College Football Playoff Prospect Preview

After a long and exciting college football season the playoffs are finally here and we are in store for a great semifinals. Whether it’s the potential shootout between Oklahoma and Alabama or the slugfest that could be Notre Dame and Clemson we are in store for two good games. Our College Football Playoff Prospect Preview takes a look at the NFL Draft Prospects playing in both games!

College Football Playoff Prospect Preview

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs Clemson Tigers
3:00 CST on ESPN

Notre Dame Prospects
QB Ian Book
RB Dexter Williams
TE Alize Mack (#7 TE)
C Sam Mustipher (#11 iOL)
DT Jerry Tillery (#15 DL)
DE Julian Okwara
OLB Drue Tranquill
MLB Te’Von Coney
CB Julian Love

Clemson Prospects
WR Hunter Renfrow (#11 WR)
LT Mitch Hyatt (#8 OT)
C Justin Falcinelli
DE Clellin Ferrell (#2 Edge)
DE Austin Bryant (#14 Edge)
DT Christian Wilkins (#4 DL)
DT Dexter Lawrence (#8 DL)
DT Albert Huggins
LB Tre Lamar
LB Kendall Joseph
CB Trayvon Mullen (#9 CB)

A big part of why Notre Dame is here has been the insertion of Ian Book at quarterback and running Dexter Williams returning from a four game suspension. While Book has give the Irish a quarterback who can make plays through the air, it’s Williams whose been the MVP with his ability to not only churn out yards but reel off some chunk runs. Williams runs with power and good contact balance making him tough to bring down. Clemson has talent at linebacker and this matchup plays right into Tre Lamar’s skill set as he’s a physical downhill run stuffer. While on the outside Kendall Joseph is a run and chase linebacker who thrives in space. But the real key to Notre Dame running the ball will be their young offensive line handing this loaded Clemson defensive line. Clemson will be without nose tackle Dexter Lawrence who has been suspended for failing a drug test. Lawrence’s ability to clog up the middle and push the pocket will be missed. Luckily the Tigers have super sub Albert Huggins who would start for almost every other school and is a quality NFL Draft prospect, but he’s not the powerful space eater that Lawrence is. Clemson will need Christian Wilkins to really step up and have a big game. Wilkins is an athletic penetrator who has taken over games this year and projects a first round pick. While the Tigers are thinner up the middle they are still stout off the edge with the duo of Clellin Ferrell and Austin Bryant. Ferrell is at his best in the playoffs using his size, strength and burst off the edge to attack offensive tackles and win at the point of attack.

When Clemson has the ball they’ll also rely on their running game to set the tone with sophomore running back Travis Etienne. But he’ll have to get by a stout Notre Dame front seven that is build to stop the run. Defensive tackle Jerry Tillery is the best of the group using his 6’7 305lb frame to over power interior offensive lineman and get into the backfield. Linebacker Te’Von Coney leads the Irish in tackles with 107 on the season and is at his best coming forward to stop the run. Coney shows burst coming forward and to fill gaps and make tackles but he lacks the speed needed to play sideline to sideline. Coney’s running mate Drue Tranquill on the other hand is a hybrid linebacker/safety who thrives in space and will have to make some plays off the edge to help slow down Etienne. Clemson’s skill players are young this year but receiver Hunter Renfrow is the veteran of the group and thrives at making big time catches. A savvy route runner out of the slot Renfrow is your typical slot receiver creating separation in and out of breaks, but also displays enough speed to win down field at times.

Oklahoma Sooners vs Alabama Crimson Tide
7:00 CST on ESPN

Oklahoma Prospects
QB Kyler Murray (#1 QB)
FB Carson Meier
WR Marquise Brown (#3 WR)
LT Bobby Evans (#11 OT)
LG Ben Powers (#4 iOL)
RG Dru Samia (#6 iOL)
RT Cody Ford (#5 OT)
DE Amani Bledsoe
WLB Curtis Bolton

Alabama Prospects
RB Damien Harris (#8 RB)
RB Joshua Jacobs
TE Irv Smith Jr. (#3 TE)
LT Jonah Williams (#1 OT)
C Ross Pierschbacher (#1 iOL)
DE Isaiah Buggs (#13 DL)
DE Raekwon Davis (#5 DL)
DT Quinnen Williams (#2 DL)
OLB Christian Miller
OLB Anfernee Jennings
MLB Mack Wilson (#2 LB)
FS Deionte Thompson (#1 S)

This will be one fun game watching the Oklahoma high flying offense take on an Alabama Defense that is absolutely loaded with high level NFL Draft prospects. Alabama has struggled at times against dual threat quarterbacks and Kyler Murray fits right into that category as he is an explosive runner but has a strong accurate arm to drive the ball down the field with touch. Murray has weapons in Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb whose both have explosive speed down the field. Alabama always has talented cornerbacks but this year they lack the high round talent or are young. This could be a spot where Oklahoma can exploit the Crimson Tide. The Crimson Tide could use a big game from free safety Deionte Thompson who is one of the best safety prospects in years. Thompson has elite range and ball skills and will need to show those off as both Brown and Lamb will be pushing deep on a regular basis.

For Murray to be able to hit those down field throws, the Sooners need to give him time to throw and that’s easier said than done as Alabama has the best defensive line in the country. But let’s not forget that Oklahoma also has one of the best offensive lines in the nation. At tackle the Sooners have juniors Bobby Evans and Cody Ford who are more than capable of shutting down the edges. Both tackles have the lateral agility to cut off the edge as Ford is a powerful tackle that when he gets his hands on the defender can lock them down and throw them around like a rag doll. They’ll match up against pass rushers Anfernee Jennings, Christian Miller and Isaiah Buggs who combined for 21 sacks this season. To get past these Sooners tackles Jennings and Miller are going to have to win around the edge, but I’m not sure they have the speed to do so. Buggs is a bit different as he lines up as a defensive end playing the five technique. He’s similar to Jonathan Allen style of end who will attack the offensive tackle and try to win with quickness and hand fighting. Inside is a different story as nobody had an answer for Quinnen Williams who has been one of the best football players in 2018. Williams combination of athletic ability and power are a big reason why he’s be projected as a top 3 NFL Draft pick in 2019. Left guard Ben Powers and right guard Dru Samia are NFL prospects as Powers is more of an occupy blocker while Samia has more power. They’ll need to work with their redshirt freshman center to double Williams and prevent him from getting into the backfield. The Sooners cannot forget about the other tackle in Raekwon Davis who is a mountain of a man (6’7 316) who can take up space and allow Williams to win one on one. If Oklahoma can handle Davis and the edges with single blocks that could allow them to double Williams on a regular basis. Alabama will need Mack Wilson to really play well as he’ll have to run and chase not only Murray but also their talented running backs.

When Alabama has the ball they should have their way with the Sooners defense that has been gashed throughout the year. Running backs Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs give the Crimson Tide a lightning and thunder combination running behind an offensive line that features top prospects in left tackle Jonah Williams and center Ross Pierschbacher. At tight end Irv Smith Jr gives the Crimson Tide an athletic weapon down the seam and over the middle to compliment their stud young receivers on the outside.

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