NFL Scout’s Eye: Top-tier Michigan-Ohio State duel stacked with pro prospects –

 In Sports

No. 3
Michigan Wolverines
at No. 2
Ohio State Buckeyes

Saturday, November 26, Noon, Columbus, Ohio, ABC

Not only is this the biggest rivalry in sports, but also factor in the Big Ten and playoff implications and there is a lot riding on Michigan-Ohio State this season. NFL scouts will also be dialed in as there will be more NFL talent on the field in this contest than almost any other game this season. Ohio State is very young but loaded with promising talent, and Michigan is a veteran team who might set a record for total draft picks next spring. Over the last 12 seasons, the Buckeyes are 11-1 against their hated rivals, including four straight under Urban Meyer.

Five draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

Curtis Samuel
, Ohio State, JR. (5-11, 200, 4.48, #4)

The most dangerous playmaker on the Buckeyes’ offense, Samuel has 790 receiving yards and 650 rushing yards this season, the only player in college football with 600-plus yards in both categories. He has 14 combined touchdowns, including eight over the past five games. Not a true running back, Samuel is more of a hybrid receiver who will take hand-offs and line up in the backfield, using his ball skills, focus and athleticism to create mismatches in coverage against linebackers and safeties. With the Ohio State passing game struggling to consistently complete passes on the outside, Samuel will be the key to the Buckeyes moving the chains against the various pressures that Michigan will throw at them.

Jabrill Peppers
, Michigan, rSO. (6-0, 205, 4.46, #5)

The two main objectives for Michigan on defense will be to limit Samuel and put pressure on redshirt junior QB
J.T. Barrett
(6-1, 225, 4.52, #16) in the pocket. And Peppers will have a major role in both areas. Defensive coordinator Don Brown prefers to keep Peppers close to the box to utilize his closing speed and ability to knife through tight spaces at the line of scrimmage, which should limit the number of Barrett runs, designed or improvised. With Peppers lined up mostly between the hashes, this might cause Ohio State to utilize Samuel on the edges, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Peppers also move outside on some snaps to give Barrett something else to think about when targeting Samuel.

Peppers should be used by Michigan to combat both Barrett and Samuel.

Gareon Conley
, Ohio State, rJR. (6-0, 195, 4.50, #8)

With backup senior QB
John O’Korn
(6-3, 215, 4.83, #8), Michigan completed just five passes to wide receivers last week, including only three to the Wolverines’ dangerous duo: redshirt seniors WR
Amara Darboh
(6-1, 215, 4.46, #82) and WR
Jehu Chesson
(6-2, 203, 4.50, #86). Michigan will rely on the ground game in this game, but will also need to have a more productive presence through the air, which won’t be easy against Ohio State’s talented cornerback depth chart, led by Conley and redshirt sophomore CB
Marshon Lattimore
(6-0, 195, 4.47, #2). Conley is comfortable in press coverage and uses his size, length and speed to stay in phase and restrict passing windows down the field.

Jake Butt
, Michigan, SR. (6-5, 250, 4.74, #88)

An Ohio native and high-school teammate of Ohio State C
Pat Elflein
(6-2, 300, 5.22, #65), Butt isn’t quite having the senior season many envisioned after he passed up an early-round draft pick to return to Ann Arbor for one final season. With 38 catches for 460 yards, he will likely fall short of last year’s totals (51 for 564) and was held without a catch last week for the first time since his sophomore season. A backup at quarterback is certainly a factor, but Michigan needs to target Butt to help move the chains and score against Ohio State’s defense. Scouts are hoping to see Butt line up against redshirt sophomore FS
Malik Hooker
(6-2, 205, 4.52, #24), who is ultra-talented but also prone to mistakes.

Raekwon McMillan
, Ohio State, JR. (6-2, 240, 4.78, #5)

Despite leading the Buckeyes with 71 tackles, it has been an up-and-down season for McMillan, who needs to have a strong performance against Michigan’s power run game, led by senior RB
De’Veon Smith
(5-11, 228, 4.57, #4). McMillan does a nice job with his reads and has patience in the hole to square up his target and make sure tackles. However, he struggles to keep himself clean from blocks and needs to better control his balance in space to better break down in the open field. McMillan will be tested against the Wolverines interior blockers advancing to his level to create running room, something the Ohio State middle linebacker needs to identify quickly so he can work off contact and limit run lanes.

Other Michigan prospects to watch:

  • DE
    Taco Charlton
    , SR. (6-5, 272, 4.87, #33)
  • DL
    Chris Wormley
    , rSR. (6-5, 302, 4.92, #43)
  • CB
    Jourdan Lewis
    , SR. (5-10, 186, 4.43, #26)
  • OC
    Mason Cole
    , rJR. (6-5, 305, 5.06, #52)
  • DT
    Ryan Glasgow
    , rSR. (6-3, 299, 5.02, #96)
  • CB
    Channing Stribling
    , SR. (6-1, 176, 4.52, #8)

Other Ohio State prospects to watch:

  • RG
    Billy Price
    , rJR. (6-3, 315, 5.19, #54)
  • DE
    Sam Hubbard
    , rSO. (6-4, 265, 4.76, #6)
  • TE
    Marcus Baugh
    , rJR. (6-5, 255, 4.87, #85)
  • WR
    Noah Brown
    , rSO. (6-2, 222, 4.57, #80)
  • DE
    Tyquan Lewis
    , rJR. (6-3, 260, 4.78, #59)
  • SLB
    Chris Worley
    , rJR. (6-2, 225, 4.67, #35)

Six other matchups to watch, in chronological order:

No. 5
Washington Huskies
at No. 23
Washington State Cougars

Friday, Nov. 25, 3:30 p.m., Pullman, Wash., Fox Sports 1

Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

Luke Falk
, Washington State, rJR. (6-3, 214, 4.87, #4):
A polarizing quarterback prospect who might be in the 2017 class, Falk delivers with excellent touch and thrives in Mike Leach’s pass-happy spread scheme. However, he lacks the arm strength to add RPMs to tight-windowed throws and his process is easily disrupted by pressure, leading to off-target throws and mistakes. NFL evaluators are split on his pro future.

John Ross
, Washington, rJR. (5-11, 190, 4.35. #1):
Only nine yards shy of 1,000 yards receiving on the season, Ross is an explosive deep threat who ranks second in FBS with 15 receiving scores, but he can also work over the middle and create with the ball in his hands. When he does get the ball on underneath routes, senior SS
Shalom Luani
(6-0, 198, 4.57, #18) is the key defender for the Cougars to help limit Ross.

Gabe Marks
, Washington State, rSR. (6-0, 188, 4.53, #9):
WSU’s starting Z receiver, Marks uses quickness out of his breaks to create room to work, but he is too easily outmuscled by physical corners and doesn’t always attack with a “my ball” mentality. It won’t get much easier against the Huskies’ talented cornerback duo: junior CB
Sidney Jones
(6-0, 181, 4.49, #26) and senior CB
Kevin King
(6-3, 192, 4.56, #20).

Other Washington prospects to watch: DT
Vita Vea
, rSO. (6-4, 332, 5.19, #50); DT
Elijah Qualls
, rJR. (6-1, 321, 5.37, #11); FS
Budda Baker
, JR. (5-10, 192, 4.52, #32); TE
Darrell Daniels
, SR. (6-3, 246, 4.54, #15); WR
Dante Pettis
, JR. (6-0, 188, 4.49, #8); OLB
Psalm Wooching
, rSR. (6-3, 231, 4.76, #28)

Other Washington State prospects to watch: DT
Robert Barber
, rSR. (6-2, 309, 5.27, #92); RG
Eduardo Middleton
, rSR. (6-5, 323, 5.30, #73); LG
Cody O’Connell
, rJR. (6-7, 351, 5.56, #76); OC
Riley Sorenson
, SR. (6-4, 327, 5.37, #58); DE/OLB
Hercules Mata’afa
, rSO. (6-2, 245, 4.75, #50)

Toledo Rockets
at No. 21
Western Michigan Broncos

Friday, Nov. 25, 5 p.m., Kalamazoo, Mich., ESPNU

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