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2013 NFL Draft Prospect Watch: Week 6

It seems like Georgia prospects keep finding their way into this column, but that’s just how impressive their team is. The interior of the Bulldogs defense is the focus in the best head to head matchup of the week as DT John Jenkins and ILB Alec Ogletree will have the task of shutting down top ranked running back South Carolina Marcus Lattimore. All three are potential first round picks. The best game to watch this week for prospects is the first Big Twelve matchup between #8 West Virginia and #11 Texas in a game that will include six top 60 ranked prospects. The Mountaineers feature the current Heisman favorite and the fastest rising prospect in QB Geno Smith, who is playing at just an incredible level right now along with his top weapon WR Tavon Austin. They’ll be in for a tough test as the Longhorns boast four defensive studs in pass-rushers Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor and defensive backs Kenny Vacarro and Carrington Byndom.

Best Head to Head Matchup to Watch: Georgia DT John Jenkins/ILB Alec Ogletree vs. South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore @ Williams-Brice Stadium

Through five games this season Marcus Lattimore has proved to the doubters that not only is his left knee completely healthy after tearing his ACL last year, but that he is also back to where he’s supposed to be as one of the best running backs in the country and a potential first round pick. In those five games Lattimore has racked up 440 rushing yards on 92 attempts for 8 touchdowns, while adding 16 receptions for 109 receiving yards displaying that he is also a threat as a receiver out of the back field. This week will be arguably his toughest test of the season (although he’ll have to face LSU’s daunting defense next week)as he’ll have to line up and run at two of Georgia’s many highly ranked prospects in DT John Jenkins and ILB Alec Ogletree, who both rate as potential first round selections as well. Jenkins is the rock in the middle of a very talented Georgia defense. He’s a sponge on the interior soaking up double and triple teams throughout the game that allow his teammates to attack the quarterback and make plays on opposing ball-carriers. His mammoth size and strength should fit in immediately with an NFL defense. Ogletree finally returned to action last week after serving a 4-game suspension to start the season and it didn’t take long for him to make an impact as he led Georgia with a career and team-high 14 tackles and three pass break ups. It’s pretty easy to see why Ogletree is so highly regarded among scouts as he jumps off the screen with his athleticism, speed and power. He is the preeminent 3-4 inside linebacker available for the 2013 NFL Draft and should draw interest from a number of teams, namely the Baltimore Ravens who have been looking for Ray Lewis’ heir apparent for the last few years. Ogletree has great vision and is able to see the whole field and make plays sideline to sideline. An excellent run stopper, he also possesses the long arms and pass-rush skills that will lead to some teams looking at him as a pass-rushing outside linebacker. If he chooses to declare for the draft there is no doubt he will be a first round pick.

Best Game to Watch for Prospects: #8 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #11 Texas Longhorns@ Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

The Big Twelve headliner this week will showcase the offense of West Virginia against the Texas defense in one of the conference’s biggest games of the season. NFL scouts will have their eyes on this game as it will feature six players ranked among the top 60 prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft. Mountaineers QB Geno Smith is the hottest player in the country right now and is putting up video game type stats to lead the nation with a 20-0 TD to INT ratio which includes last weekend’s mind blowing performance where he threw for 656 yards and 8 touchdowns versus Baylor in a 70-63 victory. Smith is an athletic quarterback with NFL arm strength, prototype size and a high football I.Q. His pocket presence might be the best in the country. He’s become far and away the Heisman frontrunner this season and has skyrocketed up draft boards into discussions with USC’s Matt Barkley as the top quarterback available and potential first overall pick. His main weapons are a pair of smaller, quick receivers in Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey. Austin is the go-to target for Smith. As a former high school running back, Austin shows zero fear in trying to make plays against much bigger and stronger defenders. He uses his elite speed and quickness to seperate and has a great set of mitts that allow him to be a reliable receiver. He has a playmaker’s vision and has the ability to break off the home run play at any time whether on offense or special teams. His outstanding play this year has moved Austin up boards into the top 60 draft-eligible prospects and is even earning him some late first round buzz. Bailey is not as explosive as Austin, but is the more polished route runner and is just as reliable a receiver if not more so. He’s also a bit bigger than Austin, but is still a smaller wide out. Bailey doesn’t have the upside of his teammate, but because of his route-running ability he could fit in quicker with NFL offenses than Austin. At the moment he’s probably a mid-round selection. Saturday night will be perhaps their toughest test of the season when they play Texas and their star-studded defense. The Texas defense features four prospects that could very well be selected in the first two rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft. They’re led by a pair of fantastic pass-rushers in Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, both of which might be first round picks come April. Jeffcoat is the more athletic of the two and the son of former NFL standout defensive end Jim Jeffcoat. Due to his athleticism and speed, scouts will look at him as both a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker. He uses an explosive first step off the snap to blow by opposing offensive linemen, but will need to add some strength and muscle to his lanky frame if he wants to be an every down player or just a situational pass-rusher. He possesses a higher upside and more versatility than Okafor and that’s why he is the more likely of the two to come off the board in the first round. Okafor is no slouch though. He is the stronger, bigger and more powerful of the two pass-rushers and has the body to better hold up against the rigors of playing in the NFL. He’s also the better run defender too and has shown the ability to play inside after suiting up as a defensive tackle in his sophomore year. Okafor should be a real nice fit as a traditional pass-rusher for a 4-3 defensive team and will get looks from teams in the late first round. Texas doesn’t just rely upon their two pass-rushers, but also boast a pair of outstanding defensive backs in SS Kenny Vacarro and CB Carrington Byndom. Vacarro is the top rated strong safety prospect this year and one of the top safeties available. He possesses the NFL prototype size and athleticism to play either safety position and is a highly productive player. He’s got great ball skills and instincts, but really excels against the run and in the open field making a tackle. He plays very physical and is an excellent tackler. Next to him is shutdown corner Carrington Byndom. Head Coach Mack Brown describes him as one of the best defensive backs that they’ve had at Texas, which says a lot considering twelve Texas defensive backs have been taken in the past eleven NFL drafts. Byndom is a well-rounded corner that can cover, make plays on the ball and get physical when he has too, although he will need to add some strength and muscle to his lean frame if he’s going to be able to cover the giant wide receivers at the next level. He’s played his way up draft boards into the top five cornerbacks and should be a second round pick. This is not only a crucial game in the Big 12 title hunt, but also one for the draft-eligible prospects involved that could make or break their stock with a good or bad performance against such highly rated opposition.

Written By: Mark Scott

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