Ten Prospects to Watch in MAC and PAC-12 Championship Games

Written by Jeff Risdon on December 2, 2016


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The MAC Championship kicks off at 7 PM on Friday Dec. 2nd, the PAC-12 at 9 PM. You can catch the #MACtion between Western Michigan and Ohio on ESPN2, the #PAC12AfterDark between Washington and Colorado on FOX.

I’ll be at Ford Field as a proud Ohio Bobcat alum…one who happens to live in West MI and has seen P.J. Fleck’s Broncos twice in person this year. My eyes will be on a handful of players, including an individual matchup preview for the Senior Bowl next month.

That would be Western Michigan right tackle Taylor Moton against Ohio defensive end Tarell Basham. While Basham primarily lines up against the left tackle (WMU’s junior Chukwuma Okorafor is a better prospect there than Moton), he does move around the formation.

Basham isn’t a top-shelf athlete but is a good enough of one to win with either speed or power. He’s got a polished barrage of moves and works well on stunts and twists. He’s much more comfortable playing outside after spending a lot of time as an undersized rush tackle.

Moton will play guard in Mobile, but he’s not a bad tackle prospect either given this year’s relatively putrid offensive tackle class. He’s got powerful shoulders and a great punch that he follows up with balance and aggression. Ohio’s defense relies on speed and movement, a nice challenge for the 6’5”, 330-ish pound senior right tackle.

Both teams have a wideout worth focusing upon, too. Corey Davis is my WR1 in this class and I’ve gushed about his all-around skills in prior editions. I won’t drone on about the all-time leading receiver in FBS-level history. He does stuff like this like it’s nothing…

Ohio’s Sebastian Smith is a similar size (6’3”/205) and might be a little lither than Davis, though he doesn’t have the polished routes or body control at full speed that help make Davis a special talent. Smith is capable of his own tightrope work on the sidelines, and his toughness might be unmatched; “Quick Six” has three catches this year where the opponent was flagged for targeting, and he held onto each one.

The guy throwing the ball to Davis, Zach Terrell, is an underrated talent. I’ll see No. 11 at the Shrine Game, where he is the cream of the St. Pete crop this year. I’ve compared the accurate, heady Terrell to Cleveland rookie Cody Kessler with a better arm, but a scouting friend tipped me in a different direction: Kirk Cousins. Some of that comes from Terrell’s devout personality and charismatic, positive leadership.

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Colorado and Washington have more overall wattage, as befits an automatic qualifying conference.

As with the MAC game, there is a great one-on-one matchup in this contest too. Washington wideout John Ross is my WR2 just behind Davis, and he faces off against top-10 CB Chidobe Awuzie and a very talented, experienced Buffaloes secondary.

Ross torched Washington State with speed, but he does that to pretty much everyone. Where he has steadily progressed is the rest of his game.

He’s a smaller guy at 5’11” and 185 or so pounds, which can be an issue in tight spaces like the red zone. Yet Ross has figured out how to use his size to his advantage with precise footwork, varying quickness and outstanding body control.

Awuzie is as crafty as they come at corner. He doesn’t stand out in any one area but also doesn’t have any discernible holes to his game. He’s just smooth. No. 4 answered some questions about his speed by chasing down a play from behind to help save the Utah game, but Ross is a different animal.

Colorado safety Tedric Thompson had a game for the ages against Utah.

That was one of his two picks, and just for good measure he destroyed a deceptive play in the backfield for a TFL. Thompson has 7 INTs on the season and has dropped at least 3 others, including two when I saw the Buffaloes in person at Michigan. He’s got range and closing burst but doesn’t always take the best angles or stay aware of the peripheral action.

Washington has some serious talent in the secondary as well. Corner Sidney Jones has outstanding length and plays the ball in the air superbly. Watch how well he uses the sideline and his size to his advantage, closing off throwing angles and compensating for his occasional propensity to stare into the backfield.

Safety Budda Baker is undersized at 5’10” and a listed 192 that might be optimistic, but he packs serious punch into his pads. He’s an attack dog safety but has some coverage ability too. For NFL defenses who like to run blitz or move their safeties around the formation, Baker holds extra value.

Colorado’s Ahkello Witherspoon and Washington’s Kevin King are both corners who will be drafted as well, so if your NFL team needs secondary help this is the game for you. And I’d be remiss to not mention Washington DE Vita Vea, a leading contender for my official 2017 Draft Crush.

Jeff Risdon

Senior NFL/Draft Writer at RealGM, where I've covered the league and draft since 2004. Also cover the NFL for FanRag. On too many podcasts and radio spots to list. Former D-I volleyball player. Headbanger. Ohio U. grad. I hate the Steve Miller Band, short-side toss plays and groupthink

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