Clemson 38, Virginia Tech 10
In another conference championship that featured a regular season rematch, a couple pro prospects had good performances. Clemson features a few early-round draft picks for next April. Tight end Dwayne Allen, defensive end Andre Branch and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson all had strong showings against Virginia Tech.
In the first quarter, Allen muscled his way into the end zone on his first catch. He was wide open along the sideline. After making the catch, Allen dodged a tackle and pushed through safety Eddie Whitley to get into the end zone for the first score of the contest. In the third quarter, the junior tight end had a big fumble recovery to save a scoring drive.
Allen finished that Tigers� possesssion by breaking open, running an out route in the end zone. He got a few yards of separation on a cornerback and made an easy catch. Those two touchdowns were Allen's only catches, and they went for 32 yards. He also did a good job of blocking against the Hokies. Allen finished the regular season with 48 receptions for 577 yards and eight touchdowns. He could have even bigger numbers but Clemson didn't do a very good job of working the ball to him over the past couple of seasons. Allen looks like solid second-round pick next April and the top tight end in the draft class.
Branch was an active player who was around the ball throughout the night. Virginia Tech was focused on defending him as he had notched four sacks in the first meeting. On his first defensive play of the night for the Tigers, Branch ripped down quarterback Logan Thomas on a designed run around the line of scrimmage, and a teammate was able to punch the ball free. Later in the first half, Branch got a hit on Thomas that forced an incompletion on third down.
In the third quarter, Branch was hit with a personal foul penalty. It was a bad mental mistake as he pushed Thomas to the ground long after the signal caller had gotten rid of the football. Branch left the game early as Clemson had a huge lead. He finished the game with three tackles but was more active than the numbers indicate. Aside from his penalty, it was a quality tape for evaluators. Branch looks to be steady on the second day of the draft.
Thompson was more disruptive than his stat line. He recorded two tackles with a tackle for a loss. Throughout the game, Thompson was a load at the line of scrimmage who was getting penetration in the backfield. There were a couple of plays where he got a good bull rush to pressure Thomas. Thompson does not have a repertoire of pass rushing moves, and he tries to bull rush by the guard or through the guard on every attempt.
In the third quarter, Thompson blasted into the backfield for a big tackle for a loss. He bull rushed through a guard and bear-hugged running back David Wilson to bring him down. Late in the game, Thompson was on the sideline watching the backups play. Many project Thompson as a first-round pick next April.
The junior Wilson was the ACC Player of the Year, but he was non-factor against Clemson. In the first half, the Tigers� defense did a good job of bottling Wilson up. After halftime, the Hokies were quickly behind by a big margin, so they had to abandon the ground attack. He finished with 32 yards on 11 carries.
After the game, Wilson made a minor, but public, criticism of Clemson's play-calling and that definitely won't sit well with NFL evaluators. If the junior declares for the draft, he could be a second-day pick. Considering that Wilson had seven fumbles this season, it might be best for his draft status to return to school and improve before going pro in 2013.
Another second-day prospect in the contest was Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley. He left the field in the first quarter after getting a stinger while making a tackle in run support. This season saw Hosley not play as well as he did in 2010, when he had nine interceptions. Hosley had a third of that total this year. The injury against Clemson was a disappointing finish to the regular season.
Wisconsin 42, Michigan State 39
There was a lot of pro talent on display in the rematch between Wisconsin and Michigan State for the Big Ten Championship. Both schools feature some linemen on both sides of the ball who will play on the next level along with some good skill position candidates. The two prospects who were the most impressive were Spartans defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and Badgers running back Montee Ball.
Entering the season, Worthy was viewed as the top defensive tackle prospect in the nation, but an inconsistent season saw his stock slide into the second-day of the draft. He made the case to go back up with his disruptive performance against Wisconsin.
Worthy almost made a big play in the first quarter when he shot his gap and tackled Wilson who was trying to hand off the ball to Ball. Not long afterwards, Worthy fired into the backfield and disrupted a play that resulted in a loss for the Badgers. In the third quarter, he made a huge play to bust a play in the backfield on a third-and-1, but was ruled to be offsides on the play. It was a questionable call since Worthy seemed to time the snap extremely well. Later on, he had a good tackle in run defense and swallowed Ball at the line of scrimmage.
In the fourth quarter, Wisconsin got a touchdown to close the score to 34-36. However, on the two-point conversion attempt, Worthy tipped the pass at the line of scrimmage forcing the incompletion and killing the try. Throughout the night, he got pressure on Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson, and was a tough player to block in the ground game. The Badgers were without center Peter Konz, and they definitely could have used his help with the way Worthy was playing.
One of the players who fought hard against Worthy was Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler. The senior looks like a second-day pick next April. He had some good plays blocking Worthy and opening up holes in the ground game, but there were still some plays where Worthy beat him. It was a competitive battle between two players who will be playing on Sundays. This game was a better showing from Worthy in comparison to many otherof his performances this year, and it should help raise his stock higher in the second round if he declares for the 2012 draft.
The junior Ball started the game strong with runs of 13 yards and 26 yards on the first Wisconsin drive. On the second drive, he continued to pound the ball while also throwing a great 32-yard pass on a halfback option. Ball capped the possession with a six-yard touchdown run straight up the middle, powering through a tackle to fall over the goal line. About a minute later, he ran in another touchdown after the Badgers recovered a fumbled kickoff.
After the first quarter, the Spartans� defense turned things around and kept Ball in check through the second and third quarter. Eventually, he got back in the end zone. On a shovel pass, Ball scored a two-yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter, he had yet another short touchdown run. Ball finished evening with 137 yards on 27 carries with three touchdowns. He also caught three passes for seven yards with a score.
Ball (5-11, 210) has fabulous vision and anticipation. He possesses very good power to bounce off of tackles and get yards after contact. Ball also has the burst to hit the hole quickly and get to the second level of the defense. Heading into Rose Bowl against Oregon, he needs one touchdown to tie Barry Sanders� all-time FBS, single-season record of 39 touchdowns. With two touchdowns against the Ducks, Ball will set a new record in college football. The junior could go early in the second round, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that he will sneak into Thursday night.
A prospect for the second day of the draft is Wisconsin senior wide receiver Nick Toon. He made a nice reception to get the Badgers in position for their first touchdown. Toon went high to make the catch with a corner draped on his back. Later in the first quarter, Toon had a bad dropped pass.
In the fourth quarter, the senior was well covered in the end zone and almost made a diving catch, but he drew a flag for pass interference on the incompletion. Toon finished the game with three receptions for 34 yards. This game won't help his stock.
Wilson has had a great season for Wisconsin and has been a difference maker who exploits defenses trying to focus on Ball. The signal caller threw a short touchdown pass early in the first quarter. Wilson made a great play in the third quarter. The senior avoided a sack and shed a defender off of his face mask. He then stepped up in the pocket and lofted a bomb to a wide open receiver for a big touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Wilson lofted a pass for 36 yards to receiver Jeff Duckworth to set up the game-winning touchdown. The play came on fourth-and-6. He saw nothing open, rolled to his left and threw across the field to Duckworth, who made a great leaping catch. A few plays later, Wilson made a great play for a two-point conversion. He escaped a sack and made a jump pass into the end zone to his receiver for the score.
Against Michigan State, Wilson was 17-of-24 for 187 yards and three touchdowns. If it weren't for his height, the 5-foot-11, 201-pound would be a legitimate pro prospect, but due to his stature, he is a long shot to get drafted highly. Plus, Wilson could be shorter than his listed height. He is similar to former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith. They are stars at the college level, but too short for the NFL. That pushes Wilson into the third day of the draft.
A quarterback on the bubble between the second and third day of the draft is the Spartans� Kirk Cousins. He started the contest well with some good throws to wide receiver Keshawn Martin downfield. On the first play of the second quarter, Cousins ran a perfect boot leg and hit a wide open B.J. Cunningham for a touchdown.
Later on, Cunningham made a stellar catch. He leaped, reached back and snatched a ball out of the air while getting hit by multiple defenders. In the second quarter, Cousins (6-3, 205) had a perfect pocket to throw in, but made a horrible throw into double coverage and the pass was intercepted by the Badgers.
Cunningham had a nice catch in the third quarter called back because of a penalty. A few plays later, he ran a crossing route and was hit in stride by Cousins. Cunningham turned upfield and ran 44 yards to get into the end zone for his third touchdown of the game. He finished the contest with five catches for 115 yards and three touchdowns. Cousins was 22-of-30 for 281 yards and three scores with one interception. Both players helped themselves with good overall performances. Cunningham looks like a fourth-rounder while Cousins could still go in the third or fourth round.
Another prospect who had a quality outing was Michigan State safety Trenton Robinson. He recorded 12 tackles against Wisconsin. Robinson looked good with a lot of hard hits. He looks like another third or fourth-round pick from the Spartans.
Oklahoma State 44, Oklahoma 10
The blow out at Bedlam was a disaster for the Sooners. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones entered the regular season finale as a potential first-round pick, but came away with his worst performance of the year. The Oklahoma State defense had their way with him from start to finish.
Jones tossed his first interception came midway through the first quarter. He aired out a bomb in the end zone, and the defensive back outfought wide receiver Jaz Reynolds for the interception. Late in the first half, Jones started to get in a groove and moved the ball with some intermediate passes. He had the Sooners closing in on the end zone down 10-0, but made a bad decision that ended up being the turning point of the game.
A blitz came and Jones held onto the ball too long. He tried to throw the ball away with a defender grabbing at him, but fumbled the ball away. The Cowboys scooped up the fumble and returned it 59 yards to the Oklahoma one-yard line. Oklahoma State scored a short touchdown and never looked back.
In the third quarter, Jones dropped the football as he was rearing back to throw. The ball rolled away and was picked up by a defender and returned for a touchdown. That gave the Cowboys a 34-3 lead on the Sooners. A bit later, he took a sack when a blitzer came free. He blitzed from a long way off and the sack was inexcusable. Jones has to get the ball out and that sack was on him.
In the fourth quarter, an underthrown deep pass was intercepted. For the game, Jones was 27-of-50 for 250 yards with two interceptions and two fumbles. The junior fired some bullets on a deep out routes, so he did exhibit the physical skill set to be a starter in the NFL, but this night could easily knock down Jones� stock in the eyes of evaluators. He has a tough decision to make on whether to return to school. If Jones enters the draft, he still is likely to be a first-rounder, but may not be a top-10 pick.
Another future first-round pick is Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. The star wide out is having a fantastic season and is expected to enter the 2012 NFL Draft. Blackmon made a miraculous leaping catch along the sideline but landed out of bounds. Later in the first, he bobbled a ball but held onto it.
The Cowboys got the ball to Blackmon on some short crossing routes and went to a deep out route between double teams. He also caused a pass interference flag on a deep pass that fell incomplete. Cornerback Jamell Fleming was all over Blackmon running down field. The receiver used his size, good hands and speed to help move the chains for Oklahoma State. He totaled 10 receptions for 95 yards, and this outing should keep his stock steady at the top of the first round.
The senior Fleming, a mid-round pick, had an average game. He and the rest of the secondary kept Blackmon from breaking out a long touchdown as they gave him bracket coverage. Still, he made catches to move the ball against the Sooners� defense. Fleming finished the night with eight tackles and a pass break up.
An Oklahoma prospect who had a disappointing showing was Sooners defensive end Frank Alexander. After a strong season, he had moved into consideration for an early pick on the second day of the draft. He has been Oklahoma's best pass rusher and has had a number of good performances with consistent pressure on the quarterback.
That was not the case against Oklahoma State as Alexander was owned by Cowboys offensive tackle Levy Adcock. All game, he was moving Alexander to open up holes and kept him from even sniffing quarterback Brandon Weeden.
In the first quarter, Adcock sealed a lane on Alexander for a touchdown run. Adcock blocked down the line on the play pushing Alexander into traffic. Another touchdown in the third quarter came when Adcock opened a hole for the running back. He clearly won the battle in the trenches and pounded Alexander out of his gap all night. This display should give Adcock's stock a real shot in the arm and push him up higher on the second day of the draft. Previously this season, he has had some struggles with speed rushers, but that wasn't case against Alexander. The Sooners defensive end will get downgraded after his ugly affair where he was completely shut out and didn't register a single tackle.
Oklahoma State safety Markelle Martin, a second or third-round pick, had a quality finish to the regular season. He had a tackle for a loss on a perimeter run where he jetted into the backfield from the secondary to make a tackle inside Oklahoma's 10-yard line. In the fourth quarter, Martin came close to an interception but the pass was too high for him to grab. He had three tackles and a pass broken up.
A senior who has had a frustrating season is Sooners linebacker Travis Lewis. That trend continued against the Cowboys. He had a nice tackle for no gain on a third-and-4 run in the second quarter. Otherwise, there were plays where Lewis looked like he was out of his gap in run defense. That was the case for the Oklahoma defense as a unit, and Lewis looked like his gap integrity was off on numerous plays. He kept fighting though, and punched a ball out from behind a ball carrier in the fourth quarter during garbage time.
Lewis had nine tackles in the game. The 2011 season is the only one of the past four that he has not led the Sooners in tackles and recorded at least 100 total tackles. Entering the bowl game, Lewis has 80 tackles this year. Right now, he looks like a second-day pick.
Northern Illinois 23, Ohio 20
The MAC Championship game featured an interesting quarterback prospect. Senior quarterback Chandler Harnish entered the game as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. Mobile and elusive, he has been enjoying a big senior season.
Harnish entered the game completing 63 percent of his passes for 2,692 yards with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also had 1,351 yards on the ground with 11 touchdowns. The game didn't start well for him. On one on of his first passes, Harnish threw a pass to a receiver that was tipped up in the air. The deflected ball was intercepted.
A short time later, another pass was almost intercepted, but the defensive back dropped the ball, even though it flew straight into his stomach. On the next possession, Harnish hooked up for a 37-yard completion on a ball he tossed into a receiver running a deep post. Harnish had a nice run of 11 yards up the middle to set up a first-and-goal from the four-yard line. A few plays later, he made a bad decision. On a roll out pass, Harnish was pressured. Rather than throwing it away, he tried to evade a defender but fumbled the ball away while getting hit.
Later in the third quarter, Harnish had some nice runs to move the ball for the Huskies. He found wide receiver Nathan Palmer wide open down the middle of the field. Harnish lofted the ball in and the receiver fought his way in for a 39-yard touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Harnish lofted a rainbow into Martel Moore for a 32-yard touchdown pass. It was a pretty touch pass from him and a nice over the shoulder catch from Moore. Harnish followed that up with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Palmer. Those scores tied the game at 20 due to a missed extra point. Harnish led a 48-yard drive late in the fourth quarter to set up a game-winning field goal.
For the afternoon, Harnish was 16-of-26 for 250 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He ran for 31 yards on 13 carries. Harnish does not have the strongest arm and is not an elite athlete. He is a good college quarterback, but looks like a career backup at most in the NFL. In the 2012 NFL Draft, Harnish looks like a fifth or sixth-round pick.
Northern Illinois senior center Scott Wedige is a pro prospect. It appears as if he will definitely need to add some power and bulk for the next level. Wedige is quick and is able to get in position to hit blockers on the second level of the defense. He looks like a late-round pick.
Baylor 48, Texas 24
Against Texas, star Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III was taking on one of the better defenses he was going to face all season. The Heisman candidate has been one of the most dominant players in college football this season and has made the case to be a high first-round pick whether he enters the NFL draft in 2012 or 2013.
All season, Griffin has been producing big passes plays downfield to senior wide receiver Kendall Wright. In the first minute of the game, they hooked up for a 59-yard touchdown pass. Griffin laid out a deep ball perfectly for Wright. He ran a skinny post by two defenders and flew into the end zone for the score.
Not long afterwards, Griffin hit Wright for a 48-yard gain to the Texas 20. Wright ran another deep route by the Texas secondary. That set up a 20-yard touchdown run off tackle from senior running back Terrence Ganaway.
Later, Wright caught a pitch on an end around and burst downfield for a 29-yard run. That play was the catalyst for a field goal. Not long after that, Griffin made a bad decision, throwing a terrible pass that was intercepted in the front of the end zone by Texas safety Blake Gideon. The Baylor defense bailed Griffin out with a huge interception returned to the Texas two-yard line. The signal caller (6-2, 220) then banged his way into the end zone.
Early in the third quarter, Griffin went to Wright for 16 yards to get another scoring drive started. A few more throws set up Ganaway to score from a yard out. Less than five minutes later, Griffin ran up the middle of the Longhorns� defense for a short touchdown run.
In the fourth quarter, Griffin executed a nice play-action. He stepped back and threw a perfect bomb downfield for wide receiver Terrence Williams. He ran a nine route and Griffin's pass was laid out perfectly for him to run under it in the end zone. It was a game-sealing touchdown that gave the Bears a 24-point lead.
Griffin didn't have his most prolific game, but he played well and led his team to a victory. He was 15-of-22 for 320 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Griffin also ran for 32 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns. He showed his toughness on his runs and some hits in the pocket. This game should only confirm his high draft-pick status.
Wright finished the game with six receptions for 166 yards and one touchdown. This strong performance from him should help his stock to rise into the second day of the draft. All season, he has been too fast for any secondary in the Big XII and has produced big plays on a weekly basis. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Wright looks like an outside deep threat and a slot receiver in the NFL.
Ganaway powered his way through the Texas defense and had a big game. He ran for 152 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. Ganaway (6-0, 240) is a one-cut downhill runner who runs through tackles and has a good burst to hit the hole before it closes. Ganaway could sneak into the third round or be an early pick on the third day of the draft. If he runs a fast 40 time at the combine, his stock could soar.
Texas has three defensive prospects for the 2012 draft. Defensive tackle Kheeston Randle, linebacker Emmanuel Acho and linebacker Keenan Robinson all were kept in check by the Bears. They got in some tackles in the ground game, but they didn't make any splash plays. Acho had a facemask in the second quarter. Robinson had a good tackle for a loss in the second quarter, but was about it from the trio. All of them look like they are potential third or fourth-rounders.
LSU 42, Georgia 10
There was a lot of future NFL talent on display in the SEC Championship Game. The highest rated prospect in this meeting was LSU junior cornerback Morris Claiborne. All year, he has produced big plays while being a dominant cover corner.
Against Georgia, Claiborne had a mixed game. He almost gave up a touchdown early as he slipped after biting on a double-move. That let wide receiver Tavarres King get open for a big gain to the Tigers� 21-yard line. A little bit later Claiborne was called for a holding penalty that gave the Bulldogs a first down.
Claiborne rebounded late in the second quarter, breaking up a pass deep down the field. In the third quarter, he was beat by King for a first down on a slant route for a gain of about 10 yards. Late in the fourth, Claiborne dropped an interception. It was surprising since he has shown good hands all season. A few plays later, the junior rebounded.
On an overthrown pass along the sideline, Claiborne reached up and ripped the ball out of the air. He raced 45-yards down the field and broke a tackle before running into the end zone for a score. Even though the game was a mixed outing, it shouldn't impact Claiborne's draft stock in either direction.
LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle had a quiet game. The junior had zero catches in the first half. He could have had a touchdown pass early in the game. If quarterback Jordan Jefferson had thrown the ball earlier, he could have hit Randle running deep downfield as he had gotten a step on cornerback Brandon Boykin. The ball was underthrown, which let Boykin recover and make a diving pass break up. Early in the third quarter, Randle got involved with a catch on a slant for a first down.
Randle (6-4, 207) finished the game with two catches for 15 yards. There is valid concern about whether or not he has the speed to separate from skilled defensive backs. He was blanketed by Alabama, and for the most part, Georgia kept him from getting open. The junior should consider returning for his senior season and improving before going pro. If Randle enters the 2012 draft, he could be a second-day pick.
Boykin is a player who could be a second-day pick next April. He has had a mixed season and right now, looks like a third or fourth-round pick. Boykin got lucky in the first quarter with Jefferson missing what could have been a big play downfield. A little bit later, Boykin had a nice pass breakup for an incompletion. In the third quarter, he whiffed on a tackle a few yards past the line of scrimmage. Boykin seemed afraid of getting run over as he tried to grab the running back's jersey rather than going in hard for a tackle. The back powered his way into the end zone.
On the next possession, Boykin got beat on a quick out for a short touchdown catch, but the play was reviewed and overturned into an incompletion as the ball scraped against the ground. Later in the third quarter, he got run over trying to tackle a running back out of the backfield. The back went through him and cruised into the end zone for a score. Boykin had a quality tackle later in the game, but his run support overall was poor. The game against LSU definitely didn't help Boykin's draft stock.
A potential first or second-round pick is Georgia junior left tackle Cordy Glenn. He was generally winning his plays early in the game. Late in the first quarter, Glenn was beat by a swim move and almost allowed a sack, but quarterback Aaron Murray got rid of the ball. In the second quarter, Glenn got beat by a speed rush around the edge, and the defender ran down Murray for a big sack a few yards in front of the end zone.
After that play, Glenn had a good streak of plays where he shut his blocker down. Glenn allowed some pressures, but held his own. This game won't help his stock, but it shouldn't hurt it significantly.
Bulldogs center Ben Jones did not have a very good night. His prime highlight was making a clutch fumble recovery early in the second quarter. Throughout the night, Jones battled, but he gave up some pass pressure. The senior�s awareness was off, as he contributed to a defender getting free for a sack. Jones allowed a sack in the fourth quarter when he got beat off the snap by a speed rush. Despite the rough game, Jones still looks like a second-day pick next April.
Cincinnati 35, Connecticut 27
There were two quality defensive line prospects in the game between Cincinnati and Connecticut. One of them stood out with a massive performance, which should give his draft stock a nice shot in the arm.
Bearcats defensive tackle Derek Wolfe has been having an excellent senior season. He entered the game with 14.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks. Wolfe got going in the first quarter when he fired into the backfield and chased down the running back for a big loss. A bit later Wolfe got a big sack to force a 3rd-and-19. He bull rushed his way into the pocket, used his power to shed the block, and ran down the quarterback with his speed.
After the Huskies got a turnover inside the 10-yard line, Wolfe executed a one-man goal-line stand. He tackled the running back on first and then second down for little to no gain. On third down, Wolfe beat the guard with a left-handed rip move, chasing down the quarterback for his second sack of the game, forcing a field goal. Wolfe combined with a teammate to get his third sack of the day when he came on a stunt to get free from his blocker.
Wolfe plays with excellent pad level, and has a nice combination of speed and strength. In the NFL, he could stay at defensive tackle, but would also be a good five technique in a 3-4 defense. Wolfe has made the case to be a second-round pick next April. At the very least, the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder should be a second-day selection.
Benefiting from all the disruption that Wolfe caused was the defensive tackle next to him, John Hughes. The senior had a number of tackles for a loss and had a lot of pass pressure. Hughes has broken out recently with three sacks in his last three games (two versus West Virginia). He continued that production against Connecticut. Hughes looks like a sleeper prospect for the third day of the draft.
Huskies defensive tackle Kendall Reyes is viewed by some to be a potential first-round pick. The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder entered the game with 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks on the season. In the first quarter, Reyes burst into the backfield and tackled the quarterback on a perimeter run for a loss of a few yards. He followed that play with a good pass rush which disrupted the play.
On occasion, Reyes would have a good rush and some good plays in run defense. He didn't have a big game, but was solid. Reyes looks like he is a little stiff. The senior has a good burst, but his ability to redirect and move around offensive linemen looks like a weakness. Reyes should probably be a second-day pick.
A player who looks like a solid third-day pick is Cincinnati linebacker J.K. Schaffer. He's had a strong senior season and entered the game with 317 career tackles. Early in the game, Schaffer had a nice tackle in pass coverage. He ran over in the open field to make a textbook tackle. Schaffer was quiet for a lot of the contest, but in the third quarter, he joined in on a tackle downfield and ripped the ball free. Schaffer dived on top of the loose ball for the Bearcats.
Schaffer otherwise had a quality game getting in on some tackles, and it wasn't a massive performance. His stock looks stable as an early-round pick on the third day of the draft.
Two draft prospects in the game had bad performances. The first of them was Connecticut center Moe Petrus. He really struggled with Hughes and Wolfe. Petrus was beaten regularly and couldn't matchup with the Cincinnati interior linemen. Petrus looks like a late-round pick, and this game definitely hurt his stock.
The other player who hurt their stock in the game was Bearcats running back Isaiah Pead, who had a terrible, fumbled handoff that the Huskies recovered inside Cincinnati's 10-yard line in the second quarter. Wolfe bailed him out with a one-man goal line stand. Later in the second half, Pead had another fumble but it was recovered by a teammate. Pead totaled 64 yards on 22 carries. He looks like a third-day pick.
Southern Miss 49, Houston 28
Two potential third-day quarterbacks had a dual in the Conference USA Championship. Houston's Case Keenum and Sourthern Miss' Austin Davis both have had excellent college careers with Keenum rewriting NCAA record brooks. The game at Houston was played in windy conditions and it seemed to be having an impact on both signal-callers.
Keenum (6-1, 210) entered the game having completed 73 percent of his passes for 4,726 yards with 43 touchdowns and three interceptions. He was hoping to have a big performance to lead his team to a win and a BCS bowl berth, but it was a rough outing for him. It started out poorly as Keenum overthrew an open receiver early in the first quarter. The receiver was behind the coverage and would have ran down the field for an 80-yard touchdown. After having a few drives fall apart, Keenum got the ball in the end zone with a short touchdown pass. On the next drive, he executed a great play-fake to open up a receiver running down the seam. Keenum hit him in stride, and he raced downfield for a long gain to set up a short touchdown run.
Down by two touchdowns, the Cougars were able to move the ball inside the 10-yard line. On first-and-goal, Keenum threw a terrible pass and it was intercepted. The ball was underthrown and was a much easier catch for the defensive back than the receiver. Keenum later threw another pick in garbage time. The senior finished 41-of-67 for 373 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. This game hurts his stock, so he looks like a third-day pick.
Davis played a much better game. He led his team to a huge upset road win. Davis (6-2, 220) entered the contest having completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,052 yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the first possession, he overthrew a receiver on a third down. It was a throw Davis should have made. Late in the first quarter, he started moving the ball with some precision passes. Davis tossed a 14-yard touchdown pass. The receiver was open in zone coverage. Davis hit him between the numbers, and he ran a few yards into the end zone.
Davis threaded a dart to a receiver in double coverage on the next possession. It was a good gain of about 20 and an impressive throw. On the next play, he floated a ball into an open back running a wheel route for a 16-yard touchdown. Davis later got lucky with a dropped interception on a horrible decision to throw the ball to a covered receiver.
Davis threw a long touchdown pass on a deep skinny post late in the second quarter. However, he was later picked off after tossing a pass into double coverage, and it was returned about 40 yards to the 4-yard line. That set up a touchdown run by Houston.
Davis bounced back with a 61-yard touchdown pass. He pump faked and then dropped in a ball perfectly to his receiver streaking along the sideline.
Deep in Cougars' territory, Davis had the chance to put the game away but he fumbled the ball away after running into a blocker. It turned out not to matter as the Golden Eagles' defense finished the game well. Davis was 17-of-33 for 279 yards for four touchdowns and one interception. This game should definitely help his stock. Davis' throwing motion is going to need some work for the NFL, but he has a decent arm and pocket presence. Davis also looks like a third-day pick.
The draft prospect who really had a huge outing to help his draft stock was Southern Miss defensive end Cordarro Law. He entered the contest with 15 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks on the season.
Law made a couple tackles for a loss on perimeter runs early in the game. He did a good job of staying at home and snuffing out some misdirection plays that came back his way. Law also had a couple of good pass rushes. He was quiet in the middle part of the game, but made his presence felt with a near sack that forced a throw away late in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Law ripped off a wicked spin move on the left tackle. After spinning by the tackle, he grabbed a hold of Keenum's jersey and ripped him down. The sack came on 4th-and-16 at the Houston 25-yard line. That play was a nail in the coffin for the Cougars' disappointing loss.
Law's strong game will definiely help his stock. He entered the game as an early pick on the third-day of the draft, but could now get consideration in the third round.
West Virginia 30, South Florida 27
There were a few quality pro prospects in the game between West Virginia and South Florida. The Mountaineers feature two defensive ends who are potential second-day draft picks next April, Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin. Both have been finishing the season strong after being quiet in the first half of the season.
Last week, Miller had a four sack game against Pitt. Against USF, he did not have anything close to that kind of impact. Late in the first quarter, Miller was destroyed by two linemen. He was put into the ground hard by the guard and tackle, and had to leave the game. After missing some time, Miller returned to the game later in the first half. He had a nice tackle for a loss in the second quarter after pushing his way into the backfield to rip down the back.
On a lot of passing situations, the Mountaineers went to a 3-4 defense and had Miller playing a one technique over the center. All that did was get him a lot of double teams from the center and a guard. That really limited Miller's ability to put pressure on the quarterback. He almost made a leaping interception of a screen pass in the fourth quarter. Overall, Miller got in on a handful of tackles in run support, but was held in check while rushing the passer. This game won't help his stock, but shouldn't hurt too much either.
Throughout the game Irvin was quiet also. West Virginia removed the undersized end from the game in many running situations. The 6-foot-3, 236-pounder can get treated like a rag doll when offensive linemen are able to get their hands on him. Irvin had a good pressure or two, but for the most part he was very quiet in the first half. In the third quarter, Irvin limped off the field, and he stayed on the sideline into the fourth quarter. Irvin did not have real a presence in the game.
Another potential second-day draft pick in the game was West Virginia cornerback Keith Tandy. On the first drive, he made a touchdown-saving tackle after the running back broke into the secondary. Tandy was the last man who could have made the tackle before the open field. He also had a tackle for no gain late in the first half. In the third quarter, Tandy had tight coverage, but he was called for a questionable pass interference penalty.
A short time later, Tandy had a nice pass breakup on a jump ball in the end zone. On the next play, he was flagged for pass interference after knocking the receiver to the ground during his jam. Tandy gave up a big completion that allowed the Bulls to move the ball inside the 20-yard line. That helped set up the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Before the game, I saw Tandy in the tunnel outside of the locker room, and he is put together well. Tandy has more strength and bigger arms than many pro cornerbacks. The 5-foot-10, 198-pounder won't require his NFL team to keep on him about hitting the weight room. He looks like his measurements are accurate. Tandy looks like a third or fourth-rounder.
South Florida safety Jerrell Young had a mixed game in his final collegiate contest. Early in the game, he had a big hit on a running back. Later, in the third quarter, Young had a horrible missed tackle after taking a bad angle to a ball carrier in the open field. Young has decent instincts and reads offenses well. He looks like a solid third-day pick.
A prospect who had a solid game is West Virginia left tackle Don Barclay. Overall, he did a good job in pass protection and gave quarterback Geno Smith time to throw. Barclay gave up a sack in the fourth quarter, but it was a coverage sack. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder has some quick feet and power. He would be better off moving inside to guard in the NFL and could be a good pick in the middle of the draft.