12 Prospects to Watch in the 2016 Pac-12 Championship Game

View images of the coaches, mascots and top prospects in the 2016 Pac-12 Championship between Washington and Colorado.

The stakes couldn't be higher for Friday's Pac-12 Championship game between the University of Washington and the University of Colorado. Levi's Stadium will play host to the pair of top-10 teams in clash that will not only determine the conference's representative in the Rose Bowl, but has national championship implications as well. 

If the fourth-ranked Huskies get the win on Friday, Washington will likely lock up a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff. Should the eighth-ranked Buffalos emerge victorious, Colorado will earn the school's first ever berth in the Rose Bowl.

As expected with such a high profile matchup, there are several NFL prospects on both teams. CBS Sports draft expert Dane Brugler has provided 49ers.com with scouting reports for 12 notable players (six from each program) who will be eligible for selection in 2017. Be sure to follow Brugler on Twitter @dpbrugler.

Kickoff is at 6:00 p.m. PT.

And now for Brugler's analysis of the prospects you should get to know before gametime...

Washington

  1. WR John Ross, redshirt JR. (5-11, 190, #1)

Brugler: Simply put, Ross is one of the top draft-eligible wideouts in the country, mostly due to his blur speed and suddenness to uncover and stretch out the defense. But he is more than just speed as he has the polished routes to create his own separation, making him a nightmare for defenses to cover. The NFL covets explosive playmakers and that is exactly what Ross provides as a receiver and return man (currently among the FBS leaders with 16 receiving touchdowns in 2016).

  1. CB Sidney Jones, JR. (6-0, 181, #26)

Brugler: Although leaner than ideal, Jones does an excellent job staying in phase with receivers with the ballskills to make quick adjustments on the ball. He checks a lot of boxes for what NFL teams seek at the position with his transition skills, fluid hips and confidence to blanket opposing wideouts. Jones has put himself in the first round mix.

  1. CB Kevin King, SR. (6-3, 192, #20)

Brugler: While not as well-known as Jones, King is very well-liked in the scouting community. After starting his collegiate career at safety, the Oakland native moved to cornerback in 2015 as a junior to fill the void left by Marcus Peters and has blossomed into a true cover man as a senior, leading the Huskies with 13 passes defended. King has a string bean frame with skinny legs and his limited play strength shows at times as a tackler, but he also has an impressive blend of height, length and speed, using light feet and smooth hips to stay on top of routes and find the football.

  1. FS Budda Baker, JR. (5-10, 192, #32)

Brugler: There is an old scouting rule that you don't draft safeties high who weigh under 200 pounds because it is tough for them to hold up in the NFL. But Baker is one of the exceptions to that rule with his well-rounded skill-set to make an impact vs. the run and the pass. He uses outstanding pursuit angles and break down technique to be a reliable open-field tackler. And in coverage, Baker has a "Honey Badger" mentality, changing directions like a cornerback to diagnose, close and attack at the catch point.

  1. DT Elijah Qualls, redshirt JR. (6-1, 321, #11)

Brugler: The Danny Shelton comparisons will be inevitable due to size and quickness, but Qualls might be more consistent. He has the initial burst to invade gaps before blockers can react and has the upper body power to jolt and collect himself in a fluid motion.

  1. OLB Psalm Wooching, redshirt SR. (6-3, 231, #28)

Brugler: The heartbeat of the Huskies' defense, Wooching is a rangy athlete with the quickness to leverage the corner. He doesn't have the point of attack power to routinely defeat blocks, but Wooching might be able to stick on special teams in the NFL.

Colorado

  1. CB Chidobe Awuzie, SR. (5-11, 205, #4)

Brugler: A four-year starter, Awuzie has the balanced athleticism to stay attached at the hip to receivers up and down the field. He has experience lining up inside and outside and is one of the better blitzing cornerback prospects in recent years. His limited of size and functional power aren't ideal, but Awuzie's closing burst, ball awareness and cover savvy are the traits that translate well to the NFL.

  1. CB Ahkello Witherspoon, redshirt SR. (6-2, 195, #23)

Brugler: Like Kevin King for Washington, Witherspoon has a narrow body type with lean limbs, but the height/length combo masks several of his deficiencies. He is a sound open-field tackler against the run and has enough speed to stay on top of vertical routes, pinning receivers to the sideline and quickly locating the ball. If he can clean up his pedal transition and route anticipation, Witherspoon will continue to climb draft boards.

  1. QB Sefo Liufau, SR. (6-3, 230, #13)

Brugler: Entering the season, Liufau received "JAG" grades ("just a guy") from NFL scouts. However, he is a substantial reason why Colorado continues to win and his toughness and determination are very indicative of the entire CU roster. Liufau, who has battled through numerous injuries this season, is built for punishment, whether picking up tough yards with his legs or staring down the gun barrel as a passer. It is tough seeing him find NFL success, but Liufau is a winner and will make some plays that will make scouts say "Well, maybe…"

  1. SS Tedric Thompson, SR. (6-0, 205, #9)

Brugler: While he has been on the NFL radar for a few years, pro scouts started to take Thompson a lot more seriously as a next level player this season due to his production as a senior. He ranks third on the team in tackles (72) and second in passes defended (17), coming off his best game of the season against Utah where he finished with six passes defended and two interceptions. A physical run defender, Thompson understands field leverage with the toughness and stopping power to be a reliable tackler. However, scouts are buying Thompson stock because of his plays in coverage, showing range, timing and ballskills to disrupt the catch point. His draft arrow is pointing north.

  1. DE/OLB Jimmie Gilbert, SR. (6-4, 230, #98)

Brugler: Mostly a part-time player as an underclassman, Gilbert earned a full-time starting role this season as a senior and has flourished. He ranks second in all of FBS with six forced fumbles and is third in the Pac-12 with 9.0 sacks, lining up mostly as an outside linebacker in Colorado's 3-4 base scheme. A former basketball standout, Gilbert looks more like a wide receiver with his tall, skinny build and his lack of functional strength to shed blocks is a strong concern for NFL scouts. But he has above average pursuit speed and has the fluid hips and movement skills to redirect his momentum on the move and chase down the ballcarrier.

  1. DT Josh Tupou, redshirt SR. (6-2, 325, #58)

Brugler: Entering the 2015 season, Tupou had plenty of fans in the scouting community, but an off-field incident (arrested on suspicion of assault, but the charges were later dropped) led to his suspension for all of last year. However, he did what was necessary to return for his final season of eligibility this season and not take anything for granted. And it shows because Tupou is one of the reasons Colorado has been arguably the most improved team in all of college football. As a nose tackle in the Buffalo's 3-3-5 scheme, Tupou is asked to eat up blockers and free his teammates to make stops. He can make his way up and down the line of scrimmage to help create congestion with the upper body strength and violent punch to rag doll defenders. As long as the character checks out, Tupou will have plenty of suitors on draft weekend.

Once again, head HEREto get your tickets for Friday's matchup!

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