Though the slate of highlight games in the first week of the season isn’t as plentiful as it has been in recent memory, there are still many individual scouting matchups to keep tabs on. Prospects come and go as the season progresses, but entering the year, a handful of next-level players have already created enough intrigue to single in on during the opening weekend.
Provided is a list of individual matchups that have 2019 NFL Draft implications.
Washington tackles vs. Auburn defensive ends
Washington vs. Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC)
With Trey Adams (72) returning from a knee injury, Washington boasts the best offensive tackle duo in college football. Adams receives the majority of the NFL Draft praise, exhibiting noticeable skills that warrant the attention. The senior left tackle gets to work quickly and has a strong and explosive initial punch as he gains the necessary extension. He is a smooth operator in pass protection, able to easily slide to his left and right to swallow up pass rushers.
A near twin on the opposite side, Kaleb McGary (58) holds down the right tackle spot and returning from an All-Pac-12 season. McGary enters the season with 33 career starts under his belt. The 6-foot-8 right tackle prospect is a technician when it comes to hand placement, as he quickly fires them into the chest of the defender. McGary is strong at the point of attack and is rarely fazed by any twists, stunts, or versatile pass rush moves on the exterior.
The twin towers will handle the responsibility of preventing heralded pass rushers Nick Coe (91) and Marlon Davidson (3) on the edge. Auburn runs a versatile alignment across its defensive line based on situation. Davidson is more of the classic defensive end of the two, thriving mostly in the run game with power and underrated finesse. Coe’s spotlight brightens this season as he fills in for the departed Jeff Holland at the prized pass rushing BUCK position. Coe has the athleticism and power to give fits to opposing tackles.
Auburn’s defensive line and Washington’s offensive line are two of the best units in the land. A classic battle in the trenches will take place in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon.
ASU CB Clifton Duck vs. PSU WR Juwan Johnson
Appalachian State at Penn State (3:30 p.m. ET on BTN)
Penn State loses 62 percent of its receiving production from a year ago, most notably Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki, and DaeSean Hamilton. Junior receiver Juwan Johnson (84) is the leading returning receiver with 54 catches for 701 yards.
Johnson dominated underneath passing routes last season, playing similar to that of a big slot. He shows off crisp route running ability with clean breaks and movement skills to open up passing lanes. He’s accustomed to making tough catches in congested areas, and his large catch radius and 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame highlights that ability.
Johnson’s large frame will give Appalachian State lockdown cornerback Clifton Duck (4) a tough go, as the junior measures in at only 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. Duck does not shy away from contact, though, as he will constantly win physical battles, though he can also play more relaxed coverage in a zone format.
In the time it takes for the NMSU QB to throw the ball, Clifton Duck for App. State breaks on the ball and gets the deflection.
Duck boasts great QB vision. Easy COD and acceleration. Only a junior but big matchup versus Juwan Johnson for PSU Week 1. pic.twitter.com/Bz4lczstBP
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) August 30, 2018
Though undersized, Duck can play to the level of Johnson with near impeccable change of direction skills and acceleration. Duck prides his game on great quarterback vision that is evident when jumping routes and breaking up plays. The two may not consistently match up throughout the entirety of the game, but it will be a battle when they do.
LSU CB Greedy Williams vs. MIA WRs Ahmmon Richards and Lawrence Cager
LSU vs. Miami (Sunday, 7:30 p.m. on ABC)
Miami boasts a pair of receivers that have disparate skillsets. Ahmmon Richards, Miami’s leading returning receiver, has the pure wide receiver skillset accentuated by his route running ability. Richards showcases big speed in all parts of the field with fluid movement skills to generate separation.
Lawrence Cager (18) is Miami’s big-bodied receiver with the physical skills to win on every contested catch. His route running skills are not as crisp as his teammate’s, but he doesn’t necessarily have to have great separation to be considered open. Cager sports a large catch radius with his 6-foot-5 length and shows appropriate technique as a pass catcher.
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) August 23, 2018
The duo will have to put up with the best cornerback in college football as Andraez “Greedy” Williams (29) returns for the Tigers. Williams thrived in his first season, starting every game at his left cornerback position. The redshirt sophomore led the team with six interceptions a season ago.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 25, 2018
Williams plays with noticeable instincts and athleticism throughout the entirety of the play. He is a balanced island corner with little to no limitations when having to turn and run and then locate the football. He is physical at the catch point and has the ball skills to consistently flip the field, showing the ability to consistently catch the football.
Williams’s physical skills can match that of Cager’s build, and his fluid hips can stay on par with Richards’s route running skills.
VT OT Yosuah Nijman vs. FSU DE Brian Burns
Virginia Tech at Florida State (Monday, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Florida State gave its defensive ends versatile roles last season, switching between the right and left sides, and on occasion asking them to drop into coverage. With new personnel, the position’s responsibilities will likely change. Junior defensive end Brian Burns (99) has racked up 14 sacks combined in his first two years in Tallahassee and is poised for a big 2018.
Burns wins with a quick burst off the snap, then lets his athleticism go to work. He uses his 6-foot-5 frame to his advantage, showing the ability to gain extension and then working his legs to put the tackle on skates. He works a motorcycle bend off the edge, showcasing his flexibility and creativity as a pass rusher.
Burns will most likely face off with junior right tackle Yosuah Nijman (69). The Virginia Tech tackle is still raw in some areas but has the potential to be molded into something special. Nijman is a good athlete for the position and shows that with clean movement skills and a smooth and long kick slide. He shows the ability to mirror his matchup with quick feet but can get overwhelmed by upper body movements. Nijman has the length and an aggressive punch to work an advantage at the early stages of the play, but he struggles with overall consistency.
Burns is a budding star on a talented Florida State team, but with that said, Nijman can make a name for himself if he can find a way to contain the acclaimed pass rusher.
FAU RB Devin Singletary vs. Oklahoma Front Seven
Florida Atlantic at Oklahoma (Noon ET on FOX)
Oklahoma is currently a three-touchdown favorite to defeat Florida Atlantic at home. Though the schools are disparate in prestige, the Owls will put up a fight, mostly due to the presence of running back Devin Singletary (5). Singletary accounted for 100 rushing yards in all but the first two games of the year last season, finishing the year with 1,920 yards and 32 touchdowns. The junior running back runs with patience and vision and with an effective backfield jump cut. His ability to stop and start is impeccable, even though he doesn’t display world-class speed. Singletary battles against a stingy Oklahoma front seven but should not disappoint in Norman on Saturday afternoon.