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Draft King Analysis

August 28, 2008
Lou Pickney,

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It appears that I bit off more than I could chew in writing in-depth previews of how draft picks will impact each of the 32 teams in the NFL. I've been trying to play catch-up on it, but ultimately I'll serve the purpose of this site better by tabling the previews and concentrating both on the 2008 college season and the 2009 NFL Draft.

Toby Gerhart
Toby Gerhart played well against Oregon State. (Icon SMI)
Tonight has been a great night for college football fans, as the 2008 season has begun. There were many blowouts, but in the game of the night Oregon State nearly rallied from 16 down in the fourth quarter at Stanford. They were driving late to potentially tie the game but lost any hope of that when WR Darrell Catchings fumbled the ball into, and out of, the Stanford end zone with less than a minute to go.

To me, the most impressive star of the game was Stanford redshirt sophomore RB Toby Gerhart, who scored two TDs and ran for 147 yards. Gerhart played in only one game in 2007, suffering a partially torn PCL in his left knee (after posting 140 yards rushing against San Jose State), but he showed no ill effects from that injury tonight.

Gerhart converted two 3rd-and-long situations into first downs on the ground. Keep that in mind on down the line for whenever Gerhart finishes his career at Stanford, as at 6'1" and 230 pounds he could potentially be a strong choice for an NFL team wanting a third down RB who can handle the pass rush. Gerhart came to Stanford as a highly-touted player; to point, he broke the California high school career rushing record by more than 1,000 yards during his prep days.

Here's hoping that NC State QB Russell Wilson is able to make a full recovery from the brutal hit he took in the second quarter of South Carolina's 34-0 runaway win while being sacked. According to the Associated Press, Wilson sustained a "grade-three concussion". That's the most severe form of the injury; it's on the same level as the one former Dolphins QB Trent Green suffered last year in Houston.

Gamecock fans had to be happy to see ILB Jasper Brinkley back on the field for South Carolina. He lead the team in tackles in 2006, then suffered a right knee injury against LSU early last year that ended his season almost right out of the gate. The injury, described as a severe sprain, required surgery. Brinkley received a medical redshirt for 2007, allowing him to return for the 2008 campaign.

Here's a great quote from Steve Spurrier that he made about Brinkley after his September 2007 injury:

Next year at this time, we might be saying, 'We're glad he got hurt,'" Spurrier said Monday night. "We all plan to be here next year. We should definitely have a stronger team next year. In a way, having Jasper here next year is a positive."

Is it a positive? Certainly. The very athletic Brinkley is a major player at inside linebacker and is great at both open-field tackling and in blitzing the QB from the linebacker position. And, considering how South Carolina started its season defensively, the team has served notice that it is going to be a major player in what will be an ultra-competitive SEC East.

Easily the most intriguing matchup this weekend will be the neutral-site game between Illinois and Missouri at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Mizzou won over the Illini last year, and Illinois would love to repay the favor on Saturday.

Missouri QB Chase Daniel has received quite a bit of pre-season hype following his outstanding 2007 season, and it will be most interesting to see if he tried to test Illinois CB Vontae Davis (younger brother of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis) in man coverage. On the flip side, will Illinois QB Juice Williams risk throwing over the middle and exposing his receivers to a potential crushing hit from 6'1" 225 pound free safety William Moore?

Jeremy Maclin
Illinois learned about Jeremy Maclin the hard way in 2007. (Icon SMI)
There will be all sorts of NFL-quality talent on display in that game, from Illinois sophomore phenom OLB Martez Wilson to Missouri redshirt sophomore KR/WR Jeremy Maclin. Maclin runs a sub 4.4 40, which is amazing for a guy who is 6'0" 200 pounds. His 40 yard dash time has been listed as low as 4.29, which sounds like hyperbole but which gives you some idea of what Illinois will be dealing with on special teams and, one would imagine, on offense.

Of course, Illinois knows about Maclin all too well. Last year Maclin scored two touchdowns against the Illini, one as a receiver and the other on a punt return. Might we see Vontae Davis match up with Maclin in man coverage? It's a distinct possibility.

Also on Saturday, Clemson QB Cullen Harper will have his first chance to make his case for being the top senior quarterback in college football, as his Clemson Tigers host the Alabama Clemson Tide in an intriguing early season matchup. Fans in Columbia were able to chant "SEC! SEC! SEC!" tonight; will fans in Clemson be able to counter with an "ACC! ACC! ACC!" chant on Saturday? We shall see.

One player worthy of close scrutiny this weekend is Pitt redshirt sophomore RB LeSean "Shady" McCoy. His Panthers open the season on Saturday at home against Bowling Green, and McCoy will put the Bowling Green defense to the test. Many see McCoy as a potential breakout star who could be in a position to make the leap to the NFL in 2009.


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