Miami lineman, UCLA linebacker stand out in Week 4 action
Allen Bailey of Miami has played like a top-10 pick this season
UCLA's Akim Ayers and North Carolina's Bruce Carter stand out
Ryan Mallett has the physical tools to lead in NFL, but his game needs polish
The end result of Week 4 in the college season was a rearranging of the nation's Top 10 teams. We also saw a pair of highly rated players join the list of those sliding down draft boards. Here are the risers and sliders from the final weekend in September. (*Denotes underlcassman.)
Allen Bailey/DL/Miami: The senior is off to a fast start and ranks as the top upperclassmen among defensive line prospects. Bailey's stellar play helped hold the explosive Pittsburgh Panther offense to just three points during the Hurricanes' road victory. He has established himself as a stout run defender who also makes plays behind the line of scrimmage on a consistent basis. Bailey has played like a top 10-pick during the early part of the season.
Akim Ayers*/OLB/UCLA: This linebacker prospect is considered to have a large upside and is starting to hit his stride. He produced a complete game during the Bruins dominant victory over Texas in Austin. Ayers stats line read six tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack (besides forcing a fumble) and one interception. Many in Westwood expect the junior to enter the 2011 draft, where he'll be a mid-first-round pick.
Bruce Carter/OLB/North Carolina: Carter had a quiet start to the season but broke out against Rutgers. His seven tackles was a season best. He also posted his first fumble recovery and interception of the year. He returned the interception 55 yards, which Carolina eventually converted into a touchdown. Carter later blocked a punt in the final quarter, which resulted in the game-clinching field goal for the Tar Heels. Carter is another outside linebacker who will be selected in round one next April.
Kelvin Sheppard/LB/LSU: He led the LSU defense with 11 tackles during the victory over West Virginia. His play against the run held the Mountaineers to just 58 yards rushing and an average of just over two yards per carry, their lowest output this season. Sheppard's leadership was the prime factor in West Virginia converting on just two-of-13 third down attempts on Saturday.
Derek Sherrod/T/Mississippi State: Rated as a potential third-round pick by NFL scouts, Sherrod turned in a stellar performance during the Bulldogs' victory over Georgia. He kept his quarterback upright all evening, as the Bulldogs forceful front was held without a sack and just two tackles for loss. His pass protections skills from the left tackle position are well known, but he also surprised scouts with the ability to block in motion.
Lee Ziemba/T/Auburn: The Tigers left tackle was another blind side protector who stood out. Ziemba shut down a South Carolina defense that averaged four sacks a game coming into the matchup. His pass protection was outstanding as the Gamecocks registered just a single sack. Ziemba's run blocking was also terrific throughout the contest.
Owen Marecic/FB/Stanford: Marecic is a double duty player who lines up at fullback and linebacker. He's a triple threat prospect on offense, devastating defenders as a lead blocker, effectively catching the ball out of the backfield or picking up critical inches in short yardage situations. Marecic has also flashed ability in all dimensions of the linebacker position this year. He has second-round talent and is the type of player any coach would love to have on the roster.
*Sleeper Alert* Frantrell Forrest/WR/UAB: Forrest is rarely spoken about in scouting circles, yet that will soon change. UAB's leading receiver the past two seasons, Forrest combines size, reliable hands and deceptive speed to beat opponents. He's averaging 15.4 yards per reception this season and finished with seven catches for 109 yards and one touchdown during the Blazers' overtime loss to Tennessee. He has enough skill to make an NFL roster as a fifth wideout. He should get late-round consideration next April.
Ryan Mallett*/QB/Arkansas: His stat line against Alabama read 357 yards passing with a completion percentage near 66%, so why is Mallett sliding? In our Sept. 3 preview article we mentioned Mallett's penchant for throwing untimely interceptions. In the loss to top-ranked Alabama, the big pocket-passer tossed three costly picks, including a drive-killing interception in the second quarter and another that the Tide converted into the game-winning score.
Mallett's statistical accuracy is deceptive as open receivers were constantly waiting for passes to arrive or breaking stride to grab errant throws. The end result was the loss of potential yards after the reception. Mallett has the physical tools to lead a franchise at the next level, but his game needs significant polish. He is expected to enter the draft at the conclusion of the season. Even so, he will need time before he's NFL ready.
Stephen Paea/DT/Oregon State: Paea, who grades out well in the area of intensity, has been marginally productive this season. Considered a potential top 15 choice, Paea was stymied throughout the Beavers' loss to Boise State, often by single team blocks. He posted just three tackles in the loss, which brings his season total to 10.
Notes: Several risers from this season continue to perform at a high level, including three from a week ago. North Carolina State linebacker Nate Irving had a career-high 16 tackles against Georgia Tech, including 4.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks during the Wolfpack victory. ... Maryland receiver Torrey Smith continues his big-pay ways. During the victory over Florida International, Smith hauled in eight receptions for 159 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown catch.
Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick continues to watch his draft stock move north. He once again impressed scouts by leading Nevada to an impressive two-touchdown win over BYU. Kaepernick completed 64% of his throws and was well in control of the situation. He and the Wolfpack have November dates against Fresno State and Boise State, games NFL scouts have circled. ... Kentrell Lockett, one of the best pass rushers on what has been a disappointing Mississippi defense this season, tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the victory over Fresno State and will be lost for the remainder of the year. Lockett was considered a potential fifth-round pick entering the season.