Saturday, September 21st
Tennessee at No. 19 Florida 2:30 p.m. CT CBS
Tennessee 2014 NFL Draft Prospects:
Antonio Richardson, OT, Jr., 6’-6”, 327 lbs., Round 1
A.J. Johnson, LB, Jr., 6’-2”, 243 lbs., Round 2
Daniel McCullers, DT, Sr., 6’-8”, 351 lbs., Round 2-3
JaWuan James, OT, Sr., 6’-6”, 318 lbs., Round 3-4
James Stone, C, Sr., 6’-3”, 292 lbs., Round 5
Raijon Neal, RB, Sr., 5’-11”, 212 lbs., Round 6-7
Zach Fulton, OG, Sr., 6’-5”, 323 lbs., Round 7
Florida 2014 NFL Draft Prospects:
Dominique Easley, DT, Sr., 6’-2”, 285 lbs., Round 1-2
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Jr., 6’-0”, 190 lbs., Round 1-2
Marcus Roberson, CB, Jr., 6’-0”, 195 lbs., Round 2
Jaylen Watkins, CB, Sr., 6’-0”, 188 lbs., Round 3
Jonotthan Harrison, C, RS Sr., 6’-3”, 310 lbs., Round 7
In his sophomore season, linebacker A.J. Johnson was one of the lone bright spots for a Volunteer defense that ranked among the worst units in the country. Johnson was able to amass 138 tackles in 2012, which left him ranked fifth in the nation in that category, as well as 8.5 tackles for loss. He also has enough raw athletic ability that the team decided to use him as a running back in short yardage situations, where he compiled 21 yards on 12 carries for 6 touchdowns last year. His future in the NFL will be in the defensive front, though, where his speed, physicality, and toughness have led him to be a staunch run defender. He’s an incredibly hard hitter who plays with a lot of aggression, and can be quite the intimidating force on the field. Though his speed and agility give him the potential of being a force in the passing game as well, he has so far shown struggles in defending tight ends and larger running backs. If he can continue to develop in pass coverage, he could likely have the versatility to play at any of the linebacker spots in a typical 4-3 defense such as the one the Rams operate.
After the first two games of the season, it is starting to become apparent that Rams veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan has lost a step or two in pass coverage. Though this sample has been against some of the top receivers in the league, the Rams would be wise to start looking to bring in someone who is more capable of being lined up against the opposing team’s top two receivers. The Florida Gators secondary currently has several prospects to consider, including junior standout Loucheiz Purifoy. Like Johnson at Tennessee, Purifoy has been versatile enough to line-up on offense as well as defense, but will make a bigger impact at the next level in the secondary. The Gators play in a traditional NFL-style defense, and Purifoy has shown to play at an exceptionally high level in tight man-to-man coverage, which should come as music to any Rams fan’s ears who might be getting tired of seeing soft zone coverage play after play. He has been effective enough in covering receivers to the point that opposing quarterbacks have almost completely avoided passing his way if he has even the slightest chance of making a play on the ball. This is one of the main reasons that Purifoy has yet to record an interception in his career, though he makes up for the lack of picks with his imposing tackling style that has led to four forced fumbles in his career.
Arkansas at Rutgers 2:30 p.m. CT ESPN
Arkansas 2014 NFL Draft Prospects:
Travis Swanson, C, RS Sr., 6’-4”, 318 lbs., Round 2-3
Chris Smith, DE, Sr., 6’-2”, 268 lbs., Round 3
Bryan Jones, DT, Sr., 6’-2”, 315 lbs., Round 7
Rutgers 2014 NFL Draft Prospects:
Brandon Coleman, WR, RS Jr., 6’-5”, 220 lbs., Round 2
Antwan Lowery, OG, RS Sr., 6’-4”, 314 lbs., Round 6-7
Jamal Merrell, OLB, RS Sr., 6’-4”, 224 lbs., Round 7
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has a pretty solid track record recently when it comes to developing a center into a top draft pick, as he saw Peter Konz get drafted in the second round in 2012, and then Travis Frederick in the first round last year. Now that he has moved on from Wisconsin to Arkansas, he has inherited another top-tier center in Travis Swanson; a player that Bielema stated is as good as either one of those players, if not better. As current Rams center Scott Wells continues to age while trying to avoid the injury bug, the team could look at bringing in some younger, cheaper talent in the likes of Swanson, who has started the last 40 games of his college career. Swanson’s best attribute is his ability to latch on to defenders and remove them from the play in pass protection, and he has been a more-than-capable shotgun snapper throughout his career as well. In order to continue to succeed at the next level, Swanson will need to work harder on getting beaten inside, as well as blocking out in space in the run game.
Rutgers will feature one of the top scoring threats in the country in wide receiver Brandon Coleman. Coleman has a rare combination of size and agility that allows him to be a dangerous deep threat despite the lack of elite top end speed. This mix of his bulk and quickness allows him to consistently beat press coverage, as his size prevents him from being pushed around in the first five yards, and his agility allows him to get behind the defender thereafter. The main areas of concern with the Scarlet Knight at this point are consistency in hand placement while making a catch, and finishing off his routes cleanly. If these areas are able to improve, Coleman could easily start to see his stock rise up into the first round area.
When doing my research for last week’s Prospect Watch, my eyes immediately lit up once I started watching highlights of UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr. In his match-up against Nebraska last Saturday, Barr only impressed me more, picking up 11 tackles (two for losses) and forced three fumbles, earning him national and conference defensive player of the week awards from multiple outlets, including the Walter Camp Foundation and the Pac-12 conference. Spencer Long and the Huskers offense had much more of a struggle on the day, as they failed to score a point after the midway point of the second quarter, going from a lead of 21-3 to a crushing 38-21 loss.
Jake Matthews was able to anchor the offensive line for the Texas A&M offense last week to put up 464 passing yards, and another 164 yards on the ground, though it wasn’t enough to overcome the Alabama offense, as they fell to the Crimson Tide 49-42. Linebacker C.J. Mosley had a productive day for the Tide’s defense in picking up 12 total tackles.