Oregon v. Texas
Monday, December 30th, 6:45 EST – ESPN
These two teams came from different spots to end up at the Alamo Bowl. Oregon was a BCS contender for most of the season, but falter in November. Texas started 1-2 but had a strong Big 12 showing to put them into contention for the conference title. As expected, both have several high-end NFL draft prospects. The best matchup will be WR Mike Davis against CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The dark horse to watch for will be Texas running back Malcolm Brown. The Ducks have struggled against the run, and UT could exploit that. Brown could have the type of game that could catapult him into the NFL.
Quarterback #8 Marcus Mariota (6’4” 212lb SO) has deferred his entry to the NFL until at least 2015. This is a wise decision, as he still has a lot to improve. Mariota does not do well under pressure when he can’t use his feet to escape. His knee injury affected his passing greatly. Since he wasn’t able to run, he would roll out, but get chased down or forced to make a bad throw. He needs to work on his pocket presence, and in-pocket footwork and delivery. Current Projection: 2015 1st Round
Running Back #6 De’Anthony Thomas (5’9” 171lb JR) would love to forget the 2013 season. He’s been hampered by an ankle injury that sidelined him for half the season, but even when healthy he has not gotten many repetitions. Thomas has had very few big plays, and still has problems holding onto the ball. He is no doubt an explosive player, but toughness and ball security are legitimate concerns. Thomas could be the next Darren Sproles, or he could be the next Chris Rainey. It will all depend on how much he can improve. His strength is underrated, and against Texas, he will have to show he can break arm tackles while holding on to the ball. A big game would go a long way to renewing his NFL prospects. Current Projection: 3rd Round
Wide Receiver #1 Josh Huff (6’0” 185lb SR) had the best game of his career against Oregon State. If the Ducks struggle to run the ball, he will need another big game against Texas. He will be matched against Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom; perhaps two of the best CBs he will have seen this year. Huff is not an elite level receiver, but he has enough size and speed to make it in the NFL. He’s very dangerous once he gets the ball, as he has good moves, and is tough to bring down. He projects as a slot receiver in the NFL. Huff’s blocking and special teams potential, should bump up his stock quite a bit. He’s an excellent blocker on the edge, which will translate well to special teams. Even if he doesn’t emerge as a consistent receiver, he has a chance to be his generation’s Steve Tasker.
Defensive End #44 Jackson Jeffcoat (6’5” 245lb SR) is one of the best defensive ends in the country. He leads Texas in tackles (76) and tackles for loss (18). Oregon left tackle Tyler Johnstone has struggled this year. Expect Jeffcoat to get after Marcus Mariota.
Cornerback #6 Quandre Diggs (5’10” 200lb JR) leads the Longhorns in PBUs with 10. He could be the next UT defensive back to have a successful pro career. He will be tested by the shifty Ducks receivers Josh Huff and Braylon Addison. Both players are dangerous after the catch, so Diggs will have to show good tackling skills.
Running Back #28 Malcolm Brown (6’0” 225lb JR) was the #1 recruit coming out of high school. While he has been good, he hasn’t quite lived up to the top billing. Brown is a strong runner, who could excel at the next level. The upside of splitting time with Joe Bergeron and Jonathan Gray is that Brown hasn’t taken much punishment. Gray is out for the year, and Bergeron is questionable with a foot injury so Brown should be the man. Oregon’s defense is extremely susceptible to the run, so expect Brown to put up perhaps his best game ever.
Wide Receiver #1 Mike Davis (6’3” 193lb SR) is a guy who has elite measurables and has played well, in spite of questionable quarterback play for the last four years. He’s the type of player that could reach his full potential at the next level. The matchup against Ifo Ekpre-Olomu should be the best of the game.
Cornerback #14 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (5’10” 190lb JR) battled all night with Brandin Cooks in the Civil War. While he wasn’t able to contain Cooks, he definitely slowed him down. Ekpre-Olomu is one of the most aggressive corners in the country. He loves being on the island. He rarely shies away from getting up in a receiver’s face and will challenge him at the line. Ekpre-Olomu’s most impressive attribute is the quickness of his hips. He will sometimes bite on a move one way, and then quickly change direction and get back on the receiver. This is something that he might not be able to get away with in the NFL, but it shows great resolve. He also is excellent at locating the ball in the air. He is going to be tested by Mike Davis. Davis is bigger than most receivers Ekpre-Olomu has faced. He will have to keep his feet under him to contest passes to the taller Davis. Current Projection: 1st Round
Defensive End/Outside Linebacker #91 Tony Washington (6’3” 244lb JR) has filled in admirably for the departed Dion Jordan. Washington is a long athletic player that causes quarterbacks problems. He has the speed to be a tackle to the edge, as well as cover the flat. He struggles defending the run, as he doesn’t hold up well against powerful offensive linemen. He’s best as a situational pass rusher. Current Projection: 2015 4th Round