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Insider

Linemen, QBs among Red River prospects

10/14/2009

One of the biggest rivalries in college football kicks off again Saturday when Oklahoma and Texas meet in Dallas. College football fans will be watching intently, and so will NFL scouts.

No fewer than six players who will take the field for the Sooners and Longhorns could be first-round picks, and 11 players rank as fifth-round prospects or better. Here's a look at how Scouts Inc. breaks down all 11:

Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy (6-foot-3.5, 296 pounds); Scouts Inc. grade: 96 -- McCoy is the most disruptive interior lineman in college football. He is not a massive space-eater but is stronger than his frame suggests, and he does a great job using his power to drive blockers back and get off blocks. But what truly separates him from the rest is his impressive, explosive first step for a player who is nearly 300 pounds. McCoy is the one guy who could single-handedly disrupt the Texas offense this week. He is a solid top-10 pick right now.

To check out big-time quarterback prospects Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy, some very impressive defenders and offensive linemen facing questions, as well as notes from around the country, you must be an ESPN Insider.Insider

Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford (6-4, 214); Grade: 95 -- It was good to see Bradford return from injury in Week 6. On the positive side, his arm strength looked good, and when he was on the same page with his receivers, he showed the accuracy that makes him a coveted prospect. However, Bradford's rapport with his receivers seemed to have suffered. He looked frustrated by multiple personnel groupings and at times threw to spots where he thought a receiver should have been but was not. Saturday is a big opportunity for Bradford to show his timing is back and he can remain healthy after he seemed to tweak his leg on a rollout last week. The shoulder injury cost him a bit, but if Bradford continues to progress, he can lock down a spot in the top five.

Oklahoma LOT Trent Williams (6-5, 306); Grade: 93 -- Williams still has a first-round grade and remains one of the top five offensive line prospects on the board, but he has failed to live up to expectations this season. He still is strong at the point of attack and shows toughness in the running game, but the move from right to left tackle has affected his game more than anticipated. Williams' footwork is inconsistent, and he has struggled at times in pass protection, so it's important for him to show this week against Sergio Kindle that he is making strides in that area. Scouts like to see versatility in tackle prospects, and Williams needs to show he can play on the left side, because at just 305 pounds he does not have the prototypical size most teams look for in a right tackle.

Texas DE/OLB Sergio Kindle (6-4, 236); Grade: 91 -- Kindle's sack production has not been as great as we anticipated this season, in part because Brian Orakpo is now in the NFL, and he has been a little disappointing at the point of attack when teams run at him. However, he remains one of the premier defensive players in college football because of his initial burst off the edge, and ability to chase down quarterbacks and running backs from behind. Kindle also has very strong hands and does a nice job getting off blocks against tight ends when playing in space. He still projects as a first-round pick but needs to finish the season strong to lock down that status.

Texas QB Colt McCoy (6-3, 211); Grade: 91 -- McCoy is one of the most interesting prospects in this year's class because of the varying opinions on his status. We like his intangibles, leadership and toughness, and there is a lot to like about his natural accuracy as a passer. However, that accuracy has been less consistent than last season, especially early in games. McCoy also is a bit undersized, comes from an offense that does not translate well to the NFL and has had some accuracy issues on the deep ball. Some NFL people we've talked to put him in the top 10 to 15 overall, and others say he's not a first-rounder. Right now, we give him a late-first-round grade, given the questions that remain.

Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham (6-6, 262); Grade: 90 -- Gresham is out for the season with a knee injury, but assuming his rehab goes well and teams are comfortable with his medicals, Gresham could still be a first-rounder and the first tight end off the board. Questions will remain about his blocking but his ability to stretch the middle of the field in the passing game is unparalleled in the college game.

Texas OLB Roderick Muckelroy (6-2, 237); Grade: 86 -- Muckelroy is the most underrated defensive player in college football. He does not have the elite physical tools or top-end speed of a starting NFL linebacker, but his instincts and toughness show up every time we watch film. Kindle gets the hype, but Muckelroy finishes plays more often than anyone else on the Texas defense, and because of that, we give him a second-round grade.

Oklahoma DE Auston English (6-3, 256); Grade: 71 -- Versatility within the Sooners' zone-blitz scheme makes English a valuable college player. He is relentless as a pass-rusher and has proved to be a playmaker when asked to drop into underneath zone coverage. However, he comes up short in a few areas as a pro prospect. English has below-average top-end speed for an end with his size, and while he is tough and instinctive, he does not show the base to hold the edge against the run and gets pushed around at times because of his lack of size. We project him in the fourth-to-fifth-round area at this point.

Oklahoma RB Chris Brown (5-10⅝, 206); Grade: 63 -- Brown does all the little things right and is an aggressive, slippery runner who does a good job of making sharp cuts and getting upfield in Oklahoma's zone blocking scheme. He also runs with a low center of gravity and shows outstanding instincts as a goal line runner. However, Brown is just not all that big or powerful, and is not going to run by or run over a lot of defenders at the next level. He should develop into a quality backup but doesn't have the tools to become an NFL starter, and we'll be surprised to see him come off the board before the fifth round.

Texas WR Jordan Shipley (5-11⅞, 190); Grade: 73 -- Shipley just keeps getting it done both as a receiver and return man. He is not all that big, and has a lot to learn about running intermediate and vertical routes in the NFL, but the more we watch him, the more we like him as a pro prospect. He is not afraid to go over the middle and has good quickness after the catch. Shipley is simply a playmaker with the ball in his hands and looks to be moving up from the third-round grade he had coming into the season.

Texas OT Adam Ulatoski (6-8, 296); Grade: 70 -- Ulatoski is a big, wide-body tackle prospect who benefits from playing in a spread scheme in which McCoy gets the ball out quickly. Ulatoski has the size to engulf defenders in the run game when he gets in good position and can hold his ground against bull-rush attempts in pass protection, but he doesn't have great feet and is not physical enough in the running game. We feel he is a little overhyped at this point. Ulatoski has a third-round grade right now, but it would not be surprising to see him fall to the fourth or fifth round when all is said and done.

Below are the prospects from each team who get late-round or rookie free-agent grades:

Oklahoma

DT Demarcus Granger (6-2, 304); Grade: 50

FB Matt Clapp (6-2, 231); Grade: 36

OLB Keenan Clayton (6-1, 223); Grade: 32

DC Brian Jackson (6-0¼, 202); Grade: 31

ILB Ryan Reynolds (6-1, 238); Grade: 30

TE Brody Eldridge (6-5, 262); Grade: 30

Texas

CB Deon Beasley (5-10⅛, 179); Grade: 38

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

ILB Jared Norton (6-3⅛, 233); Grade: 30

C Chris Hall (6-4, 303); Grade: 30

G Charles Tanner (6-4, 306); Grade: 30

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

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

Around the nation

• Will Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant (Scouts Inc.-rated No. 10) be able to play again this season? On Tuesday, he made his case to the NCAA in Indianapolis. The receiver was suspended Oct. 7 for violating a rule when he lied during an NCAA investigation.

"I am very, very sorry I did not tell the full truth when I talked with Mr. Wilson in July," The Oklahoman reported Bryant writing in his apology letter. "There is no one else to blame, I just panicked because I was scared and afraid I was in trouble. Mr. Wilson asked about meeting Deion Sanders. I denied that I had ever met him at Fieldhouse USA. That was not the truth."

• Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh (No. 5) has been garnering nationwide attention for his play, and from some unlikely sources, reports the Omaha World-Herald. "Ndamukong Suh's dance card was full," according to the World-Herald. "ESPN was in town. Sports Illustrated. A phone interview with the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal? 'I didn't even know they had a sports section,' Suh said as he traveled from one commitment to another Tuesday, his availability aided by the cancellation of his 12:30 p.m. class."

• New Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has instilled a confidence in his Huskies that had been sorely lacking in previous dismal seasons. There was no better example than when UW rallied with two touchdowns in the final three minutes to beat Arizona 36-33 on Saturday. The Seattle Times reports that the players, including QB Jake Locker (No. 6), now have "the power of belief," even in the waning moments against the Wildcats. "There was never a feeling of them giving up on us, or throwing in the towel, or here we go again," Locker said of the coaches. "That allowed all of us to just put (the third quarter) behind us."

• North Carolina State is 3-3 and Duke just rolled them by 21 points, but one Wolf in the pack, DE Willie Young (No. 71), has stood out this season. The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer reports: "Young, who is the ACC co-leader in sacks with seven, could surpass [Mario] Williams as State's all-time leader in that category if he matches his current season total in the second half. Williams has 25.5 career sacks to 19.5 for Young. Young also needs just one more tackle for loss to surpass [Manny] Lawson's career total of 41 and take over third place on the career list."

• If you're a fan of college sports, you know Kansas Jayhawks fans have a passion for the men's basketball team. The football team? Not so much. Some KU players have expressed disappointment at spotty attendance for their games. Jayhawks S Darrell Stuckey is trying to look on the bright side, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

"You can't just play for the people in the stands that are leaving, you have to play for those that are still there and still love the game passionately," he said. "Regardless how cold it is, regardless what happens, it's still a game of pride. There's still more people there than left, so look at it as half full instead of half empty."There's teams across the nation that struggle to get 10,000 fans there, let alone us having over 50,000 almost every game."