Rivalry weekend seems to bring out the best in players, coaches, teams, and their fans. Last week’s action didn’t disappoint with the likes of instant classics in Alabama vs Aurburn, Ohio State vs Michigan, Duke vs North Carolina, and Oregon State vs Oregon. These games play a vital role in the overall evaluation of college draft prospects in the eyes of NFL scouts, and give a glimpse into whether a player is ready for the big stage at the professional level.
The emotional aspect of the preparation, practice, and eventual competition against an in-state or cross-state rival can tell a lot about the internal make up of a future NFL player. The very best always appear to rise up to the challenge. This was the tape I always wanted to see most when evaluating a top prospect. Could he handle the pressure, the competition, the inevitable setbacks that ebb and flow in a rivalry game?
Taber Small of NationalUnderclassmen.com has looked at some of the very best of the entering talent pool for the 2014 NFL Draft and found these young players answering the bell over Rivalry Weekend.
NFL Prospects – Rivalry Weekend Studs
By Taber Small – NationalUnderclassmen.com
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State RB:
Hyde has been an absolute beast over the last several of weeks after missing the first three games of the season. He is a very physical and instinctive runner with perfect size at 6-foot-0 235-pounds. Hyde also shows a rare burst of speed and quickness for a back his size. Hyde’s stock has quickly risen since the midpoint of the season. With his 226-yard performance he may have played his way into a possible top 75 draft pick.
Eric Ebron*, North Carolina TE:
Ebron is a highly athletic TE with a unique pass catching skill set. He causes mismatch problems because of his speed to stretch defenses vertically. Ebron still needs to work on his skills and technique as a blocker. He declared for the NFL draft this week and will be a top 15 pick in next years draft. Ebron ended his college career with five catches for 121 yards against Duke this past weekend.
Derek Carr, Fresno State QB:
Carr has been sensational in his senior campaign and played almost a flawless game against San Jose State. He completed 38 of 50 passes for 519 yards and six touchdowns but threw a costly interception late in the game. Carr set a FBS record for not throwing an interception in 266 pass attempts. He simply does a great job of taking care of the football. He’s impressed scouts all season with his efficiency and pinpoint accuracy from the pocket. Carr has the size, arm strength and mobility of a true NFL QB prospect. He’s backed up those skills with a highly productive season and is the number rated senior QB on most draft boards.
Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas DE:
Jeffcoat put on a dominating performance against Texas Tech with three sacks on Thursday night. He showed the nation why some scouts had him rated as a first round prospect heading into the 2013 season. Jeffcoat was disruptive coming off the edge and is an athletic specimen. He’s not produced the senior year that scouts had hoped as he struggles to get off blocks. This defensive end needs to develop more pass rushing moves. Jeffcoat is a hybrid defender who is projected to transition over to OLB in a 3-4 defense. He will probably be selected between the 3rd and 4th round.
Cassius Marsh, UCLA DE:
Marsh is a defensive end that has caught the eye of scouts because of his athleticism and size (6-foot-4 265-pounds). He stood out in the USC rivalry matchup, this weekend, registering two sacks in the game. He also displayed explosive upper body strength and quickness. Marsh has shown flashes throughout the season but needs to become more of a consistent football player. He can bring quality value to a defensive front because of his versatility. This defender hasn’t even come close to reaching his untapped potential. Marsh is a late round prospect that will need to impress scouts in postseason all-star games and at workouts to increase his stock.
Josh Huff, Oregon WR:
Huff exploded with nine catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns against Oregon State. He easily found open spots in the defense and made tough catches over the middle. Huff is a quick sure handed receiver who can play on the outside, or in the slot while providing value as a returner.