12 Oct 2013 07:42 AM EST
-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Darqueze Dennard was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Week for Week 6. (Image Source: Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo)
Here’s a look at some of the top NFL Draft prospects in the Big Ten taking the field today:
Player Spotlight: Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard, SR (12:00 vs. Indiana ESPN2)
Michigan State’s senior cornerback will face a tough challenge this week against the Indiana Hoosiers, the top passing offense in the Big Ten. We can’t wait to see Darqueze Dennard go mano-a-mano with last week’s sleeper Cody Latimer (23 receptions, 413 yards in last three games). Latimer is big, can run and has been a matchup nightmare for corners. Can Dennard shut him down in man coverage? There might not be a more physical corner in college football than the Spartan, which can be both a positive and a negative. He won’t back down from anyone and can beat up receivers at the line of scrimmage, but at times he can be too handsy and is prone to costly penalties (see Notre Dame game). Dennard is coming off a strong effort against Iowa (8 tackles, 2 INTs), but the Hawkeyes don’t have the caliber of weapons in the passing game that Indiana does, as the Hoosiers will look to push the tempo.
Sleeper: Wisconsin LB Chris Borland (3:30 vs. Northwestern ABC)
Coming out of high school Chris Borland was not a highly touted prospect. From day one he’s exceeded expectations and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does the same at the next level. He lacks prototypical length (5’11”), speed and athleticism, but is very instinctive, tough and he does have more than enough bulk at 246 pounds. He probably doesn’t have the sideline-to-sideline speed to play MIKE in a 4-3 scheme, so he’s getting valuable experience this season playing inside in Wisconsin’s new 3-4 defense. He’s a highly-productive player who can surprise with his ability in coverage and as a blitzer. You have to love his intangibles and non-stop effort. Borland is an excellent tackler who may be opening some eyes with his ability to play on passing downs.
Star of Tomorrow: Michigan TE Devin Funchess (5:00 @ Penn State/ESPN)
There will be several talented tight ends featured in Beaver Stadium this Saturday, including Michigan sophomore Devin Funchess. The gifted tight end is coming off the best game of his young career with seven receptions for 151 yards and a TD against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. At 6’5” and around 235 pounds, Funchess runs and moves more like an oversized receiver than a tight end and the Wolverines love to line him up wide on the perimeter to create mismatches. He can really run, has superb athleticism, great hands and surprising body control. Funchess is very capable of being a go-to guy as a pass catcher. Before last week he had only showed flashes of his talent and it’s taken some time for him to build a repertoire with QB Devin Gardner. Now that they have it, the sophomore may be ready to take off.
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Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards.
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