Oregon State senior running back Yvenson Bernard, who is averaging more than 100 yards rushing per game, could miss this week's contest against USC because of a left shoulder injury suffered this past Saturday against Stanford.
Bernard had an MRI on Monday that revealed an AC sprain. He entered the game against the Cardinal at less than 100 percent because of a sore right shoulder. Bernard is a tough-as-nails, 5-foot-9, 205-pound back who can pound the ball between the tackles. He catches well out of the backfield and seems to get stronger as the game progresses.
TCU senior defensive end Tommy Blake has returned to the team and practiced with the goal of playing Saturday against New Mexico. Blake, who is a day-one prospect, has been away from the team because of off-field issues. He is one of the nation's most feared and productive pass rushers, so the final few weeks of the regular season and his postseason performance will help determine the type of evaluation scouts turn in for pre-draft meetings in the spring.
Tennessee senior offensive lineman Eric Young has been lost for the season after suffering a torn quad in his left leg during a win over South Carolina.
Young had surgery Sunday and will be out for the rest of the year and possibly most of the postseason. He could be back by February for the NFL scouting combine, but would likely pass on playing in the Senior Bowl. Meanwhile, senior tight end Brad Cottam, who has hasn't played since suffering a wrist surgery during fall drills, plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility.
BENNETT'S BIG DAY
Texas A&M junior tight end Martellus Bennett, who has just 24 catches this season, returned to action against Kansas after a sprained ankle caused him to miss the Aggies’ Oct. 20 game against Nebraska. He set a career high with eight catches for 91 yards in the Aggies' loss. At 6-6, 260 pounds, he has ideal size and has flashed impressive pass-catching skills. He has caught at least one pass in 26 consecutive games, but has grown disgruntled with the Aggies coaching staff. He could opt to declare early, but at this point he is a raw-skilled kid whose game could translate to the pros similar to former UCLA standout Marcedes Lewis, who was a late first-round pick in 2006.
REECE GOES DEEP
Washington senior wide receiver Marcel Reece has become a feared, go-to vertical threat as a senior after coming along slowly following his transfer from junior college. He is among the Pac-10's top-five receivers in yardage (569) and touchdown catches (6). Reece, who has 30 receptions this season, had five catches for 166 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Arizona this past weekend. His TD covered 98 yards, the longest pass play of the season in the Pac-10. He has scored at least one touchdown in each of his past three games, and at 6-3, 235 pounds, Reece has ideal size and has been timed in the 4.5 range. He could make a move in the postseason.
• LSU wide receiver Early Doucet, LSU cornerback Chevis Jackson, Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm, Kentucky quarterback Andre' Woodson and Kentucky wide receiver Keenan Burton have accepted invitations to the 2008 Under Armour Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
• Northern Iowa offensive lineman Chad Rinehart plans to accept an invite to the East-West Shrine Game, while likely opting out of the Hula Bowl.
• The second annual Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Challenge, scheduled to be played Feb. 2 at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, will be sending out invites this week.
SMALL SCHOOL PATROL
• Benedict (S.C.) senior offensive lineman Heath Benedict will likely miss the rest of the season because of a broken bone in his right foot. The injury will require a cast and rest. He will have a new X-ray taken in a few weeks to see if the break has healed or if it requires surgery. Benedict had surgery on his right ankle in the offseason. If he can get back to full strength by the postseason, there is a good chance the 330-pound blocker can revive scouts' interest in him by running in the 4.8 range at the NFL combine and having a successful week of practices at his all-star game.
• Sherbrooke (Canada) senior wide receiver Samuel Giguere is attracting interest. He finished second in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) with 45 receptions for 871 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging more than 19 yards per catch. He has been timed in the 4.4 range in the 40-yard dash with a career best time of 4.35. Giguere ran 4.41 for me during the workout session of this past spring's East-West Bowl held in Quebec City. He is a rare natural athlete with a 40-inch vertical, 4.14 short shuttle, 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump and has also completed 23 reps of 225 pounds during offseason training. Not subject to NCAA rules, he was able to sign with an agent while still having a year of college eligibility remaining. He signed with well-known CFL agent Darren Gill who has represented Jason Clermont and Chris Bauman, two of the top-rated receivers in recent CFL Draft memory. You could hear Giguere's name among the players assigned to the East-West Shrine Game or another postseason game.
• Richmond senior offensive tackle Tim Silver has received an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA after suffering a season-ending knee injury Sept. 1. The 6-6, 330-pounder was getting fifth- to seventh-round grades from some scouts and making good strides thanks to his size/strength. Senior running back Timothy Hightower, who leads the Colonial Conference in rushing with 1,201 yards and has 15 touchdowns, has opened eyes with six games of more than 100 yards, including two with at least 245 yards. He has good size (6-0, 225 pounds), runs with power and has nearly 100 career receptions. His productive senior campaign has raised his grade to the point where many scouts consider him a priority free agent.
The 8-0 Super Bowl-favorite New England Patriots could potentially win this year's championship and have a top-10 pick in next year's NFL Draft. They own the 2008 first-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, who are currently 2-5 and would be picking among the top 10.