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NFL Draft Prospect of the Week: Hercules Mata’afa

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Best name ever?

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows just how good Bryce Love is, so it is curious that Love was held to a measly 69 rushing yards (nice) last weekend against Washington State. Love, who was averaging over 10 yards per carry before the weekend, only picked up 4.3 yards a carry facing the cougars and most of his yardage came on one 52 yard run.

So what slowed down one of the nation’s most explosive players and a Heisman front runner?

None other than a man named Hercules Mata’afa.

It is fitting that such a monumental task was accomplished by a player named Hercules. It was truly an epic defensive performance by the 6’2”, 250 pound defensive lineman to shut down the most explosive runner in college football. Mata’afa was constantly disrupting the line of scrimmage, hitting runners in the backfield or at the line and creating opportunities for his teammates to swarm Stanford’s offense.

Mata’afa is a unique player because Washington State deploys his athleticism all over their defensive line. Even as a 250 pound player, he can often be seen lining up inside at tackle just so he can explode through the line of scrimmage to attack the ball carrier. He is a bit inconsistent, but his talent is undeniable. Already, Mata’afa is up to an incredible 16.5 tackles for a loss this season, including 6.5 sacks. Both of these figures surpass his season total from last year.

Only a junior, Mata’afa is a young prospect with a ton of upside and he could be one of the most exciting defensive prospects in the upcoming class. While it is not a sure thing that he enters, it is definitely possible considering the dominant season he is having.

Other performances of note:

  • Joshua Jackson, Cornerback, Iowa: After being highlighted in last week’s “Prospect of the Week” column, Joshua Jackson turned in an electric performance on the biggest stage yet. Jackson reeled in three interceptions against Ohio State, including an incredible “Odell-like” one handed snag in the end zone. While he did give up a touchdown, his playmaking ability was a big reason Iowa massively upset the Buckeyes. Jackson should be shooting up media draft boards now.
  • Ronald Jones, Running Back, USC: A regular on these articles, Ronald Jones once again wowed, this time against Arizona. Jones ran for almost 200 yards and three touchdowns, breaking off long runs and bouncing off defenders all night. Jones is clearly one of the country’s best running backs and it will be exciting to see him continue to dominate on a weekly basis.
  • Ryan Carter, Cornerback, Clemson: Clemson entered into a shootout with NC State and came away on the winning side. Despite it being a high scoring affair, none of the Wolf Pack’s points can be blamed on Clemson’s senior cornerback, Ryan Carter. The small defender did not allow a single catch, yet got his hand on four passes; including an interception. Carter was always an underrated player on consistently loaded Tiger defenses but this might be the year that he finally gets his due.