Josh Norris

Weekly Prospect Matchups

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Week Three Matchup Preview

Friday, September 14, 2012

Saturday 7:30 EST on Fox
USC at Stanford

Somewhat surprisingly, Stanford has beaten USC in each of their last three meetings, making the Trojans’ quarterback winless against the Cardinal. But the games have been very close, with the last two combining for a difference of just ten points. And for once in recent history, the Cardinal actually lost more talent to the NFL than USC. In recent weeks the Pac-12 has been referred to as the Pac-2, with USC and Oregon as the only teams that seem to matter. Stanford (with UCLA and Oregon State) will attempt to not be overlooked. Although the two teams are in separate divisions inside the conference, it is a pivotal matchup for both.

Stanford TEs Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz vs USC safeties T.J. McDonald, Jawanza Starling, and Drew McAllister
Despite losing second-round Coby Fleener to the NFL, Stanford already possessed two other extremely talented junior tight end prospects in TE Levine Toilolo (#11/6’7/263) and TE Zach Ertz (#86/6’6/250). In fact, we list Toilolo as the top junior inline tight end prospect due to his physicality and technique when blocking and in routes. Ertz is more of a receiving type but can certainly help new starting junior QB Josh Nunes (#6/6’4/216), who has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes with a four to one touchdown to interception ratio. The two targets will need to have their heads on a swivel with overly aggressive and quickly closing S T.J. McDonald (#7/6’2/205) looking to punish at the catch point. In nickel, McDonald has been known to move closer to the box with fellow S Drew McAllister (#19/6’1/205) entering the game alongside S Jawanza Starling (#29/6’1/195), who plays more intelligently than the other two.

USC QB Matt Barkley and WR Robert Woods vs Stanford’s pass rushers and cover men
Trojans’ QB Matt Barkley (#7/6’2/218) is in complete command of the USC passing attack, which does its damage on short swings, screens, underneath routes to junior WR Robert Woods (#2/6’1/184) and the occasional vertical shot to perhaps the top receiver in all of college football, sophomore Marqise Lee. Woods is more than a possession receiver, but I stop short in grouping him with the top talents at his position. Junior CB Terrence Brown (#6/6’1/178) will have a difficult matchup with whatever player he draws, but Stanford’s most likely shot of containing the air attack has to reside with OLB Chase Thomas (#44/6’4/240). Thomas is somewhat similar to first-rounder Shea McClellin, in that he is asked to line up from a variety of spots. Thomas lacks the same amount of burst off the line of scrimmage but his technique to extend and shed is outstanding. He is flanked by redshirt junior OLB Trent Murphy (#93/6’6/261) and fronted by junior DE Ben Gardner (#49/6’4/252).

USC RBs Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal vs NT Terrence Stephens and ILB Shayne Skov
Junior RB Silas Redd (#25/5’10/209) made waves when he transferred from Penn State to USC, but it was not praised as the right choice on the field until last week’s 15 carry, 107 yard, one touchdown effort. However, it still appears as if RB Curtis McNeal (#22/5’7/182) will draw the start. Undersized junior NT Terrence Stephens (#99/6’2/295) will attempt to clog the middle and keep blocks off of ILB Shayne Skov (#11/6’3/244), who has faced both injury and off the field issues during his collegiate career.

More USC Prospects
CB Nickell Robey (#21/5’8/172) junior
DE Wes Horton (#96/6’5/265)
C Khaled Holmes (#78/6’3/310) injured
T Kevin Graf (#77/6’6/300) junior
G John Martinez (#59/6’2/302) junior

More Stanford Prospects
RB Stepfan Taylor (#33/5’11/210)
C Sam Schwarzstein (#64/6’3/292)
FB Ryan Hewitt (#85/6’3/238) junior
G Kevin Danser (#76/6’6/298)

Saturday Noon EST on ABC
Cal at Ohio State

The Buckeyes look to continue their streak of impressive performances against a struggling Cal team that lost their opener against Nevada and did not look overly impressive in a win over Southern Utah. The Bears do offer an excellent talent in junior WR Keenan Allen (#21/6’3/206), but his half brother, QB Zach Maynard (#15/6’2/185), is incredibly unreliable in terms of decision making and placement. Their close bond does appear to translate to targets, however, as Allen always seems to be the first look. Sophomore CB Bradley Roby (#1/5’11/190) or Travis Howard (#7/6’1/196) will draw the assignment, and the latter has had a great start to the season with three interceptions and two pass breakups. Cal will be without their best offensive lineman, T Matt Summers-Gavin (#75/6’6/295), who projects as a solid interior zone blocker, so top junior DT Johnathan Hankins (#52/6’3/320) and high motor DE John Simon (#54/6’2/260) could wreak havoc in the backfield. RB Isi Sofele (#20/5’8/183) could find a few alleys, but athletically out of control  LB Etienne Sabino (#6/6’3/238) will be waiting for him.

Ohio State is fairly deep with offensive line talent, incorporating juniors T Jack Mewhort (#74/6’5/310) and G Andrew Norwell (#78/6’5/305) along with T Reid Fragel (#77/6’6/298) and G Marcus Hall (#79/6’5/317). Their only real threat is DE Aaron Tipoti (#50/6’2/295), who possesses some straight-line explosion. In fact, defensively Cal’s top players are their CBs Marc Anthony (#2/6’0/200) and junior Steve Williams (#1/5’1/189), with S Josh Hill (#23/5’11/207) protecting the deep ball. Converted TE turned WR Jake Stoneburner (#11/6’5/245) has been coined by Meyer as the team’s Aaron Hernandez, but he wins matchups more with his height rather than agile movements.

More Cal Prospects
C Brian Schwenke (#57/6’4/312)

More Ohio State Prospects
RB Jordan Hall (#7/5’9/198)
S Orhian Johnson (#19/6’2/210)
DE Nathan Williams (#43/6’3/250)
DT Garrett Goebel (#53/6’3/285)
S C.J. Barnett (#4/6’0/202) junior
FB Zach Boren (#44/6’0/245)

Saturday 3:30 EST on CBS
Alabama at Arkansas

This game really hinges on if Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson (#8/6’2/218) suits up after reportedly suffering a concussion during last week’s contest, his second in a 15 game span.  Freshman Brandon Allen (#10/6’3/212) will see the majority of snaps if Wilson is unable to go. It is difficult to blame the coaching staff if they hold the senior out because he will likely be in for a long day against a vaunted Crimson Tide defense. On the edge from Alabama’s three man front, DE Ed Stinson (#49/6’4/282), DE Quinton Dial (#90/6’5/304) and DE Damion Square (#92/6’3/282) push the pocket, while NT Jesse Williams (#54/6’3/320) offers some penetration ability that the unit did not have last year. LB Nico Johnson (#35/6’2/245) will try to halt the backfield duo of junior RB Knile Davis (#7/6’0/226) and RB Dennis Johnson (#33/5’8/212), who is actually a better prospect at this point than the more highly touted Davis. In nickel situations, LB C.J. Mosley (#32/6’2/232) will enter the game and should be seen frequently covering move TE Chris Gragg (#80/6’3/236). That is not to leave out S Robert Lester (#37/6’2/212) and junior CB Dee Milliner (#28/6’1/198), whose physical style has caught the eye of many early in the season. WR Cobi Hamilton (#11/6’2/209) will do his best to end Milliner’s early season climb.

The Crimson Tide are much more traditional with their offensive approach featuring junior QB AJ McCarron (#10/6’3/210) under center and a thunderous offensive line led by G Chance Warmack (#65/6’2/323). C Barrett Jones (#75/6’4/305) moves inside from left tackle to anchor the line, but we consider Warmack the better prospect. Even junior T D.J. Fluker (#76/6’6/335) gets more publicity and he certainly projects as a power blocker in the NFL. This is all leading the way for physical junior RB Eddie Lacy (#42/5’10/220), who shows an underrated burst after lower his shoulder on incoming tacklers. DE/OLB Tenarius Wright (#43/6’1/252) could be the Razorbacks best pass rushing threat while LB Alonzo Highsmith (#45/6’0/234) will matchup with TE Michael Williams (#89/6’5/272).

More Alabama Prospects
G Anthony Steen (#61/6’3/303)
WR Kevin Norwood (#83/6’1/195)
H-back Jalston Fowler (#45/6’0/242) junior, out for season

More Arkansas Prospects
G Alvin Bailey (#67/6’5/315) junior
C Travis Swanson (#64/6’4/305) junior
P Dylan Breeding (#14/6’1/211)
DT Byran Jones (#54/6’2/312) junior

Saturday 3:30 EST on ABC/ESPN2
UNC at Louisville

The Tarheels lost to a fairly weak offensive team in Wake Forest last Saturday, so it will be interesting to see how they handle stud sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals offense. C Mario Benavides (#55/6’2/302) will have to lead the way against off and on DT Sylvester Williams (#92/6’2/315) who is bookended by junior DE Kareem Martin (#95/6’5/260). RB Jeremy Wright (#28/5’10/200) picks up tough yards while junior RB Dominique Brown (#10/6’2/221) moves the pile, both of whom ILB Kevin Reddick (#48/6’3/240) could be targeting out of the backfield. TE Nate Ford (#85/6’5/230) and WR Andrell Smith (#14/6’3/210) are two of the more veteran targets for junior S Tre Boston (#10/6’1/190) to contain.

Other than Alabama, UNC deploys one of the best offensive lines in the country. Led by G Jonathan Cooper (#64/6’3/305) who works best on the move and in space, while T Brennan Williams (#73/6’7/315) lines up on the right side despite flashing an athletic lower half. Junior T James Hurst (#68/6’7/310) mans the left side with G Travis Bond (#76/6’7/345) clearing the way for now healthy redshirt sophomore RB Giovani Bernard (#26/5’10/205). Cardinals LBs Preston Brown (#2/6’2/258) and Daniel Brown (#24/6’1/221) will be awaiting to shut down Bernard as soon as possible.

More UNC Prospects
QB Bryn Renner (#2/6’3/215) junior
WR Erik Highsmith (#88/6’3/190)
FB Devon Ramsey (#45/6’2/250)
WR Jheranie Boyd (#87/6’2/190)
K Casey Barth (#11/5’11/185)

More Louisville Prospects
S Hakeem Smith (#29/6’1/185) junior
CB Adrian Bushell (#21/5’10/190)
T Alex Kupper (#66/6’3/285)

Saturday 4:00 EST on NBC Sports Network
Miami (Ohio) at Boise State

My confidence in Miami (Ohio) QB Zac Dysert’s (#4/6’3/228) ability to start at the next level has only grown and it is not a question of if he will be drafted in the top 64 picks, only just how high. Unlike their week one performance, hopefully WR Nick Harwell (#8/6’1/193) and TE Steve Marck (#87/6’3/237) choose to leave the greased gloves at home and help their quarterback convert third downs. The Broncos duo at CB in Jerrell Gavins (#4/5’9/169) and Jamar Taylor (#5/5’11/196) will be a nice test, but Dysert is not afraid to take chances vertically while buying time in the pocket.

For Boise State offensively, the team is still trying to build an identity. They could ride RB D.J. Harper (#7/5’9/200), but he does not offer the same kind of skill as previous Bronco backs. Junior WR Matt Miller (#2/6’2/213) is a reliable downfield target who should be matched up with CB D.J. Brown (#6/6’1/181). DTs Austin Brown (#90/6’2/274) and Mike Johns (#94/6’3/271) will try to press the pocket from the interior and force G Joe Kellogg (#61/6’2/303) to anchor and redirect.

More Miami (OH) Prospects
C Brad Bednar (#72/6’4/293)

Saturday 6:00 on ESPN
Florida at Tennessee

This game will be decided in the battle between the Vols offense and the Gators defense. We all know about junior QB Tyler Bray’s (#8/6’5/215) arm talent, but he still gets incredibly lazy with his footwork which results in some poorly placed throws. On the outside, smooth junior WR Justin Hunter (#11/6’4/200) put out a great performance last week which followed junior WR Cordarrelle Patterson’s (#84/6’2/205) coming out party in the opener against NC State. Don’t overlook WR Jordan Rogers (#83/6’0/180) who usually forces Hunter in the slot in three receiver sets. Despite being in and out of the starting lineup, CB Jaylen Watkins (#14/6’0/187) will see plenty of action in multiple receiver sets and will need to communicate with roaming junior S Matt Elam (#22/5’10/202). Despite moving inside in order to accommodate sophomore LT Antonio Richardson’s (#74/6’6/332) ascension into the starting lineup, we still consider LG Dallas Thomas (#71/6’5/310) the top senior LT prospect due to his use of length and lower body balance, athleticism, and anchor. Along with juniors RT Ja’Wuan James (#70/6’6/324) and RG Zach Fulton (#72/6’5/325), Tennessee sports one of the top offensive lines on paper, although their cohesiveness has been questionable at times. They will have to deal with junior DE Dominique Easley (#2/6’2/280), penetrating junior DT Sharrif Floyd (#73/6’3/303), and UF's most consistent rusher DE Lerentee McCray (#34/6’2/249). Despite a thumb injury that will keep junior LB Jelani Jenkins (#3/6’0/237) out for four weeks, LB Jonathan Bostic (#1/6’1/246) will continue to hold down the second level and specifically key on TE Mychal Rivera (#81/6’3/245).

RB Mike Gillislee (#23/5’11/210) has been one of the surprises of the season nationally and many are questioning why he was so far down on the depth chart in previous seasons. LB Herman Lathers (#34/6’0/230), who is returning from injury, along with rover junior LB Jacques Smith (#55/6’2/244). Both could give LT Xavier Nixon (#73/6’5/314) fits, but despite struggling in previous season, Nixon showed well in a starting role last season. Big junior NT Daniel McCullers (#98/6’6/377) is still learning how to play at this level, specifically holding firm on first contact. The most underappreciated element of the Gators offense is junior TE Jordan Reed (#11/6’3/243), who flashes tremendous run after catch ability and can separate with athleticism.

More Florida Prospects
FB Trey Burton (#8/6’2/228) junior
K Caleb Sturgis (#19/5’10/185)

More Tennessee Prospects
CB Prentiss Wagner (#23/6’2/184)
RB Rajion Neal (#20/5’10/212)

Saturday 8:00 EST on ABC
Notre Dame at Michigan State

The Irish finally return their top junior RB Cierre Wood (#20/5’11/215) from a two game suspension, and he should complement the downfield presence of Greg Olsen-like TE Tyler Eifert (#80/6’5/252). Undersized Spartan LB Denicos Allen (#28/5’11/232) will give up a large height advantage but can stay with Eifert during routes. C Braxston Cave (#52/6’3/305), who struggled last week against Purdue, will have a long day dealing with DT Anthony Rashad White (#98/6’2/330) and junior DE William Gholston (#2/6’6/278) if the power rusher decides to move inside on passing downs. RB/WR Theo Riddick (6’0/510/200) has seen plenty of time in the backfield in Wood’s absence, but could be split out more often so he can get touches. In that case, CB Johnny Adams (#5/5’11/178), who has started the season well, will likely get the assignment.

Despite losing his grandmother and girlfriend in a span of 24 hours, Irish ILB Manti Te’o (#5/6’2/255) will take the field Saturday. His heart may be hurting, but he is the leader of the Notre Dame defense. Redshirt sophomore DT Louis Nix (#9/6’3/326) could really stuff the inside against power junior RB Le’Veon Bell (#24/6’2/244). Junior TE Dion Sims (#80/6’5/285) is a massive target that blocks with body positioning. However, underrated S Zeke Motta (#17/6’2/215) and S Jamoris Slaughter (#26/6’0/200) are more than fast enough to stay with Sims, they just need to stay in proper positioning.

More Notre Dame Prospects
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (#89/6’4/306)

More Michigan State Prospects
CB Darqueze Dennard (#31/5’11/190) junior
ILB Max Bullough (#40/6’3/252) junior

Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris

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