Marcus Smith, DE/OLB, Louisville, Sr. (6’3”, 252 lbs)
Smith is a versatile, athletic defensive player who spends time at both defensive end and standing up as an outside linebacker for the Louisville defense. He is an explosive and skilled pass-rusher, as evidenced by his 12.5 sacks this season, but he also does a good job of getting out in space to play the run and can even drop back into coverage when needed.
Given his ability as a hybrid edge defender, Smith could be a valuable defensive player for any defensive scheme. His game is best suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but he could also project to a strongside linebacker/situational pass-rushing defensive end role in a 4-3 scheme.
Hakeem Smith, SS, Louisville, Sr. (6’2”, 179 lbs)
A four-time consecutive all-conference selection between the Big East first- and second-teams in 2010-2012 and the all-AAC first-team as a senior, Hakeem Smith has been a consistent presence in the Louisville secondary throughout his career.
Smith has a long, lanky build but is a solid tackler in run support, while he is a solid athlete who plays his zone well in coverage and can make plays on the ball. Though he does not necessarily stand out on a Louisville defense with NFL talent at all three levels, he should be a solid Day 3 selection as a rotational safety and special teams player.
Preston Brown, ILB, Louisville, Sr. (6’2”, 260 lbs)
Another likely Day 3 draft pick among Louisville’s defense seniors is middle linebacker Preston Brown. An explosive athlete with great size for the position, Brown is a difference-maker in the middle of the Louisville defense.
Brown is a skilled blitzer who has good short-area quickness and makes many plays in the middle of the field. He does not have great playmaking range or coverage skills, and needs to become a more disciplined defender, but his athleticism and ability to make plays around the line of scrimmage could make him a strong Day 3 choice as a rotational thumper at linebacker.
Brandon Linder, RG, Miami, Sr. (6’6”, 319 lbs)
Seantrel Henderson, RT, Miami, Sr. (6’8”, 345 lbs)
The Miami offensive line has a challenging matchup in front of them with players like Marcus Smith, junior defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin and Preston Brown as attackers in the Louisville front seven, but scouts should keep a close eye on two massive potential NFL offensive linemen who start on the Hurricanes’ right side.
Brandon Linder is the more polished of the two offensive linemen. Seantrel Henderson has massive upside with a rare combination of size and athleticism, but his career has been marred by at least three suspensions due to off-field issues, while his on-field play has failed to live up to the hype.
That said, both players are likely Day 3 picks — in Linder’s case for his consistently solid play over the past three years, in Henderson’s case for his developmental upside if an NFL coach can finally harness his potential into production. Both players have accepted invites to the Senior Bowl.
Allen Hurns, WR, Miami, Sr. (6’3”, 195 lbs)
Allen Hurns has emerged as an NFL prospect over the course of a highly productive senior season. Though he could afford to bulk up, he has the combination of size, speed and open-field running ability that NFL teams covet in an outside receiver.
Hurns’ production has spiked significantly in his senior season from previous years, so he could really use a strong finish in the Russell Athletic Bowl, but his status for the game could be in question as he was spotted in a walking boot earlier this week by Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald.
Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami, Jr. (6’, 240 lbs)
Miami’s most likely junior to declare for the 2014 draft is middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, who has had a career year with 104 total tackles. An athletic, instinctive linebacker who actively makes plays all over the field, Perryman could be ready to continue the long line of Miami linebackers becoming NFL playmakers.
Should Perryman declare for the draft this season, he could be a Day 2 draft selection, especially if he finishes with a strong performance against a dynamic Louisville offense.
Pat O’Donnell, P, Miami, Sr. (6’5”, 220 lbs)
Although even the best punters in a draft class often go undrafted, Pat O’Donnell has the potential to warrant a selection in the late rounds of this year’s draft. A big punter with a strong leg, O’Donnell ranks third nationally this season with an average of 47.3 yards per punt, while he has also done well in handling kickoff duties for the Hurricanes.
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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Allen Hurns, Bowl Games, Bowl Previews, Brandon Linder, Denzel Perryman, DeVante Parker, Game Previews, Hakeem Smith, Louisville, Marcus Smith, Miami, Pat O'Donnell, Preston Brown, Prospect Previews, Russell Athletic Bowl, Seantrel Henderson, Stephen Morris, Teddy Bridgewater