CFB Week 4: Player Matchup Preview
It’s time to welcome the SEC back to College Football. Whilst our very own George Somerville has kept your feverish appetite whetted regularly, with his weekly roundup, nothing beats action on the field. In homage to arguably the biggest conference returning we have three matchups from SEC country. Lets start in Tuscaloosa…
Najee Harris v Nick Bolton
When you have as talented a backfield as Alabama it is no surprise when some of it gets overlooked. It felt like that with Josh Jacobs and now Najee Harris. Despite the furore over Harris’ powerful yet athletic running style, having to share the role has gone somewhat to subduing the excitement.
Snap counts in Tuscaloosa should be taken as a sign of recruiting prowess, not the standard of play from individuals. Harris should shoulder a heavy load in what is set to be his final year. The Alabama offense will look to settle in new QB Mac Jones. Meanwhile the most loaded position on the roster, running back, will likely be tasked with providing a hefty chunk of the offensive production.
Across the line of scrimmage, Missouri’s highest rated draft prospect should have plenty of opportunity to impress scouts in the season opener. Linebacker Nick Bolton’s thumping tackling is what grabs attention when putting on the tape.
A true middle linebacker, his squat, heavy set figure belies the range and speed he has in the openfield. There won’t be much question about him coming downhill but how he navigates his way around the passing defense will be of particular interest. That is something a player like Harris will seek to test.
Matt Corral v Shawn Davis
DISCLAIMER: I’m officially part of the Matt Corral fan club. Corral featured in my very first piece for the Touchdown and his progression has always been of interest to me. The fact of the matter is, bar flashes, that progression has been slow going. Corral and Ole Miss hope that the hiring of Lane Kiffin as head coach can change that.
Despite not winning the QB competition outright against the more mobile John Rhys Plumlee, the rumour is that Corral has taken more snaps in practice with the 1st team offense. Corral doesn’t have the game breaking legs of Plumlee but is a functional athlete with a huge arm. Slightly undersized he thrives off play action. Could a year at the helm under Kiffin propel Corral to draft relevance? Perhaps the story starts on Saturday.
He will have his work cut out to some degree. A shrunken schedule throws Ole Miss into conference play immediately against one of the highest rated teams in the SEC. One big reason behind Florida being flagged as a danger to Alabama and LSU’s dominance is due to their secondary. With Kaiir Elam and Marco Wilson at corner they will be difficult to break down.
However, the joker in the pack is safety Shawn Davis. His energy in the defensive backfield is what makes everything tick. Having got his hands on three interceptions in 2019 and generally flying around the defense where needed, it will be imperative Corral has his eyes peeled for the Gators’ playmaker. Pencilled in as free safety, Davis is as likely to be blitzing from the slot as dropping into deep coverage. Don’t be surprised if we see an exciting play vs the Rebels this weekend.
Kylin Hill vs Jabril Cox
The running back might not attract the most press when discussing the arrival of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense to Starkville. However, when that running back is as talented as Kylin Hill then he probably should. As with Jones in Alabama, there will be a need to bed in new QB KJ Costello to Mississippi State and in particular the new offensive style.
A big part of easing that transition will be having a senior runner in the backfield you can depend on. Hill should be exactly that. Having accounted for 1530 all purpose yards in 2019, he should be set for another big role. NFL teams regularly stress the importance of a back needing receiving ability, this year is a chance for Hill to assert himself as one of the best dual threat backs in the business.
The transfer of Jabril Cox from North Dakota State was one of the early talking points of the off-season. Even before Covid-19 taking a grip of College Football occurred. Now it looks like a shrewd move by both parties. LSU lost Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen to the NFL, leaving the Tigers short of experience at linebacker. Meanwhile Cox gets a shot at prime time football to boost his stock ahead of the draft next year.
Cox has the upside to be a special talent but only has a year to hone it against Division 1 competition. Saturday could be somewhat of a baptism of fire for him. Organising a defense to slow down the vaunted Leach philosophy is difficult for the most hardened veterans. Let alone a grad transfer still learning the ropes in a new defensive scheme. Instincts and confidence will be key.
Tamorrion Terry vs Al Blades Jr
It was a difficult first week for Florida State wide receiver Tamorrion Terry. He had six catches but only accounted for fifty two yards. More worringly he was responsible for a drop on what would have been a touchdown.
Terry must prove himself as a separator for teams at the next level to buy in. That is difficult when your QB routinely has less than two seconds to get the ball out his hands. The receivers physical gifts are clear. However, there tends to be a disparity between draftniks and the NFL when it comes to big bodied receivers. Yards after catch and speed tend to be valued higher than contested catch ability. Terry must demonstrate he can do it all to stand a chance.
The turnover chain was proudly on display this weekend. Its first recipient was none other than Al Blades Jr. After a short period of parading triumphantly the chain was sanatised and returned to its box. Blades was more than worthy of the honour. Reading the eyes of Malik Cunningham to undercut a route and snaffle the pick.
Blades will need to be at his best again for a different test against the Seminoles and Terry. We have seen him deal with the speed of Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick and Tutu Atwell. Now he will seek to boost stock further against a big bodied receiver like Terry. If he performs well he will be one of the buzziest names in draft circles come Monday.
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