We’ve been doing this every week, and if you’d like a look back at what you missed … Alabama/Arkansas and LSU/West Virginia … Alabama/Penn State and South Carolina/Georgia … LSU/Oregon and Boise State/Georgia.
Montee Ball, junior RB: His NFL stock has been rising since a strong season-opening performance against UNLV (video below) where he looked nothing like he did in 2010. He cut 20 pounds and is faster and stronger (5-11, 210ish), and although he lacks 4.35 speed to be a 1st or 2nd round pick, I can see him going in the 3rd or 4th round next year whenever he decides to come out. He kind of reminds me of Jets’ RB Shonne Greene. Ball scored 18 TDs last year playing second fiddle to John Clay. Nebraska’s defense isn’t incredible, but it’ll certainly be the best Ball has seen this season.
Nick Toon, senior WR: Poised to be the third 1,000 yard receiver in Wisconsin history, the son of former Jet great Al Toon is kind of a forgotten man when it comes to the draft. There definitely will be 2 WRs taken in the first round in 2012 (Jeffery, Blackmon), but several others could sneak in (Floyd, Broyles, Criner). Toon has good hands and nice size (6-2, 220) and his stock his risen because he has a pass-first QB (Russell Wilson). But Toon lacks breakaway speed, and I don’t quite think he’s in that elite class. I’d peg Toon as a 3rd-4th round sleeper with 2nd round potential. Toon could really help his status by abusing Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska’s top corner) the way Justin Blackmon destroyed Prince Amukumara last year.
Jared Crick, senior DT: I had him No. 2 back in an April mock draft. Crick (6-6 285 pounds) will probably move to defensive end in the pros. Mel Kiper currently has him 14th on his big board. Crick has actually been pretty quiet so far in 2011 (2.5 tackles for losses, one sack), but he missed last week’s game against Wyoming for reasons the team never made clear (injury, not suspension) Hiding an injury, perhaps? Due to his slow start, he’s been somewhat upstaged by the next guy on the list.
Cameron Meredith, junior DE: Leads the team in sacks (3) and tackles for loss (3.5), and at 6-foot-4, 260, he’s off to a terrific start. When you watch him relentlessly tear around the end and chase Russell Wilson, see if Meredith reminds you of Jason Peter, the former Cornhusker who was an All-American and the 14th overall pick in 1998.
LaVonte David, senior LB: Quietly, he might be the best senior linebacker in the Big Ten. I know that honor is usually reserved for someone at Penn State or Ohio State, but David is playing his way into the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft. Here’s a very detailed look at David (6-1, 225), who leads Nebraska in tackles with 38. It’ll be interesting to see how he hands Ball and White in open space.
David Wilson, junior RB: Some considered him a fringe Heisman contender at the start of the season, but has not been mind-blowing awesome (520 yards, 5 TDs). Was a hidden gem last year with Williams/Evans as the feature guys, but Wilson is a home-run hitter because of his speed. At 5-10 and a rocked-up 205, could his ultimate upside be a Chris Johnson-type pro back? He’ll have to work on his 40 time, which was an impressive 4.42, even though he plays faster. VT QB Logan Thomas (6-foot-5, supposedly with 1st round potential in 2014) needs to get Wilson the ball in space a lot. Don’t know if Wilson makes it in the pros as a lead RB, but I really like him as an pure athlete/playmaker.
Bruce Taylor, junior LB: Marshall could only muster six yards rushing against the Hokies last weekend, and Taylor, a menacing presence, is one of the primary reasons why. His task will be considerably more difficult this week against future pro Andre Ellington (5-foot-10 RB with a blazing fast 4.39 40 time). Taylor’s having a strong junior year (23 tackes, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks) and at 6-2, 240, he’s probably a middle-round prospect for the 2013 draft right now.
Jayron Hosley, junior CB: Has the challenging task of try to slow down budding superstar Sammy Watkins, who already looks like the best WR in the conference, even though he’s only a true freshman. Frank Beamer compared Watkins to Percy Harvin, but Hosley (only 5-foot-10 to Watkins’ 6-1) is no slouch, either – he was a 2nd team All-American as a sophomore in 2010.
Brandon Thompson, senior DT: How is a defense loaded with future NFL pros giving up 25 points per game? Auburn and Florida State, at times, absolutely ran roughshod over this group, which is kind of disturbing. At 6-2, 310 pounds, Thompson has the potential to be a defensive tackle in the pros. He’s got 2.5 TFL this year and is more of a run-stopper than pass-rusher.
Dwayne Allen redshirt junior TE: A bit underrated so far this year because of the emergence of Watkins and because Ellington is the team’s big-play guy, but Allen (6-4, 255) is a very solid TE with a good pro upside. Was third on the team in receptions as a sophomore. Has nice hands, is a good blocker, and has decent speed. I can see him sticking around another year and being a 3rd/4th round steal.
Malliciah Goodman, junior DE: Andre Branch (senior DE) gets more publicity, but with one more year of seasoning, Goodman could emerge as the more coveted draft pick. It’s pretty impressive that Clemson has three future draft picks on its frontline … but then how does one explain giving up 165 yards rushing to Troy and 272 to Wofford? The reason I like Goodman as a pro – if he comes out in 2013, I’d estimate 2nd/3rd round – is because he can play on special teams and at 6-foot-4, 275, make plays like this.