In a rematch from just last weekend, a game in which Stanford won convincingly 35-17 over UCLA, this game has a whole new meaning, as the winner heads to the Rose Bowl. In a game loaded with defensive talent, three impressive tight ends, and two bruising running backs, it should be as much of a pro-style college football game as you’ll see this weekend.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA - #23, 6'0, 189One of the more unheralded running backs in the country, Franklin has shown strength through tacklers, excellent burst through the hole, fantastic patience and balance as a runner, and has even flashed as a pass blocker and as a receiver. He lacks deep speed and isn’t a future devastating running back in the NFL, but he could be a solid running back in the NFL if he can stay healthy, even with starter upside in the NFL. Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA - #8, 6'7, 252A receiving tight end who is athletic enough to be moved around as a match-up tight end, Fauria has the ideal size, body control, and development as a route runner to go along with his hands-catching ability as a tight end. Not fully developed as a tight end, lacks elite upside, and is still developing as a run blocker, but Fauria is still among the top senior tight ends in the country. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA - #56, 6'4, 280A defensive tackle/end in-betweener on the defensive line and a likely 5-technique at the next level, Jones has the elite upside due to his length, strength, athleticism, and flashing separation ability as a pass rusher. Still a bit raw and finally playing well this season, Jones has the elite upside but hasn’t consistently been able to produce and make a consistent impact on the game. He’ll be asked, however, to do just that in this one. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA – #11, 6’4, 235 (JR)A former running back, Barr has remarkable athletic ability as an outside linebacker and has flashed everything from scrapping and attacking the ball carrier in the middle of the field to making plays as a pass rusher when he sinks to the edge, to fading back in coverage with ideal balance and transitions. It’s unclear exactly where he’ll play at the next level, and these Stanford tight ends may be another tough yet worthy-to-see test for Barr. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford - #33, 5'11, 210One of the most powerful and focused runners in college football, Taylor has elite shoulder strength to fight ahead for added yards through the hole as well as playing with great pad level and initiating contact when he does get to the edge. He lacks the deep speed and top level agility to be a future first rounder, but he’s got the bulk, strength, and drive to be a solid 1-2 punch running back in the NFL and worthy of an early round pick. Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford - #86, 6'6, 260 (JR)A unique talent at tight end, who does a lot more than your usual tight end, Zach Ertz may be a better prospect than high second rounder Coby Fleener was a year ago. Ertz shows body positioning, ball grabbing, and short area separation when asked to play receiver in this offense. Ertz also shows some ability as a blocker, and could be a complete tight end prospect and a future Top 50 tight end prospect just like his former teammate. Levine Toilolo, TE, Stanford - #11, 6’8, 265 (JR)Not quite the prospect Ertz is, I’d expect Toilolo to stay this year and be the feature tight end in the position factory that is Stanford. Toilolo isn’t as complete of a tight end/athlete that Ertz is, Toilolo can line-up inline with more success as a blocker, has the length to dominate the seam with more development, and is one of the top junior tight ends in his own right. Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford - #44, 6'4, 240A key factor in how Stanford beat Oregon, Thomas may be a bit position-less for his NFL future as of now, but he’s shown the ability to set the edge as an outside rusher, the hand strength to drive and contain in run support, and has shown 4-3 linebacker coverage in the curl/flat area. He’ll need to consistently contain the UCLA running game if Stanford hopes to have another big win over UCLA and go to the Rose Bowl. Shanye Skov, ILB, Stanford - #11, 6'3, 244Another player who had a dominating effort in the Oregon game, Skov has bounced back from his junior year injury to put together an impressive senior season as a complete linebacker. He scrapes well in the middle of the field, finishes tackles in space, and looks the part of a future 3-4 inside linebacker at the next level. He’ll need to shed blockers in the middle of the field today as well as not let the UCLA passing game work in the middle of the field.