by Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
Northwestern at Michigan State (12:00 PM EST ESPN2)
A Big 10 battle that could eventually determine who goes bowling. Northwestern is 4-2 and Michigan State 3-3, but State has had the more impressive wins. These two teams have put a lot of points up against each other in recent years, but both have improved defenses. Still, look for a competitive, high scoring game that could help shake out the middle of the Big 10 race.
Wooten is a 6’7″ 265 lb. defensive end who was 1st Team All Big 10 as a junior. Wooten reminds a bit of Jason Taylor. He even wears the same number and he certainly gets to the quarterback at a similar rate, with 10 sacks last year. A good run defender, but he does not have the bulk to be a regular in the Patriots base defense. However, Bill Belichick has shown more interest in hybrid types who can rush the passer lately and perhaps a spot for Wooten could be found as a pure pass rusher. For whatever reason, Wooten has yet to rack up a sack this year in 6 games. Whether it be double-teaming or just bad luck, it is concerning and if it continues could severely impact Wooten’s draft status. He has to start showing the dominant play he did in 2008.
A big 6’1″ 190 lb. corner who has a lot of starting experience for the Wildcats. He plays solid run defense and is good in coverage. McManis is not a great playmaker, but he’s improving as demonstrated by his 3 interceptions already this year. Right now, McManis is a late round pick, but he has the size, production and experience, and if his times and technique look solid at the Combine, he could move up and interest the Patriots.
A fifth year senior, White serves as one of the Spartans’ captains this season. which is always a positive characteristic that impresses the Patriots. A one-time walk on, White has really improved his game and is catching balls for an average of 75 yards per game this year and has found the end zone 4 times already. He’s not a great player, but he finds seams in zones, has good hands and is tough. His marked improvement since his freshman year gives him a shot to be drafted.
A big corner who has had some medical issues and average production in college. He is another one of Michigan State’s four captains. Plays effectively on special teams. Weaver has been a part-time player in the secondary this year. He has talent, but almost certainly won’t be drafted. As a corner with size and good special teams production, he may get a chance on a NFL practice squad where he can improve enough to eventually fit on a regular roster.
Stanford at Arizona (7:30 PM EST Versus)
Two good Pac-10 teams face off with the winner having an inside track at getting themselves into a good Bowl. Stanford comes in at 4-2 and has their best team in nearly 10 years. Arizona at 3-2 comes off a disappointing loss to Washington and will be hungry to turn things back around this week at home.
Gerhart is one of my favorite players currently in college football and it’s fun to watch run. An old throwback bruising fullback who carries the ball, and tacklers with him/ Gerhart is a tremendous athlete. In fact there was some question whether he would come back and play football his senior year as he is also a highly regarded and drafted major league baseball prospect. Gerhart has returned and has once again shown his physical, aggressive, tough running. So far, Gerhart is averaging 124.3 yards rushing per game, carrying it for a 5.3 average. He has reached paydirt 10 times this season. Gerhart is okay in the passing game, but has yet to excel; he does have the physical talent to become a good player in that area as well. If he plays football, Gerhart will be very highly drafted and could become a tough, physical runner for many NFL teams including the Patriots.
Stanford NT Ekom Udofia (#54)
The Patriots’ Vince Wilfork is a free agent and if he does not return, the Patriots could be in the market for another nose tackle. Udofia would fit the bill and is probably the second best nose tackle in college football after Alabama’s Terrence Cody. Cody is likely to be gone long before the Patriots pick, but Udofia may be someone they take a close look at. He checks in at a stout 322 lbs and is not much of a pass rusher. But he is dominant at clogging the middle on runs. Udofia has started almost from the moment he stepped on the Stanford campus and has proven very strong and difficult for even multiple blockers to push backwards. While he isn’t a sure fire first or even second round pick, pure nose tackles are hard to find and continued solid play and a good post-season could shoot him up to that range of the draft.
Turner is a receiver with obvious physical gifts who at times looks very impressive. But overall, his career to date has been a disappointment. Despite having decent speed and being imposing physically, he rarely breaks long gainers and seems to disappear at times. He does have 21 catches this year, and has displayed fairly consistent hands, but has only a long gain of 16 yards. He has a lot of talent and came out of high school an impressive recruit for the Wildcats. He has played a lot, but just hasn’t stepped up to be special and thus will likely be a late round project at best unless he can begin to dominate on this level.
Ross has the chance to be one of the best cornerbacks in the country and a high draft pick. Right now he projects to be about a 3rd round choice, but his size and production bode well. He has good speed and has made a lot of plays for Arizona and is also tough against the run. Ross adds the dimension of kick returning which also could bolster his stock. One interesting note, Ross hails from Rancho Cucamonga High School. which also produced current Patriots safety Patrick Chung and many forced, uninteresting stories from Boston Herald sportswriter Steve Buckley.