While I would prefer a DE with our first pick, if we do go WR, I'd like it to be Mark Clayton...
Tuesday, January 4th
Orange Bowl; 8 PM ET; ABC
Oklahoma versus Southern California
The preliminaries are over, and its time to get it on in the game that, for all intents and purposes is the only one that matters when Oklahoma and Southern Cal meet in tonight's Orange Bowl for the BCS title. And just for good measure, both the Trojans and Sooners probably have more potential talent for the 2005 draft than any of the other 116 Division 1-A programs in the country.
The headliners tonight, of course, are the two QBs, Southern Cal junior Matt Leinart (#11, 6-5, 220) and Jason White (#18, 6-2, 220) of Oklahoma, the past two Heisman Trophy winners. In terms of draft prospects, however, their stories diverge. On the one hand, Leinart looks like he is already pencilled in as a likely top pick overall at next April's draft if he opts to leave school early. White, on the other hand, likely won't be a real high pick because of concerns about the injuries and arm strength. White, in fact, overcame two serious knee injuries earlier in his career, but was still able to re-establish himself as one of college football's most productive QBs.
While QB Leinart is Southern Cal's leader, he still has to share the USC spotlight with sophomore RB Reggie Bush (#5, 5-10, 190) an electrifying back who is also a threat catching passes out of the backfield or returning kicks; the NFL won't get a shot at Bush, though, until 2006. While the offense gets the headlines, the USC defense is almost as good, particularly with DT Shaun Cody (#84, 6-4, 285), a very quick, albeit slightly undersized DT, anchoring the unit. Cody lines up next to DT Mike Patterson (#99, 6-0, 285), who is also undersized, but is another high-energy type with terrific upfield quickness. Then there is star OLB Matt Grootegard (#6, 5-11, 215), a defensive big-play waiting to happen, although he's a tad small on the small side even for a SS. Pro scouts will also take a peek at junior LB Lofa Tatupu (#58, 6-0, 225) if he plays this weekend as he's another junior LB who will draw plenty of interest if he opts to leave school early this winter. So will draft-eligible sophomore SS Darnell Bing (#20, 6-2, 220), the latest in a long line of terrific USC safeties.
If pro scouts aren't sold on Sooner QB White's potential on Sundays, they can't wait to hold of WR Mark Clayton (#9, 5-11, 190). Clayton isn't overly big, but is incredibly quick, has great hands and is at his best running with the ball after the catch; he'll be a top 15-20 pick this year. Clayton, though, is only one of several Sooner receivers who are likely to be drafted this year. Indeed, fellow receivers Mark Bradley (#1, 6-1, 190) and Brandon Jones (#81, 6-3, 210), both of whom can run, are making their own moves up draft boards around the NFL. Meanwhile, the offensive line features OT Jammal Brown (#55, 6-6, 310) and C Vince Carter (#50, 6-3, 295), both of whom rate among the very best players in the country at their respective positions. While the Sooners' offense tends to get the headlines, the defense may be even deeper and more talented. Up front, DE Dan Cody (80, 6-5, 260), who combines speed and strength with an array of pass-rush moves, particularly intrigues pro scouts, while tweener DE Jonathan Jackson (#49, 6-3, 240) and DT Lynn McGruder (#96, 6-3, 300) provide support. Pro scouts will also be keeping a close eye on MLB Lance Mitchell (#10, 6-2, 245) who appeared to be well on his way to a high selection in 2004, but tore a knee early last season and was granted an extra year of eligibility. Mitchell has played well this season, but still may not be at the level he showed in 2002. Meanwhile, the secondary features perhaps college football's top 1-2 punch at safety in SS Donte Nicholson (#8, 6-2, 210), one of the hardest hitters in the nation, and junior FS Brodney Pool (#23, 6-2, 200) who may be an even better all-around player. The CBs, including all-everything punt returner Antonio Perkins (#28, 6-0, 190) and juniors Chijoke Onyenegecha (#22,6-2, 205) and Eric Bassey (#13, 6-1, 200), are almost as good.