College football is upon us and after one night of thrilling offensive performances from some of the best receivers in the country, we look ahead to the top match ups to watch this weekend for 2014 NFL draft prospects. Now, this is not the best players playing, but rather players that have the toughest head to head match up with other draft prospects.
LSU v. TCU
Jason Verrett v. Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, and Zach Mettenberger: Mettenberger has one of the strongest arms in the country and one of the most underrated receiving duos. However, in order to throw on TCU, he’ll have to deal with the most physical corner in the country. Verrett will jam, run with and cover whomever he is lined up against and is a threat to pick off every pass thrown near him with his ability to flow so easily to the ball. For Verrett, he’ll need to stay with whomever he is matched up against. Both Landry and Beckham are sneaky quick and very savvy technicians, but if Verrett can shut his man down, it gives the talented TCU front some time to get to Mettenberger.
Casey Pachall v. LSU Defense: Casey Pachall, while no doubt talented, has not played football in a while and this is a pretty tough team to start back up against. Be it Anthony Johnson, Lamin Barrow, or Craig Loston, LSU has talent at every single level of their defense. Pachall is going to have to be smart with the football and utilize that talented arm that makes him the prospect he is. If he can pick apart the vaunted Tiger defense, people may start to push him up their draft boards.
Clemson v. UGA
Aaron Murray v. The World: Until further notice, outside of Vic Beasley, the Clemson defense is not scaring anybody and Aaron Murray has the opportunity to turn it into a shooting gallery. However, Murray is notoriously shaky in these big games and I am usually the first in line to criticize him as a prospect. Well, tonight is the night he flexes his muscles and proves me wrong. He has a plethora at the skill positions that he needs to take advantage of and if he can, and he wins this game with his arm, I will shut up…. Until he faces South Carolina next week.
Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins v. UGA Defense: UGA has reloaded on defense this offseason, but Mark Richt knows how to recruit them and Todd Grantham can coordinate a play making defense. Boyd has been a polarizing and widely debated prospect in the draft world, as has Watkins. Saturday they both the opportunity to silence there doubters. The key for Boyd is to cut down on his risk taking and to continue his success in the redzone. The UGA defensive front is usually pretty vicious, so look for Boyd to use his running ability to make plays when the pocket breaks down (which should be often). Watkins needs to be more physical. Too many times last year he shied away from the jump ball or going over the middle, he just wasn’t intimidating. If he can up his game and he and Boyd can connect, look for some big plays in what should be a shootout.
Ohio State v. Buffalo
Khalil Mack v. Ohio State Offense: To be honest, as a whole, Ohio State should have no problem taking care of Buffalo, but Khalil Mack should make it interesting. Mack is a cruise missile and will fly all over the field, and that tenacity needs to show up against a lightening fast Buckeye offense. If Mack can show up and make big plays, look for him to raise his already high draft stock.
CMU v. Michigan
Zurlon Tipton v. Michigan Front: Tipton is a rather under the radar runningback prospect out of Central Michigan, but he is the real deal. He has a great blend of size speed and power that need to show up vs. UM. The Wolverines are the vastly superior team, but if Tipton can move through a great front 7 and keep it close, the world will take notice of Tipton.
Under The Radar
Calvin Barnett v. Gabe Jackson (OSU v. Miss St.): Gabe Jackson is one of the best guards in the country and can prove it against big man, Calvin Barnett. While Barnett is not an elite pass rusher, he is a large defender who can push around a pocket and clog up the run. If Jackson can keep his QB clean and open up holes for Ladarius Perkins, Jackson will continue his 1st round quest. If Barneet can get the best of the talented guard, look for scouts to start taking the Cowboy lineman a little bit ore seriously.
James Gayle v. Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama v. V-Tech): While Alabama is far superior team; Gayle is one of the best pass rushers in the ACC and is matched up with one of the most naturally talented tackles in the country. If Gayle can use his strength to bully Kouandjio and get to AJ McCarron, it will boost his stock dramatically. If Cyrus can put his talent together, show he has fully recovered from a knee injury, and stonewall Gayle, Cyrus will boost his stock in a big way, especially for a someone like me who has him as a 2nd round talent.
Morgan Moses v. Kyle Van Noy (UVA v. BYU): Moses is one of the top offensive linemen in the country and is a stud run blocker but is not a great pass protector. Noy is one of the best blitzers in the country and is often used as an edge rusher for the Cougars. We know Moses has the ability to role over Van Noy in the run game, but will Moses give up ground in pass protection? That is a huge task for him against Van Noy. Look for Van Noy to be moved around and attack the Virginia line from many angles. If he can have success against Moses as a pass rusher and a run stopper, he will continue to prove his versatility at the next level.