Thursday night primer

In Week 12 of our Thursday night primer, the National Football Post highlights some of the keys to tonight’s Oklahoma State-Colorado game, including top players and matchups that NFL scouts will be watching.

Prospects to keep an eye on:

Oklahoma State

Zac Robinson: No. 11, QB, 6-3, 218

Robinson is coming off a concussion he sustained last week vs. Texas Tech, but he’s a tough kid who leads by example and does all the little things to make up for his skill-set shortcomings.

Keith Toston: No. 5, RB, 6-0, 214

Has really risen up draft boards with a strong senior year and is now looking to cement himself as a bona fide draftable prospect.

Kendall Hunter: No. 24, RB, 5-8, 190

Hunter is slowly working his way back into form after missing five games with a foot injury. However, he’s coming off 17-carry, 68-yard performance vs. Texas Tech and could add a much-needed spark to the Cowboys' offense tonight.

Russell Okung: No. 76, OT, 6-5, 302

Looks so natural off the edge in pass protection and does a great job reaching the corner vs. speed and redirecting in space. Is one of the few elite left tackle prospects in next year's draft.

Perrish Cox: No. 16, CB, 6-0, 198

The one guy I'm really excited to watch play. Possesses the size/speed numbers to excel at the next level, but I want to see how much he has improved his overall footwork in man coverage since last season.

Others worth watching:

Andrew Lewis: No. 54, OC/OG, 6-4, 292
Swanson Miller: No. 90, DT, 6-4, 300
Andre Sexton: No. 20, LB, 6-0, 224
Patrick Lavine: No. 4, OLB, 6-2, 226
Lucien Antoine: No. 31, FS, 6-1, 215


Colorado

Nate Solder: No. 78, OT, 6-9, 305

A physically gifted kid for his size who has all the upside in the world, but is still learning how to play the position.

Riar Geer: No. 87, TE/FB, 6-3, 250

Isn’t much of a threat catching the football down the field, but he displays a good feel in the underneath pass game and has the ability to win battles at the point of attack as a blocker.

Scotty McKnight: No. 21, WR, 5-11, 185

Is undersized and lacks ideal burst out of his breaks, but he’s a smooth route runner who knows how to set up corners and catches the ball well away from his frame. Looks like a borderline roster guy who needs to make his living in the slot.

Others worth noting:

Jeff Smart: No. 45, ILB, 6-0, 225
Jimmy Smith: No. 3, CB, 602, 205

Scout’s key matchup

Oklahoma State CB Perrish Cox vs. Colorado WR Scotty McKnight

This is interesting matchup for the simple fact that both players are pretty much polar opposites and rely on completely different skill sets in order to win their individual battles. Cox is a tall, long-armed defensive back who displays impressive straight-line speed for the position and does a great job closing on the ball. Conversely, McKnight is a smooth, coordinated route runner who lacks ideal straight-line speed but understands how to set up defenders and run precise routes.

However, what makes this matchup so intriguing is that McKnight struggles with athletic corners who have the ability to get up in his face and reroute him off the line. Cox struggles with savvy wideouts who are able to disguise their routes and get out of their breaks cleanly.

When Cox is able to play close to the line and use his size and length to bump McKnight off the ball, expect Cox to continually win those one-on-one battles. However, any time Cox is forced to play in off-coverage and give McKnight a free release, look for the coordination and overall savvy of McKnight to have the upper hand. Consequently, it will be interesting to see what adjustments are made by each player throughout the game, and who does a better job maximizing his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses.

The wall on the left side

For a team like Colorado, which has struggled to generate pressure against the pass game all season, facing a talented offensive line like Oklahoma State is not exactly ideal. The Cowboys are anchored on the left side by the nation's top senior left tackle prospect, Russell Okung. Okung is a gifted athlete off the edge who showcases the ability to not only consistently reach the corner, but does a great job playing with balance and redirecting in space. He possesses the type of length to get into blocks quickly and has improved significantly since last year playing with his base down and anchoring on contact. Okung also displays the type of body control to get out in space in the run game and consistently seals opposing defensive linemen away from the play.

Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson is banged up after sustaining a concussion vs. Texas Tech last Saturday. However, you have to think the Cowboys coaching staff feels pretty safe about putting him behind its talented offensive line against an uninspired Colorado front four.

Colorado’s only chance

The Colorado offensive line isn’t the most powerful or physical of units, but it's a tall (averaging 6-foot-6), athletic group that does a great job reaching defenders in space and sticking to its blocks. Offensive tackles Nate Solder (6-9) and Bryce Givens (6-6) are gifted athletes on the edge, and offensive guard Ryan Miller gives the unit some much needed pop inside at 6-8, 320.

As a result, expect a heavy dose of running back Rodney Stewart, who at 5-6, 170 pounds does a great job hiding behind his massive offensive line and exploding into daylight. Stewart is a natural runner who possesses good instincts and lateral quickness and looks very comfortable setting up his blocks inside. The Oklahoma State defensive front seven is not very big or stout and could really struggle to slow down a Colorado team that will be content to run the ball all game in order to give itself a chance.

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