Zach's Draft Corner: Scouting a 49ers Top-10 Draft Pick, What to watch
Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
Nothing happened this past Sunday. Nothing at all, right? There is absolutely nothing that could have happened that would have put a damper on the expectations of the 49er faithful, right? Our expectations are definitely still to challenge for a playoff spot. However, if something were to happen that causes the 49ers’ playoff hopes to be dashed, or if your trusty Draft Corner author were to come out of his denial, it may be worth taking a look forward to see what edge defenders might be available if the 49ers were to be selecting in the top end of the first round. You know, just in case.
What to look for
Some are still lamenting the fact that the 49ers did not give up the haul of draft picks that it took to get Khalil Mack to Chicago, but he’s really the ideal player to look at for the prototypical edge defender. Mack measured in at 6'2 5/8" and 251 pounds during the pre-draft process. The first thing that stood out about Mack was his athleticism. He had exceptional speed and quickness, so much so that he was the best coverage linebacker in his class in addition to being an elite pass rusher. His instincts and play recognition enabled him to stay on the field for every down and to play every role on the defense. He could recognize routes in coverage, he could defend the run, he could pass rush from the edge or from the defensive tackle position. He was literally a do-it-all defender for the University of Buffalo.
Focusing on his pass rushing skills, Mack’s main weapon was his speed and quickness. In order to block Mack, tackles first had to find a way to get in front of him, which was much easier said than done. If tackles over-committed to his outside rush, he could easily cut inside, but he would also bend around tackles that couldn’t catch up to his speed. Mack also had the moves and technique to disengage from blockers who did manage to get in front of him.
Finally, what was most impressive was the way Mack was able to turn his speed into power. This means that Mack’s speed was such an asset that tackles must account for it at all times. This puts them in a worse position to deal with a bull rush, because the tackles are more likely to be on their heels to account for the speed. The bull rush can catch tackles off-guard, typically leading to the tackle being knocked on their backside. Mack had enough power on his own to make it even more successful, but his power would still only be considered above average in a vacuum. The only question with Mack was whether his decreased level of competition had any effect on his dominating tape, leading to him falling to the fifth overall pick.
Since getting his chance in the NFL, everything has only gotten better for Mack. This is why he, along with Von Miller, are the premiere edge rushers in the league. Mack has also been a picture of health in the pros and in college. The effect a guy like Mack can have is clear. In 2017, Chicago allowed 319.1 yards per game and 20.0 points per game, while amassing 42 sacks total. In three games in 2018, Chicago has only allowed 289 yards per game and 18.3 points per game. Chicago also leads the league in sacks with 14, meaning they are on pace for 75 sacks for the season. If you are one who thinks pressures are a better measure of success than sacks, the Bears defense as a whole had 100 quarterback pressures in 2017. That season, Khalil Mack had 77 pressures himself.
If you want a premiere pass rusher, you want to find someone that can give you the same things. Pass rushers are most effective when they have speed, quickness, technique, and power, enabling them to use a multitude of possible attacks and counters to beat an offensive lineman and to generate a pressure. Ideally, the player should also have the mental capacity to be a complete defender rather than simply a player who will rush the passer and provide nothing else. Given that, let’s see how the top edge rushers in next year’s draft stack up to Mack.
Nick Bosa, Ohio State University
Where Mack was an all-around defender, the 6'3", 270-pound Bosa is purely a defensive lineman. This season, he has played in only three of four potential games but has 4.0 sacks in those three games. He is certainly the most heralded of any edge player, as he has the family pedigree and the tape to show he belongs in the NFL. He has consistently dominated tackles throughout the season, leading him to be the consensus top pick in the 2019 draft at this point.
Bosa may not have quite the exceptional level of top-end speed and quickness as Mack, but has much more power to make up for the other slight deficiencies. His technique can stand to improve a little, but he still has a variety of moves that he can bust out at any given time. Bosa is as surefire a prospect as you can get: he has consistently dominated top-end competition and has all of the measurables to go along with the tape. The worst aspect of his game is explosiveness off the snap, but he anticipates the snap count so well that it offsets the lack of initial explosiveness. You would rather see both, but the end result is still effective.
The only issue is that, while the 49ers might be bad, are they first-overall pick bad? It may be a pipe dream, but he also has an abdominal injury that might drop him down just far enough to be there for the taking if the 49ers are picking more around the 4-6 range. However, it still might be unlikely.
Clelin Ferrell, Clemson University
If the 49ers stay put in the middle-to-end of the top ten, then the 6'5", 260-pound pass rusher from Clemson may be the pick. In four games, Ferrell has 5.0 sacks, though he does play on the most ferocious defensive line that college football has seen in years.
On his own, Ferrell is very technically sound, using more advanced hand moves and footwork than you typically see in a college player to get by tackles. Further, Ferrell is an exceptional athlete as far as speed and quickness goes. Unfortunately, his only deficiency is that he is merely average in the power department. While this will have a little bit of an effect on his ability as a run defender, as a pass rusher, his technique, speed, and quickness can force tackles to defend on their heels, allowing him to convert that speed into power. While his lack of elite power makes disengaging from run blocks a little more difficult, Ferrell has enough power to at least maintain his gap so that others can make the play. Ferrell also has elite play recognition, recognizing screens and options quickly and adjusting his play accordingly.
If you're looking for a 3-down, complete defender who is most comparable to Khalil Mack, it might be Ferrell rather than Bosa. While Bosa has the power to be a playmaker in the run game, Ferrell has the athleticism to better defend outside plays (e.g.: against Russell Wilson) and can even do the Robert Saleh special by dropping into coverage on occasion. He tore his ACL in high school, but has been completely healthy since. If the 49ers are going to draft an edge rusher in the top ten, I’m all aboard the “Fail for Ferrell” train.
Brian Burns, Florida State University
The next two prospects may be a good option if both of the first two prospects have been selected, or if the 49ers receive a king’s ransom from a quarterback-desperate team to move back a few spots. The first of these two prospects is Brian Burns, a 6'5", 231-pound defender who has 3.5 sacks through four games this season.
There’s no other way around it, but Burns is definitely a step below Bosa and Ferrell, as he does not have the pure athleticism of either. He’s technically sound and has the flexibility and bend you want from an edge rusher, but again, the lack of explosiveness keeps him from being an elite pass rusher right now. He has a number of good pass rush moves and varies them enough with his good technique that he can still effectively get to the quarterback, but this will be the first thing taken away in the NFL.
Burns is also lean, and may need some more weight to get the strength to be a 3-down defender. However, could that make him lose even more of his speed or quickness? He's fluid and efficient as a mover (i.e., no wasted motion), but he's just not the athletic freak you want as a top-end pass rusher. Brian Burns is my edge rusher most likely to bust out of this group generally seen as the "top 4," but that doesn’t mean that he will. I would just not be excited if we passed on an opportunity to take Bosa or Ferrell and took Burns instead.
Montez Sweat, Mississippi State University
During the preseason, Sweat was my favorite candidate for the 49ers to take towards the middle of the first round, but his play so far this season may have taken him out of that range. Luckily for San Francisco, injuries may have put the 6'5", 241-pound Sweat back in their range. In four games this season, Sweat has amassed 4.5 sacks while being the biggest weapon on the Mississippi State defensive line.
The best way I can describe Sweat’s game is that he is Brian Burns with explosiveness and a little more strength, although maybe a little less technique. Sweat is absolutely explosive off the snap, and has enough strength and length to keep the tackles off of him while he bends around the edge. His frame still leaves room for more muscle, but he is more likely to keep the speed and quickness with a few more pounds of muscle because he is already ten pounds heavier than a guy like Burns. Again, Sweat is not the complete player that Bosa and Ferrell are at this point, but he still has the potential to be a top-end pass rusher, and has the most potential of any player not named Nick or Clelin.
Joe Jackson, University of Miami
Now, just because the 49ers are picking high in the first round doesn’t mean they are certainly going edge. What happens if the 49ers go elsewhere in the first round? With a high draft position, the 49ers could come away with a player like Greedy Williams (easily the top corner in the draft, great athleticism, ball skills, physicality, everything you look for in a corner, and under the tutelage of Richard Sherman, he could be one of the best corners in the NFL) or a D.K. Metcalf (a huge wide receiver with hands of glue, freak athleticism, and route running beyond his years). In addition to the top-end talent, this draft class also has plenty of depth, meaning that good pass rushers will get pushed into the second round while teams reach for more shallow positions. This would leave the 49ers in prime position with their second round pick, or to give up an extra asset and trade into the tail end of the first round.
If they were to go this direction, one name they could look at is the 6'5", 258-pound Joe Jackson. In four games, Jackson has 2.0 sacks. While the production may not be there, he has a boatload of potential. Jackson has a great ability to stay low, bending and dipping around tackles, but couples that with the strength and technique to shed blockers in the run game. Jackson is certainly a 3-down defender, but will need to improve his tackling at the point of attack. He has terrible tackling form.
The frustrating part with Jackson that will push him down the draft is that he shows all of his greatness in flashes and is still a bit inconsistent. Jackson almost plays like he is trying to rush the quarterback every play and then tries to adjust if it’s a run play. He simply doesn't show the mental processing to be a disciplined defender at this point in his career. He can make a big sack on one play, but can also give up a big play on the next snap by being caught way out of position. Jackson is the type of guy who will have fans tearing their hair out over the inconsistency. However, if the 49ers want a playmaker in the second round, Jackson has as much potential as anyone if he can get his mental processing right.
Jalen Jelks, University of Oregon
The 6'5", 245-pound Jelks is another defender who needs some training in the mental side of football before he can reach his potential. He has 2.5 sacks in four games, and steps off the bus looking like the ideal edge defender. Jelks has length, slightly less quickness and speed than Clelin Ferrell, but also slightly more power. Unlike Jackson, Jelks is also a strong tackler who will get the runner down if he gets his hands on them.
What makes Jelks a Day 2 talent and not a first rounder, at this point, is that Jelks needs to bring it all together and hone his technique. He shows all the moves you want from an edge rusher, but he doesn't really know how to use them, rendering them ineffective. If he was going against air, his chop move and spin move are picture perfect. When performing them against a tackle, he doesn’t perform the moves in the right position, making him look fancy while getting easily blocked. Jelks needs to go to a team with a strong coaching staff who can get him settled with the little things that are mainly mental, but also shows enough potential to be worth a look in the second round.
Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion University
Admittedly, until last week, I had no clue who Ximines was. Matt Miller mentioned him on his podcast, and I took note that he was going to have a good challenge in Virginia Tech this past weekend. Like Mack and Buffalo, Old Dominion doesn’t play top-end talent week-in and week-out. If Ximines wanted to be taken seriously, he would need to have a big game against Virginia Tech. Let’s just say that Ximines needs to be taken seriously.
Did you want Harold Landry? Were you upset the 49ers passed on him and didn't trade up to take him in the second round? Then you'll love Oshane Ximines. At 6'4" and 255 pounds, Ximines has the prototypical size. In four games, he has 5.0 sacks, so he has the production. Against better competition, he dominated Virginia Tech this past weekend (2.0 sacks, an additional assist on a tackle for loss, 7 total tackles). Ximines has very strong hands, and shows great bend getting around the tackles. Understand this is high praise: Ximines is very Khalil Mack-like in his ability to bend, cut back inside against over-aggressive tackles, play in space, and use his varied speed and technical prowess to get a power rush. Ximines can do it all, and has game tape proving he can do it against the higher level competition. However, since he plays at Old Dominion, he's the type of guy that might fall to the second round when there are lots of prospects playing against top competition. However, he could be as good as the top guys, including Bosa and Ferrell. While fans may be eager for an edge at the top of the first round, the best possible outcome for the 49ers may be to walk away from the draft with Greedy Williams or D.K. Metcalf with their first selection and grabbing Oshane Ximines with their second. This would be a coup for the 49ers from this lost season, and my preferred route.
Anthony Nelson, University of Iowa
The 49ers do have quite a few holes on their roster. Maybe they go Greedy Williams in the first round and then take a receiver like J.J Arcega-Whiteside or Emmanuel Hall in the second. Are they out of luck for edge defenders? Maybe not. In the third round, there is a chance that the 6'7", 271-pound Anthony Nelson could still be available. He has only 2.0 sacks in four games, but has generated a lot more pressures (coming into this season, the junior had the most pressures generated of any returning defender in the country). Nelson can be a little deceptive because he's so long that he doesn't seem very athletic or explosive, but when you really look at the tape, he'll impress.
This past weekend, Nelson consistently won matchups against David Edwards of Wisconsin, who is seen as one of the nation’s top tackles. He had 7.5 sacks in 2017, with 7 additional pressures. In addition to his athleticism, he has really honed his technique over the years and is reliable in run defense. His long arms and length allow him to maintain distance from even the biggest offensive tackles, where others would be engulfed. He doesn't have the sheer athleticism of a guy like Nick Bosa, but he still finds a way to influence almost every game. He will be an unheralded Day 2 pick as a LEO, but will have a long and successful career. He may not be the flashy guy that fans are clamoring for, but if the 49ers are able to shore up their secondary and get a number one receiver with their first two picks, Nelson would be an acceptable consolation prize in the third round.
The sheer amount of college games on at any given time can be completely overwhelming. Every week, in the TV Guide section of my column, I will choose the top two games at any given time slot and outline the various prospects you can watch in those games. That way, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and hit the “Previous Channel” button on your remote to toggle between games chock full of pro prospects. Here is your guide for week five (all times Eastern).
Friday, September 28
University of Memphis at Tulane University, 8:00 PM, ESPN 2
Memphis lost quite a bit of talent last year, but still have some guys worth checking out. Darrell Henderson (junior running back, #8) is the shiny weapon this year on offense, having a ridiculous 12.2 yards per carry on 58 attempts this season. Drew Kyser (senior center, #54) heads a line that will look to open holes on the ground for Henderson to burst through. Curtis Akins (senior outside linebacker, #7) is intriguing on the defense, but most of the talent in this game, as expected, is on the offensive side of the ball.
Tulane has one of the biggest sleepers at the quarterback position in Jonathan Banks (senior quarterback, #1), an athletic, strong-armed passer with a surprising amount of accuracy. Noah Fisher (senior tackle, #57) and Charles Jones (senior tight end, #84) also have hopes of continuing their career in the pros, and Roderic Teamer Jr. (senior safety, #2) is a rare defensive prospect in the AAC that could hear his name called in April.
Saturday, September 29
West Virginia University at Texas Tech University, 12:00 PM, ESPN 2
West Virginia easily disposed of Kansas State last week, but will have to have their offense clicking perfectly to outlast the high-powered Texas Tech offense. Will Grier (senior quarterback, #7) is my QB1 in this draft, and could be a dark-horse Heisman candidate if he keeps the Mountaineers on their winning streak. Yodny Cajuste (senior tackle, #55) is continuing his strong 2017 season, garnering some first round talk himself. David Sills V (senior wide receiver, #13) is really starting to prove that he can be a number one receiver for a team, and Gary Jennings (senior wide receiver, #12) is showing off his talent in his own right. David Long, Jr. (junior linebacker, #11) and Ezekiel Rose (senior edge, #5) are having strong seasons, but still are Day 3 prospects at best.
For Texas Tech, Dakota Allen (senior linebacker, #40), Justus Parker (junior safety, #31), Jordyn Brooks (junior linebacker, #1), and Octavious Morgan (senior cornerback, #5) form a defensive quartet that has a bit of talent, but can’t make up for the extreme lack of talent everywhere else. Madison Akamnonu (junior tackle, #58) is a large and athletic specimen on the offensive line, but the Red Raiders young talent elsewhere on the offense will make this a good measuring stick for West Virginia.
University of Virginia at North Carolina State University, 12:20 PM, Watch ESPN
There are a ton of great games on Saturday. Unfortunately, they are all at night. Take advantage of the horrendous early slate to go apple picking or do some other fall-related event. This is the second-best game in the noon slate, and it’s not even that great. For Virginia, Juan Thornhill (senior safety, #22) has a chance to be a team’s starting strong safety, but is more likely to make a living on special teams in the NFL. That’s really it for Virginia.
This game was really picked because NC State has quite a few intriguing prospects. Ryan Finley (senior quarterback, #15) was QB1 coming into the season for Todd McShay, so he’ll likely be drafted at some point in the first few rounds if he can continue being reliable. Kelvin Harmon (junior wide receiver, #3) is consistently seen as a top-five wide receiver prospect, and is as consistent as they come. Garrett Bradbury (interior offensive line, #65) and Tyler Jones (senior tackle, #53) are the core of a strong offensive line for the Wolfpack. A.J. Cole III (senior punter, #90) is good if you enjoy watching punters. Darian Roseboro (senior edge, #45) has admirably filled in for Bradley Chubb, but is certainly a few notches below his more talented predecessor.
University of Tennessee at University of Georgia, 3:30 PM, CBS
Tennessee has accumulated plenty of talent with their prestigious history, but the woeful coaching has not developed that talent much at all. Right now, Tennessee has two prospects that will certainly be drafted in Jauan Jennings (junior wide receiver, #15) and Nigel Warrior (junior safety, #18), the latter of which has just about as perfect a name as you can get for a safety. Outside of them, Keller Chryst (senior quarterback, #19) hopes to regain the promise he showed as the quarterback of Stanford. Darrell Taylor (junior linebacker, #19), Quart'e Sapp (junior linebacker, #14), Todd Kelly, Jr. (senior defensive back, #24), Kyle Phillips (senior defensive end, #5), Jonathan Kongbo (senior linebacker, #99), Shy Tuttle (senior defensive tackle, #2), Micah Abernathy (senior defensive back, #22), Daniel Bituli (junior linebacker, #35), and Alexis Johnson (senior defensive tackle, #98) round out a defense that all came into college highly recruited, but have yet to show the cohesion necessary to make them true prospects at this point. Madre London (senior running back, #31), Chance Hall (junior tackle #76), and Drew Richmond (junior tackle, #51) are the offensive equivalents. Unfortunately, Tennessee is having yet another down season, meaning that Jennings and Warrior may be the only sure things for the Volunteers.
Georgia is loaded with talent and almost sure to dominate this game from start to finish. Further, quite a bit of their main talent is younger (e.g., next year’s potential QB1, Jake “From State” Fromm). However, like I said, there aren’t many great games before dinner on Saturday, so you get to watch this bloodbath. Deandre Baker (senior cornerback, #18) and J.R. Reed (junior safety, #20) form a strong tandem on the back end and could each be picked before the end of day two. Tyler Clark (junior defensive tackle, #52), Julian Rochester (junior defensive tackle, #5), and Jonathan Ledbetter (senior defensive end, #13) anchor a fierce defensive line, which benefits D'Andre Walker (senior outside linebacker, #15) coming off the edge. Terry Godwin (senior wide receiver, #5) and Calvin Ridley’s younger brother Riley (junior wide receiver, #8) provide the firepower on offense, while Isaac Nauta (junior tight end, #18) gives Georgia a reliable extra blocker and checkdown option.
University of Texas at Kansas State University, 3:30 PM, Fox Sports 1
Dalton Risner (senior tackle, #71) is a first round talent on the offensive line, but there has recently been chatter about him moving inside to guard at the next level. Scott Frantz (junior tackle, #74) is a respectable prospect on the other end of the line, and they routinely open up outside rushing lanes for Alex Barnes (junior running back, #34). Kendell Adams (senior safety, #21) is the leader of the Wildcats’ defense, although the defense is certainly this team’s weakness.
In perhaps the most shocking occurrence of the season, Texas might be back? After defeating USC and TCU in back-to-back weeks, it sure seems like they are. On defense, Texas boasts a talented secondary with potential first round pick Kris Boyd (senior cornerback, #2) on one side, Davante Davis (senior cornerback, #18) on the other, and P.J. Locke III (senior safety, #11) roaming the back end. Anthony Wheeler (senior linebacker, #45), Charles Omenihu (senior defensive end, #90) and Breckyn Hager (senior defensive end, #44) round out the talented defense. On offense, Texas is led by Collin Johnson (junior wide receiver, #9), who brought in 13 catches for 203 yards over the past two weeks in Texas’s big upset victories over USC and TCU. John Burt (senior wide receiver, #1) is physically gifted but has generally underperformed on the field. Calvin Anderson (senior tackle, #66) and Tre Watson (senior running back, #5) also have some potential. Sam Ehlinger (true sophomore quarterback, #11) has been much improved this season, and could be a top quarterback prospect in 2020.
Ohio State University at Penn State University, 7:30 PM, ABC
Nick Bosa (junior defensive end, #97) may very well be the first overall pick next year. He has been absolutely dominant this season. He’s been a man amongst boys. Parris Campbell (senior wide receiver, #21), Kendall Sheffield (junior cornerback, #8), Dre'Mont Jones (junior defensive tackle, #86), and Robert Landers (junior defensive tackle, #67) all have first round aspirations with their strong 2018 campaign, but it seems like Dwayne Haskins (redshirt sophomore quarterback, #7) is the most likely to join Bosa in the first round after his hot start to the season. Outside of Campbell, Ohio State’s remaining receivers, Johnnie Dixon (senior wide receiver, #1), K.J. Hill (Junior Wide Receiver, #14), Binjimen Victor (junior wide receiver, #9), and Austin Mack (junior wide receiver, #11) all have the athletic profile to get drafted, but need to show the production to go along with it to have a real chance. Michael Jordan (junior guard, #73) and Isaiah Prince (junior tackle, #59) anchor an offensive line that will look to clear room for Mike Weber (junior running back, #25), who has outperformed talented true sophomore J.K. Dobbins in the first four games. Prince in particular has been exceptional as a right tackle this season. On the back end of the defense, Damon Arnette (junior cornerback, #3) and Jordan Fuller (junior safety, #4) hope to continue Ohio State’s recent tradition of strong play in the secondary.
Penn State is another team that lost quite a bit of talent in the 2018 draft process, but they still keep churning out legitimate players. Miles Sanders (junior running back, #24) has filled in very well for Saquon Barkley, and may be the best draftable running back in the Big Ten. Conner McGovern (junior interior offensive line, #66) and Ryan Bates (junior tackle, #52) anchor a surprisingly strong Penn State offensive line, while Juwan Johnson (junior wide receiver, #84) and DeAndre Thompkins (senior wide receiver, #3) give the Nittany Lions some reliable weapons on the outside. Trace McSorley (senior quarterback, #9) may stand to benefit from Baker Mayfield having success in the NFL this season, but I still stand by my evaluation that his accuracy and decision making are too poor for him to be a legitimate prospect. Amani Oruwariye (senior cornerback, #21) is a top-five cornerback prospect, while Koa Farmer (senior linebacker, #7), Shareef Miller (junior edge, #48), Kevin Givens (junior defensive tackle, #30), and Nick Scott (senior safety, #4) all have the potential to be Day 3-type prospects.
Stanford University at Notre Dame University, 7:30 PM, NBC
Stanford’s Bryce Love (senior running back, #20) came into the season with such high hopes, but has been inconsistent and banged up through the first four games of the season. He played well against USC, but went back to being mediocre in a win against Oregon. Meanwhile, my favorite receiver sleeper, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (junior wide receiver, #19), is looking to maintain his dominating season and get into second-round consideration. Kaden Smith (junior tight end, #82), Nate Herbig (junior guard, #63), Jesse Burkett (senior center, #73), A.T. Hall (senior tackle, #75), Brandon Fanaika (senior guard, #71), and Trenton Irwin (senior wide receiver, #2) all hope to continue their strong seasons. Notre Dame’s talented defense will give all of these offensive prospects their biggest test of the season, and this will certainly be a game all the scouts will watch when evaluating the Cardinal. On defense, Bobby Okereke (senior linebacker, #20) and Alijah Holder (senior cornerback, #13) will look to stop Notre Dame’s new quarterbacking force known as Ian Book. Jake Bailey (senior punter, #14) is one of the best punting prospects in the nation, averaging 48.8 yards per punt with a long of 66 on the season.
Notre Dame’s talent starts with a stifling defense, led by a trio of first-round hopefuls in Jerry Tillery (senior defensive tackle, #99), Julian Love (junior cornerback, #27), and Te'Von Coney (senior linebacker, #4). Drue Tranquill (senior linebacker, #23), Nick Coleman (senior safety, #24), and Shaun Crawford (senior cornerback, #20) all provide valuable support for the Fighting Irish, and are late round prospects. On offense, Notre Dame does have some talent, with Alex Bars (senior tackle, #71), Sam Mustipher (senior guard, #53), Nic Weishar (senior tight end, #82), Alize Mack (senior tight end, #86), and Dexter Williams (senior running back, #2) all hoping to have a strong 2018 and work their way into draft consideration. Chase Claypool (junior wide receiver, #83) has opened eyes recently with his strong route running, speed, and size, and gives Notre Dame a much needed playmaker on the outside. Notre Dame also boasts one of the strongest pairs of specialists in the country, with Tyler Newsome (senior punter, #85) and Justin Yoon (senior kicker, #19) each competing for the top spot at their respective positions.
University of Oregon at University of California, 10:30 PM, Fox Sports 1
Oregon has plenty of talent, and will look to regain their momentum after a gut-wrenching loss to Stanford last week. Justin Herbert (junior quarterback, #10) played well last week, but will have another tough test in a Golden Bears secondary that has been shockingly strong thus far. Jake Hanson (junior tackle, #55) and Calvin Throckmorton (junior guard/center, #54) lead a line that will try to give him plenty of time in the pocket, as well as open up holes for Tony Brooks-James (senior running back, #20). On defense, Jalen Jelks (senior edge, #97) is one of the nation’s premiere pass rushers, with Troy Dye (junior linebacker, #35) and Justin Hollins (senior outside linebacker, #11) patrolling the middle of the field.
Cal has been the surprise of the season, and they are led by one of the PAC-12’s strongest defenses. Jordan Kunaszyk (senior linebacker, #59) has been very strong in run support, with Jaylinn Hawkins (junior safety, #6) and Ashtyn Davis (junior safety, #27) sealing the back end of the defense and creating turnovers in excess. Addison Ooms (senior interior offensive lineman, #57) is as reliable as they come on offense, and Cal’s best playmaker Vic Wharton III (senior wide receiver, #17) will look to start producing at a level commensurate to his talent. When Cal can’t move the ball, Steven Coutts (senior punter, #37) will step in and try to pin the Oregon offense back deep in their own territory to give Cal’s defense plenty of room to operate.
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