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Move The Sticks notes: Strong has UT loaded with young talent

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  • By Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks NFL.com
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Editor's note: NFL.com analysts and former NFL scouts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks of the Move The Sticks Podcast share some of their college-scouting notes heading into Week 6 of the college football season, including:

» The best NFL comp for Christian McCaffrey.
» A position booming with depth (and it's not RB!).
» A breakout QB scouts should get to know.

But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Jeremiah's take on Texas coach Charlie Strong and the talent he has assembled at UT:

There were reports this week that Texas coach Charlie Strong's job is in jeopardy. I know he hasn't produced the desired win total in his two-plus years on the job (13-16 record), but I believe dismissing him would be a mistake. I spoke to an NFL scouting executive about the Texas program and he had an interesting observation.

"I just went through Texas on a visit and they have the best-looking group of young players in the country," he said. "It would be a shame to see them take that job away from Charlie just as that team is ready to win big."

I went to the Notre Dame-Texas game in Week 1 and I came away really impressed by the young collection of talent Strong has recruited to Austin, Texas. They have studs at some key positions: QB (Shane Buechele), RB (D'Onta Foreman, Chris Warren III), OT (Connor Williams) and LB (Malik Jefferson). They also have a lot of young talent at cornerback in Davante Davis, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd (a stud special-teams player). With the exception of Foreman (a junior) none of those players will be able to enter the draft until 2018, at the earliest, so there will be plenty of intriguing talent returning for the Longhorns.

This team is one year away from really taking off. -- Daniel Jeremiah

The perfect comp for Stanford's star RB: There's no question Christian McCaffrey is one of the most intriguing prospects in college football, but NFL scouts are having a hard time coming up with an apt comparison for the Heisman Trophy finalist. I've heard comps from scouts that range from Marshall Faulk and Reggie Bush to Danny Woodhead based on the junior's remarkable skills as a runner-receiver-returner. While those assessments are certainly compelling, I believe an NFC scout might've nailed it when he suggested McCaffrey "could be the next version of Brian Westbrook" as a pro.

The ex-Villanova standout enjoyed a spectacular career with the Philadelphia Eagles as a multipurpose playmaker in the backfield. He started his career as a dynamic punt return specialist before carving out a role as a change-of-pace weapon for the Eagles. He eventually became the team's RB1 on the way to becoming a two-time All Pro at the position.

Considering McCaffrey's explosive talents as a runner-receiver-returner, I could see an NFL team using the Westbrook blueprint to help the Stanford star maximize his skills as a pro. Scouts frequently discuss prospects' roles during the pre-draft process and lay out their vision for utilizing a player's skills. If I was presenting McCaffrey's case before a general manager or head coach, I would certainly use the former Eagles standout as an example of his potential impact as a pro. -- Bucky Brooks

Will an Arkansas TE emerge from O.J. Howard's shadow? Scouts will pay close attention to the Arkansas-Alabama game this weekend to see two of the top tight ends square off in a hotly contested SEC battle.

While Alabama's Howard is a household name after his spectacular performance against Clemson in the national championship game, the national spotlight hasn't set on Arkansas' Jeremy Sprinkle despite his impressive physical dimensions and rock-solid game. He played in the shadow of Hunter Henry a season ago as the Hogs' TE2, but I believe he might be a better prospect due to his combination of receiving and blocking skills. Against a loaded 'Bama defense that features NFL-caliber players at every level, he could steal the thunder from his counterpart with a showcase performance that highlights his diverse game. -- Bucky Brooks

RB not the only loaded position in CFB: College football is brimming with impact running backs right now. I can't recall a time where we've seen this many stud runners across the country. However, there is another position boasting incredible depth and talent -- safety.

College Football 24/7 Hot Topics:

I had an interesting discussion with an NFC scout at the Stanford-Washington game last week. We started talking about all of the elite runners in college football and he quickly pointed out the number of big-time safeties he's seen this fall. We started naming the different studs at the position and the list was long. Guys like LSU's Jamal Adams, Michigan's Jabrill Peppers (even though he's playing linebacker this fall), Washington's Budda Baker, Alabama's Eddie Jackson and Utah's Marcus Williams are playing at a very high level. One player who is really picking up steam is Ohio State's Malik Hooker. He has produced a couple of acrobatic interceptions this fall, showing off both his range and ball skills. Safety is one of the toughest positions to evaluate, but this group of players is making it much easier. -- Daniel Jeremiah

Matchup I'm excited to watch on Saturday: Oregon RB Royce Freeman vs. Washington front seven. Freeman has absolutely torched the Huskies' defense over the last two years. He rushed for 138 yards in last year's meeting after producing 168 yards on the ground in the 2014 contest. After missing the majority of Oregon's last two games, Freeman put up monster numbers against Washington State last week, rushing for 138 yards and 3 TDs. Washington's defense is coming off of a dominant performance against Stanford and its star running back, Christian McCaffrey. The UW defensive line is big and physical. I love the production they are getting from linebackers Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria. Safety Budda Baker and cornerback Sidney Jones are outstanding prospects, but this game will be won or lost by the members of the Huskies' front seven. -- Daniel Jeremiah

Breakout QB should have scouts' attention: Teams in search of franchise quarterbacks should take a long, hard look at North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior has a versatile set of skills that is ideally suited to the NFL game. As a sound decision maker with a big arm and superb throwing mechanics, he can carve up a defense from the pocket. Trubisky works every area of the field with pinpoint precision to stretch the defense horizontally and vertically. He rarely makes mistakes with the ball (zero interceptions through four games) and his ability to deliver in the clutch (game-winning drives in back-to-back games) should earn him high marks from evaluators. With Trubisky also displaying sneaky athleticism as a runner/scrambler, the North Carolina standout reminds me a lot of Alex Smith when he was at Utah. Although I'm not ready to proclaim Trubisky as a potential No. 1 pick in a future draft, I definitely believe he has a number of tools that will make scouts ponder the possibilities when checking out his tape this fall. -- Bucky Brooks

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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