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DT Suh leads Big 12 title game prospects

12/2/2009

The Big 12 championship matchup between Texas and Nebraska is not quite as loaded as the SEC title game, but with five top-50 NFL prospects taking the field there is still plenty to hold the attention of NFL scouts. Here's a look at how those players could affect the game:

Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh (6-37, 295); Scouts Inc. grade: 96 -- Suh has been the most consistently dominant defensive player in the country this season, showing rare instincts to go with a high motor, excellent upper-body strength and good overall quickness. He also has the versatility to play tackle or end in a 3-4 or a 4-3 front, so he would be an asset to any team. Suh could improve as a pass-rusher but can be disruptive when he gets his hands into passing lanes, and he is as good as it gets against the run. There is no doubt he is a top-10 pick.

Texas S Earl Thomas (5-foot-11, 198 pounds); Grade: 94 -- Thomas is a classic ball hawk who can play man coverage or be a center fielder in the deep middle, and when Nebraska QB Zac Lee puts the ball up for grabs when under pressure look for Thomas to be there to catch it. He is a bit undersized but Thomas has rare closing burst both in coverage and run support. He is the second-best draft-eligible safety behind Tennessee's Eric Berry and Thomas will be an early-to-mid first-round pick should he choose to enter the draft.

Texas DE/OLB Sergio Kindle (6-4, 236); Grade: 93 -- An effective pass-rusher whose ability to get pressure on Lee could play a role in the title game, Kindle could very well find a role as a 3-4 rush linebacker in the NFL. He will always struggle against the power running game when teams are able to isolate and get a body on him, and Nebraska will certainly try to do that, but Kindle is doing a better job using his hands to get off blocks and at least be somewhat disruptive against the run. Overall he rates as a mid-to-later first-round prospect.

Texas QB Colt McCoy (6-3, 211); Grade: 88 -- It's been fun to watch McCoy get back to his gunslinging, playmaker ways in recent weeks. He has clearly blocked out distractions and is simply having fun again, and that's when he's at his best. Still, Nebraska will present his biggest challenge of the season and if he can continue his hot play, McCoy's draft stock stands to benefit. There are clearly holes in his game -- mechanics, accuracy down the field -- but we've talked to scouts who believe McCoy has the "it" factor to succeed in the NFL and finishing big against Nebraska and in the BCS title game could get him into the bottom of the first round.

Texas OLB Rod Muckelroy (6-2, 237); Grade: 87 -- One of the biggest overachievers in the country, the undersized Muckelroy faces questions about where he would fit in an NFL defense. He does not seem big or strong enough to play in the middle or on the strong side and he might not be athletic or fast enough to play on the weak side, all of which could drop him into the third round. However, Muckelroy has good instincts and is somehow always around the ball making plays. These attributes were on display when he sniffed out a shovel pass during the first quarter of the Texas A&M game. We are convinced he could make an impact as a second- or third-round pick.

Texas WR Jordan Shipley (5-11, 190); Grade: 80 -- Shipley is a very productive player at his position. One of the concerns we have is his size. At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, he's on the small side and it doesn't look like he has much room on his frame to bulk up. To his credit, Shipley clearly works hard in the weight room, but there's just no place to add muscle. Because of that, he's going to get pushed around in the NFL. On the plus side, he excels at finding seams in zone coverage, especially bending his routes behind linebackers and in front of safeties. He's also not afraid to go over the middle and make plays in traffic. Shipley is quick off the line and after the catch, but we don't always see that same burst coming out of his cuts -- he could be a crisper short-to-intermediate route runner. Shipley is not exactly elite as a deep threat, but he is certainly fast enough to make occasional play downfield. That said, he doesn't show that elite second gear the premiere vertical wideouts display. Shipley brings some added value as a return man as well.

Texas OT Adam Ulatoski (6-8, 296); Grade: 69 --
Our greatest concern about Ulatoski is his lack of initial quickness, which causes him to struggle with speed-rushers, makes it unlikely that will play on the left side where he lays now in the NFL. We'd also like to see Ulatoski mask this weakness by covering more ground with his first step, which would put him in a position to take the corner away from edge-rushers. You saw this weakness exposed in last week's Texas A&M game when Von Miller had some success simply running around him. There are concerns about Ulatoski's limited athletic ability as well. He tends to over commit outside then struggle to redirect back inside. This makes him vulnerable to double moves, line stunts, and delayed blitzes. We'd also like to see him show more of an explosive punch. At 6-foot-8, Ulatoski can hold his own in pass protection on the right side; he will use his long arms to force ends to take a wider angle to the quarterback. Although he isn't a dominant drive-blocker, he does a good job getting into position and works until the whistle. At this point, Ulatoski projects as a late-third or early-fourth round pick.

Other draftable players

Nebraska

OC Jacob Hickman (6-3, 213); grade: 30

ILB Phillip Dillard (6-1, 240); grade: 30

DS Larry Asante (5-11, 210); grade: 30

DS Rick Thenarse (6-0, 209); grade: 30

DE Barry Turner (6-3, 261); grade: 30

DS Matt O'Hanlon (5-10, 197); grade: 30

Texas

CB Deon Beasley (5-10, 179); grade: 38

OC Chris Hall (6-4, 303); grade: 30

PK Hunter Lawrence (6-0, 186); grade 30

PK Ryan Bailey (6-1, 201); grade: 30

ILB Jared Norton (6-3, 233); grade: 30

DT Lamarr Houston (6-1, 282); grade: 30

OG Charles Tanner (6-4, 306); grade: 30

Around the nation

Around the Nation

• Florida's offensive line itself is huge, but they haven't faced anyone as big, and as good, as Alabama DT Terrence Cody (Scouts Inc.-rated No. 46). "We hung in there pretty good with him last year," UF coach Urban Meyer told The Ledger of Lakeland, Fla. "But you're not going to move this guy off the ball. To simulate that in practice is hard. They're aren't many human beings like that. He's a great player."

• Clemson has already faced Georgia Tech DE and ACC Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Morgan (No. 6). They're not looking forward to seeing him again in the ACC title game on Saturday. "In my opinion Derrick Morgan is the best player we have played all season," Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier told The Post and Courier. "He's a dominant player. He's a top-10 NFL draft pick

"Great motor, great fundamentally, size, quickness, plays well with his hands. Obviously, he is a guy we will have to have a plan for."

• Georgia Tech and its triple option attack has a lot respect for the Clemson defense, especially end Ricky Sapp (No. 40). The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: "Tech is going to have to win the battle upfront against Clemson's defensive line, which coach Paul Johnson, B-back Jonathan Dwyer and center Sean Bedford all agree is probably the best they've faced this season.

"They've got the big, strong, physical guys inside and then the two ends, Sapp and [Da'Quan] Bowers, are very athletic," Johnson said. "They've got other guys that they can put in. They can almost go two deep."

• If there's one thing on Florida QB Tim Tebow's (No. 67) mind, it's not him becoming the second player in history to win two Heismans. It's Alabama and the SEC title game. "It's special. I don't want to put that down at all because that is a very prestigious award, and it means a lot, and it would mean a lot to win it, but that's kind of totally out of my mind frame," he told Florida Times-Union. "It's something that I'm not even thinking about or worried about, because our goal is to win the SEC championship, and that's our focus. Winning a Heisman Trophy would be special. It was special, and it does mean a lot, but not compared with winning an SEC title."

• Is there a rivalry between Arizona defensive lineman Ricky Elmore and USC DE Everson Griffen (No. 35)? The Arizona Republic reports: "Elmore, at 6 feet 5 inches, is built like a power forward; the 6-3, 280-pound Griffen would fit in on USC's offensive line if he wasn't so fast. USC's defensive end boasts a self-reported 40-yard dash time of 4.5 seconds.

"That's a lot of physical stuff comin' at ya," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "He's got a real good explosion and 'get-off' at the line of scrimmage that gives him a chance to be a real good pass rusher."

Elmore said Griffen's 40-yard dash time is "all hype."

"I'll be true," Elmore said. "I run a 4.7."