As we head into week four and mark off a month of college football, we look forward to conference match-ups getting started. We take a look at the top prospects to watch in the two biggest games in the ACC and SEC this weekend.
FSU v. Clemson-FSU is coming off a rather sound defeat at the hands of Oklahoma, while Clemson is coming off a huge win v. Auburn. This ACC conference opener means the world for both teams, and we expect to see it played that way. In the end we are far more impressed with Clemson’s athletes this year than in years previous and we’ll take the Tigers to send the Noles spinning downward.
OT Andrew Datko-Datko is considered our top 2012 OT and we think he could be a potential top 10 pick come next April. He has great technique, bends at the knees and set up with a nice solid base. I’ll be very interested to see him go one on one with Ellington who is one of the premier DE’s in the country. He must show improvement after a disappointing performance v. Oklahoma.
OT Zebrie Sanders-A recent riser on our latest rankings, Sanders has shown us why he is the top RT in the entire country and why he could even play LT in the NFL. Sanders should see some time v. Ellington as well because Clemson does have him flip-flop sides from time to time.
LB Nigel Bradham-A solid tackling LB with good range and athleticism, Bradham is a player we see as a key reserve in a 43 lineup. He does a good job flowing to the ball and seems to react well to what’s happening in front of him. He still seems to be lacking something instinctually though.
DE Brandon Jenkins*-Jenkins is elite level pass rusher off the edge who some project as a 34 OLB at the next level. We agree with that assessment but so far this year we haven’t seen the lightning quick first step we traditionally look for out of those kinds of players. He needs to show us more burst out of his stance and the ability to be more productive despite facing more attention.
CB Greg Reid*-Many people talk about how the Seminoles have three NFL CB’s on their team and we would agree with that statement. We would like to see Greg Reid step his game up, he was picked on last Saturday and at times lost his man while he was in coverage. We all know how dangerous he can be on returns but can he become a starting CB in the NFL?
WR Rodney Smith*-With all the injuries and departed players that FSU has had, WR may have been the position that was the most affected. The Seminoles need Smith to become their top WR and thus far his 12 catches for 171 yards and 1 TD are not enough. The uncertainty at QB will surely have an effect on Smith’s play but he must overcome that.
QB EJ Manuel*-Knocked out of the game last week v. Oklahoma and then was outperformed by RS Freshman Clint Trickett. Manuel’s status for Saturday’s game is still very much up in the air but he needs a bounce back game or else he may lose his job.
DT Brandon Thompson-The big man in the middle has been hanging around the bottom of the 1st Round in our mock draft and with a big game on Saturday he could go a long way to cementing that status. He is strong as an Ox and can really push the pocket from the middle. We’d like to see his disengage a little better and going against an athletic line in FSU should give him a good challenge.
DE Andre Branch-An absolute monster this year who is sadly getting overlooked. Branch has been excellent at getting off blocks and making plays. His 21 tackles are 2nd on the team and while his backfield numbers (TFL, and sacks) aren’t popping off the stat sheet you have to keep in mind he’s facing a lot of double teams and chips. He has excellent speed of the edge and seeing him against either Datko or Sanders should be an excellent scouting opportunity.
OG Antoine McClain, OG David Smith, and OC Dalton Freeman*-These three interior lineman work so well as a unit that it’s a joy to watch them operate. They communicate and execute their blocking scheme flawlessly on the inside. FSU has talent at DT, but we’re not sure it’s going to be a match for this trio.
OT Landon Walker-Walker is a guy we are really excited to see play against FSU, we love his size and think he has really good potential but we want to see him get tested. Going up against the trio of Jenkins, Carradine, and Werner should provide that test all day long.
TE Dwayne Allen*-Our #2 2013 TE, Allen is an athletically gifted player who knows how to work the seam and can create big time matchup problems for defensive coordinators. FSU will likely try and use 2014 LB Christian Jones against Allen to help neutralize his speed. This will be an interesting matchup to watch for future drafts.
RB Andre Ellington*-Clemson has always been known for its RB’s and this year is no different, Andre Ellington is churning out big yards through the middle and with the addition of freshman Mike Bellamy’s speed they are keeping defenses off balance. Ellington is averaging 5.5 ypc and has hit the 300 yard mark already. His ability to produce will be key against a very fast FSU defense.
Arkansas v. Alabama-We’re going to keep this short and sweet, Alabama has the defense to stop Arkansas dead in their tracks and nobody on Arkansas is going to be able to stop Trent Richardson. The Tide roll but still don’t know who their QB should be.
WR Greg Childs-We aren’t quite sure what happened between this year and last year but somewhere along the way we lost Greg Childs. He was one of the most productive and dangerous WR’s in 2010 but so far in 2011 he’s registered just 2 catches. Wilson must find a way to get him the ball early and get him involved in this game. Childs is coming back from a knee injury and missed last week’s game due to the death of his grandmother.
LB Jerry Franklin-An absolute beast on the field, he flows extremely well to the ball and does a very good job filling gaps. Where Franklin struggles in his ability to fight through traffic and get off blocks. We want to see him be more aggressive in attacking the line of scrimmage. We think he has solid instincts and we’d like to see him trust them a little more.
WR Joe Adams and Jarius Wright-This duo is part of a group of WR’s who probably blow every other WR group out of the water in all of football. Adams and Wright excel working out of the slot, they are quick twitch athletes who can make you miss in space, but also excel at getting deep and utilizing double moves to get open. Combined so far this season they have 26 receptions, 369 yards, and 4 TD’s.
S Tramaine Thomas-Thomas was named is our SEC West Sleeping Seniors column this preseason and thus far he’s continued to show we he earned that recognition. His workman like attitude hasn’t produced eye popping numbers but his coverage ability and range are a big reason why he’s getting long looks by NFL teams.
QB Tyler Wilson*-After wowing everybody last year in his relief appearances, Tyler Wilson come into this year with a lot of hype. So far he’s been pretty good completing of 68% of his passes (59 of 86) throwing for 822 yards, 5 TD’s, and 2 INT’s. He’ll need to be extra careful with the ball when going up against what is an extremely opportunistic Alabama defense.
WR Cobi Hamilton*-Where Greg Childs may have slipped, Cobi Hamilton has stepped up. The junior is averaging over 19 yards per catch and has been dynamic making plays down the field. It will be interesting to see if Saban has Dre Kirkpatrick cover Hamilton given his propensity for making big plays down the field early this year.
RB Ronnie Wingo*-When Knile Davis went down earlier this year with a gruesome injury, the entire running game shifted onto Wingo’s shoulders. A big bruising back that has surprising quickness and agility for his size. He is also accomplished pass catcher and will need to be picked up by one of Bama’s talented LB’s.
LB Courtney Upshaw-A blitzing machine off the edge, Upshaw has been dynamic early this year register 4.5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, and 3 QBH. He has been a constant presence in the backfield and has forced multiple plays to redirect in order to avoid him. We would like to see more from him in non-blitzing role, but it appears as though his instincts may be lacking a little as he looks slow to react to plays.
SS Mark Barron-We can’t think of a steadier defender in all of college football. He keeps the play in front of him rarely getting beat deep. He does a good job transitioning from his backpedal to his sprint and has the ability to come down and cover the slot WR or TE one on one.
DT Josh Chapman-Chapman has been effective at taking up space and blockers in his 34 NT role thus far this season. He’s done a very good job keeping Don’ta Hightower clean and going up against an inexperienced Arkansas line there is no reason to think that can’t continue.
OC William Vlachos-A technically gifted OC, Vlachos is the man many consider to be the leader of this talented OL. He snaps his head up quickly after the snap and does a great job of keeping it on a swivel. He has good recognition skills for players coming on a blitz and does a very good job of playing with leverage.
RB Trent Richardson*-Our #1 RB in 2013, Richardson’s blend of power and speed is unmatched in the country right now. His 300+ yards and 8 TD’s have put him squarely into the Heisman race and with Alabama still unable to find a consistent QB their season may ride on his legs.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick*-We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again we think that Dre Kirkpatrick is the most lock down CB in the entire country and we aren’t alone in saying that. He is so good at working in man on man coverage that he can literally take away an entire player.
LB Don’ta Hightower*-The man in the middle for this Crimson Tide defense Hightower leads the way for this defense. He is man they all look to and is considered by many to be the single most important part of this defense. He sheds blockers well and we see him as a prospect who is just as good as former Tide LB Rolando McClain.
FS Robert Lester*-Lester was a bit of an unknown coming into his Sophomore season but after leading the Tide in INT’s last year everybody knows who he is now. He has incredible range for the position and excels at baiting QB’s into making poor decisions. Lester is not quite the same caliber tackler as Barron unfortunately.
OG Barrett Jones*-Jones plays LT for Alabama but we feel as though he is a better fit inside at OG. We rank Jones as our #2 OG for 2013 and think that he could be a Day 1 starter in the NFL. He has great strength and technique and shows the finishing ability you really want to see in your offensive lineman.
OG Chance Warmack*-Unlike Jones, Warmack plays inside on the Bama offensive line and he isn’t quite as strong or big as Jones. He is however athletic and could be used to pull or trap. We want to see him put on another 10-15 pounds maintain that athleticism.