Scouts pore over endless hours of film and leave no stone unturned when evaluating players' skill sets. It's a grueling process that can be monotonous at times, but there are certain games that can cause scouts to sit up in their chairs 12 hours into a session. This jolt of excitement comes when they see their targeted prospect line up against one of the best units or players in the nation and/or play in game with substantial implications for his team. It's these matchups and games that have arguably the greatest impact on where a player is drafted. Here are five matchups that caught my eye over the weekend and what I took from each performance.
UCF RB Kevin Smith vs. Tulsa's run defense
Smith ran for 284 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries in the Knights' win over Tulsa in the Conference USA Championship game. The win is significant for the team and Smith individually. It gives UCF its first Conference USA title and Smith set the NCAA single-season rushing attempt mark. In terms of his draft value, breaking down each touchdown run gives some insight to the kind of back Smith can develop into at the NFL level. The first touchdown came early in the second quarter on a second and goal play at the Golden Hurricane 3-yard line. UCF spread the field with four-receiver sets and this generally weakens the interior run defense by stretching the defensive front horizontally. However, Tulsa took the middle away by collapsing inside so Smith bounced the run outside, ran through an arm tackle and beat the defense to the corner of the end zone. Smith's second touchdown run came just over three minutes later and the Knights lined up with two tight ends this time around. At the snap of the ball, Smith starts left, cuts back right to the inside where he has blockers and then bounces back to the left before going 46 yards for the score. The most impressive part of this play is Smith's patience. He stayed poised and waited until a seam opened up for him before turning on the jets.
Smith's third touchdown came late in the second quarter with the ball on the Hurricanes' 4-yard line. Though it looked easy with UCF's interior offensive creating an excellent seam for him, Smith showed good vision and discipline by following his blockers. The fourth touchdown run came in the fourth quarter and went an impressive 74 yards. At the snap of the ball, Smith made a crisp cut behind the line of scrimmage and lowered his shoulder into a mass of defenders. In fact, it appeared that Tulsa had bottled him up for a short gain. Instead, Smith continued to drive his legs and eventually popped out of the pile. In addition, he had to fight off Golden Hurricane CB Roy Roberts, who grabbed his face mask at around the 25-yard line.