LSU senior running back/fullback Jacob Hester used the prime-time stage against Florida to prove that he should now be evaluated as more of a one-back or running back than at his former fullback position.
Hester powered to 106 yards on 23 carries, including the game-winning touchdown on Saturday. Through six games, he is leading the Tigers in rushing with 433 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 5 yards per carry. At 6-foot, 228 pounds, he has better-than-advertised straight-line speed and has shown the durability to be an every-down back. He is a blue-collar kid with a high character and work ethic, but needs to show better hands out of the backfield to impress scouts down the stretch.
Hawaii senior quarterback Colt Brennan was knocked out of the Warriors' win against Utah State not once, but twice. He was banged up after being crushed following a first-half completion, but returned before re-injuring his right ankle on the first series of the second half. Brennan walked off the field, but was favoring his right leg. Senior backup Tyler Graunke stepped in and powered the Warriors to an exciting 52-37 win, completing 9 of 11 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns. Graunke added another TD on the ground. Brennan tried to wear a brace on his right ankle this week, but the ankle swelled. Some wonder if the success his backup had in running the offense means Brennan's big numbers might be a product of Hawaii's system.
BRADFORD'S BIG CATCH
Stanford senior wide receiver Mark Bradford opted to return this season after suffering torn ligaments in his right foot. A long rehab process allowed him to come back at full strength and the 6-1, 210-pounder became an instant folk hero when he hauled in the game-winning touchdown against USC. Bradford is second on the Cardinal with 21 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. He has played both football and basketball, but is now proving to pro scouts that he has the durability and pass-catching skills to earn a possible late-round draft grade.
BOOK ON HAUGABOOK
Troy senior quarterback Omar Haugabook has raised his level of play the past few weeks. A tremendous all-around athlete who runs in the 4.4 range, Haugabook is roughly 6-foot, 210 pounds. He accounted for 259 yards of total offense and a pair of touchdowns in Troy's win over Florida International. Haubabook had his best effort (371 yards passing, TD) in the Trojans' upset of Oklahoma State on Sept. 14. He has also benefited from the fact that senior running back Kenny Cattouse, senior defensive back/return man Leodis McKelvin and senior linebacker Marcus Richardson have earned greater looks from area scouts.
BOOTY TO BENCH?
USC senior quarterback John David Booty might have seen his national championship and Heisman Trophy dreams end after the Trojans' loss to Stanford. What's worse is that he could also lose his hold on the starter's job. Booty played the second half with a broken bone in the middle finger of his throwing hand. He made more than a few poor decisions that led to four interceptions. The injury could open the door for red-shirt sophomore Mark Sanchez to replace him when the Trojans face Arizona this week. It is unlikely that coach Pete Carroll would bench his starter for the rest of the season, but if Sanchez were to get on a roll, it could present a quandary for the coach since the younger passer was also a prized in-state recruit. Booty is a native of Louisiana.
Penn State senior running back Rodney Kinlaw had never played more than eight games or carried the ball more than 39 times in a season entering his final year of eligibility. He saw himself behind fellow senior Austin Scott and freshman Evan Royster when the season began. But he waited patiently and produced when given the ball. Last weekend against Iowa, he carried 28 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Kinlaw (5-9, 205 pounds) is a good student and has earned his opportunities.
• Georgia senior running back Thomas Brown could miss up to six weeks after suffering a broken collarbone in his team's loss to Tennessee. Brown, who also missed the end of last season with a knee injury, is hopeful that he can return sooner. Fellow senior running back Kregg Lumpkin, who just returned from thumb surgery, is likely to see his carries increase.
• UCLA senior running back Chris Markey ended up sitting out the Bruins' loss Saturday against Notre Dame with a nagging turf toe injury. He hopes to return to the field for their next game, but has clearly become the No. 2 option in the team's ground attack.
• California junior quarterback Nate Longshore should be at-or-close to 100 percent following a week off to prepare and rehab his injured right ankle. He was placed in a walking boot for most of the team's bye-week, but said that he could have continued playing had the Bears needed him in their win over Oregon. After suffering the injury, he missed a few plays but returned to the field. Longshore continues to make strides in many areas. This weekend's game against Oregon State will give Longshore another opportunity to show his leadership and bolster a potential run at the Heisman.
SMALL SCHOOL PATROL
• McNeese State senior defensive end/outside linebacker Bryan Smith has continued to impress scouts with his natural instincts as a pass rusher. He has 24 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in five games. Smith is being evaluated for a possible conversion to outside linebacker. The 6-3, 220-pound All-Southland Conference defensive end is under-sized to remain among the front four at the next level. He is an excellent pass rusher who can make tackles in the open field. It has been hard to judge if his speed and athleticism will work in pass coverage.
• Central Washington senior defensive back/linebacker Chris Hemphill is making a name for himself after his transfer from Washington. He has eye-opening size (6-4, 235) to go along with 4.5-range speed and the ball skills to remain at safety. He has 23 tackles, a team-leading four interceptions and one forced fumble. Hemphill was moved around the field at Washington, playing mostly free safety and special teams. He flashes big-play potential, but has not always made the right decisions. This kid has an NFL body and skills, so the postseason will be his chance to impress.
• Bethune-Cookman senior linebacker Ronnie McCullough is leading his team with 63 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks. His play over the past two weeks has opened eyes as he has recorded a total of 34 tackles, including 20 against Norfolk State. He currently lines up at weak-side linebacker, but the South Florida transfer has also played inside linebacker during his career. At just over 6-foot, 235 pounds, he has a solid upper body, makes quick reads off the snap and promises a 40 time in the mid-4.6 range.
• Hofstra senior running back/return man Kareem Huggins is turning heads. The speedy all-purpose back leads the Pride in rushing with 597 yards and six touchdowns, while also averaging more than 30 yards per kickoff return. He has scored a pair of special teams touchdowns, including a 92-yard kickoff return in last week's win over Maine. In that game, he also had a 71-yard rushing touchdown. Huggins has gained 130 or more yards rushing in his last three games, but his return skills are starting to make scouts take notice.