What in the world has gotten in to Notre Dame? They are actually playing like a real team and living up to some expectations. This is a game that features some good looking NFL prospects on both sidelines, both sides of the ball.
The Irish boast one of the top defensive playmakers in the entire country in linebacker Manti Te’o, who leads the team this season with a whopping 28 tackles. Te’o was a huge recruit four years ago out of Hawaii, and all things considered, he’s delivered on that high prep praise. He’s been a tackling machine and looks like he can be a great fit in any NFL defense as an inside linebacker. He’s a very good athlete who can play in coverage as well as be a thumper on the inside. He’s truly a treat to watch, and he should be an instant starter in the NFL.
On the other side of the ball, the Irish have a top 64 prospect in tight end Tyler Eifert (EYE-furt). Eifert is a senior tight end who considered leaving school early after the 2011-12 season concluded, but he’s back in South Bend and he leads the Irish in catches (8) and receiving yards (120). He has just one touchdown this season, but for Notre Dame to beat Michigan, he will be a key piece. He looks like another guy who is going to be one of those hybrid tight end/receivers in the NFL who is capable of dominating down in the red zone. He’s a good athlete with great size at 6’6″ 251 pounds, and he can make plays on the ball that cornerbacks and linebackers, even safeties for that matter cannot defend. He received a third round grade from the draft advisory committee last year, but he could easily rise due to the direction the NFL is heading. He is probably the top tight end in this class as of right now.
For Michigan, we all know about Denard “Shoelace” Robinson. He’s not going to be a quarterback in the NFL in all likelihood, but he has a chance to be a big time playmaker. Here’s our report on Denard:
Robinson is a supremely talented athlete who is one of very, very few people to throw for over 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in consecutive seasons. That is an absolutely incredible feat and if he stays healthy in 2012, he’s going to likely do it again. In my opinion, Robinson’s NFL future is not at the quarterback position unless he shows significant progress in his passing this season. He threw far too many interceptions last year, and really struggled with accuracy. Still, Robinson is capable of making great throws at times, but I think in the NFL, he is going to transition to the receiver position, where guys like Josh Cribbs and Antwan Randle-El have paved the way in previous years. He has incredible speed and elusiveness in the open field. Robinson will take steps as Michigan’s leader in 2012, and should be a Heisman Trophy finalist as a senior. When he gets to the NFL, some team will take a chance on him in the second or third round and use him in a variety of ways as a receiver, runner, return man, and quarterback. This is a unique talent who can be a very valuable asset to a football team depending on his willingness to play other positions. I am not sure he has a future at QB, but a future in the NFL is not even in question.
Michigan also has a top tier offensive lineman in Taylor Lewan who was injured in the first game of the year against Alabama. He has first round talent, and if he lives up to expectations, he will be taken very, very high. Here’s our report on Lewan, who checked in as a first rounder in our latest mock draft:
All year long, Taylor Lewan of Michigan is going to get Jake Long comparisons–tattoos and all.
Lewan is considered the number two overall offensive tackle prospect by ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., and ESPN’s Big Ten crew put together a very nice piece on Lewan and how he has grown so much as a leader this last couple of years.
Here is ESPN Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett’s final word on Lewan in his article:
“A focused Lewan could stake a claim as the best lineman in the Big Ten in 2012. And that’s no joke.”
The best offensive lineman in the Big Ten is usually not just picked in the first round, but it’s common for that player to be picked within the first 15 selections every year. If Lewan winds up being one of the top two or three offensive tackles in college football this year, I see no reason why he won’t be a top 15 pick in the draft.
NFL Draft Scout has Lewan rated as the top overall tackle for the class of 2014, and at 6’7″ he still has some growing to do in his current 302 pound frame. Kiper cites Lewan’s length and athletic ability as reasons why he will be a top OT prospect, and if he can add about 15-20 more pounds of muscle to his frame, he could be an absolute beast and the comparisons to Jake Long certainly won’t stop.
Michigan has a lot of studs returning in 2012, so they are expected to be a very good team and potentially a national title contender with Denard Robinson as a potential Heisman candidate as well. They will be getting some major national exposure and Lewan could emerge not just as the top OT prospect but as one of the best players in the country overall.
Notre Dame could struggle with the speed of Michigan’s offense, but their defense appears to be more than up to the task this season. You can check out all of our top Michigan Wolverines prospects for this season here.