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Most underappreciated prospects for undefeated CFB teams

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Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
Ohio State's Joshua Perry ranks second on the team with 52 tackles.

"And O" might be the most satisfying words in sports. Why? Because in sports, it means a team has a zero in the loss column.

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But winning every week isn't simply the result of epic performances by Heisman favorites like LSU sophomore running back Leonard Fournette (who is averaging more than 200 yards and two scores rushing per game) and TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin (362 yards, 3.5 touchdowns passing, 65 yards rushing per game).

The unheralded senior leaders of undefeated teams listed below don't make the headlines as often as some of their teammates, but they are still key figures in their team's consistent success -- a fact that will not go unnoticed by scouts who will be evaluating their talent for the 2016 NFL Draft.

The players are listed in order of their team's ranking in this week's Associated Press Poll.

Joshua Perry, OLB, Ohio State: Defensive end Joey Bosa, running back Ezekiel Elliott, and quarterback J.T. Barrett showed why they are among the most talented players in the country in the 7-0 Buckeyes' win over Penn State last week. However, Perry is among the better linebackers around because he can attack the passer and uses his size and athleticism to track down ball carriers sideline to sideline. He'll be a starter early in his NFL career.


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Jay Lee, WR, Baylor: Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman received praise, and deservedly so, for his 10-catch, 199-yard, three-score effort against West Virginia Saturday, but 6-0 teams like Baylor don't average 60-plus points a game without multiple weapons on offense. Lee's 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame belies his foot quickness, which he can use to run routes and elude defensive backs. Two of Lee's three catches against the Mountaineers went for scores in the third quarter, turning a 10-point Baylor halftime lead into a 24-point BU lead heading into the fourth quarter.

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Jared Norris/Gionni Paul, LB, Utah: Senior running back Devontae Booker runs wild for the 6-0 Utes, but Norris and Paul are the heart of a defense that can hold up its end of the bargain. Paul transferred from Miami (Fla.) a couple of years ago and is using his athleticism to lead the team in tackles (52). He also has two interceptions. Norris is a tough, instinctual player who also has enough speed to play inside or outside at the next level.

Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU: Offense is the name of the game for the 7-0 Horned Frogs. Listenbee isn't as well-known as fellow pass-catcher Josh Doctson, and was hampered by a hip injury the past couple of weeks. However, he felt healthy enough last week to connect with Boykin six times for 101 yards and a score in a win over Iowa State heading into the bye week. He has 10.0-second 100-meter track speed and the game to do more than run fly routes. Watch for him to be a riser come NFL Scouting Combine time.

Deion Jones, OLB, LSU: Jones is finally getting his shot as a starter in his senior year, and he's taking advantage of the opportunity to replace Kwon Alexander on the weak side. He set the pace in the Tigers' big win over Florida last weekend with 10 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and one sack. Jones is tied for the team lead with 41 stops, even though he missed a game's worth of action due to a targeting penalty. RB Leonard Fournette is a special talent, but the LSU defense has to be at the top of its game for the team to win the SEC, and Jones will have to lead the way.


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Charone Peake, WR, Clemson: The 6-0 Tigers are a young team, so Peake is one of the few seniors making a major contribution to the squad. His presence has not been overlooked by scouts, though. He's finally healthy after two seasons plagued with injuries, and the loss of sophomore stud receiver Mike Williams to injury opened the door for more opportunities for the 6-3, 215-pound Peake. If the Tigers are to unseat Florida State for the ACC crown, quarterback Deshaun Watson will need to use Peake as a foil to speedster Artavis Scott.

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Donavon Clark, OL, Michigan State: The 7-0 Spartans' passing connection of quarterback Connor Cook to receiver Aaron Burbridge is one of the most dangerous in the country, but they'd find it difficult to connect without Clark's stout pass protection. While All-America candidates Jack Conklin (left tackle) and Jack Allen (center) have suffered injuries, Clark has been a rock up front, moving from right guard to right tackle whenever needed and excelling in both spots. That strength and versatility should earn Clark mid-round grades in the spring.

Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State: I considered putting quarterback Everett Golson here, because he's nearly been overlooked in his play as the Seminoles have rolled to six wins to open the season. However, Lawrence-Stample deserves some recognition for his active, lunch-pail style of play in the middle. His low center of gravity makes him a bull in the run game, but he's also quick enough to attack passers from the interior. NFL defensive coordinators looking for a one-gap nose tackle will covet his skills.

Jordan Walsh, G/Austin Blythe, C, Iowa: Iowa has surprised people across the country by winning its first seven games, but the manner in which the team has gone about its business shouldn't surprise anyone. The Hawkeyes have long been known for a technically sound offensive line, which helped the team roll up 294 rushing yards against previously undefeated Northwestern last weekend. Walsh is a force off the ball and can regularly hit second-level targets, while Blythe has the movement skills to use every bit of his smallish frame to prevent defenders from getting past him. Both have NFL futures and will be crucial to Iowa as it tries to make a run to the Big Ten Championship Game.

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Jimmy Bean, DE/OLB, Oklahoma State: Junior defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah gets a lot more notice than Bean, but the two players' statistical production this season has been almost identical. Ogbah has 11 tackles for loss, including 7.5 sacks, while Bean has 10.5 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks, helping the 6-0 Cowboys lead the country with 4.17 sacks per game. At 6-5, 250 with long arms and a good motor, NFL teams might determine Bean's best fit is as a stand-up pass rusher.

Mose Frazier, WR, Memphis: Junior quarterback Paxton Lynch led the Tigers to a home upset of Ole Miss on Saturday, but he needed someone on the other end of those passes to complete the play. Frazier's size (5-11, 190) and speed might not be elite, but his routes were excellent against a talented Ole Miss secondary. The separation he created with his inside hand created space for Lynch to find him in the right front corner of the end zone early in the second half -- the Tigers never looked back.

Orion Jones, DT, Toledo: Alabama transfer quarterback Phillip Ely has excellent weapons to choose from, including 6-4 senior receiver Alonzo Russell. However, Jones and the Rockets' defense should be given just as much credit for the perfect start (6-0), as season-opening-weekend foe Arkansas (103 rush yards, 1-for-5 in red zone) can attest. Jones is a dynamo inside (nine tackles for loss, including five sacks, this season) and could play the five-technique in a three-man front, as well. He'll be a third- or fourth-round pick in the mold of the Packers' Mike Daniels.


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William Jackson, CB, Houston: I don't think people around the country have any idea how good of a cover corner Jackson has been for the Cougars since signing as a junior-college transfer for the 2014 season. Yes, electric quarterback Greg Ward, Jr., has successfully led the Cougars to six straight wins to start off the year, and the offense averages more than 350 yards per game. But NFL scouts are equally interested in seeing Jackson use his 6-2, 195-pound frame and quickness to stay with receivers (he already has 12 pass breakups in six games). If Jackson isn't picked in the first round of the 2016 draft, then he shouldn't escape the second before a team snaps him up.

Tyler Matakevich, ILB, Temple: The Owls probably won't remain undefeated, with games at East Carolina (who is 4-0 at home) and vs. Notre Dame in the next two weeks. But I won't count on Temple's defense failing them with Matakevich running the show. Not only does he lead the team with 52 tackles, nine for loss, but he's also intercepted three passes this season. Add fellow seniors Matt Ioannidis (defensive tackle) and Tavon Young (cornerback) into the mix, and the Owls' defense has the attention of NFL scouts.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.

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