Top NFL left tackle prospects Cyrus Kouandjio of Alabama and Jake Matthews of Texas A&M have been named among six semifinalists for the Outland Trophy, which is given annually to the nation's top lineman. Others making the cut include Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Baylor offensive guard Cyril Richardson, Stanford offensive guard David Yankey and Florida State center Bryan Stork.
Kouandjio and Matthews are considered potential first-round draft picks and have effectively protected the blind sides of quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel, respectively. McCarron has been sacked just nine times in 10 games this year. Manziel has been sacked 15 times in 10 games, though he's attempted more passes than McCarron (315 to 261), and exposes himself more to sacks by extending pass plays.
Kouandjio got off to a slow start in 2013, drawing two holding penalties in a season-opening win over Virginia Tech. He also struggled at times in pass protection early in the season, but has played exceptionally well since then. Matthews is considered the nation's No. 2 senior prospect at any position, according to NFL Media draft analyst Gil Brandt's Hot 100 list.
Kouandjio, a junior, is one of several Alabama underclassmen who will draw favorable enough draft grades to consider early entry. Richardson ranks No. 11 on Brandt's Hot 100, and is the top offensive guard on the list.
Top NFL prospects who were on the Outland Trophy watch list but missed the cut include Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix, Minnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman, Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson and Mississippi State offensive guard Gabe Jackson.