Posted: Monday September 26, 2011 1:50PM ; Updated: Monday September 26, 2011 1:51PM
Tony Pauline
Tony Pauline>INSIDE THE NFL

Under-the-radar prospects step into the light in Week 4

Story Highlights

Brandon Weeden's mistake-free play is moving him up draft boards

Marcus Trufant's younger brother Desmond is stepping out of his brother's shadow

Top-rated senior prospect Quinton Coples still hasn't made an impact this year

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Brandon Weeden
Brandon Weeden's efficient play is inching him closer toward first-round potential.
Patrick Green/Icon SMI

Week 4 in the college season saw a shakeup at the top of the national rankings, as well as several NFL prospects that answered questions scouts have about their ability. A number of under-the-radar players continued to build buzz for themselves, while the top-rated senior prospect is drawing the ire of NFL scouts. Here are 10 players rising up draft boards after this weekend's action.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State -- The Cowboys' matchup against Texas A&M exceeded all the pregame hype. Oklahoma State mounted a furious second half comeback led by Weeden, who completed 78 percent of his passes for a school record 438 passing yards and 2 touchdowns.

Most impressively, Weeden did not throw a single interception despite 60 pass attempts. He completed each of the seven passes he attempted on the game-clinching drive. He's a precise game manager with a terrific feel for the position. Continued success the rest of the season plus impressive pre-draft workouts could vault Weeden into the draft's first 50 picks.

Bernard Pierce, RB, South Carolina* -- A sensational player since his freshman year at Temple, Pierce continues to impress NFL scouts. He shredded a talented Maryland defense for 149 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns on 32 carries. Pierce was responsible for 30 of the 38 points scored by Temple. He's got a great combination of size and power, as well as running instinct, and is often compared to former All Pro Curtis Martin.

Melvin Ingram, DL, South Carolina -- Just two weeks after scoring a pair of touchdowns, one on a fake punt and the other returning a fumble, Ingram continues to show scouts his next-level prowess. During the Gamecocks' drubbing of Vanderbilt, he posted 4 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Ingram shows a propensity for the big play, which could move him into the draft's top two rounds.

Derek Dennis, G, Temple -- Numerous NFL scouts rate Dennis as one of the best offensive guards from the senior class, and he continues to prove himself worthy of their praise. During Temple's lopsided victory over Maryland, Dennis was a one-man wrecking crew on the offensive line. His blocking helped pave the way for 425 yards of total offense. Dennis will be a solid middle round choice next April and has the ability to play in a variety of offensive schemes at the NFL level.

Michael Williams, TE, Alabama* -- With so much next-level talent on the Alabama roster it's inevitable that someone will be overlooked, and Williams is that someone. Built like an offensive tackle at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Williams is a complete player at tight end. He's a dominant blocker who plays to his size, annihilating defensive linemen, then opening up the running lanes. Williams also displays his superior athleticism as a pass-catcher, as evidenced by his 37-yard touchdown reception against Arkansas. It would not be a stretch by any means to presently rate Williams as the top tight end prospect.

Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina* -- Our top guard prospect coming into the season looked good against Georgia Tech. Scouts love the skill the junior displays blocking in motion, but Cooper's strength in run blocking has improved immeasurably this year, as well.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson* -- The junior tight end is considered one of the top playmakers at his position and has turned in several impressive performances this season. He totaled 4 receptions for 67 yards (16.8-yard average) with one score against a talented Florida State defensive back seven. Scouts are excited about Allen's potential as they watch him transfer his athletic ability into legitimate football skill.

Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington* -- Marcus Trufant's younger brother is making a name for himself with NFL scouts. The dynamic cornerback displays developing ball skills and does a solid job shutting down opponents. Against Cal, whose offense boasts two top receiver prospects, Trufant broke up three passes and was consistently around the action. Beside having good bloodlines, Trufant possesses a large degree of upside in his game.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers* -- The junior receiver was a one-man show during Rutgers' victory over Ohio. Sanu finished with a school record 16 receptions, collected 176 receiving yards and added two touchdowns. He's a big-bodied athlete who easily makes the deep reception at full speed and offers his quarterback reliable hands. Those close to the situation believe Sanu will enter the draft at season's end, and the talented wideout projects as a top 40 choice.

Sleeper: Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati -- Wolfe led a defensive charge that saw Cincinnati hold North Carolina State to -26 yards rushing during the Bearcats' victory last Thursday. He was the center of attention in the middle of the line and commanded double team blocks all evening. His effort freed up teammates to make plays on the ball while Wolfe himself finished the night with 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and a sack. The senior is a tough-as-nails defender similar to Chris Neild, the productive rookie with the Washington Redskins.

Notes

North Carolina senior defensive lineman Quinton Coples was universally accepted by NFL scouts and draft pundits as the top overall prospect in 2012 from the senior class. His play during the first month of the season has been disappointing to say the least. He's registered just two sacks in four games this season, and both came during Carolina's opener against small school foe James Madison. Against Georgia Tech, he was credited with just a single solo tackle. The lack of playmaking is becoming an issue and while Coples flashes brilliance on occasion, he also shows the propensity to disappear for stretches...

While Coples is losing favor with NFL decision makers, Trent Richardson continues to impress them. The Alabama junior turned in another dominant rushing performance this season when he posted 126 yards on 17 carries against Arkansas. His average of 7.4 yards per carry was eye-popping and only surpassed by the versatility he continually displays carrying the ball. Most in the loop say Richardson will enter the draft after the season and he presently ranks as a top-seven choice...

Keep an eye on SMU senior quarterback J.J. McDermott, who is gaining momentum in scouting circles. Elevated to the starting position after the first game of the season, McDermott has the size and arm strength needed for the next level and is now putting the pieces together after minimal playing time the prior four years. McDermott began his college career at New Mexico State under Hal Mumme before transferring to SMU. Evidently, Mumme sang the praises of McDermott, touting his potential before the signal caller arrived at SMU. The Mustangs' next three games against TCU, Central Florida and Southern Mississippi will be challenging for McDermott and give scouts a better barometer of where the potential sleeper stands.

 
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