Scouting Championship Saturday

Two inaugural conference title games get underway tomorrow and are joined by a pair which have been around for a while. Several potential first round choices will take the field starting with the Big 12 championship game. Yet at the same time all four games offer NFL-prospects which will be sprinkled throughout all seven rounds of next April's draft.

Big 12: Colorado vs. Texas (ABC/1:00pm EST)

This contest could be over soon after it starts.  Texas looks to sure up a Rose Bowl berth and play for the national title.  Colorado backed into this game thanks to Iowa State's overtime loss to Kansas.

Can Colorado stop Vince Young?  Unlikely. CU's defensive line pales in comparison to the Longhorn offensive front they will face and the Buffalo front four will tire as the game proceeds.  Tackles James Garee and Vaka Manupuna are potential late selections.  Safety Brian Iwuh is explosive and physical yet projects to outside linebacker in the NFL.  

As previously mentioned the Longhorns offensive line has four, potentially five draftees.  Many feel Jonathan Scott has made the biggest strides of any tackle in the nation.  While several of the higher rated prospects (Andrew Whitworth, Eric Winston and Marcus McNeill) have watched their draft stock slip, Scott is on a straight shot north.  Ditto for Justin Blalock, the powerful right tackle who could declare for April's draft.  Guard Will Allen is a solid late round choice while scouts love junior Kasey Studdard, who's been a big factor in the run game this year.  Finally, senior reserve Mike Garcia could get late round looks based on his size and skill he flashes.

CU tight end Joe Klopfenstein is having a terrific season and the pass-catching threat has moved up draft boards.  Teammate Quinn Sypniewski is one of the better run blocking tight ends in the nation and has stayed healthy for most of the season.  Sypniewski suffered with durability issues in the past.

Longhorn defensive back Michael Huff has improved his draft stock as much as anyone in this game.  Depending on how teams project Jimmy Williams of Virginia Tech, Huff could be the first safety selected in the draft and end up in the later half of round one next April.  Then again, many feel Huff will play cornerback at the next level.

Colorado's kicking game is probably the best in the nation and possesses two top prospects.  Punter John Torp gets great hang-time on his punts and flips the field with his leg strength.  If junior Mason Crosby enters the draft he will be the first place-kicker selected.  Another powerful leg, Crosby puts the ball through the end zone on kick-offs and shows the same distance on field goals.  In a loss to Iowa State last month Crosby connected on a 57-yard field goal with ten yards to spare.

C-USA: Tulsa vs. Central Florida (ESPN/12:00pm EST)

A battle of the unexpected take to the field in Orlando.  Central Florida did not win a game in '04 yet got hot early this season and has been on a roll ever since.  Tulsa also struggled last year yet played well and benefited from UTEP's unexpected loss last week.

Tight ends Darcy Johnson of Central Florida and Garrett Mills from Tulsa are a study in contrast.  Johnson is well sized and competent blocking or catching the ball.  Not a downfield threat, he has the skills to be a back-up in the NFL. 

Mills on the other hand is a game-changer on the college level.  Undersized and a player who lines-up at both tight end and fullback, his performance against Oklahoma early in the season almost single-handedly led to a Tulsa victory over the Sooners.  Mills has limited potential at the next level yet the penchant for making positive plays coupled with his toughness should help him find a roster spot in the NFL. 

UCF defensive end Paul Carrington is a solid athlete who works hard to make positive plays.  Offering growth potential, Carrington is a solid developmental prospect.

SEC: Georgia vs. LSU (CBS/6:00PM EST)

Were it not for a second half collapse against Tennessee early in the season, LSU could have staked a claim for the Rose Bowl.  Georgia possesses plenty of pro-potential on its' roster.

Tiger tackle Andrew Whitworth was set to enter last April's draft until he had a conversation with LSU's new coach, Les Miles.  Whitworth has struggled this season and is dropping down draft boards.  He could redeem himself on Saturday with a good performance against Georgia's Quentin Moses, one of the nation's best pure pass rushers. 

On the flip side Claude Wroten of LSU is having a good year at defensive tackle and proving himself to be worthy of a first round selection.  Clogging the middle of the line, Wroten flashes pass rush skill and will be pitted against Max Jean-Gilles, another highly rated lineman.  A massive blocker, Jean-Gilles is a top 45 selection next April at offensive guard, though he does have the versatility to fill in at tackle in a pinch.

LSU has a terrific stable of young receivers.  Dwayne Bowe is a future early pick in the NFL draft while Craig Davis is a developing young prospect.  Georgia has an excellent pair of senior cornerbacks in Tim Jennings and Demario Minter.  Both are small compared to the wide outs the Tigers will put on the field yet each has first day potential next April.

ACC: Virginia Tech vs. Florida State (ABC/8:00PM EST)

The inaugural ACC title game takes place in Jacksonville and pits a solid Virginia Tech team against a Florida State squad that's hit the skids.  If the Seminoles can protect their quarterback and block for the running game they have a chance. 

Word in scouting circles has been all over the place as to whether or not Marcus Vick will enter the draft.  One thing is unanimous; scouts say Vick would be making a huge mistake should he leave for the NFL. 

Saturday night will be a good test as Vick faces an awesome Seminole front seven.  Kamerion Wimbley is having a terrific senior season, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks and watching his draft stock soar.  Interior tackle Brodrick Bunkley is another shooting up draft boards.  Bunkley does not have the great size yet his quickness and explosion puts him in the draft's top 50 selections.

Then their are the 'Nole linebackers.  Junior Ernie Sims is a fringe first round selection should he enter the draft.  Some feel A.J. Nicholson is overrated yet we disagree.  The outside linebacker has been a steady force all year and should be a top 75 selection in April.

Scout NFL Network Top Stories