As we have come to expect from these two teams, they are extremely talented and well coached. From a football perspective, this should be an exciting and hard fought game. From a draft perspective, this game is a cornucopia of talented prospects.
The two teams are very well matched. Both offenses feature big-play options and are quarterbacked by exciting, athletic, playmakers.
On defense, these two teams fly around creating havoc for opposing offenses. Alabama’s defense is opportunistic in the extreme, taking the ball away 27 times and scoring a ridiculous 11 defensive touchdowns. They are big, fast, and capitalize on an offense’s smallest mistake.
The Clemson defense is aggressive putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and racks up sacks. They are just one behind Alabama on the season with 49 total sacks, despite losing Vic Beasley, Shaq Lawson, and Kevin Dodd to the NFL over the last two years.
This game could ultimately come down to which ever team makes the fewest (or smallest) mistakes.
Deshaun Watson (QB) - Might as well start with the most important player on the field. Watson started the year as the prohibitive favorite to be the first pick of the 2017 draft, but a failure to build on a stellar 2015 campaign and really capitalize on the return of Mike Williams are counted as knocks against him. He hasn’t been as accurate this year, but he has elite athleticism and gets rave reviews for his intangibles and leadership ability.
Mike Williams (WR) - Watson’s big-play receiver, Williams is considered by many to be the top receiver in the draft (though he is in for stiff competition from Corey Davis). Williams has the prototypical blend of size (6’3”, 220lbs) and athleticism to be an “X” receiver in the NFL.
Tyrone Crowder (OG) - A big, powerful, anvil of a right guard, Crowder plays to every ounce of his 340 pounds. Not tall at 6’2”, he uses his natural leverage well and plays guard almost like a nose tackle, jacking up defenders and putting them on roller skates. He will be a player to keep an eye on against Alabama’s talented defensive front.
Jordan Leggett (TE) - Leggett used to have the reputation as a lazy player, but the switch seemed to turn to “on” for him in 2015 and committed himself to playing up to his talent. He is a dynamic athlete as a receiver and a well-rounded tight end. NFL teams will want to do their homework on him, but his upside is significant.
Wayne Gallman (RB) - A good running back in a deep class, Gallman is quick and fast in the open field, but also seems to play bigger than his 6’0”, 215 pound frame would suggest. Gallman is at his best when he gets the ball in space, using his quickness and burst to make defenders miss and pick up chunks of yards.
Cordrea Tankersly (CB) - Tankersley might be best suited to playing in the slot at the next level. However, despite not having the kind of elite measurables other corners might boast, he is a fluid and physical corner who stays in his receiver’s hip pocket.
Carlos Watkins (DT) - Watkins is a long, disruptive force in the middle of the Clemson defense. Sporting a well proportioned 6’3”, 305 pound frame, Watkins has plenty of burst off the ball and agility to blow through offensive lines, as evidenced by his 11 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss. He still needs to be more consistent with his technique, and get a better at using his hands, but Watkins is a prototypical 3-technique at the next level.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Jon Allen (DL) - Allen is the top prospect in the game and one of the top two or three prospects in the entire draft. A human wrecking ball, Allen can absolutely destroy any offensive play at nearly any time. Possessing a rare blend of power, agility, and flexibility, Allen has the versatility to line up in any defensive front and be productive.
Tim Williams (EDGE) - While Allen is the top prospect, Williams will garner plenty of attention as an edge rusher. At 6’3”, 252 pounds, he has enough size to put his hand in the dirt but also plenty of athleticism to be a rush linebacker at the next level. His calling card is an impressive burst off the line and he might have the best first step in the draft. Williams does have off-field concerns that teams will need to investigate.
Ryan Anderson (EDGE) - Alabama’s “other” pass rusher, most programs would be thrilled to have a player like Anderson on their defense. A well-rounded linebacker, Anderson can play the run or the pass, using good technique to beat blockers. He doesn’t have Williams’ explosive athleticism, but uses what he has well and plays with a relentless motor. He might be limited to playing in a more classic 3-4 defense.
Rueben Foster (ILB) - Between Williams and Anderson is Rueben Foster. He might be slightly undersized — both compared to ‘Bama linebackers of years past and the NFL prototype — but he plays big. Foster is rangy and athletic, which allows him to fly around the field and make plays in both the run and pass games. He is also very aggressive, which sometimes gets him into trouble if he picks the wrong angle or over-runs the play.
Marlon Humphrey (CB) - One of the top cover corners in the nation, Humphrey has the size and speed the NFL is looking for in the first round. He uses his frame, athleticism, and fluidity well to stick with his receiver. If he matches up on Mike Williams, it could be a great battle. Only a red-shirt sophomore, Humphrey has yet to declare for the draft.
Dalvin Tomlinson (DT) - The rock in the middle of the ‘Bama defense, Tomlinson plays bigger and stronger than his 6’3”, 305 pound frame would suggest. He is a solid run stuffer up the middle of the defensive line, and has even managed to get three sacks, a forced fumble, and four passes defensed on the year.
Cam Robinson (OT) - Alabama’s top offensive prospect is also generally considered to be the top offensive tackle in the class. Teams will have to investigate an arrest in the spring of 2016. Robinson is a solid run blocker and a good pass blocker at the collegiate level. He is powerful, but doesn’t quite have the foot quickness that NFL left tackles usually possess and can struggle against quicker pass rushers.
O.J. Howard (TE) - Big, long, and athletic, the 6’6”, 250 pound Howard has all the traits the NFL is looking for in a modern tight end. He had a break-out game in last year’s national championship game, but didn’t seem to build on it in the 2016 season. And despite four years of being coached by Nick Saban, Howard doesn’t yet seem to use all of his tools. However, if an NFL coach can unlock that prodigious potential, his upside is enormous.