The college football season is finally upon and with the start of a new year, it provides us with an early look at the next wave of stars who will take the NFL by storm next April.
Starting this week and continuing through the season, we will take a look at some of these players and compare how they matchup against other top talents from around the nation with an eye towards the NFL Draft. So without further ado, here are the players and match ups to watch this weekend.
Tennessee vs N.C.State
Tennessee WR Justin Hunter vs N.C.State CB David Amerson
Hunter (6’4, 200 lbs.) has the size, speed, and vertical to make an impact right away for the Vols, especially with fellow WR Da’rick Rodgers being kicked off the team for violating team rules and transferring to Tennessee St. With Tyler Bray throwing him the ball, the sky’s the limit for Hunter.
As good as he might be, Amerson (6’3, 195lbs.) showed last season that he is one of the top defensive backs in all of college football- if not the best. He has excellent size for a corner, and is athletic, aggressive, and aware. For a defensive back to have 13 picks in a season is amazing, so this should be a nice test for him.
Clemson vs Auburn
Clemson QB Taj Boyd vs Auburn DE/OLB Corey Lemonier
Boyd (6’1, 225lbs.) led the ACC in total offensive yards-per-game last season, while throwing for 3,900 yards, with 33 touchdowns and only 12 picks. He wound up leading Clemson to the ACC title. Boyd has a good arm with solid mobility and tons of talent around him, even though he will be without All-American WR Sammy Watkins for this game. Boyd needs to make better decisions with the ball as he only completed 59% of his passes and had nine interceptions in the last six games. A game against an SEC defense should be a good test for him.
Corey Lemonier (6’4, 240lbs.) totaled 9.5 sacks last season. Fast and explosive, it’ll be up to Lemonier to pressure Boyd, so prevent him from spreading the ball around to his many weapons. He is a bit small for an NFL defensive end, but has potential to be a difference maker as a weakside 3-4 ouside linebaker.
Arkansas St. vs Oregon
Arkansas St. QB Ryan Aplin vs Oregon S John Boyett
Ryan Aplin (6’1,205 lbs.) led the Sun Belt in total offensive yards-per-game and scored 39 total touchdowns. While he lacks prototypical size, he has a good arm and excellent mobility. Aplin’s dangerous with his feet, which was evident by the 10 rushing touchdowns that he scored last season.
John Boyett (5’10,200lbs.) was all over the field for Oregon last year, as he lead the team with 108 tackles. He hasn’t shown much in regards to being a ballhawk, considering that he only had one interception last season. Boyett is a heady player with great instincts and should have another good season, while solidifying himself as a top-five safety in next year’s draft class.
SMU vs Baylor
SMU DE Margus Hunt vs Baylor OL Cyril Richardson
Margus Hunt (6’8,295lbs.) has prototypical size for a 3-4 defensive end, but he’ll have a tough matchup against Richardson (6’5,335lbs.) this week. Hunt has a shot to cement his place as one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the country.
Cyril Richardson has the size, tenacity, and athletisism to play anywhere on the offensive line, and can be a force with more seasoning. With Baylor/SMU being a rivalry, this battle should be even better to watch as the game goes on.
Stanford vs San Jose St.
Stanford OLB Chase Thomas vs San Jose St. OT David Quessenberry
Chase Thomas (6’4,245lbs.) is an excellent pass rusher who had 9.5 sacks last season and made plays everywhere. He is a perfect outside linebacker for an attacking 3-4 defense, as he occupies blockers and can handle one-on-one matchups well on the outside.
He goes against a potential top 10 OT in David Quessenberry (6’6,291lbs.) who is an All-WAC left tackle and has both the experience and the pass blocking savvy to be intriguing prospect at the next level. Stanford should handle San Jose State, but watching these two battle it out all game will be entertaining in itself.
Nebraska vs Southern Miss
Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead vs Southern MissDE/OLB Jaime Collins
Jaime Collins (6’4,240lbs.) is coming off an impressive season in which he notched 19.5 tackles for loss and added 6.5 sacks. He even added a 97 yard interception for a score. He is a powerful pass rusher that boasts freaskish speed and strength.
He’ll have to play behind the line of scrimmage a lot if he is going to help contain a potent rushing attack headlined by Rex Burkhead (5’11,210lbs.). He is coming off a season in which he had over 1,400 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. Collins will be busy, as he’ll also have to also help contain elusive QB Taylor Martinez, so be ready for a slobberknocker.
Michigan St. vs Boise St.
Michigan St. CB Johnny Adams vs Boise St. WR Matt Miller
Matt Miller (6’3, 213lbs.) had a solid year last season, leading the Broncos with 62 receptions and nine touchdowns as a freshman and is only going to get better. He has great size and hands, and is a typical possession receiver who can go up and get it.
Johnny Adams (5’11, 175lbs.) gives up size to Miller, but what he lacks in size he makes up for with tenacity and playmaking. He had 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 6 pass breakups, as opposing teams seemingly refused to test him last year. Adams held his own against good competition and this matchup will be a good look at how he matches up against a solid talent.
Notre Dame vs Navy
Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o vs Navy’s Running Game
Navy had the 4th best running game in the nation last season and seem to always be great on the ground. They have an experienced backfield and Navy has shown an ability to play up to the level of talent in recent years.
Manti Te’o is the top linebacker in the nation and a likely top-15 overall pick. He will have to be at his best against a one of the best ground games in the conutry. Navy isn’t overly impressive individually at either the running back or the fullback positions, but as a unit they have shown what they can do and will look to dominate the trenches. LB’s Te’o and Dan Fox, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (6’4, 306lbs.), and NT Louis Nix (6’3, 326lbs.) will look to control the line of scrimmage in what’s sure to be a physical game.
Game of the Week: Michigan vs Alabama
Michigan QB Denard Robinson and LT Tyler Lewan vs Alabama NT Jesse Williams and LB C.J. Mosley
Alabama had a historical defense last season. They were No. 1 against the run and pass, total defense, as well as points allowed. They have only four returning starters this year and they’ll face a very good offense, lead by the electric Denard Robinson.
Robinson (6’0, 195lbs.) is one of the fastest players in the entire country and can make any defense look bad with a 60 yard touchdown run. Offensive Tackle Tyler Lewan is a top-5 LT prospect and will look to open holes for Robinson, while deciphering the exotic Alabama defensive fronts.
Jesse Williams (6’4, 320lbs.) and C.J. Mosley (6’2, 234lbs.) will need to contain Robinson outside of the pocket. It should be one of the better contests of the entire season.