One of the major stories from this season has to be Penn State running back Tony Hunt. After struggling the prior two weeks against Michigan and Illinois the Nittany Lion ball carrier was back to early season form. Hunt posted 142 rushing yards on 31 carries with one score against Purdue while also adding two receptions for another 36-yards. Like Tamba Hali last year, Hunt is having a knockout senior campaign and significantly improving his draft stock.
Two more Lions from the other side of the ball have fallen under the radar screen this season.
While Paul Posluszny gets the majority of the headlines and has been coming on recently, Dan Connor has been the most active and consistent linebacker for PSU. Connor has been a tackle machine, taking well to the Nittany Lions scheme. The junior will be highly rated moving towards the '08 draft.
Defensive lineman Jay Alford, who can be used at a variety of line positions in the NFL, had a combined four tackles for loss and sacks on Saturday against a very good Boilermaker offensive line.
After a slow start to the season Chris Long of Virginia has really come on recently. While the junior was getting a lot of pressure during games in September, he was unable to turn them into sacks or tackles for loss. That has changed the past four games as Long has been a constant menace to opponents and had a big impact in Saturday's game against North Carolina State. Unlikely to leave for next April's draft, he is another who will grade highly moving towards 2008.
Florida's Ray McDonald has been a force all season and is watching his draft stock improve. Effectively handling both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions, McDonald has done a good job clogging the line, rushing the quarterback and even deflecting passes. On Saturday McDonald's third quarter fumble recovery and 9-yard touchdown return sealed the Gators victory over Georgia.
The other Gator moving up draft boards is defensive back Reggie Nelson. Becoming a feared ball hawk in the secondary, Nelson has registered four picks this season. Possessing outstanding cover skills and the ability to be used at corner or safety, Nelson is expected to enter the draft next April.
A number of receivers really stood out on Saturday, none more so then Steve Smith of USC. During the Trojans upset loss at the hands of Oregon State, Smith had a career day catching eleven passes for 258-receiving yards with two scores late in the contest. The final touchdown gave USC a chance to tie the game. Smith, a consistent pass catcher, will have his final draft grade determined by his 40-time prior to April.
Jarrett Hicks of Texas Tech had a statement game Saturday against the very tough Texas Longhorn secondary. Hicks, who did not dress for the season's initial three games, totaled nine receptions for 156-yards and a score. Several of those were acrobatic catches which kept drives alive for the Red Raiders, who gave up a 21-point lead and lost to the Longhorns. Considered a first day pick entering the season, Hicks is reestablishing his top 100 draft grade.
In fact all the senior wide outs played well for Tech. Robert Johnson added nine receptions for 98-yards while Robert Filani posted six for 79-yards.