Good morning New York Giants fans, and happy Saturday!
There is no getting around it; this is just going to be a different year for college football. Not only are two Power 5 conferences not playing this fall (Big 10 and Pac-12), but the schedule is going to be inherently fluid from week to week. For example, Memphis was set to play Houston next Friday, the 18th, but the status of that game is up in the air after Memphis suffered a COVID-19 outbreak and a “significant number of individuals” had to be quarantined.
So we’ll just have to be flexible in how we talk about college football. For now we’ll concentrate on the top NFL prospects who will be on the field today.
Iowa State (23) vs. Louisiana
ESPN - 12 p.m.
Iowa State has been a team to be aware of for a couple years now. They haven’t been a powerhouse football factory, but their propensity to snag promising NFL players and their innovative defensive scheme make them a consistent threat to the big schools and definitely interesting to those of us who view football through an “NFL” lens.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top prospects in this game are all on the Iowa State side of things.
QB Brock Purdy is probably the top prospect on the field and could well see his name called before the second day of the draft is out. He is nominally undersized (though that word is losing its meaning for NFL quarterbacks) at 6-foot, 205 pounds, but that doesn’t seem to stop him from being able to scan the field from the pocket or while scrambling. There will likely be questions about his arm strength as throws outside of the numbers seem to challenge him, but he is adept at exploiting the middle of the field.
It helps that Purdy has TE Charlie Kolar to throw to, as the big, tall tight end presents a consistent — and winning — mismatch in the middle of the field. Kolar isn’t a dynamic athlete, but at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, he has the size and enough athleticism to be a complete tight end who can contribute as a blocker and receiver.
On the defensive side of things is box safety Greg Eisworth II. Eisworth II is well regarded as a leader on the Iowa State defense and a tough run defender. While the role of box safety isn’t as glamorous as a centerfielding free safety, it is vital in Iowa State’s defensive scheme for shutting down the Air Raid defense, and increasingly important at the NFL level for the same reasons.
Florida State vs. Georgia Tech
ABC - 3:30 p.m.
Florida State might not be ranked, but they have a bunch of interesting prospects on their squad. Unfortunately, 6-foot-4, 215 pound safety (or potential linebacker) Hamsah Nasirildeen won’t be playing as he continues to work his way back from the ACL tear he suffered in December.
And while not FSU’s top prospect, easily their most intriguing name is cornerback Asante Samuel Jr.
Yes, son of that Asante Samuel — I joked with Ed the other day that the real reason why Eli Manning retired is so he wouldn’t run the risk of being picked off by two generations of Asante Samuels — Samuel Jr. is definitely his father’s son. He is an off-man corner who excels in baiting quarterbacks into ill-advised throws and slamming the window closed with impressive quickness. He still has growing to do in areas of his game, but his is a name to watch over the course of the season, and not just because of who his father is.
Because this is a Giants site, we have to talk about Florida State’s defensive linemen, and Marvin Wilson in particular. Wilson is one of the top draft eligible defensive line prospects in the upcoming draft. He is a long and explosively powerful defensive lineman who shows the ability to simply overwhelm opposing offensive linemen. He’ll be lining up next to Cory Duren who is similarly sized at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds and still managed to lead the Seminoles in QB pressures last year despite being miscast as an edge rusher.
Those big, athletic defensive linemen should allow rangy, athletic off-ball linebacker Amari Gainer the freedom to make plays in space. Gainer is only a red-shirt sophomore, but he is extremely versatile, having done everything from play single-high safety to pass rusher. He could be an exciting player in the hands of a creative defensive coordinator at the NFL level.
Clemson at Wake Forest
ABC - 7:30 p.m.
This is, obviously, the game everyone should have circled on today’s slate. It should probably already be chalked up as a win for Clemson, but Wake Forest has some NFL talent.
With Wake Forest wide receiver Sage Suratt opting out of the season due to concerns over COVID-19, EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. is the player to watch. We’ve had our eye on Basham for a while, and he is the kind of EDGE to appeal to Giants’ GM Dave Gettleman. Basham is a big, long defensive end at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, with developed moves, good football IQ, and a white-hot motor. He isn’t the kind of freak athlete you usually see drafted highly, but he is a steady and dependable player in both the run game and as a pass rusher.
Of course the player everyone will be concentrating on is Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. The draft community has basically been waiting on Lawrence to enter the NFL draft since he first took the field for Clemson as a rookie. Lawrence has a prototypical blend of size, athleticism, and arm talent and is the top player on pretty much everyone’s board — and in all likelihood will be the first player off the board whenever he enters the draft. Lawrence isn’t a perfect prospect yet, he still has work to do on the mental side of the ball and working through his progressions, as well as placing his deep passes. But that being said, his upside is sky-high and expectations for him are high as well.
Fortunately, Lawrence also has an exceptional supporting cast on offense as well.
Potentially matching up against Basham in protection will be OT Jackson Carman. Carman has one of the most appropriate names in football, because at 6-foot-5, 345 pounds, he is approximately as large and powerful as your average sedan. Carman is solid in pass protection and also a people-mover in the run game, which is a definite boon for RB Travis Etienne. Etienne is probably more aptly described as an “offensive weapon”, because he is as capable of creating game-changing plays as a receiver as he is as a runner. Etienne has adequate size at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds, as well as great contact balance. Between his balance and burst, it is very difficult to get him on the ground if he finds open field.
Unfortunately, Lawrence will be without receiver Justyn Ross, who is expected to miss the 2020 season following neck surgery in June. The surgery was necessary after it was discovered that he has congenitally fused vertebra in his neck which was giving him “stinger-like” sensations. Nerve and nervous issues are always scary and hopefully he will make a full recover — not just for football purposes, but so he can enjoy a good quality of life regardless of his football future.