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 4 of this year’s college football campaign.
Game of the Week
Two blue-blood programs will be squaring off in a matchup with major long-term playoff implications on Saturday night.
Notre Dame’s squad is highlighted by left tackle Joe Alt, a gifted blindside protector with elite tools, an NFL bloodline and the football IQ needed to start right away in the league as a potential top-10 pick. He’s flanked on the right side by fellow tackle Blake Fisher, who’s not as consistent but still offers legitimate starting upside as an NFL prospect. Quarterback Sam Hartman is a capable game-manager whose experience will likely see him drafted somewhere on Day 3, and running back Audric Estime is a bruising power back who’s off to a tremendous start to the 2023 season. Running back-turned-slot receiver Chris Tyree offers nice athleticism and versatility, too. Defensively, watch out for lengthy cornerback Cam Hart and freak athlete defensive lineman Rylie Mills in terms of 2024 draft-eligible players.
Ohio State is headlined by the wide receiver tandem of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, both of whom projecting as first-round picks and the former even being considered a top-3 prospect in the 2024 draft. The Buckeyes’ offense also features explosive running back TreVeyon Henderson and high-upside left guard Donovan Jackson, who both figures to be at least Day 2 selections. Other prospects like right guard Matthew Jones, backup running back Miyan Williams, tight end Cade Stover and wide receiver Julian Fleming all could potentially have their names called, too. The defense is led by a loaded defensive line; edge rusher J.T Tuimoloau and defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. are both dominant prospects with first-round upside, and the likes of edge rusher Jack Sawyer and defensive tackles Ty Hamilton and Tyleik Williams could end up picked on Day 2. Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg brings athletic and a high motor to the table and seems like a future NFL starter. In the secondary, cornerback Denzel Burke offers a nice combination of fluidity, ball skills and physicality. Safeties Lathan Ransom and Josh Proctor could both end up as Day 3 picks, as well.
Big Matchup to Watch
Clemson CB Nate Wiggins @ No. 4 Florida State WRs Johnny Wilson and Keon Coleman, Saturday Sept. 23, 11:00 a.m. CST
Florida State has one of the best wide receiver duos in all of college football, but Clemson has an ace up its sleeve to help stop that tandem.
Wiggins is listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds and had an interception with 13 pass deflections in 2022. He’s already up to an interception with a pick-6 through the first 3 games of the 2023 season. For a taller cornerback with above-average size, he’s a very fluid athlete with loose hips and good quickness in his footwork. He attacks passes well in the air and has the body control needed to take precise angles to the ball when it’s coming his way.
Physicality in coverage and as a tackler are weaknesses of Wiggins’ game, as he’s a tad skinny for a cornerback of his height. Wilson and Coleman are 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-4, respectively, and both win with their strength through tight windows and on the jump ball. Wiggins has both receivers beat in the athleticism department, so Clemson’s best bet might be to play him off covering the field side. The Seminoles have been tough to stop thus far, but a strong outing from Wiggins could propel him into consensus first-round consideration.
Yale LT Kiran Amegadjie vs. Cornell, Saturday Sept. 23, 11:00 a.m. CST
Over the last three drafts, 10 players from the FCS level have been selected within the first three rounds. Don’t look now, but Amegadjie has a strong chance to join those ranks.
The three-year starting offensive lineman has experience in the lineup at both left tackle and right guard for Yale. He’s confirmed as having 36 3/4-inch arms, which ties him for the longest arms of any recorded offensive tackle since 1999. Not only does he use his length well to dominate at the point of attack, but he’s an impressive athlete with great lateral quickness and ideal burst climbing to the second level. He rolls his hips well through contact in the run game and has a high motor that helps him pummel edge rushers at the point of attack.
Amegadjie is a bit raw as a processor in pass protection, and his anchor strength is relatively average for an NFL prospect. However, the length, coordination and athleticism give him a strong Day 2 grade on my early board at the moment. With another good outing against 1-0 Cornell, he could further make his case to be the first FCS player selected in the 2024 draft.