2013 NFL Draft: College Football Game Recaps – Week 8

This section breaks down many college football games each week and highlights how 2014 NFL Draft Prospects have performed. Or look at the 2014 NFL Draft Stock page.

By Charlie Campbell.
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Auburn 45, Texas A&M 41
This game was a nice test for the consensus top offensive tackle prospect in the nation. Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews has been excellent in his move to left tackle to protect the blind side of Johnny Manziel. Auburn had some speed rushers in Dee Ford and Carl Lawson to test Matthews.

In the first half, the Auburn rushers were giving Matthews some trouble. Matthews was getting pushed back by Lawson and fell to the ground. As Matthews fell, he grabbed Lawson and brought him to the ground with him. Matthews was lucky he wasn’t called for a hold. Matthews was then beaten for a sack by Ladarius Owens on a left armed rip move.

Matthews played much better in the second half, as his pass protection was strong. This tape won’t help Matthews, but it won’t be enough to change his standing as the top tackle prospect.

The star of this game was Texas A&M redshirt sophomore wide receiver Mike Evans. He continued his stellar season with a dominating performance. Evans was unstoppable. To get his big day started, Manziel hooked up with Evans for a 26-yard touchdown on a wide receiver screen. Shortly later, Manziel dodged a sack and threw a ball up for grabs and Evans came down with a completion of about 30 yards. Evans would then go the distance on a bubble screen for a 64-yard touchdown.

After that, Manziel scrambled and threw a dart to Evans on the run in the intermediate part of the field. Evans bounced to the outside and exploded down the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown with a dive into the end zone over a defender. Evans had five receptions for 182 yards and three touchdowns by halftime.

Manziel and Evans hooked up again for six in the third quarter. Evans ran a deep route along the sideline before turning to run across the front of the end zone. Evans shielded and out-fought the corner for the ball.

After missing some time after a hard fall on his throwing shoulder, Manziel came back and threw a pass downfield to Evans. Manziel then ran into the end zone from a couple yards out.

With a minute remaining and down by four, Manziel moved the ball inside 20 via a few passes to Evans, who had some nice runs after the catch. The drive ended when the right side of the line failed to protect Manziel on a few plays, and the Aggies were stopped on a fourth down. Auburn also caught a break when a horse collar tackle on Manziel wasn’t called. That would have moved the ball inside the 10-yard line.

Evans finished with 11 receptions for 287 yards and four touchdowns. Manziel was 28-of-38 for 454 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. On the ground, Manziel had 48 yards on 18 carries with a score. This tape shows why Evans (6-5, 220) is the top-rated draft eligible receiver with his ability to make big plays. He can beat defenses downfield with his mismatch size, the speed to get vertical and ability to rip off yards after the catch.

Manziel, meanwhile, is a first-round talent with the arm to make some great throws, the mobility to bail out his offensive line and the instincts to repeatedly burn defenses. He needs to improve his fundamentals, as sometimes he gets sloppy with his footwork. He takes some risks that are ill-advised but sometimes they turn into huge plays. This tape should help him.

Auburn’s offense got a huge performance from junior running back Tre Mason. He ran with quickness and power to batter a weak Aggies defense. Mason ran for 178 yards on 27 carries with the game winning touchdown. If Mason (5-10, 198) can stay consistent, he could rise up the running back rankings.

Miami 27, North Carolina 23
This matchup featured two senior quarterback prospects for the NFL in Miami’s Stephen Morris and North Carolina’s Bryn Renner. Renner has a superb weapon in pass receiving tight end Eric Ebron, who this night belonged to even though the Hurricanes pulled out a win. The junior Ebron would be in the running to be the first tight end selected next May if he decides to declare for the 2014 NFL Draft. This performance against Miami will help his bid to be considered as a first-round pick.

Renner missed the last game out with a left foot injury, but was back in the lineup to play the Hurricanes. He wasted no time getting the ball to Ebron for big plays. On a shallow cross, the big tight end showed his speed to get downfield for a gain of close to 20 yards. Shortly later, Ebron put the Tar Heels on the board with a 71-yard touchdown. He ran a cross in the intermediate part of the field before escpaing a tackle from a linebacker and a cornerback to explode down the sideline for the score. Ebron’s breakaway speed was very impressive.

On the next drive, Renner lofted in a nice throw to Ebron running down the seam for a gain of 31 yards. Renner hit a wide open Quinshad Davis a few plays later for a touchdown. On a throw in traffic, Ebron had a 14-yard touchdown bounce off his hands for an incompletion. It was a tough catch in a crowd of defenders, but one that the junior should have made. He had seven receptions for 150 yards and a score by halftime.

Ebron made a miraculous 23-yard reception in third quarter on a pass that was thrown behind him. Still, he reached back to make a juggling one-handed catch. If Renner had thrown an accurate pass to hit Ebron in stride, it could easily have been another touchdown of about 70 yards. Late in the fourth quarter, Ebron had another reception of about 25 yards.

Ebron finished with nine receptions for 205 yards with a touchdown. He also showed some nice blocking ability on a number of runs. Ebron was utterly dominant illustrating his speed, route-running, generally solid hands and mismatch potential. He looks like a three-down starter for the NFL and seems ready to make the jump to the next level. This tape will help him to rise up draft boards and be a potential first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Renner had a bad overthrow get intercepted in the fourth quarter right when North Carolina could have put Miami away. The receiver was covered and the ball should have been thrown away. Renner finished the night completing 28-of-36 passes for 300 yards with a touchdown and that critical interception. This tape won’t help Renner.

North Carolina senior left tackle James Hurst had another good night in pass protection. He isn’t the most devastating run-blocker, but he did a good job of negating the speed-rushers that the Hurricanes sent his way. This performance should help Hurst’s draft stock.

Morris was the only prospect who really hurt himself on Thursday night. He had an awful game and didn’t deserve to get a win. Morris started the game poorly with an interception on his first drive. He was under pressure and threw a ball up for grabs. The pass was trailing away from the receiver and a freshman defensive back made an impressive leaping grab. After a long Duke Johnson run, Morris had an easy pass in the flat for about a three-yard touchdown, but the signal-caller threw the pass over his receiver’s head for an incompletion; Miami had to settle for three.

A little bit later, Morris hit a 68-yard reception on a pass on another ball thrown up for grabs. The Tar Heels defenders in the area all mistimed their jumps, so the ball simply fell into the receiver. That set up another field goal for the Hurricanes.

Midway through the second, Morris beat safety Tre Boston for a 42-yard pass to Allen Hurns. Morris had an inaccurate overthrow a few plays later that was snagged for a leaping interception by Boston. In the third quarter, Morris had a screen pass hit off the back of the helmet of Seantrel Henderson. That deflected throw was picked off to take points away from Miami.

Morris made a terrible play in the fourth quarter as the Hurricanes were trying to make a comeback. He had a clean pocket but scrambled to his left before tossing a pass up for grabs to a well-covered receiver with multiple defenders present. This pass was also intercepted.

On the game-winning drive, Morris made some clutch throws to get good yardage and set up the touchdown run. He finished 17-of-33 for 322 yards and four interceptions. It was an ugly contest as Morris showed ugly accuracy and some poor decision-making. He needs to improve his footwork dramatically. The senior is not consistent and gets sloppy with his follow through. Those factors hurt his accuracy and cause a lot of his throws to sail high. Overthrows, especially in the middle of field, lead to a lot of interceptions in the NFL. Morris provided NFL evaluators with a tape that hurts his draft grade and makes him look like a second-day pick rather than a candidate for a first-round selection.

A defensive prospect who had a good overall game was North Carolina senior defensive end Kareem Martin. He flashed when he shed a block from Henderson to tackle Duke Johnson for a loss of a couple of yards. Henderson had Martin blocked on the next play, but when Morris rolled to the right, Martin chased him to force a third-down incompletion. In the second quarter, Martin had a good hustle tackle in pursuit on a screen pass downfield.

Martin chased down Morris for a sack in the second half after he was left unblocked. In the fourth quarter, Martin shed the right guard to stop the back two yards short of the line of scrimmage. He later had another tackle for a loss after going unblocked. Martin had an active game with a presence in the backfield. This will help his bid to be a second-day pick.

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