|Bill Wippert/Associated Press|
|Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack is expected to draw first-round interest from NFL teams next spring.|
It is becoming increasingly obvious that Buffalo senior outside linebacker Khalil Mack is a player fans will need to pay close attention to this fall.
NFL.com draft analyst Gil Brandt's Tweet from Thursday morning is the latest example of what scouts think of Mack's talent.
Talked to @NFL personnel dir who watched Buffalo LB Khalil Mack practice this week. Says he's real deal, sees him as 1st-Rnd pick.â Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) August 22, 2013
"When a guy stands out on a 9-27 team over the past three years, he has something going for him," Brandt says of Mack.
Brandt says Mack's ability to stay on the field for all three downs will appeal to NFL teams, as will his competitiveness. Mack, while weighing in at 245 pounds, was clocked at 4.65 seconds in the 40 by NFL scouts in March.
Mack will get a chance to show off what Brandt calls "first-round talent" in the first two games of the season: Buffalo opens at Ohio State on Aug. 31, then plays at Baylor on Sept. 7. In seven career games against "Big Six" conference competition, Mack has three sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss.
In his career, Mack (6-feet-3, 251 pounds) has 18 sacks, 56 tackles for loss, 11 forced fumbles, two blocked kicks and an interception. He is 19 shy of setting the NCAA career record for tackles for loss; at Buffalo, he has averaged 18.7 tackles for loss per season.
Mack signed with Buffalo in 2009 as part of then-coach Turner Gill's fourth recruiting class at the school. Mack, listed by the school at 6-3 and 220 pounds at the time, signed out of Fort Pierce (Fla.) Westwood, where he had been a third-team all-state pick in Class 4A (at the time, Florida's third-largest high school classification). Among the 4A first-team picks: Baltimore Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam, a first-round pick out of Florida in the 2013 draft, and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.
But Mack didn't receive as much acclaim from the recruiting analysts or college programs; Buffalo was his only official recruiting visit and going by 247sports.com's composite recruiting rankings, he was the consensus No. 143 player in Florida in that recruiting cycle. Worth noting: Jacksonville Jaguars rookie safety Jonathan Cyprien, who attended FIU and was taken in the second round of the 2013 draft, was No. 138, and Kent State running back Dri Archer was No. 140.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.