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NFL Draft Prospects To Watch: Week 8

Wow. That’s all I can say after last week’s games. Wow. West Virginia got blown out by Texas Tech and failed to muster any real offense, LSU gave South Carolina its first loss of the year a week after losing to Florida, Ohio State almost lost to lowly Indiana, Oklahoma destroyed Texas in the Red River Rivalry, and Alabama once again took care of business.

What will this week bring? We’ll see, but for now, let’s take a look at this week’s players to watch with an eye on the NFL Draft.

Kansas State @ West Virginia

West Virginia WR Stedman Bailey/Tavon Austin

Kansas State wins games with a smash-mouth running attack and a shut-down defense. K-State has allowed only 16.5 points per game and held a talented Oklahoma offense to 19 points. They haven’t played an offense like West Virginia though. Will the Wildcats be able to match what Texas Tech did last week and shut down this high scoring offense? While everyone is talking about QB Geno Smith, and understandably so, they seem to forget that he has two targets in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin that are having just as good a season as he is.

Bailey (5’10, 195lbs.) is the touchdown machine of the two. He scores at a rate of one touchdown per 4.23 receptions, and seems to come up with a big play reception every time the Mountaineers need it. He has 55 receptions for 766 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Austin (5’9, 171lbs.) is the chain mover of the two. While Bailey gets the big plays, Austin gets the key first downs the offense needs, and is an all-around threat as he returns punts and kicks and even gets some carries. He has 67 receptions for 761 yards and eight touchdowns, and has totaled 1,187 all purpose yards.

Baylor @ Texas

Baylor WR Terrence Williams

Baylor has lost two straight games to West Virginia and TCU after beginning the season 3-0. They visit Texas in a Big 12 showdown sure to be a high scoring event. Neither team has been particularly impressive on defense, which is surprising for Texas considering all the top recruits they add to their defense on a yearly basis.

In a game where scoring will probably happen early and often, someone is bound to put up numbers and that someone is Terrence Williams. Williams (6’2, 205lbs.) has been a big play machine and is a touchdown waiting to happen (one touchdown every 4.6 receptions). He routinely comes up with the big first down or big play downfield and has been on a tear this season without RG3. On the year so far, Williams has 37 receptions for 830 yards and eight touchdowns.

Idaho @ Louisiana Tech

Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron

Louisiana Tech is 5-1, having just lost a shootout to Texas A&M in their last game 59-57. They’ve already beaten BCS Automatic Qualifying teams in Illinois and Virginia and are averaging 53.8 points per game, despite having never scored less than 44 points. While the country focuses on West Virginia QB Geno Smith’s amazing season, Colby Cameron is quietly trying to match the Heisman front runner’s stats.

Cameron (6’2, 205lbs.) has good size and a good arm and this year is finally getting a shot playing a full season. His accuracy has improved, and he’s  completing over 70% of his passes this year. Geno Smith isn’t the only full-time starting quarterback with zero picks thrown. Cameron has zero interceptions on 238 attempts this season! So far, on the year, Cameron has thrown for 1,906 yards, 18 touchdowns, and no interceptions.

Cincinnati @ Toledo

Toledo LB Dan Molls

Toledo is 6-1 and hasn’t lost since their opening match up against Arizona where they were on the wrong end of a 24-17 game. While Toledo hasn’t played a tough schedule to date, and had a tight win against winless Eastern Michigan, they have a chance to make a statement this week against #21 ranked Cincinnati. If the Rockets are to upset the Bearcats, led by LB Dan Molls, they will have to step up and control the game with their defense.

Molls (6’1, 230lbs.) has been playing very well this season and is coming off a monster game against EMU. He tallied 18 tackles which is the fifth game this year he’s totaled at least 13 tackles! Cincinnati is averaging 5.66 yards per carry and has 11 rushing touchdowns this season, so Molls will need to have another great game if Toledo is going to win this one. On the season, Moll has 89 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one pick and three pass deflections.

Bowling Green @ UMass

BG DT Chris Jones

Bowling Green hasn’t been very good this season which is evident by their 4-3 record and the fact that all their wins have come against bad teams, but the defense is allowing just under 20 points per game and the players on that side of the ball have been playing very well as of late. Chris Jones has routinely been in offensive backfields all season and he leads the nation in sacks, while being tied for second in tackles for loss.

Jones (6’1, 293lbs.) is a stocky, well built defensive tackle who will probably be best used as a penetrating cover-2 under tackle in the NFL. Jones isn’t getting much attention around the country, but he is a Butkus Award candidate and I guarantee scouts have taken notice. His stock should continue to rise in the coming months. So far, Jones has 25 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, four quarterback hurries and one forced fumble.

San Diego State @ Nevada

Nevada RB Stefphon Jefferson

Nevada has one loss on the year, which was an early game against USF that was decided by one point. They are riding a five game win streak into this match up against San Diego State, who is not some random small school lacking NFL talent. Two draftees, LB Miles Burris and RB Ronnie Hillman, came from last season’s team and are making impacts in their rookie seasons, so this is a conference game in which anything can happen.

Jefferson (5’11, 210 lbs.) is leading the nation in rushing yards and it isn’t even close. He already has over 1,100 yards on the ground and has almost double the rushing touchdowns the players in second place have with 14. He is the biggest piece to Nevada’s successful option rushing attack, and will look to carry his team to victory. So far this year, Jefferson has 219 carries for 1,140 yards and 14 touchdowns, and 14 receptions for 139 yards and one touchdown.

LSU @ Texas A&M

Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore

After a close opening season loss to Florida, Texas A&M has won five straight games and is 5-1 going into a very tough SEC match up against sixth ranked LSU Tigers. This will be a defensive and potentially low scoring game, as both defenses are very good. Other than last weeks nail biter against Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M hasn’t allowed more than 27 points in a game. Damontre Moore has been one of the primary reasons for the defense’s great play this year, as he leads the nation in tackles for loss and is second in sacks.

Moore (6’4, 250lbs.) played linebacker last year in the 3-4, but moved back to defensive end this season and has since been putting on a show. He has filled the stat sheet this year and has been a terror for opposing quarterbacks. He should be on everyone’s Butkus Award list and so far, his defensive stats look eerily similar to the year Von Miller who won the award in 2010. This season Moore has 52 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, four QB hurries, one forced fumble and even has a blocked kick.

San Jose State @ UTSA

San Jose St. DE Travis Johnson

After an opening season 20-17 loss to Stanford, San Jose State had won four games in a row before losing to Utah State last week. The offense has been inconsistent, but the defense has been playing well all year, having allowed only 3.92 yards per carry and 196 passing yards per game. DE Travis Johnson has been the best player on the defense so far this season.

Johnson (6’3, 245lbs.) is a bit undersized for the defensive end position and will probably move to rush linebacker in the 3-4 in the NFL, but he is having a great year on the edge. Going into this week, he is tied for second in the nation in tackles for loss and tied for fourth in sacks. For the year, Johnson has 39 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three QB hurries, two pass deflections and a forced fumble.

Rutgers @ Temple

Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene

Rutgers is 6-0, ranked in the AP top 25 and has one of the best defenses in the country. The Scarlet Knights are 3rd best in the nation in points per game allowed, 2nd in the country in rush defense, 18th in total defense, and 5th in interceptions  LB Khaseem Greene has been mentioned in this space before and he is the fuel that drives this stellar defensive squad.

Greene (6’1, 230lbs.) is the leader and tone setter for Rutgers’ defense. He not only leads them in tackles, sacks, and tackles for loss, but he also routinely comes up with big plays that the team needs. So far on the year, he has 63 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, six QB hurries, four pass deflections and four forced fumbles.

Game of the Week: South Carolina @ Florida

Florida RB Mike Gillislee

This is the toughest defense South Carolina will have left on their schedule and what a game it will be. Both defenses are allowing 12.3 points per game, but South Carolina is averaging 34.1 points per game on offense, while Florida is averaging 27.8. The fact that these are two top notch defenses with something to prove suggest something has to give.

South Carolina will be without star running back Marcus Lattimore, who will most likely be a first round pick in the NFL Draft and one of the most talented players at his position in the country. He would have been a great selection for the player to watch in this week’s Game of the Week, but with Lattimore out, we will keep our eyes on Florida RB Mike Gillislee.

Gillislee (5’11, 210lbs.) has great size and vision and always falls forward. He was the key on offense to Florida beating LSU and he will need to have another great game to keep the pressure off of QB Jeff Driskel and the rest of their passing attack. Gillislee is averaging 20 carries per game and can expect to see a similar workload as the Gators are built to run the ball. They will need the running game to produce, so they can execute their play action. This will be important against the Gamecocks since they have a very talented defensive line led by DE Jadeveon Clowney.

For the season, Gillislee has 120 carries for 615 yards and seven rushing touchdowns.