With college football's Week 7 in the books, here's a look at who's on the rise and who's in decline based on the weekend's action.
Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt: Cunningham has been on the radar for NFL scouts since last season, when he earned first-team All-SEC accolades at inside linebacker. His play in the Commodores' upset of Georgia on Saturday put him in the national spotlight. Cunningham had a career-high 19 tackles, including a stuff on fourth down to stop Georgia's last-ditch efforts with less than a minute remaining. He's listed at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and makes strong tackles. He's physical with pulling guards to shed to make the play. He'll add weight for the NFL Scouting Combine, and scouts might be reminded of longtime NFL starter Karlos Dansby when they watch Cunningham.
Matthew Dayes, RB, North Carolina State: The Wolfpack nearly pulled off an amazing upset over Clemson on the road Saturday, thanks in part to the tough running of Dayes. He had 106 yards on 22 carries, showing nice patience and cutting ability to take advantage of stretch plays. The 5-9, 203-pound back has a low center of gravity, which helps him churn through tackles. Dayes has enough power to run over tacklers, and he has a nose for the end zone. He could be a solid mid-round selection in the 2017 draft.
Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado: The surprising Buffaloes are tied for first place in the Pac-12 South Division. One of the reasons for their success is the play of Liufau, one of the toughest quarterbacks in the country. He's completing more than 70 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. He's missed three games with an ankle injury this season, but Liufau's mobility came into play in Colorado's win over Arizona State on Saturday, as he was able to consistently move the chains with his feet as well as through the air. NFL teams are always looking for a potential steal at quarterback late in the draft, and Liufau has the potential to be one of those players.
Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State: The Seminoles' passing game is at its best when it gets the ball to Rudolph in space to take advantage of his agility. Against Wake Forest on Saturday, he showed the stop-start ability and acceleration to grab scouts' attention. Rudolph caught passes all over the field, racking up 13 catches for 218 yards. He's making it clear to scouts that whenever he gets into an NFL offense with a consistent passing game, he'll be a playmaker.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma: Westbrook was benched for the first couple of plays of the team's game against Kansas State, but apparently he used that as fuel for the rest of the game. His 184 yards and three touchdowns on nine catches (following 10-232, 3 TD against Texas last week) put his smooth route-running ability and impressive second gear in the open field on display. He also flashed downfield blocking ability, which is a big plus. Westbrook's work on deep routes was inconsistent, as he adjusted to one throw to put up an 88-yard score but failed to snare another that was thrown a bit behind him. While the former junior college All-American is more slight than the ideal receiver prospect (6-0, 176), he his physical limitations shouldn't keep him from him playing at the next level.
Tony Conner, LB/S, Ole Miss: Conner's lack of productivity has been one issue for an Ole Miss defense that allows more than 30 points per contest (87th in the country). The former second-team All-SEC pick has started all six games for the Rebels, but ranks 17th on the team with just 15 total tackles (eight solo). That's well off the pace he set in his last fully healthy season (he had 69 stops, nine for loss as a sophomore). He suffered a season-ending knee injury against Alabama in the middle of the 2015 campaign and hasn't looked like the same guy this year. Hopefully Conner can regain his previous form before the end of the year.
Deon Hollins, DE/LB, UCLA: How it is possible that a 2015 second-team All-Pac-12 selection has produced only one assisted tackle through the first half of the season? That's the situation in which Hollins finds himself. Hollins does some things very well, like get off the ball quickly and work under the shoulder of the tackle to pressure the quarterback. Hollins is miscast as a strong-side end in UCLA's system, which is not the best fit for a 6-0, 230-pound defender; he often is kept out of the game until obvious passing downs for that reason. If he's able to prove during the draft process that he has linebacker-caliber long speed and agility to chase ball carriers to the sideline, a 3-4 team will see him as a rush specialist with potential.
Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.