Scout.com has confirmed that representatives from the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots will be in Athens, Georgia on Saturday to scout an SEC showdown between South Carolina and Georgia.
A matchup that features two strong defensive teams that have plenty of talent for scouts to evaluate, Georgia and South Carolina each have stars that will receive day one consideration next April.
It all starts in the trenches for the Bulldogs, as they have quite the defensive tackle tandem that features seniors Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins. At 6-foot-1, 306 pounds, Owens would have been a first round pick in ’09 if he never tore his ACL during the ’08 season. An explosive performer inside, Owens plays with great leverage and balance. He has a powerful upper body and disrupts the flow in the trenches. He has to work on his pass rushing technique and not rely on his strength at all times. He’s improving as a run defender and fills the gap nicely, but has to be more consistent. Looking to regain the dominance he possessed prior to the injury, Owens played against Oklahoma State last Saturday and only contributed two tackles. It’s going to take some time, but Owens will eventually find his rhythm and be a force once again.
At 6-foot-1, 290 pounds, Atkins had a breakout sophomore year in ’07 where he recorded 41 tackles, 15 for a loss, and 7.5 sacks, but struggled last year without Owens by his side. Without Owens in ‘08, Atkins amassed just 34 tackles, 7.5 for a loss and no sacks. But with the two healthy and back on the field together, Georgia is expecting great things out of them both. Atkins is the more explosive of the two and the one with the ability to be more disruptive in the backfield. He’s quick off the snap, plays low and is able to penetrate by blading his way through the gap. He’s productive against the run and uses his short stature to his advantage against bigger blockers.
Also drawing interest from scouts on the Georgia sideline will be seniors CB Prince Miller, DT Kade Weston, QB Joe Cox, OT Vince Vance, WR Michael Moore and OLB Darius Dewberry. The Bulldogs also have two highly rated junior prospects in linebacker Rennie Curran and safety Reshad Jones.
The visiting Gamecocks have an outstanding pass rusher in Eric Norwood, who originally declared for the 2009 NFL Draft after South Carolina’s 31 – 10 loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl. But a few days after making that statement, Norwood decided to return to school for his senior year. Norwood finished the 2008 season with 75 tackles, 14.5 for a loss and nine sacks, and got off to a promising start this year as he recorded eight tackles and two sacks in the Gamecocks 7 – 3 victory over NC State last Thursday.
At 6-foot, 252 pounds, Norwood is short in stature, but plays much larger than his listed size, and he has been one of the most dominant pass rushers in the SEC over the last two seasons. An explosive rush end that possesses a quick first step and a desire to succeed, Norwood is ferocious off the edge and makes a lot of plays in the backfield. He’s a hard worker that plays with good pad level and achieves leverage with his quickness. He takes advantage of a bigger opposition with his speed and deceptive strength. He uses his hands well and demonstrates excellent balance and body control. As disruptive as Norwood can be, his size remains his biggest flaw. He tends to get caught up in the mix and doesn’t consistently shed blocks. He plays overly aggressive at times and doesn’t always position himself correctly to make a play.In addition to Norwood, safety Darian Stewart is the other top senior prospect on South Carolina’s roster; center Garrett Anderson will also receive some interest. But the highest rated players on the Gamecocks’ roster may be their underclassmen: redshirt sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia and four juniors that includes offensive tackle Jarriel King, defensive end Cliff Matthews, safety Chris Culliver and tight end Weslye Saunders.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.