'09 NFL Prospects Head 2 Head Preview: Week 3

This is the week everyone has been waiting for, the big Ohio State, USC showdown that could determine the National Champion this season. USC LB Rey Maualuga (pictured left) and Ohio State LB James Laurinaitis are the two top linebackers in the country and will go Head 2 Head. Find out the other four matchups and eight prospects Scout.com's Chris Steuber profiles this week.

#5 Ohio State (2-0) at #1 USC (1-0)
Saturday, September 13th at 8:00 p.m. on ABC

James Laurinaitis (6-foot-2, 240 pounds), MLB, Ohio State
Rey Maualuga (6-foot-2, 260 pounds), MLB, USC

Two of the best LBs in the country, Laurinaitis (pictured) and Maualuga, will go Head 2 Head on Saturday night.
Kevin C. Cox /Getty

Scouting Report: James Laurinaitis is an outstanding instinctive player who has the unique ability to be a playmaker and a ferocious tackler on defense. He brings the complete package to the field and is a true competitor. He's an aggressive force who can shed blocks and he has a nose for the ball. He's an excellent tackler who displays great technique. He anticipates the action extremely well and seems to always be in position to make a play. He excels in coverage and can turn defense into offense at any moment.

Rey Maualuga is a tremendous physical specimen at the linebacker position who possesses great athleticism and explosion. He has a quick burst and has great lateral, sideline-to-sideline and angular speed. He's a sure tackler that positions himself well against the run. He's an instinctive player who's aware of his surroundings and penetrates through a gap to make plays in the backfield. He drops well in coverage and displays excellent ball skills. He's a devastating hitter that looks to make the knockout blow. He shows great discipline in the middle and recognizes opposing schemes very well.

Head 2 Head: This is a game that should be featured in January, as both teams are good enough to compete for the National Championship. But, the scheduling gurus gave football fans an early season present as No. 1 USC goes Head 2 Head with No. 5 Ohio State. This is a game that will feature a lot of prominent NFL prospects, and originally I matched USC LB Rey Maualuga against Ohio State RB Beanie Wells, but head coach Jim Tressel announced on Friday evening that Wells has been ruled out of Saturday’s big clash. So, instead of matching Maualuga against an offensive player from Ohio State, I decided to turn my attention to the defensive side of the ball and feature another top linebacker - a player who I believe is the top linebacker in the country - James Laurinaitis. The absence of Wells will make life easier for the Trojans defense, but Ohio State still has playmakers they have to game plan for. Wide receiver Brian Robiskie and quarterback Todd Boeckman lead the Buckeyes’ attack in Wells’ absence, and the potential game breaking ability that true freshman QB Terrelle Pryor poses - especially with his legs - will keep Maualuga focused and occupied. Laurinaitis and the Buckeyes defense have the daunting task of containing junior QB Mark Sanchez, WR Vidal Hazelton and a loaded crop of explosive underclassmen who can change a game in an instant. Maualuga and Laurinaitis are the top two linebackers in the country, and playing on a national platform this early in the season presents one of them with the opportunity to separate himself from the other in the mind of the many professional scouts in attendance.

#16 Oregon (2-0) at Purdue (1-0)

Saturday, September 13th at 3:30 p.m. on ABC

Patrick Chung (5-foot-11, 210 pounds), S, Oregon
Curtis Painter (6-foot-3, 228 pounds), QB, Purdue

One of the nation's most underrated defensive backs, Chung looks to lead Oregon to a 3 - 0 record.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty

Scouting Report: Patrick Chung is a hard worker who plays the game with a lot of intensity. He diagnoses the action well, moves well laterally, and quickly locates the ball and attacks. He positions himself well and wraps up the opposition consistently. He's a strong defender in the box, explodes through a gap, and makes plays in the backfield. He takes good angles in coverage and has great ball skills.

Curtis Painter has ideal size and possesses strong mechanics. He stands tall in the pocket and displays good awareness. He has a quick release and is accurate hitting his receivers in stride. He's a tough competitor who buys time for his receivers and will stay in the pocket until the very last moment to complete a pass. He has the ability to escape the pocket and make throws on the run.

Head 2 Head: One of the top quarterbacks in the country, Purdue's Curtis Painter, got off to a nice start against Northern Colorado last weekend. Although he had a solid performance, Painter has to be more accurate moving forward, because he won't face teams like Northern Colorado every week. But he still managed to throw for 286 yards and two touchdowns. This week will be a tougher challenge for Painter and the Boilermakers as they go up against the No. 16 Oregon Ducks. Oregon has a fast, tenacious defense that will give up yardage, but they apply a lot of pressure on the opposition. Safety Patrick Chung is the leader of the defense and brings a lot of energy and excitement. He's always around the ball and is a sure tackler. Chung also possesses excellent ball skills and has eight interceptions for his career (he had two in 2007). Painter will have to be aware of Chung in the secondary, because he flies around and reads a quarterback very well.

Nevada (1-1) at #6 Missouri (2-0)
Saturday, September 13th at 12:30 p.m.

Josh Mauga (6-foot-2, 245 pounds), LB, Nevada
Chase Coffman (6-foot-6, 247 pounds), TE, Missouri

Coffman is a premier pass catching tight end, who faces a tough battle against Nevada's enigma, Mauga.
Missouri Athletics

Scouting Report: Josh Mauga is an aggressive linebacker who plays with a lot of intensity. He's an instinctive player who diagnoses the action effectively and defends the run very well. He moves well laterally, has a solid burst to the line and takes down the opposition on initial contact. He takes good angles in pursuit and covers sideline-to-sideline. He's disciplined in coverage, gets depth dropping back and physically defends routes over the middle.

Chase Coffman is a great all-around tight end who has the complete package. He's a tremendous pass catching tight end who has excellent instincts. He gets a fluid release off the line of scrimmage, runs solid routes, and finds an opening over the middle to give the quarterback a reliable target. He has soft hands and uses his body to his advantage to shield defenders away from him. He's an outstanding athlete who makes smooth adjustments to errant throws and is able to make tough catches in traffic. He breaks down well as a blocker and has great technique in pass protection. He stays square to the opposition and keeps the defender in front of him.

Head 2 Head: A linebacker that you never heard of, but is one of the most physical in the nation; Nevada's Josh Mauga is an intimidating force that can alter the complexion of a game. Mauga has had a great start to the 2008 season (13 tackles, three for a loss and 1.5 sacks), after he missed the last five games of the 2007 season due to a knee injury. A tough challenge for Mauga exists in the form of Missouri's star tight end Chase Coffman. Coffman is an excellent pass-catching threat who is Chase Daniel's primary target, and has already amassed 12 receptions for 166 yards and touchdown in two games. Coffman's ability to find open areas in a defense will pose a tough challenge for Mauga, but Mauga's physical nature will make Coffman work hard to make catches. This will be an intriguing battle in a game that the Tigers should dominate.

UAB (0-2) at Tennessee (0-1)

Saturday, September 13th at 12:30 p.m.

Will Dunbar (6-foot, 195 pounds), FS, UAB
Arian Foster (6-foot-1, 216 pounds), RB, Tennessee

Foster's ability to reach paydirt on any play will cause UAB a lot of problems.
Al Messerschmidt /Getty

Scouting Report: Will Dunbar is an athletic centerfielder who possesses outstanding ball skills. He's an aggressive tackler who has a nose for the ball and plays with great intensity. He has great sideline-to-sideline range, moves well laterally, and takes good angles in coverage.

Arian Foster is a physical runner who offers a lot of versatility to an offense. He has excellent vision, good cut back ability and has the speed to take it to the house. He's a hard runner between the tackles and has the quickness to turn the corner. He adjusts well after the initial hit and possesses excellent balance to regain his running form. He's a reliable receiver out of the backfield and is elusive in the open field with the ball in his hands.

Head 2 Head: Another defender who doesn't receive a lot of accolades for the production he generates, UAB's Will Dunbar is a tremendous threat that the opposition has to be aware of. Dunbar is a tackling machine and led the Blazers with 122 tackles (69 solo) last season. He's off to a slow start this year, as he's only recorded eight tackles in two games. Tennessee's star running back Arian Foster had a solid performance – rushing for 96 yards on 13 carries - against UCLA in the Volunteers 27 – 24 loss. Foster is a player that UAB has to concentrate on, as he can break off a huge run at any given moment. Dunbar will be a major player on defense for the Blazers in their attempt to contain Foster, but Foster's ability to break tackles, get separation in the open field and be a contributor in the passing game will cause problems for UAB all day long.

Southern Miss (1-1) at Arkansas State (2-0)

Saturday, September 13th at 7:00 p.m.

Shawn Nelson (6-foot-5, 242 pounds), TE, Southern Miss
Ben Owens (6-foot-2, 222 pounds), LB, Arkansas State

A rising star at the tight end position, Nelson will have a tough matchup against Owens.
AP Photo/Todd Van Emst

Scouting Report: Shawn Nelson is an athletic, pass-catching tight end who creates mismatches with his unique blend of skills. He gets a fluid release off the line, runs good routes and uses his frame to pull in receptions and adjust to errant passes. He plays with great focus and concentration and has a passion for the game.

Ben Owens is a tough, active linebacker who's constantly around the ball. He quickly diagnoses the action and has great instincts in pursuit of the opposition. He sheds blocks well and displays good tackling technique at the line. He gets good depth on drops, covers receivers well over the middle and possesses good ball skills.

Head 2 Head: Southern Mississippi's Shawn Nelson is a talented tight end that the college football landscape has to respect. He's a skilled player who can stretch the field, move the chains; ultimately he just causes problems for the opposition. In the Golden Eagles' first two games, Nelson has made a huge impact, catching 15 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns. A player who's ready to emerge this season, after a 96-tackle 2007 campaign, Ben Owens is off to a fast start this season. Owens has been a monster thus far for the Red Wolves, recording 14 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, a sack and two interceptions, during their 2 – 0 start. Owens' ability to cover and attack the opposition will cause Nelson problems. Nelson, as terrific a receiver as he is, isn't the most physical route runner, which will allow Owens to cut in front of him and make plays on the ball.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: csteuber@scout.com.

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