Oklahoma State 52, Kansas State 45
Another Saturday in the Big XII, and another shoot out filled with big plays on the offensive side of the ball. Oklahoma State is ranked second in the nation and the big reason for that is their high-powered offense led by quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Against the Wildcats, the duo had another prolific night through the air to lead the Cowboys to a 9-0 record.
Oklahoma State started the game fast with two touchdown drives. Weeden and Blackmon started connecting early and often with nobody in the Kansas State secondary able to defend Blackmon. Halfway through the first quarter, with the Cowboys up 7-0, the duo got in the end zone for the first time. A quick pass at the line of scrimmage saw Blackmon shove aside the cornerback and run 11 yards for a touchdown.
It wasn't all good against Kansas State as Weeden and Blackmon each had some bad mistakes that hurt Oklahoma State. Late in the first quarter, Blackmon muffed a punt that was recovered by Kansas State. It was a critical mistake which set up the Wildcats at the 23-yard line of the Cowboys.
Weeden threw a few interceptions in the first half. The second one was a terrible throw. He telegraphed the pass on an out route, and the pass was jumped by cornerback Alan Chapman. He returned it 60 yards for a touchdown, giving Kansas State a 24-14 lead over Oklahoma State.
After that play, the Cowboys circled the wagons and started to light up the scoreboard some more. Weeden led a field-goal drive and then threw his second touchdown pass to wide receiver Tracy Moore. He was running wide open across the back of the end zone. It was an easy five-yard touchdown pass for the Oklahoma State signal caller.
On the final possession before halftime, Weeden used his star receiver to move the ball downfield. Blackmon came back with a 14-yard catch on a dig route over the middle. The catch set up the Cowboys at the Wildcats� seven-yard line. Later in the first half, on a third-and-seven, Blackmon had about a 20-yard gain on an out route. The next play saw him make a catch of about 12 yards. He made five catches on the drive to set up a field goal just before halftime. At halftime, Oklahoma State was winning 27-24.
On a touchdown run in the third quarter, Blackmon had a good block on the perimeter to help spring running back Joseph Randle into the end zone. Coaches are going to love to see the potential that Blackmon has to be an edge run blocker. The 6-foot-1, 211-pounder uses his strength to get into defensive backs and doesn't shy away from contact.
In the third quarter, Blackmon caught a short cross and started weaving his way through the defense. He was tackled a couple yards short of the end zone and dropped the ball while fighting for extra yards. Kansas State recovered the ball in the end zone.
Blackmon answered by catching a deep post for a gain of about 30 yards. With just under five minutes left in the game, Oklahoma State was down 38-37. Blackmon burned one-on-one coverage with a double move for a 54-yard touchdown. Running a dig route, he slowed down after making his first cut. Blackmon then turned and burst up field to get open. Weeden's pass hit him in stride and he raced down the field for the touchdown. The next play, Blackmon caught a two-point conversion running across the end zone.
All night Blackmon tore through zone coverage, and burned the cornerbacks when they tried to play man. The only players who could stop Weeden and Blackmon were themselves. In the game, the receiver caught 13 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. His fumbles shouldn't hurt his draft stock. Unless, he sustains an injury or has off-the-field problems, he looks like a lock to be the first wide receiver drafted next April.
In the game, Weeden completed 36-of-46 passes for 502 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. If weren't for his age, 28, he would be ranked much higher. Weeden does need to work on his field vision since at times he locks on receivers and doesn't look through his progressions. Weeden looks like a third-day pick right now.
The Cowboys� offensive line played well against Kansas State. Senior offensive tackle Levy Adcock has had some bad games this year, along with some solid performances. He played a lot of right tackle against the Wildcats and performed much better against them than his other opponents. Adcock entered the season as the Cowboys left tackle, but injuries have forced them to flip him back and forth between left and right tackle.
In the NFL, the 6-foot-6, 318-pounder should stay at right tackle or move inside to guard. He did a good job of blocking for Randle in the game, and was solid in pass protection. This game should help Adcock�s draft stock and he looks like a third-rounder right now.
Oklahoma State safety Markelle Martin had a decent game for the Cowboys. He made a nice tackle for no gain. Martin shed a block from a receiver and put a big hit on a running back. He had a good tackle downfield to stop a run that could have been broken for a touchdown. A few plays later the player that Martin tackled, Tyler Lockett, beat him for a touchdown. Martin was covering him in man coverage, but he fell down and that let Lockett get open for a score.
Martin had three tackles and a pass broken up in the game. He looks like a second or third-round pick.
Kansas State has a few junior prospects who are more likely to be prospects for the 2013 draft. Safety Nigel Malone and defensive end Meshak Williams are both enjoying good seasons. Malone has six interceptions and Williams has six sacks.
Malone had some tackles in the back end of the defense and also contributed in run support. At times, it seemed that he got caught out of position on some passes downfield. Malone finished the game with seven tackles and a pass broken up. He should return to school and get better before going pro.
The same goes for Williams. He had two tackles in the game with a tackle for a loss. Williams didn't get a lot of pressure on the Cowboys quarterback. Against the Wildcats, Weeden had good time to throw yet there were plenty of pass rushing opportunities for Williams. Both he and Malone look like third-day picks if they decide to declare early.
LSU 9, Alabama 6
The heavyweight-title-fight proxy between Alabama and LSU was jam packed with future NFL players and early round draft picks. Here is a rundown of some of the upperclassmen who could be in the 2012 draft and what round projection they entered the game with.
RB Trent Richardson (first round)
LT Barrett Jones (first round)
C William Vlachos (second-day pick)
WR Marquis Maze (third-day pick)
TE Michael Williams (third-day pick)
OLB Courtney Upshaw (first round)
NT Josh Chapman (second-day pick)
ILB Dont'a Hightower (first or second-round pick)
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (first round)
S Mark Barron (second round)
S Robert Lester (second round)
QB Jarrett Lee (third-day pick)
QB Jordan Jefferson (third-day pick)
CB Morris Claiborne (first round)
WR Reuben Randle (first round)
RT Alex Hurst (third-day pick)
C/T Bob Hebert (third-day pick)
S Brandon Taylor (second or third-day pick)
Almost all of those players had significant performances that could impact their draft status. The player who touched the ball the most was Richardson, and he is in the running to be the first of these players to get drafted next April.
Richardson's first carry of the night went for 15 yards. Left tackle Barrett Jones had a great run block to help seal the edge. The next play Richardson caught a short pass and broke along the sideline for a gain of 22 yards. He then fumbled the ball out of bounds at the end of the play.
Richardson ran for 11 yards on his first carry of the second quarter, running over cornerback Tyrone Mathieu. Richardson had another run of close to 20 yards in the second quarter behind right tackle D.J. Fluker. On the same drive, Richardson made a huge play running a wheel route out of the backfield. He broke two tackles in the open field for a 39-yard gain before being brought down. That set up Alabama around the LSU 20-yard line. A few plays later the Crimson Tide got on the score board first with a field goal.
In the first half, Richardson ran for 51 yards on 11 carries. He also led Alabama in receiving at halftime with 62 yards on three receptions.
The Tigers� defense made some good adjustments and bottled up Richardson in the third quarter. He finally broke loose in the fourth quarter with a big run to help get the ball into LSU territory. Richardson had a few nice runs and a good reception on a screen pass. He finished the night with 88 yards on 23 carries. Richardson led Alabama in receiving with five receptions for 80 yards. This game shouldn't hurt or help his stock.
Barrett Jones is another player who could go in the first round next April. The junior left tackle has been putting together an excellent season after starring at right guard the past couple of seasons. Jones was playing really well early in the game and the Crimson Tide was having a lot of success running behind him. He also was solid in pass protection.
At times, Alabama moved Jones to tight end and next to Fluker. They ran behind their two powerful blockers for a big gain. Jones had a great block to seal the hole from the perimeter. In the second quarter, he had his man blocked only a yard behind the line of scrimmage, but quarterback A.J. McCarron ran up in the pocket and right to the defender for a sack.
On a third quarter interception, Jones was injured and went into the locker room with a leg injury. He returned to the field and played, but was hobbling. On the first third down of overtime, Jones had his man blocked, but McCarron held onto the ball way too long. He stepped up in the pocket and into Jones' defender.
Against LSU, Jones was a warrior and fought his butt off. He was playing an excellent game before the leg injury occurred. That seemed to zap him of his power and the ability to drive block. This game will impact Jones draft stock but whether is goes up or down will depend on how an evaluator views it. The positive view to push Jones up would be how he was playing before the injury. Other teams will be concerned about the injury and his effectiveness while playing injured. This performance really becomes beauty in the eye of the beholder.
A pass rusher who had a quality game was Courtney Upshaw. He had good pass rushes on a few occasions against the Tigers. Upshaw almost got to Jefferson for a sack after beating Hurst, but the big quarterback threw a 34-yard strike downfield to get inside the Alabama 10-yard line. In the third quarter, Upshaw was around the ankle of Jefferson when he dumped off a pass to avoid a sack. The next play saw Upshaw beat the left tackle with a bull rush and sack Jefferson as he stepped up in the pocket. Upshaw gave Hurst all he could handle and this game definitely is a detriment to Hurst's stock.
Against the run, Upshaw had some good plays as well and overall he had was a good night. The film definitely will show why he is a first-rounder and a leader to be the top outside linebacker selected next April.
Another potential first-round pick next April is Dre Kirkpatrick. The junior is in the running to be the top cornerback of the 2012 class. He had tight coverage on a pass to Randle downfield that forced an incompletion. Kirkpatrick had a big hit on quarterback Jordan Jefferson on a run in the second quarter. Just before halftime, Kirkpatrick broke up a pass on third-and-goal intended for Randle but was rightly called for holding on the play.
In the fourth quarter while covering a punt return, Kirkpatrick was hit in the neck with a forearm from cornerback Tyrone Mathieu. They had been trash talking each other all game, and Mathieu made a dumb penalty. Kirkpatrick got attention from the training staff after the play and had his game ended with that dirty play. He did a very good job of limiting Randle in the game as the big wide out had two catches for 19 yards. Kirkpatrick's draft stock should remain stable from this game.
A player who is making the case to be a first-round pick is Hightower. He played very well against LSU and is putting together a strong senior season. Hightower got good pressure on an interior blitz and a big hit on quarterback Jarrett Lee. Just before halftime, Hightower had a big run stuff at the two-yard line. Throughout the game the junior was a hard-nosed in the box defender. He also blasted Jefferson on an option run.
A play that had a real impact in the game came to the wide out Marquis Maze for had a big gain of about 15 yards. However, he hurt his ankle, and though able to return to the field, was limited, which really had an impact on Alabama.
Maze caught a clutch 15-yard catch in the fourth quarter to help move the ball for Alabama. He threw a pass from the wild cat in the fourth quarter but it was intercepted by Tigers safety Eric Reid. Maze had tight end Michael Williams wide open but he threw the ball too late and that allowed Reid to get back in position for an interception on the one-yard line.
The night got worse for Maze as he allowed a punt to get over his head. If Maze would have caught the punt, he would have saved his team 30 yards of field position. This game could hurt his stock, and it definitely doesn't help make the case for him to go higher than the third day.
A player who helped his stock against LSU was Mark Barron. The senior safety made two huge plays that could have helped his team get a victory. On a few plays, Barron had hard hits and good fills in run defense. In the third quarter, he made a great play that changed the game. On a deep out, Barron jumped a route and intercepted Lee. He returned the ball inside the five-yard line but a penalty on Chapman on the return put the ball at the 35-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, Barron made a huge play to force a punt. On third-and-short, he burst into the hole and stuffed the back from getting a first down. Barron had a real presence in the game and this should definitely help improve his stock. He could move up towards the top of the second round, and be in consideration to be the first safety drafted next April.
Barron's fellow starter at safety also helped his draft stock. Late in the first quarter Lee was intercepted by safety Robert Lester. The LSU signal caller threw to a double-covered wide receiver and it was an easy interception that flew right into the stomach of Lester.
Other than that play, Lester had tight coverage and didn't allow any big plays to get behind him. The junior helped his stock rise to be a second-round pick if he declares for the draft.
Josh Chapman had a mixed game against the Tigers. There were plays where he was blocked well and LSU was able to have success running at him. On the other hand, there were other plays where Chapman stuffed running lanes along the line. He made a big tackle on a run by Jefferson for a loss of one yard. Overall, Chapman should remain a second-day pick.
An Alabama player who may have hurt his stock was Vlachos. It was not an easy game as him had his hands full with the LSU defensive tackles. He allowed some penetration into the backfield on some run plays and on pass protection. There were plays that Vlachos blocked well. He battled and went back and forth with some good and bad plays, but didn't have a performance where Vlachos was winning constantly his matchups. This game could push him lower in the third round and possibly behind other center options.
One of the biggest stars of the game was Morris Claiborne. Though not tested much, he made huge plays that directly impacted the scoreboard. Claiborne had a fantastic pass breakup late in the first quarter. He recovered with the ball in the air and made a diving tip of ball in the end zone to prevent a touchdown.
Late in the third quarter, Claiborne made an even better play. He was covering the h-back out of the backfield, running an out route. Claiborne undercut the throw to pick off the pass and sprint down the sideline. His good return set up LSU inside the Alabama 20-yard line. That led to a game-tying field goal that would eventually force overtime.
Entering the game, Claiborne and Kirkpatrick were about neck-and-neck as the top cornerback eligible for the 2012 draft. After this game, Claiborne should move ahead of Kirkpatrick because of the dynamite play from Claiborne. With the performance he put together and his clutch plays, the Tigers corner made the case to be a top-10 pick next April.
Oklahoma 41, Texas A&M 25
While the game between Alabama and LSU earned more hype, the Big XII contest between Oklahoma and Texas A&M featured two future NFL quarterbacks unlike the Alabama-LSU grudge match. Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill both could be starting for NFL teams in the next few seasons. The junior Jones entered the game as a potential high first-round pick while the senior Tannehill looks like a second-day pick.
To get the day started, Jones was able to set up a score by going to his most trusted receiver, Ryan Broyles. Jones and Broyles are one of the most productive passing combinations in college football history. In the first half, they produced another big play. Jones got things going with a deep post to Broyles. The gain went for 57 yards as Broyles streaked downfield and was forced out of bounds at the 23-yard line. A play later, Jones had a weird pass that may have been tipped, and it was nearly intercepted. Broyles had a hiccup of his own with a rare drop in the second quarter.
Otherwise, the duo was kept reasonably quiet. Jones never got in rhythm in the first half. The Aggies mixed in some solid coverage and some pass rush to keep Jones from putting the ball in the end zone. The signal caller and Oklahoma had 10 points at half time.
In the third quarter, Jones and the Sooners exploded. He got the ball in the end zone a few times. On his first second-half touchdown pass, he threw a jump ball to the outside shoulder of wide receiver Jaz Reynolds. The sophomore reached out and made a one-handed catch a few yards shy of the end zone. He then fought off a defender and scored. It was a good throw, but an even better catch.
Midway through the third quarter, Jones had a receiver running free down the field but overthrew him. Later on in the drive, Jones made a nice play by scrambling for about 10 yards to set up a third-and short. After a conversion, he kept the ball moving with about a 30-yard gain to Broyles. The senior receiver came open running across the field so Jones tossed the ball into him. Broyles broke away from a defender grabbing his jersey then burst downfield and weaved through some defenders. He hurt his left leg on the play while being tackled and landing on the ground knee first.
Broyles� knee injury looked significant, and he was in tears on the sideline. Broyles needed assistance to get into locker room and did not return to the game. He had two catches for 87 yards in the game. If Broyles� knee injury requires major surgery to repair a torn ligament, it could dramatically impact his draft status. He entered the game as a solid second-round pick. Now his draft stock is unclear, at least until the nature of his injury is known.
Also in the second half, Jones tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide out Kenny Stills. He had plenty of time to throw, and Stills ran by the cornerback to get wide open. It was an easy pass for Jones and an easy catch for Stills to get in the end zone.
It wasn't the biggest or best game of Jones career, but he made enough big plays to lead his team to a good win. He wasn't as accurate as usual and missed some passes downfield that he normally completes. For the game, Jones completed 18-of-38 passes for 255 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. His stock should remain stable.
Overall, it was a rough night for Tannehill. He made a number of mistakes and his teammates hurt him with a lot of dropped passes. To get things started, he had a good completion on third-and-long to wide receiver Jeff Fuller for about a 12-yard gain a first down. A few plays later, Tannehill had wide receiver Ryan Swope running open into the end zone but he overthrew him, so the Aggies had to settle for a field goal.
On the next drive, Tannehill threw a bad pass on a third-and-4. He felt some backside pressure from defensive end Frank Alexander. Tannehill threw into double coverage and there was no opening. The ball was picked off and returned to the Aggies� 20-yard line. Fortunately for him, his defense came through with a big sack and forced a punt.
Later in the second quarter, Tannehill made a nice throw on a boot leg. He had a receiver running across the field with him and was open. It was a 28-yard gain that set up the Aggies around the 20-yard line. Just before halftime, Tannehill had a big strike to his leading receiver. The A&M signal caller was flushed from the pocket and saw Swope had beaten linebacker Travis Lewis. The linebacker looked inside when he saw Tannehill start to scramble. Swope broke deep and it was too late as Tannehill lofted the ball in and the wide out sprinted down the field for a 79-yard touchdown. That score made it 13-10 Oklahoma heading into halftime.
In the third quarter, Tannehill made some questionable decisions. He threw some passes away on third down when rather than running for yards and maybe a first down. Tannehill was having a number of passes batted away at the line of scrimmage. It looked like he was letting the ball out too low and telegraphing his windup on some throws. On one pass that was batted into the air, it ended up being intercepted by defensive end Ronnell Lewis. That interception led to a short touchdown drive for Oklahoma.
Later in the third quarter, Tannehill was intercepted again. He threw the ball behind and off the mark to Fuller along the sideline downfield. Cornerback Jamell Fleming was in better position and intercepted the ball. He was all over Fuller while running the route and got away with a penalty on the play. Still, it was a bad throw and decision by Tannehill. A play later, Jones threw a touchdown pass for Oklahoma.
Oklahoma exploded for 28 points in the third quarter, and in the fourth quarter the game was out of reach for the Aggies. Tannehill threw a short touchdown pass to running back Cyrus Gray in garbage time. Not helping A&M�s chances of a comeback was Tannehill throwing a number of good passes that were dropped. In the game, The Aggies may have had five or six dropped passes. Early in the first half with the score close, Fuller had a bad drop in the end zone. The ball was lofted into him in the end zone and while he was stretched out for the pass, it bounced off his hands to fall incomplete and force a field goal attempt that was missed.
It was another frustrating game and a bad performance from the senior Fuller. He had two or three dropped passes in the game. Fuller ran a dig and caught about a 12-yard gain in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, he got behind the secondary and was running wide open down the field. Tannehill laid it out for him, but Fuller didn't have the speed to run the pass down. Tannehill should have thrown a more accurate ball to at least get a completion if not a touchdown.
For the game, the Aggies quarterback was 32-of-64 for 379 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. It was a rough performance for Tannhehill as he threw some inaccurate passes and made a number of bad decisions. His teammates let him down as well. If Tannehill stays healthy, the converted wide receiver will have started only 20 games at quarterback in his collegiate career. The game against Oklahoma was proof that he needs time to be developed and is better suited as a second-round pick.
Fuller finished the game with six receptions for 54 yards. His stock continues to decline, and now he is on the bubble between the second and third day of the draft. Fuller has been dealing with an injured hamstring, a concussion and a turf-toe injury this season. Those definitely are impacting him, but they don't excuse how he lets passes hit him right in the hands and fall to the ground for incompletions.
The junior Swope had a good game with eight receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown. He looks like a second-day pick if he were to declare for the 2012 draft. Considering what has happened to Fuller this year after a massive 2010 season, Swope should strongly consider entering the draft. Plus, he won't have his quarterback returning next season.
Another thing that hurt Tannehill was the Oklahoma defense doing a good job of stopping the Texas A&M running game. Gray and halfback Christine Michael had some good plays, but the Aggies were unable to establish a consistent ground game.
Michael had a bad fumble that set up the Sooners deep in the Aggies� territory. Fleming ripped the ball out of the hands of Michael. The Texas A&M defense came through to hold Oklahoma to a field goal. Michael bounced back later in the second quarter with a 31-yard run. He came to the right, cut back to the left and then weaved through a few defenders to get some extra yardage, bringing the ball to midfield. Aside from that play Michael didn't break out for the Aggies. He finished the game with 88 yards on 17 carries. The junior looks like a second-day pick right now.
Gray finished the game with 29 yards on nine carries. He caught six passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. The senior is about a third-round pick right now.
Linebacker Travis Lewis did not have a good game. He got burned in coverage on Swope's long touchdown run. Lewis also was called for a personal-foul facemask penalty in the first quarter. He had some tackles in run support but did not make his presence felt. Lewis went down with an injury in the second half, and his broken foot from the preseason is said to still be bothering him. He looks like a second-round pick.
Defensive end Ronnell Lewis had a good game for Oklahoma. He made a great read on a quick screen to make a tackle for a loss of six yards. Lewis showed great awareness with an interception on a deflected pass. He battled a good tackle in Jake Matthews and had some pass pressure. Lewis held his own in run defense. The junior looks like a late first-round pick. He would be a good fit in a 3-4 defense as an inside or outside linebacker.
Lewis wasn't the only one playing a good offensive tackle. Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander went up against Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel. Alexander had a nice tackle for a loss on a run stuff in the first quarter. That tackle of Michael went for a loss of one. He batted a pass little bit later in the first half. Alexander chased down Tannehill on third down run to force a punt. There were some other plays where Alexander had Joeckel on his heels and got some pressure on the quarterback. With the demand for pass rushers and Alexander's flexibility to play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense, he looks like a late first-round pick.
Iowa 24, Michigan 16
The Big Ten showdown between Iowa and Michigan was a physical and hard-fought game that featured a few future NFL draft picks. The player who is likely to be drafted the highest in the game was Iowa junior left tackle Riley Reiff.
Right now, Reiff is viewed as the potential third-rated offensive tackle in the draft and a top-20 pick. He had an overall good game against Michigan.
The experienced Reiff had no issues in pass protection, but really didn't see much of a test with Michigan's defensive ends as he shuffled and mirrored well to protect his quarterback's blind side. Reiff has quick feet and he does not have problems getting back in his drop to negate speed rushes from the edge.
Reiff had a quality afternoon in run blocking. He opened up holes well and turned his defender regularly. Reiff also used his mobility to get to linebackers and hit blocks downfield.
The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder is quick getting to the second level, but he needs to add power for the NFL. On a touchdown run, Reiff ran to the middle linebacker to seal him out of the play, but when the pair hit each other, it was Reiff who ended up on his back. It shouldn't be an issue for him to add more bulk and strength in the NFL. Once he gets a year or two in an NFL strength and conditioning program, he should definitely have the needed power to be a good left tackle.
Overall, Reiff produced another good tape for NFL scouts. His draft stock looks solid right now.
A player who has been pushing his draft stock up this season is Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt. He has been consistently producing big games for the Hawkeyes this season and against Michigan made another solid effort. To get the game started, McNutt caught a slant for a good gain on the first drive. He made some short catches before a nice 14-yard gain early in the second quarter. McNutt ran a deep out and did a good job of working back to the football and catching the ball with his hands.
A few plays later the senior had a pass fall right out of his hands. He was open to make a catch on third-and-7. It was a bad drop and surprising for the normally sure-handed McNutt. Throughout the game, the wide out showed his ability to work the short part of the field with a lot of possession catches to help move the chains.
In the fourth quarter, McNutt made a touch catch as the ball was on top of him as soon as he came out of his break. It was a big pickup to get Iowa a first down. A few plays later he made another clutch catch on third down to extend the drive.
On the next drive, McNutt made his ninth catch of the game on a skinny post. He burst through the secondary for a 24-yard gain and took a defender for a ride for a few yards before going to the ground. For the game, McNutt caught nine passes for 101 yards. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder has good speed to go with his size. It was a strong performance for him. He looks like he could be a second-round pick right now.
Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater played well against Michigan. He had some nice run support early in the game. In the second quarter, Prater was running with Wolverines wide receiver Roy Roundtree downfield and had some contact as the ball flew overhead for an incompletion. It was a close play. A flag was thrown, but then the officials decided there wasn't a penalty on the Hawkeyes cornerback.
In the third quarter, Prater had a strong tackle at the line of scrimmage on a perimeter run. Late in the fourth quarter, he made a great play on special teams. As a gunner on punt coverage, Prater flew down the field to track down the ball that was bounding to the end zone. He batted it ball back over his shoulder to keep the it from going in for the touchback. Fellow starting cornerback Micah Hyde was there to down the ball. That massive play put the ball at the Michigan four-yard line.
Prater had some good coverage downfield on some deep passes in the game. On one play, in press coverage, he got very lucky as got shoved to the ground by Roundtree. That caused a few yards of separation in man coverage as Prater chased him running downfield, but the pass was overthrown and fell incomplete.
Overall this game should keep Prater's stock in the second-day of the draft. He is a strong zone corner who should also be a good special teams player.
Hyde had good coverage all game, but allowed a big catch late in the game. On a post corner route a pass to Roundtree, Hyde missed a tackle, got up and still contributed to getting him down short of the end zone. The play set up Michigan at the three-yard line with 16 seconds remaining. Luckily for Hyde, the Iowa defense caused four incompletions to finish off their win over Michigan.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Hyde has a very good skill set with a high ceiling. He is a good zone corner who has the potential to develop into a solid man corner. If the junior entered the 2012 draft, he could be a second-rounder.
Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin should get drafted next April. The senior had a nice run stuff on the first drive where he shed his blocker and stuffed the back for little to no gain. After that, Martin was relatively quiet for most of the game. He is a strong run defender, but didn't offer any pass rush against Iowa. Martin had two sacks last week against Purdue, but that big game gave him only 2.5 for the season. He looks like a third-day draft pick to be a 4-3 run-stuffing nose tackle.
Florida 26, Vanderbilt 21
The game between Florida and Vanderbilt featured a quality draft matchup. Commodores cornerback Casey Hayward was going up against some speedy playmakers in Gators wide receiver Andre Dubose and running back Jeff Demps. The sophomore Dubose has beaten both of the two top cornerbacks in the nation for 65-yard touchdown receptions this season. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick and LSU's Morris Claiborne both were burned for long touchdowns by him. It would be an interesting test to see how Hayward would match up on this receiver, who has burned elite corners.
Hayward seemed ready for Dubose�s speed and did a good job of running with him. Overall, Hayward had tight coverage all game. He had a nice tackle for a loss at the end of the first quarter. On a quick toss to Dubose, Hayward burst through the cushion and tackled him as soon as he caught the ball. Overall, Hayward and the rest of the Vanderbilt defense held Dubose to two catches for 25 yards.
Hayward had a nice sideline tackle on fullback Trey Burton to stop him a yard short of the first down. The Gators didn't test Hayward much in the game and mostly threw at other defenders. He is one of the nation's leaders in interceptions with five, and dropped three interceptions last week against Arkansas. Hayward played a good game and his draft stock is stable.
Florida running back Chris Rainey sprained his ankle. He was suited up but not getting any snaps. That left Demps as the leading back for the Gators, and he had an excellent game for Florida.
Demps had some good runs in the first half and got into the end zone with a five-yard run across the field. Overall, he did a quality impression of a bell-cow back. The undersized Demps had over 100 yards on just over 20 carries without breaking off any long runs. He consistently produced gains of about five yards.
Eventually, Demps broke free. Late in the fourth quarter, he sealed the game for Florida with a 52-yard touchdown run. Demps caught a pitch on a perimeter run and juked a defender to break free down the field. For the game, he carried the ball 23 times for 158 yards and two scores. Demps needed such a performance since he has been in and out of the lineup this season. The 5-foot-8, 181-pounder has durability concerns and those make him a late round-pick or perhaps an undrafted free agent like West Virginia's Noel Devine or Kentucky's Derrick Locke were last April.
After missing a field goal earlier in the game, junior kicker Caleb Sturgis hit a 54-yard field goal in the second quarter. After halftime, he hit a 40-yard field goal. Sturgis has had injury issues in his career, but when playing, he puts himself in the conversation as the best kicker in the nation. If Sturgis finishes the season strong, while staying healthy and kicking well in 2012, he could have a draftable grade in 2013.
Miami 49, Duke 14
While there wasn't a ton of future NFL talent on display in the game between Duke and Miami, there were a few prospects worth watching. Among them are Duke wide receivers Connor Vernon and Donovan Verner. They were going up against a Miami defense led by linebacker Sean Spence and safety Ray Ray Armstrong.
The senior Varner is putting his name in the Blue Devils� record books with a good collegiate career. Against the speedy Miami defense, the undersized receiver was mostly kept in check. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder got involved early in the third quarter with a nice gain downfield for about 20 yards on a third-down attempt. Varner ran a cross in zone coverage and was open for an easy completion. Later on an under route, he caught another pass to get a first down for Duke. Varner worked the short part of the field pretty well and the Hurricanes� defense was trying to keep everything short. Varner got open more than he was thrown the ball, as the Miami defensive line did a good job of putting heat on the quarterback.
Varner looks like a late pick on the third day of the draft. He could go undrafted and be a priority free agent.
The junior Connor Vernon had a quality game against Miami, and he is the better pro prospect among the two Duke receivers. Vernon has a nice skill set with decent size and some quickness. He runs good routes, is physical with defenders and also runs well after the catch.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder had a nice gain on a bubble screen. A little bit later, he scored on a strange play. Vernon was pushed out of bounds and came back in to catch a four-yard touchdown. The umpires allowed the score because he was pushed out by the defender and did not go out of bounds on his own.
Duke did a quality job of working the ball to Vernon on some short passes, and he showed good quickness and toughness on finishing his runs. For the game Vernon caught nine passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. He looks like an early pick on the third day of the draft. That will most likely be in the 2013 draft class. If he has a banner senior season, it could push his stock into consideration on the second day of the draft.
Spence had a quality performance. It wasn't quite as productive a night as he has produced throughout the 2011 season, but the blowout didn't help his ability to rack tackles in run defense. Spence had a nice tackle for a lost where he burst into the backfield to bring down a running back with a tackle for a loss. Otherwise, he made some good tackles in run support and finished the game with 8-10 tackles. It shouldn't have a real effect on his draft status.
Armstrong had a good game for Miami. It was the first significant game of the year for him since he started out the season with a four-game suspension. Armstrong had an easy interception on a ball tossed up in the middle of the field. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder ran under the lofted ball to set up Miami deep in Duke territory.
Armstrong also made some quality tackles on receivers in the back end of the field and in run support. Right now, he looks like a second-day pick.
Hurricane senior wide receiver Travis Benjamin had a disappointing game. Late in the first quarter, he dropped a touchdown. Benjamin tried to make an over the shoulder catch and had the ball come loose off his hands and shoulder pads. He finished the game with two catches for 42 yards. Benjamin looks like a late-round pick.
Junior wide receiver Tommy Streeter continued his strong play against Duke. He had a massive performance a week ago and continued his propensity to make big plays. Streeter got started when he had a 27-yard gain on a short pass. Streeter shed a tackle and burst downfield before being taken down. Just before halftime, he caught a two-yard touchdown pass on a fade to the back corner of the end zone.
Streeter finished the game with four receptions for 62 yards and a score. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder should return to school to get better. He has a good skill set, but still needs to develop his route-running and get more polished before turning pro. Streeter looks like a mid-rounder right now, but with the potential to go higher if he develops himself more.
The star of the game was Miami redshirt sophomore running back Lamar Miller. He pounded and overwhelmed the Duke defense. Miller (5-11, 210) used power to run through some arm tackles and had too much speed and quickness for the Blue Devils� defense. He controlled the ball for Miami.
Miller had a nice 18-yard run slanting across the field. In the third quarter, he ran in for a score after going through a defender. It happened again in the fourth quarter when Miller ran behind the right side of the line for a 22-yard touchdown run. He went untouched and used his burst to run through the secondary and hit the end zone.
For the game, Miller finished with 147 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns. This season, he has shown the combination of speed and power to be a starting running back in the NFL. If Miller enters the 2012 draft, he looks like a high second-rounder. If Miller returns to school, he could help push his stock into the first round in the 2013 or 2014 draft.
Florida State 38, Boston College 7
There were a number of good defensive prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft in the matchup between Boston College and Florida State. It wasn't a close game as the Seminoles dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, but the defensive prospects all had good games on Thursday night.
The player who might get drafted first is Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. He led the nation in tackles (183) last year as a sophomore and this year, is once again leading the nation in tackles. Kuechly entered the game with 130 tackles in eight games. He could set records by the end of the year for career tackle totals and tackles in a season.
Throughout the game, Kuechly was around the football and making plays for his team. His instincts are phenomenal. He reads the field in an instant and bursts to the ball. Kuechly does a solid job of getting off blocks, and has enough speed to snuff out perimeter runs. The 6-foot-3, 237-pounder is extremely intelligent and a perfect fit in a read-and-react defense.
Early in the game, Kuechly forced a tackle on E.J. Manuel on the first possession of the game for Florida State. As the Seminole signal caller scrambled up the middle, Kuechly met him a few yards downfield, and as he was bringing him to the ground, got his hand in to rip the ball out. The Florida State recovered the loose ball.
In the second quarter, Kuechly made a nice open field tackle on a punt return. He bear- hugged returner Greg Reid as soon as he caught the punt to make a special teams tackle.
In the second half, Kuechly continued to rack of up tackles. He also had a good pass pressure that forced Manuel to throw the ball before he wanted to. Shortly later, Kuechly flowed and burst into the backfield to start a tackle for a loss on a run by Manuel. Just before the fourth quarter, Florida State was setting up a quarterback dive to get a first down, needing only a yard. Kuechly went vertical, diving over the line to stuff Manuel for no gain. A play later, Kuechly was part of a convoy to stop a fourth-and-1 run for no gain.
In the game, Kuechly recorded 20 tackles with a forced fumble and a pass pressure. He was all over the field, and the Seminoles struggled to block him. His ability to shed blockers and get free was impressive. That is a critical attribute that all good professional linebackers have. Kuechly's stock may not move up a tremendous amount, but this game shows that he is a mid first-rounder.
Another potential mid first-rounder is Florida State defensive end Brandon Jenkins. Last year, he recorded 13.5 sacks in a breakout season. This year, his numbers are down, but not all of that is his fault. Jenkins has gotten extra blocking attention and they have moved him around within their scheme, including dropping him into zone coverage. Against Boston College, he was a disruptive defender at the line of scrimmage.
Jenkins had a nice rush early in the game. He blasted the left tackle and rocked him back then cut to the inside and to almost sack the quarterback. Later in the first half, Jenkins had another good pressure with a swim move to cut up the middle of the pocket and force a scramble out of the pocket.
Late in the second quarter, Jenkins and linebacker Nigel Bradham busted into a backfield to combine for a tackle for a loss. Jenkins got another pressure in the fourth quarter that helped set up an interception by fellow end Bjourn Werner. The sophomore Werner had another dominant performance, and he looks like a future first-round pick in 2013 or 2014.
In the game, Jenkins did not have a big stat line with tackles and sacks, but he played a good game with heat on the quarterback. Jenkins also was stout at the point of attack in run defense. His draft stock should stay stable after this game.
Right now Bradham looks like a second-day pick. He had a good game against Boston College. Bradham had a big tackle for a loss of eight yards in the first quarter. On a short dump off pass, he made a perfect read and blasted the running back as soon as the ball was caught.
Bradham made a lot of good tackles in run defense. He has good instincts with the speed to get in position to rack up tackles. Currently, Bradham is the Seminoles� leading tackler. If he finishes the season that way, he will have led Florida State in tackles for the last three years. The last Seminole linebacker to do that was the Seminole-great Marvin Jones. Bradham looks like a quality pick in the second or third round.
An emerging offensive prospect is Florida State senior tackle Zebrie Sanders. The 6-foot-6, 307-pound tackle has been the Seminoles right tackle for the past four years. After left tackle Andrew Datko was lost for the season to a shoulder injury, Sanders moved to left tackle, and he has performed well.
Sanders was solid as a protector and did a good job of opening up holes on the ground. He helped seal a short touchdown run with a good block on Kuechly in the second quarter. After playing for years at right tackle, Sanders has impressively transitioned well to the left side. At his size, he might be a better fit as a left tackle in the NFL. That would probably cause him to need more time to develop at the position.
At the very least, teams are going to like Sanders versatility. That could make him a backup swing tackle on game days. Sanders� stock is on the rise, and right now, he looks like he is moving into the second day of the draft.
Seminole senior wide receiver Bert Reed caught an eight-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone in the first quarter after his signal caller came open running across the end zone. He caught three passes for 35 yards in the game. Reed (5-11, 175) looks like a late-round pick or possibly a priority undrafted free agent. Junior quarterback E.J. Manuel had a quality game, but he should stay in school and improve before going pro.
I don't dislike the Peppers pick for the Dolphins, but if you think he is a safety and not a LB then it won't happen. Jones and Peppers don't make a great coverage combo. The Dolphins are more likely to roll the dice on Nate Allen for the year, who seems a better compliment to Jones than Peppers, who seems a clone. I don't know so much about the guy, but the Dolphins are more likely to go guard or LB than S and most likely to go CB. Well, they will almost assuredly trade down, but that isa different point.