Saturday Spotlight: Virginia Tech at Miami

Usually in the Saturday Spotlight, .NET's Scott Eklund previews one of the bigger games on the college football schedule. This week however, he focuses on a game that, at the beginning of the season, many predicted could be between two top 10 teams. Alas, that isn't the case, as both Virginia Tech and Miami have underperformed this season, but both teams are still loaded with NFL-caliber talent.

Miami's Orange Bowl isn't always the best home-field advantage in the country, in fact it barely registers as even an adequate deterrent for most teams, but when the Hurricanes host a rival – such as the Florida State Seminoles or the Hokies – the fans go crazy and this week should be no exception.

Larry Coker was on the hot seat heading into the season, but with the talent strewn up and down his Hurricane roster many thought a top 15 finish would get him out of the woods. However, his team has struggled to a 5-3 start (2-2 in league play) and after a full-squad brawl with Florida International, many have questioned his future at UM.

Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer is an outstanding coach and he rules the roost up in Blacksburg, Virginia. His team always is loaded with talent, but this year they've only posted a 6-2 record including a 3-2 record within the conference.

Expect the atmosphere to be electric as the teams take the field on Saturday night at 8 p.m. (EST). One has the inside track to a New Year's Day bowl game. The other may struggle to even get one.

Virginia Tech

S Aaron Rouse – Heading into the season, Rouse was considered almost a first-round lock. He's got good size (6-4, 221) and solid football instincts. Like most players who are used close to the line, Rouse can struggle at times in coverage and this year he hasn't made the plays that someone with his skills should be making. Rouse is a solid tackler – he's posted 37 tackles – and he's also a good leader. If he runs well at the combine, expect him to be a first-rounder. If he doesn't he could fall a bit and become a value-selection early in the second round. He may even be able to make the move to a weakside linebacker spot like Carolina's Thomas Davis did two years ago.

WR David Clowney – Because of the poor quarterback play for the Hokies, Clowney, along with the other receivers, hasn't put up the numbers he's capable of. Either way, Clowney is a talented player who could make it as a slot receiver in the NFL. He's got decent size (6-1, 180) and he runs crisp routes. He can struggle at times reading defenses, but some of that may be a coaching. As a junior he led the Hokies with 34 receptions for 619 yards and three interceptions. Through seven games as a senior, Clowney has posted 25 receptions for 301 yards and no touchdowns. He's probably going to be a late first day selection, but he could slip to the second day and be a solid NFL player.

LB Vince Hall – Hall is only a junior, but it's likely he could be headed to the NFL after this season. As a third-year sophomore, Hall led Virginia Tech in tackles with 112, scored two defensive touchdowns and was selected to the second-team All-ACC team. This season, he's done much of the same from his middle linebacker position, leading the Hokies through seven games with 71 tackles and seven tackles for loss to go with two sacks. He flies to the ball, doesn't get lost in traffic and wraps up well on his tackles. He isn't super-quick and he can struggle at times getting off blocks, but his instincts are excellent and he is a good leader. Receiving a solid second round grad right now, but could move up if he has good individual workouts before the Draft.

Other Virginia Tech players to watch:

LB Xavier Adibi (6-3, 224) **underclassman
K Brandon Pace (5-10, 196)
FB Jesse Allen (6-0, 243)
OT Brandon Frye (6-4, 302)
P Nic Schmitt (6-2, 273)


Miami

TE Greg Olsen – As a sophomore last year, Olsen received honorable mention All-ACC honors and this year he continues to impress with his receiving and blocking abilities. He's got soft hands, a big body (6-5, 260) and he has enough speed to make teams pay down the seam. Olsen has struggled with the inconsistency of Hurricane QB Kyle Wright, but make no mistake, Olsen is a legitimate first-round talent who could come out this year and be a steal for a team late in the first round.

DE Baraka Atkins – Heading into the season, Atkins was an All-American candidate because of his physical skills and experience. He's a four-year starter who has the versatility to move inside on passing downs and the strength to play the strongside defensive end position in a regular set. Atkins would be a perfect fit in the 3-4 system that is starting to make a comeback in the NFL. Atkins is a 6-4, 275-pound chiseled specimen who can run (4.8) and he's ultra-intense. He is relentless in his pursuit and always attacks. Because he's so aggressive, teams have had success running inside of his up-field rush, but that can be fixed with coaching and a change in his technique. He's a solid second-rounder at this point, but because of his athleticism he could end up a late first-round selection.

DT Kareem Brown – Brown is a space-eater in the middle of the Hurricane defense. He's got a great base (6-4, 315) and he's super-strong. He doesn't get a lot of penetration when teams drop back to pass, but that isn't why he's there. Brown takes up blockers well, forces running play outside and has enough instincts to diagnose screen-plays before they develop. Brown is probably a late day-one selection right now, but he could be a second-rounder before it's all said and done.

Other Miami players to watch:

DE Bryan Pata (6-4, 280)
FS Brandon Meriweather (6-0, 195)
C Anthony Wollschlager (6-4, 290)
K Jon Peattie (6-2, 205)
QB Kyle Wright (6-4, 220) **underclassman
WR Lance Leggett (6-3, 190) **underclassman





Other games to watch: Oklahoma State at Texas (4); Tennessee (13) at LSU (8); UCLA at California (10); Arkansas (12) at South Carolina; Boston College (16) at Wake Forest (22).

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