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Ask 5: Who is the most improved college player this season?

Gerald Herbert / Associated Press
Zach Mettenberger's rise has been one of the college football season's most pleasant surprises.

It's hard to believe we are already at the midway point of the college football season. That was fast! Since we are at the halfway mark, I thought this would be a good time to get the following question answered by NFL evaluators: Which college football player has improved the most from last season to this season? I posed that question to five NFL personnel executives and here's what they had to say:

Executive 1: Zach Mettenberger

"Zach Mettenberger. He's made a dramatic improvement from last year. Obviously, he's much better statistically. He just looks more confident this year, and he's not making the big mistakes."

Executive 2: Justin Gilbert

"I'd say Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. He struggled last year. He gave up too many big plays, and he didn't play the ball very well. This year, he's playing to his size, speed and athleticism. His stock is way up."

Executive 3: Shayne Skov

"Shayne Skov. Another year removed from his injury has made a big difference. He won't wow you with his speed, but his playing instincts are top notch, and he's a strong take-on guy. He's also a very explosive blitzer."

Executive 4: Justin Gilbert

"The Oklahoma State cornerback (Justin Gilbert). I loved him on tape two years ago, but he struggled last year. He is playing a lot better. He has the size and aa (athletic ability) to be a dominant press corner at our level. He should be a lock to go in the first round."

Executive 5: Zach Mettenberger

"Mettenberger. He was bad at the beginning of last year, but he showed some promise toward the end of the season. He's taken his game to a whole new level this year. Nobody has done more to help their draft stock than him."

» Gil Brandt's Hot 100: Mettenberger moves to No. 27 on list

Verdict: Gilbert and Mettenberger each got two votes, while Skov received one.

Conclusion: Mettenberger seemed like an obvious choice, but the other two names were very interesting. Tall corners have never been in more demand than they are in today's game and that's why Gilbert is starting to build a buzz in the scouting community. When I studied Skov over the summer, he wasn't playing with the same thump and physicality I remembered from his early days at Stanford. This fall, it looks as though he's returned to his pre-injury form. He is going to be a very attractive prospect for teams running the 3-4 defense.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.



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