@An insulted NE fan I like his pick of McCaffrey to the Pats as well. And the Pats should beat Pittsburgh in the AFC title game if they're healthy and if that game is at New England. Brady always destroys their defense.
Clemson 38, Virginia Tech 17
Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas are both athletic signal-callers with good arms for the NFL. Both are juniors, and judging by the play of each this season, they should return for their senior seasons.
Boyd is the more polished, pro-ready of the two, and he has had some prolific games with junior wide out DeAndre Hopkins this year. The dui didn't have as strong of showing against Virginia Tech, as in other contests, but still got the job done.
Boyd had a nice back shoulder throw to Hopkins along the sideline. It is a route that is popular in the NFL right now, and it was a perfect route and throw.
Boyd threw too high for Hopkins a bit later, and all the receiver could get on the ball was his finger tips. The deflection fell into the lap of a Virginia Tech safety who fell down on the play. It was a fluke interception for the signal-caller, but the pass was thrown too high in the middle of the field.
Boyd threw some great passes on the next possession to wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Andre Ellington. Boyd lofted a perfect deep ball into Hopkins, but the wide out couldn't quite hang on as he spun into the end zone. It wasn't an easy catch, but one that Hopkins should've made.
Boyd dove over the top of his offensive line for a touchdown on two occasions. He had another nice run of about 20 yards to the one-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Hopkins was quiet for most of the game, but he made a splash play just before the start of the fourth quarter. Hopkins ran a go route running down the sideline. He got a slight push-off on the cornerback and stretched out to make a stumbling catch into the front of the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown.
Hopkins totaled 68 yards and a score on three receptions versus the Hokies. It was his lowest production of the season in terms of catches and yardage. His draft stock should remain steady as he is still second in the nation in receiving yards.
Boyd completed 12-of-21 passes for 160 yards, a touchdown and an interception. It was the smallest production from him as well this year. Boyd has some natural accuracy and passing ability, but he would have a better shot at being a first- or second-round pick by returning for his senior season.
Ellington totaled 96 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. He had a nice run of about 20 yards and followed that up with a gain of 22 yards. Ellington had a nice touchdown on a run to the left side in the third quarter that he cut back to the middle to spring 12 yards into the end zone.
Ellington needs to slow down sometimes and show a little more patience for his linemen to hit their blocks. The senior has improved his overall game from 2011 and looks like a potential second-day pick.
Thomas has been one of the most disappointing players in college football this season. He has not developed compared to his sophomore year and has really struggled to throw the ball accurately (53 percent completion percentage). Preseason opinions were that he would take a big leap and possibly turn into a high first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Thomas started out well throwing the ball against Clemson. He displayed some nice pocket passing with well-thrown balls in the intermediate part of the field. The junior was also using his feet to make some conversions.
Thomas made a nice play by diving through two defenders to get a first down on a fourth-and-2. He then hit wide receiver Corey Fuller a few plays later as he was running a drag route in the intermediate part of the field. Thomas threw an accurate ball and Fuller turned upfield to run into the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown.
They hooked up again for 21 yards on a quick slant. Thomas threw a bullet for a good gain to move the ball inside the 30. The Hokies signal-caller almost threw an interception on a screen, and was lucky the defender overran the play. Thomas later had a nice run for a first down before overthrowin his receiver on the next play. The errant pass was picked off by the safety coming over the top.
Thomas came back to throw a strike along the sideline for a big gain of 39 yards. However, he threw another pass too high in the middle of the field a few plays later. It was a horribly overthrown wobbler that dropped into the breadbasket of Clemson safety Jonathan Meeks. The safety took this pick - he had gotten Thomas' first as well - back 74 yards for a touchdown.
Thomas had a receiver running wide open down the field after burning the cornerback in the third quarter. It was an easy deep throw with no defenders within 15 yards of the receiver, but the quarterback badly overthrew the wide out for an incompletion.
Thomas later ran for a 19-yard touchdown after running untouched up the middle after dropping back to pass. There were times where he held onto the ball too long and was indecisive as a passer. Thomas finished 15-of-28 for 207 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against the Tigers. He also ran for 99 yards and a score on 21 carries.
Thomas has a great skill set. He is a superb athlete with a cannon for an arm, but his pocket passing is nowhere near NFL caliber. Thomas must return for his senior year and show big improvement to have a shot at being a first-round pick in 2014.
The final prospect worth mentioning is Virginia Tech defensive end James Gayle. He started strong versus Clemson. Gayle had a sack on the opening drive after bull rushing the right tackle. He disengaged from the block to bring down Boyd. Gayle had another nice rush to the inside against the right tackle.
The redshirt junior contributed four tackles besides his sack and had a quality performance. He looks like a contender for the second day of the draft.
Kansas State 55, West Virginia 14
West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith started the 2012 season on fire. He lit up defenses and established himself as a high first-round pick. All of that could be stopped dead after two rough games. The first came against Texas Tech last week and was followed by a horrible night versus Kansas State on Saturday.
The Mountaineers couldn't sustain drives, and Smith couldn't get into any rhythm. The Wildcats' defense was dominant as it had great coverage from the secondary and a quality pass rush. Smith struggled to move the ball the entire evening. Kansas State maintained possession and kept lighting up the scoreboard, so the West Virginia signal-caller wasn't in a good position to compete.
Smith looked indecisive and didn't seem to be trusting his eyes. He also was holding on to the ball too long and declining to run when he had some openings. The Wildcats followed Texas Tech's example and took away the deep part of the field. The Mountaineers' offense was, once again, ineffective without long pass plays. Smith has really struggled to move the ball with short and intermediate passes.
Things went from bad to awful to start the third quarter. Smith made a bad decision and forced a ball into triple coverage. The ball was tipped in the air and intercepted by Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown. It was Smith's first interception of the season after he had thrown more than 270 attempts without a pick. Smith took sacks on back-to-back plays on the next possession. The first one came when he held onto the ball for too long. The second was a protection breakdown.
Smith threw another interception just a bit later. He held on to the ball too long and telegraphed a pass along the sideline. His next throw was almost picked, too, but the corner couldn't make the catch. Smith finished the night completing 20-of-31 passes for 140 yards and two interceptions.
The last two games could be a real detriment to Smith's stock. It appears that defenses have figured him out by taking away the deep part of the field. He badly needs a bounce-back performance. Smith could still be a high first-round pick, but he needs to turn his play around quickly.
The only West Virginia prospect who really stood out was senior wide receiver Tavon Austin. The only sign of life from the Mountaineers in the first half came when Austin returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown. He used his elite speed to fly down the field untouched. Austin scored again on a run of five yards on a short jet sweep. He made five receptions for 30 yards.
The night belonged to Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. The Heisman Trophy leader was 17-of-19 for 321 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran the ball 12 times for 43 yards and four touchdowns. It was an amazing performance. Klein is a great college quarterback, but he doesn't have the arm strength or throwing mechanics to be an NFL starter. Klein could be a late-round pick who is a developmental project as a backup.
Alabama 44, Tennessee 13
There was a great draft matchup in this SEC battle between Alabama and Tennessee. The Volunteers feature a talented passing attack with quarterback Tyler Bray, wide receiver Justin Hunter and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. That group had the task of going against the top defense in the nation and the country's best cornerback, DeMarcus Milliner.
Bray made a couple of impressive throws in the first half to lead a field goal drive. He hit a receiver along the sideline for a good gain after Milliner missed the tackle. Bray provided a big play by lofting a pass into Patterson after he beat safety Robert Lester running vertically down the field for 25 yards. The drive ended when Milliner and Lester slapped away a jump ball for Hunter in the end zone.
Bray had an ugly drive in the second quarter. Milliner had tight coverage on Patterson to force an incompletion. Not long after that, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley made a diving interception. He dropped into coverage and read the quarterback's eyes to get in the passing lane. Mosley struck again on the next drive by blowing up a screen in the backfield for a tackle for a loss.
Tennesse fell behind 20-3 in the second quarter before Patterson ripped off a 45-yard kick return to create good field positions. Bray took advantage as he made a smart blitz pickup on the Crimson Tide's defense. Bray quickly threw the ball to tight end Mychal Rivera who slashed across the field for 43 yards to get inside the 10-yard line. Lester took a terrible angle and could've stopped the reception for a gain of only 10.
Bray lofted in a bomb to Hunter at the end of the first half, but the wide out dropped an easy catch that would've placed the ball inside the Alabama 25-yard line. Hunter caught a crossing route in the third quarter and sprinted down the sideline for a 44-yard gain. He had some separation from Milliner on the route.
Bray threw a pass too late and behind his receiver a few plays later. That let Lester undercut the poorly thrown pass for an interception to kill the Volunteers' drive.
Hunter and his signal-caller hooked up for a couple of receptions on Milliner, but the Crimson Tide was allowing receptions that weren't deep. Hunter finished with 69 yards on four receptions. Bray was 13-of-27 for 182 yards, two interceptions and zero touchdowns. While the junior has a first-round skill set, he needs to improve and should return for his senior season.
Milliner had a solid game that shouldn't help him significantly and won't hurt him. Mosley continues his impressive junior year, and this outing was another performance that will help him to become a first-round pick. Lester hasn't been impressing in 2012, so the interception and pass breakup should help him.
There were three offensive line prospects who stood out with good games. Tennessee senior guard Dallas Thomas played well. He did a nice job of going against Crimson Tide defensive tackle Jesse Williams, among others, and keeping a clean pocket. Thomas also opened up some running lanes with nice mobility to pull.
Alabama has the best offensive front in the country, and that unit once again controlled the line of scrimmage. Senior center Barrett Jones was tremendous. He was rock solid in pass protection and opened up holes on the ground. The Volunteers have a mountain of a tackle in 6-foot-8, 360-pound Daniel McCullers, and Jones did well against him. The senior had an impressive one-on-one block of McCullers on a bull rush with a deep drop.
Alabama guard Chance Warmack was beat for penetration on a third-and-3 run to get his back stuffed. It was probably Warmack's least dominant game of the season, but he still played well. Warmack allowed some penetration at times, but also blasted open some running lanes. Between Jones and Warmack, the Crimson Tide was in firm control on the inside of the line. Jones may get a boost from this game, and both should be future first-rounders.
Florida 44, South Carolina 11
There was a lot of good NFL talent on display in the SEC East battle between Florida and South Carolina. The most impressive player on the field was Gamecocks phenom Jadeveon Clowney. The sophomore defensive end isn't draft eligible until the 2014 NFL Draft, and these recaps focus on the prospects for next April. Aside from Clowney, the top-rated talent on the field was Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore.
Florida had a good game plan to combat Lattimore. The Gators loaded the tackle box to take away South Carolina's ability to run the ball with Lattimore or quarterback Connor Shaw. Lattimore totaled only 13 yards on three carries against Florida with two receptions for nine yards. The only other game in his collegiate career in which he had that small of a rushing total was against the Seminoles in the Gamecocks' bowl game in 2010 when he totaled -1 yards on one carry. The reason for Lattimore's limited playing time against the Gators was a bruised hip, so Lattimore's stock should remain unchanged.
Florida has enjoyed a breakout year from running back Mike Gillislee. The South Carolina defense did a superb job of defending him and the Gators' rushing offense. He had 35 yards on 19 carries. Gillislee was called for a chop block that canceled out a long touchdown pass. Clowney was getting hit high by the guard and Gillislee cut blocked the big end. He contributed throughout the game to blocking Clowney with some chips, but the Gamecocks standout still had a dominant performance. Gillislee's stock as potential second-day pick shouldn't change as his line couldn't open up holes for him.
Gators senior left tackle Xavier Nixon has had a good season, and he had the task of blocking Clowney. Nixon couldn't handle Clowney one-on-one, but when he got help, he had some plays of keeping Clowney in check. Nixon shouldn't see a big decline in his draft stock because nobody in college football has shown the ability to single-block Clowney. Nixon looks like a mid-rounder.
Florida has fleet of defensive prospects for the NFL. They all had solid games and flashed, but no single player stood out with a completely dominant performance. Junior safety Matt Elam fired into the backfield after reading a quick pass from the snap. It was a hard tackle and a loss of four yards. Elam flew around the field and was a fast, hard-hitting presence for the Gators.
Junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd played well at the point of attack. He blocked a field goal in the second quarter after busting through the line. Senior inside linebacker Jonathan Bostic played well, too. He snuffed out a option with a great play to force a pitch and make the tackle on the back. Senior outside linebacker Lerentee McCray had a clutch recovered fumble at the South Carolina two-yard line on the first play from scrimmage. He also had some good pass rushes to put pressure on the quarterback. Floyd is an early-round pick while the linebackers look like mid-rounders.
Junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins has missed most of the 2012 season with a broken thumb and hamstring injury, but he made up for lost time against South Carolina. Jenkins had a delayed rush into the backfield early on and tackled Shaw for a sack on a third down. Jenkins was called for a questionable personal foul a few plays later on a potential hit on Shaw, who was running up the middle. Jenkins also had a big tackle on Shaw on a third-down option run.
Jenkins made a highlight-reel worthy leaping interception just before halftime - with a cast on his broken thumb, but an offside call on McCray wiped out takeaway. Jenkins had a solid performance to help himself, but he should probably return for his senior season to get bigger and strengthen his draft stock.
The final prospect worth mentioning was South Carolina senior defensive end Devin Taylor. He had a near interception, but had the ball go just over his hands. Clowney started a sack on the next play that Taylor finished. He played tough run defense at the point of attack for the most part. Taylor is a good run-defender, but not a pass-rusher who often finishes his rushes for sacks. Taylor would be best as a 3-4 defensive end and looks like a mid-rounder next April.
Stanford 21, California 3
This historic rivalry game featured one of the top wide receivers in the nation, California's Keenan Allen. Stanford has one of the best defenses in the Pac-12, so he was going to see one of the harder challenges of his season.
Stanford made it a point to limit Allen and sent bracket coverage his direction all day. He still made his presence felt, but as a punt reutrner in the second quarter. Allen zig-zagged his way around a few attempted tacklers to gain 29 yards to the Cardinal's 25-yard line. He later had a fumble on a short reception that Stanford recovered however.
Despite the Cardinal selling out to stop Allen, he was getting open on some plays, but quarterback Zach Maynard wasn't seeing the field well. A lot of that had to do with Stanford's pass rush. Allen finally made an impact play on offense with a great catch when the ball was thrown up for grabs. He made a jumping reception between two defenders down the middle of the field. The grab went for 23 yards and showed Allen's fearlessness as he had the strong safety coming hot. He dodged the hit and fell forward for a few more yards.
That was it for Allen as he finished with just four receptions for 43 yards. A common refrain for him this season has been subpar quarterback play holding him back. That was the case against Stanford, but he is still a tremendous athlete with first-round potential.
Three Stanford products had great games to help their draft stock. They were running back Stepfan Taylor, tight end Zach Ertz and outside linebacker Chase Thomas.
Taylor was ripping off runs for good yardage all day long. He pounded the Golden Bears' defense up the middle throughout the game. The senior showed off great feet to cut around defenders and rip off yards in chunks.
Taylor took an inside run to power down the field for 39 yards in the first quarter. He had a superb touchdown run on the next drive on which he cut by one defender and then juked another in the hole to spring into the end zone. Ertz had a couple of great blocks on the play.
Taylor had a number of runs with some wiggle and shake-and-bake to slip by defenders. It was really impressive as he ran hard, fast, elusive and physical. Taylor totaled 191 yards and a score on 28 carries. It was a superb game that set personal highs for him. It definitely will help his cause as a second-day pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Ertz got his day started with a catch of about 15 yards after he ran over a couple of defnders. Ertz should've had a good gainer on a pass that he let go through his hands, but he made up for it on the next possession when he got wide open on an out route. Ertz exploded down the field for a gain of 68 yards to the California 10-yard line. Backup tight end Levine Toilolo caught a touchdown on an out route a few plays later. Toilolo (2-10) shielded the defender from the ball with his big frame.
Ertz caught a slant for a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter following a fumble by the Golden Bears. It was a great route that saw him get nice separation in the middle of the field. He moved the chains with some receptions in the third quarter and California's defense was incapable of containing him. Ertz totaled 134 yards and a score on six receptions. He had a good outing as a blocker as well. Ertz is a solid second-day prospect who could rise higher because of his three-down ability.
Thomas is also a second-day player who could see his stock rise over time. He fired into the backfield on a perimeter run on the second play from scrimmage to make a tackle for a loss of five yards. Thomas had a sack-fumble a play later when he beat the left tackle with a spin move and blasted Maynard. Later in the first half, a running back fumbled the ball and Thomas picked it up to return it for a few yards before falling to the ground.
Thomas later beat the left tackle with a rush to the inside to get to Maynard, but as he was wrestling the signal-caller to the ground the quarterback was able to flip the ball to his running back to avoid a sack. Thomas was active in the second half with some nice pass rushes to pressure Maynard. The senior produced a good tape that will help his cause with NFL evaluators.
The final prospect worth mentioning is Stanford inside linebacker Shayne Skov. He looked better against the Golden Bears compared to other games. Skov looked faster and more explosive. He's coming off a season-ending knee injury from 2011, and this outing looked more like the kind of impact defender he was in 2010. Skov had a serious run stuff with a hard tackle on the first play from scrimmage for the Stanford defense. He blitzed up the A gap In the third quarter and to run down Maynard for a sack. Skov was around the ball and a physical defender.
LSU 24, Texas A&M 19
This was one of the best draft-prospect matchup games of the 2012 season. Texas A&M features two potential first-round picks with left tackle Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, who were taking on LSU's elite defensive ends of Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. The latter two are viewed as potential top-10 picks with explosive pass-rush ability. Whichever players could excel in this opportunity would have a big boost to his draft stock.
Montgomery was going against Joeckel throughout the game, while Mingo lined up at left end over Matthews. Matthews and Joeckel won all their blocks on the first drive. They had great pass protection on a deep drop and opened up holes moving the linemen around in the ground game. The Aggies finished the possession by plunging in for a short score behind Joeckel. He rocked Montgomery to move him out of the way.
The second drive saw more of the same; Joeckel had a great cut block on a screen pass on LSU safety Eric Reid to spring his running back for a touchdown. However, Joeckel and the guard were called for a questionable chop-block penalty on Reid to negate the touchdown. Mingo had a pass batted a bit later. He read quarterback Johnny Manziel well and timed his jump. Montgomery followed suit on the next play and blocked a pass.
Mingo jumped offsides on a third-and-3 and was shoved out of his gap a play later by Matthews who then hit a second block on the safety to spring his back. Mingo got a hit on Manziel on the drive, but Matthews had him blocked; it was just that Manziel scrambled right into Mingo. He had a good pressure on another rush after getting a step on Matthews. Mingo also jumped offsides two more times in the second quarter.
Mingo got a sack in the fourth quarter after he beat a block from the tight end. Manziel scrambled towards him, so Mingo grabbed the signal-caller to rip him to the ground. A Texas A&M running back went through a tackle by Mingo late in the game to score a short touchdown.
Matthews and Joeckel outplayed the LSU's duo overall. Mingo was more active than Montgomery, but neither player had a big day. Joeckel was especially impressive with how he shut down Montgomery's pass rush. Joeckel helped himself the most of the four players while Montgomery hurt himself the most. Matthews should receive a boost, but Mingo should remain relatively steady after a mixed performance.
While Montgomery and Mingo have bigger names, Aggies junior defensive end Damontre Moore has more sacks than Montgomery and Mingo combined. Moore entered the weekend tied for second in the nation in sacks with 8.5. The LSU duo has combined for seven sacks when including Mingo's from this game.
Moore defended the run well against LSU. He had nice a tackle on the edge. Moore recorded a sack at the end of the first quarter with a rush to the inside. He was too fast and strong for the LSU's third-string left tackle. Quarterback Zach Mettenberg stepped up to buy a moment, but Moore changed direction to run down Mettenberg from behind. Another hit from Moore on Mettenberger caused an incompletion.
Moore went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter. He hobbled off, but returned to play at less than full speed. Moore still showed his motor on a third-down play. He ran down the running back after getting triple- teamed on a dump off pass to force a punt.
Moore had a near sack on another third down when he looped around to the inside from left end, but Mettenberger broke out of his grasp to throw the ball away. Moore added another a tackle for a loss in run defense after he came unblocked and chased down the back. This tape should help Moore, but he was going against LSU's third-string left tackle and second-string right tackle. Moore showed his toughness by gutting it out and playing injured, yet he still commanded double- teams. Moore looks like a potential first-round pick in the 2013 or 2014 NFL Draft.
Two other Aggie seniors are worth mentioning: linebacker Sean Porter and wide reeiver Ryan Swope.
Porter flashed early on and deflected a third-down pass on a blitz to force an incompletion. Porter also had a sack when he blitzed up the A gap to sack Mettenberger. Otherwise Porter was quiet and did not have an impact in run defense in the second half.
Ryan Swope has had a tough season without Ryan Tannehill, but he played pretty well against LSU. Swope had a mental mistake with an illegal shift penalty after a nice catch of about 10 yards. He made up for it with a beautiful catch along the sideline in the second quarter between two defenders. The gain went for 27 yards and showed superb concentration. Swope finished with 10 receptions for 95 yards. He is a slot receiver type for the NFL and a potential mid-round draft pick.
LSU junior safety Eric Reid had a mixed day, including had some bad angles on a number of running plays. He had a hard stick open field field tackle on a quick pass. Reid hit Swope too early toward the end of first quarter and was called for a penalty after a third-down incompletion. Reid really didn't need to hit him early because if Swope had caught the ball, he would've been tackled immediately and short of the first down.
Reid jumped a route just before halftime and almost had an interception, but broke up the pass. He also had a dropped interception in the fourth quarter. It was a critical play and a difficult leaping catch, but the ball was uncontested and it hit him in his hands.
Reid made a stupid penalty on the next drive. He laid out the receiver after an incompletion with hit to the helmet on the defenseless wide out. It was completely unnecessary as Reid took four steps after the pass fell to the ground before applying the hit. Overall his stock should remain steady as an early-round pick, but his play has been disappointing as a junior compared to his performance as a sophomore.
Oklahoma State 31, Iowa State 10
There aren't a lot of good linebacking corps in the pass happy Big XII that can be tough on running backs. The exception to that is Iowa State with linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. Oklahoma State features one of the best running back prospects in the nation with junior Joseph Randle.
Randle stiff-armed Knott away on a short catch early to get another five yards on a reception. Randle finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown, but was unable to get going in the first half. He had nine carries for 34 yards. Knott and Klein combined with their line to do a good job of bottling him up.
Randle scored in the third quarter with a 12-yard touchdown. Klein was buried by the center on the play and didn't read the run well as Randle went straight through a hole that Klein would've been able to defend if he hadn't fired into the B gap. Randle powered through a tackle by Knott on a third-and-4 to almost get a first down, but he was stopped inches short.
Randle put the game away during the fourth quarter with a 62-yard run straight up the middle. Knott couldn't shed a block to stop Randle as he flew by him. Knott overpursued on a run a few plays later to give the ballcarrier a big gain to the perimeter.
Randle finished the game with some tough runs. He totaled 153 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns for the contest. This showing will help Randle's stock as an early-round pick.
Knott and Klein each had a few nice plays in the game. Klein snuffed out a pitch on the perimeter, while Knott has a nice pass deflection and an open field tackle.
However, both had some issues in pass defense against Oklahoma State. Klein was beat by the tight end in man coverage for a 34-yard completion running down the seam. Each Cyclone will need development in pass coverage at the next level. Overall, Klein and Knott are good college linebackers, but look like third-day picks who could be backups and special teams contributors.
Two other Oklahoma State prospects are worth mentioning. Senior cornerback Brodrick Brown was beat for 35 yards on the first play on a deep post. He actually had good coverage but it was a perfect throw. Brown and junior corner Justin Gilbert played really well otherwise. Gilbert had a great recovery to breakup a deep ball on trick play. Both Cowboys had tight coverage all day and kept Iowa State from an effective air attack. This tape will help each of them.
Oregon 43, Arizona State 21
There were a few interesting draft prospects in this Pac-12 battle. Unfortunately, one of the prime players to watch for 2013 NFL Draft-evaluation purposes didn't last the first minute of play.
Arizona State junior defensive tackle Will Sutton has been one of the breakout players in college football this year. The 6-foot-1, 267-pounder entered the weekend tied for second in the nation with 8.5 sacks. He came unblocked up the middle of the line in the first minute of the game to force a fumble at the mesh point. While the Sun Devils recovered the ball, they lost Sutton, who hurt his knee and had to be helped off the field. He didn't return to action, and it looks like it could be a serious knee injury. Hopefully, Sutton comes back to the field to continue to build his case for the NFL.
Oregon senior running back Kenjon Barner is a featured player in the most prolific offense in college football. He took off for 71 yards up the middle of the Arizona State defense for a touchdown less than a minute into the contest. It was a middle zone run, and the senior cut back to slice upfield. Barner had another good run of about 25 yards on an outside stretch zone play. He then had two short touchdown runs in the second quarter.
Barner played into the third quarter and finished with 142 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns. It was another excellent performance in a strong senior year that has helped him display his talents for the NFL.
Barner (5-11, 195) is a running back who needs lanes. He doesn't get yards after contact and is not going to power out of tackles. Barner has to be a back who operates primarily in spread formations and the passing game. He could run out of the I-formation, but won't move the pile or shed tackles, so that puts pressure on his blockers to be flawless in order to get a good gain on the play. Right now, Barner looks like a mid-rounder.
Oregon outside linebacker/defensive end Dion Jordan is a potential second-day pick. The senior recorded a first-quarter sack on a speed rush around the edge. He showed impressive agility to drop his shoulder and get low around the corner.
Jordan (6-7, 243) had a good open-field tackle on the quarterback with a hard hit after dropping in coverage. Jordan had a near sack after beating the right tackle with a speed rush, but the quarterback broke his tackle. Jordan got home for his second sack in the second quarter. It was an impressive rush as he burst off the snap and used a right-armed rip move to get the right tackle's hands off of him.
Jordan needs to add weight and strength to shed blocks. Linemen can have success when they get their hands on him. He is only a fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker unless he can add 20 pounds. However, Jordan really helped his cause with a good tape of his pass-rushing skills against Arizona State.
Sun Devils running back Cameron Marshall looked like a second-day pick entering this season, but Arizona State has gone to a running back-by-committee approach with its new coaching staff. Marshall has had fewer opportunities as a result.
The senior could never get going Thursday night as the Ducks rung up 43 points before halftime. He totaled only 29 yards on six carries. His quiet season has him falling down to the third day of the draft.