College Prospects: Who to Watch

We will take a break from the gear-up to the Steelers game to look at players available in next year's draft. In a new feature, draft guru Greg Mastin provides tips as to which players to watch this on TV this weekend...

#5 Texas at #2 Oklahoma (Noon, ABC)

With two highly ranked teams, you expect there to be some quality prospects and this game does not disappoint. While not every stud prospect is at a position the Browns have a dire need at, they are still worth watching.

Texas relies on Heisman Trophy candidate running back Cedric Benson for a good portion of their offense. He has size, speed, and quickness, and is a treat to watch, even if he will almost certainly not be in the Browns draft plans. Someone who might be is linebacker Derrick Johnson. Johnson could have been in the top half of the first round last year and so far his play has not hurt his status. Linebacker is not a major need for the Browns, but Johnson is one of those prospects you can't ignore because of need.

Two underclassmen on the offensive line are worth keeping an eye on. Junior guard Will Allen returns as a starter at both center and guard, and sophomore right tackle Justin Blalock is someone you won't see in the 2005 draft, but has a very bright future.

Oklahoma has more than its share of players who could have their names called early on draft day, and a few that Browns fans may have on their wish list. Jammal Brown is one, an All-American right tackle with great athleticism. He should be a first day pick, and would be a great addition to any team looking to improve the offensive line. The Sooners secondary is also filled with outstanding prospects. Brodney Pool is a highly rated junior free safety who led Oklahoma with seven interceptions a year ago. Antonio Perkins is on the radar screen at cornerback, although his coverage skills are somewhat overshadowed by his return skills. You may remember Perkins for his game against UCLA when he returned three punts for touchdowns.

#16 Wisconsin at #15 Ohio State (3:30, ABC)

The regional game for the state of Ohio and surrounding region will be the Big 10 game between the Badgers and Buckeyes. These are two young teams, and while there is a lot of talent on the field, that talent may not be in the draft for a year or two.

Most Browns fans are probably hoping none of the Badgers do anything of note, they do have some good NFL level prospects. Running back Anthony Davis is the big name, having rushed for nearly 4,000 yards in his college career. Three-year starter Jim Leonhard is a talented free safety who can also be very dangerous when returning kicks. If he were a few inches taller he might be a top prospect. As it is, he could be a bargain in the third round or later if teams pass on him because he is 5-8.

The Buckeyes are a young team, and their best offensive prospect may be kicker Mike Nugent. He has a big leg, and until his overtime miss against Northwestern had been reliable in the clutch. It's doubtful he goes as early as Sebastian Janikowski did a few years ago, but he could push his way into the second round.

Defensively, junior linebacker A.J. Hawk is the big name. Hawk was a first team All-Big Ten performer last year and had over 100 tackles. He has good size and quickness, and while he is listed under 240, by the time he stops growing he should be a perfect size for what the NFL looks for in its linebackers.

#24 LSU at #12 Florida (7:45, ESPN)

The Saturday night prime time game features two of several quality SEC squads. LSU has a tough game to try and rebound from getting pounded by Georgia 45-16. Both teams have a loss in the SEC so both teams will be playing hard to avoid a second conference loss that would make it virtually impossible for either team to qualify for the SEC Championship game and a shot at a BCS bowl.

LSU will try to slow down the high-powered Florida attack with a couple of great defensive players. Cornerback Corey Webster is one of the top draft prospects coming into the season. He had a tough game against Georgia, and will be challenged by Florida's passing attack. Defensive end Marcus Spears is the other big name on this defense. At 300 pounds he may get moved inside at the next level, but he has reportedly been clocked as fast as 4.8 at that size. He should hear his name called on the first day.

Florida is a very young team, and its top prospects are a couple of sophomores. Quarterback Chris Leak leads the offense and will put up big numbers in the old Spurrier offense that works so well at the college level. On defense true sophomore Channing Crowder is the player to watch. Crowder had over 100 tackles as a freshman, starting nine games and is already on the Butkus watch list.

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