NFL Draft '07: Scouting Saturday for talent

A terrific weekend for college football fans and NFL draftniks is in store. Several important battles which can decide the national title as well as conference crowns take place from the afternoon through the evening. And more then a handful of match-ups between top NFL prospects loom on this weeks schedule.

Utah vs Wyoming  3PM EST

Utah's well balanced offense is averaging 350 yards a game with 160 in the ground and 190 through the air.  This is in large part to one of the nation's best offensive lines which, amongst other things, has not allowed a sack this season.  

Wyoming has the nation's top pass defense, led by versatile John Wendling, a safety with NFL cover skills.  Wendling will have his work cut out for him on Saturday as the Ute line should enable plenty of time for quarterback Brett Ratliff to throw the ball.

Ohio State vs Michigan State  3:30 EST

The Spartans, in dire need of a win after several deflating losses, must try and turn their fortunes around against number one ranked Ohio State.  This is an important game for Drew Stanton who desperately needs a good performance.

Stanton will be harassed all day by one of college football's best interior tandems.  Quinn Pitcock is having a terrific season, doing a much better job then expected rushing the quarterback.  Pitcock has improved his draft grade and is moving into the top 60-selections.

Teammate David Patterson is also having a fine campaign.  Originally coming into the season with a late round ranking, Patterson is moving into the middle frames.  He has the ability to be used in several defensive schemes as either a one-or-two gap lineman.

Maryland vs Virginia 3:30 PM EST

Two teams struggling in the ACC face-off hoping to salvage a post-season bowl berth.  There is a solid match-up to watch on the line of scrimmage.

Chris Long is a lot like his father Howie, explosive and intense.  Creating a lot of havoc in the opponents backfield, the Virginia junior plays with great speed in every direction.  Long's biggest nemesis is a lack of size as he is controlled by large blockers.  Even with that the junior still holds a top sixty grade and will move into round one if he stays for his senior campaign in '07.

Throughout the game it will be up to Stephon Heyer to slow down, if not stop, Long's pursuit to the action.  NFL scouts like Heyer, a fifth year senior, who was highly rated coming into the '05 season before a knee injury halted his campaign.

Heyer has the size and strength to contain Long but does he possess the footwork and blocking range to offset his athleticism?  

It'll be a tough battle and both players have a lot to gain.

Hawaii vs Fresno State  5PM EST

June Jones aerial assault is well commanded by underclassman quarterback Colt Brennan this year.  A legitimate pro-prospect, Brennan has completed 70% of his throws during the season's initial five games, totaling 1800 passing yards with 18 touchdown strikes.  

Brennan's top target is another underclassman, Davone Bass.  During the same five game stint Bass has accumulated 41 receptions, 499 receiving yards and 4 touchdown catches.  He is another pro-prospect on the offense who will carry early round grades in the future.  Compared to Ashley Lelie, the former first round pick from Hawaii whose done little on the NFL-level, Bass is much more natural catching the ball and a lot more consistent.

This weekend the pair match-up against Marcus McCauley, one of the top three senior cornerbacks in next April's draft and a possible first round choice.  McCauley is an excellent combination of size, speed and skill.  He shuts down opponents, possessing top ball skills, and will defend the run.  And while he's prone to an occasional lapse, McCauley offers better upside than former Bulldog Richard Marshall, taken by the Carolina Panthers in the second round of last April's draft.

Florida vs Auburn 7:45 PM EST

A huge SEC game which has national title implications.  Auburn hopes to rebound off a tough loss to Arkansas while the second ranked Gators want to keep the momentum going.

Thus far in six games Kenny Irons, presently the highest rated senior running back on draft boards, has had a solid year.  And while his production and playmaking have been effective, they are not at the point where Irons has established himself as a top fifteen choice.

This week he goes against the top rushing defense in the conference.   Florida has held opponents to under 60-yards rushing per game this year.  

Earl Everett has improved the physical nature of his game and has been more forceful against the run this season.  Marcus Thomas returned from a shortened suspension last week with renewed vigor.  Everett is a top sixty choice.  Thomas has first round physical skills yet character issues which will push him into round two.

Michigan vs Penn State 8PM EST

An important Big Ten contest as Penn State tries to upset Michigan on a Saturday night contest in State College, much the same way they did against Ohio State last year.  In doing so they hope to avenge a last second loss handed to them by the Wolverines a year ago; the only blemish during their '05 season.

The key match-ups are a pair of Penn State offensive prospects against the Michigan front seven.

Running back Tony Hunt is exceeding the expectations of NFL scouts and really improving his draft stock.  Bearing the brunt of the Nittany Lions offensive load, Hunt has totaled 669-yards rushing and seven touchdowns, averaging 5.3-yards per carry.  He is moving towards the draft's first day.  

Penn State also welcomes back tackle Levi Brown, who missed the past two games with a knee injury.  Brown, who rates as a top forty pick, could watch his draft stock soar with a good performance this weekend.

Michigan boasts the top rushing defense in America.  The pass rushing duo of Lamarr Woodley and Rondell Biggs are also quite formidable.  

Brown will have the responsibilities of slowing down Woodley and Biggs off the edge while also creating running room for Hunt. 

To date no one has accomplished this against Michigan in '06.

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