College football returns tonight, meaning we begin another eight month journey leading to the draft in April. Tonight I’ll be watching South Carolina and Vanderbilt, a game without multiple 2013 prospects of note. I remember a similar feeling during 2009′s re-start, when the Gamecocks met NC State. If only we knew that day we were watching Seattle’s future starting quarterback in Russell Wilson.
Marcus Lattimore will feature tonight which is good news. He picked up a serious knee injury last October and it’ll be interesting to see how he’s recovered. At his best Lattimore is a patient, intelligent runner with enough burst to make a good play a great play. He had a positive start to 2011 before the injury and looked destined to be a future top pick. Now he has to prove he’s the same player after a career threatening injury.
For Vanderbilt, check out receiver Jordan Matthews. Also keep an eye on SCAR’s Jadeveon Clowney – a big time pass rusher with elite physical tools who could be a top pick in 2014.
I’ll be recording Washington State vs BYU to watch tomorrow, paying particular attention to the impact Mike Leach is having on receiver Marquess Wilson. He more than anyone stands to benefit from the Leach offense, and Wilson has the potential to move up the receiver rankings with a good year.
Other games I’ve got on the schedule for this week:
Boise State vs Michigan State
Alabama vs Michigan
Arkansas State vs Oregon
Clemson vs Auburn
Georgia Tech vs Virginia Tech
Unusually this year we’re not immediately looking down the list to find where the quarterback prospects are playing. Russell Wilson is making people believe the Seahawks have solved that particular dilemma, but we’ll file this one under ‘wait and see’ for now. The team hasn’t drafted a quarterback in round one for 19 years, and it might still be a conversation we have, unfortunately, in 2012.
The more optimistic outlook says Wilson will do just fine allowing us to concentrate on other positions. Signing Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards this summer is a firm indicator that the Seahawks are still not completely settled at receiver. There’s a huge question mark hanging over Sidney Rice – he has the talent, but can he stay healthy? This could become the teams defining need this year. Unless they’re going to suddenly turn into Green Bay or New Orleans (unlikely, given the run-centric offense) they’re not likely to be spreading things around and splitting the production. A go-to receiver is needed on offense.
I think receiver is one of the most underrated positions in the league. A series of bad picks by Matt Millen in Detroit scarred a generation it seems, but a dynamic receiver can be such a vital piece to an offense. That’s not to say you can’t find receivers outside of the first round – six of the top-10 receivers in 2011 weren’t taken in the first 32 picks. But it’s an area Seattle will undoubtedly look at. Interestingly, two tight-ends were in the top-10 (Gronkowski, Graham) which goes to show how the game has changed in recent years.
Some WRs/TEs to keep an eye on: Robert Woods (USC), Keenan Allen (California), Justin Hunter (Tennessee), Marquess Wilson (Washington State), Terrance Williams (Baylor), Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame), Da’Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech), Joseph Fauria (UCLA), Levine Toilolo (Stanford), Cobi Hamilton (Arkansas), Tavon Austin (West Virginia), Josh Boyce (TCU), DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson), Kenny Stills (Oklahoma), Keenan Davis (Iowa)
Other needs could emerge during the season. The Seahawks stand to benefit from a good, young three-technique. You can never have enough good cornerbacks. The offensive line could come back into focus. But overall the Seahawks just want the freedom to let the board come to them. The four first round picks they’ve spent so far have heavily leaned towards need. Next time a Mark Ingram or David DeCastro drops into the 20′s, the Seahawks would probably like the opportunity to take the value on offer. If Seattle wins as many games as people are starting to believe, they’ll be able to do just that.