Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6
The tremendous senior season of Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te'o continued with a great performance against rival Michigan. He has played inspired football after suffering personal tragedies with the death of his grandmother and girlfriend two weeks ago. Te'o's contributions on the field have been exceptional, and he stepped up with a superb performance to lead the Irish to a low-scoring victory.
Te'o's first action of the game came with a nice tackle on a perimeter run to the outside. He made a nice tackle on quarterback Denard Robinson when the signal-caller tried to scramble into the open field.
The very next play, Te'o picked off Robinson. The Notre damn linebacker did a good job of trailing across the field and reading the quarterback's eyes as he rolled out. Te'o cut in front of Robinson's receiver to pick the pass off.
Te'o blasted Robinson on a blitz up the middle on the next play. Michigan's pass was thrown off the mark because of the hit, and a Fighting Irish defender picked it off.
Te'o intercepted his second pass of the game just a couple minutes later and for his third pick of the year. The pass was tipped into the air by an Irish defensive back and Te'o made a diving catch in front of his teammate and a Wolverines receiver.
Te'o made a clutch open field tackle on Robinson early in the fourth quarter to stop him short of a first down and force Michigan to settle for a short field goal. Te'o finished the contest with eight tackles, a tackle for a loss and two interceptions. His quarterback hurry also helped produce a turnover.
Te'o should be moving up draft boards. He is slimmer this season and that has paid off in his pass coverage. Te'o must have three-down ability for the passing-driven NFL to be a first-round pick, and he is proving that thus far. Not only is Te'o quicker and more fluid as a senior, he is clearly ahead of the offense mentally and is fast to diagnosis where he needs to be to get to his landmarks.
Te'o is covering a lot of ground in zone and showing some ability to cover tight ends in man. His improved pass coverage and overall excellent play should push him higher in the first round.
Notre Dame has another potential 2013 first-rounder on its defense in the form of junior defensive tackle Louis Nix. He was dominating the interior of the Wolverines' offensive line throughout the evening. Nix was constantly running by or through the guard or center trying to block him. He only finished with three tackles, but was far more disruptive than the numbers indicate.
Nix has a good shot of developing into a first-round pick in 2013 or 2014 if he maintains his level of play this season. The junior may be better off returning for his senior season to take a shot at the top 10 in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Another potential first-rounder from the Fighting Irish is tight end Tyler Eifert. He had a good showing against the Wolverines as a blocker. His run blocking is vastly improved this year compared to his junior season in 2011. Unfortunately for Eifert, Notre Dame's quarterback play has been a real weakness, and the team is not hitting Eifert when he is getting open downfield.
Eifert only had one reception against Michigan, but it was a big one. He beat the cornerback off the line of scrimmage late in the fourth quarter to run open down the sideline. The pass was lofted in for a gain of 38 yards. That catch came on a third down and allowed the Fighting Irish to run out the clock. Eifert has first-round ability, but his teammates could hold him back this year.
Wolverines offensive tackle Taylor Lewan drew a tough test against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish has an excellent front seven, and he had the challenge of blocking sophomore stud defensive end Stephon Tuitt.
Early on Lewan showcased some excellent footwork in mirroring some pass-rushers, but he was beaten for a sack a short time later after getting rocked off balance. The defensive end fired by the reeling Lewan to chase down Denard Robinson. Lewan wasn't beaten for another sack after that. He had some wins going against Tuitt, among others, and blocked well in the ground game. Lewan allowed some pressure and had some bend-but-not-break moments.
Lewan isn't quite a finished product. He could use more development before going pro. If Lewan enters the 2013 NFL Draft, he could be a first-rounder given the demand at the position. On the other hand, the junior would have a better shot of going highly if he returns for his senior season to improve before going pro.
Florida State 49, Clemson 37
The ACC battle between Clemson and Florida State featured a great offense versus one of the best defenses in the nation. Tigers junior quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins have been lighting up the scoreboard early this year, while the Seminoles had allowed only three total points through three games with back-to-back shutouts.
Florida State's defense is led by junior defensive end Bjoern Werner who entered the evening with 6.5 sacks. Defensive end Tank Carradine has been superb as a fill-in for Brandon Jenkins, while cornerback Xavier Rhodes is in the running to be the top corner selected next April. Rhodes had his biggest test of the year with Clemson receivers Hopkins and sophomore Sammy Watkins. If Rhodes could provide tight coverage and shutdown his assignments, he could establish himself as the top draft eligible cornerback.
The Tigers came out firing with a touchdown in the first 90 seconds of the game. Boyd tossed a 60-yard bomb to Hopkins to pick up a quick lead. The wide out ran a straight go route down the field. Boyd stood tough in the pocket with the rush crashing around him. He lofted in a perfect deep ball to Hopkins, who ran through the zone. Rhodes released him to the safety, but the safety got caught looking into the backfield, and Hopkins sped by him to get open. He made a nice over-the-shoulder catch and sprinted into the end zone.
Boyd threw his second touchdown to tight end Brandon Ford. The big tight end was wide open along the sideline, and he walked a couple of yards into the end zone. Rhodes tried to come back to Ford off of the receiver he was matched against in man coverage. Rhodes tried to break back, but the ball fell low past his diving hand. Florida State linebacker Christian Jones was supposed to be covering Ford.
The Clemson signal-caller threw a bad pass into double coverage for a touchdown during the fourth quarter. He threw a touchdown in garbage time, but it was too late for the Tigers to mount a real comeback. Boyd finished 20-of-36 for 237 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 44 yards on 18 attempts. Boyd played well overall, and it was the Clemson defense that let the team down.
Rhodes snuffed out a wide receiver screen to Hopkins for no gain on the first drive. He got off a Rhodes' jam in the second quarter to beat the corner for an 11-yard gain and a first down. Rhodes was shaken up a bit later after he stuck his shoulder into an offensive lineman pulling on a run sweep.
Rhodes had solid coverage throughout the game including a critical pass breakup against Hopkins late in the third. Overall, Rhodes was solid in coverage against Hopkins and Watkins. The junior Hopkins had 88 yards on five receptions, but 60 came on that one reception. Watkins had 24 yards on six receptions. It was a strong game from Rhodes that should lock in his stock as a first-rounder and help his cause to be the top-ranked cornerback.
Clemson senior running back Andre Ellington had an eventful game. He took a screen pass for a big gain of 39 yards on a nice trick play by the Tigers. The senior finished the drive with a short touchdown run.
Ellington made a huge play In the third quarter when he ran a wheel route on a gadget play. Watkins tossed the ball across the field and hit the running back in stride. Ellington then slashed across the field for a 52-yard touchdown. He ran for 55 yards on 14 carries and caught four balls for 87 yards against the Seminoles' tough defense. Ellington continues a strong senior season that is pushing him higher on the second day of the draft.
Ellington isn't the only senior running back in this contest who helped his stock. Florida State running back Chris Thompson has been on a tear and continued his hot streak against Clemson. He had a 41-yard run going around the left side that almost went for a long touchdown run. Thompson coasted into the end zone on an option run. The 5-foot-8, 187-pounder had a phenomenal touchdown run called back by a holding call, but he ran through a tackle to get into the end zone.
Thompson ran for a 27-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that locked down the win for Florida State. The ultra fast ball-carrier ran for 103 yards and two scores on 15 carries. He caught eight passes for 79 yards. Thompson's strong senior-year performance is leading him to third-day consideration.
The prospect who may have helped his stock the most in this game was Seminoles senior quarterback E.J. Manuel. He had a career night, guiding his team to a huge win. Manuel threw some nice passes in the first half off of play, including a 28-yarder to tight end Nick O'Leary. Manuel later tossed a short touchdown pass in the third quarter to pull Florida State within a field goal.
Manuel lofted in a beautiful touchdown pass deep down the field in the third quarter for a 29-yard score. The signal-caller finished the night 27-of-35 for 380 yards with two touchdowns. This performance should help push him higher on the second day. He has been a game manager throughout his time with the Seminoles, but is starting to elevate his play beyond that. Manuel has the skill set to be a high first-round pick, so he has massive upside.
Bjoern Werner was active against Clemson and commanded extra blocking attention. He made a tackle for a loss in the second quarter. Werner almost sacked Boyd halfway through the third quarter, but the quarterback busted through his hands. Werner was playing with a casted hand after an injury in the first half. He had a nice tackle on Watkins in the fourth quarter on a jet sweep. It was a quality showing from Werner, but not overly impressive.
A few other draft prospects are worth mentioning. Florida State senior defensive end Tank Carradine played well. He sacked Boyd when he came unblocked by the right tackle. Carradine is helping his stock this season as the replacement for Jenkins.
Seminoles junior safety Lamarcus Joyner also had a good showing. He had a long kick return of 89 yards in the third quarter to set up a touchdown.
Kansas State 24, Oklahoma 19
Oklahoma has a good amount of pro talent, but the Sooners continue to underachieve despite those talented prospects. The quintessential player who symbolizes Oklahoma's underachiever status right now is senior quarterback Landry Jones.
The signal-caller had mistake prone performances last season that illustrated that he lacks intangibles and the ability to elevate his play in clutch situations against good opponents. Jones showed no growth from his junior season in his first significant test of 2012.
Jones moved the ball through the air with junior wide out Kenny Stills on the Sooners' first drive. They connected three times for 30 yards including one catch where the receiver made a nice adjustment to catch a pass behind him for a gain of 14.
Jones then blew an easy touchdown when he made a bad throw behind his tight end who was wide open in the end zone. It was a short pass that was was a gimme score at the Pop Warner level. Oklahoma had to settle for a field goal.
Jones made a bad mistake early in the second quarter. He scrambled and held onto the ball too long, allowing Wildcats linebacker Justin Tuggle to run him down from behind and force a fumble. The ball rolled bounced the end zone and was recovered by Kansas State for a touchdown. Jones had problems with his internal clock and feeling the rush last year. That looks unchanged as well.
The Sooners signal-caller drove the ball down the field for a field goal before halftime, but he left a lot of points on the field in the first half. Jones' sloppy play continued in the third quarter when he fumbled a ball away on a shotgun snap. The Wildcats recovered the ball, but the review ruled that the quarterback had toss the ball forward for an incomplete pass.
The lucky break seemed to wake up Oklahomas as the team marched down the field to punch the ball into end zone and take a 13-10 lead. Jones ripped the ball accurately through Kansas State's secondary on that drive.
Jones got back to his mistake prone ways on the next drive by throwing a terrible pass off his back foot. It floated over Stills for an easy interception to set up the Wildcats at the Sooners 38-yard line. Kansas State took advantage and took the lead with a touchdown.
Jones threw a touchdown pass with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late as the Wildcats ran the clock out. He finished the game 28-of-43 for 298 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The senior especially struggled on third down. His showing against Kansas State will definitely hurt his stock.
One Oklahoma player who stepped up and played well was safety Tony Jefferson. He showed excellent instincts and intelligence with how quickly he read his keys to get in position to stop tackles. The Wildcats are not a prolific passing offense, so his coverage skills weren't clearly visible.
Jefferson had a great tackle for a loss early on. He lined up 10 yards off the ball, but read the play perfectly to explode into the backfield to get in on a tackle. Jefferson did it again a few plays later when he fired from 10 yards back to tackle the ball-carrier for a gain of only a yard. Jefferson did the same thing again on the next possession for a gain of two.
The junior safety showed well in run support overall, and this tape should help him. If Jefferson enters the 2013 NFL Draft, he looks like a late first-round pick or early second-rounder.
Kansas State senior quarterback Colin Klein made clutch plays all night to lead his team to a road win at Oklahoma. He was 13-of-21 for 149 yards through the air and 79 yards rushing on 17 carries. Klein has poor throwing mechanics with a hitch and some weird arm angles. His arm strength is also lacking. Even though the senior is an excellent college quarterback, he looks like a late-rounder or undrafted free agent.
Colorado 35, Washington State 34
Washington State has two somewhat unheralded prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft: Marquess Wilson and Travis Long. It is hard to get into the national conversation while playing for a cellar-dweller.
Wide receiver Marquess Wilson has been one of the most productive receivers in college football in recent years, but he doesn't get the attention that one would think because the Cougars lost 18 games over 2010 and 2011.
Wilson caught a slant for about 15 yards to get the game started. He got wide open early in the second quarter for an easy touchdown reception. Wilson ran down the sideline and when the corner started to initiate contact, Wilson shoved him away to get wide open. The 23-yard touchdown reception was the junior's 21st career score.
The normally sure-handed Wilson had a rare drop on an easy reception. He had a second drop during the third quarter; this time in the end zone. Wilson extended, and the ball was dropped in accurately, but he had the ball come between his forearms and fall incomplete. Wilson could've tried to catch the pass with his hands and that may have resulted in a 36-yard touchdown. It was a bad drop from the junior.
Wilson made up for it a little bit later when he took a slip screen the distance on a third-and-3. The wide out started out on the outside before running towards the quarterback. Wilson caught the ball right at the line of scrimmage, turned upfield and slashed across the field. He ran 49 yards, untouched, into the end zone.
Wilson totaled five receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado. He is a big receiver who uses his size well, runs good routes and typically is sure-handed. Wilson doesn't look like he has the speed to get a lot of separation from NFL cornerbacks. He will have many contested catches. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound receiver looks like a second- or third-round pick because of that flaw.
The Cougars other prospect is another potential second-day selection, outside linebacker Travis Long. The senior has been a pass-rushing force to start the season after moving to rush linebacker. He played defensive end in the past few years.
Long had an impressive play on a screen pass early on. He sustained his ground against the block from the offensive lineman and shed him to make the tackle when the back came close. Long had his fifth sack of the season in the second quarter after beating a guard on an interior blitz against a screen pass. The senior got on quarterback Jordan Webb too quickly for the signal-caller to get the pass off.
Long came up the middle of the line untouched in the final minute of the first half. He spun around the quarterback into a teammate and the ball flew loose. Long registered his third sack of the game in the second half, this time coming off the edge. He shed the block from the right tackle and chased down Webb who was trying to scramble to the sideline. Washington State got away from rushing Long later in the game, frequently dropping him into coverage.
Long was killing the interior of the Buffaloes line. He was either too quick darting between the linemen or rocking them back to collapse the pocket. Long should definitely stay as a 3-4 linebacker for the NFL. He is very much in the mold of the Texans' linebackers Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. Long is a sleeper prospect who could be a steal on the second day.
South Carolina 31, Missouri 10
The Gamecocks roasted Missouri at home in a game that was complete domination. The most impressive 2013 NFL Draft prospect on display was South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.
Lattimore ran for 20 yards on a sweep behind the right side on first down early in the game. The junior helped move the ball down the field, and he dove into the end zone from a yard out twice in the second quarter.
Lattimore moved the ball into the Tigers' territory in the two-minute offense to set up another touchdown. He broke a few tackles on an 11-yard reception from a dump off pass. The running back also had another good gain on a swing pass.
Lattimore continued the big plays in the passing game with a reception of 24 yards. He ran up the middle before turning to the outside. It was a quick pass that had him wide open for a good gain.
Lattimore churned out some tough runs in the second half, including running through some defenders. He is looking quicker to the hole as he gets further away from his knee injury and is showing more burst in the open field. It was an excellent showing for Lattimore as he led the Gamecocks in rushing and receiving. He ran for 84 yards and two scores on 21 carries while also making seven catches for 61 yards.
As long as Lattimore can stay healthy and continue to regain his old speed, he should be a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is regarded by some as an early-round pick. He had a hit on South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw to help force an incompletion. Richardson blew past the guard for a big hit on Shaw late in the first quarter just after he threw the ball. Both plays were near sacks. Richardson showed his hustle by chasing down a receiver on a short dump off pass. He almost forced a fumble as he slapped the ball from behind.
Richardson fell quiet for some time following his fast start. He still had plays where he got penetration into the backfield, but he wasn't making a huge impact. Richardson also missed a tackle on quarterback Connor Shaw when the signal-caller spun away to get a few more yards for a first down.
Richardson (6-4, 295) needs to improve his production and finish more plays. If the junior is able to do that, he could turn into a first-round pick. Richardson currently looks more like a second-day pick.
Another potential Day 2 pick who is capable of producing more is Gamecocks senior defensive end Devin Taylor. He almost had an interception during the first quarter when he dropped into pass coverage. Taylor later hustled downfield and was rewarded for it by recovering a Missouri fumble.
The senior end had a nice pass rush around the corner in the third quarter, but teammate Jadeveon Clowney beat him to the quarterback to get the sack. Taylor had some good pass rushes and pressures, but he wasn't finishing plays. That is a consistent refrain when watching Taylor. He looks more like a mid-rounder, but his performance versus the Tigers shouldn't hurt him.
Florida 38, Kentucky 0
This game had blowout written all over it, but there was a good draft matchup to watch: Kentucky guard Larry Warford against Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. Both juniors could be second-day picks if either of them enters the 2013 NFL Draft.
Kentucky threw a screen on its first play from scrimmage, and Warford got a nice hit on Floyd to spring the back for a good gain. The junior tackle recovered to show his hustle by chasing down the ball-carrier after a gain of over 20. Warford opened a nice hole a short time later for a good gain on a draw play.
Floyd was shaken up with five minutes left in the first quarter and had to leave the game briefly. He almost intercepted a screen pass just before halftime, but the ball fell at his feet. Floyd shed a block from Warford at the line of scrimmage on the next play to make a tackle for no gain.
Warford had a good game overall. He did well on his run blocks and provided good pass protection. The 6-foot-3, 343-pounder is a good athlete and has surprising quickness. Warford looks like a starting guard in the NFL and will be a nice value pick on the second day.
Florida moved Floyd around the line, and he had a nice presence causing disruption. He and Warford had some good battles with each player having some wins. Floyd is strong and fast. He isn't dominant enough at this time to demand a first-round pick. Floyd should return for his senior year to make a bid for the top 32 of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Gators senior running back Mike Gillislee has been enjoying a breakout season. They have given him a big workload in the first three games, so Florida cut him back in the blowout win over Kentucky. He still had a few quarters worth of playing time to impress.
Gillislee had some tough running in the inside. He was spinning out of tackles and running through contact for extra yards. Gillislee had a short touchdown run early in the second quarter. The Gators had him carry the ball 13 times for 56 yards and a touchdown. Gillislee has LSU looming, and if the senior plays well against the Tigers, he could light a fire under his draft stock.
TCU 27, Virginia 7
This Big XII versus ACC battle featured the possibility of a good pass-rushing matchup for the 2013 NFL Draft. TCU junior defensive end/outside linebacker Stansly Maponga and Virginia senior left tackle Oday Aboushi are both potential second-day picks.
Maponga was quiet last week against Kansas until he forced a fumble in the final minutes. Aboushi was rock solid against Georgia Tech the same week, but Virginia was blown out and the Cavaliers didn't even have him play the final quarter.
Maponga was more active against Virginia, stuffing a couple of runs in the first quarter. Aboushi, on the other hand, was looking very good again in the ground game, riding his defensive end around the field. It wasn't all good for him since he was called for a questionable holding penalty. The defensive end came around the corner and Aboushi had a hold of him to push him around quarterback Mike Rocco. It was a standard block that could easily have been a non-call in an NFL or college game.
Aboushi had an impressive block in the second quarter as he ran upfield and put a big hit on a linebacker to spring his back for an 18-yard gain. Maponga got in on a tackle for a loss in the second quarter.
Aboushi was otherwise having success in pass protection, and Maponga wasn't getting pressure on the quarterback. The Horned Toad defensive end was lining up almost exclusively at left end. Junior right tackle Morgan Moses (6-6, 325) was inconsistent, but had his share of wins against Maponga.
Aboushi collapsed the left side of the line after halftime, opening up a huge lane for Rocco to take off on a big scramble to midfield. Aboushi pushed his end into the defensive tackle and a massive pile spilled into the right side of the line to rupture containment for the TCU defense.
Virginia ran behind Aboushi on a fourth-and-inches for a first down in the third quarter. The senior sprung a long run on a third-and-2 a bit later when he got a seal block on a sweep around the left side. The drive ended when Maponga forced an incompletion on a fourth down with a nice speed rush around Moses.
Aboushi finally went against Maponga later in the fourth quarter, and the Cavaliers tackle shut him down. Aboushi helped his stock with a good tape against TCU. He has improved his strength in the ground game and has good athleticism to be a reliable pass-protector. Aboushi is underrated and is a good left tackle prospect for the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He isn't physically dominant enough to be a first-rounder, but could turn into a steal as a top-60 pick after some development in the NFL.
Maponga looks like he needs more development on his pass rushing. He should return for his senior season.
TCU junior quarterback Casey Pachall is a pro prospect who looks like a potential second-rounder right now if he entered the 2013 draft. The signal-caller could have the physical talent to be a first-round pick, but off-the-field drug problems hurt his stock.
Pachall got started against Virginia with a big play. Sophomore wide out Brandon Carter beat the safety in man coverage on a quick slant. Pachall tossed the ball over the leaping defensive back, and Carter made an incredible leaping one-handed catch running down the middle of the field. The sophomore receiver outran the defense to the end zone for a 67-yard touchdown.
Pachall had some other nice plays. He took a quarterback draw 17 yards up the middle of the Cavaliers' defense. The junior finished the drive with a good touchdown strike to wide receiver Josh Boyce. It was a bullet from Pachall on a quick slant.
Carter made another leaping one-handed catch for a 44-yard gain on a pass that was a little high in the middle of the field. The drive ended poorly when Pachall thew a bad pass on a short dump off. A defender made a diving interception for Virginia.
Pachall made another dumb throw in the third quarter when he tossed a ball up for grabs under pressure. A penalty erased an interception from Pachall, but it was a terrible decision from the junior signal-caller. Pachall finished the game 21-of-32 for 305 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He should return for his senior year.
Two other draft prospects enjoyed good days for the Horned Frogs. Guard Blaze Foltz was rock solid. He was really excellent at keeping the pocket clean for Pachall. Foltz could use some more power for the next level, but he should be able to add that in an NFL strength and conditioning program. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder is a mid-rounder, but if he continues this kind of play, he could move into the second day.
TCU senior middle linebacker Kenny Cain has played well as a replacement for Tank Carder and Tanner Brock. Carder is in the NFL, while Brock is out of football following his arrest for drug dealing. Cain played well a week ago against Kansas and had a career game against Virginia. He made a habit of taking the ball away for Horned Frogs. Cain picked up a fumble and intercepted a pass after dropping into coverage in the first half. He read Rocco's eyes to get in the passing lane.
Cain had another interception in the third quarter. The pass was thrown behind the receiver on a shallow cross, and Cain caught the deflected pass off the receiver. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder will have to move to outside linebacker in the NFL, but the senior is making the most of his opportunity and could earn consideration on the third day of the draft.
As the NFL Draft approaches, I will be making weekly adjustments up until the 27th of April. Rest of the writeups will be coming later this week. Any questions/comments/criticisms can be voiced in the comments. I will respond to all.
As the NFL Draft approaches, I will be making weekly adjustments up until the 27th of April. Rest of the writeups will be coming later this week. Any questions/comments/criticisms can be voiced in the comments. I will respond to all.