#1 Alabama (1-0) at Texas (1-0); Noon ET; FOX … Alabama and Texas hook-up in Austin on Saturday for the first time since the 2009 national championship game. Of course, they’ll be seeing plenty more of each other down the road as the Longhorns will be moving to the SEC sometime in the next 2-3 years. This is also a match-up of two teams that have gone in different directions since that 2009 title game as Alabama has become almost a fixture in the national championship, while the Longhorns are just trying to keep their heads above water. Alabama has also been just as dominant at the draft this century. Indeed, Alabama made it 14 years in a row with at least one player selected in the opening round – and 6 straight with at least two opening round picks – this past spring, but it was still something of an off-year for the Tide as ‘only’ 7 total players from the program were selected overall including ‘just’ two first rounders. In comparison, Alabama had averaged over 4 first rounders per year over the previous 5 year span including 6 in 2021.
However, nobody’s crying any tears for Nick Saban and company as they figure to be back with a vengeance at the 2023 draft. Indeed, in QB Bryce Young (#9, 6-0, 195), the reigning Heisman winner, and DE Will Anderson (#31, 6-4, 245), the returning defensive player of the year in college football who posted 17.5 sacks last fall, Alabama has two legit contenders to the the #1 pick overall at the upcoming draft. Meanwhile, CB Eli Ricks (#7, 6-1, 190), who transferred from rival LSU, also has top 10 potential, while RB Jahmyr Gibbs (#1, 5-11, 200), ILB Henry To’oTo’o (#10, 6-2, 230) and S Jordan Battle (#9, 6-1, 210) will get later opening round consideration. What sets the Alabama draft class from the rest of the field, though, is its depth as WR Jermaine Burton (#3, 6-0, 200), OGs Emil Ekiyor (#55, 6-3, 310) and Javion Cohen (#70, 6-3, 305), S Malachi Moore (#13, 6-0, 190), FS DeMarco Hellams (#2, 61, 210), CB Brian Branch (#14, 5-11, 195), DTs Byron Young (#47, 6-3, 295) and Justin Eboigbe (#92, 6-5, 295), NT DJ Dale (#94, 6-2, 300) and TE Cameron Latu (#81, 6-5, 245) all have at least some second-day possibilities.
The Longhorns are nowhere as talented or deep as Alabama, but they do have their own legit Heisman candidate in star RB Bijan Robinson (#5, 5-11, 225) who ran for almost 1,400 yards and 14 scores last fall. He’s also the consensus top back for the upcoming draft with top ten potential. Unfortunately for Texas, Robinson is their only real draft lock, although OLB DeMarvion Overstreet (#0, 6-3, 220) should get some third-day looks. If there is hope for the Longhorns, and there is hope, it may come via the fact that they have two of the top talents in the country for the 2024 draft in redshirt freshman QB Quinn Ewers (#3, 6-2, 210) and sophomore WR Xavier Worthy (#8, 6-0, 165). Ewers is a former top recruit who was at Ohio State last year, but transferred home to Texas this off-season.
Bonus coverage: While the Alabama-Texas game is going to get most of the national headlines, arguably THE best match-up of the weekend comes up on Staurday evening when Kentucky plays at Florida at 7 PM ET on ESPN in their SEC opener. What makes this game so appealing will be the match-up between opposing QBs Will Levis (#7, 6-3, 235) of Kentucky and Florida’s Anthony Richardson. (#15, 6-3, 245). CJ Stroud and Bryce Young of Alabama are, of course, currently the top two rated prospects at the position, but if either falters – and neither is a perfect candidate as Young, while impeccably precise, is very small at barely 6-0 and 194 pounds, while Stroud is always pinpoint accurate – Levis and Richardson are next in line. In fact, it won’t be a total shock when all is said and done if one or both move ahead of their more celebrated counterparts, at least in the minds of NFL scouts.
Meanwhile, other Gators to watch include OG O’Cyrus Torrence (#54, 6-5, 345), DT Gervon Dexter (#9, 6-6, 315), OLBs Brenton Cox (#1, 6-3, 255) and Ventrell Miller (#51, 6-0, 225) and safety Trey Dean (#0, 6-2, 210), while other Wildcats to watch include OG Kenneth Horsey (#68, 6-3, 305), WR Tayvion Robinson (#9, 5-11, 190), and LBs Jacquez Jones (#10, 6-0, 235) and DeAndre Square (#5, 6-0, 225). Unfortunately, Kentucky’s best prospect other than QB Levis, RB Chris Rodriquez, who led the SEC in rushing last year, likely won’t play as UK is waiting for work from the NCAA on his availability after he was suspended as a result of a DWI incident this past spring.
And speaking of intriguing QB prospects, we are intrigued to see Washington State’s Cameron Ward (#1, 6-2, 220), the record setting former FCS passer at Incarnate Wood, who transferred to the Cougars this off-season and leads them into Wisconsin this weekend with KO set for 3:30 PM ET on FOX.