'09 NFL Prospects Head 2 Head Preview: Week 5

The schedule this week doesn't feature a marquee game, but there are some interesting Head 2 Head prospect matchups you should keep an eye on. Oklahoma's junior tight end Jermaine Gresham (pictured left) has a tough battle ahead of him this weekend as he goes up against TCU's Jason Phillips. Find out the other four matchups and eight prospects Chris Steuber profiles this week.

#24 TCU (4-0) at #2 Oklahoma (3-0)
Saturday, September 27th at 7:00 p.m.

Jason Phillips (6-foot-1, 235 pounds), MLB, TCU
*Jermaine Gresham (6-foot-6, 262 pounds), TE, Oklahoma

Gresham will have a tough matchup against Phillips this weekend.
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Scouting Report: Jason Phillips is a forceful, instinctive linebacker who displays great awareness on defense. He has excellent initial quickness and explodes to the ballcarrier. He’s physical, plays with a high motor and never gives up on a play. He fills a gap, takes on blocks and redirects the path of the opposition. He’s disciplined in coverage and gets depth in drops. He’s a very active player.

Jermaine Gresham is a tremendous pass catching tight end who is among the elite in the nation. He’s extremely quick off the line, runs crisp routes, is focused and makes tough receptions in traffic. He shields defenders away with his frame and offers a big target for the quarterback. He’s very athletic and consistently finds openings over the middle. He’s a willing blocker who uses his size well and has the strength to lockup a defender on the line.

Head 2 Head: This is an interesting matchup between two undefeated teams and two highly touted prospects that will likely meet Head 2 Head multiple times on Saturday. TCU’s Jason Phillips is a physical linebacker who plays with a high motor, while Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham is a pass catching tight end that relies on his finesse, size and athleticism to beat his opponent. Phillips is a very good inside linebacker who does an outstanding job of commanding the middle. He’s known more for his run defense rather than his ability in coverage, but his athleticism and instincts provide him the capacity to cover inside. In three games this season, Phillips has recorded 16 tackles, 3.5 for a loss and a half a sack. Gresham is an intimidating figure, and his size gives him an advantage against most defenders. Gresham easily boxes out the opposition and shields them away from undercutting his routes, which gives the Sooners the upper-hand each week. Gresham has been a consistent performer, and in the last two games he’s been an offensive force who’s totaled 10 receptions for 192 yards and four touchdowns. TCU is led by their defense, a unit that’s ranked No. 1 in total defense, No. 1 in run defense (30.5 YPG) and 15th in pass defense (152.5 YPG). Oklahoma presents TCU with its biggest test thus far, as the Horned Frogs travel to a hostile environment in Norman.

Mississippi State (1-3) at #5 LSU (3-0)

Saturday, September 27th at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN

Derek Pegues (5-foot-10, 195 pounds), FS, Mississippi State
Demetrius Byrd (6-foot-1, 200 pounds), WR, LSU

Byrd will look to have a breakout game against Mississippi State on Saturday.
Chris Graythen/Getty

Scouting Report: Derek Pegues is your classic centerfield type of safety who’s always looking to make a play on the ball. He has great instincts and vision, and anticipates a receiver’s route as the play begins. He has excellent ball skills and a great sense of timing. He’s physical, sheds blocks well and is aggressive in pursuit of a ballcarrier. He’s versatile and can play all positions in the secondary, as well as returning kicks and punts.

Demetrius Byrd is a talented receiver with a great upside. He has good quickness off the line, fights off jams and has the speed to get vertical. He’s a reliable receiver who makes tough receptions at key moments and demonstrates excellent body control adjusting to errant passes. He’s a physical route runner, who snatches passes out of the air with his hands; he doesn’t allow many balls to get in on him.

Head 2 Head: On paper, this looks like a collective mismatch, but individually there’s a matchup that you shouldn’t overlook: Mississippi State FS Derek Pegues going Head 2 Head with LSU’s Demetrius Byrd. Pegues is an underrated defender in the country and doesn’t get the headlines he deserves because the Bulldogs are not as good as LSU. The Tigers have a talented cast and Byrd is an electrifying talent who can break open and win a game at any moment. Pegues’ ability to read and react on defense and provide help over the top should limit Byrd’s opportunities. But Byrd’s physical prowess, and the fact that he hasn’t had a break out game thus far (eight receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns in three games), will give him motivation to succeed. Pegues is off to a slow start this year as well, amassing just 15 tackles and no interceptions after he recorded 50 tackles and five interceptions last season. Even though this is a good matchup between two solid prospects, LSU is likely to repeat their 2007 performance against Mississippi State when they defeated them 45 – 0.

Oregon (3-1) at Washington State (1-3)
Saturday, September 27th at 6:15 p.m.

*Walter Thurmond (6-foot, 185 pounds), CB, Oregon
Brandon Gibson (6-foot, 202 pounds), WR, Washington State

Gibson is off to a slow start, but that can all change in one play.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty

Scouting Report: Walter Thurmond is an explosive cornerback who has lockdown potential. He’s fluid transitioning with receivers off the line, gets vertical, and adjusts well to throws downfield. He has a great sense of timing, reads the opposition, and displays excellent ball skills. He’s a physical defender who will mix it up and demonstrates proper tackling technique.

Brandon Gibson is a physical receiver who will beat you with his speed and strength. He has a strong, compact build that allows him to effectively get off a jam. He has excellent initial quickness, runs solid routes and will make tough receptions over the middle or get vertical to make a play downfield. He’s a prime target in the redzone and is aware of his surroundings down low. He’s a team player and is a willing blocker downfield. He has experience as a return specialist.

Head 2 Head: Oregon is coming off of their first loss of the season, a 37 – 32 upset at the hands of Boise State. This week, the Ducks look to get back on track as they battle Pac-10 foe Washington State. In a game where two teams are going in opposite directions, there’s a matchup between two prospects that will draw attention: Oregon CB Walter Thurmond going Head 2 Head against Washington State WR Brandon Gibson. Thurmond, who had 103 tackles, eight for a loss and five interceptions last season, hasn’t recorded an interception thus far, but has shown his physicality with 18 tackles in three games. Going up against Gibson will be an interesting matchup for Thurmond. They’re physical, tremendously gifted players who have a tendency to try and do too much, which could result into Thurmond getting his first interception of the season or Gibson having the breakout game he hasn’t realized as of yet. Washington State has a newly installed offense and a revolving door at quarterback after senior Gary Rogers went down with an injury. They will start freshman Marshall Lobbestael, who makes his first career start on Saturday, in his place which is just another adjustment Gibson will have to make. Gibson has played in three of the Cougars four games and has 20 catches for 295 yards and two touchdowns. This should be an intriguing matchup, even though it appears to be a one-sided contest that favors Oregon.

North Carolina (2-1) at Miami (2-1)

Saturday, September 27th at 12:00 p.m. on ESPN2

Brandon Tate (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), WR, North Carolina
Bruce Johnson (5-foot-10, 182 pounds), CB, Miami

North Carolina's Mr. Everything, Tate will try to continue his stellar play.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Scouting Report: Bruce Johnson is a solid cover corner who understands his assignments. He has fluid hips, solid footwork and is highly instinctive. He possesses a tremendous burst and closes in on the opposition quickly. He’s physical in coverage and positions himself well throughout the route. He has to improve his ball skills and create more turnovers.

Brandon Tate is a multi-dimensional threat who creates problems for the opposition when the ball is in his hands. He has great vision, quickness and instincts. He gets a quick release off the line, immediately gets to top speed and stretches the field vertically. He sells routes nicely, comes back to the pass and adjusts to the errant throws. He’s used in the running game and displays patience and elusiveness. He’s a dynamic return specialist who has the ability to score at any moment.

Head 2 Head: Another conference battle between two teams that have identical records and are looking to make a move in the ACC, North Carolina and Miami are two programs that are on the rise. In addition to the teams making a name for themselves, two prospects are emerging as solid NFL prospects, Brandon Tate and Bruce Johnson. Tate has been phenomenal for the Tar Heels and has had an impact in every facet of the game: in the passing game, rushing attack and special teams. As a receiver, Tate has hauled in 11 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns; in the run game, he has seven carries for 141 yards and a touchdown; and on special teams he returned a punt for an 82-yard touchdown. Lining up opposite of Tate will be Johnson. Johnson gives up a few inches to Tate, but he’s a physical corner that will challenge him on the outside. As good as Johnson is, he doesn’t have good ball skills and will drop catchable balls that should go the other way. The advantage in this one will go to Miami, but if Tate continues to produce the way he has this season on Saturday, the Tar Heels will keep it close.

Purdue (1-2) at Notre Dame (2-1)

Saturday, September 27th at 3:30 p.m. on NBC

Kory Sheets (5-foot-11, 205 pounds), RB, Purdue
Maurice Crum (5-foot-11, 235 pounds), MLB, Notre Dame

Sheets has been Purdue's workhorse this season and is climbing up draft charts.
Ronald Martinez /Getty

Scouting Report: Kory Sheets is a strong runner, who has the ability to be a game breaker. He sees the field extremely well and is a patient runner who allows his blockers to set up in front of him. He keeps his legs moving, breaks tackles and picks up positive yards. He has great quickness, is deceptively elusive, and consistently makes defenders miss. He has good hands out of the backfield and displays great vision cutting across the grain. He’s a good blocker who will chip defenders and halt their progression towards the quarterback.

Maurice Crum is an athletic, versatile linebacker who can play inside or outside linebacker. He’s outstanding against the run, instantly locating the ball, and is strong in pursuit. He moves well in all directions and explodes towards the opposition. He’s a disciplined defender and is rarely caught out of position. He gets good depth in drops and shows great range in coverage.

Head 2 Head: A player that has seen his stock rise over the last few weeks is Purdue’s Kory Sheets. Sheets is off to a great start and has been one of the most productive backs in the nation. He’s shown that he can carry the load and has 62 carries for 352 yards and six touchdowns in three games. Sheets is also a very good receiver out of the backfield, and that versatility will cause fits for Maurice Crum, who will have to keep an eye on Sheets all through the game. Crum’s ability to cover a large area will benefit Notre Dame on Saturday, as Purdue will look to get Sheets in space and take advantage of an Irish defense that’s allowing 360 YPG, 144 of that yardage coming from the oppositions rushing attack. The versatile Crum has 19 tackles, 2.5 for a loss and a sack helping Notre Dame get off to a surprising start. This will be a tough matchup for Notre Dame, but if Crum and the defense are able to contain Sheets and not allow him to get past the second level for big gains, they have a shot.

*Denotes underclassmen

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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