Head 2 Head Preview: Week 7

RB Rashard Mendenhall (Matthew Stockman/Getty)

NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber points out this weekend's top "Head 2 Head" individual matchups between draft-eligible players. Find out who you should keep an eye on during this weekend's college football action.

#18 Illinois (5-1) at Iowa (2-4)

Game Details: Saturday, October 13th at 12:05 p.m. on ESPN2

The Prospects: RB-Rashard Mendenhall (Jr.), Illinois VS. DT-Mitch King (Jr.), Iowa

Scouting Report:  Rashard Mendenhall is a tremendously gifted all-purpose back who has great skills and quickness out of the backfield. An elusive runner who has great vision and awareness, he sets up opponents nicely, jukes, and makes them miss. Mendenhall has quick feet and is able to stop and start without losing any momentum. At 5-foot-11, 224 pounds, he has a great combination of finesse and strength that allow him to run inside and outside to pick up tough yards. He flashes sure hands out of the backfield and allows his blockers to set up in front of him. Mendenhall picks up blitzes and is a quality blocker in pass protection. Iowa's star interior lineman, Mitch King, is capable of altering a running back's decision-making. He has quick feet, balance, and gains leverage immediately with his explosive burst off the line. At 6-foot-3, 264 pounds, King doesn't have great upper-body strength, but he has great technique and causes trouble in the backfield. He's always around the ball, making positive plays. He's an undersized interior lineman who plays with a high motor.

Head 2 Head:  King will have to get good penetration up the middle and force Mendenhall to alter his path. Illinois averages 30.2 PPG (points per game), and Mendenhall averages 128.7 rushing yards a game.  But yards may be hard to come by while facing a tough Iowa defense. Iowa only surrenders 16.6 PPG and 113.8 rushing yards a game. The more Iowa is able to get Mendenhall bouncing around the backfield searching for a seam, the more chances they have to contain him.

2007 Statistics:

      Rushing
No Name GP Att Yds Avg Lng TD
5 Rashard Mendenhall 6 114 772 6.8 50 10

    Tackles Pass D
No Name GP Solo Ast Total TFL-Yds Int-Yds
47 Mitch King 6 19 20 39 10-61 4-39


#23 Texas (4-2) at Iowa State (1-5)

Game Details: Saturday, October 13th at 12:30 p.m.

The Prospects: WR-Todd Blythe, Iowa State vs. FS-Marcus Griffin, Texas

Scouting Report:  Todd Blythe is a big target who has soft hands and excellent body control. At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Blythe presents a mismatch for the opposition and uses his size to his advantage. He gets off the line well, gets vertical, and uses his leaping ability to make acrobatic receptions. Willing to go over the middle, Blythe will make the touch catch,  A physical player, he also excels as a downfield blocker. Texas' physical safety Marcus Griffin, twin brother of Michael Griffin who now plays with the Tennessee Titans, is an outstanding tackler who plays well in coverage and is excellent in run defense. He leads the Longhorns in tackles and is a defensive leader.

Head 2 Head:  Griffin's ability to defend is beneficial to Texas in this matchup as he will be asked to play over top of Blythe. Blythe will use his size against the 6-foot tall, 202-pound Griffin and will try to give the Cyclones a matchup to exploit. But Griffin is a strong player who plays physically against both smaller and taller receivers and will challenge Blythe when he gets vertical.

2007 Statistics:

      Receiving
No Name GP Rec Yds Avg Lng TD
1 Todd Blythe 6 32 419 13.1 39 3

      Tackles Pass D
No Name GP Solo Ast Total TFL-Yds Int-Yds
26 Marcus Griffin 6 32 17 49 0-0 1-0
 

Texas A&M (5-1) at Texas Tech (5-1)

Game Details: Saturday, October 13th at 3:30 p.m. on ABC

The Prospects: QB-Graham Harrell, Texas Tech vs. DT-Red Bryant, Texas A&M

Scouting Report: Graham Harrell is a prolific passer who posts incredible numbers for the Red Raiders. He's an efficient quarterback who shows poise in the pocket, reads defenses well, locates his target, and delivers the ball with great accuracy and touch. Harrell has excellent awareness on the field and escapes pressure with his quick release. But the 6-foot-3, 203-pound Harrell isn't the most athletic player and doesn't possess great speed. Texas A&M's star tackle Red Bryant can impact this game with his penetration up the middle. He's a balanced interior lineman who can defend the run or rush the passer. Bryant has quick feet and a good burst off the line. Able to shed blocks with relative ease, Bryant has a nose for the ball and makes plays in the backfield. He uses his strength effectively and rarely gets knocked off his feet. He has good quickness for a player of his size (6-foot-5, 322 pounds) and can really disrupt a quarterback's flow with his wingspan.

Head 2 Head:  Harrell's biggest asset is his quick release. He locates his receiver and doesn't waste any time firing the ball. Bryant has to use his wingspan and get his hands in the throwing lanes. He also has to get penetration up the middle and disrupt any flow the Texas Tech offense is able to obtain.

2007 Statistics:

      Passing
No Name GP Cmp Att Yds TD/Int Rating
6 Graham Harrell 6 228 310 2,726 28-3 175.29

 

      Tackles Pass D
No Name GP Solo Ast Total TFL-Yds Int-Yds
85 Red Bryant 6 7 19 26 4.5-17 1-11
 

Indiana (5-1) at Michigan State (4-2)

Game Details: Saturday, October 13th at 7:00 p.m. on Big Ten Network

The Prospects: WR-James Hardy (Jr.), Indiana vs. FS-Otis Wiley (Jr.), Michigan State

Scouting Report:  Hardy is a tall, athletic receiver with long arms and legs. He has excellent hands and great body control. Hardy doesn't possess great strength, although it's improved, he's a smooth receiver who's able to get away from press coverage. A long strider who's able to get separation, he forces defensive backs to play off of him. When Hardy gets separation on the outside, Spartans free safety Otis Wiley will be counted on to provide support in coverage. Wiley is an excellent athlete at 6-foot-2, 214-pounds with good cover skills. He reads the quarterback well and displays sideline-to-sideline range. Wiley has a good burst of speed and takes good angles in coverage. He has good footwork and defends the run very well.

Head 2 Head:  Wiley, who'll be asked to double-team Hardy, has a tough task keeping the 6-foot-7, 220-pound vertical threat from having a breakout game. Wiley has to use his size and play physically against Hardy to keep him from making big plays. Hardy averages 19.4 yards per catch and it's almost guaranteed that the Hoosiers offense is going to try to exploit the Spartans secondary.

2007 Statistics:

      Receiving
No Name GP Rec Yds Avg Lng TD
82 James Hardy 6 25 485 19.4 79 8

 

      Tackles Pass D Sacks
No Name GP Solo Ast Total TFL-Yds Int-Yds No-Yds
21 Otis Wiley 6 15 10 25 1-4 2-3 0-0


Nevada (2-3) at Boise State (4-1)

Game Details: Sunday, October 14th at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN

The Prospects: RB-Ian Johnson (Jr.), Boise State vs. OLB-Ezra Butler, Nevada

The Matchup: Ian Johnson is a playmaker out of the backfield who is an excellent runner between the tackles and around the end. With his great vision and quickness, he's a shifty ball-handler who follows blocks well and quickly finds a seam. Johnson's an elusive runner who makes defenders miss. He doesn't have great size (5-foot-11, 194 pounds), but he uses an effective stiff-arm to keep tacklers away and has soft, reliable hands out of the backfield. Nevada's star linebacker Ezra Butler will have Johnson in his line of sight. Butler is instinctive and has great awareness. An athletic linebacker who's strong to the point of attack, Butler sheds blocks well and gets into position to make a play. At 6-foot-2, 248 pounds, he's a physical player who's aggressive, and he's an excellent tackler who looks for the opportunity to make the knockout punch.

Head 2 Head:  Butler has to stay disciplined when dealing with Johnson. He can't over-commit and get caught out of position. Johnson torched the Nevada defense last season as he ran for 147 yards on 31 carries and three touchdowns. Butler will have to contend with one of the better offensive tackles in the nation, junior Ryan Clady, when Johnson runs around the end. It's key for Butler to shed a majority of the blocks and minimize Johnson's momentum.

2007 Statistics:

      Rushing
No Name GP Att Yds Avg Lng TD
41 Ian Johnson 5 101 488 4.8 54 7

      Tackles Pass D Sacks
No Name GP Solo Ast Total TFL-Yds Int-Yds No-Yds
56 Ezra Butler 3 13 8 21 5.5-12 0-0 1-5


A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.

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