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USC-Stanford thriller puts top prospects in the spotlight


As we leave October behind with a snowy weekend in the Northeast, more teams in college football suffered their first loss of the season. But there were some stellar performances from NFL prospects in both winning and losing causes. Here are the 10 players who improved their draft stock in Week 9 as we enter the last month of the college season.

Matt Barkley, QB, USC*: Despite the fact that the Trojans lost to Stanford on Saturday in triple overtime, Barkley's play affirmed the belief that he should be an early pick in next April's draft. The junior did a terrific job with his defensive reads, remained poised under pressure and made proper decisions all night long. And Barkley was able to accomplish this against the best defense in the Pac-12. His passing numbers, which included 284 yards and three scores, weren't shabby either. Barkley, who is expected to enter the draft, has once again made his case to be the second quarterback selected after Andrew Luck next April.

John Simon, DE, Ohio State*: The junior defender has been omnipresent for the Buckeyes all season and came up big during their upset victory over Wisconsin. Simon harassed Badger quarterback Russell Wilson all night, leading Ohio State with two tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. For the season, Simon has posted a team leading 9.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Simon measures just 6-foot-1 and 265 pounds, but his ability to change the momentum of a game and his intensity on every play has made NFL scouts take notice.

Oday Aboushi, T, Virginia*: The athletic pass-blocking tackle helped slow down the Miami Hurricane pass rush last weekend, one of the best in the ACC. The Hurricanes finished the night with no sacks and just a single quarterback hurry. Already highly rated, Aboushi needs to improve his run blocking to complete the package.

Mike Martin, DT, Michigan: The Wolverines' workmanlike defender, known for doing the little things well, stepped into the spotlight against Purdue. Martin finished the game with 7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. His sack at the start of the second quarter resulted in a safety, which turned into game-winning points. Martin is more of a steady defender than a flashy lineman and can start in the NFL on a four-man line or at nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme.

Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina: Hakeem Nicks and Greg Little are just two of the productive wideouts the Tar Heel program has recently sent to the NFL. Most agree Jones is the next in line. Sized well at 6-4 and 210 pounds, he plays much faster than his 4.5-second 40 time would indicate. Against Wake Forest, the senior hauled in six receptions for 138 yards, averaging 23 yards per catch. Jones has a steady 15.5 yard average and eight touchdowns on 54 receptions this year. He has the talent to line up as a No. 2 receiver in the NFL, and Jones should land in the draft's first 75 selections next April.

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Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin has been on a hot streak as of late, and his play Saturday helped propel the Mountaineers to a come-from-behind victory over Rutgers, as Austin finished with eight receptions for 67 yards and one score as well as 92 yards on a pair of carries. His 16-yard reverse midway through the fourth quarter put WVU in scoring position. Two plays later, Austin pulled in a 20-yard scoring reception to seal the Mountaineers' victory. The reliable Austin will be a solid No. 4 receiver at the next level who can also lend a hand as a return specialist.

Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas*: Swanson, who won the starting job as a freshman, continues to improve his game and impress NFL scouts. He dominates in pass protection, effectively opens holes for the running game and displays the necessary skills to block in motion. Already highly rated, Swanson will be a top pick whenever he enters the NFL draft.

Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska: Since stepping onto the field for the Cornhuskers in 2010, David has done nothing but make positive plays. He led the Nebraska defense with 13 tackles during the team's dominant 24-3 victory overly highly rated Michigan State. He leads the Blackshirt defense with 90 tackles and 7 tackles for loss this season. His lack of size (slightly over 6-foot and 225 pounds) concerns a few teams, but an imaginative defensive coordinator will find a way to get the most from David at the next level.

Brandon Mosley, T, Auburn: Scouts had Mosley highly rated coming into the season, and he continues to confirm their opinion with solid play. The Mississippi defense totaled just a single sack and one quarterback hurry during Auburn's 18-point victory on Saturday. The offense also added 254 yards rushing thanks to the dominant blocking of the line. Though not the greatest athlete, Mosley gets the most from his ability and could eventually develop into a starting right tackle in the NFL.

Sleeper -- Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State: Scouts have had Crawford on their radar screen all season, and the junior college transfer is starting to meet expectations. Crawford's play has continually improved this season, and his last two games were his best of the year. In those two contests he posted combined totals of 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Crawford also displayed his athleticism against Air Force by blocking a kick. Crawford has a good degree of upside and is a player whose best football lay ahead of him.

Notes: The junior left tackles for USC and Stanford looked outstanding during their triple overtime game on Saturday. The Trojans' Matt Kalil, ranked as our No. 2 overall prospect in last weeks big board, held the Stanford defense in check all night. The Cardinal defense registered neither a sack nor quarterback hurry during the game after averaging over three sacks a game prior to that. For his part, Stanford's Jonathan Martin, graded as our No. 2 offensive tackle prospect behind Kalil, shut down USC sack leader Nick Perry, who totaled just three tackles all evening.

One blind side protector who is struggling is Mike Adams of Ohio State. Suspended for the first six games of the 2011 campaign for his participation in Tattoogate, Adams has looked rusty and out of sorts since his return. There was an expectation in scouting circles that if Adams was able to continue his terrific play from the last few games of the 2010 season, he would make a big move up draft boards. Thus far that has not been the case.