As the college season is coming to a close, the rumblings of draft prospects start to emerge with players deciding to stay in school or declare early with the deadline set for January 15. On Thursday night, Oregon visit Stanford in a must win for the Ducks if they want to play in the national title game, but it will be much more than that with a number of talented players on display, Seniors as well as Underclassmen.
After redshirting his freshman year, quarterback Marcus Mariota became the starter last season, and if it wasn’t for Johnny Manziel’s heroics for Texas A&M, he would have got much more attention. In 2012 he threw for 2,281 passing yards (32TD’s, 6 INT), and now a Heisman candidate in 2013, Mariota’s numbers have been impressive with 20 TD’s and throwing 0 INT. Mariota has taken full control of the offence and been smart about the football instead of trying to make every throw, with multiple plays designed for his mobility. Maritoa has rushed for 511 yards including 9 TD’s so far this season, and against Stanford D that has 27 sacks through 9 games this season, he will have to aware of the pass rush coming off the edge quickly.
Of course, every good team has weapons to help its Quarterback, and Oregon is no difference with WR Josh Huff, who has shown he is a very capable receiver and after producing in 2012, the senior in 2013 has improved his production, gaining 700 receiving yards and 7 TD’s, yet with 4 games to go he could be well on for 1,000 yards after improving his route running from last season. At 5ft 11in, Huff has been a capable blocker in the Oregon run game, which is invaluable to a NFL team, whilst with his speed, Oregon look to utilise him in different ways.
Junior De’Anthony Thomas is one of the most dynamic players in college football who started at running back, but with his ability to make plays in open field, he has seen playing time on the outside as well as in the slot for the Ducks. Thomas is also a valuable commodity in the return game as a punt or kick returner, but isn’t your typical in between the tackle type of runner, he would need to be in open space and let him make plays like Oregon have done. Unfortunately, tight end Colt Lyerla isn’t part of the team anymore for personal reasons, but Lyerla was another key aspect of the passing game, who had the size and athleticism to be a mismatch when being lined up against LBs.
Oregon have one of the most underrated defences, with their offense getting all the credit. The Ducks have a number of talented defensive players, but it all starts with CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, a very physical cornerback who has the speed and athleticism to keep up with the best WR’s in college. Having become the starter in 2012, Ekpre-Olomu impressed the draft community with 63 tackles, four interceptions and six forced fumbles, though the concern over his draft stock will be his size against the bigger receivers in the NFL.
Other Oregon prospects to look out for:
- C Hroniss Grasu (Jnr) – Unlikely to declare, was named Oregon O-Lineman of the year in 2012.
- DT Taylor Hart (Snr) – Underrated, recording 8 sacks in 2012, versatile player who can play DT, DE and a stand up rusher.
- OLB Boseko Lokombo (Snr) – Posted his best game recently against UCLA, recording 2 Sacks, 1 INT, 3 Tackles.
- DT Wade Keliikipi (Snr) – Whilst Hart has the ability to rush the passer, Keliikipi is able to hold up against the run.
While Oregon have a number of talented underclassmen, Stanford is loaded with a number of talented senior defensive players, including Trent Murphy. The defensive end had showcased his skills against good opponents in UCLA and Oregon State, where he is able to get off the ball and into the backfield – the senior recording 4.5 sacks in those two games. Stanford have utilised Murphy as a traditional 4-3 defensive end as well as standing him as a 3-4 outside linebcker and at times in a 3-4 defensive end. He able to use his hands so effectively, which allows him to disengage from the offensive tackles. A prospect who continues to move up people’s draft boards, he may not have the speed of Barr but his instincts allow him to create pressure.
Despite missing the 2011 season with a torn ACL and MCL, Shayne Skov is a very underrated inside linebacker for the Cardinals defense. Skov could’ve declared last year, but wanted to return for his senior season to improve his draft stock, and he has a decent season so far. An emotional leader on the field, Skov leads by example, recording 64 tackles through 9 games. Stanford tend use Skov as a blitzer where he is truly effective, but a liability in coverage where he hasn’t got the speed to matchup with receivers. Also, the other question is can he get back to where he was before his major injury?
Ed Reynolds became the full time starter at safety in 2012, and showed his playmaking ability and a knack of being around the ball having had 6 interceptions, as well as recording 37 tackles and 5 passes broken up. Reynolds has the speed and size to start at safety from day one in the NFL, but he will need to improve his coverage skills after being beaten twice for TD’s against Arizona State.
Other Stanford prospects to look out for:
- DE Josh Mauro – A backup on a star studded defence, in 2012 he had 7 tackles for a loss and 5 sacks. Will get more playing time with Gardner out, and already has 3 sacks to his name this season.
- OG David Yankey – Started as the left tackle but was moved inside to left guard where his skill set is much better suited for.
- WR Ty Montgomery – He has exploded onto the scene after having 26 receptions, 213 yards and 0 TDs in 2012 but this season the Junior has 39 receptions, 619 Yards as well as 5 TDs.