College Football Week Fourteen: Draft Prospects’ Recap

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The college football regular season is over and now all that is left are championship games and bowl games. The games this weekend are so crucial for prospects playing them and scouts evaluating them because it’s top talent versus top talent across the field.

Due to the end of the regular season, I decided to change the format of this article. There are 5 risers and zero fallers, instead of 3 each, and I’ve broken down each of the Power 5 championship games.

I will have another weekly recap article next week, and then mainly special articles leading up to the draft, with at least one article a week. Enjoy the games this weekend!

Risers:

A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

After a very slow start to the season, Epenesa has turned it on the last few weeks. On Saturday against Nebraska, Epenesa totaled 14 tackles, 2 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss. He had begun to slide down by board into the teens this season, but he’s once again proven he’s a top-10 talent in this class.

Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Despite Alabama’s loss, Wills did a great against a very tough Auburn defensive line. He was able to move defenders off the ball and move to the second level with ease, creating big paths to run through. He’s shooting up draft boards and is now considered a first round talent.

Zach Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a tough and dominant defense and Baun is one of the leading players on it. He racked up 9 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss as he helped Wisconsin take down Minnesota for the right to play in the Big Ten Championship. Baun has relatively flown under the radar to this point, but he’s locking himself into Day 2 of the draft.

Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue

Hopkins is my top tight end in this class and he continues to prove why he should stay there. He had 8 catches for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns on Saturday. Purdue’s offense often goes through Hopkins, something that will greatly improve his draft stock and may place him in the first round.

Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah

Anae has been a dominant force on Utah’s defensive line since mid-October, racking up 8.5 sacks in 5 games. He had his way against Colorado’s offensive tackles on Saturday, totaling 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1.5 tackles for loss. Anae is attending the Senior Bowl, so his stock may rise even further.

Small-School Prospect Highlight:

Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte

Highsmith continues the great week for edge rushers in college football after he dominated Old Dominion on Saturday. He totaled 12 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss. Highsmith is on track to be the second-ever player drafted from Charlotte.

Top Championship Games:

Oregon vs Utah - December 6th

Oregon suffered a terrible loss to Arizona State that most likely take them out of the playoff picture. True chaos would need to unfold for Oregon to have any shot at getting in as the 4 seed. QB Justin Herbert has been inconsistent this year, but still grades out as a top-15 pick. Besides Herbert, Oregon’s top prospects are offensive linemen Calvin Throckmorton, Shane Lemieux, and Jake Hanson, linebacker Troy Dye, wide receiver Juwan Johnson, and defensive lineman Jordan Scott.

Utah is having an incredible season and a win in the PAC 12 Championship game may result in a spot in the playoffs, as long as LSU beats Georgia. Utah’s top prospects are running back Zack Moss, cornerback Jaylon Johnson, safety Julian Blackmon, defensive lineman Leki Fotu, edge rusher Bradlee Anae, and wide receiver Britain Covey.

Baylor vs Oklahoma - December 7th

Baylor was off to an undefeated season 9 games in before losing a nail-biter to Oklahoma. They now have a shot at redemption and a Big 12 Championship. Head Coach Matt Rhule has the magic touch in college football, turning around program after program, and will be on the radar of NFL teams looking for a head coach after this season. Baylor’s top prospects this year are receiver Denzel Mims, defensive lineman Bravvion Roy, linebacker Clayton Johnston, and running back JaMycal Hasty.

Oklahoma has struggled the past month, losing to Kansas State and then squeaking out wins against Iowa State, Baylor, and TCU. Oklahoma can make the playoffs with a win and losses by Georgia and Utah. Oklahoma is led by receiver CeeDee Lamb, linebacker Kenneth Murray, quarterback Jalen Hurts, defensive lineman Neville Gallimore, and running back Trey Sermon.

Georgia vs LSU - December 7th

Georgia feels like the least dominant team currently in the playoffs, but that will change with an upset win here. A win and they’re in, a loss and they will most definitely be out. Georgia’s top prospects are quarterback Jake Fromm, running back D’Andre Swift, offensive linemen Andrew Thomas and Solomon Kindley, safeties Richard LeCounte and J.R. Reed, defensive linemen Tyler Clark and Julian Rochester, and wide receiver Demetrius Robertson.

LSU is in the midst of their greatest season in recent memory. Even with a loss to Georgia, I think they should still grab the 4th playoff spot. Always being known as a defensive dominant team, LSU’s offense, led by quarterback Joe Burrow, has been lighting up the scoreboard. Besides Burrow, LSU is led by safety Grant Delpit, edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, cornerback Kristian Fulton, defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence, receiver Justin Jefferson, and linebacker Jacob Phillips.

Virginia vs Clemson - December 7th

Virginia has had a better season than most expected, capped off with an upset win over their rival Virginia Tech. Virginia won’t be making the playoffs, but a win here and the ACC Championship would be beyond monumental for the program. Virginia’s top prospect is cornerback Bryce Hall, however he’s been injured for most of the season. They also have draft prospects in linebacker Jordan Mack, quarterback Bryce Perkins, edge rusher Charles Snowden, and wide receiver Joe Reed.

Clemson has been dinged in the playoff rankings due to a weaker schedule than most, but they’re still sitting in the 3rd seed with only Virginia standing in their way. It’s a different team, but Clemson won the title last season and I don’t think anyone wants to meet them in the playoffs. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons, cornerback A.J. Terrell, defensive linemen Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams, and safety K’Von Wallace have exceled so far on this Clemson defense on their way to the draft this year. Meanwhile on offense, running back Travis Etienne and Tee Higgins have largely contributed to Clemson’s high-octane offense.

Ohio State vs Wisconsin - December 7th

Ohio State has completely dominated every opponent they’ve faced on their schedule, until they met Penn State two weeks ago. Wisconsin is very similar to Penn State with a great defense and strong running game. Ohio State wins, they’re in the playoffs. Ohio State features edge rushers Chase Young and Jonathan Cooper, cornerbacks Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade, and Damon Arnette, linebackers Malik Harrison and Tuf Borland, running back J.K. Dobbins, wide receiver K.J. Hill, and offensive lineman Thayer Munson.

Wisconsin was on track to potentially make the playoffs, but they suffered big setbacks against Illinois and Ohio State. Even with a win here, it’s unlikely Wisconsin will make the playoffs unless true chaos occurs in other games. A Big Ten Championship would be huge though. Wisconsin’s top prospect is running back Jonathan Taylor, who was a Heisman candidate as a true freshman and now he is finally eligible for the draft. Wisconsin also has offensive linemen Tyler Biadasz and David Moorman, edge rusher Zack Baun, linebacker Chris Orr, and receiver A.J. Taylor.

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