Friday, August 29, 2014
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Saturday NFL Draft watch notes

After a down Week 4 of the college football season, things will now really begin to pick up. Many of the cupcake non-conference games are out of the way. While we're leading off this week with South Carolina/Central Florida, the biggest NFL Draft notes will come in conference games.

Matthew Fairburn will have a standalone preview of Wisconsin/Ohio State, arguably the best game of a busy Saturday.

South Carolina at Central Florida, noon (ET), ABC

The rumblings. They've begun. You should have expected as much. Is Jadeveon Clowney really the top prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft? Bucky Brooks of seems to be leaning toward UCLA's Anthony Barr over Clowney. The reasoning is because Clowney is having a quiet season with just 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks. Remember that Clowney is due to have surgery for bone spurs after the season. While it would be nice to see him have a big game – and he could today – Clowney is still the top player in the draft.

After Clowney,, South Carolina has few other eligible prospects. Chaz Sutton, the end opposite Clowney, hasn't taken quite full advantage of the extra attention his counterpart receives.

We'll be releasing adjusted player rankings next week, but here's a quick sneak peek: Central Florida junior Blake Bortles is in the top 10 of the quarterback rankings. Bortles is an exciting mix of tools, which were on display last week when he threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns in an win over Penn State. Bortles is an athletic 6-foot-4, 230-pounder. He sometimes doesn't drive the ball, but the arm strength is there.

Central Florida's right tackle, Chris Martin, is a steady blocker. He doesn't get a lot of publicity, but he's a solid late-round prospect. Knights junior running back Storm Johnson is another underrated player. At 6-foot and 215 pounds, Johnson can break tackles and has decent speed.

LSU at Georgia, 3:30 p.m. (ET), CBS

Anyone who has followed the site, or listened to our podcasts, should be fully aware of my love for LSU. If not, here are my opinions is in a nutshell. With Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, LSU has the best wide receiver duo in the nation. LSU will give Alabama a much tougher game than Texas A&M did. Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson is one of the more unheralded defensive linemen in nation. Zach Mettenberger is quickly becoming one of my favorite quarterback prospects. The love affair is real.

This week, I'm pumping the brakes a little bit before this gets out of control, namely on Mettenberger. At this time last year, many were clamoring for Mike Glennon. The two big quarterbacks are comparable, for good and bad. The main thing to watch with Mettenberger is how long he holds onto the ball. That was Glennon's biggest downfall. Mettenberger has the same tendency. Mettenberger may also need to play in the right scheme – a vertical one – to succeed.

With the Tigers receivers, their skills are fairly obvious. Beckham is a speedster with enormous hands. Landry can make the crazy highlight reel receptions. There has been a lot of talk about LSU running back Jeremy Hill nationally. Don't forget he's just a true sophomore. Same with Georgia star running back Todd Gurley.

Georgia's top eligible player on offense is quarterback Aaron Murray. There is not a lot of flash to Murray as a prospect. His size is ordinary. His arm strength is good but not great. He's not much of a runner. Murray's strengths are that he's efficient and smart.

As they often do, Georgia has talent on defense. Cornerback Damian Swann is a solid nickel coverage prospect. Junior middle linebacker Amarlo Herrera is an emerging talent.

Oklahoma at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. (ET), NBC

There is an interesting matchup in this one. Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard is arguably the best athlete at his position in the nation. But he could be in trouble when Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix playing right over him. Oklahoma will obviously give Ikard help, but Nix may be in for a big day. Nix's linemate Stephon Tuitt was knocked, justifiably, for his play against Michigan. But he's bounced back the past two weeks.

The Sooners have a pair of wide receiver prospects in Jalen Saunders and Jaz Reynolds that will get the attention of the NFL. Reynolds is still working his way back into the offense after missing last season, but he's a solid all-around talent. Saunders is a small receiver, but he has speed and playmaking ability.

Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin is expected to be back after sitting out last week's game against Tulsa. Colvin may not have elite straight-line speed, but he can tackle and play the run. He may have a tough one-on-one matchup with Notre Dame's TJ Jones. Senior safety Gabe Lynn, a former corner, will give him help over the top.

Arizona at Washington, 7 p.m. (ET), Fox

Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey may be the nation's best running back that no one talks about. Carey was suspended for Arizona's season opener, but in two games has run for 299 yards and four touchdowns. Carey has speed to burn. Washington, however, will give Carey a much greater challenge than UNLV or UTSA did.

Washington has a good running back of its own in Bishop Sankey. While Sankey may not have Carey's speed, he's an explosive runner who can cut and break tackles effectively. Sankey and Carey are similar players (all the way down to jersey number, 25) and a game like this could help one of them separate.

Huskies quarterback Keith Price appears to be getting his mojo back. Through three games, he's completing 77 percent of his passes for 879 yards and seven touchdowns. His top target is wide receiver Kasen Williams, a speedy player with good size.

More notables on Saturday:

• Alabama clearly struggled against big Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans. That means Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief could be poised for a big game against the Tide. The 6-foot-3, 226-pound Moncrief can open up the field if quarterback Bo Wallace can get him the ball.

• Tide left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio could use a good game. He'll get tested by Ole Miss true freshmen Robert Nkemdiche. Kouandjio is a powerful blocker, but Nkemdiche is thus far living up to his blue chip status.

• Southern California wide receiver Marqise Lee only has one touchdown through four games. That's not just a consequence of the bad quarterback play in Los Angeles. Lee doesn't seem to have the same wiggle and separation this year. He's also been visibly unhappy on the sideline, which is worth noting.

• Two of the better pass rushing prospects in the nation can be found in the Florida/Kentucky game. Florida junior Ronald Powell may now get asked to do more as a blitzer now that Dominique Easley is out for the season. He's flashed at times this season, but needs to put together a complete game start to finish. Kentucky's Za'Darius Smith has been a revelation this season. He was having his way with Louisville blockers and already has 4.5 sacks this season.

• With Sonny Dykes running a fast-break offense at California, Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu could be in for a trying day. Ekpre-Olomu had an eye-popping 20 pass breakups last season and is among the five best cornerback prospects in the nation.

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This article originally appeared on SBNation.

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