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Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, Freshman
Not yet graded for NFL Draft
If you have not seen an Ohio State football game this year, then it certainly seems peculiar that the quarterback for the 117th-ranked passing offense in the FBS is among the players to watch. Braxton Miller has had a very rough season, but he is the difference-maker on the Ohio State offense.
Braxton should not be blamed for Ohio State’s offensive struggles this season. After a tumultuous start to the season by senior quarterback Joe Bauserman, Miller was thrust into the starting role as a true freshman and had the tremendously difficult task of having to lead and turn around an offense while still getting acclimated to the system.
Miller has only completed half of his passes this season, but he has already shown displays of his ability to make plays, highlighted by his game-winning touchdown pass against Wisconsin. Miller has only thrown for 997 passing yards this season, but also leads the Buckeyes with 695 rushing yards.
With an extra month of practice, Miller has had more time to learn the system and improve as a young quarterback. I expect Miller to have his best game of the season in the Gator Bowl.
Ohio State DE John Simon, Junior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 5
John Simon is the leader and the star of Ohio State’s defense. Simon leads the Buckeyes with 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks this season.
Simon is a versatile defensive lineman who typically lines up as a defensive end, but can also kick inside. He is not a great athlete, but has good pass rushing skill, good size for a defensive end and a great motor.
Simon will most likely return to Ohio State for his senior season, but even if he does, this will be his final bowl game as a Buckeye as a result of the postseason ban that the Buckeyes received for 2012. Simon is the heart and soul of the Ohio State defense, and he will want to make a big statement in the final bowl game of his career.
Florida SS Matt Elam, Sophomore
2013 NFL Draft Grade: Round 2
Matt Elam took over at strong safety this season following last year’s graduation of Ahmad Black. Elam has filled the role perfectly, becoming the Gators top defensive playmaker, just as Black was last season.
Elam can do it all. He is an athletic safety who plays well in pass coverage. He leads the Gators with nine passes defended. Elam is also terrific in run support and as a blitzer. He is second on the team in tackles and leads the Gators with nine tackles for loss.
The Gators defense has a very bright future, with many very talented sophomores, not only Elam, but also defensive end Ronald Powell, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and linebacker Jelani Jenkins, all whom the Gators will be counting on to make plays. However, Elam is the biggest playmaker on the defense.