The summer heat is starting to fade, and a refreshing breeze is swiftly making its way through. That can only mean one thing – the fall season is around the corner, and the start of football is finally here.
This is the most exciting time of the year – when college and NFL teams hit the field with aspirations of making a championship run. It’s also the start of the evaluation process of the top collegiate players in the country, as they embark on a journey that will eventually lead them into the National Football League.
As the process of identifying the top prospects begins, I will choose five games each week that highlight a highly touted offensive player going up against another talented defensive player in the same game.
With that said, here are the five games I’m profiling this week and the ten prospects that will go Head 2 Head:
#20 Illinois at #6 Missouri
Saturday, August 30th at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
*Vontae Davis (6-foot, 204 pounds), CB, Illinois
*Jeremy Maclin (6-foot-1, 200 pounds), WR/RS, Missouri
One of the top corners in the country, Davis looks to fine tune his game this season.
Christian Petersen /Getty Images
Scouting Report: Vontae Davis is a physical cornerback with lock-down ability. He has excellent footwork, fluid hips and the tenacious attitude to deliver a devastating hit. He’s strong at the point of attack, aggressive throughout routes and has success against small and tall receivers. He has a great sense of timing, possesses a quick burst and flashes great ball skills that turn defense into offense instantly. He’s also a standout on special teams in the return game and on the coverage unit.
Jeremy Maclin is a dynamic all-around performer who excels in multiple areas on the field. He possesses elite speed and quickness and poses a problem for the opposition when the ball is in his hands. He gets a quick release off the line, runs good routes and flashes reliable hands. He’s a playmaker in the open field after making a reception and can take it to the house on any play. He has outstanding vision and the natural ability to make defenders miss.
Head 2 Head: This is going to be an exciting matchup. One of the nation’s most physical cornerbacks, who can dominate most wide receivers in the country, is going up against a human highlight film, who has the ability to embarrass even the best corners on any given Saturday. In last year’s season opener against Missouri, Davis had one of his best games, as he recorded 10 tackles and blocked the first punt of his career and returned it for a touchdown. Maclin, who was the only player in the nation to score a touchdown in the run game, the passing game and on kick and punt returns last season, also had a standout game against the Illini last season. In the Tigers 40 – 34 victory, Maclin had two touchdowns, one on a 66-yard punt return and the other on a 25-yard reception. This will be a tight matchup, and both players will have their share of success, but I believe Maclin will have the upper hand.
Michigan State at California
Saturday, August 30th at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN
Javon Ringer (5-foot-9, 205 pounds), RB, Michigan State
Zack Follett (6-foot-2, 238 pounds), OLB, California
A dynamic weapon on offense for the Spartans, Ringer has big play potential every time he has the ball in his hands.
Sam Greenwood /Getty Images
Scouting Report: Javon Ringer is a shifty back who's an explosive playmaker both running and receiving the ball. He sets up defenders well, jukes them out of their shoes and is a game breaker in the open field. He runs with great balance between the tackles and is deceptively strong. He's a tremendous threat any time he has the ball in his hands.
California’s star linebacker Zack Follett is a tremendously instinctive defender who makes plays all over the field. He moves well laterally, diagnoses the action and has great closing speed. He’s an outstanding tackler, who has excellent range and is a highly effective pass rusher.
Head 2 Head: Defending Javon Ringer will be a tough task for the California defense, although switching to a 3-4 scheme this season will help their cause as they try to create pressure on the outside and force Ringer to the middle. Ringer is coming off of an outstanding junior campaign where he emerged as one of the top playmakers in the country. He rushed for 1,447 yards and six touchdowns, and caught 35 passes for 295 yards for the Spartans last year. With Cal going to a 3-4 defense, it will allow Zack Follett to fully use his entire repertoire and eclipse his production from a year ago when he posted 64 tackles, 12.5 for a loss, and 5.5 sacks.
Kentucky at Louisville
Sunday, August 31st at 3:30 p.m.
*Trevard Lindley (6-foot, 178 pounds), CB, Kentucky
Hunter Cantwell (6-foot-5, 236 pounds), QB, Louisville
Finally out of the shadow of Brian Brohm, Cantwell gets his chance to prove he's an elite quarterback.
Andy Lyons /Getty Images
Scouting Report: Trevard Lindley is an athletic cover corner, who despite his lean frame is a physical defender. He jams the opposition at the line, transitions well with receivers and positions and displays good footwork throughout the route. He has a great sense of timing, breaks well on the ball and has good ball skills. He’s more than willing to take on a bigger opponent and make a tackle; he plays much bigger than his listed size.
Hunter Cantwell has elite size, a great arm and the intangibles to be a great quarterback at the next level. He’s a patient player who waits for his receivers to break and unleashes a canon that hits the mark in a hurry. He throws vertical routes with ease and displays great touch. He places his throws in spots where only his receivers can make the catch and also has the ability to squeeze his throws into tight spots.
Head 2 Head: One of the top young corners in the country, Trevard Lindley will have to contend with the highly touted Louisville fire baller, Hunter Cantwell, who’s starting his first season as a full-time starter. Lindley, who recorded 66 tackles and three interceptions last season, could have a field day against the Cardinals on Sunday. Louisville will start two inexperienced receivers - sophomores Troy Pascley and Doug Beaumont – who replace Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia. Cantwell has shown flashes of brilliance in the past when he filled in for the injured Brian Brohm. But with very little known commodities on offense, Cantwell could struggle against a Kentucky defense that held the opposition to just 56-percent pass completion and only allowed 200 yards a game through the air last year.
Fresno State at Rutgers
Monday, September 1st at 4:00 p.m.
Tom Brandstater (6-foot-5, 225 pounds), QB, Fresno State
Jamaal Westerman (6-foot-2, 265 pounds), DE, Rutgers
Brandstater has a lot of hype surrounding him this season and it's time to show that he's worth the praise.
Otto Greule Jr /Getty Images
Scouting Report: Tom Brandstater has elite size and a strong arm. He’s developed into a great leader and a guy players respect in the huddle. He displays good poise in the pocket and reads defenses very well. He throws intermediate routes with precision and has good touch on vertical routes.
Rutgers defensive end Jamaal Westerman is an athletic pass rusher who lacks elite size, but is highly productive. He plays with excellent body control and balance. He’s quick off the snap and gains leverage immediately with his initial burst. He moves well laterally and sets up the opposition nicely to get in the backfield and disrupt the action. He has a good burst and changes direction quickly.
Head 2 Head: Tom Brandstater is being hyped up as the next quarterback to take a step into superstardom. He has the look and potential to be an elite prospect, but up until this point he hasn’t produced the numbers you look for in a franchise-caliber QB. Entering his third season as a starter, Brandstater has improved each of the last two seasons and enjoyed a good junior year throwing for 2,654 yards, 15 touchdowns and only five interceptions. In this matchup, Brandstater will have to keep an eye on Rutgers speed rusher Jamaal Westerman. Westerman is a quick end who could cause Brandstater some problems. Last season, Westerman finished with 50 tackles, 14 of them for a loss and a team-high eight sacks. For Brandstater to have a good game, he’s going to need time in the pocket to overlook a tough Rutgers secondary (that allowed just 160 YPG throw the air) led by Courtney Greene, and for his offensive line to keep Westerman from having an impact.
Memphis at Mississippi
Saturday, August 30th at 7:00 p.m.
Clinton McDonald (6-foot-2, 284 pounds), DE, Memphis
Michael Oher (6-foot-5, 320 pounds), OT, Mississippi
Oher has a lot to smile about, but the opposition never leaves the field with a smile on their face.
Ole Miss Athletics
Scouting Report: Clinton McDonald is a durable defender who has a unique blend of size, speed and toughness. He has great size and quickness. He uses his hands very well, gets underneath the opposition and drives up the field. He’s a disciplined player who is an effective pass rusher and solid against the run.
Michael Oher is a dominant tackle who is a tremendous athlete presented in a massive frame. He’s an outstanding pass protector who blocks with a wide base, has quick feet and easily knocks the opposition off their rush. He gets off the line well and is able to push defenders back in run situations. He demonstrates great balance, patience and passion for the game.
Head 2 Head: In all honesty, going up against Michael Oher is never an easy proposition; he’s the best offensive tackle in the country. He’s durable and reliable and has started 34 consecutive games. Clinton McDonald is developing into a nice player, and he showed a lot of promise last year leading Memphis in sacks (4) and tackles for a loss (9.5). But he will have to bring his “A” game to even compete on Oher’s level.
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. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.