Georgia 41, Missouri 20
There were a number of good draft prospects in the SEC debut for Missouri, but Georgia junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones had a game for the ages. It was about as dominant a performance as any front-seven defender could possibly have. Jones was an overwhelming force from start to finish that the Tigers were incapable of stopping.
Surprisingly, the junior had a bad play early when he got turned around by quarterback James Franklin and lost the ball on a running attempt. Jones recovered and was pretty much lights out after that. He dragged down the ball-carrier on a third-and-short on the next play to force a punt.
Jones was about to sack Franklin in the first quarter, so the quarterback threw the ball away. The toss was ruled intentional grounding and the Bulldogs linebackers was given credit for a sack.
The junior ran down Franklin at the start of the second quarter from behind downfield. While wrestling the quarterback to the ground, Jones ripped the ball out. Franklin recovered the fumble, but it was an instinctive play by the Georgia star. Jones then blew up a run in the backfield on the same drive when his presence screwed up the handoff at the mesh point and the ball fell free to be recovered by the Bulldogs. Thus, Jones basically forced two fumbles one drive, even if neither one ended up being officially credited to him.
Jones caused yet another fumble a bit later when he hit Franklin as he threw the ball, but the play was reviewed and ruled that the signal-caller's arm was coming forward for an incompletion.
Jones put the game away for Georgia in crunch time. Great players come up with big plays at clutch times and that is exactly what the junior did for his team with an interception midway through the fourth quarter. He dropped into coverage, read the pass perfectly and then leaped and stretched out to make a nice hands catch. His return went to the one-yard line and set up the Bulldogs to add to their seven-point lead.
Jones had another blinding speed edge-rush on the next possession. Franklin rolled out of the pocket and Jones chased him down from behind, smacking the ball out. That turnover set up another easy score for Georgia.
The outstanding linebacker was all over the field aside from those splash plays. He made a lot of tackles in run support and was causing disruption behind the line of scrimmage.
Jones had one interception returned 21 yards, nine tackles, two sacks, one pass batted and one forced fumble against Missouri. I'm not sure why he was credited with only one forced fumble, but other players were in the vicinity during his second-quarter rip of the ball from Franklin. Perhaps one of them got the credit, but I'm not sure how the scorer could screw that up since it was clearly Jones who pulled the ball loose.
What makes Jones such a dynamic player is his shear explosiveness off the edge. He has a step on his linemen before they're out of their snap. Jones goes all out with a nonstop motor and relentless effort. He has enough strength to slap linemen's hands off of him, and his blinding speed allows him to get leverage where linemen are reaching for him rather than actually getting a block squared up on him.
Jones used the road win versus the Tigers to show that he is an elite playmaker who is deserving of top-10 consideration. That could end up being the best game of the season from any defensive prospect in college football.
Georgia has another early-round pick in its front seven in nose tackle John Jenkins. He created havoc on the line in all four quarters. Jenkins was consistently collapsing the pocket with bull rushes and often holding his ground with both a center and a guard blocking him. He has a nice ability to withstand bump blocks and not budge from his gap.
Jenkins had a sack in the second half. The snap fell short of Franklin and Jenkins trucked his way by the center. He showed his athleticism by dragging down the scrambling signal-caller. It was ruled a tackle for a loss because Franklin was running with the ball, but really it was a sack.
The 6-foot-3, 358-pounder is a good athlete for a man of his mammoth size. He is faster in pursuit compared to what most would think. The senior does a nice job of moving along the line and impacting runs that don't come directly towards his gap.
With three and half minutes left in the game and Georgia up by 21, Jenkins was injured and had to be helped off the field. It didn't make sense for him to even be in the game at that point as the Bulldogs had the game won. He is supposed to miss little or no time with a strained groin and shoulder contusion. Jenkins looks like a first- or second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Georgia senior safety Shawn Williams had a decent outing. He made a number of tackles in pass coverage and was a solid defender on the back end. Williams totaled eight tackles. He could warrant consideration as a second-day pick.
Another prospect worth mentioning is Bulldogs junior signal-caller Aaron Murray. He had a mixed game with some early struggles, but stepped up with some late throws to help push his team to a win. Murray threw a bad interception early in the second quarter. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder didn't see the linebacker in the middle of the field standing in zone coverage. That is a perfect example of his short height hurting his ability to play quarterback.
Murray came back with a 34-yard gain on a slant to Tavarres King. Murray threw a clutch touchdown pass in the third quarter on a third-and-5 at the six yard line on a quick slant. He then completed a two-point conversion on a short roll out pass to tie the game at 17. Murray completed 22-of-35 passes against the Tigers for 242 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He should stay for his senior year and improve before going pro.
Missouri quarterback James Franklin is another junior quarterback who should return to school for the 2013 season. He threw a deep touchdown and made some other nice passes, going 25-of-41 for 269 yards, two scores and an interception versus Georgia.
Franklin (6-2, 228) is a good athlete who can make plays with his feet, but he needs to work on his ball security. Franklin was far too careless with the football against Georgia. The junior needs more development with his pocket passing and he should aim to work on that before going pro. Franklin looks like a second-day pick in the 2014 NFL Draft at the moment.
The final prospect worth mentioning is Tigers defensive end Brad Madison. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder has some pass-rush ability, making 7.5 sacks in 2010 and 4.5 sacks in 2011 - granted he was banged up last year.
Madison had a nice sack early in the first quarter against Georgia. He blew right around the edge in a blur. After halftime, Madison had his second sack with a speed rush that toasted the right tackle. The senior totaled three tackles and two sacks against Georgia. He looks like a nice mid-round sleeper.
Notre Dame 20, Purdue 17
There were three seniors with potential to be first-round picks on display in this meeting between Notre Dame and Purdue. Fighting Irish tight end Tyler Eifert and middle linebacker Manti Te'o decided to return for their senior seasons even though they could've each been first-rounders last April in the 2012 NFL Draft. Ditto for Boilermakers defensive tackle Kawann Short. He was the most impressive in this game.
This was a good opportunity to get a look at Short. Notre Dame center Braxston Cave is a mid-round pick in his own right, and Short is one of the best interior pass-rushers in college football. Whoever got the better of the other in this matchup should see his stock rise.
Short was caused havoc in the interior of the of the Notre Dame defensive line throughout the game. He ended Notre Dame's first drive by shedding center Braxston Cave with a swim move and sacking quarterback Everett Golson.
Short showed off his speed and motor late in the first quarter by chasing down a wide out along the sideline to make a tackle on a wide receiver screen. It was nice example of Short's recognition skills.
By the third quarter Short had gotten into Cave's head, forcing the center to make a bad shotgun snap for a fumble when assigned to block him. Short forced a fumble later in the third quarter when he flew in the air on top of a running back and punched the ball out. The official scorer screwed up somehow and didn't give the senior credit for the forced fumble.
As if Short's day wasn't going well enough, he beat Fighting Irish guard Mike Golic, Jr. for a sack a short time later. Short smacked down the hands of Golic and exploded by him to chase down Golson for his second sack. It was a nice shed-speed rush from Short that illustrated his great closing speed.
The senior tackle totaled two sacks and four tackles against Notre Dame to help Purdue almost upset the home team in South Bend. Short is really putting together an excellent season. He has three sacks in two games and looks ready to make an impact on Sundays. The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder is a speedy pass-rusher who also has the strength to shed blocks and hold his ground at the point of attack. The display against the Fighting Irish should help Short to be a top-20 pick.
Cave and Golic are middle to late-round draft picks, but their individual performances against Short doesn't help their causes.
While Short definitely helped himself, Te'o didn't do much to boost his stock. He was slow to recognize a running back running a wheel route out of the backfield, allowing the Boilermakers a big gain on the completed pass. The senior contributed to a number of run tackles and totaled 10 stops against Purdue.
Te'o's best plays were in pass defense. He dropped into coverage well and did a good job of making tackles in the open field. It looks like Te'o made strides this offseason with his zone drops and improved his ability to contribute in passing situations. He looks quicker and more fluid so far in 2012. NBC analyst Mike Mayock said Te'o has trimmed down into the 240s, but Notre Dame still lists him at 6-foot-2, 255-pounds. Te'o could be a late first-rounder or early second-round pick. His play may fall short of the hype that he gets.
A player who deserves more hype is Eifert. He really is an excellent receiver and has not had anything special at quarterback over his years as a member of the Fighting Irish. Eifert started the contest agaisnt the Boilermakers well, winning a jump ball pass for a nice gain. He caught the ball despite a defensive back hanging all over him.
Eifert later ran a great route down the middle seam for a big gain to the Purdue 16-yard line. He ran a dig route against man coverage in the third quarter to get open, allowing Golson to hit him for a 23-yard gain on third down. Eifert went up over a defender later on the same drive to make a tough catch for a 25-yard gain to the Boilermakers three-yard line.
It turned out to be the senior's final reception of the game, but it could've been an even bigger game for him since he was open on many other plays but wasn't thrown the ball. Notre Dame's coaching staff made some dumb moves by pulling Eifert from the game at times, and not calling his number more often. He was on the sidelines for one third-and-3, causing Mayock to ask why Eifert would be there and not on the field. It was a dumb move by the Fighting Irish's coaching staff not having the sure-handed tight end on the field.
Notre Dame definitely isn't getting all that it could out of Eifert and he's the best player on the offense. The senior has made a lot of improvements in his blocking ability, and he is way more effective compared to his junior season. That should help him to be a first-rounder next April ,and his Purdue tape will help his cause, too.
Short wasn't the only defensive tackle who had an impressive game; two others were very impressive. Purdue junior B.J. Gaston was excellent and very disruptive. He didn't produce a big stat line, but caused havoc for the Irish. Gaston should stay for his senior year, but he has real upside for 2014.
The other defensive tackle who stood out was Notre Dame junior Louis Nix, a.k.a "Irish Chocolate." He was a bowling through the Boilermaker's offensive line all day and causing havoc in the backfield. Nix blasted his way in in the first half to swallow up the quarterback for a sack. He batted down a pass in the third quarter.
Nix collapsed the pocket in the fourth quarter with a bull rush through the guard to get in on a sack with a teammate. The 6-foot-3, 340-pounder was a force in run defense as well. He had four tackles with 1.5 sacks and two passes broken up.
Nix could contend to be a first-rounder if he enters the 2013 NFL Draft, but he would have a better shot at going in the top 32 if he followed Short's example to come back for his senior year to max out as a college player before going pro.
The final draft prospect worth mentioning is Purdue junior cornerback Ricardo Allen. He had tight coverage throughout the game, chipped in on run defense and blitzed well. Allen (5-9, 186) is undersized, but is a football player. He should stay for his senior season, but looks like a potential slot corner for the NFL and a mid-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Alabama 35, Western Kentucky 0
Even though this game had blowout written all over it, despite what Nick Satan tried to say, this was outing was significant for the 2013 NFL Draft. Alabama has a highly touted and NFL-prospect-laden offensive line, but the unit had some real struggles in pass protection against Western Kentucky.
Chief among the linemen who had issues was junior right tackle D.J. Fluker. He looked like a potential top-20 pick at the start of the season, but his play against the Hilltoppers would speak against that projection.
Fluker was beat early on for a sack by an edge rush. The end used his speed to get upfield and dipped his shoulder to slip by Fluker for a sack-fumble on quarterback A.J. McCarron; The Crimson Tide recovered the loose ball. Later on, Fluker allowed pressure on the same move.
The junior tackle gave up his second sack of the game in the fourth quarter, but he was lined up as a tight end next to the left tackle this time. An outside linebacker burned Fluker around the edge to sack McCarron. To make the the play even worse, Alabama fullback Jalston Fowler was injured in the pile up around the sack as the players came crashing into his knee.
Now that Fluker has given up two sacks to Western Kentucky and allow some pressure from Michigan a week earlier, it has to be suggested that he move inside to guard for the NFL. The 6-foot-6, 335-pounder is a good athlete, but needs more development as a pass=protector. That could come at the next level, but Fluker definitely needs work to be able to take on NFL speed rushers. His footwork has to improve and that might come easily if he drops 10-15 pound. Fluker still looks like a potential first-rounder, but outside the top 20.
Senior left guard Chance Warmack is another potential first-round pick who didn't impress versus the Hilltoppers. The senior and his left tackle were beat for a sack in the third quarter when the end split the duo to chase down McCarron. Warmack was very effective as a run-blocker, but his pass protection was disappointing.
Senior center Barrett Jones fared the best. He was rock solid in pass protection. Jones was fine in the ground game, but didn't look as devastating as he did against Michigan in the first game. Jones still looks worthy of a top-20 pick.
Alabama's linebackers had an eventful day. Senior inside linebacker Nico Johnson forced a fumble with a big hit. The senior and senior safety Robert Lester missed tackles on an ugly play in the second quarter, during a nice throw and catch for Western Kentucky. Johnson bounced back to get in on a sack with a blitz up the middle.
Junior linebacker C.J. Mosley was his normal active self, but could've had a huge game. He had a bad missed tackle, made up for it with a sack, then dropped an interception and missed another tackle.
Crimson Tide cornerback Dee Milliner was held out of the game with an injury. It was described as minor and he suited up. Supposedly, Alabama would have used him in an emergency. His injury status bears watching as the team will need him in Week 3 against Arkansas.
Western Kentucky has a draft prospect in junior linebacker Andrew Jackson. He held his own against the top team in the nation. Jackson fired into the backfield in the first quarter and hit running back Eddie Lacy. The big ball-carrier shook off Jackson and ran into a few other defenders, came back to his left and Jackson tackled him for a loss of a few yards.
The Hilltopper linebacker had an impressive tackle in the second quarter on a third down to force a punt. The run came up the middle and he was locked up with Jones. Jackson used his strength to drag down the ball-carrier while being blocked by Jones. Jackson showed his pursuit skills by getting in on a tackle in the backfield for a loss.
The junior totaled seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss against the Crimson Tide. He would better off staying for his senior season but could turn into a second-day pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Utah State 27, Utah 20
This in-state rivalry showcased one of the best defensive prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft class, Star Lotulelei. The Utah defensive tackle is in the running to be a top-10 pick and the first defensive player to be selected next April. He showed the massive impact that he can have on an offense agaisnt Utah State.
Lotulelei helped force an third-down incompletion on his first series. He correctly diagnosed the set up ofa screen and covered the running back. That forced a throwaway by the quarterback and a punt by Utah State.
Lotulelei pursued across the field on a wide receiver screen and almost made a tackle on the wide out. It was impressive how well the 6-foot-4, 320-pounder went from the middle of the field to the perimeter.
The senior lined up over the center at the end of the first quarter and took on the center and the right guard off the snap. He pushed between them and stuffed the running back for no gain. It was a superb play in run defense.
Lotulelei made a splash play during the second quarter when he pressured the quarterback, causing him to scramble. Lotulelei turned around and ran up to force a fumble that was recovered by Utah State. It was a great pass rush from the tackle and showed a relentless motor. Because Lotulelei forced the fumble, he also was credited with a sack.
Lotulelei blew up a run in the backfield on the next drive and almost had a tackle for a loss. The play after that he helped stuff a perimeter run for no gain after he penetrated the backfield on a sweep. The third down after that, the Aggies wisely did a rollout on the far side from the standout tackle.
By this point, Lotulelei was seeing plenty of double-teams, and Utah State was relying on a lot of quick passing. He didn't have as big of an impact and wasn't as disruptive. However, Lotulelei made another impressive play in fourth quarter when he threw the guard aside and stuffed a run up the middle for no gain. Lotulelei ate up a double-team a few plays later that allowed his linebacker to fly untouched to the running back and make a tackle that forced a punt.
Two Utah State blockers chop-blocked Lotulelei late in the game with a cut block and a hit high; the penalty was correctly called. He was ok and moved over the center a few plays later, causing a false start. The senior followed that up by running down the quarterback on a run for only a short gain. Lotulelei got a nice pressure in overtime to force the quarterback out of the pocket.
Overall, the tackle's performance was very impressive. Lotulelei's technique is superb, and he looks ready to play on Sundays right now. Lotulelei has a tremendous ability to use his hands and feet at the the same time. There is a clear mismatch ability with his excellent power. He constantly slaps offensive linemen's hands off of him to shed blocks.
Lotulelei's gap integrity was superb against the Aggies. He owned his gap and did not get moved aside. Lotulelei eats up double teams and holds his ground. Plus, his conditioning is excellent as he never came off the field. Lotulelei looks the part of a top-10 pick.
LSU 41, Washington 3
There were a number of excellent pro prospects in this contest between Washington and LSU. It was a great opportunity to see Huskies junior quarterback Keith Price go against an elite defense; one that is clearly better than any stop unit in the Pac-12. The Tigers feature first-round picks with defensive end Barkevious Mingo, defensive end Sam Montgomery, and safety Eric Reid among others.
Price tossed a nice touch pass to the back of the end zone on the first drive, but his receiver bobbled the ball for an incompletion. That led to Washington kicking a field goal. The signal-caller had a hard time moving the ball for the rest of the night. He was generally making good decisions, but his teammates were overmatched by the LSU defense.
Price made a pretty play in the second quarter as he ran forward in the pocket. The junior threw a strike to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins running across the field for a nice gain.
The Huskies quarterback had to get rid of the ball quickly all evening because of the Tigers' edge-rushers. Montgomery came close to a sack on a speed rush around the corner a few plays before Mingo was able to run down Price from behind on a quarterback keeper.
Price shed a sack just before halftime when it looked certain he would be going down in the arms of a defender. Price made a bad decision in the third quarter. He was flushed out of the pocket by Montgomery and threw on the run into coverage. Needless to say, it was picked off. There was nothing there and the signal-caller should've thrown the ball away.
The foruth quarter was more of the same as Price was almost intercepted by Mingo on a screen pass on Washington's first play of the fourth quarter. Mingo read the play well, but couldn't hold onto the ball. Price had a nice pass for 16 to Seferian-Jenkins in the fourth quarter. Montgomery finally got his sack a few plays later. He looped up the middle to pancake Price as he stepped up in the pocket. The junior quarterback was held to 17 completions on 36 attempts for 157 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception.
Mingo and Montgomery were consistently getting upfield by their blockers all night, but Price did a superb job of getting the ball out quickly before the rushers could get to him; Mingo saw some double-teams from Washington. Even though the defender duo didn't rack up a big sack total, it was a good tape from both members.
LSU safety Eric Reid had a better performance against Washington than he did against North Texas in the season opener; the Mean Green beat him for two touchdowns. Reid had a nice pass breakup after coming on a blitz. He popped a receiver along the sideline with a big hit. Reid went to tackle Seferian-Jenkins a play later, but the big tight end hurdled him.
Reid was in man coverage during the third quarter and pushed the receiver to the ground as he went into his break. That got him called for a pass interference. If Reid hadn't pushed the receiver down, he would have gotten good separation from the safety.
Overall, Reid looks best as an in-the-box strong safety-type defender. He does all right as a deep centerfielder, but his strength is defending in the tackle box. The junior just does not look natural in man coverage, so that could be a problem for many NFL teams. If Reid can't be trusted to cover elite tight ends in man coverage, it will impact his draft stock and hurt his chances of going in the top half of the first round.
One prospect who stood out and helped his stock was Tigers right tackle Alex Hurst. Big No. 72 had an excellent game against Washington as a run-blocker. The one exception came part way through the first quarter when he was beat on a speed rush around the corner to allow a pressure on his quarterback. Hurst made up for it on the next possession by blasting open some run holes. LSU went behind him for a goal-line touchdown run to cap the drive.
Hurst was an absolute force aside from that one pressure, not allowing any others. He regularly blasted open running holes. The senior was pushing his defensive linemen around the field and constantly moving them out of their gaps.
Hurst was a pure road-grader on the ground, and LSU ran behind him in key situations. The Tigers totaled 242 yards on the ground against Washington, and he was their best run-blocker. It was a dominant performance that definitely helps Hurst in his case to be a second-day pick.
The final prospect worth mentioning is Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant. LSU seemed to be making a real effort to target the other defensive backs. Trufant (6-0, 186) had tight coverage throughout the night and went virtually untested. He was a willing contributor in run defense. The senior looks like a solid second-day prospect.
USC 42, Syracuse 29
There were very significant draft talents in this contest between USC and Syracuse. That is often the case when you have two quarterback prospects battling each other, especially when they both are seniors. The Trojans feature the consensus top-rated quarterback prospect in the nation, Matt Barkley.
Syracuse did a good job of not letting Barkley get into a rhythm early in the game. He had some dropped passes and a near interception on a short dump off. Barkley finally got points for the Trojans after some good runs moved the ball. He threw a strike on a slant to Marqise Lee for a 13-yard touchdown.
Barkley threw another touchdown just before the half, this time to junior wide out Robert Woods on a stop-and-go route. The pass was lofted in perfectly to the receiver's back shoulder along the sideline. Woods went up and made a great catch for a 29-yard score. He barely got any separation from his defensive back, but still made a tremendous catch.
It was a solid first half from Woods and could've been even better. He made a nice diving catch for a good gain, but it was called back on a holding penalty. The junior came back to make a clutch catch on a third-and-short for a first down.
Woods was awesome in the third quarter. He caught a screen pass on a third-and-12, and seeing it was well-defended, reversed field and ran all the way to the far sideline before turning upfield and diving for a first down. It was a great play, but one the wide out probably wouldn't be able to make in the NFL.
Woods finished the drive with a leaping touchdown catch. Barkley drilled a fastball into the end zone after Woods ran a short dig just past the goal line. Woods seemed to hurt his right arm on the play when he hit the turf hard.
Barkley had Woods running deep down the field with a step of separation on the next drive. However, the signal-caller threw the ball too late and short, and his pass flew to the cornerback for an interception, setting up Syracuse at midfield.
Woods had a nice punt return for 31 yards early in the fourth quarter on which he went up the middle of the field and slashed to the right sideline for a big gain. It set up USC at the Syracuse 22-yard line. Barkley scored again on a pass to a tight end Xavier Grimble. It was a 12-yard pass that saw Grimble break a bunch of tackles to run into the end zone.
Woods pretty much put the game away for the Trojans on the next drive. He juked a defender about five yards past the line of scrimmage on an end around and then slashed across the field. Woods sprinted away and was pushed out of bounds around the five-yard line; it was a 76-yard run. Barkley capped the drive with a touchdown throw on a fade pass to Lee. The duo of Barkley and Lee connected for another touchdown with just under six minutes left in the fourth.
Barkley completed 23-of-30 passes for 187 yards with six touchdowns and an interception. The senior signal-caller remains the favorite for the first-overall pick next April.
Woods caught 10 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns. He also had that 76-yard run and the 31-yard punt return. It was a dominating performance, yet the junior doesn't look as explosive as he was in 2001. Woods has battled injuries through the offseason and doesn't seem to have the breakaway speed he had in the early going of last year. Even at 80 or 90 percent, he is a first-round pick, although there can be some debate about where he should go in the top 32.
Junior running back Silas Redd and senior runnning back Curtis McNeal both ran well for the Trojans. Redd had a nice 18-yard run behind the right side with a gapping hole late in the first quarter. The former Nittany Lion had an impressive 41-yard run in the fourth quarter after getting bottled up going to his right, but he was able to cut back to his left to break free downfield. Redd totaled 107 yards on 15 carries. McNeal had 63 yards on 11 rushes. Redd looks like a mid-rounder while McNeal looks like a third-day sleeper.
USC center Khaled Holmes entered the game as a second-day pick and the second-rated draft-eligible center. Holmes had a nice pass block and run block on the first drive, but on fourth-and-one, he didn't get any push and USC was stuffed to turn the ball over on downs. Holmes was beat for a sack late in the first quarter after he got bull rushed into Barkley on a deep drop.
Holmes missed a block on defender on a run blitz on the next drive and that almost resulted in a tackle for a loss. Holmes recovered by springing McNeal for a run of 22 yards a few plays later. The center had a dud of a snap in the third quarter that landed at Barkley's feet and almost caused a sack or interception when the signal-caller tried to get rid of the ball in a busted play.
There are plays where Holmes shows a nasty demeanor. He destroyed a linebacker's leg on a cut block. It looked like Holmes was trying to break his leg as he dove through the defender. Unfortunately that was a bad omen for Holmes. He had a Syracuse defensive linemen roll into the back of his leg during the second half. Holmes was bent back the wrong direction and had to be carted off the field with a knee injury. It looked of the season-ending, surgery-required vareity. His status should be known in the days to come.
USC has a potential first-rounder on defense in senior safety T.J. McDonald. He got in on a tackle for a loss on a run blitz in the first quarter. McDonald broke on a pass late during the third quarter, and he didn't take the best of angles, giving up a 31-yard gain. Otherwise, McDonald was active against the Orange, but did not create splash plays. His stock should remain steady.
As stated at the beginning, Barkley wasn't the only quarterback prospect in this game. Syracuse senior signal-caller Ryan Nassib is a mid-round prospect who had his stock on the rise after his performance against Northwestern in the season opener. He set school records for attempts and yards last week, completing 45-of-66 passes for 482 yards with four touchdowns and one interception versus the Wildcats.
The game started poorly for the senior. Nassib was threw an ill-advised pass as tried to avoid a sack. He tried to fire it by a defender in a group of USC defenders with one receiver. The pass was an easy interception. The quarterback also took a sack on the next drive after holding the ball too long on a three-step drop.
Nassib couldn't get in rhythm until late in the first half when he moved the ball in the two-minute offense. He could have had a touchdown, but underthrew the pass and the corner was able to recover to break up the pass.
Nassib had a pass batted by a defensive end in the third quarter and USC linebacker Dion Bailey caught the deflection for an interception. Nassib came back to drop in a pretty 31-yard pass to a streaking receiver. It was a perfectly thrown ball by the senior. He made a clutch play to finish the drive, throwing a bullet for a touchdown on third-and-goal from just inside the five-yard line.
Nassib kept fighting in the fourth quarter with another nice touchdown pass. He dropped in a 17-yard score to his receiver. Nassib later dove into the end zone from a yard-out for a touchdown in garbage time. The Orange signal-caller was 30-of-46 for 322 yards with three touchdowns (one rushing, two throwing) and two interceptions. It was another gritty performance that showed some good things and some mistakes. Nassib could get second-day consideration and, at worst, looks like a mid-round pick; he has some real NFL potential.
Florida 20, Texas A&M 17
There was a lot of NFL talent on display in the SEC debut of Texas A&M. The Aggies hosted the Florida Gators, and both teams featured a lot of future NFL players. It was a good matchup as Texas A&M has a number of offensive prospects while Flordia has some young talented defenders who will be playing on Sundays.
The top-rated players in this contest were Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel and right tackle Jake Matthews. Both are juniors, and both look like future first-round picks in the 2013 or 2014 NFL Draft. They showed why as both were rock solid throughout the first half. The duo won their blocks in pass protection and in the ground game. Matthews sealed the edge to open up a lane for quarterback Jonny Manziel to run for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
Florida had more success against the elite tandem in the second half. Joeckel allowed a pressure to Gators defensive tackle/end Sharrif Floyd, but Manziel held onto the ball too long on the play. Matthews was beat for a pressure on a third-and-long that forced a punt for the Aggies.
That started a rough half for Joeckel. He was beat for a sack on a critical third-and-three. Senior defensive end/outside linebacker Lerentee McCray blasted Joeckel and rocked him back. With the junior tackle off balance, McCray was able to cut to the inside and ran down Manziel for a clutch sack.
Joeckel almost gave up another sack on the next drive, but Manziel got the ball out. With four minutes left in the game, McCray shed Joeckel's block and got to Manziel. The freshman quarterback broke McCray's tackle, so Joeckel was lucky not to have given up a second sack.
Overall, this game made for a disappointing performance by Joeckel, but it wasn't bad enough to change the projection of him as a first-rounder. It just showed why he belongs in the middle portion rather than the top 10. Matthews had a complete game and his stock remains unchanged as mid first-rounder.
It was the first game back for Aggies running back Christine Michael, a potential third-day pick. A broken leg cut short his 2010 season and a torn knee ligament ended his 2011 season early. Florida did a good job of keeping Michael under wraps in the first half. He had only 26 yards on 11 carries at halftime, but did plunge into the end zone from a yard out. The Gators defense shut down the Aggies in the second half, and Michael had only two carries for seven yards in the final two quarters.
Another Texas A&M weapon who had a disappointing game was senior receiver Ryan Swope. He was limited to five receptions for 16 yards. Swope struggled to get open going against Gator cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Cody Riggs. The Aggies have some talented young receivers, and the team had a rotation going that pulled the senior from the game at times, but it was still disappointing to see Swope shut down. This game will definitely hurt his draft stock.
Aggies outside linebacker Sean Porter is a possible second-round pick, but didn't standout against Florida. He had a nice tackle to limit a run to a short gain, making a good read for a tackle on a read-option run. Porter was quiet after that until the third quarter when he got a lucky sack. The senior was pounded into the ground by an offensive lineman on the play, but after his blocker split off to get in on another block, Porter got up and turned out to be in a good spot as Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel scrambled into him.
Porter got leveled late in the game by wide receiver Frankie Hammond on a crack-back block to spring a good gain for Florida. Porter got in on a number of run tackles against Gators, but didn't make any big plays aside from his lucky sack. Overall, the senior didn't have a game that will help him.
Aggies junior Damontre Moore was a 3-4 outside linebacker last year, but now is playing 4-3 defensive end. He was giving the Gators problems and was a real presence in the backfield.
Moore had a nice sack in the second quarter with a speed rush. However, he had a poorly timed facemask penalty in the fourth quarter. Moore missed a tackle on Driskel on a bootleg on the same drive. That 21-yard run by Driskel iced the win for Florida. Moore looks like he has some potential as a defensive end, but he may be best staying for his senior season to develop before going pro.
Gators senior running back Mike Gillislee showed a lot of heart playing hurt against the Aggies. He was clearly limited by a groin and leg injury that robbed him of some speed and explosiveness. It was evident in the third quarter when Gillislee had a nice 24-yard run, but slowed down as he coasted out of bounds when he could've perhaps fought for more yards. Gillislee gave Florida the lead in the fourth quarter when he walked the tight rope along the sideline to score a 12-yard touchdown. That was his second score of the game; the other on a four-yard run in the first quarter.
Gillislee finished the game with 83 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns. It was a gutty performance that helps his draft stock combined with his big game against Bowling Green in Week 1.
Florida lost one key cog in its defense with junior outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins. Both Sharrif Floyd and Jenkins left the game with injuries in the first half. Floyd returned, but Jenkins did not. It looked like he broke his right hand or thumb. That could cause Jenkins to miss significant time.
The Gators junior defender who really stood out was safety Matt Elam, a potential second-day pick. He was superb on the first drive of the game. Elam started it with a great tackle on Swope for a loss after a shedding a block on a screen pass. The junior safety flew across the field later on the same drive to tackle Swope for a gain of one. Elam then got a hand in on first-and-goal to break up a touchdown pass. The pass came over the back of his head, but he perfectly timed his contact to dislodge the ball out of the receiver's hands. The Aggies had to settle for three.
Elam later caused a sack on a disruptive blitz. He had a big game and really helped himself with a good tape.
Mississippi State 28, Auburn 10
There were a number of good draft prospects in the SEC West battle between Mississippi State and Auburn. The player who stood out the most was Bulldogs cornerback Johnthan Banks. He is a potential first-round pick and proved it against the Tigers.
The game didn't start out well for Banks when he had a missed tackle late in the first quarter as the running back powered through him. Banks had a clutch tackle later in the quarter, running down quarterback Kyle Frazier from behind on a third-and-goal scramble. The stop caused Auburn to kick a field goal.
Banks made a huge play in the second quarter in zone coverage when a pass was thrown too high and behind the receiver. The ball fell right into the corner's hands. The senior had a good return of about 40 yards and dove into the end zone, but he had stepped out of bounds at the 34-yard line.
Banks picked off his second pass of the game just before halftime. Similar to his other pick, he was in zone and a pass was thrown too high for a receiver along the sideline. Banks reached up, snatched the ball and weaved his way through traffic for a nice return. He definitely has good ball skills and that was on display against Auburn.
The second half got off to an inauspicious start, too. Banks couldn't shed a block in kick coverage on the second half kickoff to stop a return for a touchdown. Otherwise, the senior cornerback did his part on defense in the second half with solid tackles while playing in zone coverage.
Banks was lining up almost mostly at right corner throughout the game, but did go to the left side late in the contest. He would only really motion over to the left side during the first three quarters when a receiver would leave the left side of the formation. Banks showed real intelligence and ball-hawk ability against the Tigers. He looks superb in how he operates in zone coverage. It definitely was a game that helps confirm his stock as a first-rounder.
One player who was limited by Banks was Auburn wide receiver Emory Blake. The Tigers barely threw the ball and stayed with the ground game in the first half. When they did throw, they had problems with just about every aspect of a passing offense: protecting the quarterback, throwing accurate passes and wide receivers getting open.
Blake was called for a holding penalty late in the first quarter. It was an obvious hold on a busted play. He had zero receptions by halftime and didn't record a catch until there was only 11 minutes remaining in the game. Blake caught a deep out in zone coverage in front of Banks for a gain of 21, but Mississippi State was playing prevent defense with an 18-point lead. Blake finished with two receptions for 32 yards and didn't help his cause as a second-day prospect.
Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen is another second-day prospect. He had a nice block on Banks to help spring his running back downfield for a big gain. The Tigers struggled to get the ball to Lutzenkirchen through the air. He worked his way open underneath a number of plays, but wasn't thrown the ball as passes were forced downfield. The senior finished with two receptions for 12 yards.
Tigers defensive end Corey Lemonier is a potential first-round pick in the 2013 or 2014 NFL Drafts. The junior had an ugly play where he was a bystander on a run up the middle. Lemonier had contain on his side, but could've gotten in on the tackle when it was clear that the run wasn't being cut back to his side. Instead, he watched his teammates make the play.
Lemonier missed a sack later on the same drive. He used a left arm rip move in a slow-developing rush to get by the tackle and bear hug quarterback Tyler Russell. Lemonier didn't finish the play as he didn't get Russell down, and the signal-caller was able to throw a short dump off pass as he fought away from the junior defensive end.
Lemonier had a great sack that showed his athleticism just before halftime when the left tackle dove at him with a cut block. He moved back and pushed the tackle in the ground, before exploding into the pocket to run down the Tigers signal-caller.
Lemonier later had a bad offsides penalty that turned a third-and-10 into a third-and-5 that Mississippi State converted. A speed rush from the defensive end around the edge came within inches of a sack-fumble, but Russell just got the pass off for a completion downfield.
Overall this game, should help Lemonier's draft stock because he showed the ability to consistently pressure the quarterback, but the junior needs to improve his run defense. Lemonier struggles to get in on tackles and can get pushed out his gap. He would probably be best as a 3-4 outside linebacker if can't add more strength to battle at the point of attack.
The final prospect worth mentioning is Bulldogs senior wide receiver Chad Bumphis. He had a nice game, including a 13-yard touchdown after getting open running across the end zone. Bumphis totaled three receptions for 47 yards but also showed some nice quickness and route-running. He could be worth a late-round pick.
Kansas State 52, Miami 13
Kansas State blew out Miami because the Hurricanes couldn't handle Wildcats' senior quarterback Colin Klein. He dominated Miami through the air and on the ground .
Klein beat the Miami defense with ease from the first drive of the game on. He threw a nice touchdown pass on a slant during the second quarter. Klein picked up a lot of yards on the ground via the Wildcats' spread-option offense and kept moving the chains. He totaled 81 yards on 22 carries, running for three short touchdown.
The signal-caller made big plays through the air as well. He had a 58-yard pass in the second quarter to a wide-open tight end running down the middle seam. It was a near flawless game; his one mistake in the game wasn't even completely his fault. Klein threw an interception on a ball thrown up for grabs. The receiver made no adjustment to catch or break up the pass. It was a terrible lack of effort by the wide out. The senior completed 9-of-11 passes for 210 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Hurricanes.
Klein is an excellent college quarterback, but doens't look like starting a pro quarterback. He has a funky throwing motion and doesn't have a strong enough arm for the NFL. Klein could be a decent backup, especially for a team that employs an offense with a lot of running plays for the quarterback.
A mid-round prospect from the Wildcats is senior linebacker Arthur Brown. He actually played for Miami before transferring to Kansas State. Brown was in the right place at the right time in the first quarter when a fumble popped out and fly right to him. He showed terrible awareness on the next drive when he had a ball-carrier go by him after biting on a pump fake. Brown was in position to stop the receiver if he had simply turned around. Instead, the receiver ran down the field for a gain of 56.
Brown had a nice tackle for a loss later in the second quarter, slashing into the backfield on a sweep. The senior had an excellent sack at a clutch time. He fired into the backfield on a third-and-goal in the third quarter to tackle the quarterback on a rollout. Overall, it was a good tape from Brown that showcased his explosive speed and athleticism.
The 6-foot-1, 231-pounder has to move to outside linebacker in the NFL. He is fast and athletic, and looks like a poor man's Lavonte David. Brown doesn't fit a 3-4 defense, but would be a good fit in a Tampa 2 system at the next level. He looks like a third- or fourth-round pick at the moment.
Yet another potential draft pick from Kansas State is cornerback Nigel Malone. He had seven interceptions in a breakout 2011 season. Malone made a tackle in zone coverage on receiver Alan Hurns against Miami, but the wide out powered through him to get a first down. Hurns beat Malone a play later on a slant for a gain of about 15, but Malone injured Hurns with a tough tackle. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Malone looks like a potential slot corner and third-day pick.
Cincinnati 34, Pittsburgh 10
This Big East battle between the Panthers and the Bearcats featured some mid- to late-round prospects. The highest-rated among them were Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald and running back Ray Graham. However, the player who stood out the most was Cincinnati outside linebacker/defensive end Walter Stewart.
The senior Stewart made a huge splash play early in the game with had a blinding rush off the edge for a strip sack. He was so explosive around the corner that he had turned around the left tackle before he was completely out of his stance. Stewart hit Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri and slapped the ball out of his right hand.
Stewart missed a tackle in the backfield on Graham in the third quarter, but a few plays later, Stewart beat a block from a fullback to tackle the running back in the backfield for a loss of three or four yards. The senior Bearcat then got a coverage sack after Sunseri ran right into his vicinity.
Stewart had six sacks as a junior and is well on his way to surpassing that given Cincinnati's 2012 opener. The 6-foot-5, 249-pounder doesn't have the size to play end in the NFL. He struggled against Pittsburgh when offensive linemen got their hands on him in the ground game and rushing the quarterback. Stewart had his success running around with them his speed and athleticism. He would fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker. The senior looks like a mid- to late-rounder, but is a nice sleeper prospect.
Ray Graham's stock was very fluid prior to this game. The loss to Cincinnati was only his second outing after a season-ending knee injury that cut short his excellent 2011 season. The small and speedy back doesn't quite look like himself yet, and the Panthers coaching staff said that he is about 90 percent healthy right now. Graham doesn't look as explosive as he was last year before the injury. Graham isn't as quick to the hole and doesn't have the breakaway speed he had in 2011.
Graham (5-9, 190) had a nice run early on for about eight after he bounced the ball outside. The senior took a short-yardage carry later in the first half and juked Stewart at the line of scrimmage to plunge ahead for a couple of yards to get a first down.
Graham had a huge pick up of 31 yards in the second quarter. Sunseri was falling to the ground and had time to shoveled the ball to Graham. The diminutive back sprinted away from a defender to break free down the field.
Graham had a superb run after halftime; he went toward his left, danced away from a diving defensive lineman and then found a crease to his right. Graham slashed across the field and sprinted downfield. He was caught by a defensive back, but not before running for 50 yards. If Graham didn't have the injury from last year, he would have taken the run the distance for a long touchdown. The run put him over 100 yards on the night.
The Panthers had to go away from the run because they were so far behind, but Graham had an impressive game with 103 yards on 19 carries. The senior has to stay healthy and show signs of his burst returning over the regular season. If that happens, he could be a mid-rounder.
Donald wasn't as impressive as Graham against the Bearcats. Donald did not make an impact in the ground game and wasn't in on many tackles. The junior wasn't getting pushed around at the point of attack, but he wasn't shedding blocks and stuffing runs either.
Donald flashed at times in the pass rush. He had a really nice rush in the second quarter to beat a double-team. He got in position off the snap between the guard and center. Donald then dropped down to a knee before exploding between them to flush the quarterback out of the pocket. The next play saw the undersized tackle fire between them again. This time he had an outside linebacker there to clean up the scrambling quarterback.
Donald had an nice rush in the fourth quarter looping around the center and running down the pocket. He hit the quarterback but just after the pass was released. Unfortunately for Donald and Pittsburgh, the completion of that pass turned into a touchdown. He didn't make his presence felt other than those plays .
The junior is a work in progress and is an unusual tweener. The 6-foot, 275-pounder is too light for defensive tackle in the NFL. Donald can either add weight to stay at tackle, or he can shed weight to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4. Donald had 11 sacks in 2011, but doesn't look as effective rushing the passer as he did last year. Donald gave Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff fits in their matchup. Donald should probably return for his senior season at this point before going pro. He could be a second-day pick, but could easily slide into the mid-rounds.
Panthers guard Chris Jacobson is a late-round prospect. The sixth-year senior missed almost all of the 2011 season because of knee surgery. Jacobson had some nice blocks against Cincinnati, but he wasn't overwhelming defenders and was beat on some plays. Jacobson was called for an unnecessary roughness in the first half after he threw a late hit on Stewart. Jacobson was trying to clean up a pile, but it was a stupid penalty by the senior.
It got worse for Jacobson when he was called for holding when Graham followed Jacobson for a nice gain to the Cincinnati one-yard line. Replays showed that the call was terrible, and he didn't hold the defender. Jacobson had some good blocks in the ground game and pass protection, but overall he looks like a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent who would be worth a look in training camp.
Sunseri struggled versus the Bearcats. He was 24-of-37 for 278 yards and a touchdown. Sunseri had issues with ball security. After the sack-fumble by Stewart, the redshirt senior made a terrible pass into the end zone for an interception. It was a bad decision as Sunseri threw a ball up for grabs in double-coverage. He looks like a late-rounder or undrafted free agent.
The only other prospect who had an impressive performance was Cincinnati defensive end Dan Giordano. He had five sacks in 2011 and was constantly in the backfield in this contest. The redshirt senior hit Sunseri and was a big part of a non-stop pass rush. Giordano (6-4, 260) has some burst and physicality. He is a sleeper prospect for the third day.