|Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press|
|In a conference deep with offensive talent, a defensive player might be the Pac-12's finest player.|
Our analysts are constantly talking to their NFL and college sources about players in the college game. Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks, Charles Davis and Gil Brandt share some of what NFL folks are discussing in their circles in this space each week.
The scoop: An NFC scout coming off a recent visit to UCLA says sophomore LB/RB Myles Jack is "the best player in the Pac-12." The evaluator raved about Jack's instincts, aggressiveness and toughness. When the scout was reminded about bigger-name stars in the conference, he didn't back off his claim and even suggested Jack could be a first-round pick on either side of the ball.
The skinny: That's quite a statement about a player in a conference that boasts quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, DL Leonard Williams and OT Andrus Peat. But it speaks to Jack's rising stock as a two-way player, even though UCLA coach Jim Mora seems committed to playing the reigning Pac-12 defensive and offensive freshman of the year almost exclusively at linebacker (he didn't have a carry in UCLA's opening-game victory over Virginia).
The scoop: An NFL personnel executive believes Ohio State's highly touted defensive front is "overrated." It's a solid group, he says, but there's no elite talent in the mix.
The skinny: That's a little surprising, but the comment does come just days after Navy's triple-option plowed its way for 370 yards on the ground. Ohio State boasts one of the top senior defensive tackles in the country (Michael Bennett) and has a budding star in sophomore DL Joey Bosa. It'll be interesting to see how that line holds up against a more conventional college offense this week when it faces Virginia Tech.
The scoop: UCLA's offensive struggles in its opener against Virginia highlighted just how good Jake Brendel is at center, according to one Pac-12 observer.
The skinny: Against Virginia, the line gave up five sacks, allowed numerous QB pressures and the run game averaged just 3 yards a carry. Brendel missed the game with a sprained ankle. The Bruins really missed him; their offensive line wasn't the same.
The scoop: Nelson Agholor is unquestionably one of the most polished receivers in college football, but one veteran NFC scout says Agholor isn't even the most talented receiver at USC. He said the Trojans have a number of young receivers with more explosion, athleticism and overall talent.
The skinny: The scout's comments were not a dismissal of Agholor's talent or pro potential, but instead a tribute to the recruiting job done by the Trojans' staff amid tough sanctions. With guys like Juju Smith, Adoree Jackson and Brice Dixon already making plays as freshmen, NFL scouts will be spending a lot more time at Heritage Hall checking blue-chip pass catchers. Some believe Jackson, Smith and true freshman WR Ajene Harris are all capable of being two-way players.
The scoop: One NFL personnel evaluator calls Utah WR Dres Anderson a "sleeper prospect" and "very interesting." Anderson "has impressive straight-line speed and should have a big 2014 season," the scout said.
The skinny: A slew of talented Pac-12 receivers were lost to the NFL last year, and the son of former NFL wideout Flipper Anderson is quietly one of the top returning receivers in the conference. He had more than 1,000 yards for the Utes in 2013 and his 18.9 yards per catch led the Pac-12. He averaged 27.8 yards on four catches last week in Utah's 56-14 win over Idaho State.
The scoop: Fresno State has two safeties -- Derron Smith and Charles Washington -- that are both NFL-caliber players.
The skinny: It was a tough start for Smith and Washington as USC quarterbacks had their way with the Bulldogs' secondary, throwing for 424 yards and four touchdowns in a 52-13 rout on Saturday. Smith, a senior FS, is probably going to be rated a better prospect coming out than 2013 fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas was when he exited Fresno State.
The scoop: NFL scouts who go through Oxford, Miss., have been raving about Ole Miss sophomore OT Laremy Tunsil. A player to keep a close eye on, they say, as we head to the 2016 draft, when Tunsil will first be eligible.
The skinny: Ole Miss lists Tunsil at 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds. Pretty good size. He's got exceptional pass-blocking skills; he allowed just one sack all last season when as a true freshman he earned All-SEC second-team honors. And he just turned 20 on Aug. 20. If you want a true gauge of his worth, watch last year's Egg Bowl and the difference in the Rebels' offense before and after he left the game with a knee injury. It was striking.
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