NFL Draft Primer for Week 1 of College Football

Jan. 5, 2013; Birmingham, AL, USA; Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Donte Moncrief (12) is stopped just short of the goal line by Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Anthony Gonzalez (28) during the third quarter of the BBVA Compass Bowl at Legion Field. Mississippi won 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Which games should you be watching this week? Where are the best match ups?  Who should you be watching in this random game?  We have you covered.  Here is a breakdown of the college football action for week 1 including times and channels so you know what to watch, what to DVR and what to be excited for this week in college football.

Thursday, 8/29

North Carolina at South Carolina, 6pm, ESPN

Key Matchup: North Carolina OT James Hurst vs. South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney

After watching two highlights several thousand times, fans are excited to see something new from Clowney.  James Hurst is a talented tackle but Clowney is the ultimate measuring stick.  He will have a huge opportunity to make a statement in this game.

Other Players to Watch

QB Bryn Renner, North CarolinaRenner is in a pile of talented ACC quarterbacks and South Carolina might be the best defense he sees all year.  He might be able to set the tone for an impressive season and a move up draft boards if he can come out and play well.

TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina – Last year, Ebron was an undersized tight end who really blocked with a ton of effort and did surprisingly well as an inline player.  He is athletic enough to be legitimately play tight end and wide receiver, but he has to be more consistent catching the football.  Ebron is one of the more unique prospects that could be in this year’s draft because of his speed and strength, especially if he comes in bigger this year.

Tre Boston, North Carolina – Ball hawking ability to make big plays on the back end but needs to improve his technique when it comes to tackling.

DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina – Another in the long line of talented Tar Heel defensive linemen, but needs to take a big step forward in his development.  Has the triangle numbers but needs to improve technique, consistency to make leap.

DE Chaz Sutton, South Carolina – Sutton has is extremely athletic and can really fly up the field, but he has played far too high.  If he can play lower, he will have better leverage and more power, but should also secure more opportunities for sacks and tackles for loss in the backfield.

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 9:15, ESPN

Key Matchup: Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief vs. Vanderbilt CB Andre Hal and FS Kenny Ladler

Moncrief is one of the most talented receivers in the country and the first game of the season offers an interesting opportunity for him to prove it.  He has incredible talent but there are times when his effort is not always there.  The Commodores may want to cover him with just one defender but may need two due to his explosiveness and speed.

Hal looks the part of a good corner but needs to take that next step in technique and comfort to be a great corner.  If the light goes on for him, he could be a big riser this year.  On the back end, Ladler plays free safety like a corner with a ton of athleticism, but needs to do better when it comes to tackling.

Other Players to Watch

WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt – Like Moncrief, Matthews is one of the best receivers in the country but he is the more polished of the two.  Matthews brings a nice combination of size, strength and speed who understands how to run routes, get open and catch the ball.

DE C.J. Johnson, Ole Miss – Johnson had a good year last year despite being undersized for the position at just 230lbs.  Presumably with more weight and strength, Johnson is looking to build on last year and continue progressing.

Rutgers at Fresno State, 10:15, ESPNU

Key Matchup: Fresno State QB Derek Carr vs. Rutgers Defense

Rutgers has been able to put together an effective defense under Kyle Flood, but the main reason this game is important for Carr is the fact that Fresno State’s schedule is thin.  This might be one of, if not the best defense he goes against in the regular season all year.  In addition to just being effective, he needs to show better presence in the pocket and display good mechanics from start to finish.

Other Players to Watch

WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers – It is difficult to miss Coleman as he is simply enormous at 6’6” and impressive physically.  Coleman has the strength, speed, and athleticism to be a great receiver and potentially be a first round pick, but he just needs to do the little things technically as a receiver to put it altogether.

WR Davante Adams, Fresno State – Adams was extremely impressive as just a redshirt freshman and with Carr feeding him the ball, could be poised for an even bigger year as a sophomore.  One of the reasons Adams is able to be effective as he does have a good build despite being young.

TE Marcel Jensen, Fresno State – Jensen is huge at 6’6” 270lbs and looking to continue expanding his game as a receiving threat in addition to being able to contribute as an inline blocker.

Other Players in Action Worth Watching

Utah State C Tyler Larsen vs. Utah, 8pm, Fox Sports 1 – One of the most talented centers in the country gets two cracks at the PAC-12 this year:  first, this week against the Utes and in a couple weeks against USC.

Tulsa QB Cody Green vs. Bowling Green, 7pm, ESPNU – Green is an impressive looking player at the quarterback position with size, strength, and athleticism, but he was still raw as a passer last year.  If he can make a big step forward, he could be a rising prospect as a developmental player at the next level.

Bowling Green WR Chris Gallon vs. Tulsa, 7pm, ESPNU – Gallon is physically impressive at 6’4” and in the 220lb neighborhood.  He is looking to make a name for himself as the next big MAC receiver.

Friday, 8/30

A trio of games that could be worth watching

Florida Atlantic at Miami(FL), 8pm, ESPNU

Texas Tech at SMU, 8pm, ESPN

Western Michigan vs. Michigan State, 8pm, Big Ten Network

Saturday, 8/31

Oklahoma State at Mississippi State, 3:30, ABC/ESPN2

Key Matchup: Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson vs. Oklahoma State DT Calvin Barnett

Jackson is one of the best guards in the country entering this season and needs to work on how well he pulls and his overall balance and fluidity.  He is an earth mover of a guard and if he can prove to be nimble enough to play left guard at the next level, it will be a huge boost to his draft stock.

Barnett flashed a lot of talent last season after transferring to Oklahoma State from the JUCO level.  He could be poised to have a huge year after acclimating to the level of talent last season.  Being able to have a good debut against Jackson would go a long way in showing it.

Other Players to Watch

RB LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State – Perkins is one of the more talented all-around backs in the country with an ability to run between the tackles as well as being able to catch the ball out of the backfield.

DB Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State – After playing with Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay last year, Whitley will have to step up and play big this year without them.

Georgia at Clemson, 8pm ABC

Key Matchup: Clemson QB Tahj Boyd vs. Georgia QB Aaron Murray

They are never on the field at the same time, but the defenses in this game may be forced to try to merely slow down the opposing offense.  Georgia sent seemingly the entire defense to the NFL last year.  Both quarterbacks could be poised to put on a show this game with the winner potentially being the last one who has the ball in their hands.

Other Players to Watch

WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson – After suffering the injury in the bowl game against LSU and having a down year by his standards, Watkins refocused and is poised to have a big year.  Georgia could be the first team to bear witness.  Watkins, athletically, is incredible but has technical issues to iron out this year including doing a better job of tracking the football down the field.

TE Arthur Lynch, Georgia – Lynch is one of the most balanced tight ends in the country and is able to be a good, tough blocker who can go out and make plays in the passing game.  In some respects, he is not getting enough attention because he is so balanced while so much focus is on some of the flashier players.

RB Roderick McDowell, Clemson – McDowell had to wait his turn last season behind Andre Ellington last year, but had flashes of what he could do.  He possesses a similar build and is also an explosive athlete.

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson – Another year, another Clemson defensive end.  Beasley is extremely undersized which is atypical for what Clemson usually produces, but he should come in big and stronger which should help him be more effective this year.

TCU at LSU, 9pm, ESPN

Key Matchup: LSU WRs Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. vs. TCU CB Jason Verrett

Verrett is one of the most talented corners in the country and he will have to show it in the first game of the season if TCU hopes to win.  Verrett’s effectiveness in coverage may be measured in the fact that LSU throws away from him the whole game.

Beckham brings a combination of speed and quickness while Landry brings more power and is an exceptional blocker as a receiver.  Both need to play with more consistency.

Other Players to Watch

QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU – Tabbed as the next big thing last year, Mettenberger needs to really step up for LSU to have a shot at a National Championship.  He is big and strong but wildly inconsistent as a passer.

DT Anthony Johnson, LSU – Rarely mentioned last year because of the other three on the defensive line, but Johnson is incredibly talented and could be poised to become a household name this year.  He is more of a nose guard but he is able to flash some pass rush ability, he needs to anchor that defensive line this year.

LB Lamin Barrow, LSU – Athletically impressive, Barrow was a first year starter last year and looked it.  He was hesitant at times and just uncomfortable.  Coming back this year, he should be far more comfortable and more effective as a result.  He could be a nice weak side linebacker at the next level if the light goes on for him this season.

S Craig Loston, LSU – Like Barrow, Loston was a first year starter in the defense last year.  He showed more promise than Barrow did and is more athletically gifted relative to his position but he did not make many plays.  With Eric Reid gone, Loston is going to have to be the leader on the back end of the defense and really need to step up this year.  His athleticism suggests he can be special, but he needs to go out and do it this year.

QB Casey Pachall, TCU – After significant issues with drugs, Pachall has been given a chance to try to get his life and football career back on the right track.  Pachall has shown he has ability to be an effective quarterback and certainly looks the part, but missed a lot of time.  He could have some growing pains as he gets back into the swing of things.

Other Players in Action Worth Watching

Buffalo LB Khalil Mack vs. Ohio State, 12pm, ESPN2 – Mack plays three games against three BCS conference opponents but none bigger than this week against the Buckeyes.  While Ohio State is likely to trounce the Bulls, Mack is probably the best defensive player in the MAC and extremely popular among draftniks and scouts, he could really stand out and show off his talents against one of the best teams in the country.

Central Michigan RB Zurlon Tipton vs. Michigan, 3:30pm Big Ten Network – Tipton is one of the better backs in the country with a great combination of strength, power, and quickness.  He looked impressive against Big Ten opponents last year and helped the Chippewas beat Iowa.  If Michigan does not come in prepared to play, Tipton could run over them and potentially lead the Chippewas to an upset.

Toledo WR Bernard Reedy and RB David Fluellen vs. Florida, 12:21, ESPN3 – Fluellen is big enough to hang with the Gator defense but he may have trouble finding holes.  If they take him lightly, he could make some guys look bad.

Reedy is one of the more explosive players in the MAC with his ability to return kicks and punts as well as being a wide receiver.  Toledo could be in for a long day against the Gators but Reedy could make a few big plays for the Rockets along the way.

Virginia Tech DE James Gayle and QB Logan Thomas vs. Alabama, 5:30, ESPN – Gayle has been a player who seemed to be on the cusp of breaking out and this could be the year it finally happens.  He has a nice combination of length and explosiveness and he could make a big statement by having a big day against the Crimson Tide.

Thomas is trying to bounce back after a putrid junior campaign last year.  In terms of physical tools, Thomas has everything teams want in a quarterback, but he needs experience and to improve as a consistent passer.  Nothing would be better for Thomas than coming out and being effective against the defending champion Tide.

Western Kentucky RB Antonio Andrews and ILB Andrew Jackson vs. Kentucky – Andrews is one of the better backs that gets little attention.  Bobby Rainey was good for the Hilltoppers and continues to look promising for the Baltimore Ravens and Andrews looks like a much bigger, stronger version of Rainey.  The Kentucky defensive line has talent in Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble in the middle, but if Andrews gets going, the Wildcats could be in trouble.

On the other side of the ball, Jackson is an enormous linebacker with impressive strength.  When he hits opponents, they tend to stay hit but his instincts are extremely questionable and he reads a lot of plays wrong resulting in missed plays and being out of position.

Wyoming QB Brett Smith and WR Robert Herron vs. Nebraska, 8pm, Big Ten Network – Smith and Herron are one of the more unheralded connections in college football but both have significant talent and if a team like Nebraska takes them lightly, they could be in for a long day.  Smith is a dual threat quarterback who can run the ball or throw it and is still developing in terms of decision making and protecting the football, but can make some incredible plays.

Herron needs to stay healthy, but when he is right, he is incredibly explosive and has a tendency to make a few huge plays per game.  He also seems to step up his game against bigger opponents.  This combination gave Texas a scare last year.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff S Ryan Shaw vs. Arkansas State, 7pm, ESPN3 – Shaw is a physically impressive safety prospect from the SWAC and this is going to be the biggest test they face all year against the Red Wolves.  Trying to make an impression for the NFL Draft from small school ranks, Shaw is looking to have an impact against a D-1 opponent.

Northwestern RB Venric Mark and QB Kain Colter vs. Cal, 10:30pm, ESPN2 – The Wildcats are ranked but going on the road to Cal will still be an interesting test for the backfield duo.  Cal has some talent on the defensive line including DeAndre Coleman, their impressive defensive end.

Mark is a small, do everything type back who can run, catch, and return for big plays.  Colter is an athlete first trying to prove he can be a more effective passer.  His future in the NFL may not be as a quarterback but he is certainly going to show what he can do this season in that capacity.

Sunday, 9/1

Ohio University RB Beau Blankenship vs. Louisville, 3:30pm, ESPN – While Teddy Bridgewater will be the show, Blankenship is another of a group of talented MAC running backs looking to make a statement against a big opponent.

Colorado State C Weston Richburg vs. Colorado, 6pm, CBS Sports Network – Richburg is talented center and while Colorado is not in great shape right now, this might be the most exposure Richburg gets all year.

Monday, 9/2

Florida State at Pittsburgh, 8pm, ESPN

Key Matchup: Florida State OT Cameron Erving vs. Pittsburgh DL Aaron Donald

It remains to be seen how much these two will face off against each other, but when the Panthers show a three man front, Donald should be against Erving.  Donald is undersized but makes up for it in part by being a technician along the defensive line.

Erving is an extremely athletic tackle that is light on his feet but took bad angles and gave opponents opportunities to make plays last year.  If Erving has not improved on this, Donald will take advantage and make him pay for it.

Other Players to Watch

DB LaMarcus Joyner, Florida State – Joyner is tiny but plays with all-out effort on every snap to overcome his size.  At times, he works almost too fast and can overrun plays as a result.  He is not afraid to throw his body around to make plays but will also miss plays because he is out of control.  Joyner could see time at both safety and corner.

WR Devin Street, Pittsburgh – Street is tall and rangy with incredibly long arms.  He is deceptively fast and can make plays after the catch.  Hopefully for his sake, he has added more muscle to his frame to make him more powerful and insulate himself against big hits.

DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State – Jernigan is extremely athletic and is able to win beat defenders with a good swim move as well as a bull rush.  He tipped his pitches on what he was doing last year with his stance, which created problems for him and he would wear down in games.  If he improves on his stamina and expands his repertoire, he could be scary this year.

S Karlos Williams, Florida State – Williams is simply enormous for the safety position and looks like a linebacker on the back end, but has the speed and athleticism to do the job.  This year could be his coming out party if he can take full advantage of his athleticism and make more plays.

OLB Christian Jones, Florida State – Jones is incredibly athletic with great range for the linebacker position and the ability to play man coverage.  He needs to make more plays on the football and do better with taking on and shedding blocks.

RB James Wilder Jr, Florida State – Athletically freakish, Joyner looks incredibly lean despite his size and is really well put together.  Joyner needs to improve on the technical aspects of the running back position but that has not stopped a lot of analysts from projecting him as the top running back for next year’s draft.

Topics: 2014 NFL Draft, College Football

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