CFB Week 3: Player Matchup Preview
Despite not having the headline-grabbing games of last week, there will be plenty to watch in Week 3. Teams will have one eye on the start of their conference schedules but we have found five matchups that should give at-home scouts plenty of info for their draft preparations.
Bryan Edwards v Trevon Diggs
The art of scouting is being able to evaluate a prospect in a vacuum. Projecting a player to the next level is about spotting the traits regardless of the surrounding talent. Bryan Edwards is a case in point. He is set to break Gamecocks’ receiving records despite underwhelming play from his QB Jake Bentley. A somewhat suspicious foot injury to Bentley (it was stated that the injury occurred on Week 1’s last play, others contend it came from kicking a locker) may give Edwards a chance to shine in his senior season. Stand-in QB Ryan Hilinski immediately found Edwards for 112 yards and 2 TDs vs Charleston Southern this week. They will hope to build on their promising partnership.
They may struggle to do so against one of the most talented defenses in college football. The man tasked with locking down Edwards is likely to be Trevon Diggs. Diggs left Saturday’s game but Nick Saban confirmed it was merely cramping keeping his top cornerback off the field. Diggs will be wary of injury after losing most of last year to a broken foot. Brother of Vikings receiver, Stefon Diggs, Trevon began life as a receiver himself but has excelled transitioning to the defensive side of the ball. He will be relishing the challenge of covering a big, physical receiver like Edwards and show scouts exactly the type of lockdown corner he can be.
Cohl Cabral vs Kenny Willekes
Cohl Cabral started the season as one of the top center prospects in the country. As Herm Edwards began finalising his depth chart at Arizona State the decision was made to shift Cabral to left tackle due to lack of experience at one of the key spots on the roster. Cabral started his college career at tackle in 2017. However, the staff felt a shift inside would benefit him. It proved to be the right move as he impressed in 2018 and found himself on the watchlist for the Rimington Trophy (best center nationally). It’s admirable that Cabral is willing to do what’s best for the team in an important year for his draft stock. At 6’5, Cabral gets labelled the ‘Giant’ and his mobility and speed will be put to the test this week.
It would have been a difficult matchup wherever Cabral had lined up against Michigan State. Their defensive front is loaded – the Panasiuk brothers, Raequan Williams and the focus for this piece Kenny Willekes are a formidable group. Willekes is a violent edge rusher who is one of the most fun watches ahead of the 2020 Draft. His polished hand technique and relentless effort to get into the backfield would test the most accomplished tackles in college football. Cabral better hope there is no rust left on his tackle game or this one could end up being a serious mismatch.
Tristan Wirfs vs JaQuan Bailey
One man who isn’t rusty at the tackle spot is Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs. At the start of the process, it was Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and Standford’s Walker Little drawing the plaudits at the position. However, it wasn’t long until ‘Draft Twitter’ caught on to a nasty right tackle playing for the Hawkeyes. Wirfs tape was at times dominant, showing the mean streak and ability to completely upend pass rushers and put them on their backs. Injury to his teammate and highly thought of tackle in his own right, Alaric Jackson, now gives scouts the chance to see Wirfs at the premier spot on the line. A good season on the left side would go a long way to Wirfs ultimately landing atop the rankings at his position.
The test for him this week will be in-state rivals Iowa State and their premier pass rusher JaQuan Bailey. Bailey may not be the stiffest task that Wirfs faces this season but he is tied for the most career sacks in Cyclone history and that demands respect. The battle is likely to come down to power; Bailey is a physical rusher as opposed to an out-and-out speed merchant off the edge. Wirfs has previously displayed the anchor to combat power rush moves. Iowa State know that if they are to land the bragging rights Bailey must put pressure on Hawkeyes QB Nate Stanley.
Richie Grant vs Colby Parkinson
This is a big year for Richie Grant. Having been part of a successful UCF team over the past two years, Grant needs to focus on improving his own game in order to be regarded as a legitimate NFL prospect. The problem with Grant is that the flashes aren’t frequent enough to mask the deficiencies. There is plenty of pop to his tackling and he has a knack for locating the ball, highlighted by his six interceptions last year. The downsides are his general reading of the game, missed tackles and positioning. This week he will be tested by Stanford tight end Colby Parkinson.
It’s been a quiet start for the 2020 tight end class but one name to keep an eye on is Parkinson. At 6’7, he is a fantastic mismatch piece in the offensive game. With Kaden Smith departing for the NFL, Parkinson should see a jump in his usage. Primarily lining up in the slot he doesn’t demonstrate the athletic prowess to get loose in the secondary. He will however cause plenty of problems in contested situations particularly if Grant (6’0) is matched against him. The return of QB KJ Costello could see Stanford ask serious questions of this UCF defense.
Jeffrey Okudah v Nick Westbrook
Last year was the first time in four years that Ohio State didn’t see a cornerback drafted in the first round. Eli Apple (2016), Marshon Lattimore (2017) and Denzel Ward (2018) are proof of the talent the Buckeyes attract at the position. The next group is no less capable. Stacked once again with 5-star talent, the crown jewel is Jeffrey Okudah. A smooth, athletic corner who has the ability to shut down one side of the field. His early performances have already brought praise from head coach Ryan Day and propelled him into top-10 conversation. After a shutout vs Cincinnati in Week 2 the Buckeyes defense will be looking for something similar vs Indiana.
The man tasked with trying to evade one of the most talented secondaries in the nation is Indiana senior Nick Westbrook. Now in his fifth year as a Hoosier he led the team in receiving yards in 2018. It will be down to him to lead the offense and get the better of Okudah. Redshirt freshman QB Michael Penix Jr asks more questions of defenses than former starter Peyton Ramsey, but is a doubt through injury. If Penix does start then his threat as a runner should help commit Buckeyes to the box, potentially freeing things up for Westbrook at the next level. It will likely be the receiver’s toughest game of the year.
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com