Arkansas 44, Mississippi State 17
Two impressive defensive linemen who are making a late-season push to improve their draft standing were on display in the game between Arkansas and Mississippi State. Both had slow starts to the season but are really playing well down the stretch. Razorback senior defensive end Jake Bequette and Bulldog junior defensive tackle Fletcher Cox both continued their strong play last Saturday.
Both players were extremely active with big plays. Bequette had three tackles with two sacks and a forced fumble. Bequette's first sack was a busted assignment where he came unblocked off the edge and ran down the quarterback. He made it to the signal-caller in an instant and showed good closing speed.
Bequette came close to another sack in the fourth quarter when he beat his blocker with speed rush. The quarterback stepped up in the pocket and Bequette dived but just missed him. A few plays later Bequette got home. On a jail house blitz, Bequette came unblocked and sacked the quarterback while causing a fumble.
After that play, Bequette and the defense was pretty much resting as the Razorbacks were blowing out the Bulldogs. It was a good game from Bequette and should help his draft stock. Bequette has pushed his way back into the second day of the 2012 NFL Draft. He now has eight sacks and four forced fumbles on the season.
Cox was one of the few Mississippi State defenders who played well against Arkansas. Cox was giving the Arkansas offensive line a lot of problems. The guards and left tackle couldn't handle Cox with his combination of speed and strength. Cox played well for four quarters.
On his first tackle for a loss, Cox pushed the center into the backfield and cut down the back. Late in the first half, Cox made a big play on special teams when he burst through a couple of linemen and blocked a field goal attempt.
In the first half, Cox had a number of pressures on the quarterback. Cox had a nice rush where he beat the left tackle with some power and cut to the inside to hit Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson. Unfortunately for Cox, he got there a little late and Wilson threw downfield for a touchdown. On the next drive, Cox drew a holding call after he got a step on the tackle coming around the edge. The tackle held Cox by grabbing his facemask.
Cox made a big play to help set up Mississippi State's offense deep in Arkansas territory. Bulldogs cornerback Johnathan Banks forced a fumble from Wilson on a nice corner blitz. Cox wasn't far behind Banks after beating his blocker. Cox picked up the fumble and ran 52 yards down the field before being tackled.
Cox totaled four tackles with two tackles for a loss, a blocked kick and that fumble return. The junior looks like he would be a on the bubble between the second and third day of the 2012 NFL Draft. If he returns to school and gets better, he could move securely into the second or third round in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Another potential second-day pick in this game is Arkansas senior wide receiver Jarius Wright. He has been very productive this season. Against Mississippi State, Wright did a good job of moving the chains. The Bulldogs kept Wright from breaking any big plays downfield.
Wright caught eight passes for 96 yards. He looks like a good slot receiver prospect for the NFL and could contribute early based on his collegiate offense and experience in the SEC.
Wilson had another big game for the Razorbacks. He moved the ball all day with precision passes. He made good decisions and showed a strong arm with accuracy. Wilson was 32-of-43 for 365 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Wilson should stay for his senior season. With another productive season and the coaching from Bobby Petrino, Wilson could challenge to be a first-rounder in 2013. If he enters the 2012 NFL Draft, Wilson would probably be a second-day pick.
Rutgers 20, Cincinnati 3
Even though Rutgers star wide receiver Mohamed Sanu did not have a huge game against Cincinnati, it was a historic game for the junior wide out. Facing the Bearcats, he set the Big East all-time record for receptions in a season, eclipsing Larry Fitzgerald and Mardy Gilyard. Sanu has also been rewriting the Scarlet Knights� record books and going after many records set by current Titans receiver Kenny Britt.
Rutgers tried to get Sanu involved, but Cincinnati was sending a lot of bracket coverage at him. That helped open up the ground game, enabling Rutgers sophomore running back Jawan Jamison to run for 200 yards and two scores. Sanu still had some notable plays. The bracket coverage kept him from making big plays downfield, but he did a good job of operating in the short to intermediate part of the field.
On the first play from scrimmage, Sanu got a pitch on an end around and ran for gain of about 12 yards before being tackled. He caught a number of short passes to help move the chains for Scarlet Knights. Sanu showed good awareness when he caught a deflected pass in the third quarter to get Rutgers a first down.
Early in the fourth quarter, Sanu was wide open and could have had a touchdown but the pass from quarterback Chase Dodd was too far out of reach for the diving Sanu. For the game, he had six receptions for 38 yards. For the season, Sanu has 100 receptions for 1,011 yards with seven scores. Only two receivers, Western Michigan's Jordan White and Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, have more receptions this season.
Sanu has a special combination of size, speed and physicality. He looks like a solid second-round pick and future starter in the NFL. If Sanu had an elite quarterback, he could post staggering numbers.
The star of this losing effort was Cincinnati middle linebacker J.K. Schaffer. He was all over the field and was the one playmaker for the Bearcats� defense. In the ground game, Schaffer was a tough run defender who had a number of good tackles on Jamison. He pursued well down the field and showed good instincts to get in position to make tackles.
In the first quarter, Schaffer had a nice pass batted away. In the first half, he had a huge blitz up the middle and sacked Dodd with a devastating hit. Schaffer paused a second after the ball was snapped and then exploded through the line untouched and rocked Dodd.
Schaffer almost made a diving interception in the third quarter. A few plays later, he burst into the backfield to blast the running back for no gain. Later in the third, Schaffer made a good read and moved through the line to sack Dodd again. A teammate came just after he arrived and shared in the sack.
For the game, Schaffer totaled 13 tackles with three tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and one pass broken up. Thus far in 2011, he has 89 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and six passes broken up. Schaffer looks like an early round pick on the third day of the draft. This game definitely pushes his stock up. The 6-foot-1, 227-pounder has some developmental potential. He needs to add some bulk for the NFL, but could be worth a fourth or fifth-rounder and some time to grow. Schaffer has a high enough ceiling be groomed into a contributor. At the very least, he should be an excellent special teams player.
Another player who has been having a very good 2011 season is Cincinnati defensive end Derek Wolfe. He entered the game as a potential second-day pick. Wolfe was quiet from a pass-rushing standpoint against Rutgers, but he played well against the run. Wolfe held up strong at the point of attack and pursued well downfield. He also has a good motor.
Wolfe totaled 10 tackles facing the Scarlet Knights. Thus far in 2011, he has 52 tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and two forced fumbles. When Wolfe rushes the passer, he has a surprising get off on occasion and is adept at timing the snap. Wolfe has a strong bull rush and is not without quickness and athleticisim. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder has some flexibility for the next level. Wolfe could be a strong left defensive end in a 4-3 defense, or he could be a good five-technique defensive end in a 3-4. Wolfe looks like a solid prospect for the third round.
USC 38, Oregon 35
There were a few good pro prospects to watch in the PAC-12 battle between USC and Oregon. A player who really had an impressive night was Trojans junior quarterback Matt Barkley. He entered the game as a first-round pick and looks like a future franchise quarterback in the NFL.
The game didn't start well for Barkley as he fumbled a snap. The Ducks pounced on the ball to take over deep in USC territory. Luckily for Barkley, Oregon turned the ball back over on their first play. A possession later, he burned the Ducks� secondary with a deep ball down the left side for a 59-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marquis Lee. It was a little under thrown, but Lee made a fabulous adjustment and came back to catch the ball.
On the next drive, Barkley moved the ball with some short precision passes. He moved the ball deep into Oregon territory and threw a perfect fade pass to wide receiver Robert Woods for a 13-yard score on third-and-4.
After an Oregon score, Barkley hit a big play downfield to Lee for a gain of 20-30 yards. Later, on third-and-goal, the signal caller rolled out and hit Woods for a short touchdown pass. That put USC up 21-7 late in the second quarter. Barkley set up another score with an excellent deep pass to Lee. It went for 41 yards and was a beautiful throw where the wide out caught it between a few defenders just as he went out of bounds at the three-yard line.
Barkley kept coming and led the Trojans down the field again. He finished the drive on a rollout with a short touchdown pass to his freshman tight end Randall Telfer.
The Ducks began a furious comeback, aided by a Barkley interception. It wasn't his fault as the pass was deflected and floated to an Oregon defender. Barkley lobbied for a pass interference penalty, but he didn't get the call, even though it was clear the receiver had been held.
Barkley moved the ball down the field to get a game-sealing score but senior running back Marc Tyler fumbled a handoff and the Ducks recovered the loose ball. The Trojans held on for the win, and Barkley was their clear MVP. He finished the game completing 26-of-34 passes for 323 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. It could be the biggest win of Barkley's collegiate career with a road upset of the No. 4 team in the nation. The game made it obvious why he is a future first-rounder.
Barkley's blind side protector, left tackle Matt Kalil could get drafted ahead of his signal caller. Kalil demonstrated why he is viewed as a franchise left tackle with his superb pass blocking against Oregon. Kalil has light, quick feet that allow him to get in position to mirror speed rushers and keep them from getting pressure on his quarterback.
As a pro, Kalil (6-7, 295) is going to need to add some power as a run blocker. He is an adequate run blocker at the college level, but not a powerful player who typically rides defenders out of plays. Kalil had a defender shed his block to make a tackle for a minimal gain. That happened late in the second quarter on the goal line. Kalil hit a defender, but he bounced off the block to make a tackle on a ball carrier.
Run blocking is the one weakness in Kalil�s game, and something he can improve once he ages in an NFL strength and conditioning program. Kalil's pass blocking is elite and he looks like a lock for the top of a draft.
A potential late first-round pick is Trojans safety T.J. McDonald. He had a mixed game against the Ducks. McDonald had a shot at an interception on a deflected pass but the ball got on to him too quick and it fell incomplete. The next possession he burst into the backfield and hit running back D'Anthony Thomas as he was trying to catch a lateral pass. It fell to the ground and was pounced on by a USC teammate. The play was reviewed and ruled a fumble.
Later in the first half, McDonald got burned by Thomas running down the field. He came wide open with the corner in pursuit. It was an easy 29-yard touchdown score for Oregon.
In the fourth quarter, McDonald made a big open field tackle where he reached back and practically clotheslined the ball carrier. A few plays later, McDonald was beat by Ducks senior tight end David Paulson for a big reception to get on the edge of the end zone. Paulson made tough catch between a few defenders and McDonald had good coverage, it was just a great catch. McDonald's draft stock should be relatively steady.
The senior Paulson finished the game with 49 yards on three receptions. He looks like a third-day draft pick.
A player who has been red hot lately is USC defensive end Nick Perry. He continued his strong play with a standout game against Oregon. Perry had a sack fumble in the first quarter. He burned the left tackle with a speed rush and knocked the ball free, but it was recovered by the Ducks. In the third quarter, Perry had a tackle for a loss when he came unblocked on an option run.
Late in the fourth quarter, Perry came up with another impressive sack where he beat the tackle with speed around the edge. Perry had an excellent game and is making the case to be moving up draft boards. The junior entered the game as a potential second-day pick, but with his steady pressure and production, he is really making the case to get consideration in first or second-round if available in the draft.
Perry may be better off returning to school and adding some strength. By doing that, as well as improving next season, he could be a high first-rounder in 2013.
Oregon junior running back LaMichael James did a good job of running the ball in the first half. He didn't break off any long runs, but he consistently got some decent gains. James fumbled the ball away just before halftime, and in the second half, he didn't touch the ball as much.
James got into the end zone in the fourth quarter with a short touchdown run. He finished the game with 78 yards on 20 carries. The Ducks got a better game out of junior running back Kenjon Barner. He ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. James looks like a third-round pick if he enters the 2012 draft.
Baylor 45, Oklahoma 38
There were two future NFL starting quarterbacks going head-to-head against each other in this epic game between Oklahoma and Baylor. Sooners junior quarterback Landry Jones and Bears junior quarterback Robert Griffin III are both future first-round picks. Each quarterback had a significant challenge entering the game. Jones was without his go-to receiver Ryan Broyles, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has perhaps the best defense on Baylor�s schedule.
Early in the game, it looked like Griffin struck first, but he had a 70-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kendall Wright called back by a holding penalty. The Bears� offensive line wasn't giving Griffin any time to throw early in the game, and Baylor's offense wasn't moving as well as they typically do.
Jones completed a few passes to lead to field goal drive, and Griffin answered with one of his own. Late in the first quarter, Jones threw a strike to wide receiver Kenny Stills running downfield for a 26-yard reception. It was an impressive throw that showed special arm strength and accuracy. The Sooners couldn't finish the drive and turned the ball over. The Baylor signal caller made them pay.
Griffin hit Wright on a quick slant, and he broke down the field for a huge gain. Wright showed his game-breaking speed by ripping through the Oklahoma secondary for 55 yards. Senior running back Terrence Ganaway finished the drive with a 15-yard rush up the middle for a touchdown.
Jones answered by leading a scoring drive down the field. He threw a number of good passes to extend the chains and set up a short touchdown run. Griffin struck back quickly. He lofted a deep pass down the middle of a field for a wide open receiver. The pass was perfectly dropped in by Griffin to wide receiver Tevin Reese for a 69-yard touchdown. At halftime, Baylor was up 17-10. Griffin was 8-of-13 for 194 yards and a touchdown. Jones was 15-of-22 for 184 yards.
In the third quarter, Jones got Oklahoma's offense moving with a 54-yard strike to his tight end. That set up a short touchdown run. After Griffin was stopped on a fourth down, Jones got great field position and threw an approximately 25-yard pass to Stills to get to the Bears� one-yard line.
Partway through the third quarter, Griffin had some luck go his way to tie the game. He threw a bullet downfield for Reese and the pass was deflected into the air. It flew directly into the arms of Wright who raced down the field for a score. The touchdown pass from Griffin to Wright went for 87 yards. Griffin got Baylor the lead again late in the third quarter with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Najvar. Griffin did a great job of selling the play-action to draw in the linebackers and open up his tight end.
Jones helped out the Bears with a bad decision and read where he was intercepted in Baylor territory. The Bears made the Sooners pay, moving the ball quickly down the field on their defense. Baylor opened up a 38-24 lead early in the fourth quarter after an 11-yard touchdown run by Ganaway.
Jones came back and moved Oklahoma down the field on two drives. Each drive ended with short touchdown runs by the Sooners. That tied the score at 38 with about a minute left.
That was enough time for Griffin to pull off a major upset. He ran the ball on a few carries to get the ball to midfield. Then, Griffin threw a nice strike to Wright to get the ball to the 34-yard line.
On the next play, Griffin tossed a 34-yard touchdown pass to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season, and one of the biggest wins in school history. He scrambled in the pocket and then threw across the field to the back of the end zone for Williams who was open after beating two defenders. The pass probably flew about 50 yards total and was right on the money.
Baylor beat Oklahoma for the first time in school history after going 0-20 previously. Griffin was 21-of-34 for 479 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also ran for 56 yards on 15 carries. Griffin actually ran for more than that, but college football stats deduct the lost sack yardage out of a players' rushing total.
Throughout the 2011 season, Griffin has been one of the most dominant players and big-play producers in college football. He topped his previous exploits with his huge night against the Sooners. Griffin looks like a high first-round pick whenever he decides to enter the draft.
Jones finished the game 32-of-46 for 423 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. He did his part to lead Oklahoma to a win, but the Sooners� defense didn't hold up their end of the bargain. Despite the loss to Baylor, Jones should remain as a high first-round pick.
Wright finished the game with 208 yards on eight receptions with a touchdown. Though undersized, the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder looks like a second-day pick.
Another potential first-round pick is Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander. Early in the game, he was destroying the Bears� offensive line. Alexander burst by the left tackle on a tackle for a loss on a run from Griffin. Later in the drive, Alexander started another tackle for a loss. On the next possession, he burst by the left tackle by cutting to the inside and sacked Griffin for a loss of seven.
After that Alexander was kept relatively in check. Oklahoma was worried about Griffin getting loose, so they had Alexander playing contain on many plays and that hurt his pass-rushing opportunities. Hr could be a late first-round or early second-round pick.
The Sooners had a quiet game from junior defensive end Ronnell Lewis, in part because he left in the second half with a leg injury. Lewis is a late first round or early second-round pick. He is expected to enter the draft next year.
Oklahoma senior linebacker Travis Lewis was also quiet. He was chasing receivers around the field and made some tackles in the ground game. Lewis had a pass break up in the first quarter. It wasn't a bad performance or an impressive performance from Lewis.
Terrence Ganaway had 55 yards on 15 carries with two scores. The 6-foot, 240-pounder is one of the few power back prospects in the draft. He could go early on the third-day of the draft.
Penn State 20, Ohio State 14
There was an excellent draft matchup in the contest between Ohio State and Penn State. The Buckeyes have the top senior center draft prospect in Mike Brewster, while the Nittany Lions are led by defensive tackle Devon Still. Both players entered the game as candidates for the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. If one of them got the better of the matchup, it could really help their draft stock get into the opening night of the draft.
Early in the game, Brewster was getting in on some double teams against Still, and the double teams were effective in keeping him from making some big stops. In the first quarter, Brewster had a bad snap, having seemingly forgotten his quarterback was in the shotgun. The center snapped the ball off his butt which rolled to quarterback Braxton Miller for a loss on third down. Prior to the snap, Brewster had his eyes on Still and was so preoccupied with blocking him that he made the mental mistake.
In the second half, Brewster had another bad snap on a third down to kill any chance for a conversion. On this snap, he had the ball only ankle-high for Miller. Again on the play, Brewster was getting ready to block Still. Late in the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes center put another snap at the feet of Miller.
The normally reliable Brewster had a disaster of a game snapping the ball. There were a few other snaps that were off the mark but did not kill the timing of the play like those other three snaps. He did reasonably well blocking in run and pass protection. Brewster was probably more effective as a pass blocker, but he was getting to his assignments and making his blocks in the ground game.
Overall, this game will hurt Brewster's stock due to the bad snaps that he had, especially on the plays when he was blocking Still. Brewster's performance against Penn State suggests that he should be a second-round pick instead of a first-rounder.
When Still was single-blocked, he collapsed the pocket a few times and got some pressure, but overall, he was quiet, especially when compared to his typical weekly performance. Entering the game, Still had recorded at least one tackle for a loss in each of the previous 10 games. Against Ohio State, it looks like that streak was broken, unless he dove on a pile and was credited with half a tackle for a loss. On the second to final play of the game, Still almost sacked Miller after beating Brewster with a power and speed rush.
The tape against the Buckeyes was not a typical game for Still, and it might hurt his stock slightly. However, he has steadily increased his stock this season and has been consistent on a weekly basis, so it may have no effect at all. Still should still be a candidate for the first round and to be the first defensive tackle selected.
Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams entered the game as a second-day pick. He had a rough game for the Buckeyes and had some struggles against Nittany Lions defensive end Jack Crawford. On an early play, Adams had him blocked for a time, but Crawford came free and got a coverage sack. Later in the first half, he got another sack after Still got some interior pressure on the play. Miller ran up in the pocket and Crawford came free off of Adams to get in position for the sack.
Adams had some good blocks in the ground game but was on his heels as a pass protector on a number of plays. It wasn't a good game for him and it could hurt his draft stock. Adams consistently proves that he should be a right tackle in the NFL.
A few other draft prospects had notable games. Penn State senior wide receiver Derrick Moye is a third-day pick. He had a good catch of 16 yards. Later in the second quarter, Moye had a gain of about 20 yards on a deep slant. He finished the game with three receptions for 40 yards.
Ohio State wide receiver Devier Posey played for the first time this season after being suspended 10 games to start the season. He was part of the Ohio State scandal that saw a number of players suspended and coach Jim Tressel fired. Posey made up for lost time with a big 39-yard catch for the Buckeyes. He made a nice catch along the deep sideline. Later in the first half, Posey made a remarkable one-handed catch on the sideline. He was able to get a foot down before going out of bounds.
In the third quarter, Posey recorded a good sliding catch on an out route. The 6-foot-2, 213-pounder finished with four receptions for 66 yards. He is a good athlete with size and speed. Posey could test well in the offseason and looks like a mid-round pick.
Notre Dame 16, Boston College 14
There were three potential first-round picks in this game with Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd. All three had notable performances that should help their draft stock.
On the first play from scrimmage, it was no surprise that Kuechly made a tackle for a short gain. He was his normal, active self, getting in a number of tackles for short gains. The senior made a great read in not falling for a trick hook and lateral play,bursting in to make a tackle for no gain.
Kuechly had a good tackle running across the field to get to Floyd and limit him to a gain of six on a reception. Notre Dame did a fair amount of passing in the first half, and Kuechly showed his quality pass defense. He is very good at getting deep in his drop and taking away parts of the field from the offense. Kuechly�s ability to change direction is very good and that allows him to get in position to disrupt routes and cover receivers. He had a nice pass breakup just before halftime.
Kuechly finished the afternoon with between 15-20 tackles including a pass breakup. A number of his tackles allowed only a minimal gain. Kuechly�s intelligence and instincts are off the charts. That allows him to play decisive football and get in position to make plays. He looks like a solid first-round pick.
Te'o had a similar game to Kuechly with a tackle total in the teens. To start the afternoon, Te'o had a big hit on a short catch. He made a good tackle after shedding a guard to make a hard pop on a ball carrier. A play later, Te'o had a strong tackle on a tight end in pass coverage. In the second quarter, a ball carrier went through him to fall forward on the goal line for a touchdown.
In the third quarter, Te'o made a great read to bust up a screen and cause an incompletion. He beat a block and hit the running back right as the ball got to him. On the next play, Te'o got a good pressure and forced an incompletion on a blitz up the middle. He is a very good blitzer and does a good job of reading the line, picking a gap that he can run through and pressuring the quarterback.
Te'o was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty on the sideline. It was a tough call for him, but he should have known better than to lay a hit on the quarterback when he had just stepped out of bounds. Overall, Te'o provided a good tape for evaluators against Boston College and his draft stock should remain stable.
In the first half, Floyd caught a number of short passes, but the Eagles kept him from making a big play downfield. Late in the second quarter, Floyd sprung loose on a bubble screen where he ran by a few defenders and got by Kuechly to get some extra yards on a gain of 19.
Floyd provided a spark in the fourth quarter when he took a wide receiver screen for about 20 yards. The play saw him getting bottled up, but he reversed field and ran across to the other sideline before veering up field and breaking loose for a good gain. That play helped set up a critical field goal that was the game-winning score for the Fighting Irish.
Floyd finished the game with 11 receptions for 97 yards. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has a special combination of size and speed. The character concerns are the biggest obstacle for his draft stock. Floyd has the physical talent and production to be a top-25 pick.
A few other draft prospects had notable games. Boston College cornerback Donnie Fletcher could have had a big game, but had some mistakes. He was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty. It got worse for Fletcher when he dropped an easy interception. Fletcher did spin around in zone coverage and got in position to make the catch, but he dropped the pass. That missed opportunity allowed the Notre Dame to get a field goal.
The next possession saw Fletcher run up to make a tackle on Floyd but the big wide receiver shoved him into the ground to break away for a gain rather than a tackle for no gain. Fletcher came back to make a nice pass break up along the sideline. He timed the play well to get a hand in and hit the ball away just as it fell into the receiver. Fletcher looks like he is on the bubble between the second and third-day of the draft.
Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert had one extremely impressive play, making a diving, one-handed catch for a 38-yard gain. He had only one other catch, for seven yards. Eifert could be a second-day pick if he enters the draft. It is a weak tight end class and the junior could contend to be the second tight end selected.
Wisconsin 28, Illinois 17
There were a lot of good NFL prospects on display in the game between Wisconsin and Illinois. It featured an excellent matchup in the trenches. Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus entered the game leading the nation in sacks (12.5) and forced fumbles (7). The junior Mericlus and junior defensive end Michael Buchanan were taking on one of the best offensive lines in the nation. Wisconsin was without standout center Peter Konz who will be out for some time with a dislocated ankle.
The Badgers feature senior guard Kevin Zeitler, senior right Josh Oglesby and junior left tackle Ricky Wagner. Wagner and Oglesby were going against the best defensive ends they would see all regular season.
Early in the game on a running play, Mericlus did a good job of holding his ground against Wagner. The running back was tackled in the back of the leg of Wagner and the left tackle had his leg bent backward. Wagner left the game with attention from the trainers. He returned later and finished the contest.
In the second quarter, Mercilus showed why he is a special player. Mercilus bull rushed Oglesby into the pocket from the left end spot. He shed the big tackle and sacked quarterback Russell Wilson while slapping the ball out of his hands before he wrapped him up and tackled him. Play-making Illinois sophomore linebacker Jonathan Brown picked up the loose ball and returned it for a good gain. Mercilus' sack-fumble killed a promising drive for the Badgers.
On the next possession, Mercilus had some pass pressures. He was dominating Oglesby. His speed around the edge and his power had Oglesby on his heels. As the game went on, the Badgers did a better job of blocking Mericlus, but the Badgers hardly passed and kept the ball on the ground. Mercilus had few opportunities where he could go all out after the quarterback.
As a run defender, Mercilus does a good job of holding his ground at the point of attack. He doesn't get driven around the field and he fights to stay in his gap. Mericlus needs to improve on shedding blocks in run defense though. He holds his ground, but he needs to get better at getting off his blocker to make more tackles in the ground game. Mericlus looks like a first-round pick if he decides to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
The Badger offensive line wore down the Illinois defense in the second half and took over the game with running from junior tailback Montee Ball. They did a good job in run blocking and were led by Zeitler. Wisconsin had a lot of success running behind Zeitler and when they needed a critical play, Zeitler got the call as the lineman to run behind.
It was a complete game for Zeitler as he was solid in pass blocking as well. There was only one clear mistake, Zeitler missed a block when pulling on a 3rd-and-1. He was too slow in getting to the spot and a linebacker was able to get by him to make a stop short of the first-down yardage. On the next play, Wisconsin ran behind Zeitler, who blasted open a hole to convert on fourth down. Zeitler was dominant in the second half of the game did a phenomenal job of opening up holes for Ball. Zeitler looks like a solid second-round pick.
Oglesby played better late in the game and did a quality job in run blocking. He looks like a third-day pick. He might have to be a guard at the next level. The junior Wagner looks like a second-day pick if he were to declare for the draft. That would be surprising as many Wisconsin lineman return for their senior year.
Ball entered the game averaging a touchdown every eight carries. He did not have good running lanes early in the game though. On a carry in the second quarter, Ball ran over an Illinois defender, and as he was getting gang tackled, he fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Wisconsin.
After the Illinois punter fumbled the ball at the 2-yard line, the Badger scoring machine took advantage of the gimme. On his second attempt, Ball leapt over the pile to dive into the end zone for another touchdown.
In the third quarter, Ball got into the end zone again with an easy five-yard reception. He came uncovered out of the backfield and was wide open for the score. Later, Ball broke off a 35-yard run to get Wisconsin a yard short of the end zone. Ball went behind the right side and broke into the open field.
Ball really got cooking as the game wore on. In the fourth quarter he got into the end zone with a 17-yard run. He came through the hole and broke a tackle by shoving down a linebacker. Ball than put a spin move on a safety to spring downfield for his third score of the game.
Ball later had a series of impressive runs. He was ripping off yards in chunks and ended any hope for Illinois to get back into the game. Ball seemed to be running for over 10 yards per carry late in the game as he moved up and down the field. He has fantastic vision and patience to go along with a burst to hit the hole and power to get yards after contact. Ball finished the game with 221 yards on 38 carries with two touchdown runs and one scoring reception. If Ball enters the draft, he looks like he could be a late first-round or second-round pick.
All season, Russell Wilson has produced big plays. His go-to weapon is senior wide receiver Nick Toon. They got going some in the first half. Toon got involved in the second quarter with a nice gain of 20 yards on a crossing route. They connected later on the drive for a good gain of 24 yards on another out route. Toon caught a few short passes in the second half and finished the game with 67 yards on six catches. Toon looks like a second-day pick.
Wilson didn't throw the ball much as Wisconsin kept the ball on the ground. He completed 10-of-13 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. Wilson also ran for a short touchdown on a bootleg off of play-action. Wilson is an excellent college quarterback, but he looks like a third-day pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Wilson is listed at 5-foot-11, but he easily could be shorter than that. That lack of height is a killer for his draft stock.
Illinois senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins is on the bubble between the second and third day of the draft. He has been very productive this season and a reliable weapon for Illinois. Early in the second quarter Jenkins made a difficult leaping catch for an 18-yard gain on 4th-and-14.
On a drive just before halftime, Jenkins had a nice nine-yard run. It was an impressive cut and read by the senior. He made a short reception on the next play. He had a 15-yard touchdown catch on a crossing route, but it was called back by a terrible phantom penalty. Jenkins came back to make a five-yard catch to get the ball to the 3-yard line with seconds remaining. That play was also called back by another offensive pass interference penalty.
Jenkins received another carry at the start of the fourth quarter, but this time he couldn't break into the open field and he fumbled the ball while going down. Illinois recovered Jenkins' fumble. A few plays later, Jenkins had a pass to him tipped around and eventually intercepted. It wasn't the fault of Jenkins because it was a terrible pass. Jenkins finished the game with 33 yards on four catches. His draft stock should remain the same.
Georgia 19, Kentucky 10
There were a few good prospects to watch in this matchup. The star of the game was Kentucky senior linebacker Danny Trevathan. The Wildcat defensive leader was all over the field stuffing runs and producing splash plays. Trevathan is putting together an impressive season to cap a great career at Kentucky.
In the second quarter, Trevathan dived after a running back with a tough hit and punched the ball out. A Kentucky teammate fell on the loose ball to set up the Wildcats at the Georgia 27-yard line. The turnover set up a Kentucky touchdown and a 10-6 lead.
Trevathan showed good man pass coverage abilities going against Geogia tight end Orson Charles. He made a clutch open-field tackle on Brandon Boykin to force a punt on fourth down. On the next possession, Trevathan busted into the backfield on a sweep to make a tackle for a two-yard loss.
In the fourth quarter, Trevathan came on a blitz up the middle. He cut around a pile and ran down quarterback Aaron Murray for a big sack. It was his 12th official tackle in the game until the next play when Trevathan ran down another running back. Trevathan finished the game with unofficially 15 or more tackles with three tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Trevathan has fabulous speed and does a good job of getting off blocks from offensive linemen. He shed a block from Cordy Glenn to make one tackle. This game should definitely help improve Trevathan's draft stock. He is making the case to be an early third-round or late second-round pick.
Glenn and senior center Ben Jones both had easy games against Kentucky. They both were winning their blocks in run and pass defense. The Kentucky defensive linemen didn't give either a big test. Glenn looks like a second-round pick and Jones looks like a second-day prospect.
Charles, meanwhile, is a receiving threat who is working on gaining strength and becoming a better blocker. That description was an exact fit for Charles' game against Kentucky. Charles missed a bad block to allow a tackle on a screen. On a few out routes, Charles caught passes for good gains. He does a good job of finding soft spots in zone coverage. Charles finished the game with three receptions for 40 yards. He looks like a second-day pick if he declares. He probably would be better off returning for his senior season and improving his blocking before going pro.
An early third-day pick is Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin. Early in the first quarter, Boykin gave up some separation to a receiver running a go route downfield. The ball was lofted up into the air and caught. Boykin got turned around and couldn't find the ball. It took another 10 yards or so until Boykin made the tackle. The gain went for about 40 yards and set up Kentucky to get a field goal and an early lead in the game. It was an ugly play for Boykin where he showed bad awareness and allowed a receiver to get separation running a go route.
Just before halftime, Boykin made an easy interception in zone coverage with a pass thrown right to him. He made a good hands catch but it was as easy an interception as Boykin will ever see. The rest of the game was quiet for Boykin. His stock looks roughly the same as a potential fourth-rounder.
Looking like a pick a round earlier is Kentucky senior safety Winson Guy, Jr. He had a quiet game overall for Kentucky, which is surprising as he entered the weekend with the second-highest tackle total for any defensive back in the nation. He had 102 tackles entering the game. In the third quarter, Guy was getting in on a tackle and recovered a Georgia fumble. That was his only splash play, but Guy was involved on a few tackles. He looks solid as a potential third-rounder right now.