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January 4, 2008

BCS Title Game: The NFL Prospects

It is no surprise that that college football's BCS title game features two clubs loaded with NFL prospects, many of them underclassmen.

Ohio State and LSU have sent several players to the NFL in recent years, with many of them becoming elite prospects. This matchup could turn out to be a classic game and one that provides as many as eight first-round selections and a dozen prospects chosen in the top 100 picks this spring.

No school has been hurt by the loss of underclassmen to the NFL more than Ohio State, but that has not hindered the Buckeyes from annually fielding a championship-caliber club.

LSU has become a favorite of NFL scouts in the Southern region, with the Tigers turning out many top-50 selections over the past decade. As many as eight current LSU defensive starters carry a pro starting grade.

Let's take a look at the prospects in the title game who could be selected among the top 150 picks in April.

BCS Title Game NFL Prospects: Offense
FB Jacob Hester, LSU, 6-0, 225
This athletic senior is effective as a receiver and runner. He is suited for a one-back offense that features his versatility. He is a strong inside runner who gets every yard possible and has shown great ball security over his career. He also has fine hands, and will pressure on the OSU linebackers as an outlet receiver. He has performed brilliantly in big-game situations and gets a final chance to shine on the season's biggest stage against the Buckeyes.
WR Early Doucet, LSU, 6-0, 205
This senior wideout has been nicked up over his final season, which has limited his production in the Tigers' potent offense. He has big-play ability, and Doucet combines fine size, speed and hands. He needs to improve on the finer points of the game, especially route running, to rank with the elite receiving prospects in this class. He faces a key matchup against Malcolm Jenkins, who is one of the nation's premier corners. Doucet could become a top selection in April with a strong showing in this critical game. An outstanding performance will help make amends for a subpar senior season.
WR Brian Robiskie, Ohio State, 6'3" 195 *
This tall junior has stepped up and become the go-to guy for the Buckeyes after being a fine No. 3 wideout earlier in his career. He displays fine body control and the ability to make a play on the ball. He is still a raw athlete who would benefit greatly from another season at the collegiate level. However, he should provide a tough test for the LSU secondary.
OT Alex Boone, Ohio State, 6-8, 325 *
This gigantic junior left tackle has the mobility, strength, technique and toughness to be a starting NFL lineman. He has been one of the best blockers in the Big Ten over the past three seasons. He moves well, has a huge wingspan and uses his hands to control defenders for the full play. He has the frame to bulk up and play with more power as a drive blocker. He faces a critical matchup with the physical Tigers ends, and looks to amend a disappointing title game last season against the fast Florida Gators. Boone could be a first-round selection with a strong title game and an impressive postseason.
OT Kirk Barton, Ohio State, 6-5, 310
This tough senior right tackle has moved up the charts after doing a fine job in pass protection on the outside over recent seasons. He has size, toughness, agility and bulk for the NFL game. He looks like the type of prospect who can move up further with a strong postseason. He needs a strong game against Tyson Jackson, a talented and physical junior end who is coming off an erratic '07 season.
BCS Title Game NFL Prospects: Defense
DE Vernon Gholston, Ohio State, 6-4, 265 *
A quick, relentless pass rusher, Gholston had several huge performances this season - especially in key games. The junior has been a difference-maker for the OSU defense. He has the speed from the outside that can change games with one play. He ranks with the nation's better pass rushers, and will pressure the Tigers line. Gholston will probably command double-teaming in passing situations. He is well developed in most areas, and is one of the fast-rising performers at this key position. He will probably declare for the draft following the season.
DE Tyson Jackson, LSU, 6-5, 290 *
This big, athletic lineman has the complete physical package but struggled through an inconsistent '07 season. He provides strong run support and is stout at the point of attack meaning he can play in either pro scheme. Despite his amazing potential, he needs development to become a complete pro prospect. He lacks a quick first step and relies on power to collapse the pocket. Facing NFL-caliber tackles in Barton and Boone will test how much he has developed and determine his overall readiness for the pro game.
DT Glenn Dorsey, LSU, 6-2, 300
A powerful, mobile senior who has been a force in the middle of the Tigers defense. He walked off with all the hardware for a defensive lineman Lombardi, Nagurski and Outland - this postseason. He has flashed big-play ability, relying on his fine combination of power and quickness. He has taken over games, and will probably command double-team blocking often by the Buckeyes talented offensive line. His combination of quickness and power give him a huge advantage, and has allowed him to become this season's premier defensive pro prospect. He has struggled with injuries this season, but they shouldn't hurt his pro stock.
LB James Laurinaitis, Ohio State, 6-2, 245 *
Laurinaitis is an explosive and savvy prospect who earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors this season. He is a fast, powerful, athletic and instinctive defender with the combination of agility, speed and quickness to become a top-flight NFL linebacker. He has shown the ability to sack the QB and go sideline to sideline to make big stops. He is expected to declare for the draft, and should be one of the elite prospects to enter the league next season.
LB Ali Highsmith, LSU, 6-1, 230
A fast, agile athlete, Highsmith can be an impact player for the Tigers. He combines fine speed and quickness with keen instincts. He could become an excellent NFL defender at either outside position. He had another huge season and faces a critical matchup with OSU running back Chris Wells. That matchup should have a strong bearing on the final outcome of this title clash.
LB Marcus Freeman, Ohio State, 6-1, 245 *
A speedy junior, Freeman is one of the better athletes on the very talented OSU defense. He combines good size for the position with the instincts and toughness to be a complete NFL defender. He hopes to become the next Buckeye linebacker to start in the NFL. His speed allows him to make plays from sideline to sideline, and he has performed at a high level since his freshman season. A strong showing Monday night could influence him to declare for the NFL draft.
LB Darry Beckwith, LSU, 6-1, 225 *
Beckwith is a savvy junior who has been a very productive defender over his SEC career. He has fine athleticism and has the intangibles that pro scouts seek in an NFL starting linebacker. He runs well and stays on his feet consistently. He has shown the ability to shed blockers and finish plays on the inside. He has well developed pass coverage skills, and could be a complete pro prospect. He hopes to showcase his talents in the title game, a key determining factor in his decision to turn pro.
CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State, 6-0, 200 *
This shutdown corner faces a major test against LSU wideout Early Doucet. Jenkins is a big, quick athlete with fine read-and-react skills. He has the agility and change-of-direction skills necessary to match up in man coverage. He has shown that he also has the instincts to make big plays. He has been a lockdown cover defender who could be the top cornerback in this NFL Draft if he declares.
CB Chevis Jackson, LSU, 5-11, 190
Jackson is an athletic corner who is coming off a good 2007 season. He performed well against quality SEC receivers. He has the size, speed and athleticism to match up against big receivers, and better suited for zone coverage. He is also tough in run support because of his sure tackling skills. He is capable of moving up the positional ratings with a strong game against the talented OSU receivers.
CB Jonathan Zenon, LSU, 6-0, 180
A smooth, lean corner, Zenon combines the size, quickness and instincts to become a solid NFL cover man in a zone scheme. He has the agility and change of direction skills necessary to close on the pass in zone coverage. He possesses only average man-to-man coverage skills, and relies on a cover-2 scheme to succeed. He could improve his stock further with a strong showing against the Buckeyes.
SS Craig Steltz, LSU, 6-1, 210
This tough safety has been a fixture in the Tigers defense over recent seasons, in a variety of roles. He has good range and instincts. He has adequate speed, but strong tackling skills which rank him with the better safeties in college football. He has a fine nose for the ball, shows good instincts, makes proper reads and his sure tackling allows him to complete the play. He will be tested fully against OSU tailback Chris Wells as the Tigers' primary 'In the Box' defender.

* - Underclassman

Frank Coyle is a nationally known NFL scout who publishes Draft Insiders' Digest and www.draftinsiders.com. Draft Insiders' Digest is dedicated to year-round coverage of NFL and NCAA Football. Coyle covers the NFL Draft and free agency extensively with a veteran scouting staff that provides insightful and unique information on players and team potential in the coming seasons. Draft Insiders' Digest is an extensive publication that produces more than 20 issues throughout the year, beginning with an Online Pro Prospects Preview and Fantasy Football Rankings in August and a 200-page Draft Yearbook in March. Call 1-800-776-1949 to order.



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