Choosing just one prospect matchup to focus on this week was no easy task. There are a ton of games on the college football docket today that are chock full of exciting prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. I could have written about Tennessee running back John Kelly going up against a stellar Alabama defense. I could have written about the dynamic Memphis duo of Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller getting to shine on a national stage.
Even in the game I finally settled on, the USC Trojans against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, there are several different matchups I could have focused on. I could tell you about the battle between standout Irish wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown going toe-to-toe with USC’s Iman Marshall. I could wax poetic about one of the best running backs in the nation, Ronald Jones, squaring off against a tough Irish front seven. In the end, though, the matchup that I want to focus on for Saturday’s game takes place up front.
I don’t normally have a whole lot to say about the battles between the trenches, but this game’s battle is a star-studded affair if there ever was one. On one side you have two of the top offensive line prospects in tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson. Both of whom may be the two best offensive linemen in the entire nation. Each of them has a strong case for being chosen within the first ten picks come this year’s draft. If your team is struggling to protect your quarterback and open up running lanes for your running backs, I can guarantee these guys are on your radar.
On the other side, you have one of the most talented front sevens in all of college football. Four of the seven could be first round selections if defensive linemen Rasheem Green declares for the draft, which he likely will. Opposite Green is another talented linemen in redshirt sophomore Christian Rector, who could be a highly talked about prospect in his own right next season. Where the front seven truly shines, however, is in the linebacker corps.
Edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu burst onto the scene last season in a big way, racking up 53 tackles including 7.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks in his junior season. His senior season has been equally impressive to date, with 37 tackles, 1.5 sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Nwosu has been a monster up front for the Trojans, and it’s been impossible not to notice him. He’s jumped out and flashed a couple big plays in every game I’ve watched this season.
Having a great front seven isn’t all about how well you can rush the passer, though, and that’s where Trojans inside linebacker Cameron Smith comes in. Since stepping foot on USC’s campus, Smith has been one of the top linebackers in the nation. He’s made a great contribution to the team in each of his three seasons, and should be a lock to be a first round pick. On the season, Smith already has 62 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss. Smith is a complete linebacker, too, possessing very nice coverage skills, and the ability to read and react to plays as they happen. He’s an all-around linebacker with the best of them.
If you’re looking for a matchup that’s going to have an impact on the upcoming draft, it doesn’t get much bigger than USC vs. Notre Dame. Keep your eyes open, it’s going to be an incredible game.