The intention today was to write about Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton and how he fared against Oregon's offense. Sutton started well with a had a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in the first two plays of the game. But on the second play, his right knee was injured and Sutton was out for the game. Oregon couldn't be stopped for the rest of the first half and won 43-21.
Although Oregon is fun to watch, the Houston/SMU game was the more interesting contest Thursday night. That's despite a 72-42 win by SMU. I was already watching it before the ASU/Oregon game, so it was easy to flip back without missing much.
Without a doubt, the game had plenty of players eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft to monitor. The obvious starting point is SMU defensive end Margus Hunt. The athletic giant has had an inconsistent career, but his 6-foot-8, 280-pound frame remains intriguing. It was a good game to watch Hunt, who holds the NCAA record for blocked kicks with 10. Although it was against a suspect Houston offensive line, Hunt was getting a good push throughout the night. It's clear his best move is a bull rush, but he has quick enough feet to beat blockers to the inside gap. Hunt had two sacks on the game and four quarterback hurries. It's as good as Hunt has looked since the BBVA Compass Bowl last season.
Hunt wasn't the only SMU player who stood out as a prospect. Senior wide receiver Darius Johnson again looked impressive. He had nine catches for 110 yards and two scores. It may have been Johnson's first game of more than 100 yards receiving this season, but he has the look of being a solid late-round option. He's purely a slot receiver, but at times he looked like Antonio Brown of the Steelers. SMU head coach June Jones has said that Johnson is the best wide receiver he's ever coached. That's pretty high praise. Look for Johnson to pop on everyone's radar during the offseason process.
Mustangs running back Zach Line had 113 yards and two touchdowns on the night. He's good running ball, but needs to work picking up the blitz. Line's speed may not be great, but he's strong and can work between the tackles. He may be a UDFA unless he can show better blocking skill going forward. Line has a future of similar to Chargers fullback Le'Ron McClain – a decent occasional runner who can block. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert, a Texas transfer, certainly has the arm strength. He looks like a developmental player going forward. But the junior could come on next season as a draftable prospect. Senior linebackers Ja'Gred Davis and Taylor Reed could both get selected toward the end of the 2013 NFL Draft. Davis is a thick but fast linebacker who can move. Reed showed good instincts Thursday, intercepting two passes that were returned for touchdowns.
It wasn't just SMU players on display. Houston junior running back Charles Sims is a player to keep in mind going forward. He only ran the ball for 54 yards on 17 carries, but he looked good as a receiver. Despite Houston playing three different quarterbacks, Sims caught seven passes for 114 yards. Sims, who looks to have decent speed, can split out to receiver.
He has good size at a listed 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds. His catching ability is evidenced in his 31 receptions on the season (he had 51 in 2011 and 70 in 2009). Sims' size and playing ability is reminiscent of another running back who starred in Conference USA, Matt Forte.
It may not be Pac-12 football, but Conference USA had 10 players taken in this year's NFL Draft. With the talent at teams like SMU and Houston, though, their games