Taber Small continues to look at some of the top college prospects in the country as he scours the schools of the SEC, Big 10, PAC 12, and the rest of major college football. His detailed analysis and evaluation can help both college and pro football fans keep track of the pipeline of talent as the 2014 NFL Draft approaches.
The Football Educator is following NationalUnderclassmen.com and Taber Small’s work by featuring some of the players from Auburn University.
The Football Educator
NFL Prospects – Auburn
By Taber Small
Auburn is one of the best turnaround stories of the 2013 college football season. Last year, the Tigers finished 3-9 and were winless in SEC play at 0-8. This year, the 7th ranked Auburn football team has gone 10-1 and 7-1 in SEC play under the leadership of first year head coach Gus Malzahn. They won an exciting close game this past weekend over 25th ranked Georgia. This year’s football team has some very intriguing NFL prospects that have stood out to scouts this season.
Tre Mason RB, 5-10, 205 lbs.:
Mason is an elusive, shifty running back with great speed and acceleration. He’s carried the load since taking over the starting RB duties at mid-season last year and has run for two straight 1,000-yard seasons. Mason is an extremely talented running back who possesses the vision and speed to quickly accelerate through the hole. He’s shown more patience this season in allowing the play to develop in front of him and sees the backside cutback lanes. Mason runs hard between the tackles and keeps his legs moving after the initial contact.
He was impressive in his team’s win against Georgia on Saturday, running for 115 yards on 27 carries and a score. His 17 total touchdowns currently lead the SEC, which shows his nose for the end zone. Mason is a reliable receiver out of the backfield and runs good routes. He is also the team’s primary kickoff returner with a 27.2 average including a 100-yard return for a TD this season. Mason is not a very big or powerful running back, as he doesn’t possess the ideal size to carry the load at the next level. His versatility makes him a perfect fit as a change of pace/third down specialist and return man in the NFL. Mason is a junior who has really impressed scouts this season with his outstanding and consistent play. It wouldn’t be surprising if he considered coming out for next year’s draft, where he would possibly be selected in the middle to late rounds.
Jay Prosch FB, 6-0, 258 lbs.:
The Illinois transfer is an athletic freak of nature who possesses incredible size and speed at the fullback position. He is a hard-nosed football player that punishes defenders with his physical blocks and opens up running lanes for RB Tre Mason. Prosch is primarily used in Auburn’s pro-style offense, but he will occasionally line up in their spread option split backfield set as well. He shows soft hands and is also a technically sound blocker in pass protection when picking up blitzes.
Prosch has great speed for a guy his size and runs in the high 4.5 to low 4.6’s in the 40. Scouts are impressed with his size, strength, speed, versatility and value as a standout special teamer. Prosch is projected to be the first fullback taken off the board in the 2014 draft between the 5th and 6th round.
Dee Ford DE/LB, 6-2, 240 lbs.:
Ford is an athletically talented pass rushing specialist who possesses an explosive first step. He is a fierce edge rusher with phenomenal speed and power to get around tackles. Ford uses his long arms and active hands to fight off blocks. He beats offensive tackles with speed, quickness and strength. Ford was a menace the entire game against Georgia’s offensive tackles recording a sack and six QBH’s. He constantly got pressure and push in the pocket.
Auburn has specific packages for Ford to rush the QB from a three-point stance and also standing up. He looks confortable rushing from the two-point stance, which is his projected position at the NFL level in a 3-4 defense as an OLB. Ford will need to adjust to dropping back in coverage and also playing in space. He rushes too far up the field at times, which takes him out of the play on running plays. Overall, scouts are excited about his upside and athleticism at the next level. Ford is still a raw player and will need to land with the right NFL team that could groom him into a starter.