It was hard, once again, to single out last week's most impressive draft prospect. While a lot of players filled up the box score that I will mention later, it should be worth mentioning a rising star in Roquan Smith. Not only is the Georgia linebacker coming off his best performance of the season, but he has consistently strung together impressive games in a year he is draft eligible.
Georgia's rivalry game with Tennessee always comes with a lot of weight, regardless of the rankings, but Georgia annihilated the Vols in a 41-0 beatdown. That shutout was a team effort on part of the defense, but Roquan Smith led that unit all night; setting the tone with his speed and ferocious playing style. Not only did he fly around the field in coverage and limit the Volunteer's intermediate passing game, but he had 10 tackles and six "stops" (which constitutes an offensive failure per PFF) on top of that.
The 6'1", 225 pound linebacker is built more like a strong safety than an NFL linebacker, but it is hard to discount his size when he has yet to miss a tackle this season and is constantly fighting through traffic to make plays not he ballcarrier. His speed and overall athletic ability overcompensate for his lack of size.
As a junior in the middle of the best season of his career, it looks like Smith is trending towards being a highly touted prospect. The new NFL is looking more and more for speed at the linebacker position and often sacrifice strength and size to find it. While Smith is smaller, he looks like a prototype for the modern NFL with what he can do on the field in terms of athleticism, football IQ and overall physicality. As he continues to lead Georgia's defense in their strong season, he will rise in mock drafts throughout the year.
Other Performances of Note:
- Josey Jewell, Linebacker, Iowa: Despite the close loss to Michigan State, Josey Jewell did everything in his power to help the Hawkeyes win. The physical linebacker was monstrous against the running game all day and looked solid in coverage. With 16 tackles, three for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble; it is hard to not let his performance go ignored. Jewell will be an interesting study this season because he is more of an old school linebacker, but he is a real playmaker at the college level.
- Bryce Love, Running Back, Stanford: Impossible to talk about this week without mentioning Bryce Love and his brilliant performance against Arizona State. Carrying the ball 25 times for 301 yards (12 YPC) and three touchdowns is absolutely absurd. Love broke 12 tackles (per PFF) during that game and picked up 175 of his yards after contact. On the season, Love is the first back to eclipse one thousand yards in college football, averaging over 11 yards per carry. Love's playmaking is going to put him in the Heisman conversation, but his speed should have him talked about as a legit NFL prospect as well.
- Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver, Colorado State: With eight catches for 212 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout win over Hawaii, it's hard not to appreciate Michael Gallup. The 6'1", 200 pound senior is following up an impressive junior season with what looks like will be an even more productive final year. Gallup is the main weapon for the Rams and continues to shine when called on. While he is not outstanding in any facet, his well rounded game will get him notice for the NFL draft.
- Quenton Nelson, Guard, Notre Dame: Mike McGlinchey is not the only stud on Notre Dame's offensive line. Quenton Nelson is 6'5" and 320 pounds of ass kicking. He is a strong, physical lineman who sets the ton in the running game and holds it down in the passing game. Against Miami (OH), Nelson bullied dudes once again and continues to show he is one of the top offensive linemen in the country.
- Jordan Chunn, Running Back, Troy: While Bryce Love had the most productive weekend for a running back, it is hard to discount what Jordan Chunn did in Troy's upset win of LSU. Chunn pounded the rock 30 times for 190 and a touchdown, including a massive 74 yard scoot. The 6'1", 235 pound fifth year senior is a strong, hard running back with some surprising speed, as LSU found out, and he could be a late round prospect to keep an eye on come draft season.