The preseason #1 ranked USC Trojans (7-5) will try to stop the spread-option offense of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-7) in the Hyandai Sun Bowl. There will be no shortage of NFL talent on the field for USC, but the guy everyone wants to see, Matt Barkley, will miss the game with an injured shoulder. Georgia Tech doesn’t have the same talent, but they hope to avoid falling to 6-8 on the season.
QB Matt Barkley, #7, 6’2, 230 (Injured)
Barkley needs no introduction. He could have easily been a top 15 pick in the 2012 draft, but his stock has taken a hit after returning for his final season at USC. He’s obviously not the most physically gifted prospect, but he’s a tough, gritty competitor with the ability to make all the throws. He has terrific poise, instincts in the pocket, and above average ball placement. His ability to drive the ball vertically and outside the hash marks are the primary concerns talent evaluators currently have. His best fit in the NFL will be in a West Coast system, and he would be a terrific value pick in the second round. He’ll likely go earlier after a team falls in love with him during the draft process.
RB Curtis McNeal, #22, 5’7, 190
McNeal is a short, compact back with several dynamic qualities. He has an explosive first step, impressive change of direction skills, and the ability to create when plays break down. He’s never going to be a consistent grinder between the tackles, but his low pad level and balance allow him to drive through contact and finish runs. He’ll appeal to teams that employ a two back system, and will likely be selected in the middle rounds.
WR Robert Woods, #2, 6’, 190*
Woods is expected to declare for the draft after the bowl game. After switching positions with the more dynamic Marqise Lee, his junior year production took a significant hit and has recently lowered his draft stock. As a prospect, he’s an explosive athlete with the ability to play inside and out at the next level. He has the dynamic short area quickness to win inside and the vertical speed to stretch the defense vertically. He needs to add some bulk to his frame and increase his playing strength, but the talent is there for Woods to be an early contributor at the NFL level. He has value in the second or third round.
OC Khaled Holmes, #78, 6’3, 305
Holmes is another USC prospect that was more highly regarded before the season. He’s had a disappointing year, and evaluators don’t know if it’s because of injury or if he’s simply not as talented as first thought. He’s an intriguing prospect possessing the range, coordination, and the natural athleticism to be a long time NFL starter. If he can answer the medical questions, he’ll have value in the 3rd round to a team that runs a zone scheme.
DE Morgan Breslin, #91, 6’2, 250*
Breslin is a JUCO transfer and the top defensive prospect for the Trojans. He’s still a raw prospect, but he possesses upside as a scheme versatile pass rusher. He plays with power, speed, and he has a relentless motor. He’s not a dynamic athlete, but he has the ability to develop into a starting caliber player at the next level. He’s still a junior so he may be back for his final season. If he does declare, he currently offers value in the second round.
DE Wes Horton, #96, 6’5, 255
Horton is a long, lean prospect with intriguing natural talent. Unfortunately, that talent has never translated to production. He’ll probably be overdrafted due to his athleticism, but he doesn’t look much more than a late round or priority free agent type of player.
CB Nickell Robey, #21, 5’8, 168*
Robey is another highly rated junior prospect on the USC roster. Though he’ll likely return for his final season, there is still a chance he takes the leap to the NFL this year. He’s obviously undersized, but he can press off the line, he has terrific balance and coordination in coverage, and he has excellent ball skills. He’s primarily suited to play inside at the next level, but he does have the speed and physicality to play outside. He also offers value in the return game. Despite his physical limitations, he’s one of the best corners in the country and looks like a potential starter at the next level. He has value in the third or fourth rounds.
SAF Jawanza Starling, #29, 6’, 200
Starling is a compact and muscular player with the athleticism to someday develop into a starter at the NFL level. He’s fluid in coverage and has adequate ball skills, but he’s inconsistent physically and tends to disappear for long stretches. If he’s not selected late, he’ll be a priority free agent.
SAF T.J. McDonald, #7, 6’1, 205
McDonald’s value has been hit harder than any of his teammates. The decision to return for his senior season doesn’t appear to a good one. He certainly has the skills to make an impact as a starter at the NFL level, but he’s going to have to answer a lot of questions over the next couple of months. Although there are reports of a free agent grade, he’ll be selected sometime after the fourth round.
RB Silas Redd, #25, 5’10, 200*
TE Xavier Grimble, #86, 6’5, 255*
TE Randall Telfer, #82, 6’4, 255*
OT Kevin Graf, #77, 6’6, 304*
DT George Uko, #90, 6’3, 286*
LB Devon Kennard, #42, 6’3, 240 (Medical Redshirt)
LB Dion Bailey, #18, 6’, 210*
LB Hayes Pullard, #10, 6’, 235*
CB Torin Harris, #4, 6’, 190*
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
RB Orwin Smith, #17, 5’11, 202
Smith is a smaller back with some natural talent and versatility. As a runner, he’s a dime-a-dozen prospect. However, his skills as a pass catcher and in the return game will earn him a look. He carries a free agent grade, but will have the opportunity to make a roster as a COP option or special teamer.
OG Omoregie Uzzi, 6’3, 305
Uzzi is a powerful guard prospect with an intriguing combination of size and leverage. He’s a heavy handed player with a strong punch, but he’s had limited exposure in pass protection. He appears to possess the balance and quickness to be an effective pass blocker, but it’s an issue that could impact his eventual draft position. If he proves capable, he could come off the board as early as the second round. He offers excellent value in the third round to a team that runs a power scheme.
NT T.J. Barnes, #90, 6’6, 345
Barnes is a NT that has never played to his potential at Georgia Tech. While he has the size, power, and natural athleticism to be considered a legitimate prospect, there are too many holes in his game to be considered anything more than a boom or bust player. If he can improve his pad level, balance, and work ethic, he could find his way onto a roster as a rotational guy.
DE Izaan Cross, #94, 6’3, 298
Cross is an experienced player that has had a solid career. He doesn’t have a real explosive element to his game, and he lacks the athleticism to be considered anything more than a free agent prospect. He’ll get some looks as a 3-4 five-technique and could potentially make his way into a rotation.
LB Jeremiah Attaochu, #45, 6’2, 240*
With 8 sacks in his past 5 games, Attaochu is likely considering a jump to the NFL. He’s an explosive and disruptive pass rusher that is a consistent threat off the edge. He’ll chase the ball in pursuit against the run, and he does a good job maintaining leverage at the point of attack. It’s going to take some time before he’s ready to contribute at the NFL level, but he looks like a potential starter as a 3-4 OLB. If he does declare, he currently has a mid-round grade.
RB David Sims, #20, 5’11, 218*
LB Quayshawn Nealy, #54, 6’, 235*
CB Rod Sweeting, #6, 5’11, 184
CB Louis Young, #8, 5’11, 201*
SAF Isaiah Johnson, #1, 6’1, 203* (Injured)
SAF Jemea Thomas, #14, 5’9, 190*
Game Prediction: USC 36 – Georgia Tech 21