NFL Perspective: Top College Performers in Week 2
By Steve Silverman
It was a painful Saturday for the Big Ten, as three of the conference’s glamour schools took it on the chin.
Michigan State had a nine-point lead over Oregon in the second half, but that turned out to be a mirage as the rampaging Ducks rolled to 46-27 victory. Ohio State proved to be welcoming hosts, as they got hammered 35-21 by Virginia Tech at the Horseshoe.
However, while the Spartans and Buckeyes went through some pain, it was Michigan who faced total humiliation. They suffered a brutal 31-0 loss at Notre Dame.
Oregon’s Marcus Mariota helped his case in the win, and Michigan State’s Connor Cook performed fairly well in defeat. Here’s a look at how some of the top pro prospects did in the second big week of college action
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon – If the draft were held today, the vast majority of scouts say Mariota would be the No. 1 pick in the draft. He rose to the occasion in the second half in Oregon’s big win over Michigan State. Mariota completed 17-of-28 passes for 318 yards with three touchdowns and he did not throw an interception. He also ran nine times for 42 yards. More than the numbers, Mariota made big plays when his team needed him most. That will help keep him at the top of the draft list.
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama – The Crimson Tide will play many more important games than they did in Saturday’s encounter with Florida Atlantic. Alabama rolled to a 41-0 victory, and Cooper put on a brilliant show as he caught 13 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. The 6-1, 204-pound Cooper has the kind of big-play ability that impresses scouts and Alabama supporters. He wants the ball and he wants to score, and that’s important when Alabama will be putting the finishing touches on a spread win later in the year.
WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma — The Sooners have a slew of talented players once again, and Shepard is quickly climbing the ladder for them. He caught eight passes for 177 yards and a touchdown in Oklahoma’s 52-7 destruction of Tulsa. Shepard, 5-10 and 190 pounds, is trying to establish himself as one of the top receivers in the country, and scouts like his finishing ability.
QB Connor Cook Michigan State — The Spartans dictated the pace of their confrontation with Oregon well into the third quarter before they lost their edge. Cook was smart, sharp and aggressive in a hostile environment for more than 30 minutes. He completed 29-of-47 passes for e343 yard with two TDs and two interceptions. Cook showed significant velocity on his fastball, and he is climbing the QB prospect rankings.
DT-DE Leonard Williams, USC – Williams is ranked as a top-10 draft pick at this point, and he had an epic confrontation with Stanford OT Andrus Peat. Williams earned the edge as he made several big plays even though he was playing at less than 100 percent with a leg injury. Williams is a powerful and explosive performer who may improve impossible to block the rest of the season.