorne I really like his awareness and he’s extremely quick to react to plays and covers sideline-to-sideline very effectively. Does have some versatility as a returner and pass catcher as well. Entered he season as my #3 rated senior CB.
Michael Buchanan stood out more than last year’s first round pick Whitney Mercilus on several occasions. Despite his limited size, Buchanan has a lethal first step and brings a variety of pass rushing moves to the table. 2012 should be a really big year for him, and look for Buchanan to fly up most DE rankings.