If you love the NFL draft, you'll want to pay attention to this game. It's kind of astonishing that neither of these programs, the Miami Hurricanes or South Carolina Gamecocks, are ranked given the star power they have. There is no prospect on the level of Jadeveon Clowney this time in this game, but there are several possible high end picks on display. Let's take a look.
Probably most intriguing (and most fun) to watch is the play of the running backs. Each team has two superior prospects that will run wild in this game. Miami boasts Duke Johnson, who is probably my favorite running back in the draft. He has several gears when it comes to speed, he's got very good acceleration as well. Most impressive is his vision and patience, waiting for holes to appear, rather than just jumping straight through. After this season, I'm sure Giants fans will appreciate that immensely. He's also possibly the best pass catching running back in the draft which gives the team that drafts him an extra weapon in the pass game. He's absolutely dynamic on screen passes. Think Giovanni Bernard, but a bit shiftier.
On the other side, you have the Gamecocks' Mike Davis. He's more of a traditional in-between the tackles prospect. That's no knock on him. He's built up a bit more at 5-foot-9, 220 pounds, like a bowling ball. He's got elite balance, which is probably his best attribute. Center of gravity is low that he can punch through multiple defenders. He plays with an attitude too. He's plenty shifty enough as well, and gets by on above average vision. If you're looking for more of a workhorse type back, he's your guy.
There are also a couple of offensive linemen that project to go early day 2 and could even sneak into the end of the first round. For Miami, it's left tackle Ereck Flowers, a 6-foot-5, 320 pound player that's light on his feet, is a very strong pass protector and can get downfield in a hurry. Very athletic. He does not have a very strong base however, and has difficulty anchoring. He'll get bullied by power rushers. For the Gamecocks, you've got A.J. Cann, who is exactly the opposite. A power blocker at 6-foot-3, 311 pounds, he can drive block defenders and pave the way for a big day running the ball. Has some technique issues in pass protection, but they seem fixable. Corey Robinson is South Carolina's behemoth left tackle at 6-foot-7, 344 pounds and is a very good run blocker as well. He's got slow feet, which means he won't be a left tackle in the NFL but could potentially have a future at right guard. I see him as a very early day 3 player.
Two tight ends to watch include Hurricane Clive Walford who projects as this year's best tight end prospect, a fearless player that attacks the middle of the field. A superior athlete with soft hands and is a very good blocker at the point of attack as well. I think he's a day 2 guy and a Martellus Bennett clone. Meanwhile, South Carolina boasts Rory Anderson, a low round prospect because he is exceedingly inconsistent. He disappears for long stretches of games, but has superb physical tools and great length.
Denzel Perryman is one of college football's most decorated and talented middle linebacker prospects. He is the heartbeat of that team, is instinctual, and can play sideline to sideline. He is at his best crashing on the offensive line, as he's an excellent blitzer and often shows off those excellent read and react skills. I don't like him as a first round pick because he struggles in coverage and is very inconsistent in terms of shedding blocks, but I can see him as a Jon Beason type player.
Other guys to look out for are Miami WR Phillip Dorsett and Carolina WR Damiere Byrd, who are both day 3 prospects that have come up big for their teams. Both are undersized, with Dorsett at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds and Byrd at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds. They are very quick possession guys, though Dorsett has terrific long speed as well. Finally, Miami CB Ladarius Gunter is an intriguing prospect because of his length and he looks quite natural changing directions. He's had some slip ups, so he's probably a day 3 prospect as well.
Teams: Miami Hurricanes vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Odds: Miami (-3.5)
Game Time: Saturday, Dec. 27th, 3:30 p.m. EST