What a fantastic name for a series. The origins of the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State game’s famous moniker is unknown, but it sure is appropriate. The Big 12 conference is the football equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, LSD, and getting married on a Saturday in the fall. Just pure insanity.
All sorts of prospect fun abounds in Stillwater this weekend. One of the premiere QB matchups of the year–Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph are two of the top senior quarterbacks in the nation, and playoff aspirations for both teams sit on the line in a wide open Big 12.
Mayfield faces the tougher challenge, against two talented safeties on the Pokes’ back end in Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards. Meanwhile, Rudolph has the better weapons, in WRs Marcell Ateman and James Washington. But I’m not going to bet against Baker Mayfield anytime soon–not to mention, I think Oklahoma has the advantage in the trenches as well. But as far as prospect battles go, the QB duel in the Battle of Bedlam is the one to watch this week.
Beyond that? There’s good ones all across the board.
NC State OG Tony Adams v. Clemson DT Christian Wilkins
Tony Adams? Very good at football.
On a NC State squad chockfull of NFL talent, between the defensive line and offensive playmakers, Adams is oft overlooked when watching the Wolfpack. But the 4-year starter, at both center and guard, has solid NFL qualities and excellent production.
Guard is likely the better position for the 6’1, 315 lineman–he didn’t give up a sack at the position in his junior year, earning him 2nd-team All-ACC honors. He’s got a stout build, a powerful punch, and a real mean streak in the running game.
I wonder about his quickness in space, which will be tested against Clemson’s defensive line, which is straight studly across the board. DT Demarcus Christmas is the stouter test, in my eyes, but the draft-eligible interior player for the Tigers is Wilkins. With the body of a tackle but the lateral quickness and bend of an EDGE, Wilkins is one of college football’s most dangerous interior rushers.
Adams has only recently caught my eye. I’m looking forward to revisiting his earlier tape, but undoubtedly his toughest competition awaits him on Saturday.
Bonus: Clemson OT Mitch Hyatt v. NC State EDGE Bradley Chubb
Virginia Tech OT Yosuah Nijman v. Miami DE Chad Thomas
Let’s keep things in the trenches–that’s where the best of football is played.
I’ve heard a ton of great things about Nijman, who did good work against the same Clemson defensive line that Adams now faces. Nijman is a converted defensive lineman, but at 6’7 and 300 lbs, it’s no surprise he’s begun building a home for himself at offensive tackle.
That defensive background helps–you can see it in his lateral agility and foot speed, which impresses for a man of his size. Only a junior, Nijman should remain in school and continue honing on the finer points of offensive line play. Entering the Draft now, as a perceived project, would unnecessarily damage his draft stock.
Up against Nijman is another dangerous defensive line. Though the ‘Canes squad is headlined by DTs Kendrick Norton and R.J. McIntosh (good football players), DE Chad Thomas has some serious skill in his own right. He’s got an incredibly hot motor, good functional power, and I’m impressed by his mental processing.
Thomas is the sort of nuanced, multi-year starter that can cause the raw Nijman all types of fits–but Nijman is the better athlete. If Thomas can’t outsmart him, Nijman should come out the better of the two.
Bonus: Miami WRs Braxton Berrios and Ahmmon Richards (Sophomore) v. Virginia Tech CBs Brandon Facyson and Adonis Alexander
Auburn OG Braden Smith v. Texas A&M DT Zaycoven Henderson
Yeah, I’m not leaving the trenches, folks.
Braden Smith is an animal. At 6’5 and 300 lbs, he’s got a tackle’s frame–and Auburn used to, and still occasionally does, deploy him at tackle. But they’ve reshuffled their offensive line, searching for the correct iteration. Smith now starts at RG for the Tigers, while Austin Golson (good football player) slides in at LT.
But Auburn loves to work in six offensive linemen–and when they do, they’ll flip Smith in to a tackle position. They pull him more than any other lineman, and run behind him on almost every crucial game situation. Because he’s an animal.
Given his clean footwork in space, nice length to his punch, and general hatred for all defenders, I like him as a tackle. At guard, he surrenders initial leverage with his frame and loses the advantages his light footwork provides.
Opposite of Smith lines up Zaycoven Henderson. Yet to make it to the national spotlight, Henderson has all of the pieces of that dominant run-defending DT who needs every pass-rush rep he can get to improve his draft stock. All of his success as a pass-rusher comes when he wins immediately with leverage, rushing through the offensive lineman with power.
Henderson can get Smith on those reps–but he only sees limited snaps on pass-rushing downs. Henderson has all the potential as a riser in this draft class, but these are the games that can truly make his climb a reality. Money to be made, team.
Bonus: Texas A&M S Armani Watts v. Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham