Top NFL prospects: Week in review

Another weekend of college football is in the books as last Saturday saw heart-wrenching finishes and impressive performances. Several unknowns and sleepers stepped up to the plate and stood out as did higher-rated NFL prospects, including a few wide receivers the 49ers may be considering next April.

The Wisconsin Badgers have long been known as a program which places quality receivers into the draft. Wideouts such as Lee Evans and Chris Chambers made an impact from the very start of their NFL careers. Wisconsin presently has a pair of senior prospects who flash brilliance yet show little in the way of consistency on the field. That may be changing.

Jonathan Orr has mouth-watering size/speed numbers while teammate Brandon Williams also has the athletic skills to play in the NFL.

Williams is versatile, impacting the game as both a wideout and return specialist. In Saturday's trouncing of Indiana, he led the team with six receptions, a pair which resulted in touchdowns. Williams added another score on a 63-yard punt return and averaged 21 yards on three returns.

On his behalf, Orr caught four passes, averaging 32 yards per reception with one score. Both receivers are on pace to pass the impressive production numbers they posted as freshmen.

Jason Avant came up big for Michigan during the Wolverines' overtime win against rival Michigan State. Besides leading the club with 10 catches and 96 receiving yards, Avant made a clutch recepection during the extra period, which put Michigan in position to kick the winning field goal. Five games into the 2005 season, Avant is just four receptions short of a career best and already doubled the number of touchdown receptions from his previous three years on the college field.

With a loud bang, Notre Dame junior quarterback Brady Quinn is having a breakout season and garnering the attention of NFL scouts. Quickly absorbing the offense installed by former New England Patriot coordinator Charlie Weis, the Fighting Irish signal-caller put up big numbers in a romp over Purdue. Quinn posted 440 yards passing with three touchdown strikes. Already being compared to Tom Brady, another Weis disciple, Quinn has thrown a touchdown pass in 10 straight games, an Irish record.

Riding the wave of Quinn's success has been Irish receiver Jeff Samardzija. An accomplished baseball player, Samardzija has been Quinn's favorite target and has already posted career numbers five games into the season. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, the junior is an awesome red-zone target, proving as much with eight touchdown receptions this year. A bit of an unknown, Samardzija presently ranks as a top 45 selection should he enter the draft.

With all the recent hullabaloo over USC multi-purpose ball handler Reggie Bush, teammate Lendale White was seemingly lost in the shuffle. That came to a halt on Saturday.

Named Pac Ten Offensive Player of the Week, White helped lead the Trojans back from an 18-point deficit with 197 yards rushing and two scores. A perfect complement to the shifty, elusive style of Bush, many scouts feel White has better potential as a feature back in the NFL due to his 220-pound frame.

Like Bush (who added 191 all-purpose yards in SC's victory), White is a junior. There has been word of grumbling in the Trojan locker room as the two talented backs are fighting over control of one football. The end result seems like an early departure to the NFL for both.

Even in the loss, Sun Devil receiver Derek Hagan stood out, making a statement. Posting 10 receptions and 162 receiving yards against a tough Trojan secondary, scouts were impressed with Hagan's best outing of the season.

DeAngelo Williams was dominant as the Memphis Tigers won a hard-fought battle against conference foe UTEP. Williams totaled 236 rushing yards on 35 carries, two which resulted in touchdowns. Williams put the Tigers up for good, taking the ball into the end zone with just more than a minute left in the game. Closing in on the 800-yard rushing mark after just four games, Williams is on pace to break the 2,000-yard barrier this season. He has separated himself from the rest of the senior running backs and now sits as a top 20 selection.

Quarterback Chris Leak and the Florida Gators' offense were on the receiving end of two outstanding defensive performances last Saturday.

Linebacker DeMeco Ryans was omnipresent all day in Alabama's rout over fifth-ranked Florida. Besides making tackles all over the field, Ryans contributed three sacks on the day. A tad undersized, Ryans is projected as a three-down defender on the weak side in the NFL and a possible first-day pick.

Another smallish defender from Alabama, senior end Mark Anderson, was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. Forcing a fumble on the game's first play, Anderson added 1.5 sacks and was a major reason the Gators never scored a touchdown. The 260-pound pass rusher also has first-day potential next April.

Little-known linebacker Jon Abbate of Wake Forest had a dominant performance in the Demon Deacons upset victory over Clemson. Setting the game's tempo with two big interceptions during the opening quarter, Abbate also added 13 tackles. Those numbers garnered Abbate ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Only a sophomore, Abbate is unlikely to enter April's draft yet must be kept on the radar screen.

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