Doucet, Harris both have something to prove

The college football season is in full swing and draft buzz is beginning to swirl. Week 2 of the regular season features one of the biggest early-season games on the schedule with No. 9 Virginia Tech visiting No. 2 LSU, a game that features the best one-on-one matchup of the coming weekend.

Can't-miss individual matchup
LSU WR Early Doucet vs. Virginia Tech CB Victor Harris

Early Doucet and Victor Harris are two of the rising stars in college football right now. Doucet, a senior, hauled in nine passes in Week 1 against Mississippi State in his first game as LSU's the go-to receiver after spending last year at the No. 3 target behind first-round picks Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs) and Craig Davis (Chargers). Harris, a junior, is not as polished as teammate Brandon Flowers but possesses rare physical skills and playmaking instincts. Harris followed up a strong showing in spring practice with an outstanding season debut against East Carolina, which included a 17-yard interception return for a touchdown.

What makes this matchup so intriguing is that Doucet and Harris share similar measurables. Both are right around 6 feet tall and Doucet is approximately 10 pounds thicker, while Harris possesses the closing burst to recover if Doucet is able to use his size to gain a step in his route.

Under first-year offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, LSU likes to spread the field with a lot of three-receiver looks, which will put Virginia Tech’s highly-touted secondary to the test. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster will play a lot of man-free coverage, which means Harris will be responsible for handling Doucet one-on-one but will also get some deep support from free safety D.J. Parker. However, Parker won’t always be able to save Harris vertically and there will be instances when Foster asks Harris to hold up on an island versus Doucet. That’s when college football fans and NFL scouts will get their money's worth.

Doucet did not run as well as expected for NFL scouts this spring so it is important for him to prove that he’s faster in pads and cleats than in shorts and track shoes. Harris, on the other hand, has an opportunity to prove his technique and recognition skills are finally catching up to his pure physical ability. Both players have first-round potential, and if one of the two stands out as the superior athlete in this matchup he could solidify a spot in the first-round.

Harris is a junior but this year’s crop of senior cornerbacks is average at best and NFL scouts are paying particularly close attention to the junior ranks. From what I've seen on film Harris is one of five juniors who could come off the board in the first two rounds of the 2008 draft, along with his teammate Flowers, Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State), Justin King (Penn State) and Aquib Talib (Kansas).

Small-school standout of the week
Corey Lynch, S, Appalachian State
Like the rest of his Appalachian State teammates, Corey Lynch experienced magical moments last week in Ann Arbor that he will never forget. In addition to holding his own in the secondary against Michigan’s talented receiving corps, Lynch made the game-saving play by blocking Jason Gingell's last-gasp, 37-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

What Lynch may not realize is that he maximized his exposure in front of NFL scouts. Lynch is a 6-foot, 205-pound safety with excellent tackling and ball skills. As a junior in 2006 he finished with 85 total tackles, five interceptions and three blocked kicks. A lack of top-end speed will limit his draft potential but there’s a lot to like about Lynch’s toughness and instincts as a possible late-round pick who could contribute on special teams and as a reserve safety. Lynch is currently ranked 33rd on my board among senior safety prospects but his draft value is obviously on the rise after a remarkable beginning to his redshirt senior campaign.

Todd McShay is the director of college football scouting for Scouts Inc. He has been evaluating prospects for the NFL draft since 1998.