It’s no surprise to see these two teams facing each other as they were thought to be the two best teams all season long and they’ve meet each other in the playoffs the last three years. This year should be another great game as both teams are loaded with NFL Draft talent and have young dynamic quarterbacks leading them. Here is a look at our National Championship Scouting Guide looking at the NFL Draft prospects playing.
National Championship Scouting Guide
#2 Clemson Tigers at #1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Monday January 7th 2019
7:00 CST on ESPN
When Alabama Has the Ball
DE Clellin Ferrell (#2 Edge)
DE Austin Bryant (#14 Edge)
DT Christian Wilkins (#4 DL)
DT Dexter Lawrence (#8 DL) – Suspended
DT Albert Huggins
MLB Tre Lamar
WLB Kendall Joseph
SLB Isaiah Simmons
CB Trayvon Mullen (#9 CB)
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) October 15, 2018
Alabama’s offense has been difficult to defend this year because they have the ability to beat you on the ground or through the air. The passing attack is lead by sophomore Tua Tagovailoa (not draft eligible) who throws with tremendous touch and ball placement to a dynamic group of underclassmen receivers. Clemson’s secondary relatively young secondary will be tested, especially Trayvon Mullen who is the Tigers top cornerback. Mullen has good size at 6’2 and is your typical press man corner whose change of direction and long speed will be tested in this game. While the receivers for Alabama are all underclassmen, Irv Smith Jr. is the veteran pass catch who provides the Crimson Tide with an athletic tight end that can work the middle of the field and provide a big play weapon in his own right. Clemson will likely use different defenders to cover Smith but I’m anxious to see SLB Isaiah Simmons get matched up on him. Simmons is a former safety whose transitioned well to linebacker and has all the tools of today’s modern day run and chase linebacker.
Easily the best matchup of this game has to be the Alabama offensive line facing off against this vaunted Clemson defensive line. At left tackle Jonah Williams is the top lineman in the 2019 draft class showing the lateral agility and the foot quickness to cut off defenders while also being a strong run blocker. Throughout this game he’ll face off against both Clellin Ferrell and Austin Bryant which gives us one heck of a prospect battle. Neither Ferrell or Bryant are true speed rushers off the edge but instead will attack Williams looking to use their strength, quickness and pass rushing moves to try and win and get pressure on Tua. Inside Clemson will still be without tackle Dexter Lawrence whose appeal for a drug suspension was denied. Luckily the Tigers still have potential first rounder Christian Wilkins while super sub Albert Huggins was able to step in for Lawrence and not really have much of a drop off. Clemson will miss Lawrence’s ability to clog up the middle of the offensive line and even get some push up the middle to help collapse the pocket. But the combination of Wilkins and Huggins give the Tigers two athletic penetrators who use their quickness to get into the backfield. They’ll be facing off against both left guard Lester Cotton and center Ross Pierschbacher. Pierschbacher uses his foot quickness to wall off defenders and position his body to create creases for their running backs to burst through.
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) October 16, 2018
No matter how good Tua is throwing the ball, Alabama will always be a run oriented team and they have two quality backs in Joshua Jacobs and Damien Harris. Harris is an explosive back who can get to top speed quickly hitting a hole and reeling off big gains. Jacobs is the bigger back and can run with power and has good contact balance but also sees the field well and has the burst to get to the hole and move the chains. Clemson will use their defensive line to try and shut off those creases but it’s their linebackers that need to step up in this game. At middle linebacker Tre Lamar has the size and power to come down and fill the hole while weakside linebacker Kendall Joseph is at his best moving to his sides and flying to the ball.
When Clemson Has the Ball
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) October 29, 2018
Much like Alabama, Clemson’s offense is lead by an underclassmen quarterback Trevor Lawrence who is a true freshman. For Clemson’s offense to be successful running the ball or throwing, they have to protect Lawrence from this tremendous Crimson Tide front. Quinnen Williams is the marquee name as he has been the most dominant defensive player all season long. His ability to win with power and quickness have made him practically unblockable. While blocking Williams is tough enough, Clemson has to also worry about 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. Off the edges Clemson has to worry about outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings, Christian Miller and Isaiah Buggs who combined for 21 sacks this season. While Miller and Jennings are going to attack the corner, 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. It will be fun to see these three attack all game long, but especially against left tackle Mitch Hyatt who has started since his true freshman season.
Much like their young quarterback, Clemson’s receivers are also all sophomores with the exception of Hunter Renfrow who has been with the Tigers for what seems like 10 years. The young guys are big and fast while Renfrow can create separation in and out of breaks but has enough speed to push the seam. Renfrow thrives when the game is on the line and shredding the Crimson Tide a couple years back in the National Title Game. Alabama’s secondary is talented but also young with their top cornerback Trevon Diggs whose been out with a broken foot. With Clemson being able to push the ball down the field Alabama could use a big game from free safety Deionte Thompson who is one of the best safety prospects in years showing off both elite range and ball skills.