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Thursday, December 14

Draft board still seeing lots of action

Even though the regular season for college football has concluded, evaluations take place on a daily basis. I use this time to look at the prospects in an additional two to three games. The same is true of the personnel departments in the NFL.

With that in mind, here are some of the senior prospects who have been gaining some ground, moving up the draft board over the last few weeks.

Kevan Barlow
Pittsburgh RB Kevan Barlow (43) dives for a touchdown against West Virginia in a Nov. 24 game. Barlow's star is rising on the draft board.

At quarterback, keep an eye on Arkansas State's Cleo Lemon. The 6-foot-2, 211-pounder possesses a strong arm and usually delivers a nice, tight spiral. He's also a bright young man who understands the game and how to attack a defense. At Arkansas State, he did his damage even though the play of his offensive line left a lot to be desired. Don't be shocked if Lemon ultimately lands in the third or fourth-round area.

In the backfield, Pittsburgh's Kevan Barlow, after his spectacular effort in the regular-season finale against West Virginia, now is solidly in the top three to five as far as senior running backs are concerned.

Wide receivers on the rise include Clemson's Rod Gardner, Eastern Kentucky's Alex Bannister and Florida State's Marvin "Snoop" Minnis.

Gardner has ideal size at 6-foot-2 and 213 pounds, and also came through with a number of huge receptions this season. He could end up in the middle portion of round one.

Bannister has been a sleeper type who I highlighted at various times this season. He's 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, runs under 4.25 on occasion and set a new EKU record this season with 12 TD receptions. Bannister dominated the Ohio Valley Conference and could end up going as high as round two.

All Minnis did was consistently work his way to the open areas and catch just about every pass that Chris Weinke threw his way. Minnis could be a No. 2 or No. 3 option with a number of teams, figuring as a late first day or early second day possibility.

The top tight end right now is South Carolina State's Arther Love. The 6-foot-3½, 239-pounder has ideal measurables, averaged an eye-catching 18 yards per catch and is viewed as a steadily improving blocker who could be excellent in this area down the road. Even though he's still a little rough around the edges in terms of route-running, Love could still carry a second- or third-round grade after all is said and done.

Also in the mix to see who will be the first senior tight end selected is North Carolina's Alge Crumpler.

At offensive tackle, the athletic prowess and upside potential of LSU's Brandon Winey could land him in the second-round area. It also wouldn't shock me to hear Winey's name in the late first round if he comes through with an impressive effort at the postseason All-Star Games.

At offensive guard, Michigan's Steve Hutchinson remains the elite prospect, also showing the ability to possibly shift to a right tackle spot in the NFL. Hutchinson looks like a mid-first rounder.

Defensively, players on the move up the draft board include Minnesota DT John Schlecht, Fresno State LB Orlando Huff, Ole Miss CB Ken Lucas, Florida State CB Tay Cody and Tennessee State CB Ligarius Jennings.

Schlecht, a hard-working, super-strong inside performer figures as a third-round possibility, while Huff's physical skills could also land him in the latter stages of day one.

Lucas really thrived after moving from wide receiver to cornerback with the Rebels. The first round is possible with Lucas. Cody played as well as any cornerback in the country during the latter stages of the 2000 season. He could be a third-round possibility.

Jennings is a tough, instinctive 5-foot-9½, 193-pounder who won't be outmuscled by bigger wide-outs. A key in his development had to be the quality practice time he received in '99 while working against a talent like former TSU wide-out Avion Black. Jennings could end up in round two.

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