A good early season Big Ten match-up between n a pair of programs who consistently receive bowl invitations. Minnesota could have the nation's top ball carrier in Laurence Maroney, a junior who presently carries a first round grade. Maroney goes up against his stiffest competition of the year. Purdue's junior defensive end Ray Edwards is also first round material while teammate Anthony Spencer, another underclassmen, is not far behind. Seniors Brent Grover and back-up Rob Ninkovich are two more draftable prospects on the Boilermaker defensive line. The Gophers offer a pair of middle round picks on their offensive line. Center Greg Eslinger and guard Mark Setterstrom will try to slow down the Purdue rush as the Boilermakers attempt to stop Maroney.
Over the years Purdue and Minnesota have placed tight ends into the draft's late rounds. That could change in the near future. Boilermaker senior Charles Davis, a nice-sized prospect with natural receiving skills, could sneak into next April's first day. Gopher underclassmen Matt Spaeth offers more upside and is already highly considered by NFL scouts. Both will have opportunities against very average secondary's.
Minnesota has a pair of underrated prospects on the defensive side of the ball. Tackle Anthony Montgomery is a good athlete who flashes dominance but at the same time is known for inconsistent play. Montgomery has first day potential yet only plays to it on occasion. Linebacker Kyle McKenzie is an aggressive defender constantly around the action. A solid prospect who flourished on the outside as a sophomore, he's been out of position the past two years in the middle.
The first big ACC test for both teams. Virginia Tech is favored to win the conference and needs a victory to keep pace with Florida State. The Yellow Jackets pulled off an upset over Auburn during the season's first game. A victory over the Hokies sets them up nicely for the middle stretch of '05.
It could be billed "Battle of the Titans" as cornerback Jimmy Williams of Virginia Tech tries to cover the Jackets Calvin Johnson. A true sophomore not eligible for 2006 draft, Johnson could well be the nations top wide out. At the same time Williams will be a sought after commodity during the early selections next April. A big, physical defensive back with outstanding size/speed numbers, Williams is a fine press cover-corner. Ultimately he could be used at free safety in the NFL, a position Williams played early in his Hokie career.
The game also features a pair of outstanding pass rushers as well as a highly rated defensive tackle. Georgia Tech's Eric Henderson has been on a tear since the start of the season, significantly improving his draft grade. The Hokies Darryl Tapp is a hard-working prospect known for great work habits. Undersized (6-1/265) with growth limitations, Tapp may be best suited standing over tackle in a 34 defense at the next level. Kevin Lewis lines-up inside of Tapp on Virginia Tech's defensive line and is an explosive tackle with great first step quickness. A solid one-gap lineman, Lewis was National Scouting's highest rated tackle at season's start, something we consider a reach.
In a rare Tuesday night contest, Toledo goes west to take on Fresno State. Both teams hope to compete for the title in their respective conferences.
Toledo quarterback Bruce Gradkowski carries a middle round grade for next April's draft. He goes up against a loaded Fresno State secondary which possesses three potential first day draft picks and another late round selection. Richard Marshall and Marcus McCauley are a pair of shut-down corners from the underclassmen ranks. Tyrone Culver is a hard-hitting run defender with cover skills in zone. Presently he ranks higher than former teammate James Sanders, selected by the Patriots in the fourth round last April. Finally, senior cornerback Raymond Washington would start for most programs in the country yet sits on the second team due to the depth in Fresno State's secondary. He is a potential late round choice and nickel corner in the NFL.
Lastly keep an eye on sixth year senior Andrew Clarke, a solid tight end prospect for Toledo who was shelved last year with injury.