(Previews of LSU/Oregon and Georgia/Boise State will go up a little later)
Every Saturday this season we're going to have a post on players to watch with the NFL Draft in mind. Because it's the first week of the year and the match-ups are light, this is a smaller post. Let me know in the comments who you're going to be watching today.
When top programs take on lesser teams the first week or two of the season, it's hard to evaluate players. That's why much shouldn't be taken out of Ohio State players against Akron or Iowa players against Tennessee Tech, for instance.
Instead, it's a good opportunity for players at those lesser schools to stand out. That's the case for Utah State middle linebacker Bobby Wagner against national champion Auburn. A first-team All-WAC player last season, Wagner finished last season with 133 tackles with 8 for loss. His job today will be keeping Tigers running back Michael Dyer in check.
Appalachian State wide receiver Brian Quick could make a statement with a strong performance against Virginia Tech. Quick is one of the best small-school player in the country and project well to the NFL. he's big at 6-foot-4, 216 pounds and has enough speed to get up the field.
A talented Southern California team shouldn't have much difficulty with Minnesota. The offense is paced by junior left tackle Matt Kalil. I'm slightly higher on Stanford's Jonathan Martin, but Kalil is a little more athletic. He's not the only talented junior offensive lineman for USC. Watch out for center Khaled Holmes. He doesn't get the publicity like Peter Konz of Wisconsin but is nearly as good.
Troy defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi has a chance to really help his draft stock today against Clemson. Massaquoi projects as an outside linebacker at the next level because he's fluid and knows how to get after the quarterback. Last season he had 20.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
Cal Poly cornerback Asa Jackson is another highly regarded small-school prospect. Tonight, against quarterback Ryan Lindley and San Diego State, he should have a good game. The Aztecs are breaking in a new group of wide receivers and Jackson could take advantage and look good.