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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Florida State 45, Duke 7
Florida State is the No. 1 team in the nation and one of the reasons is all the NFL talent the program has on its roster. On both sides of the ball, the Seminoles have players who will be starting on Sundays. The highest-rated talent for the 2014 NFL Draft could be Florida State junior defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.
In the ACC Championship Game, Duke really struggled to block Jernigan. He destroyed one-on-ones and held his ground against double-teams. Throughout the night, Jernigan had some pass pressures. On one play early in the first quarter, he burned the right guard with a speed rush to plant the quarterback into the turf. At the end of the first quarter, Jernigan swam around a guard to stuff a back for no gain.
The juniot came close to a sack in the third quarter with a nice speed rush by the right guard. Jernigan did a good job of getting in on run tackles and stuffed a few at the line of scrimmage. He also showed great speed to close. Jernigan finished with 10 tackles (five solo). This performance will definitely aide his cause when he gets graded. Jernigan showed serious speed and explosiveness off the ball with pass-rush ability. He also held his ground in the run game. If Jernigan declares for the 2014 NFL Draft, as expected, he looks like a first-round pick.
Another potential first-rounder is Seminoles redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. He has had a superb season and has played dominant football late in the year. That continued against the Blue Devils.
In the second quarter, Benjamin made a great catch in the end zone to give Florida State the lead. He went over two defenders and held on as he went to the ground. After halftime, Benjamin got open down the middle of the field. He had to wait on the ball, but he got free from a few defenders for a 54-yard touchdown.
Benjamin later had a ball hit him in the hands deep along the sideline, but he couldn’t hold onto the ball. Benjamin had another bobbled pass, but held on this time for a longer gain. He totaled 119 yards on five receptions with two scores. The 6-foot-5, 234-pounder has mismatch size with enough speed to stretch the field vertically. Benjamin is also phenomenal after the catch. With his quickness and size, defensive backs can struggle to get him on the ground. The ACC Championship game was another example of why Benjamin could be selected early next May.
Seminoles senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner has made some clutch plays in 2013. He led his team in its road win over Clemson and continued to come up big in crunch time against the Blue Devils. Duke was playing Florida State tough early on, but Joyner helped turn the tide for the Seminoles.
Joyner sank into coverage during the second quarter to make a leaping interception. Shortly later, he laid a bone-rattling hit on a back in the flat to break up a completion. Joyner is a small, but gritty, cornerback who could be a nice weapon as a nickel corner in the NFL.
The final prospect worth mentioning is Blue Devils senior cornerback Ross Cockrell. He has played well as a junior and senior to lead Duke’s secondary. In the first quarter, Cockrell made a big play when he ripped the ball out of Devonta Freeman’s hands to get a turnover for the Blue Devils just as the Seminoles were about to score. Cockrell had good coverage on Benjamin on a few plays downfield as well. Cockrell (6-0, 190) is a physical, gritty corner with some ball skills. He is a sleeper prospect who could surprise.
Central Florida 17, SMU 13
After leading Central Florida to a one-loss season with a win over Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville, Knights junior quarterback Blake Bortles has received a lot late attention as a projected first-round pick in 2014 or the 2015 NFL Draft.
Bortles started this game with a three and out. On the next drive, he rolled out to throw a completion along the sideline to convert a third-and-13. Bortles helped move the ball to set up a rushing touchdown. He came close to an interception on the next drive. The junior had a receiver running along the sideline, but the ball was poorly underthrown and fell right into the cornerback, who dropped the pass. If Bortles led the receiver to the end zone over the top, Central Florida could have had a touchdown.
In the third quarter, Bortles threw a bullet in a tight window to his receiver, who got slightly open on a dig route in a group of defenders. Bortles continued to move the ball with some short to intermediate passes. At the goal line, he dove into the end zone on a quarterback sneak.
A few seconds before the fourth quarter, Bortles moved the ball again and took off on a nice run. He showed some speed to run away from defenders and score his second rushing touchdown from 15 yards out. Bortles, a former tight end, had some nice jets to get into the end zone.
Bortles made a bad decision in the fourth quarter by trying to throw a pitch that fell out of bounds. He scrambled on the next play and fumbled the ball. Bortles slapped the fumble out of bounds and was penalized for it. The Knights’ defense did its job and held the lead for the win.
Bortles completed 24-of-35 passes for 242 yards. The freezing weather seemed to affect the offense. Overall, Bortles (6-4, 227) has a nice skill set for the NFL. He has a strong arm with good size and the athletic ability to scramble and run for yards. Bortles needs to improve his footwork for the NFL. He needs to become more uniform and could stand to improve his throwing mechanics. That would improve his accuracy and ball placement.
The quarterback-needy NFL could make Bortles a first-round pick this May, but his development would be better served if he returned to UCF for his senior year.
Baylor 30, Texas 10
This game became the Big XII Championship Game after Oklahoma State was upset by Oklahoma. Texas has a defense with some NFL talent led by senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and junior cornerback Quandre Diggs. Baylor features a high-powered offense with junior quarterback Bryce Petty and junior running back Lache Seastrunk.
In the first half, the Longhorns’ defense did a great job in holding the Bears to only three points. Early in the second quarter, Seastrunk broke off a nice run weaving through a few defenders for a double-digit gain. He fumbled the exchange on the next play, and the ball should have been recovered by Texas, but the defenders couldn’t control the loose ball as it rolled back to Baylor.
In the third quarter, Seastrunk came alive. He had a nifty move to juke a linebacker in the hole for a seven-yard run. Seastrunk bounced two runs to the outside for runs of over 10 yards and ran over a safety on one of them. That set up a short touchdown pass for the Bears.
Seastrunk totaled 91 yards on 14 carries. After an amazing first half of the season, injuries derailed the last six games of the regular season. Seastrunk will have an interesting decision to make. If he enters the 2014 NFL Draft, he could be a second-day pick; returning for his senior season could improve his stock. However, 2015 is a loaded running back class, so now could be the time to come out since Seastrunk would be in the top-five running backs.
Throughout the night, Jeffcoat did a pretty good job of defending the run as he racked up a nice tackle totals. Most of Jeffcoat’s tackles were in pursuit, and he is better there than when runs come straight at him. In the third quarter, Jeffcoat cut to the inside to get by the left tackle and sack Petty. Jeffcoat produced a quality performance. He is undersized for defensive end in the NFL and may have to move to outside linebacker. Jeffcoat could be a third-day developmental pick.
Diggs played well against Baylor. He nearly had an easy interception late in the first quarter, but dropped the pass. Throughout the night, Diggs had good coverage on his man and the Bears targeted other defensive backs. He was tested downfield once and forced an incompletion. This tape should help Diggs.
The final player worth mentioning is Baylor senior guard Cyril Richardson. He did a good job in the ground game, especially in the third quarter to help open lanes for Seastrunk. Richardson did his part in pass protection for another quality tape. He could be a top-50 pick next May.
Auburn 59, Missouri 42
This SEC Championship featured an excellent draft matchup between Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson and Missouri edge-rushers Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. Auburn running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall put a lot of pressure on defenses with their speed on misdirection runs. This game belonged to the Auburn offense, although Ealy made some big plays.
In the early going, Ealy was able to trip up Marshall for a loss of two on a read-option run. Ealy went unblocked by Robinson on the next play and ran down Marshall again. Ealy slapped the ball out of Marshall’s hands and Missouri recovered the ball in Auburn territory.
All day, Robinson had power blocks to spring long runs. He was called for a holding penalty on Ealy at one point that negated a big gain from Marshall. Late in the first quarter, Ealy was slow to identify a screen pass and missed a tackle on the long gain. To end that drive, Ealy pursued a play-action to open up a running lane for Marshall to get in the end zone.
Ealy came back to make a huge play with Missouri down four. He lined up at defensive tackle over the right guard. Ealy fired into backfield and as he ripped Marshall to the ground, the popped the ball out. Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines scooped up the ball and bolted into the end zone for a touchdown.
Robinson was dominant in the ground game. He was doing a superb job of sustaining his blocks to keep his defenders from making tackles. Throughout the first half, Mason was ripping off long runs. He was getting to the second level before contact as he showed a great burst to hit the hole before it closed up. Mason ripped off a 52-yard run around the right side to set up his second short touchdown run. At halftime, he had 195 yards on 23 carries with two scores.
In the second half, Robinson and Mason continued to run over Missouri. Mason powered into the end zone late in the game for a one-yard touchdown before later clinching the game by running up the middle for a 13-yard score. Mason ran for 304 yards on 46 carries with four touchdowns.
This game definitely helps both Robinson and Mason. Robinson looked like a future first-round pick, while Mason looked like he could be a Day-2 prospect. It wouldn’t be surprising if both returned to Auburn instead of entering the 2014 NFL Draft. Ealy also made some plays to stand out.
While those players helped themselves, Sam did some damage to his stock. He missed a tackle in the backfield on a good gainer for Auburn in the second quarter. Midway through the second quarter, Sam made a tackle in pursuit. He drew a holding penalty just before halftime. Auburn has a good fullback in Jay Prosch, but Sam still got pushed around by a fullback.
This was a rough performance for Sam. He really struggled to defend the run as he was getting pushed around and blown off the line of scrimmage. Sam will have to move to outside linebacker in the NFL and may only fit as a situational pass-rusher. This tape will hurt his draft stock.
Missouri’s offense is led by senior quarterback James Franklin, and he gave NFL scouts something to think about with his performance. In the first quarter, Franklin threw a ball up for grabs to Dorial Green-Beckham in the end zone, and the big wide out came down with the 28-yard score. A misread by Franklin resulted in an underthrown pass to the wrong spot for an interception to Auburn. In the final seconds before halftime, Franklin connected with Green-Beckham for a 55-yard touchdown. Green-Beckham ran a go route to get hit in stride on a perfect throw as Auburn blew the coverage.
Franklin ran for a score and a two-point conversion. He ended up completing 21-of-37 passes for 302 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Franklin also ran for 63 yards on 15 carries with a score. This performance and senior year will help him to be drafted on the third day.
Auburn defensive end Dee Ford has had a strong season. On the first third down of the game, he made a clutch stop of Franklin. Ford got upfield with speed on the right tackle before cutting to the inside and chasing down Franklin a couple of yards short of the first down. Ford fell quiet for awhile, but early in the fourth quarter, he had a good pass rush against the right tackle to sack Franklin when the quarterback scrambled. Ford is undersized, but could be a mid-round pick and situational pass-rusher in the NFL.
The final prospect worth mentioning is Missouri junior running back Henry Josey. He broke off an impressive 65-yard run in the second half. Josey totaled 123 yards on nine carries and ended up with a back injury after getting pushed into a cart after his long run. Josey has had a great comeback this season after losing 2012 to a knee injury suffered in 2011. He could get drafted on day three if he skips his senior season.
Stanford 38, Arizona State 14
Arizona State senior defensive tackle Will Sutton was taking on Stanford senior guard David Yankey in a matchup that will happen again on Sundays. Both have the potential to be second-day picks next May and projected starters in the NFL.
In the early going, Sutton wasn’t making an impact while the Cardinal opened up a lead. Stanford was getting some movement out of him in the ground game. Yankey pulled to blast open a running lane for a goal-line touchdown. Late in the first quarter, Sutton had a nice pass rush on Yankey with a nice get-off and maintained leverage to flush Kevin Hogan out of the pocket.
Sutton got put into the turf by the right guard in the second quarter to help open a hole for a long run. After lining up over the center, Sutton stuffed a run to set up a tackle for Carl Bradford. Sutton followed that up with an impressive play as he beat Yankey for a sack with a bull rush. Sutton had good leverage on Yankey to charge down the pocket. Just before halftime, Sutton came close to another sack while fighting off a hold.
Yankey had a nice pass block late in the game on a one-on-one against Sutton to let Hogan throw a 24-yard touchdown. Overall, Sutton played pretty well and frequently caused disruption in the backfield. This tape should be a positive for his draft grade. Yankey had a mixed day and this won’t help his draft grade.
Stanford defensive end/outside linebacker Trent Murphy entered the Pac 12-Championship as the nation’s leader in sacks with 13. He easily could have added another multi-sack game to his big season, but mobile Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly was able to get away from him on a few occasions.
Early in the outing, Murphy got in a run tackle in the backfield with a teammate. In the first quarter, Murphy looped around the inside to come free at the quarterback, but he missed the sack on Kelly. Murphy came close to another sack when he beat the right tackle with a speed rush to the inside, but Kelly was able to scramble away.
Murphy powered his way into the backfield during the third quarter to make a tackle on a back for a loss of a few yards. In the fourth quarter, Murphy got upfield against the right tackle and adjusted to Kelly to dive and trip him up for a sack. Murphy came close to another sack a few plays later. He had another strong performance to cap his excellent senior season.
Two other players are worth mentioning. Cardinal senior inside linebacker Shayne Skov played well again. It didn’t start well as he couldn’t get off a block on a 50-yard touchdown run. Skov came back to make to make some good runs and shared a sack with a teammate in the fourth quarter. He produced a good tackle total and did a good job of limiting Kelly’s runs. Skov looks solid on second-day pick for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Arizona State junior linebacker Carl Bradford made his presence felt. On a perimeter run, he got to the sideline to drag down Hogan for a loss of two. In the third quarter, Bradford split the left tackle and tight end to get a sack of Hogan. Bradford has played well the past two seasons and could be a second-day selection if he enters the 2014 NFL Draft.
Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24
Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Ohio State’s Bradley Roby are both future draft picks next May. Dennard has had the better season, while Roby is skipping his senior year despite getting burned repeatedly. Both players played well, but Dennard had the more clutch performance.
Dennard had tight coverage on his receivers all night and did not allowing them to get open. After halftime, he had a tackle in zone coverage and ripped out the ball, but it rolled out of bounds. Ohio State tied the game on the next play. The Buckeyes tested Dennard deep in the end zone on their next posession. He had blanket coverage and slapped the ball away to force a punt.
On a huge third down in the fourth quarter, Dennard slapped another pass away for an incompletion. Ohio State threw at Dennard twice on the its final drive, but each time the ball fell incomplete as there was nothing open. This performance will help Dennard’s bid to be one of the first cornerbacks selected in the 2014 NFL Draft.
On the first drive, Roby made a nice tackle on a back for no gain after the ball-carrier tried to bounce a run outside. Roby was around the ball throughout the game and made a good amount of tackles. He had a nice open-field tackle on a wide receiver screen. Late in the third quarter, Roby came close to an interception on a tipped pass, but injured his knee on the play. Roby had good coverage on the primary receiver on the play. After missing some time, Roby came back to the field.
On the game-clinching touchdown for Michigan State, Roby missed a tackle of Jeremy Langford. He seemed slow to break on the runner. Perhaps the knee was bothering him. Overall, this performance from Roby was better than how he played earlier this season. Roby looks like a second-day pick.
Another potential second-day selection from the Buckeyes is junior outside linebacker Ryan Shazier. He’s the leader of the Ohio State defense. In the first quarter, Shazier was called for a pass interference with a dumb penalty on a hit that was completely unnecessary. It came on a third-and-8 after Michigan State had thrown incomplete, so Shazier gave the Spartans a first down and some more yards for a shorter field goal.
Shazier was in coverage on a tight end later, but lost him to let him get open for a gain of 12. Shazier made up for it on the next play by stopping a receiver short of a first down. He got some help from Roby to finish off the tackle for a loss of one. That tackle forced a punt.
Just before halftime, Shazier fired a gap to tackle the running back for a loss of three yards. He stopped the back on the next play, too. In the third quarter, Shazier had two good plays in pass defense with one pass tipped to almost cause an interception. Midway through the fourth quarter, Shazier blocked a punt to set up Ohio State at midfield down by three. On the game clinching touchdown for Michigan State, he was pushed out of the play by a guard.
This was a mixed performance from Shazier. He is a fast linebacker who can make some plays in pass coverage, but he also is undersized and needs more strength for the NFL. Shazier will have an interesting decision to make as to whether to enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
Spartans senior linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen made some big plays to help lead their team. In the second quarter, Bullough came on a blitz to get a shove on Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes’ signal caller dropped the ball trying to escape Bullough, but Miller recovered the fumble. Just before halftime, Bullough came on another blitz to tag-team Miller with a teammate for a sack. Allen had two clutch stops on short yardage. The last one was a stop for no gain of Miller on a fourth-and-2. Each Michigan State linebacker could get third-day consideration.
Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24
There were two cornerbacks on display in Bedlam. Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert could be the first cornerback selected next May and is a potential first-round pick (Walt has him No. 13 to the Chargers in his 2014 NFL Mock Draft). Oklahoma senior Aaron Colvin could be a second-day pick.
Early in the first quarter, Gilbert was in off-man coverage and drove hard on a dig route to breakup the pass just after it hit the receivers hands. It was a well-executed play by Gilbert. On the next drive, Jalen Saunders caught a short pass in front of Gilbert and the strong cornerback picked Saunders up off the ground and slammed him to the turf. Gilbert was fortunate not to get called for a penalty.
Gilbert later made a touchdown saving tackle on a reverse, and in the final moments, a ball was thrown up for grabs inside the 10-yard line. Gilbert got above the receiver to almost make an interception, but the wideout was able to knock the ball out when he landed on the ground. If Gilbert held on, the Cowboys would have won the game. It was a pivotal play as Oklahoma took a 27-24 lead with a touchdown with less than 30 seconds remaining a few plays later.
Overall, Gilbert played well for Oklahoma State and the missed interception won’t hurt his draft grade. However, Gilbert will have a tough time letting that play go.
As for Colvin, he got away with a hold in the first quarter, but was able to break up a third down pass to force a punt. He had a nice open-field tackle on a perimeter run. On the final play of the game, Colvin was able to make a hit on the quarterback to keep a fumble alive for Eric Striker to pick up for a touchdown.
Oklahoma State rarely threw Colvin’s direction and didn’t have success when they did. The Cowboys concentrated on attacking Zach Sanchez. This tape shouldn’t have a big impact for Colvin, but it won’t hurt him.
The final prospects worth mentioning are Oklahoma State defensive tackle Calvin Barnett and linebacker Caleb Lavey. They both had good games with Barnett causing disruption at the point of attack. He showed some pass-rush ability to get penetration in the pocket. Lavey defended the run well for the Cowboys. Both could be mid- or late-rounders.
Louisville 31, Cincinnati 24
This could have been the penultimate collegiate game for Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the consensus top quarterback prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft and a top candidate to be the No.1 overall pick. While this contest was going on, down in North Florida, the Houston Texans were taking command of the No. 1 overall pick by losing in Jacksonville. The Louisville game plan almost felt like a bit of an audition for the Texans because Bridgewater ran a lot of bootlegs, and that is a staple of Houston’s offense. But who knows what the Texans offense will look like in 2014 with a new head coach.
Bridgewater wasn’t sharp and didn’t have a performance that was overly impressive against Cincinnati, but he did play his best football in crunch time, leading Louisville to overcome two fourth-quarter deficits. For the majority of the game, the Louisville offense couldn’t get in sync as they had a lot of penalties, dropped passes, protection breakdowns and just good play by Cincinnati’s defense.
On Bridgewater’s first drive, Bridgeater ran a bootleg for seven yards before throwing a short pass to Devante Parker that the wideout broke down the field for a 36-yard touchdown. Bridgewater later converted a third-and-11 with a sneaky run and a dive for the first down. His next pass hit linebacker Jeff Luc right in the hands, but luckily for Bridgewater, the ball was dropped.
On third-and-7, Bridgewater threw a pass too low for his receiver, and it bounced in front of him. The next third-and-7, Bridgewater threw a strike on a crossing route, but took a sack on a third-and-goal when he held onto the ball too long with blitzers coming.
Bridgewater missed on a couple of throws that he normally makes in the first half. Just before intermission, Parker slipped on an out route, and that let a cornerback make a lucky interception as the defensive back fell to the ground.
Cincinnati took a 14-10 lead after halftime. Bridgewater had a receiver wide open running down the deep seam into the end zone, but he overthrew him for an incompletion on a pass he should have completed. Bridgewater then had a bad throw as he scrambled up, heaved late across the field and had the pass dropped by the cornerback. There was nothing but open field ahead of him, and it should have been a pick-six for Cincinnati.
Bridgewater started moving the ball in the fourth quarter, however. On a fourth-and-12, he broke two tackles to avoid a sack to run out toward the sideline. He stiff-armed a defender for about 10 yards to get a 14-yard gain and a first down. It was a great play by Bridgewater, but will be very hard to duplicate in the NFL.
Bridgewater shook out of sack on third-and-8 to finish the drive. He heaved a pass towards the end zone off his back foot as defenders shoved Bridgewater. The ball fell into Damian Copeland in the corner of the end zone for a score.
Cincinnati came right back to take a 21-17 lead midway through the fourth. Bridgewater moved the ball with some intermediate passes. He showed nice anticipation to throw before his receiver cut with a bullet to the far side of the field. He hit a receiver on a run off a bootleg and threw a rope into a tight window to get the ball inside the 5-yard line. On third-and-goal with 2:31 remaining, Bridgewater threw a fade pass for Parker and his receiver out fought the defensive back for the reception. Cincinnati tied the game with a field goal in the final seconds, and Louisville ran for the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
Bridgewater completed 23-of-37 passes for 255-yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He played well in the fourth quarter and showed that ability to throw on the move. He has a good, but not great arm. There were flaws on display, but he made several good plays.
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