One of the premiere matchups in college football on Saturday is the Notre Dame/Michigan battle, which features some intriguing NFL talent.
The speed and explosiveness of the Michigan offense is getting set to go against a defense that features two legit first round prospects on the defensive line in Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III.
Perhaps the most unheralded prospect in this game is Notre Dame senior quarterback Tommy Rees, a guy who was replaced last year by freshman Everette Golson who has since been dismissed from the team (temporarily…?). Rees had a phenomenal start to the season, throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes.
Rees was the full-time starter in 2011 for the Irish but has always been pretty average even though he’s put up decent numbers. If Rees can come up big on a big stage against the Wolverines, he could put himself back on the NFL map.
As for the rest of the prospects in this game, the major intrigue is coming in the trenches. Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is going up against a defensive line that features two potential first round picks, though it’s not something he hasn’t seen before. He played pretty solid against Jadeveon Clowney last season, even though Clowney made the hit of the century in that game.
It will be interesting to see how Lewan handles the pure power of these guys, particularly that of Tuitt who plays the DE position for the Irish. Here are a couple of scouting reports for both teams, as well as links to their top prospect pages:
7 DL Stephon Tuitt (6’6″ 305 pounds, JUNIOR)
Another junior star on Notre Dame’s defensive line, Tuitt is one of the top DE/DT prospects in the country heading into his junior season. He has a great frame with the room to add a little bit of weight if a team wants him to, and he is scheme diverse. He is the ideal five technique for a 3-4 defense but he is athletic enough and good enough as a pass rusher to play end or tackle in a 4-3 as well. Tuitt led Notre Dame as a sophomore with 11 tackles for loss, and also had 11 sacks, 45 tackles, and a fumble recovered for a touchdown. With his versatility and athletic ability, Tuitt is a guy who has first round written all over him. He has the length to play inside or outside, and I think he has a ton of upside. Very agile for a big mane and when in a passing situation, he’s pretty hard to handle off the snap. He doesn’t have elite bend around the edge, but that’s not really his game. He is a powerful end with good hand quickness and length, and he is simply relentless when going after QBs. Watching him take a fumble for a touchdown, it’s almost scary that a man of his size can move like that. I think he and Louis Nix III have a great chance of both being first rounders when all is said and done.
77 OT Taylor Lewan (6’8″ 315 pounds, SENIOR)
Lewan could have very easily declared for the 2013 NFL Draft and probably would have been picked in the top 15 or 20 selections, but he chose to come back to school for his fifth and final year of eligibility to improve his stock even further. Right now, Lewan is considered one of the top three best tackles in the country, and depending upon whom you are asking, he might be the best in the nation. Lewan is a first-team All-American who has started 35 games leading into his senior season, and probably his most notable performance to date came against the South Carolina Gamecocks when he held his own against Jadeveon Clowney pretty well. Still, Clowney exposed some flaws in Lewan’s game likely one major reason he came back to school.
Reports out of Ann Arbor indicate that Lewan has gotten leaner this offseason, something that didn’t seem to be a huge problem anyway being that he’s nearly 6’8″ and 315 pounds. Lewan has long arms and really good quickness off the snap. He is excellent in pass protection thanks to his wide base and ability to re-anchor, and in the running game, he shows a bit of a nasty streak. He has the quickness and athleticism to get to the second level and pop a linebacker when he needs to. He can occasionally be a little bit too over-aggressive, but overall, NFL coaches are going to be really eager to get their hands on this kid. He has the look of a sure-fire first round pick, if not a top five or 10 selection.