by David Syvertsen (follow him on Twitter)
· Rutgers travels to Arkansas to take on the disappointing Razorbacks Saturday night. The top defensive prospect in the game may actually play for the Scarlet Knights. Linebacker Khaseem Greene was a Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. At 6’1/230, he is a tad undersized but with the responsibilities of linebackers changing in today’s NFL, I don’t see it being an issue. Greene made the move from safety to linebacker just a year ago, and he plays like a natural there. Very athletic in pursuit. Can run down the ball carrier sideline to sideline, but also agile enough to sneak by blocks in the box and clog the running lane. This will be his toughest test all year. Huge game for him to get on tape.
· The Razorbacks have not one, but two NFL caliber running backs. The feature guy is junior Knile Davis, one of the more talented backs in the country. He suffered a season ending ankle injury in August 2011. This will likely be his final season at Fayetville, as he is projected to be a top 45 pick in April. Davis is a big (6’0/226) physical runner that has shown runaway speed in the nation’s fastest conference. He runs with a high pad level and will always fight for the extra 2-3 yards at the end of run. You have to admire his attitude, but it has also led to him getting nicked up with several nagging lower body injuries. He really struggled to find running lanes against Alabama last week, which was to be expected. Davis needs to bounce back and show more decisiveness against Rutgers. If there is one glaring negative I see to his game, it is the natural feel for diagnosing the holes in a defense. Less dancing, more north/south explosion. Once he gets going, he can break through arm tackles with the best in the nation. Just need to see him reach the second level quicker.
· The secondary rushing option for the Razorbacks is senior Dennis Johnson. He has a stouter frame (5’9/215) than Davis. While he does not have the top end breakaway speed, he is very quick and can explode after he makes a cut. He filled in for Davis last year and did an admirable job, leading the SEC in yards per rushing attempt. He is a tough back to tackle because he runs with such a low pad level. Defenders that do not square him up bounce off. Johnson has not been involved often enough but he should see more playing time in the backfield this weekend. He will be a guy that hopes to get drafted on day three.
· Saturday night’s premier game is an ACC battle between Florida State and Clemson. Within that is one of the better wide receiver/cornerback matchups we will see all season. Sammy Watkins, arguably the top offensive player in the nation, is a sophomore for the Tigers. He will not be in the draft discussion until this time next year at the earliest. However the Seminoles have a cornerback in Xavier Rhodes that has scouts drooling at the thought of what he can be at the next level. The 6’2/217 pound fourth year junior is at his best in press coverage. He can keep a receiver at the line with a violent jam, strong hands and long arms. His turn and run ability rivals what I saw last year with the likes of Morris Claibrone and Dre Kirkpatrick, two guys drafted in round one last year. Rhodes is a complete package cover man, big test for him this weekend.
· Clemson has a center that was 1st Team All ACC last season. Dalton Freeman will be starting his 40th career game. He is a good athlete for the interior of an offensive line. He’s been given a ton of responsibility in relation to control of the blocking scheme and making calls at the line. Florida State will run out a deep rotation of NFL caliber defenders, and this will likely be Freeman’s toughest task of his senior year. He had a tough time sticking to the combination of strength and quickness in this game last year. Right now he looks like a day three prospect. I want to see more control of the engagement and for him to sustain his block through the play.
· The game of the week within the Big 12 conference is Kansas State vs. Oklahoma. There are two senior quarterbacks facing off against each other, both that are getting looks from the NFL. Landry Jones of the Sooners can match his career stats up against anyone. But scouts question his ability to play within an NFL scheme. He has limited experience under center, and the spread offense has simplified the decision making process. The complexity of NFL schemes on both sides of the ball will be a big time adjustment for him. On top of that, Jones struggles under pressure. He has been losing track of his mechanics within the pocket and he doesn’t have the arm strength to make up for it. He has plenty of time to get his name back in to top 10 consideration but right now, he’s not there.
· Colin Klein of Kansas State is basically another Tim Tebow without the hype. He plays quarterback, but he rushes the ball just as much, if not more than he throws. As a matter of fact, Klein led the Big 12 in rushing attempts last season. At 6’5/226 with a strong arm, he has the tools to be an NFL quarterback, physically anyway. He may be in for a position change at the next level but every now and, Klein will show some sneaky ability that gives me a thought he will get a shot to remain at quarterback.