'09 NFL Prospects Head 2 Head Preview: Week 7

There are a lot of great conference matchups this week that fans will focus on. One of those matchups will take place on Saturday when Texas visits No. 1 Oklahoma. Longhorns DE Brian Orakpo will look to continue his dominant start, as he goes Head 2 Head with Oklahoma OT Phil Loadholt (pictured left). Find out the other four matchups and eight prospects Chris Steuber profiles this week.

#5 Texas (5-0) at #1 Oklahoma (5-0)
Saturday, October 11th at 12:00 p.m. on ABC

Brian Orakpo (6-foot-4, 260 pounds), DE, Texas
Phil Loadholt (6-foot-8, 338 pounds), OT, Oklahoma

Orakpo leads the Big 12 in sacks with six and faces a tough matchup with Loadholt on Saturday.
Brian Bahr/Getty

Scouting Report: Brian Orakpo is a hardworking, versatile pass rusher who makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. He has a quick first step and plays with good pad level and balance. He possesses a strong upper-body and is able to compete against bigger tackles. He has a great burst and closes in quickly on the quarterback. He gets around the field well in every direction and changes direction fluidly, flowing towards the ball.

Phil Loadholt is a huge, monstrous tackle who can shed the opposition away with ease. He stays square to the opposition, has good technique and uses his brute strength to his advantage to knock defenders off their rush. He's a strong run-blocker who drives the opposition off the line and finishes his blocks until the whistle blows. He moves well laterally for a man of his size and has developed his game in pass protection. But he struggles against speedy defenders who play with leverage around the end.

Head 2 Head: This is by far the game of the week, as two conference powerhouses go Head 2 Head in a battle that could determine a possible National Championship berth. In this matchup a duel between two top prospects – Texas DE Brian Orakpo and Oklahoma OT Phil Loadholt – will take center stage. Orakpo and Loadholt are considered to be top five prospects at their respective positions and are likely to be selected on Day One in next year's draft. Currently, Orakpo leads the Big 12 in sacks with six and will have a tough matchup against the mammoth Loadholt. Orakpo is a streaky sack artist and will get his sacks in bunches; his six sacks came in three straight games (two sacks in each game) against Arkansas, Rice and UTEP. Orakpo failed to record a sack in a fourth straight game last week against Colorado, and the task of getting back on track this week seems to be wishful thinking. As a team, Oklahoma has surrendered just two sacks all season, and Loadholt's ability to manhandle undersized defensive ends at the line is incredible. Orakpo has to get a quick release off the line and set up Loadholt to try and get him off balance, as he doesn't move well laterally. This will be a close contest, and a lot of attention will be focused on Orakpo and Loadholt, especially from NFL Scouts in attendance.

#17 Oklahoma State (5-0) at #3 Missouri (5-0)

Saturday, October 11th at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN2

Brandon Pettigrew (6-foot-6, 260 pounds), TE, Oklahoma St.
William Moore (6-foot-1, 226 pounds), FS, Missouri

After recording eight interceptions in 2007, Moore has yet to get his first in 2008..
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Scouting Report: Brandon Pettigrew is a big, physical tight end who can dominate an opponent at the line of scrimmage and in the open field. He has prototypical size and is a tremendous athlete. He's quick off the line, moves well laterally and uses his strength and hands to his advantage in blocking situations. He provides a quarterback with confidence as he sets up nicely in an open area and flashes strong, reliable hands. He's a strong runner who easily breaks tackles and gains positive yardage. Character is a concern.

William Moore is a strong, playmaking safety that can alter a game with his unique blend of attributes. He's a forceful, run defending safety, who also defends well in coverage. He's fast in pursuit, tracks down ballcarriers and brings them down on initial contact. He anticipates the action well, reads the quarterback, displays a great burst to the ball and uses his excellent ball skills to turn defense into offense. Durability and lack of experience are concerns.

Head 2 Head: Another big matchup in the Big 12 this week will take place when Oklahoma State visits Missouri. Just like the Texas, Oklahoma game, this Head 2 Head matchup features two top senior prospects, Brandon Pettigrew and William Moore; two players that will be taken early in the '09 draft. Pettigrew got off to a good start in the first two games against Washington State and Houston, catching 10 passes for 109 yards. But he's been injured for the last three games nursing a sprained ankle. He's expected to return this week against Mizzou, and Moore, who's also been banged up this season, will look to welcome him back with both arms wrapped around him all game long. Moore returned to action last week against Nebraska, after being out of the lineup the previous two games with a sprained foot. When healthy, Moore flies around the ball and is a tenacious hitter, not to mention a threat to intercept a pass at any moment. Coming off of a 2007 campaign where he had eight interceptions, Moore hasn't recorded an interception thus far, but he's only played in three games and has 22 tackles to his credit. Pettigrew is a great all-around tight end and can do it all, and when he goes over the middle, look for Moore to be close by looking to deliver a knockout punch or collect his first interception.

#4 LSU (4-0) at #11 Florida (4-1)
Saturday, October 11th at 8:00 p.m. on CBS

*Ricky Jean-Francois (6-foot-3, 290 pounds), DT, LSU
*Tim Tebow (6-foot-3, 238 pounds), QB, Florida

Tebow is having a great season thus far and will try to make Jean-Francois eat his words.
Sam Greenwood/Getty

Scouting Report: Ricky Jean-Francois is an explosive interior lineman who can dominate the opposition. He displays a tremendous first step and great balance and plays with leverage. He has great strength and draws double teams inside. He uses his hands very well, splits the gap and creates havoc in the backfield. He makes plays down the line of scrimmage and never gives up on a play. Durability is a concern.

Tim Tebow is a naturally gifted athlete who has all the qualities of becoming a star at the next level. He has great size and strength, as well as an elite arm. He's an accurate passer who hits his receivers in stride. He shows poise and toughness in the pocket and will wait until the last moment to pull the trigger or tuck and run. He possesses excellent vision and uses his footwork and strength to gain positive yards. He's an outstanding leader and demonstrates high character on and off the field.

Head 2 Head: Not that this matchup needed any more fuel for the fire, but of the two prospects being profiled, Ricky Jean-Francois and Tim Tebow, Jean-Francois added some bulletin board material for the Gators in a verbal attack directed towards Tebow. In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Jean-Francois said, "If we get a good shot on (Tebow), we're going to try our best to take him out of the game." Even though Jean-Francois clarified his statements and said, "I meant as a defense we are going to try to make him ineffective," Florida enters this game on a mission. After their upset loss to Ole Miss two weeks ago, the Gators rebounded last week and torched Arkansas, 38 – 7. Tebow has had a very good season thus far, despite his accuracy dropping off a bit compared to last season. Through five games, Tebow has completed 61.7-percent of his passes (66.9 last season) for 1,025 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception. Jean-Francois has great potential, but he doesn't have much experience (academic problems during the 2007 season) and has been hampered by injuries. Against Mississippi State two weeks ago, he had a groin injury that forced him to miss the second half, as a precaution. Statistically speaking, Jean-Francois is off to a slow start and has only contributed six tackles, 1.5 for a loss, and a sack through four games. Despite the lack of production, Jean-Francois does a good job in the middle filling gaps and fighting off chips. The Gators will try to neutralize Jean-Francois up front and not allow him to gain leverage instantly, so that Tebow has time to make good decisions.

Tennessee (2-3) at #10 Georgia (4-1)

Saturday, October 11th at 3:30 p.m. on CBS

*Rico McCoy (6-foot-1, 224 pounds), OLB, Tennessee
*Knowshon Moreno (5-foot-11, 208 pounds), RB, Georgia

Moreno is one of the top running backs in the nation, but will his elbow prevent him from being dominant?
Al Messerschmidt/Getty

Scouting Report: Rico McCoy is a competitive linebacker who's developing into one of the finest in the country. He diagnoses the action quickly, shows discipline and is effective defending the run and dropping in coverage. He breaks down well and has a nose for the ball. He takes good angles to the ballcarrier, sheds blocks and is a sure tackler. He shows resilience and doesn't give up on a play.

Knowshon Moreno is a tremendously gifted offensive weapon who is a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. He runs with outstanding pad level, displays great vision and tremendous cutback ability. He has a quick first step and is lethal on the edge. He's deceptively strong between the tackles and will fight for extra yards. He shows patience, waits for his blockers to set up in front of him and instantly hits the hole. He's dangerous out of the backfield in the passing game flashing reliable hands, shifty moves and a second-gear that takes him the distance.

Head 2 Head: At a quick glance, this appears to be a mismatch, but when these two conference rivals go Head 2 Head, it's always an interesting matchup. Making it even more intriguing will be the health of Georgia's dynamic running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno, who is a top candidate for the Heisman Trophy, is off to a tremendous start, and through five games he has 78 carries for 489 yards (6.9 YPC) and 10 touchdowns. But in the Bulldogs loss to Alabama two weeks ago, Moreno suffered a severely bruised elbow that put his status for this weekend's game up in the air, although it appears he will be ready to go. Tennessee will count on their junior linebacker Rico McCoy to keep an eye on Moreno. McCoy has had an up-and-down season thus far, but has come up as of late and has generated 32 tackles and one sack through five games. Tennessee does a good job of defending the run, as they allow 90 YPG. McCoy will be asked to man the perimeter and get off blocks to limit Moreno's yardage when he cuts back towards the middle. Last year, when Georgia visited Tennessee, Moreno had the worst game of his young career rushing for 30 yards on 13 carries in the Bulldogs 35 – 14 loss.

#15 Boise State (4-0) at Southern Miss (2-3)

Saturday, October 11th at 8:00 p.m. on CSTV

Ian Johnson (5-foot-11, 198 pounds), RB, Boise State
*Gerald McGrath (6-foot-3, 220 pounds), MLB, Southern Miss

Not seeing as many carries as he has in the past, Johnson is still a threat with the ball in his hands.
AP Photo/Matt Cilley

Scouting Report: Ian Johnson is a versatile playmaker, who's strong between the tackles and around the end. He has great vision and quickness, and also runs with a great degree of patience. He's a shifty runner that makes defenders miss. He doesn't have great size, but he uses an effective stiff arm to keep tacklers away. He has reliable hands out of the backfield and is a threat anytime he has the ball.

Gerald McGrath is a disciplined, but undersized defender who consistently makes big plays every time he takes the field. He quickly reads the action, takes good angles, and is an explosive tackler. He's forceful at the line of scrimmage, blades into gaps and defends the run. He makes a lot of plays in the backfield and creates turnovers.

Head 2 Head: One of the biggest surprises in the early going, Boise State, now ranked 15th in the nation, has emerged as a team to keep an eye on. Broncos running back Ian Johnson is a major reason for their success, and he just happens to be one of the top RB prospects in the country. Johnson, although he's not being used as frequently as he was in the past, has carried the ball 55 times for 266 yards and four touchdowns. Out to spoil Boise State's quick start and Johnson's quest for a perfect senior season is Southern Mississippi and their tackling machine roaming the middle, Gerald McGrath. McGrath is an undersized, but tenacious defender who last season recorded 139 tackles, 12 for a loss and 4.5 sacks. This season, he hasn't been as effective getting in the backfield and causing problems for the opposition. Through five games, McGrath has 55 tackles and just two for a loss. For Southern Miss to have a chance in this game, McGrath will have to keep an eye on Johnson and make sure he doesn't have too much of an impact in the running game or passing attack.

*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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