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Battle for BCS title will show how top players handle pressure

Associated Press
Alabama's Courtney Upshaw (41) tackles LSU's Kenny Hilliard (27) during Monday's BCS title game.

For a talent evaluator, there is nothing like watching two squads loaded with NFL-caliber prospects square off in a high stakes battle with the championship on the line. The pressure of the moment is akin to an NFL playoff game, and scouts can certainly assess a player's pro potential in these contests.

Here are some of the guys I'll be watching closely in Monday's BCS Championship Game:

Trent Richardson*, Alabama, RB: Richardson has roundly been touted as the top runner in college football in the scouting community, and he'll get another chance to showcase his skills on a national stage. He was phenomenal in the first matchup, amassing 169 yards from scrimmage on 28 touches. His ability to emerge as a factor in the passing game, in particular, suggests that Richardson has the tools to be an elite feature back as a pro.

Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, OLB: Upshaw is not only one of the Crimson Tide's top rushers, but he has developed into one of the country's most disruptive playmakers off the edge. His combination of strength and power allows him to remain stout against the run, while also overpowering blockers on bull rushes. Against an LSU offense that utilizes a balanced approach, Upshaw will need to be a difference maker for Alabama to capture the crown.

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Dre Kirkpatrick*, Alabama, CB: The battle for the top cornerback spot in college football will take place in the Superdome, with Kirkpatrick battling LSU's Morris Claiborne for the honors. At 6-foot-3, 192 pounds, Kirkpatrick possesses the size and length scouts covet, but he must display the movement to handle quick receivers in space. He has been spectacular in coverage throughout the season, but the challenge of matching up with Rueben Randle will provide evaluators with a glimpse of his pro potential.

Morris Claiborne*, LSU, CB: There hasn't been a finer cover corner on the field than Claiborne, but he'll need to up his game with all the chips on the table. His blanket coverage on some of the top receivers in the SEC has been remarkable, and he made several key plays in the teams' first matchup. If he can replicate that effort in the rematch, he will make a strong statement about his standing as the top corner in college football.

Sam Montgomery*, LSU, DE: Montgomery has flown under the radar for most of the season, but he has put together a solid effort that has started to create a buzz among evaluators. Although he lacks ideal size for the position on the next level, his ability to produce splashy plays Sam Montgomery is intriguing. If he can put together another stellar effort against the Crimson Tide, it could place him squarely in the crosshairs of personnel people across the league.

Others to watch: Dont'a Hightower*, LB, Alabama; Mark Barron, S, Alabama; Josh Chapman, DT, Alabama; Tyrann Mathieu*, CB, LSU.

An asterisk (*) denotes players who aren't seniors.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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