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Virginia Tech Hokies at No. 17 Tennessee Volunteers

Saturday, September 10, 8 p.m.

Bristol, Tenn. — ABC

Located almost directly centered between Blacksburg and Knoxville, Bristol Motor Speedway is the setting for this non-conference matchup. Both Virginia Tech and Tennessee won last week to start 1-0 on the young season, but the Hokies weren’t truly tested against Liberty and the Volunteers needed overtime to defeat Appalachian State. Tennessee’s reputation as a legitimate SEC contender might have taken a hit, but that doesn’t discount the intriguing individual NFL prospects that has NFL scouts eager to see the Vols this season.

Five draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

WLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin , Tennessee, SR. (6-0, 225, 4.72, #21)

A senior captain and the heart of the Vols’ defense, Reeves-Maybin missed most of the Appalachian State matchup after he was ejected in the first quarter for targeting, hitting the return man as he received the punt. The only positive for Tennessee was the foul, which was more bad timing than egregious error, happened in the first half, meaning Reeves-Maybin won’t have to miss any time this Saturday. His lack of size certainly stands out, but so does his playing range and diagnose skills to always be in the vicinity of the ball against both the pass and the run. Reeves-Maybin sets the tone for the Volunteers’ defense and is the top NFL prospect on that side of the ball for Butch Jones’ program.

TE Bucky Hodges , Virginia Tech, rJR. (6-6, 245, 4.78, #7)

Although he caught only three passes last week in the opener, Hodges scored twice and averaged 14 yards per reception (3/42/2) in the win over Liberty. He is listed as a tight end on the roster, but lines up as a wide receiver in the Virginia Tech offense — both as an overgrown slot receiver and also outside as a traditional wideout. A former quarterback, Hodges is still unpolished as a route runner, but has showed steady improvement with his footwork and body movements to set up defenders and minimize wasted steps. He is natural finding the ball in flight with natural ballskills and intimidating size, which gives him an obvious advantage if facing a defender like Reeves-Maybin in coverage.

RB Jalen Hurd , Tennessee, JR. (6-3, 230, 4.57, #1)

Averaging 3.9 yards per carry (28/110/1), Hurd had a solid but unspectacular performance in the season opener against the App State defense, with his best play being the game-winning touchdown in overtime, pouncing on Joshua Dobbs’ fumble. When he stops off the bus, Hurd looks more like a linebacker or tight end with his athletic, long frame. But his size makes him a tough NFL projection because of his upright running style, and although he drops his pads at contact, Hurd is rarely the low man due to his tall center of gravity and the way he is built. However, he also uses that length and toughness to always fall forward. With his toughness and athleticism in that body type, Hurd is a very unique runner.

jalen-hurd-tennessee.jpgHurd will be looking to improve on his solid showing in the opener. USATSI

WR Isaiah Ford , Virginia Tech, JR. (6-1, 190, 4.49, #1)

Ford set school records in 2015 for catches (75), receiving yards (1,164) and touchdowns (11), becoming the first pass-catcher in Hokies history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau. However, he is on pace to break all those records again this year after a standout performance last week, posting 11 catches for 117 yards and one touchdown. Ford isn’t a 4.3 track star, but he doesn’t need to be, with his ability to quickly enter routes and control his gears to stack corners and gain separation. He tracks the ball well with consistent focus, but isn’t a strong traffic target so whenever he is lined up across from Vols senior CB Cameron Sutton (5-11, 186, 4.50, #23), it will be a must-see matchup for scouts.

DE Derek Barnett , Tennessee, JR. (6-3, 257, 4.76, #9)

Few defensive ends in college football have been as productive the past two seasons as Barnett due to his snap-to-snap consistency. He didn’t register a sack against App State last week, but his performance was probably the perfect way to sum up his skill-set. Barnett has some pass rush ability, but he isn’t a quick-twitch speed demon who beats blockers on athleticism alone. However, where he shines is against the run with his pad level, take-on strength and body position to leverage blocks, detach and make stops. In 24 career starts, Barnett has 148 career tackles, including seven last week in the season opener. Although not an elite prospect, it is easy for NFL scouts to appreciate his well-rounded game.

Other Virginia Tech prospects to watch:

  • CB Brandon Facyson , rJR. (6-1, 191, 4.52, #31)
  • LG Wyatt Teller , rJR. (6-5, 304, 5.12, #57)
  • DE Ken Ekanem , rSR. (6-3, 255, 4.82, #4)
  • FS Chuck Clark , SR. (6-0, 204, 4.57, #19)
  • FB Sam Rogers , SR. (5-10, 228, 4.80, #45)
  • LOT Jonathan McLaughlin , SR. (6-5, 292, 5.28, #71)

Other Tennessee prospects to watch:

  • RB Alvin Kamara , rJR. (5-10, 215, 4.62, #6)
  • QB Joshua Dobbs, SR. (6-3, 208, 4.67, #11)
  • TE Ethan Wolf , JR. (6-5, 245, 4.86, #82)
  • WR Josh Malone , JR. (6-2, 197, 4.52, #3)
  • DT Danny O’Brien , rSR. (6-2, 301, 5.18, #95)
  • DE Corey Vereen , SR. (6-2, 249, 4.84, #50)

Six other match-ups to watch, in chronological order:

Penn State Nittany Lions at Pittsburgh Panthers

Saturday, Sept. 10, noon, Pittsburgh, Pa., ESPN

Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

LG Dorian Johnson , Pittsburgh, SR. (6-5, 300, 5.20, #53): A prospect who passes the eye test, Johnson is thickly built throughout with the upper body power to protect his chest and drive defenders from the hole. He isn’t a top-shelf athlete, but maintains proper depth and shows the ability to sink his weight. With left tackle Adam Bisnowaty and Johnson, Pitt has arguably the best left side of an offensive line in college football.

RB James Conner , Pittsburgh, rJR. (6-2, 240, 4.67, #24): One of the best sights of opening weekend was seeing Conner back on the field less than a year from his serious knee injury and Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis. There will be understandable rust as he regains his football form, but his performance in the opener was a great first step, touching the ball 18 times (17 carries, one catch) and scoring twice (one rush, one catch).

james-conner-pittsburgh.jpgJames Conner is back. USATSI

MLB Nyeem Wartman-White , Penn State, rSR. (6-1, 248, 4.72, #5): Earning a starting job as a freshman, Wartman-White created buzz about his NFL future early in his career. He checks boxes with his size and athleticism, but injuries, including a season-ending ACL tear last year, have been the big question with his football future. If he stays healthy, Wartman-White has a chance to creep up draft boards this season.

Other Penn State prospects to watch: FS Marcus Allen , JR. (6-1, 205, 4.57, #2); WR Chris Godwin , JR. (6-1, 205, 4.59, #12); TE Mike Gesicki , JR. (6-5, 252, 4.78, #88); WLB Jason Cabinda , JR. (6-1, 232, 4.87, #40); RG Brendan Mahon , rJR. (6-3, 315, 5.06, #70); SLB Brandon Bell , SR. (6-1, 233, 4.75, #11)

Other Pittsburgh prospects to watch: QB Nathan Peterman , rSR. (6-2, 225, 4.93, #4); MLB Matt Galambos , SR. (6-1, 240, 4.83, #47); WR Dontez Ford , rSR. (6-1, 215, 4.57, #19); DE/OLB Ejuan Price , rSR. (5-11, 250, 4.79, #5); ROT Brian O’Neill , rSO. (6-5, 300, 5.04, #70); DE Dewayne Hendrix , rSO. (6-3, 270, 4.86, #8)

NC State Wolfpack at East Carolina Pirates

Saturday, Sept. 10, noon, Greenville, N.C., ESPNU

Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

WR Isaiah Jones , East Carolina, SR. (6-1, 197, 4.53, #7): Whether you call him Isaiah or “Zay,” Jones doesn’t receive much love nationally, but some scouts consider him among the best senior wideouts in the 2017 class. And he certainly played like it last week in the win over Western Carolina, with 10 catches for 180 yards and one touchdown. However, the Wolfpack secondary will provide a much tougher test this week.

RB Matthew Dayes , NC State, SR. (5-9, 203, 4.47, #21): Like Jones is one of the more underrated senior receivers, Dayes is among the overlooked senior running backs. He has an excellent blend of quickness, vision and decisiveness, posting 138 rushing yards and two ground scores last week. Although there isn’t a clear-cut top senior back in the 2017 class, Dayes has plenty of buzz among NFL scouts.

FB/TE Jaylen Samuels , NC State, JR. (5-11, 223, 4.78, #28): Any conversation regarding the most versatile offensive player in the country must include Samuels. Whether he is considered a fullback, running back, H-back, tight end — and he might be all those things — Samuels is simply productive in every facet of the game. Not only did he lead the Wolfpack in receiving last week (5/66/1), but he also added two rushing scores.

Other NC State prospects to watch: WR Jumichael Ramos , SR. (6-2, 200, 4.58, #85); CB Jack Tocho , SR. (6-0, 200, 4.53, #29); WR Bra’Lon Cherry , SR. (5-11, 191, 4.56, #13); DT Kentavius Street , JR. (6-2, 290, 4.96, #35); SS Dravious Wright , SR. (5-10, 208, 4.59, #8); LG Bryce Kennedy , rSR. (6-3, 305, 5.19, #56)

Other East Carolina prospects to watch: WR Davon Grayson , SR. (6-1, 195, 4.49, #85); CB DaShaun Amos , rSR. (6-0, 189, 4.55, #39); RB/HB James Summers (6-2, 212, 4.59, #11); DT Fred Presley , rSR. (6-3, 272, 5.08, #99); RG J.T. Boyd , rSR. (6-4, 298, 5.22, #65); Worth Gregory , rSR. (6-3, 209, 5.05, #40)

Tulsa Golden Hurricane at No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes

Saturday, Sept. 10, 3:30 p.m., Columbus, Ohio, ABC

Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

OC Pat Elflein , Ohio State, rSR. (6-2, 300, 5.22, #65): Although it likely sounds relatively easy, several guards struggle when asked to make the transition to center. But Elflein doesn’t appear to be one of those players as he looked terrific last week in his first start at the new position. His snap-to-step quickness, handwork and vision were all above average, but the tests will get tougher this game and then next week at Oklahoma Sooners .

WR Keevan Lucas , Tulsa, SR. (5-9, 195, 4.54, #2): Led by senior QB Dane Evans (6-0, 210, 4.91, #9), Tulsa averaged over 450 yards per game last season, and a large part of their success is the talent at wide receiver. Lucas was the best of the group before a torn patella tendon in his right knee ended his 2015 season, but after a lengthy rehab, he is back on the field and looked outstanding in last week’s opener (6/112/0).

RB/WR Curtis Samuel , Ohio State, JR. (5-11, 200, 4.52, #4): There are plenty of new faces for the Buckeyes, but Samuel, who Urban Meyer says is the “first true hybrid” he has had in a while, separated himself as maybe the new go-to option for that offense. Last week, he averaged 6.5 yards per carry (13/84/1) and led the Buckeyes in receiving with nine catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns, showing off natural hands and burst.

curtis-samuel-ohio-state.jpgSamuel may be the Buckeyes’ new go-to weapon. USATSI

Other Tulsa prospects to watch: LOT Blake Belcher , rSR. (6-4, 304, 5.18, #78); WR Josh Atkinson , rSR. (6-1, 208, 4.59, #88); MLB Trent Martin , rSr. (6-2, 232, 4.84, #40); PT Dalton Parks , SR. (6-3, 209, 4.94, #26); SLB Matt Linscott , rSR. (6-1, 223, 4.83, #38); RB D’Angelo Brewer , JR. (5-9, 185, 4.52, #4)

Other Ohio State prospects to watch: MLB Raekwon McMillan , JR. (6-2, 240, 4.78, #5); QB J.T. Barrett , rJR. (6-1, 225, 4.75, #16); DE Sam Hubbard , rSO. (6-4, 265, 4.76, #6); CB Gareon Conley , rJR. (6-0, 195, 4.50, #8); WR Noah Brown , rSO. (6-2, 222, 4.57, #80); DE Tyquan Lewis , rJR. (6-3, 260, 4.78, #59)

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

Saturday, Sept. 10, 3:30 p.m., Tuscaloosa, Ala., ESPN2

Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

WR Taywan Taylor , Western Kentucky, SR. (6-0, 195, 4.54, #2): The final score likely won’t be pretty, but this game is a chance for scouts to see WKU prospects against elite competition. Taylor, who posted 165 yards receiving last week, isn’t an elite size/speed athlete, but he is a playmaker with dependable ball skills and production. However, Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey (6-1, 198, 4.49, #26) will present a huge test for him.

LOT Forrest Lamp , Western Kentucky, rSR. (6-3, 300, 5.12, #76): The Southern California Trojans tackles struggled with the Alabama front-seven last week and Lamp, who some scouts believe can start in the NFL at guard, will have his work cut out for him. The combination of DE Jonathan Allen (6-3, 292, 4.85, #93), DE/OLB Tim Williams (6-3, 237, 4.76, #56) and DE/OLB Ryan Anderson (6-2, 253, 4.77, #22) gives the Tide a diverse pass rush attack.

RB Anthony Wales , Western Kentucky, rSR. (5-9, 195, 4.59, #20): With RB Leon Allen (5-11, 235, 4.64, #33) still sidelined in his return from a knee injury, Wales, who rushed for two touchdowns last week, will be the featured back against Alabama. He will be the main target for Tide senior MLB Reuben Foster (6-1, 240, 4.72, #10), who has the play speed, diagnose skills and striking ability that jumps off the film.

Other Western Kentucky prospects to watch: QB Mike White , rJR. (6-3, 215, 4.87, #14); MLB Keith Brown , rSR. (6-0, 240, 4.76, #2); OC Max Halpin , rSR. (6-2, 295, 5.14, #70); TE Steve Donatell, rSR. (6-5, 235, 4.79, #87); WR Nicholas Norris , SR. (5-9, 175, 4.50, #15); OLB T.J. McCollum , rJR. (6-3, 240, 4.82, #6)

Other Alabama prospects to watch: TE O.J. Howard , SR. (6-6, 242, 4.57, #88); SS Eddie Jackson , SR. (6-0, 195, 4.53, #4); LOT Cam Robinson , JR. (6-5, 327, 5.28, #74); WR ArDarius Stewart , rJR. (6-0, 204, 4.58, #13); DL Dalvin Tomlinson , rSR. (6-2, 307, 5.14, #54); DE Da’Shawn Hand , JR. (6-4, 278, 4.74, #9)

Arkansas Razorbacks at No. 15 TCU Horned Frogs

Saturday, Sept. 10, 7 p.m., Fort Worth, Texas, ESPN

Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

DE Deatrich Wise, Arkansas, rSR. (6-5, 280, 4.84, #48): In the one-point win over Louisiana Tech Bulldogs last week, Wise was a frequent visitor to the opponent’s backfield, finishing with seven tackles, half a sack and three hurries to earn SEC defensive lineman of the week honors. Wise, who was voted a team captain, has an intriguing blend of initial quickness, heavy hands and finishing ability that will ruin a quarterback’s day.

DE/OLB Josh Carraway , TCU, rSR. (6-3, 250, 4.68, #94): TCU’s top senior prospect this year, Carraway led the Horned Frogs with nine sacks last season and although he didn’t register a sack in the opener, he was routinely putting pressure on the pocket. When Carraway rushes from the right edge, he’ll line up against Arkansas senior LOT Dan Skipper (6-9, 326, 5.43, #70), one of the tallest players at the college level.

TE Jeremy Sprinkle , Arkansas, rSR. (6-5, 255, 4.76, #83): The Razorbacks lost Hunter Henry from last year’s squad, but with Sprinkle returning, the offense shouldn’t see a substantial dip in production at that position. Although he doesn’t have the same speed or route running prowess as Henry, Sprinkle is a good-sized athlete with aggressive ball skills, scoring the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter last week.

jeremy-sprinkle-arkansas.jpgSprinkle scored the game-winning touchdown in the opener. USATSI

Other Arkansas prospects to watch: CB D.J. Dean , SR. (5-11, 195, 4.56, #2); WR Keon Hatcher , rSR. (6-1, 218, 4.57, #4); WR Dominique Reed , SR. (6-2, 175, 4.49, #3); LB Brooks Ellis , SR. (6-2, 248, 4.87, #51); CB Jared Collins , rSR. (5-11, 172, 4.49, #29); WR Drew Morgan , SR. (6-0, 195, 4.57, #80)

Other TCU prospects to watch: QB Kenny Hill , rJR. (6-1, 205, 4.59, #7); WR Deante Gray, rSR. (5-9, 183, 4.39, #20); SS Denzel Johnson , SR. (6-1, 210, 4.58, #30); DE/OLB James McFarland , rSR. (6-1, 250, 4.76, #40); DT Aaron Curry , rSR. (6-2, 278, 4.98, #95); LOT Joseph Noteboom , rJR. (6-5, 315, 4.98, #68)

Brigham Young Cougars at Utah Utes

Saturday, Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m., Salt Lake City, Utah, FOX

Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

DT Lowell Lotulelei , Utah, JR. (6-2, 310, 5.08, #93): The younger brother of Star, Lotulelei earned All-Pac 12 honors the past two seasons and enters his junior year high on the NFL radar. He is a great example of how the box score rarely tells the entire story, with only 26 tackles (five for loss, one sack) last season and no official statistics in the season opener last week, but Lotulelei consistently clogs up lanes as a run defender.

RB Jamaal Williams , BYU, rSR. (6-1, 220, 4.62, #21): Back in 2013, Williams looked like a future early-round draft pick with 1,233 rushing yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. But he missed most of the 2014 (ACL injury) and 2015 (left the program) seasons, sidetracking any future plans. Williams returned to Provo this past summer and knocked off the rust last week with 162 rushing yards on 29 carries against Southern Utah.

MLB Harvey Langi , BYU, rSR. (6-2, 249, 4.77, #21): A former Ute and top recruit out of high school, Langi made the move to BYU last season and transitioned to linebacker, producing mixed results in 2015. The instincts are still a work-in-progress, but he is a hyperactive athlete with the aggressive mentality to tear through blocks and finish ball-carriers. Langi should be extra motivated for this contest, facing his former program.

Other BYU prospects to watch: DT Travis Tuiloma , rSR. (6-2, 301, 5.07, #91); FS Kai Nacua , SR. (6-1, 208, 4.59, #12); QB Taysom Hill , SR. (6-2, 230, 4.59, #7); CB Michael Davis , SR (6-2, 190, 4.54, #15); DE/OLB Sae Tautu , rSR. (6-3, 245, 4.82, #31); WR Nick Kurtz , rSR. (6-5, 210, 4.57, #5)

Other Utah prospects to watch: FS Marcus Williams , JR. (6-0, 195, 4.56, #20); LG Isaac Asiata , rSR. (6-3, 323, 5.38, #54); ROT J.J. Dielman , rSR. (6-5, 300, 5.09, #68); LOT Sam Tevi , SR. (6-5, 305, 5.17, #52); DE Hunter Dimick , rSR. (6-3, 272, 4.89, #49); RB Joe Williams , SR. (5-11, 205, 4.53, #28)


Source: CBS Sports Headlines / NFL Scout’s Eye: Tennessee prospects looking to step it up against Virginia Tech