Week 3 in college football saw another top-rated team with national title aspirations go down to defeat. The third week on the 2009 campaign also featured several outstanding performances from a number of underclassmen ball carriers, as well as draft-impacting news at the quarterback position. Here are this week's Risers & Sliders:
Ricky Sapp/DE-OLB/Clemson: Sapp was the leading force on a Clemson defense which gave up just three first downs and allowed only seven points in the win over Boston College. He tallied three tackles for loss, two sacks and forced a fumble, besides constantly disrupting the action in the Eagles' backfield. Sapp has put his injury-plagued junior campaign of '08 behind him and looks every bit to be a top-15 choice in April's draft.
Joe Pawelek/ILB/Baylor: Baylor lost a close game to Connecticut yet that does not diminish the brilliant performance of Pawelek. He finished the game with a 21 tackles, including one for loss and a sack. NFL scouting services surprisingly graded Pawelek as a free agent before the season began, yet he is proving himself to be one of the nation's sturdiest run defenders and a very good middle linebacker prospect.
Maurkice Pouncey/C/Florida: Pouncey, whose twin brother joins him as a starter on the Gators offensive line, is turning into the nation's most dominant center. He's powerful, athletic and consistently opens up the middle of the field for Florida's running game. The Gators posted 208 yards rushing in the victory over Tennessee, and much of it came with Pouncey creating large running lanes for Florida's ball carriers.
Jason Fox/T/Miami:Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech was listed as a riser in Week 2, and justifiably so as the defensive lineman was unstoppable against Clemson. Miami found the prescription to slow Morgan down, and it mostly came in the form of Fox. The underrated senior prospect shutout Morgan who is widely considered in scouting circles as a sure fire first round pick. Fox is graded as a late round selection by NFL scouting services yet when watching the tape one can not help but think he's a quality prospect for the next level.
Jahvid Best/RB/California: Cal's feature back showed why many consider him to be the best running back prospect in the nation. He was Mr. Everything in the Bears' win over Minnesota. Best scored five touchdowns on the ground, including a pair before the first quarter was half over. He was clutch on third down, helping the Bears offense move the chains with his legs and as a pass catcher.
Ryan Matthews/RB/Fresno State: Matthews was spectacular despite Fresno State's loss at the hands of Boise State. He totaled 234 rushing yards on 19 carries and his three touchdowns all came of runs of 60-yards or longer. The junior is a great combination of speed and power as Matthews not only beats defenders around the corner but also pounds opponents on the inside, easily breaking tackles with his 218-pound frame. He has the makings of a feature runner for the next level.
Jake Locker/QB/Washington: Locker's statistics were not eye-catching during the Huskies upset victory over USC, yet his performance was nothing short of spectacular. Locker is accomplishing what NFL scouts hoped the junior would do this season; he's slowly making the transition from athlete to a quarterback. His command of the offense and decision making, as well as the ability to make big plays on third down, was the difference in Washington coming away victorious. Locker ranked high on the list of underclassmen signal callers before his injury last season and his return to form as a junior is making NFL decision-makers smile.
Earl Thomas/S/Texas: The Texas program has put several quality defensive backs into the NFL and their present roster is loaded with talent in the secondary. Thomas stands out as one of the best. The redshirt sophomore is truly a complete safety who possesses top flight ball skills along with run defense toughness. His eight tackles led the team in the victory over Texas Tech. Thomas also broke up a pair of throws and intercepted a pass.
Dedrick Epps/TE/Miami-Fla.: Epps has teased scouts with flashes of big time ability the past two seasons yet may finally be coming into his own this year. The athletic 240-pound tight end has the ability to create mismatches in the defensive backfield as a pass catcher. Two games into the '09 season he's displaying a lot more consistency in his game and Epps average of 16.6-yards against two teams with talent in the secondary has made scouts take notice.
Lonyae Miller/RB/Fresno State: Miller has a tough time seeing the ball considering he plays behind Ryan Matthews, one of this week's risers, yet there's no doubt he's slipping down draft boards. NFL scouting services graded Miller as a potential top 120-choice but the ball carrier has touched the ball just twelve times this season for 60-yards.
Marlon Winn/T/Texas Tech: Winn had an up and down night against the Longhorns but gave up several critical sacks which swung the momentum towards Texas. He did nothing to make NFL scouts believe he'll be able to hold down the tackle position at the next level.
Notes: Minnesota receiver Eric Decker, a week 1 riser, stood out again in the teams loss to Cal. When it looked like Cal was ready to blow the game wide open, Decker made a spectacular touchdown reception, swinging the momentum of the game toward the Gophers. He later caught another pass for a touchdown and even threw for a score on an option play. Decker may not be the fastest receiver prospect in the nation but has shown himself to be one of the most reliable and toughest. ... South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe will be out the remainder of the season, due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The senior suffered the injury in Saturday's 59-0 win over Charleston Southern. The injury is a difficult one for Grothe, who NFL scouts compare to Pat White, based on his ability to make plays as a passer or runner. If Grothe has not recovered in time to work out for scouts prior to the 2010 draft, it is unlikely he'll be selected during the seven rounds. ... Despite throwing four interceptions against Auburn, most scouts have been relatively pleased with what they've seen from West Virginia signal-caller Jarrett Brown. League scouting services raised a few eyebrows over the summer when they handed Brown a mid-round grade. The strong-armed passer sat on the bench for most of the past two seasons behind Pat White. Even with limited playing time, Brown has shown great poise, athleticism and arm strength since taking over the reigns at the teams starter. His ability to break containment, get outside the pocket and make accurate passes on the move is impressive.