Guest writer Jon Dove takes a look at the bigger match-ups between NFL prospects as we kick off week one of the college season. Its starts quickly tonight as North Carolina tackle James Hurst attempts to slow down everyone’s favorite defender, Jadeveon Clowney.
North Carolina at No. 6 South Carolina
Thursday, August 29th at 6:00pm on ESPN
Prospects: #13 Bryn Renner (QB) and #68 James Hurst, OT (UNC) vs. #7 Jadeveon Clowney, DE (SC) and #90 Chaz Sutton, DE (SC)
The featured matchup in this game is in the trenches where the North Carolina offensive line attempts to shutdown the explosive Jadeveon Clowney. This task falls on the shoulders of potential early-round pick James Hurst. Hurst is a solid athlete who uses proper technique and knows how to make use of angles. However, he’s nowhere close to matching Clowney’s athleticism. This will be a great test for Hurst, as a strong showing could go a long way to helping his overall draft stock. Another thing to keep an eye on is how quarterback Bryn Renner handles the pressure generated by the South Carolina defensive front. This group not only features Clowney, but also emerging prospect Chaz Sutton. Renner will need to remain posed and make strong decisions if he hopes to lead his team to victory. The pressure he’ll face in this game will be a good example of what he can expect in the NFL.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Thursday, August 29th at 9:15pm on ESPN
Prospects: #87 Jordan Matthews, WR (Vandy) vs. #3 Charles Sawyer, CB (Ole Miss)
Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews is a smooth route-runner who excels at providing his quarterback with a reliable target. His able to make a consistent impact because of how he locates openings in the defense, changes speeds and cleaning breaks off his routes. Matthews can’t walk into his matchup against Ole Miss’s Charles Sawyer with too much confidence. Sawyer is a fluid athlete who can stick with any receiver. This is an aggressive defender with a knack for reading routes and making a play on the ball. Sawyer’s combination of athleticism, instincts and ball skills make him a legitimate candidate to work his way into the first-round mix.
Toledo at No. 10 Florida
Saturday, August 31st at 12:20pm on ESPN 3
Prospects: #22 David Fluellen, RB (Toledo) vs. #2 Dominique Easley, DT and the Florida’s Talented Front Seven
Toledo’s David Fluellen has a great opportunity this weekend to prove to people he belongs in the early-round mix. His matchup against the talented Florida defense will represent an NFL-like challenge. If Fluellen can find a way to produce he could significantly help his draft stock. However, it won’t be easy as Toledo’s offensive line will be overmatched by Florida’s front seven. Fluellen will need to use his combination of power and elusiveness to have a productive day. His north-south running style will be a key for Toledo to keep the chains moving.
McNeese State at South Florida
Saturday, August 31st at 7:00 pm on ESPN 3
Prospect: # 19 Aaron Lynch, DE (South Florida)
On paper this game doesn’t look all that exciting, but it marks South Florida’s Aaron Lynch’s return to the field after sitting out a season due to transfer rules. Everyone has already crowned Jadeveon Clowney as the best pass rusher in this class. However, Lynch features the natural ability to give Clowney a run for his money. Lynch combines excellent size, long arms, explosiveness and a non-stop motor to consistently generate pressure on the quarterback. During his freshman year at Notre Dame, he often flashed as the top defensive lineman within a very talented group. Keep an eye on Lynch’s progress this season because by the end of the year he could work his way into top-five consideration.
Buffalo at No. 2 Ohio State
Saturday, August 31st at 12:00pm on ESPN2
Prospects: #46 Khalil Mack, LB (Buf) vs. Talented Ohio State Offense
The No. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes aren’t expecting much of a challenge from Buffalo, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to watch. Buffalo features one of the more underrated draft prospects in linebacker Khalil Mack. He’s such a special talent that he has a legitimate shot of working his way into the early part of the first round. Mack is the type of linebacker who can fill multiple roles on a defense. He has shown the ability to generate pressure on the quarterback, hold up in coverage and attack the line of scrimmage against the run. I’ll be interested to see if Buffalo assigns Mack the job of spying Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. This would be a tough test, but also an opportunity for Mack to show his top-notch talents.
Mississippi State vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State
Saturday, August 31st at 3:30pm on ABC/ESPN2
Prospects: #61 Gabe Jackson, G (Miss St) vs. #99 Calvin Barnett, DT (OKST)
I absolutely cannot wait to see Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson and Oklahoma State’s Calvin Barnett square off this weekend. These are two experienced and explosive interior linemen with the chance of coming off the board early in the 2014 draft. Barnett reminds me a lot of Nick Fairley because of his explosiveness off the ball and nasty style of play. He’s the type of defensive tackle who can get in the backfield and completely disrupt the timing of the offense. Barnett is going to make things very difficult on the Mississippi State offense and it’s Jackson’s job to keep him in check.
Jon Dove has been covering the NFL Draft for the past several years at sites that include Mocking the Draft and Bleacher Report as well as presently writing for EDraft.com. He can also be found on twitter @Jon_Dove42