Prospect Watch: Rivalry Saturday

There are a lot of great college football games on TV today, and Greg Mastin clues you in on the draft prospects to watch while your enjoying today's rivalry games. The action starts at noon and runs all day! <BR><BR>

Noon / Wake Forest at #13 Miami (ESPN)

This has all the makings of a mismatch, but the way the season has gone, nothing surprises me anymore. Still, if his game were anything other than a solid Miami win, it would be shocking.

Wake Forest isn't a football school, and there isn't much going on in the way of prospects. Cornerback Eric King is undersized, but could get drafted as a return specialist on the second day. Center Blake Lingruen could be a late pick.

In typical Miami style, the Hurricanes will be picked in quantity on draft day. Amongst the seniors, Antrell Rolle and Santonio Thomas are going to be high picks. Rolle is the consensus pick as the best corner right now, and he could go top five if post-season analysis lives up to the hype. The Hurricanes have several juniors who could add to the talent pool in April. Defensive tackle Orien Harris and running back Frank Gore are the best of that group. Left tackle Eric Winston could have been a high draft pick, but he injured a knee. That hasn't always kept players out of the draft, but if he comes out, he won't be as high a pick as he could have been.

Noon / Michigan State at Penn State (ESPN 2)

Michigan State pulled off quite a stunner last week, dropping 49 points on the previously stout Wisconsin Badgers. This up and down team should be able to take a Penn State team that has struggled all year.

Michigan State is led by a lot of younger players, so while they have some talent it may not be reflected in the upcoming draft. Linebacker Ron Staley has had a terrific year, and has helped out his stock; he could go in the middle rounds or better. A pair of safeties, junior Eric Smith and senior Jason Harmon have been excellent, and are solid prospects.

Penn State, well, they have been a program that has dropped far below expectations. Their only player of consequence as far as the draft goes is junior corner Alan Zematis. He has good size and could be a first day pick, although if he stays in school he could do even better in 2006.

1:00 / #7 Michigan at Ohio State (ABC)

This is the big one, as far as the states of Ohio and Michigan are concerned. For years the Buckeyes had national championship quality teams that were upset by the Wolverines. This year the Bucks try to turn the tables on a Michigan team trying to get to the Rose Bowl and a date with either Cal or USC.

Even though the Wolverines are led by a freshman QB-RB tandem, they still have some quality seniors whose names will be announced early on draft day. Guard David Baas is considered the best pure guard in the country. He could go in the mid-first round, which is very good for that position. Receiver Braylon Edwards has had an uneven season. He's had some great games, but as also shown some weaknesses. He still has the talent to be a first round pick. Corner Marlin Jackson has been better now that he is playing his natural position, and with his size and talent, he could make it three in the first round for Michigan. Juniors Ernest Shazor and Jason Avant also could declare early at safety and wide receiver. Both could be first day picks, with Shazor the better of the two.

The Buckeyes on the other hand, have been disappointing, and don't have any seniors that will make a big splash on draft day. Kicker Mike Nugent has a good chance of getting drafted, but as far as big names only junior linebackers A.J. Hawk and Anthony Schlegel are first day players if they decide to leave school.

3:00 / #3 Auburn at Alabama (CBS)

Another big game on Rivalry Saturday pits national championship contender Auburn and longtime in-state rival Alabama. Despite Auburn's decided talent advantage, you can never assume anything in this game.

Auburn is led by its two dynamic running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. Williams has been the better runner this year, but Brown may be the better prospect. Williams is fast, but may be seen as a  little small. Brown can run, and has also lined up at receiver and shown very good hands, and skill as a blocker. He may go higher because he has shown more overall skills in a bigger body. Quarterback Jason Campbell has really developed as a player. He isn't a great prospect, but with his size and the season he is having, someone will draft him in the middle rounds. An offense doesn't go without an offensive line, and the best prospect there is junior tackle Marcus McNeill. McNeill is a massive player, and could go on the first day. Defensively Carlos Rogers has really developed at cornerback. He has nice length and has played himself into a potential late first or second round pick.

Alabama isn't used to taking a backseat to its state rival, but in terms of prospects and talent, they have to this year. Alabama's best prospect is Wesley Britt, a 6-8, 315 pound left tackle that has the footwork and talent to go in the first round. Junior linebacker Freddie Roach continues to grow, and if he comes out looks like a third round type of player. If he goes back to school and keeps progressing he could go higher.

4:30 / #9 Wisconsin at #17 Iowa

Wisconsin has a tough job ahead of them. Not only are they coming off an emotionally stunning and draining defeat against Michigan State, but they have to go to Iowa and take on a good Hawkeye team. 

Until last week, the Badgers strength was its defense, but the Spartans gashed them for 49 points, although special teams and turnovers contributed to that total. The Badger defensive line is led by potential top pick Erasmus James at defensive end, and includes first round prospect Anttaj Hawthorne. On the other side of the ball, running back Anthony Davis has been churning out yards for four years and should be a first day pick. He is certainly talented, but running back is a tough position in the draft, since supply usually outweighs demand.

The Hawkeyes are led by a pair of dominating defensive linemen. End Matt Roth is the better known of the two, and he has lived up to his billing with seven sacks and eleven tackles for loss. The surprise has been tackle Jon Babineaux, who has been a disruptive force with six sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. Babineaux is undersized for a classic 4-3 defensive tackle, he has the makeup of an under tackle like the Falcons Rod Coleman or a 3-4 defensive end. Another player to watch is junior linebacker Abdul Hodge. He has had another fine year, and if he comes out could be a second or third round pick. This Iowa team has several juniors that may not be ready for the draft this year, but could be names to watch next season.

7:45 / Florida at #8 Florida State

The third big rivalry game on our watch is Florida-Florida State. This game is just like the other two, in that one team is ranked high, and the other team has been a disappointment.

Florida has struggled enough to cost Coach Ron Zook his job. This is a young team, led by sophomore Chris Leak and junior running back Ciatrick Fason. Both should return next year and improve the offense. They will be assisted by Mike Degory, a junior center who leads the offensive line. If Degory comes back, he could be a first day pick.

Florida State is a veteran team, and has several players whose names will be called early on draft day. Quarterback Chris Rix may not be one of the elite quarterbacks in the country, but he should hear his name in the third or fourth round. Receiver Craphonso Thorpe has had a solid year and is a likely first day pick. Left tackle Alex Barron has a shot at going in the first round, and could go fairly high if he has a good off-season. Defensive tackle Travis Johnson has first day ability, but off the field issues and a potential shoulder problem might push him into the second day.


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