As college football season marches along, we continue to see good teams pushed to their limits. We may not have seen many upsets, but a good portion of the top-25 was tested last week.
Alabama was pushed to the final drive by Florida in a game where edge-rushing linebacker Brenton Cox had a heck of a performance. Oklahoma had a so-so showing that led to a one-score victory for the second time this year. Clemson barely scraped by, and Cincinnati got their first real test of the season where Desmond Ridder’s feet, along with Jerome Ford, had to rescue a passing attack that fell flat in Indiana. Meanwhile, Coastal Carolina survived an upset bid by Buffalo to remain unbeaten. In addition, Abe Lucas and the Washington State offense stumbled against a re-energized USC squad that fired their coach at the beginning of the week.
With another great college football week ahead, let’s have a look at some of the top matchups between draft-eligible prospects.
College Football Games to Watch for NFL Scouting
Game of the Week: Texas A&M at Arkansas
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Saturday, September 25, 2:30 p.m. (CT) on CBS
Texas A&M Football:
The Aggies have highly-touted prospects on both sides of the ball. On the offensive side, offensive lineman Kenyon Green has the most upside. After spending his first several years at guard, he’s moved to right tackle. He’s a thick, long-armed player with incredible mobility for a 325-pound player. With all his physical ability, he must continue to refine his hand placement, pad level, and overall awareness to convince scouts that he can stay at tackle.
Tight end Jalen Wydermyer has a chance to be the top prospect at his position next April. He’s an in-line tight end that is one of the more consistent blockers in the country. As of now, he typically bodies out defenders as opposed to separating, but the athleticism is there to be a talented overall receiver.
Isaiah Spiller is one of the top draft-eligible running backs, with a diverse skill set that allows him to be a playmaker on all three downs. He runs more physically than his build would lead you to believe, but he needs to prove capable in pass protection to be a complete package on passing downs.
Ainias Smith is also a versatile offensive weapon that can lineup anywhere in the formation, including the backfield. He could thrive in a role similar to Deebo Samuel’s in San Francisco or Rondale Moore’s in Arizona.
Defensively, DeMarvin Leal is one of the top college football prospects in the country with his combination of size, strength, and explosion. The Aggies play him all over the front, and that should give him the scheme-versatility to appeal to any defensive coordinator’s system.
I’m also keeping my eye on former running back/wide receiver Aaron Hansford. At 6’3”, 240 pounds, he’s an active linebacker that could grow into a three-down player with more development at the position.
The Razorbacks are proving to be a tough matchup for anyone, and Texas A&M better come prepared for a fight on Saturday. Arkansas has a pair of standout prospects that I’m looking forward to seeing.
Wide Receiver Treylon Burks is one of the top receivers in the country. He’s a big, physical receiver that competes with an impressive combination of play speed and play strength.
That makes him a tough player to get to the ground, and Arkansas designs a lot of plays to get the ball in his hands. While I’m not sure Burks will blow us away with his speed or agility, he displays outstanding body control that helps make his catch radius all the bigger.
On the other side, safety Jalen Catalon is one of the more fun players in the country to watch. At 5’10” and 200 pounds, he doesn’t look the part of a safety, but neither did Bob Sanders.
That’s the type of player you are getting with Catalon. He flies around the field like a heat-seeking missile and delivers a crushing shot when he finds his target.
I love his instincts, and while he’s not going to match up against anyone in man coverage, he shows a ton of range that pairs with those instincts in zone coverage. The 2020 college football All-American is off to a great start this fall, but he’ll be tested against Texas A&M.
Scouts will question his size, and Wydermyer is a big tight end that will push him. Some will question his overall athleticism. Smith is an exceptional athlete across the ball, and he’s going to get the ball a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing those two battle it out, and Catalon should play a significant role in slowing Spiller on the ground as well.
Matchup of the Week: Kentucky at South Carolina
Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina, Saturday, September 25, 6 p.m. (CT) on ESPN 2
Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky, Fourth-year Senior, 6’5″, 345:
Kinnard is a massive player that has seen most of his time at right tackle. He’s one of the top run-blocking linemen in the country thanks to the power that he shows in his upper body and hips, and when he gets his hands locked on inside, his opponents struggle to get loose. The big question for Kinnard is where he fits best in the NFL. He’s seen a little time at left tackle, but he will likely fit best on the right side, either at guard or tackle. Kinnard is a wide player that isn’t easy to get around off the edge, and he’s definitely got the length to stay at tackle.
However, his weight gets out in front of him far too often, which will present problems in space. In fact, the only way I see his mobility being good enough to consistently hold up in space is by slimming down, which will take away from his power.
Overall, his pad level and balance need to get better, and that is especially true if he’s going to stay at tackle. This week, he’ll be facing off with a player that is pretty powerful himself, with the athleticism and motor to give him issues if his balance is off.
J.J. Enagbare, DE, South Carolina, Fourth-Year Senior, 6’4”, 265:
Enagbare is a fun player to watch with his combination of size, athleticism, and tenacity. He reminds me a bit of Carlos Basham from last year, although not quite as heavy. Still, Enagbare has a thick build for a defensive end, and the power that comes with it gives opposing linemen issues.
He’s got long arms that he routinely uses to stack blocks. Against Kinnard, they will come in handy as he is not a fun player to deal with once he gets his hands on you. I want to see him stack and shed consistently against one of the best run-blockers in the country. Enagbare is also a relentless player that makes a lot of second-effort plays that could give Kinnard fits. The question scouts will want to see answered is if he can flat-out beat Kinnard with his first move.
Hustle sacks are common in college football but happen far less often in the NFL. Enagbare needs to prove that he can execute his initial rush move, which is typically a version of a speed chop, a two-hand chop, or a bull-rush.
Player of the Week: Trey McBride vs Iowa
Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa, Saturday, September 25, 2:30 p.m. (CT) on FS1
Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State, Fourth-Year Senior, 6’4”, 260:
Undoubtedly, Iowa will be Colorado State’s top opponent this season, meaning this college football game will be scouts’ best opportunity to see McBride compete against quality competition. No offense to South Dakota State, Vanderbilt, or Toledo, but the Hawkeyes will certainly provide the caliber of player it takes to defend McBride.
Thus far, the pass-catching tight end has been the leading receiver in each of their first three games, totaling 30 receptions for 339 yards and a touchdown. The Rams do target him often, and that won’t change against the fifth-ranked team in the country.
Watching McBride try to keep his team competitive against Iowa will be the best scouting tape we’ll see outside of a possible trip to Mobile for the Senior Bowl. It will also be our best chance to see how much McBride can offer as a blocker against a quality opponent.
We know he can catch passes, as Colorado State lines him up all over the field and even matched him up at wide receiver against Vanderbilt’s top corners. He shows good body control as a route-runner and terrific focus.
Still, the more he can offer as a tight end, the higher he’ll be ranked this spring. Right now, he’s ranked fifth at the position on my board in a good group of tight ends.