Spoiled last year with Week 1 matchups consisting of Michigan at Notre Dame, Auburn versus Washington, Miami versus LSU and Virginia Tech at Florida, the 2019 Week 1 one slate is slightly bare. Though with some attractive name recognition schools facing off throughout Labor Day weekend, the 2011 national championship game rematch between No. 11 Oregon and No. 16 Auburn takes center stage in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday night.
Oregon rolls in the best 2020 quarterback prospect with Justin Herbert and Auburn will debut its shiny new freshman Bo Nix under center. Herbert is accompanied by nine returning starters on offense including all five offensive linemen. Auburn, on the other hand, sports one of the best defensive lines in football headlined by potential top five pick Derrick Brown at defensive tackle.
Though it’s only Week 1 with 14 weekends to follow, the Oregon offensive line versus the Auburn defensive line has the potential to be the best unit versus unit we see all season.
“They’re (Oregon offensive line) great,” Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network told SportsCall Auburn on Wednesday. “They’re a top three offensive line in college football. They have three NFL players on that offensive line – two that will probably be drafted in the first two rounds. That group against the Auburn defensive line is the premier position group matchup in 2019.”
Led by a group of five seniors, the Oregon offensive line has an FBS-best 153 combined starts. The trio of Jake Hanson, Shane Lemieux and Calvin Throckmorton combine for 113 of those starts. Auburn’s starting defensive line (Brown, Nick Coe, Marlon Davidson and Tyrone Truesdell) combines for 76 career starts over 114 games played.
Though plenty of scouts and spectators will have their eyes set on the trench war, other prospects on both squads should not get overlooked.
No. 11 Oregon
#10 Justin Herbert – QB (6-6, 235, Sr.)
Showcasing his arm strength at all levels, Herbert was dominant in 2018. The highly-confident quarterback makes it a habit to fit passes into tight windows in crucial situations leaving the audience in awe. A generally accurate passer, Herbert throws with the proper arm angle to attack all levels of the field. The big takeaway from this matchup will be how Herbert reacts to pressure. Despite Oregon’s offensive line being one of the best in the land, it’s expected that a fair amount of pressure will come from Auburn’s defensive line unit. Possibly because of his injury history, Herbert’s mechanics dramatically falter when the pocket gets muddy. 2018 stats: 59%, 3151 yards, 29 TD, 8 INT, 2 rush TD.
#68 Shane Lemieux – LG (6-4, 316, Sr.)
As the top guard in the league in 2018, Lemieux showcases tremendous power and impressive athleticism. In a heavy zone rushing scheme, Lemieux is very accurate when having to pull and strike a moving target.
Can’t get any better than this. Nice pull by 68 with a clean target to pave way for the TD.
Side note: so far, Breeland (TE 27) gets after it when blocking. pic.twitter.com/N2GkixtfyD
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) August 29, 2019
A sturdy lower body with athletic feet, Lemieux shows mirroring ability in pass protection partnered with active and aggressive hands. Assuming Oregon will continue to run its bread and butter running scheme, Lemieux will have the responsibility of locking up Brown in a handful of reach blocking situations. That’s a tall ask but Lemieux has the strength and athleticism to hang in the ring. 2018 stats: Played 95% of snaps. Graded as top guard in Pac-12 according to Pro Football Focus.
#55 Jake Hanson – C (6-5, 295, Sr.)
With an active Auburn front, Hanson’s physicality will be put to test right out of the gate. Hanson is a hand technician showing a theme of redistributing his mitts to maintain balance. Playing the majority of the snaps with proper extension and hand combat, Hanson’s average anchor can be supplemented with his upper body motions. With a slight hitch when moving off his initial base paired with heavy feet, Hanson struggles to consistently hit his reach block which players like Brown will take advantage of instantly. 2018 stats: Second highest-rated center in Pac-12 according to Pro Football Focus.
#54 Calvin Throckmorton – RT (6-5, 309, Sr.)
Over his 38 career starts, Throckmorton has started 29 games at right tackle, five games at left tackle, three at right guard and one at center. The versatile offensive lineman played three different positions in a single game twice last season. He has allowed just one sack over the past 2,289 snaps. Throckmorton’s pass protection stems mainly from his hand distribution to maintain balance throughout the play. Despite having choppy footwork that warrants trouble, he possesses an adequate anchor to combat any bull rush or power move. His hand distribution is steady but learning to execute proper extension and maintaining his blocks is what could stifle him versus a stout Auburn front. 2018 stats: Started at RT, RG, C and LT. Graded as highest rated offensive lineman in the Pac-12 according to Pro Football Focus.
#34 Jordon Scott – NG (6-1, 322, Jr.)
With a burly, low-to-the ground build, Scott is an anchor in the run game. Building a wall in the interior, Scott is a bully in the trenches generating tremendous power to offset the line of scrimmage. Limited as a pass rusher as far as finesse goes, Scott still does a manageable job versus the pass by causing pressure with his brute point of attack strength. Scott has a favorable matchup battling with Auburn center Kaleb Kim, who struggled with power last season but has received high praise from the coaching staff this preseason. 2018 stats: 29 tackles (3.5 for loss), sack.
#35 Troy Dye – LB (6-4, 226, Sr.)
If Auburn continues to test the perimeter rushing lanes, Dye will have no problem defending them. With an impressive burst out of his stance, Dye shows the appropriate explosiveness for the position with plenty of range. Though not a presently instinctive playmaker, Dye has the physical tools to stack blocks (if motivated) and elude blockers. Auburn’s physical rushing style between the tackles could call for concern with Dye despite having the ability to shoot gaps. Dye’s biggest weakness is anticipation and with a lot of pre-snap motion and zone rushes for Auburn, Dye’s discipline will be key. 2018 stats: 115 tackles (8 for loss), 7 PBU, 2 sacks.
Others to keep an eye on: #4 Thomas Graham Jr. – CB (5-11, 197, Jr.); #27 Jacob Breeland – TE (6-5, 250, Sr.); #45 Gus Cumberlander – DE (6-7, 256, Sr.).
No. 16 Auburn
#76 Prince Tega Wanogho – LT (6-7, 305, Sr.)
At 6-7 and 305 pounds, there is no questioning Wanogho has the mass and length to meet NFL standards. His length shows in pass sets, as his long limbs can instantly pick up oncoming traffic with a simple strike, stopping defenders in their tracks or redirecting their path. When executing proper hand placement, Wanogho’s elite-level upper body strength is on display with overwhelming power.
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) August 4, 2019
With a brawny upper body, the Nigerian native has mirroring power in his lower frame. Despite not getting as low as his position coach would like, Wanogho still has the anchor to work in the sand and withstand contact. 2018 stats: Highest-graded pass protector in the SEC according to Pro Football Focus.
#71 Jack Driscoll – RT (6-5, 296, Sr.)
Not as well known as his left tackle teammate, Driscoll is more controlled and consistent of the two. With a calm and patient demeanor, Driscoll executes proper hand placement and distribution to keep defenders off his chest. With adequate extension and length, the senior consistently shields off an exterior path and has the ability to pick up any quick subtle movement on the inside. Along with his hand technique, his best attribute is a smooth kick slide with light feet to keep the pocket clean. 2018 stats: 86.7 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus.
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) August 4, 2019
#91 Nick Coe – DE (6-5, 291, Jr.)
Coe has all the physical tools to be a star in the SEC this season. With arms that nearly touch the floor and a chiseled 290-pound frame, Coe is a physical freak which paves way to his versatile skill set. Coe is a dominant presence at the point of attack with a revved-up motor to make things even more difficult for his matchup. Despite putting up impressive numbers last season, Coe only shows glimpses of a diverse pass-rushing arsenal. Looking to tighten up his path (show more flexibility) while working his upper body, will be one of the biggest things to look for from a scouting evaluation in this matchup. 2018 stats: 27 tackles (13.5 for loss), 7 sacks, 3 QBH, 2 FF.
Coe has the glimpses for sure. Goes for the chop here and finishes with a rip through to get the sack.
Shows a little flexibility here as well. pic.twitter.com/iK2YAVQ7bC
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) May 22, 2019
#5 Derrick Brown – DT (6-5, 318, Sr.)
One of the best prospects in college football, Brown showcases a beautiful combination of size, speed and overall athleticism. Brown’s acceleration and ability to unlock his hips rank high among his class. Brown shows the consistent ability to explode out of his stance and convert power to speed at a high rate. The senior proves his worth by consistently redirecting his opponent into the path of the play accompanied by an effective leg drive. 2018 stats: 48 tackles (10.5 for loss), 6 QBH, 2 PBU.
I'll just say good luck. pic.twitter.com/Oxyjmfsn3h
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) May 31, 2019
#4 Noah Igbinoghene – CB (5-11, 200, Jr.)
With world-class speed and athleticism, Igbinoghene has the natural ability to be a versatile cornerback. He consistently showcases his anticipation skills and acceleration when closing on the football. Despite not consistently getting his head around, he does an excellent job at reading his matchup and then reacting when the receiver tips off when the ball is on its way. The former wide receiver is extremely physical at the catch point along with being a threat as a tackler in the open field. 2018 stats: 50 tackles (1.5 for loss), 11 PBU, INT.
Others to keep an eye on: #3 Marlon Davidson – DE (6-3, 278, Sr.); #24 Daniel Thomas – SAF (5-11, 209, Sr.); #77 Marquel Harrell – LG (6-3, 309, Sr.).