Week 7 in the college season saw a number of teams fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. It was also a weekend where several highly regarded NFL prospects turned in breakout performances and helped lead their teams to victory. Here are the nine top performers from Saturday's games and notes on a prospect previously mentioned as a riser.
Vinny Curry, DE-OLB, Marshall: One of the best kept secrets of the 2012 NFL Draft plays for the Thundering Herd and is impressing league decision-makers every weekend. In seven games this season Curry has totaled 9.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss and 42 tackles. He also has a safety and two blocked kicks to his credit this year. On Saturday, Curry posted 3.5 sacks against Rice, 3.0 of which came on third down. He has the skills to be used out of a three-point stance as a one-gap defensive end and Curry is also getting a lot of consideration as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He looks like the next first round pick from Marshall.
Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford*: Andrew Luck gets the lion's share of the attention at Stanford, but most NFL scouts agree Martin is an important piece of the Cardinal offense, which is tearing through opponents. The junior tackle protects the blind side for Luck and is an outstanding combination of size, athleticism and football skill. While he needs to polish his game, Martin offers a great amount of upside as well as NFL starting potential. The junior is expected to enter the 2012 draft and will be graded as one of the top offensive tackles in the event.
Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: Martin put up pedestrian numbers during the first half of the season, but came through with a breakout performance against Colorado State. His ground totals during the Broncos' decisive victory included 200 yards on 20 carries, with three touchdowns. Two of the scores came on runs of 26 and 65 yards. The versatile skill player has also accumulated 17 receptions for 173 yards thus far in 2011. Martin entered the season graded as the top senior running back from a number of west coast scouts and has solidified his position.
Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati: Another running back from the senior class who hasn't disappointed scouts this season, Pead almost singlehandedly carried the lethargic Bearcat offense on his shoulders to victory over Louisville. He posted 151 yards on the ground against the Cardinals, 110 which came during the second half when Cincinnati was down by nine points. His 50-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the Bearcats up for good. The swift ball carrier offers outstanding speed and is a solid middle-round choice who will be a good situational ball carrier in the NFL.
Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: The Cavaliers knocked conference foe Georgia Tech from the ranks of the unbeaten, thanks in large part to the defensive effort led by Conrath. The senior finished with 9 tackles, including one for loss. He also blocked a field goal, which turned out to be the margin of victory. Conrath is a tall, angular defender who moves well about the field. His size and skill is reminiscent of Chris Canty, the former Cavalier star who is presently in his seventh NFL season.
Robert Lester, S, Alabama*: Lester is one of several terrific NFL prospects in the Alabama secondary. He is also a player some feel is the most complete from the unit. Lester possesses a developed game and displays toughness against the run while also showing terrific skill in coverage. His interception in the second quarter of the Alabama win over Mississippi helped break open what had been a close contest. His game is NFL-ready and the junior could be tough to pass up at the start of the second round if he enters the draft.
Tysyn Hartman, S, Kansas State: Well-received by scouts entering the year, Hartman's play against Texas Tech helped solidify that opinion. Against the Red Raiders he posted 8 tackles and added a fourth-quarter interception, which helped clinch the game for the Wildcats. Hartman is a zone safety prospect with a special teams mentality and someone who could squeeze into the draft's middle rounds.
Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State: Several NFL scouts feel Brewster is the third-rated center in the Big Ten behind Peter Konz of Wisconsin and Michigan's David Molk. Yet since stepping into the starting line-up as a freshman, Brewster has been nothing less than stellar on the field. Against Illinois he led an offensive line that helped propel the Buckeyes' running game to 211 yards, more than twice the average the Fighting Illini had been giving up this season (97 yards per game). Brewster is a smart, tough blocker who gets the most from his ability. He's an underrated prospect who could be a surprise pick during the draft's second day next April.
Sleeper -- Jamie Blatnick, DE-OLB, Oklahoma State: Blatnick was not on the scouting radar prior to the season, but his performance this year will make scouts rethink their original opinion. During Oklahoma State's drubbing of Texas the senior totaled 9 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Blatnick presently leads the OSU defense in tackles for loss (7.5) and sacks (5). He's a versatile defender who can line up in a three-point stance or play in space and cover backs and tight ends in the short field. Blatnick's intensity is infectious, which leads many to believe he will excel on special teams at the next level. The combination of competitiveness and playmaking skills will surely help Blatnick secure a spot in the later rounds.
Notes: Welcome back Dan Herron. The Ohio State senior, who NFL scouts ranked as one of the top running backs from the senior class, returned to the field after a six-game suspension for his role in Tattoo-Gate. Herron looked to be in midseason form, rolling up 114 yards on 23 carries with one score and showing little rust. If Herron builds on this performance, he will be graded as one of the top handful of running backs available in April's draft.
SMU signal caller J.J. McDermott, a Week 5 riser, continues to impress NFL scouts. On Saturday, he completed 66 percent of his throws for 358 yards against Central Florida during the Mustangs' victory. Several senior quarterbacks who were highly rated have been underperforming this season, and as a result McDermott continues to move up draft boards.