We’ll have The Road to the Playoff column each Friday, previewing the college football weekend. Also, for the third year in a row, we’ll take a peek at future NFL players suiting up Saturday that you’ll want to keep an eye on.
Clemson at Georgia, 5:30 Saturday, ESPN
CLEMSON: Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Redshirt Senior: Should he have come out after his monstrous 2013 season (23 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, four forced fumbles)? It’s difficult to envision Beasley have a better statistical campaign. Perhaps he was told he wasn’t an early-round pick? Size appears to be his biggest obstalce: He’s “only” 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, which makes him too small to play DE. Does he have the speed/instincts/coverage skills to play OLB? Enjoy him as a terror in college football; he could win ACC DPOY and then fall in the draft like Michael Sam did.
GEORGIA: Ramik Wilson, ILB, Senior: Here’s a slightly bizarre situation – Wilson, a sturdy 6-2, 237 pounds, is one of the best linebackers in the SEC (but not the best one on his own team; that’s Leonard Floyd, who we’ll feature later this season) who led the conference in tackles last year. A consensus All-American, Wilson is projected as a mid-round NFL pick. Yet this week, coach Mark Richt decided to list Wilson as a backup on the depth chart! Discipline thing? Wilson reading his offseason press clippings?
GEORGIA: Todd Gurley, RB, Junior: Needs no introduction. I like how Todd McShay referred to him as a ‘freight train’ recently, because that’s an apt description. Muscular, fast, and built like a bowling ball. He’s 6-foot-1, 232 pounds, and I have him as the best draft-eligible running back prospect in college football, slightly over Melvin Gordon (see below) and TJ Yeldon (Alabama). Will he crack 4.4 at the Combine? I’ll predict 20-185-3 for Gurley against a mediocre Clemson defense. Also, Gurley had a decent game against Clemson last year.
Wisconsin vs. LSU, 9 pm, Saturday, ESPN
LSU: Terrence Magee, RB, Senior: On a strong team full of talented freshman, Magee is getting very little pub. That’s surprising considering he was Jeremy Hill’s backup last year, and when he played, he looked very sharp (86 carries, 626 yards, 7.28 ypc, 8 TDs). He’ll get the bulk of carries ahead of backup Kenny Hilliard, though both seniors will be looking over their shoulder all year at super-freshman Leonard Fournette. Magee right now is projected by scouts as a late-round pick. One lineman he’ll be running behind, offensive tackle La’el Collins, is a 1st rounder.
LSU: Jalen Mills, DB, Junior: Two year starter is one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC and in the nation. LSU churns out defensive stars, but we won’t see Mills tested until October 4 (the Badgers lost their top two WRs; on 10/4, Mills should go head-to-head with Auburn speedster Sammie Coates). Scouts I’ve spoken with consider Mills (6-foot, 195 pounds) a 1st/2nd round draft pick right now if he were to come out after this season.
WISCONSIN: Melvin Gordon, RB, Senior: Is he a Jamaal Charles clone? Check the video below – maybe it’s the similar size (6-foot-1, 207 pounds), the same jersey number, the shiftiness, or it could be the open field speed. Gordon averaged a staggering 7.8 ypc last season, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can come close to duplicating that without James White to spell him, and without a receiver defenses have to respect (Jared Abbrederis is in the NFL).