Many known draft prospects didn’t disappoint in the opening weekend of college football. West Virginia quarterback Will Grier threw for 429 yards and five touchdown passes. Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry had 140 receiving yards with two touchdowns on only six receptions. Nick Bosa finished with a pair of sacks for the Buckeyes.
Even with strong performances by the big-name prospects, many lesser-known players came on strong to warrant more attention. Some of those are featured below in the weekend prospect preview guide.
Clemson at Texas A&M (7 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Clemson LT Mitch Hyatt vs. Texas A&M DE Landis Durham
Both Clemson and Texas A&M head into the second week of the season with convincing, albeit expected, victories over FCS opponents. The Clemson offensive line helped produce 531 yards while surrendering just one sack and three tackles for loss. After a somewhat of a disappointing 2017 season from a prospect perspective, Mitch Hyatt (75) looked more polished in the opener. Yes, it was against an undersized and overwhelmed Furman defensive line, but Hyatt’s movement skills and engagement improved.
The former five-star recruit shows mirroring ability when in pass protection and has quick feet to stay on par with edge rushers. He shows his lower body quickness and burst when hitting at the second level. However, Hyatt’s biggest struggles occur when engaging, as he showcases a slow punch. Though it seems he improved in that area, along with his engagement skills, it will only be marked as an upgrade after this weekend.
Hyatt will have his hands full taking on the responsibility of containing the SEC’s sack leader from a year ago. Landis Durham (46) recorded just one tackle in the opener, but his presence was still felt. Durham uses his linebacker speed to fly off the edge and shows a motorcycle lean to attack the passer. The senior showed more explosiveness versus Northwestern State, which should pair for an intriguing matchup versus the All-American, Hyatt.
Clemson Interior DL vs. Texas A&M Interior OL
As expected, Dexter Lawrence (90) and Christian Wilkins (42) proved their worth at the point of attack last week, displaying noticeable strength and quickness advantages versus Furman. Wilkins, seven total tackles last week, boasts interior pass rushing ability, showing off initial quickness and the awareness to attack the backfield. Lawrence is more of the run stuffer who uses his 350-pound frame to overpower and forklift his matchup.
On the Texas A&M offensive line, Keaton Sutherland (78) continued his improvement, taking advantage of the inferior defensive line of Northwestern State. Sutherland locked down the left guard position and executed a combo block at the second level.
Textbook blocking here by the TAMU OL for the first TD of the year. Sutherland (78) executes the combo block well while hitting the 2nd level. Trayveon Williams (5) showed the patience and burst to hit the home run. pic.twitter.com/Lm2TDwObVk
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) September 6, 2018
Aggies center Erik McCoy (64) dominated at the point of attack with plenty of praise from media outlets, including Pro Football Focus. McCoy thrives as a pass protector, displaying an adequate kick slide and strong hands to keep defenders off his chest and out of the backfield. McCoy gets the job done in the run game, packing a punch behind his pads, but he could manage to play with lower pad level to accentuate his power more efficiently. Both Aggies interior linemen will have their work cut out for them against the highly-coveted Clemson defensive tackles.
Kentucky at Florida (7:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network)
Kentucky Edge Rusher Josh Allen vs. Florida LT Martez Ivey
Josh Allen (41) entered the 2018 season as Kentucky’s biggest preseason draft prospect ever. The senior edge rusher picked up right where he left off in the 2018 season, finishing the opener with 10 tackles, three for loss, and one sack. He uses his 6-foot-4 frame to keep extension and blockers off his chest. His strength at the point of attack may be lacking, but that’s not his play style. Allen wins off the edge with quickness, whether that’s by running by tackles off the snap with an initial burst or using active hands to slap away the tackle’s counter.
Allen’s matchup versus Martez Ivey (73) should be interesting because neither player predicates his skill on power. Though Ivey displays enough upper body strength to keep defenders off his body with good technique and punch, he shows too many instances of getting overwhelmed by power. The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder displays a slower than ideal kick step on the outside, which could be troublesome versus the speedy Allen.
Kentucky CBs Derrick Baity and Lonnie Johnson vs. Florida WR Van Jefferson
Van Jefferson (12) played well in his first performance as a Florida Gator. The former Ole Miss receiver reeled in four catches for 34 yards with two touchdowns (both in the red zone). Jefferson is a smooth athlete with easy transition moves. He is a clean route runner with sharp cuts and explosiveness out of his breaks whether operating from the slot or on the outside. He has flexibility in his ankles and is able to be effective when in short area situations, showing plenty of quickness.
Derrick Baity (8) has fluid hip movement and can turn and run with speedier receivers, which plays right into the matchup this weekend. He uses his length as an advantage at the line of scrimmage and operates well in press coverage off the snap. Lonnie Johnson (6) executes above average ball skills even though he didn’t come down with an interception in 2017. He keeps his head on a swivel and partners that with adequate footwork keep traction on his matchup. Both Wildcats corners could potentially matchup with Jefferson, and both have the speed and awareness to keep the speedy receiver in check.
Michigan State at Arizona State (10:45 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Michigan State WR Felton Davis vs. Arizona State CB Chase Lucas
Though Michigan State struggled at home versus Utah State, many individual Spartans had big days. Sparty receiver Felton Davis (18) served as quarterback Brian Lewerke’s (14) safety blanket last weekend, making circus catches all over the field.
Preparing notes for the Michigan State-Arizona State matchup this weekend and Felton Davis was dynamite in the opener. His strong mitts and concentration are that of a starting NFL receiver. Lewerke shows a lot of trust in him. https://t.co/SD3e3THhQS
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) September 6, 2018
Davis uses his physical build to thrive in press coverage and to win contested catches, just as he did Saturday. Davis has natural hands with strong mitts and a large catch radius to snag any pass in his direction. Our own Russell Brown likes what he sees from the senior wideout.
“Felton Davis has such strong hands. He’s consistently got a good release but has solid body control and does a great job always finding the ball in the air to make some challenging catches look easy.”
Davis will most likely match up with Arizona State’s best cover corner, Chase Lucas (24). Lucas is a quick-twitch cornerback with plenty of burst when closing on the football. He plays well in off coverage situations when he can toy with the quarterback and bait him into throwing a pass his way. With Davis’s physical advantage on the exterior, Lucas will be tested in that regard and will hope to prevail.