Prospect Watch: Nebraska's Abdullah facing season's toughest test
A friendly suggestion for Saturday: get yourself to a TV. Heck, plant yourself in front of several TVs at once, if possible.
Arizona kickstarted what could be one of the best weekends of the college football season by upsetting Oregon late Thursday night. The Saturday schedule to come is about as enticing as it gets, starting with Texas A&M at Mississippi State dueling at noon, then progressing right on through an underrated Utah-UCLA contest late night.
Here are five 2015 NFL draft prospects to look out for over the next 36 hours or so, including one playing Friday night.
1. Derron Smith, S, Fresno State (Friday vs. San Diego State, 10 p.m. ET): NFL draft guru Gil Brandt mentioned Smith as a potential 2015 first-round back in July, which should give you some idea of the talent level here. It was an extremely uneven start to the year for Smith and the Bulldogs, though -- Fresno State allowed an average of 55.3 points (not a typo) over its first three games, and Smith was shifted around in the secondary.
Because of those disastrous defensive numbers, and then later an injury to teammate Shannon Edwards, Smith (5-foot-11, 197 pounds) moved from strong safety to the free safety spot. He could be back in his original home as early as this weekend.
His NFL future, at least initially, may see him filling a role similar to that of Jimmie Ward in San Francisco: as a slot corner in nickel packages and backup safety.
2. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (at Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET): SI's Zac Ellis has Georgia running back Todd Gurley at No. 2 in this week's Heisman Watch and Abdullah at No. 7. The pecking order may be similar come draft time, possibly with Melvin Gordon, T.J. Yeldon and others in the mix for early-round picks as well.
I wouldn't bet against Abdullah being the best NFL back of the bunch.
Saturday will be his toughest test of the season, on the road against Michigan State's terrific front seven. Abdullah already has 833 yards rushing this season, in just five games. Even topping the 100-yard mark on the Spartans would be a feat.
3. Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford (at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. ET): The Cardinal's 6-7, 315-pound tackle entered the season expected to emerge as a top-10 prospect. He has fallen short of that billing thus far.
Another high-profile opportunity awaits for him Saturday, up against the ninth-ranked Irish in South Bend. Last week, Peat was pushed by Washington DE Hauoli Kikaha (another 2015 prospect) in a really intriguing matchup. Peat managed to hold his own, but was far from dominant.
4. Gabe Wright, DE, Auburn (vs. LSU, 7 p.m. ET): Have to look beyond the stats (eight tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack) for Wright's impact up front this year. The 6-3, 284-pounder has done more than his fair share -- teamed with Montravius Adams -- in plugging gaps up front, especially when the Tigers show their 3-3-5 alignment.
Gaining experience both as a three-tech tackle and as a DE in that 3-3-5 will serve Wright well when the NFL comes calling. Keep an eye on him along the interior of Auburn's line Saturday. If LSU can establish a ground game between the tackles, it would spell trouble for Auburn ... and likely would come at the expense of Wright's effort.
5. Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada (vs. Boise State, 10:30 p.m. ET): The Nevada QB nearly guided his team to an upset of Arizona on Sept. 13, only to slip back to earth last Saturday in a victory over San Jose State. There are not a ton of showcase games left on the Wolf Pack schedule, so scouts would love to see Fajardo repeat that Arizona showing against Boise.
The 6-2, 210-pound quarterback has an impressive array of dual-threat abilities. Remember, this is the same Nevada offense that launched Colin Kaepernick to stardom.