Alabama and LSU combined for six NFL first-round draft choices this past spring, which is why college football fans won't be the only ones fixated on Saturday night's game at Tiger Stadium.
Scouting directors view this as a jackpot of talent, as evidenced by former Alabama tailback Trent Richardson, former LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and former Alabama safety Mark Barron being among the top seven 2012 selections. Richardson scored the only touchdown in the two meetings between the Crimson Tide and Tigers last season, cementing Alabama's 21-0 skunking in the BCS title game, and he rushed for 122 yards this past Sunday as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns.
"LSU's got a couple of very nice players, but I would say Alabama has a lot more this year," one NFL scouting director said when asked to preview this week's game. "Last year, I would have leaned toward LSU from a talent standpoint because of their experience level."
This scout listed Richardson, former Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, Claiborne, current LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo and former LSU receiver Reuben Randle as his top five prospects entering last year's game in Tuscaloosa. He believes Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron will be the best college player on the field this weekend, but his top five NFL prospects are as follows:
1. Alabama sophomore left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio
The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder was the nation's most sought lineman in the 2011 signing class and has rebounded from a torn ACL suffered in last year's game against Tennessee.
Alabama has a dominant offensive line filled with veterans with a combined 135 career starts. Kouandjio is the pup of the bunch with eight.
"When he's eligible for the pros, he's going to be a top-10 pick," the scout said. "He's got size. He's got athleticism. He's got everything. He's the best prospect on either team."
2. LSU junior defensive end Barkevious Mingo
Moving up from fourth on this list a year ago, Mingo has 23 tackles, nine quarterback hurries, four tackles for loss, three sacks and two fumble recoveries this season. The 6-5, 240-pounder is rated by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper as the No. 7 overall prospect for the 2013 NFL draft.
"He's the best player on LSU's team simply because of the skill set he brings," the scout said. "He's a pass rusher, which is premium. He brings speed to the table, and he's effective in the run game."
3. Alabama freshman tailback T.J. Yeldon
Yeldon became Alabama's leading rusher for 2012 last Saturday with a 10-carry, 84-yard performance against Mississippi State and now has 93 rushes for 649 yards (7 per carry) and seven touchdowns. A five-star prospect from Daphne, Ala., Yeldon was committed to Auburn this time last year but switched to the Tide and enrolled early.
"I know he's a freshman, but he's just got that kind of ability, and there is no question about it," the scout said.
4. Alabama junior cornerback Dee Milliner
Milliner is rated by Kiper as the No. 12 prospect in the 2013 draft. The 6-foot-1, 199-pounder from Millbrook, Ala., has 26 tackles, 13 pass breakups and two interceptions, and his combination of breakups and picks ranks second nationally.
5. Alabama senior guard Chance Warmack
The 6-3, 320-pounder from Atlanta has 34 career starts at left guard, and he is rated by Kiper as the No. 9 prospect in the 2013 draft. He contributes to an offense that has outscored its opposition 330-68 in the second halves of the last 19 games.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...