Underclassmen Beginning to Make an Impact... Sure-things and surprises both testing the waters With the season reaching the midway point it is becoming increasingly clear just who are the top players in the country. Players suffering through poor starts have either begun to rise out of the doldrums, or are settling into disappointing seasons, at this point. The majority of these players are seniors playing in their last season of collegiate eligibility. Many others, however, are underclassmen and according to sources throughout both the collegiate and professional game, they are underclassmen anxious to know their draft standing. The top names are obvious. It won't be considered much of a surprise, of course, if Aaron Rodgers, Mathias Kiwanuka, or Justin Miller elect to turn pro early. More intriguing, of course, are the surprise names checking their draft status. The following is a list of underclassmen reportedly already considering the jump to the NFL, as well as notes and comments I've gathered from scouts and front office personnel throughout the league. PlayerSize/Speed/SchoolCommentsAaron Rodgers - QB6'2-235/4.80/CalHas the arm, intelligence, and athletic ability, and chip on his shoulder (not offered a D-I scholarship out of HS) to come out and become a legitimate top 5 possibility. Matt Leinart - QB6'5-230/4.90/USCHasn't had quite the season his hype would lead you to believe, but you can't argue with his success and Leinart has a Brady-like coolness under pressure that the NFL is lathering over.Charlie Whitehurst - QB6'4-215/4.75/ClemsonAmong the more talented QBs in the land and despite press saying otherwise, Whitehurst was exploring the option of leaving early - but a horrendous season thus far, makes it a certainty he'll stay for his senior season. Bruce Gradkowski - QB6'2-210/4.80/ToledoA solid quarterback - carries the new MAC tradition of legitimate NFL talents - but in the class of Pennington, Leftwich, and Roethlisberger? Please.T.A. McClendon - RB5'11-220/4.50/NC StatePhysical back who clearly has the talent to be a Round One pick, but consistently nicked up. Ciatrick Faison - RB5'11-220/4.50/FloridaHas emerged as one of the top backs in the country. Might leave if he doesn't like the coaching change.Vernand Morency - RB5'10-215/4.50/Oklahoma StateProvides Cowboys with the same type of explosive playmaking back they just lost in Tatum Bell. Would be smart to prove this is no fluke, but lack of senior RB talent might be too much to ignore. Maurice Clarett - RB5'11-225/4.50/Ohio State*If you can get the kid to shut his mouth, this is actually a pretty talented runner. Problem is, he gets bored and opens his mouth - and when you've spent time on the sideline nursing injuries as much as Clarett has, there is plenty of time for one-liners to the press. DeAngelo Williams - RB5'10-210/4.50/MemphisTalented all-around prospect who is drawing comparisons to Minnesota Vikings rookie for his running, receiving prowess. Dontrell Moore - RB5'11-215/4.55/New MexicoBig name back who has emerged in a running back-friendly offense. Talented, but some question how he'll do in a offense not quite as geared towards his game. Marion Barber III - RB5'11-210/4.55/MinnesotaSee above.Mike Williams - WR6'4-225/4.50/USC*Would have been the clear cut #1 receiver in the draft had he just returned for his junior season - might not be now - despite press. Chris Henry - WR6'3-205/4.50/West VirginiaComparisons to Moss are off - but the kid has great size, speed, and a penchant for the big play. Derek Hagan - WR6'1-190/4.50/Arizona StateBig play specialist who might be wise to leave with Andrew Walter rather than leave his senior season numbers up to a new quarterback.James Banks - WR6'3-200/4.50/TennesseeSuspended for the season after all kinds of off-field problems, but the kid has 1st round talent and might look to try his luck elsewhere. Heath Miller - TE6'5-255/4.70/VirginiaThe focal point of this offense. Blessed with good size and athletic ability. Marcedes Lewis - TE6'6-260/4.65/UCLAMight not be his listed 260 pounds, but has great height and athletic ability. Not as technically sound as Heath Miller, but quite possibly the most athletically gifted big tight end in the country. Enjoying a breakout year.Tim Day - TE6'4-265/4.70/OregonTalented receiver with the size and experience in this offense to move on to the next level. Jonathan Scott - OT6'7-320/5.20/TexasOne of the elite offensive tackle prospects in the nation. Texas usually convinces their underclassmen to return, but the lack of top OTs this year might persuade Scott to enter early. Zach Strief - OT6'7-340/5.30/NorthwesternMammoth right tackle prospect who plays with good balance and strength. Could surprise. Richie Incognito - OL6'2-300/5.10/Nebraska*Former Cornhusker lineman who was forced to play left tackle, but whose future remains inside. Has had tons of off-field problems, leading Nebraska to throw him off the team, Oregon to throw him off the team, and now he is fighting speculation that he's already signed with an agent. Talented, but troubled. Haloti Ngata - DT6'4-340/5.10/OregonThe kid was my preseason #1 prospect, regardless of position. And he's been better than I expected. 'Nuff said. Rodrique Wright - DT6'5-320/5.10/TexasHuge name, huge body, huge talent. Hasn't enjoyed the big season this year with Marcus Tubbs gone. Legitimate 1st round talent if he comes out - but would be a surprise to see him leave early. Orien Harris - DT6'4-295/4.90/MiamiLatest in a long line of talented Miami defensive linemen. Hasn't had the monster season some would expect, but has 1st round ability and makes plays. Mathias Kiwanuka - DE6'5-260/4.80/Boston CollegeHas as much potential as any player in the country. Great combination of size and athletic ability that has some comparing him to Jevon Kearse. Doesn't play with the best fundamentals, but has legitimate top ten potential. Justin Tuck - DE6'4-260/4.80/Notre DameListed very generously at 260 pounds. Flies around the field and makes plays, but is still a bit one dimensional. Can put pressure on the quarterback. Shawne Merriman - DE6'3-255/4.70/MarylandHas been as dominant, at times, as any defensive lineman in college football. Lacks the prototype size and might have the athleticism to make the jump to OLB. One to keep an eye on. Mel Purcell - DE6'5-260/4.65/HawaiiBlessed with both size and athletic ability. Insiders feel he will end up being a better NFL prospect than Travis LaBoy when it is all said and done. Loren Howard - DE6'4-270/4.75/NorthwesternSelf-made prospect with prototype size, strength, and speed. Has struggled to get onto the field this year after early injury, but is a playmaker and will consider his options after the year. Devan Long - DE6'4-265/4.80/OregonJust like his older brother, Rien, Devan can get after the passer. However, also like his brother, Devan plays a bit high and isn't the athlete his numbers say he is. Daryl Blackstock - OLB 6'3-230/4.65/VirginiaActive, productive linebacker who has the combination of size, speed, and intelligence to be successful at the next level. A.J. Hawk - OLB6'3-230/4.65/Ohio StateProductive linebacker for the Buckeyes. Insiders believe he might be their best since Andy Katzenmoyer. Chad Greenway - OLB6'4-240/4.70/IowaVery productive player for Iowa who lacks his teammate, Hodge's top athleticism, but plays with great instincts and passion for the game. Great size and a good athlete. Will Derting - MLB6'0-230/4.70/Washington StateLacks the size, but plays with spectacular instincts and has a tenacious attitude on the field. Has struggled this season with a dislocated wrist, though to his credit, he's played through it. Almost surely will not leave early. Odell Thurman - MLB6'2-235/4.70/GeorgiaAthletic and instinctive, Thurman emerged as a superstar last year and has followed that up with another strong campaign this season. The success of Georgia defenders at the next level is staggering. Abdul Hodge - MLB6'2-230/4.55/IowaLacks the size you tend to want in a middle linebacker, but among the nation's top athletes at the position. Justin Miller - CB5'11-185/4.40/ClemsonQuite possibly the top cornerback in the country. Adam "Pac-Man" Jones - CB5'10-190/4.45/West VirginiaDangerous cover corner and spectacular return man. Michael Huff - CB/S5'11-190/4.45/TexasThe latest in a long line of NFL caliber defensive backs from Texas. Has seen action at both safety and cornerback here. Might need one more season to tighten up his technique, but the size, intensity, and athleticism is certainly there. Thomas Davis - S6'1-220/4.50/GeorgiaThe top safety in college football. Period. Brodney Poole - S6'2-205/4.55/OklahomaAthletic and has good size, but like many Oklahoma defenders, is a little bit a product of the system. James Sanders - S5'11-210/4.55/Fresno StateAlso could be called a "product of the system" as he is allowed to freelance a lot, but the kid simply makes tons of plays and has a solid combination of size and speed.