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College Football Thursday: NFL Draft Prospects Preview

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

College football is now fully underway. After a few exciting games on the opening Saturday, this week promises a packed schedule of top tier teams and players showing off their potential for the NFL. The weekend gets kicked off with a packed Thursday night slate with over a dozen games on. Naturally, with so many games on, there are NFL level prospects to keep an eye on.

  • Duke Ejiofor, Edge Defender, Wake Forrest: The Demon Deacons open with a modest matchup against Presbyterian College (6:30 PM ET on ACC Network) but that does not mean their star pass rusher won't be taking this game seriously. Ejiofor had over 10 sacks last season paired with 17 tackles for a loss. He is a quick twitch, high effort pass rusher who should feast in his opening week match up against weaker competition. Unlike last year, there is no clear cut top pass rusher, so the race for that honor starts tonight.
  • Steven Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Minnesota: The Golden Gophers start their first game under new coach, PJ Fleck, against Buffalo (7 PM ET on BTN). While the Gophers have sent quite a few players to the NFL in the last few years, Steven Richardson might be their best prospect in a while. Richardson is a stout player at 6'0" and 300 pounds. He is short, but his natural leverage and quickness make him impossible to handle for offensive linemen. He had seven sacks and 11 tackles for a loss in his junior season and he is poised to take off for a huge final season before going to the NFL.
  • Logan Woodside, Quarterback, Toledo: Toledo lost two serious weapons to the NFL Draft last year with Kareem Hunt and Michael Roberts. However, they return a talented quarterback who threw for over 4000 yards and 45 touchdowns last year without breaking 10 interceptions. Woodside is a smaller passer, but he is incredibly accurate and a good decision maker. While he might get knocked for lack of tools, he has the mental ability of a quality NFL back up. In a crowded year for quarterbacks, it will be interesting to see if he can stand out even after losing weapons to the draft. Tonight, Toledo take on Elon (7 PM on ESPN3) to start that campaign for Woodside.
  • James Washington, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State: While many people will rightfully talk about the Hokies quarterback, Mason Rudolph; Eagles fans should be keyed in on James Washington. The explosive deep threat has tremendous ball skills, route running ability and attitude at the receiver position. He is not the biggest player, but he is a dominating presence on an offense. With a weaker opening opponent in Tulsa (7:30 ET on FS1), Washington should start the season with some eye popping numbers.
  • Jerome Baker, Linebacker, Ohio State: Every year Ohio State has a handful of first round caliber prospects and this year is no different. However, for Eagles fans, Jerome Baker commands the most attention. He is a bit undersized at the linebacker position, but he is a human cruise missile with speed and hitting ability. With a conference match up with Indiana tonight (8 PM on ESPN), Baker has a tough offense to face up with. He will be tested against the run and in coverage, an excellent chance for him to establish himself as Ohio State's premier draft prospect on defense.
  • Kalen Ballage, Running Back, Arizona State: One of the most tantalizing talents in this year's draft is Kalen Ballage. The massive running back has speed, power, agility and receiving ability. His use has been frustrating during his career as a Sun Devil, but that should change this season. He opens the season with somewhat of a cupcake against New Mexico State (10:30 ET on Pac 12 Network) so it is likely he shows out in a big way. Ballage, if given the right usage, is a sleeper Heisman candidate and could be a top three running back in this draft.

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