NFL Prospects Week in Review: 9/20

Last Saturday's college schedule was highlighted by close contests decided in the final minutes or games which went to several overtimes before the outcome was known. As expected, several outstanding performances were turned in by NFL prospects who improved their draft stock.

Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst was solid in his team's heartbreaking loss to the Miami Hurricanes.  Besides completing 31-of-55 passing for 288-yards, Whitehurst threw for one score then ran another into the end zone.  Impressive was the way Whitehurst commanded the offense, leading the team to ten points in the games final five minutes to tie the score.

Believe it or not the Vanderbilt Commodores, long the doormat of the SEC, are off and running at 3-0 this year. Two of those victories have come at the expense of conference opponents.  Much of the success has to do with the strong arm of quarterback Jay Cutler.  Completing 59% of his passes for 314-yards against a solid Mississippi defense, Cutler presently sits atop the SEC in the category of passing yardage.  A player closely inspected by NFL-scouts, expect Cutler to get an invite to the Senior Bowl if he keeps this pace up.

Another passer from the SEC stood out on Saturday during an important conference game.  Florida's C.J. Leak  led the Gators over rival Tennessee in a close contest.  While Leak's 179-yards passing was not overly impressive his command of the offense and decision making were seemingly flawless.  Late in the third quarter Leak converted 8-of-9 third down opportunities.  Most importantly for pro-scouts, Leak has mentally grasped the offensive system of Urban Meyer, the man responsible for developing Alex Smith- the draft's first pick last April.

Reggie Bush of USC made a statement to both NFL scouts and Heisman Trophy voters.  Bush was responsible for 225 all purpose yards and a pair of scores during the Trojans lopsided victory over Arkansas.  In fact Bush scored touchdowns the first two times he touched the ball Saturday night.  After taking a hand-off 76-yards into the end zone on the Trojans third play from scrimmage, Bush again scored on a 29-yard reception 1:30 later.  The versatility to be a multi-purpose threat handling the ball will push Bush into the draft's first round if he leaves for the NFL after this season.

Defensively, no prospect stood out more then Florida State's A.J. Nicholson in the Seminoles victory over Boston College.  Intercepting a pass for a touchdown on the games first play, Nicholson returned a second pick 40-yards the next time BC had the ball.  Racking up a career high 19 tackles, (the most by a Seminole since Marvin Jones totaled 21 stops almost 15 years ago) Nicholson's performance earned him Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors.  Considered a top 60-selection by most NFL-scouting concerns, Nicholson has improved his draft stock.

Mathias Kiwanuka stood out for Boston College in their loss to the Seminoles.  The big defensive end was omnipresent all night, disrupting plays up the field or batting away passes.  Very late in the third quarter "Kiwi" displayed his dominant athleticism, racing 30-yards across the field then forcing a fumble on the one-yard line when it seemed Lorenzo Booker was headed into the end-zone.

The nations highest rated linebacker looked dominant, albeit against a Division I-AA opponent.  Chad Greenway collected a career high 20 tackles and broke up a pass during Iowa's 45-21 trouncing over Northern Iowa.  It was the 17th time in his career Greenway posted double-digit tackles in a game.

One highly rated prospect who's been a bit of a disappointment is Eric Winston.  The Miami Hurricane left tackle, considered a top ten pick by most NFL scouts, has struggled during the team's first two games.  Sources have told us Winston is not 100% since returning from the serious knee injury suffered last year.  Added weight has led to a loss of quickness and diminished pass protection skills.

Several season ending injuries were suffered by ranked prospects last weekend.  UCLA possession receiver Junior Taylor suffered a torn ligament in the Bruins win over Oklahoma and will have surgery this week.

A pair of highly considered Gator underclassmen will also be shelved.  Receiver Andre Caldwell suffered a broken win in Florida's victory over Tennessee and his season is finished.  Defensive lineman Ray McDonald suffered a knee injury and could miss upwards of six weeks.

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