Prospects to watch: Thanksgiving Saturday

By | November 26, 2021

#2 OHIO STATE (10-1) at #6 MICHIGAN (10-1); Noon ET; FOX … Just like old times in the Big Ten with the season coming down to Ohio State and Michigan in their annual rivalry game. Of course, the winner still has to beat somebody in the Big Ten championship game next week, but win those two games and the winner of Saturday’s game can punch their ticket to the 4-team college very good Michigan contain the explosive Ohio State offense led by star redshirt freshman QB C.J. Stroud (#7, 6-2, 220) who has emerged as one of the 2-3 candidates to win this year’s Heisman debate. Of course, Stroud gets lots of help from his friends, including arguably the best receiver corps in college football. Indeed, veteran WRs Garrett Wilson (#5, 6-0, 195) and Chris Olave (#2, 6-0, 190) both have top 15-20 potential for the upcoming draft, although the team’s most productive receiver this fall has actually been sophomore Jaxon Smith-Njigba (#11, 6-0, 200) who leads the team with 69 catches for over 1,100 yards. In fact, anyone in the conference hoping that the Buckeyes will just graduate is probably in for a big disappointment as the team’s leading rusher – freshman TreVeyon Henderson (#32, 5-10, 215) – also won’t be draft eligible for a while, although Ohio State does have one of the deeper draft classes in the country for 2022. The Buckeyes, for example, do have two of the fastest rising players in this draft class in OT Nick Petit-Frere (#78, 6-5, 315) and safety Ronnie Hickman (#14, 6-1, 205), both of who could also get significant first-day interest. The Buckeyes also feature one of the better defensive fronts in college football which includes DEs Zach Harrison (#9, 6-5, 265) and Tyreke Smith (#11, 6-3, 260) and DT Haskell Garrett (#92, 6-2, 300), both of whom also at least some have first-round potential. At the same time, other Ohio State players to watch include massive RT Dawand Jones (#79, 6-7, 360), veteran G/T Thayer Munford (75, 6-5, 320) RB Master Teague (#33, 5-11, 225), TE Jeremy Ruckert (#88, 6-4, 250), and CB Cam Brown (#26, 6-0, 190).

Whether the Michigan defense can slow down the OSU offense may come down to how much pressure the Wolverine’s star pass-rushing DEs Aidan Hutchinson (#97, 6-6, 270) and David Ojabo (#50, 6-5, 250) can get on Stroud and company. Hutchinson in particular, is a top 5-10 candidate for the upcoming draft with the length, quickness and motor of an elite pass-rushing defensive end, while Ojabo, who isn’t as big or technically proficient as his more heralded teammate, but may actually be a better athlete, is a rising prospect that just explodes off the edge and is starting to get some top 10 interest of his own. For the record, in fact, both have 10 sacks on the year with Ojabo chipping in 5 forced fumbles, although Hutchinson clearly does attract considerably more attention from opposing defenses. Pro scouts will also keep an eye on MLB Josh Ross (#12, 6-2, 225) who isn’t all that big but just flies around the field and veteran FS Daxton Hill (#30, 6-0, 195) on defense and RB Hassan Haskins (#25, 6-1, 220), OG Chuck Filiaga (#66, 6-4, 340), OT Ryan Hayes (#76, 6-6, 310), OT Andrew Stueber (#71, 6-5, 340), and TE Erick all (#83, 6-4, 245).

#3 ALABAMA (10-1) at AUBURN (6-5); 3:30 PM ET; CBS … One of the huge questions hanging over the upcoming CFP is whether the committee that runs the show would include a two-loss Alabama in the final four if the Tide were to lose to Georgia in next weekend’s conference championship game. The simple answer is that they probably try like to heck to make it happen, but it would be very interesting if the team on the bubble was 11-1 Notre Dame. Of course, for all that to happen Alabama has to get by Auburn in their annual Iron Bowl tilt for at least state bragging rights. And the Tide will certainly be favored in this one with Auburn coming in at just 6-5, although this is one of those traditional rivalries where you just have to throw the records out. As well, to be fair, Alabama has not been as dominant as in recent years with that loss as well as several other too-close for comfort calls. The issue for Alabama is that they haven’t always been able to shut down high-powered passing attacks this fall. Certainly, there haven’t been many issues on the other side of the ball where their young QB – sophomore QB Bryce Young (#2, 5-10, 195) – appears to be Ohio State’s Stroud’s main rival for the Heisman. And while Alabama may not produce the record number of early picks that we saw in the past 2-3 years, the Tide is still loaded with top draft talent. Massive LT Evan Neal (#73, 6-6, 350), for example, looks to be a top ten lock, while veteran ILB Christian Harris (#8, 6-2, 235) and sophomore OLB Will Anderson (#31, 6-4, 235) are both mid-first round candidates, with WR Jameson Williams (#1, 6-2, 190) a rising star in the receiver corps who should also get some first day consideration. At the same time, Canadian WR John Metchie (#8, 6-0, 195), safety Jordan Battle (#9, 6-0, 210), DT D.J. Dale (#94, 6-3, 310), CBs Jalyn Armour-Davis (#5, 6-0, 190) and Josh Jobe (#28, 6-0, 195), and TE Jahleel Billingsley (#19, 6-4, 230) are all solid second day prospects.

For its part, Auburn has only one legit top 100 prospect and that’s veteran CB Roger McCreary (#23, 6-0, 190), a possible early second day pick who’ll get a nice test by the likes of Alabama’s Williams and Metchie. And it doesn’t get a whole lot easier for the Tigers with veteran QB Bo Nix (#10, 6-3, 215), who it feels like has been playing forever, is out with an injury. He’ll be replaced by rangy sophomore T.J. Finley (#1, 6-6, 250) who can throw the ball through a wall; its just he can’t always hit the wall. Auburn, though, does have something of a rising star at RB in sophomore Tank Bigsby (#4, 5-11, 210), while veteran LBs Zakoby McClain (#9, 6-0, 220) and Chandler Wooten (#31, 6-3, 235) lead the defense.

#9 OKLAHOMA (10-1) at #7 OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1); 7:30 PM, ABC … Has any once-beaten traditional football power ever gotten less respect than Oklahoma; indeed, with all the negativity around the program this fall, one would have thought the Sooners were 5-4 and struggling. However, the style points haven’t always been there as the Sooners struggled too often in games they should have won in cakewalks, although they’ve looked better – sometimes – since true freshman Caleb Williams (#13, 6-1, 220) replaced veteran Spencer Rattler (#7, 6-1, 200) during the dramatic comeback win over Texas last month. In fact, that Rattler finds himself on the bench these days may be one of the biggest shocks in college football this fall as he came into the season generally considered to be the top QB prospect for the 2022 draft with the potential to go first overall. However, while he did complete 75% of his pass attempts, he could never really get the O in OU rolling. And instead of the draft, Rattler is likely to bide his time on the Sooners’ bench the rest of the year and then bolt for the transfer portal as soon as it’s safe to get out of town.

With Rattler apparently off the board, the Sooners best pro prospects are a pair of defensive stars in DT Perrion Winfrey (#8, 6-4, 295) and LB Nik Bonitto (#11, 6-3, 240), both of whom are potential early second round prospects, while RB Kennedy Brooks (#26, 5-10, 215) has some later second-day prospects. Meanwhile, other Sooner veterans to watch include safety Pat Fields (#10, 6-0, 205), DE Isaiah Thomas (#95, 6-5, 265) and WR Michael Woods (#8, 6-0, 200).

On the other hand, there hasn’t been any QB controversy at Oklahoma State where rising junior Spencer Sanders (#3, 6-1, 210) has a lock on the job, although he’s more of a dual-threat type who isn’t likely to get much interest from NFL teams whenever he does enter the draft. In fact, it doesn’t look like anyone from the program is likely to be drafted until the later rounds this coming April. The Cowboys, though, are a veteran group that has a number of players who could get one of those late calls including RB Jaylen Warren (#7, 5-8, 215), WR Tay Martin (#1, 6-2, 190), OG Josh Sills (#72, 6-5, 325), C Danny Godlevske (#51, 6-2, 300), DE Brock Martin (#9, 6-3, 250), LB Malcolm Rodriquez (#20, 5-11, 225), and safeties Kolby Harvell-Peel (#31, 6-0, 210) and Jason Taylor (#25, 6-0, 215).