College football is back!
As the 2023 season rolls along, so will our weekly previews of games and NFL prospects to watch. This will come in addition to our NFL Draft coverage over the course of the fall and winter. Whether you’re a fan of the draft or just a college football fan, this series looks to give you an idea of what to watch each week.
Windy City Gridiron’s Lead Draft Analyst Jacob Infante will be taking a look at what to expect in Week 12 of this year’s college football campaign.
Game of the Week
Clemson vs. No. 20 North Carolina, Saturday Nov. 18, 2:30 p.m. CST
There are bigger matchups from a college football repercussions standpoint, but in terms of an NFL Draft showcase, this might be the biggest one of the weekend.
North Carolina is obviously led by quarterback Drake Maye, a strong-armed, athletic dart thrower who has made the QB1 spot in the 2024 draft a serious debate with his high level of play this year. He has some solid weapons to throw to, mainly size-speed threat Devontez Walker at wide receiver and power forward-esque tight end Bryson Nesbit. The offensive line doesn’t have much in the way of NFL-caliber talent, but right guard Willie Lampkin is an athletic blocker who dominated at Coastal Carolina prior to becoming a Tar Heel. Defensively, linebacker Cedric Gray carries a late Day 2 grade for me due to his speed, aggression and reliability as a tackler. Defensive tackle Myles Murphy is a quick-twitched 3-technique prospect, linebacker Amari Gainer was good enough at Florida State to the point where his underwhelming last two seasons might not prevent him from getting NFL looks, and fellow linebacker Power Echols is an athletic defender who should get Day 3 consideration should he declare.
Clemson hasn’t lit the world on fire this year, but there’s still plenty of NFL talent on the roster. The defensive is particular loaded, with six players carrying Day 2 grades or higher on my board. Cornerback Nate Wiggins is a fluid athlete with loose hips, great length and impressive ball skills, which should see him generate first-round looks. Safety Andrew Mukuba has some of the best range in the draft class due to his above-average agility and sharp processing abilities on the back end. The Tigers have fearsome duos at both linebacker and defensive tackle, too. Barrett Carter is a rangy tackler with significant athletic upside, a high football IQ and safety-nickel-edge versatility. His linebacker running-mate, Jeremiah Trotter Jr., is more of a physical thumper with a red-hot motor. Defensive tackles Ruke Orhorhoro and Tyler Davis are both athletic defenders who should get their names called on Day 2, with Orhorhoro specializing more on passing downs and Davis being more of a run-stuffer. Edge rusher Xavier Thomas and cornerback Sheridan Jones are priority free agent names to watch, too. Clemson’s offense isn’t as loaded, but running back Will Shipley is a quality receiving back with great vision and very good agility. Keep an eye on wide receiver Beaux Collins as a potential early declaree on Day 3, too.
Big Matchup to Watch
Almost anyone who casually follows the NFL Draft knows who Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt is, and those who follow it a bit closer are likely well aware of right tackle Blake Fisher, too.
I’ve covered Alt extensively in an individual scouting report, but to sum it up, he’s an enticing combination of physical attributes and a high football IQ that one would expect from the son of a former Pro Bowl tackle. Fisher isn’t quite as polished as his counterpart, but he’s a 6-foot-6, 327-pound monster with impressive raw strength, good hand usage and nice short-area quickness. There’s a possibility he stays in school in 2024, but if he declares for the NFL Draft, he stands a good chance of becoming a mid-to-late Day 2 selection.
Perhaps a bit less heralded but still a tremendous player in his own right is Wake Forest edge rusher Jasheen Davis, who will be competing with both Alt and Fisher on Saturday. Davis has had 20 sacks and 37.5 tackles for a loss in his last three seasons with the Demon Deacons, providing steady play off the edge. He has a deep pass-rushing arsenal, with moves like swims, swipes, cross-chops and bull rushes helping him get into the backfield. He plays with a high motor and ideal pad level, which should see him contribute to some extent in the NFL early on. The athletic ceiling isn’t sky high with him, but he’s an early Day 3 talent who could make some noise in a rotation at the next level.
Jacksonville State LG Clay Webb vs. Louisiana Tech, Saturday Nov. 11, 1:00 p.m. CST
Webb is a PFF system favorite, having tallied an 88.8 total grade, a 91.2 pass-blocking grade and a 85.4 run-blocking grade. The former Georgia backup has dominated at Jacksonville State, as he’s a dynamic athlete with encouraging agility and short-area burst, yet he’s also a nasty block who plays with a determined edge at the point of attack.
Though he’s a bit smaller at 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds and has some weight distribution issues, the physical attributes are there with him. He was listed as the top center in the 2019 high school recruiting class, and that upside is coming into fruition now. Webb projects as a Day 3 talent who could provide valuable depth to an NFL offensive line.
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