If you ask any of this year’s blue chip high school football recruits what is the most important factor when choosing a school to sign with, their answer probably won’t include who has the best communications program.
Nope, if they were being completely honest, they would tell you they’re looking to choose the school which they feel best prepares them for a chance to play on Sundays. That’s the goal for these players.
The powerhouses all specialize in it. Florida, Alabama, USC, Oklahoma, Texas, LSU, Ohio State and others all routinely send class after class off to the pros after every season.
Last year it was Florida who led the way with nine total draft selections, while Alabama came in second with seven.
Different schools lead the way every year, but normally there’s a consistency in who ranks near the top of the list. This year, there are a few teams that are stockpiled full of some top NFL talent.
Let’s take a look at 10 teams that should be producing a good amount of prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Bob Stoops’ squad lost some heavy duty talent to the pro ranks this past April. It’s rare you see a school have three top five selections in one draft, but the Sooners did exactly that in 2010.
After losing top selections QB Sam Bradford, OT Trent Williams, DT Gerald McCoy and first round TE Jermaine Gresham; it would seem Oklahoma has some serious restocking to do for the upcoming season.
Have no fear though, this is one of the few programs in America that consistently reloads with future NFL Talent. This year’s senior class is led by RB DeMarco Murray, who is electrifying when healthy. Murray will be running behind senior tackle Cory Brandon, who at 6'7" and 310 lbs, is a quality prospect in his own right.
On the other side of the ball, look for defensive lineman Adrian Taylor and Jeremy Beal to have strong senior campaigns. Neither will get the attention of their former trench mate McCoy, but both are strong at the point of attack and can cause havoc for opposing O-lines. The secondary has two nice seniors to watch in CB Jonathan Nelson and secondary leader FS Quinton Carter.
At this point, the best of the Sooner junior prospects are WR Ryan Broyles and LB Travis Lewis, although there are few others that are in line for big breakout years this season.
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn shocked many when he opted to return to the Hawkeyes for his senior season, especially after his super showing in the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech.
Clayborn is one of the best all around defensive lineman the Big Ten has seen in years, but expect a lot more double teams and blocking chips for the 6‘4" senior in 2010. That should open things up for Clayborn’s sidekick, DT Christian Ballard, to have a monster type season. Ballard is a proven quantity who may lack the attention of his teammate, but certainly doesn’t lack the skills.
Iowa has two other intriguing seniors on its defense with returning weakside linebacker Jeremiha Hunter and ball hawking safety Brett Greenwood. Both are the type of players that can win over scouts with their determination and smart play.
The two gems of the defensive secondary are juniors CB Shaun Prater and SS Tyler Sash, who both showed enough as sophomores to warrant the belief that they have bright NFL futures.
The offense has a nice passing combo in QB Ricky Stanzi and WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, although neither really has the game suited for the pros.
Koulianos will get a strong look just because he’s been so consistent over the last few years, but don’t expect many suitors to be lining up for Stanzi’s services even if he leads the team to another double digit win season.
Curtis Brown is the best senior cornerback in the nation, and don’t let any publication, scouting service, or wannabe NFL Draft guru try and convince you otherwise. He’s got the size and the skills to be a top 10 selection, and right now I have him pegged at number eight on my big board.
Not too far below is fellow Longhorn Sam Acho. The 6‘3" defensive end is strong, smart and versatile, and demonstrated that he is a force to be reckoned with during the 2009 season. Many people overlook Acho’s dominating performance in last year’s Big 12 Championship because it just so happened to be overshadowed by what Ndamukong Suh was doing for Nebraska.
Those are the two big senior names, but the defense is also loaded with juniors that look like they could be big time NFL Draft prospects sooner rather than later. DT Kheeston Randall, Linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho (Sam’s brother), and CB Aaron Williams all have the pedigree to be future pros.
The offense looks to have some more NFL type talent down the road in the form of QB Garrett Gilbert, WR Malcolm Williams, and TE Barrett Matthews.
The offensive line does have some quality seniors. Michael Huey and Kyle Hix aren’t overwhelmingly skilled, but they’ll definitely get some looks from scouts.
There’s this cornerback you might of heard of that plays for LSU. His name’s Patrick Peterson and he’s really really good.
Yes, Peterson’s name has been blowing up this summer and rightfully so. The 6‘1" junior has shut-down potential and is the type of player that can change the face of a defense. He’s on an Eric Berry level as far as game planning around him is concerned.
Peterson isn’t the only talented member of the Tiger defensive unit though. Defensive Tackles Lazarius Levingston and Drake Nevis both look to be strong in the middle and senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard is experienced and intelligent. Junior safety Brandon Taylor is also a name to watch.
On offense it seems receiver Terrance Toliver is the one with most potential, but I expect RB Richard Murphy to be the player that produces the most in 2010. Coming off an ACL injury, it would seem to be a bit a of a gutsy prediction, but I just have a hunch that Murphy is finally the LSU RB that will actually meet his potential.
Junior TE Deangelo Peterson is one of the most athletic players at his position in the entire country; now all he has to do is produce.
Left Tackle Joseph Barksdale has the type of athleticism that could make him a fast riser up the boards in his senior season.
The 'Canes had their string of first round selections snapped in 2009, but there are a couple of players on this year’s team capable of starting the trend back up again.
The two most notable prospects are on the defensive side of the ball. Senior DE/DT Allen Bailey and junior CB Brandon Harris have both shown flashes of first round ability during their careers. At 6‘4" and 290 lb, Bailey has the size to play inside or outside in the pros, but he will make his living this season rushing the quarterback from the end spot of Miami’s 4-3 defense.
Harris has been a force since stepping foot on campus as a highly rated recruit and really came into his own as a sophomore. He looks to be the next in a long line of quality Canes defensive backs.
Those two will get the publicity, but there are other names to watch on this team. Senior OT Orlando Franklin slides to the outside for his last season. If he can demonstrate he has what it takes to handle edge rushers, Franklin could make name for himself with the NFL scouts. Senior Leonard Hankerson is the leader of a talented receiving core and should be Jacory Harris’ main target in 2010.
There are an abundance of talented juniors to watch such as wide receivers Aldarius Johnson and Travis Benjamin, and LB Sean Spence, who's a terror when healthy.
The running back position will be interesting also. Senior Damien Berry has the talent to carry a good chunk of the load, but we still don’t know what to expect out of star Graig Cooper after he tore his knee up in last year’s bowl game against Wisconsin.
Going into the season, it doesn’t look like the Tigers have any standout superstars with first round labels. Instead, they are stocked full of a bunch of above average talent.
OT Lee Ziemba, RB Mario Fannin, LB Josh Bynes, WR Terrell Zachery and DT Mike Blanc are the big names of the senior class. But it’s the juniors that could be the ones making NFL noise.
WR Darvin Adams and CB Neiko Thorpe both look special, and I for one can’t wait to see what new QB Cam Newton is capable of in Gus Malzahn’s offensive system.
All in all, there probably won’t be any top 10 picks out of this group, but I expect a large contingent to be in NFL camps next summer.
Pete Carroll may be gone, but he didn’t take all the talent with him. The Trojans are stacked as usual and their defense looks especially ferocious.
Senior Michael Morgan is in the running for the top linebacker spot next year. The 6‘4" 220-pounder has instincts, athleticism and tackling ability that you just can’t teach. He’s surrounded by some pretty skilled players in the front seven to help keep blockers occupied.
The defensive line boasts four potential pros in defensive ends Armond Armstead and Nick Perry and tackles DaJohn Harris and Jurrell Casey. It’s hard to say which is the best of the four because all bring something different to the table. It may be Perry, just a redshirt sophomore, who has the brightest future ahead of him.
The linebacking core is strong as always with senior Malcolm Smith and junior Chris Galippo, and the secondary includes one of the best cornerbacks in the country, Shareece Wright.
On offense, receiver Ronald Johnson has yet to live up to his potential, but he should be the go-to man by default this year. Running backs Allen Bradford and Stanley Havili both offer some intriguing skill sets.
On the line, seniors Kristofer O’Dowd and Butch Lewis should be the anchors but it’s junior tackle Tyron Smith who might have the biggest NFL future.
The cupboard certainly isn’t bare for Kiffin; he’s just going to have to use a different form of motivation this season. For a lot of the older guys this year is about playing for a shot at an NFL future instead of playing for a shot at a National Championship.
Alabama just sent seven players to the NFL in this past draft, and they look like they’re in position to do it all over again next year. Such is the trend that Nick Saban seems to be setting in Tuscaloosa these days.
It begins with junior DE Marcell Dareus. If you were going strictly by the 2010 National Championship game tape, you’d have to say Dareus is a sure fire top 10 pick. He’ll have to stretch out that type of dominance over a full season if he wants to make that a reality though. The recent agent interaction allegations could end up throwing a monkey wrench into the whole thing. We’ll have to wait and see.
Dareus is by no means the only junior who will likely sail off to the NFL early. RB Mark Ingram, S Mark Barron and WR Julio Jones are probably all goners after the conclusion of this season.
Ingram is probably a little over-hyped as far as his pro potential goes, but NFL teams will like his production. Barron is a stud but he’s still honing his trade. Next year’s safety class isn’t all that overwhelming, and the 6'2", 210-lb junior will likely battle it out with UCLA junior Rahim Moore to be the first safety off the board.
Julio Jones is Julio Jones. We still don’t know what to make of him. Does he have first round potential? Yes, but nothing he’s done on the field warrants that type of talk yet. He’s another player we’ll have to put in the wait and see file.
There are some talented seniors on this team as well such as offensive tackle James Carpenter and that guy who has yet to lose a game in his college career, QB Greg McElroy.
Two other eligible players to watch are LB Dont’a Hightower and CB B.J. Scott. Both are raw but gifted players with big futures ahead of them. It will be interesting to see how fast they progress this season.
Terrelle Pryor is the star of this show, but Ohio State’s class runs deep this season after an unusually quiet NFL Draft in April (just four selections, three of them seventh rounders).
If he can improve his passing, Pryor has the rare athleticism to solidify himself a spot in the top 10 next year. He’ll take some time to develop in the pros, but scouts don’t see his type of raw tools come along very often.
Pryor’s top target, junior receiver DeVier Posey, is another name that could go very high next year. Posey has track speed and NFL size, but he also has some talented junior receivers to compete with.
Senior RB Brandon Saine should have a solid season running behind the likes of Bryant Browning, Justin Boren, Mike Brewster and Mike Adams. Browning and Boren look to be two of the better interior offensive line prospects in all of America.
On defense, defensive lineman Cam Heyward is the big name to watch. He can play end or tackle in the pros, but he will most likely be best suited for a 3-4 end type role.
Seniors linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan either lack size (Rolle) or speed (Homan), but both are gritty competitors that bring it on every down.
They won’t be household names like A.J. Hawk or James Laurinitis, but they’ll get the attention they deserve from scouts. The real stud of the linebacker unit might be junior Etienne Sabino, who hasn’t seen as much action as his counterparts, but has a whole lot of potential to do some damage this season.
In the secondary, the Buckeyes have a trio of talented seniors in cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence, and safety Jermale Hines. All are returning starters and they all have pro potential. Hines could be one of the top safeties in next year’s class.
If everybody decides to come out, the Tar Heels could have seven players drafted just from their defense next year. That’s how scary that unit is.
Senior DT Marvin Austin has top five potential and junior DE Robert Quinn has the make up of a dominant pass rusher. Linebackers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant, and Defensive Backs Kendric Burney, Charles Brown and Deunta Williams round out an impressive looking defense. All are seniors with starting experience. Carter and Williams could have first round potential depending on how their senior seasons unfold.
On offense, wide receiver Greg Little is a star but has yet to find consistency from the quarterback position. He has unreal athleticism, which coupled with his 6‘3" 215-pound size, makes him a legitimate candidate to be the first senior receiver taken next year. Senior TE Zack Pinalto is another player that would benefit from more consistent quarterback play.