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Jeremiah: USC's Cravens impresses as UCLA's Clark struggles

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USA Today Sports
Daniel Jeremiah kept a close eye on USC's Su'a Cravens and UCLA's Kenny Clark on Saturday.

LOS ANGELES -- The starting quarterbacks garner the majority of the media attention when it comes to UCLA and USC. The Bruins are led by the most talented pro-style quarterback in college football, freshman Josh Rosen, while the Trojans are led by fifth-year senior Cody Kessler.

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However, NFL evaluators were most interested to see two junior defenders in Saturday's Trojans-Bruins game -- UCLA defensive lineman Kenny Clark and USC outside linebacker Su'a Cravens. I focused my attention on these two players from start to finish. Here are my observations from the game:

UCLA's Clark off his game

Clark is a fun player to watch on tape, but his performance Saturday was far from his best. He was injured early in the second quarter, but he wasn't effective before or after missing a few snaps. He has very quick hands and normally plays with good leverage, but he was repeatedly knocked off the ball and washed down the line of scrimmage. He was even flat-backed a couple of times. He does play with great effort and he prevented a first down by pursuing a screen pass that was set up well. He didn't provide much pass rush Saturday. He effectively pushed the pocket a few times, but that was it.


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Impressive showing for USC's Cravens

Evaluators are split when it comes to the question of which position Cravens should play in the NFL. Some would like him to slim down and play safety, while others would like to see him bulk up and play linebacker. This was a great game to evaluate his cover skills. He matched up with UCLA's talented slot receiver Thomas Duarte on almost a down-by-down basis. Duarte did catch a touchdown pass with Cravens draped all over him, but I was very impressed with the man-cover skills displayed by the talented junior linebacker. He broke up several passes and almost came away with an interception. He was quick to react to the run game and fill the hole. I prefer him as a 4-3 weakside linebacker at the next level, where he can run and chase against the run and match up with backs and tight ends in the passing game.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter at @MoveTheSticks.

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