There’s a lot of potential NFL prospects to watch in the first weekend of the CFB season. There would’ve been even more, but for a series of suspensions that have decimated North Carolina’s roster ahead of their game against LSU. Expect a relatively straight forward Tigers victory, as the Tar Heels cope without potential top-5 pick Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin (who is slightly over rated in terms of NFL potential). Keep an eye on Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU) and Bruce Carter (LB, UNC) – two defensive prospects with pro-potential who could be high picks next year. Deunta Williams (S, UNC) is also a bit over rated for me, but he’s been cleared to play in this game. It’ll also be interesting to see how Joe Barksdale (OT, LSU) performs having moved from right tackle to the blindside this year. Another name to watch is wide out Terrance Tolliver (WR, LSU) who is clearly talented, but needs to be more consistent himself and hope for more rounded quarterback play too. Greg Little (WR, UNC) is another talented receiver who might play a big role for North Carolina this year.
The other games I’ll be saving into the system are Miami (OH) vs Florida, Connecticut vs Michigan, Oregon State vs TCU, UCLA vs Kansas State, SMU vs Texas Tech and Boise State vs Virginia Tech. I’ve listed some of the prospects to watch below:
Akeem Ayers (DE, UCLA)
Could be a perfect fit for Seattle’s LEO pass rusher position. Ayers weighs in at 255lbs with good height (6’4″). Recorded six sacks last year but is known as an athletic playmaker – he registered four interceptions and scored three touchdowns for the Bruins in 2009. If he can increase his sacks this year, he could be a first round pick.
Rahim Moore (S, UCLA)
A ten interception season in 2009 but Moore on the radar and it’ll be interesting to see if he can get anywhere near that this year. More of a centre-fielder with good ball skills and vision, he’s tall (6’1″) but could add some size (197lbs).
Ryan Williams (RB, Virginia Tech)
As a redshirt freshman last year, Williams scored 22 total touchdowns and ran for 1655 yards. Has ideal height (5’10″) and decent size at 202lbs. A solid all rounder who looks destined for a NFL future, he should get a lot of carries this year and this will be a good test first up against Boise State.
Mike Pouncey (OL, Florida)
He could line up at tackle against Miami (OH) having previously played inside with his brother Maurkice (drafted by Pittsburgh in round one this year). One of the bigger name lineman in college football, he’s a good size at 6’4″ and 313lbs.
Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State)
Solid interior defensive lineman who’s listed at 6’1″, 311lbs. Needs to be a big presence for the Beavers on defense this year and it’ll be interesting to see how he performs against a good TCU offense.
James & Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State)
Dynamic brothers offer unique playmaking opportunities for the Beevers. Neither will be drafted high or used as every-down types in the NFL. However, Jacquizz could be a solid change of pace running back and teams will look at James even if he lacks size as a receiver (both players are listed at 5’7″).
Nate Potter (OG, Boise State)
A guard with the athletic qualities to potentially move to the tackle position. At 6’6″ you can’t see him having a long term future along the interior and he needs to add some good weight (currently 293lbs on a tall frame).
In the games we’ve already seen, it was a frustrating time for some of Pittsburgh’s big name prospects. Jonathan Baldwin (WR, Pitt) recorded four catches for 71 yards including a 44-yard touchdown reception. However, he struggled to have a lasting impact in his team’s 27-24 OT defeat against Utah. It was an even more frustrating time for the anonymous Greg Romeus (DE, Pitt). He failed to register a sack and managed just four total tackles. I’ve long suggested Romeus is over rated as a top pass rushing prospect and needs to show more this year. Not a good start. Check out the video below courtesy of Draft Breakdown – a site that does a great job compiling prospect highlights. Follow them on twitter here.
USC’s senior wideout Ronald Johnson had a superb opening game, scoring three touchdowns, a two-point conversion and an 89-yard punt return score. He doesn’t have eye catching physical qualities or lightning speed, but overall he’s a very solid receiver who should be Matt Barkley’s #1 target this year.
Two prospects who won’t be legible for the 2011 draft are worth watching too. Rutgers Tom Savage (QB) and Mohamed Sanu (WR) are both sophomore’s but started as freshmen last year. Sanu in particular is a dynamic playmaker with good size (6’2″, 219lbs) who does a bit of everything. He helped the Scarlet Knights recover from a sluggish first half performance against Norfolk State to record three catches for 65 yards, including a touchdown. He also rushed four times for 19 yards. Savage has the look of a top QB prospect (6’5″, 225lbs) but has something of a side-arm throwing motion. It hasn’t been a big issue so far, because of his height. It’s a bit Philip Rivers-esque to look at. He was average against Norfolk State but playing with guys like Sanu, could be a good draft prospect in 2012 or 2013.
Finally for now, it’ll be good to see how Notre Dame line-up on offense against Purdue. The change to a spread system from more of a pro-style scheme could impact top prospects like Kyle Rudolph (TE, Notre Dame) and Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame) – but not necessarily in a bad way. Last year I just felt ND used far too many short slants and dump offs to get their yards – padding out wonderful stats for Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate but not hurting enough teams and not really doing anything for either the QB or the WR’s stock. I like Floyd as a potential prospect for the Seahawks next year, because he’s the kind of wide out they’ve been looking for (tall, gets down field, fast). However, he has a lot of areas to improve – something the ND coaching staff have thankfully realised. Brian Bennett’s article on how Floyd has upped his workrate this off season is well worth a look.