Friday night's Orange Bowl is filled with 2014 NFL Draft prospects.
Clemson is headlined by the premier WR prospect of them all: Sammy Watkins. Heralded as the next great receiver coming out of high school, the Clemson product has not disappointed in the NCAA. He stands 6-foot-1, 215 pounds but plays much bigger than that.
Watkins has a strong catch radius and soft hands, but what separates him is his natural gamebreaking ability. His stop-start is absurd and acceleration is among the best in the class. He has no issues breaking tackles and if you don't wrap up, will turn on the jets and burn you. Comparing him to other top WRs in recent years, I'd say he's a bit behind A.J Green, but he's up there with Julio Jones and Dez Bryant, and far exceeds Justin Blackmon. It's not likely he makes it out of the top 10.
The other big Clemson star is defensive end Vic Beasley. Beasley has tremendous burst, almost as fast as Barkevious Mingo. However he lacks size, standing at a mere 6-3. 225 pounds. He has been productive, garnering 10.0 sacks on the year and has been a team captain. He does not play the run very well (and at that weight, its not surprising) and has some of what I'd call "Osi syndrome" where he takes wide loops to get to the quarterback. He is likely a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level as a late first-round to second-round pick.
Tajh Boyd is a big name at quarterback for the Tigers, but his play has dropped off considerably from the beginning of the year. He started out as a potential top 5 pick, but is now in the second-to third-round range. He does not have tremendous deep accuracy and has made some bad decisions. However, this would be the game for him to re-up his stock.
As far as Ohio State goes, the big name here is Ryan Shazier, outside linebacker. Much like Sammy Watkins, this guy is all about making gamebreaking plays. He racked up 133 tackles and six sacks this year, including a masterful 19-tackle, one-sack performance against Indiana. He is among the fastest linebackers to the ball, with absurd closing speed and incredible range. I do have questions about his instincts, they seem fairly solid but he has a mental mistake almost every game in coverage. He also is small, at only 6-2, 220 pounds.
Bradley Roby was once the consensus top cornerback in the nation. He's fallen far from that however, and is now looked at more as a second-round pick. He has the athleticism, footwork, and length to be considered one of the best, but was constantly burned this year because of bad fundamentals and risk taking. He needs a good game here the worst way.
Carlos Hyde is a bruising running back with phenomenal balance and power. He is making a strong case to be the first running back selected in May, overshadowing Lache Seastrunk of Baylor. He has turned in some monstrous performances this year, including a 24 attempt - 246 yard - 4 TD performance against Illinois and 27-attempt, 226-yard, one TD performance against Michigan where he literally put the team on his back. He will be featured heavily.
Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell are third- to fourth-rounders to look out for. They are part of an incredibly sound Ohio State offensive line and are very, very strong at the point of the attack. It will be fun to watch them go up against Vic Beasley.
Teams: Clemson Tigers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Game Time: Friday, Jan. 3, 8 p.m. ET