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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South Carolina 34, Mississippi State 16
In this SEC matchup, there were some good battles between NFL prospects on the line of scrimmage. Of course, everybody knows about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson is one of the top interior offensive line prospects in the nation. He had the tough task of going against Clowney, Chaz Sutton and Kelcy Quarles.
On the first drive of the game, the Bulldogs went behind Jackson for a number of good runs including a touchdown run at the goal line. Clowney made a tackle on the goal line but Jackson opened up a hole a play later.
The Bulldogs later let Clowney fly upfield and went through his gap for a gain of 21 yards. A few plays later, Clowney came on an inside stunt and batted a pass down on a third down attempt. Clowney then came unblocked on a run to the right, but he missed the tackle. The Bulldogs were able to get another run through Clowney’s gap as he bit on a read option run just before halftime.
Mississippi State went back to that play in the third quarter for a nice gain as Clowney pursued the back to the right side. South Carolina opened up a big lead and Clowney was on the sideline for a lot of the second half. Clowney came close to a sack in the middle of the fourth quarter, as he bullrushed the left tackle into the pocket. He shed the blocker to grab the quarterback, but Dak Prescott got out of his grasp and ran about 10 yards for a touchdown.
That was it for Clowney’s day. He was active and impacted the game plan, but didn’t produce any splash plays or sacks. Clowney also was beat by some single blocks. He recorded three tackles with a pass batted. This tape won’t help or hurt his draft stock.
Conversely, Jackson had a strong outing. He was rock solid, winning his blocks in run blocking and pass protection. For the NFL he may not have the athleticism to stay at left guard and maybe should move to right guard. Jackson looks like a solid, safe second-day selection.
USC 31, Oregon State 14
Entering the 2013 campaign, USC’s Marqise Lee was viewed as the top wide receiver prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft. The season hasn’t gone as planned for Lee as he has missed a lot of time with a knee injury. When he has played, Lee has been held back by USC’s new quarterbacks. After being in and out of the lineup the last few weeks, Lee ood to go against a quality Oregon State secondary led by cornerback Rashaad Reynolds.
On the first play of the game for USC’s offense, Lee broke wide open running a deep post. Cody Kessler dropped in the bomb as Lee coasted into the end zone for a 71-yard score. Oregon State had busted coverage, but Lee flashed the playmaking that made him a Heisman finalist a year ago.
Later in the first quarter, Lee made a nice catch in front of Reynolds, and he spun away from two defenders to run down the sideline for a gain of about 15 yards. Reynolds later had great coverage on a nine route by Lee. Reynolds did a great job of getting his head around to find the ball and knock the pass away for an incompletion.
However, Reynolds was burned by Nelson Agholor on a deep post for a 62-yard gain in the third quarter. Lee couldn’t hold onto a diving catch for a gain of 30 with tight coverage from Reynolds. Lee finished with five receptions for 105 yards and a score. Reynolds, meanwhile, had seven tackles and a pass broken up.
Lee needed this game to display that he can still produce while playing banged up. He looked faster against Oregon State than in previous weeks, although he still wasn’t 100 percent. This tape will help Lee. Reynolds won’t benefit from this tape, and if anything, it will hurt him.
Oregon State junior defensive end Scott Crichton started 2013 quietly before heating up lately. He played well against Stanford a week earlier, so USC sent a lot of double teams his direction on Friday night. Crichton had a pressure after coming unblocked from the left side. He showed nice hustle in the third quarter to chase down a back from behind on a screen pass. br>
Crichton got a sack on a busted play as he led the way of a few Beaver defenders to get to Kessler. The sack could have been attributed to a teammate or have been a half sack, so Crichton benefited from the scorer’s decision. He had three tackles and a sack against USC. The Trojan double teams were largely effective at keeping Crichton in check.
USC junior safety Dion Bailey had an excellent game. It didn’t start that well though, as Bailey had a nice pass break-up on the first drive but was called for pass interference. His timing was a little off, as he hit the tight end before the ball got there. Bailey had tight coverage on a tight end running an out route in front of the goal line in the fourth quarter. Bailey snatched the pass in front of the receiver for an interception. It was a great catch, as the tight end was grabbing Bailey’s facemask as he went to the ground.
Bailey added another pass broken up and five tackles against Oregon State. Bailey had an excellent game for NFL scouts. He showed the ability to play man coverage on tight ends and not allow separation. He also did a good job of picking up receivers downfield. Bailey illustrated good ball skills and instincts. This tape will serve him well.
Oregon State has fielded a very productive passing attack led by junior signal caller Sean Mannion and junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The first play of the game saw Mannion drop in a perfect touch pass to Cooks for 31 yards. After an interception, Mannion rebounded with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Cooks. Cooks ran a go route and drifted towards the front corner of the end zone. The corner fell down to leave him wide open.
Mannion struggled in the second half and threw three interceptions against USC. Adding in an underwhelming game against Stanford last week, and the fact that 2014 is a strong quarterback class, Mannion would be better off returning for his senior season. Cooks caught six passes for 88 yards. He is an undersized wideout (5-10, 186) who could be a mid-rounder in 2014 or 2015.
Arizona State 55, Washington State 21
While Sun Devil senior defensive tackle Will Sutton is a well known, there were two underrated defensive prospects who shined in this game. Arizona State junior linebacker Carl Bradford and Washington State senior safety Deone Buccanon are both having excellent 2013 seasons. Each player came up with some big splash plays in this Thursday night game.
In the first half, Bradford made a lot of big plays to help Arizona State start their blow out of the Cougars. Bradford exploded off the snap to burn the right tackle and slap the ball out of the hands of Connor Halliday on a strip-sack. Sutton almost recovered the ball but was just beat to it by a Washington State lineman. Shortly later, Bradford had another blinding rush with a blitz up the middle, and as he was wrestling Halliday to the ground, the quarterback was able to pitch the ball away to an offensive lineman to avoid a safety.
Bradford ran downfield in the third quarter to make a touchdown-saving tackle on a receiver. As he laid the wood on the wideout, Bradford forced his second fumble of the game. Shortly later, Bradford showed his athletic ability when he took a direct snap from a punt formation and rumbled down the sideline for a gain of 20 yards. Bradford had Sutton leading the way as a blocker, and his return set up another Sun Devils touchdown.
Bradford finished with two tackles, a sack, a pair of forced fumbles and the punt return. He came close to a number of other sacks. Bradford has a lot of speed and good instincts, and he’s a physical player. He is playing his way into the early rounds if he enters the 2014 NFL Draft. However, he might be better off returning for his senior year to have a better shot of grading out as a first-round pick.
Entering the weekend, Bucannon was tied for second in the nation with four interceptions. He was able to jump into a tie for first place with another pick in the fourth quarter. On the play, Bucannon had tight coverage on a receiver running across the field. He darted in front of the wideout to pick off the pass and run down the field for 32 yards.
The game didn’t start that well for Bucannon, however, as he missed a tackle on quarterback Taylor Kelly, who spun away from the safety around the 5-yard line to score the second touchdown of the game. On the next drive, Bucannon showed nice quickness to make a tackle on the sideline to prevent a receiver from breaking off a long reception. Bucannon then had a receiver run over him at the goal line for a touchdown.
Bucannon did a good job of defending the run. He crashed into the tackle box and did his part to prevent runs from being busted downfield. Bucannon totaled 12 tackles with an interception in this contest. He showed the ability to function in pass coverage and in run defense. This tape will help his draft stock.
Sutton was active against Washington State and caused some disruption, but he didn’t dominate. On the second drive of the game, Sutton came close to recording a safety after he came free running down the middle. Sutton also threw a guard by him and tackled a back for the loss of a few years. Sutton finished with two tackles and that tackle for a loss. This tape should be neutral overall for his draft stock.
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