Scouting Notebook: Top Games To Watch And Prospects To Look For (Conference Championships)

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Every week in lead up to the slate of college football games on Saturday, we will be highlighting several high-profile games as well as several college football prospects in each matchup that project to be sought after in the 2023 NFL Draft and specifically how they may be viewed by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

#10 Kansas State vs #3 TCU 11:00AM CST ABC

The Wildcats of Kansas State head to Jerry’s World on Saturday as they look to play upset to the CFP dreams of the Horned Frogs of TCU to kick off Championship Saturday.

The Wildcats boast a stellar running game with OL #50 Cooper Beebe being a big component to the unit’s success Beebe is an experienced, versatile blocker, having started 13 games at LT last season, four at RG, three at RT, and has been the team’s full-time starting LG this season. He has some good play strength and can displace defenders off their spot at the LOS while having enough athleticism and mobility to move and pick up blocks in space. While his overall athletic profile may be limited, Beebe’s experience and position versatility make him a valuable prospect that can play multiple positions at the next level as either capable starter or high-end backup.

For the Horned Frogs, CB #1 Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is the name you need to watch. He may be small in stature (5’9, 180lb), but the diminutive cover man flashes big play ability in the secondary. He had 21 PBUs, two INTs, and Toe Forced fumbles coming into 2022. He is an aggressive defender that throws his weight around defending the run and has the quick feet and hip fluidity to match speedy receivers in coverage. Projecting to be a quality slot option at the next level, the nephew of HOF RB LaDainian Tomlinson has held his own on the outside as well, providing teams with a talented DB option this spring who may slip down boards due to lack of ideal size.

#14 LSU vs #1 Georgia 3:00PM CST CBS

The Tigers of LSU have finished the 2022 season strong under Brian Kelly and now look to cap it off with knocking off the top dog Georgia Bulldogs in Atlanta Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers will have to stop the running game of the Dawgs while being able to pressure QB Stetson Bennett in the pocket, meaning they will be relying on EDGE #18 BJ Ojulari to make an impact in this game. The 6’3, 250lb junior is following in his brother Azeez’s footsteps as a talented pass rusher looking to make his transition from college to the pros. He has posted only five sacks and one forced fumble so far this season, but he has shown phenomenal pursuit of the football combined with the bend and hand usage you want in an NFL pass rusher. A likely top 50 pick, Ojulari could vault himself into being a Round 1 lock with a strong performance to close out the year to kick off the pre-draft process.

One defender that the Bulldogs will be leaning on to neutralize the Tigers’ passing attack is CB #5 Kelee Ringo. Ringo was touted as one of the top CB prospects in the nation prior to the start of the 2022 season after being a key piece on the dominant Bulldogs defense last season which helped them win a National Championship. Ringo returned for his junior season and has been playing well as of late after a quiet start to the year, playing 387 snaps in coverage without allowing a TD in coverage according to Pro Football Focus. Ringo has all the physical tools you look for in a prototypical outside CB and is in-position to cement his status as CB1 in the draft class.

#22 UCF vs #18 Tulane 3:00PM CST ABC

The UCF Knights battle the Tulane Green Wave Saturday afternoon for the chance to be named the American Athletic Conference Champion.

The Knights have ridden a dynamic offense to the title game, but the defense has been opportunistic to complement their other half. One player that has led the charge for the Knights defense is EDGE #33 Tre’Mon Morris-Brash. The 6’2, 245lb senior is a tad undersized when it comes to length and playing weight on the edge, but Morris-Brash is a skilled pass rusher that brings legit speed around the corner. He leads the team with six sacks this season and has 17.5 for his college career. Morris-Brash will have an opportunity to jumpstart his pre-draft season with a stellar performance on the big stage, showing scouts that he is a well-rounded defender that can stop the run and get after the passer.

The Green Wave have enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent memory, going 10-2 in lead to a AAC Championship berth. Tulane has been led by LB #2 Dorian Williams on the defensive side of the football all season long, making playing all over the field for the Green Wave. Williams has posted 104 total tackles, four sacks, six PBUs, two INTs, and two forced fumbles on the season. The 6’2, 225lb senior has been a field general, making plays against the run, as a pass rusher, and in coverage. He is an instinctive player and should be drafted in the middle rounds as a core special teamer at worst as he works his way into a role at the NFL level.

 

Purdue at #2 Michigan 7:00PM CST FOX

The Boilermakers of Purdue look to overcome long odds and mess with Michigan’s championship hopes in Indianapolis Saturday as the two fight for the Big Ten crown.

Purdue has several intriguing draft prospects including CB #23 Cory Trice. Trice is a height weight speed specimen, standing 6’3, 215lb with long arms to boot. The long, rangy redshirt senior doesn’t possess great quickness, but has decent play speed and does a good job in zone coverage, having the length to occupy passing lanes and make combative catches more difficult for opposing receivers. His physical traits will have several NFL teams enamored with what he could be at the next level as a developmental CB you can take in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft to contribute right away on special teams and see if he can crack the lineup.

The Wolverines have a defensive stud of their own that will look to wreak havoc on the opposing Purdue OL. DL #58 Mazi Smith is a stout run defender in the middle of the defense, standing 6’3, 337lb and possesses impressive play strength at the point of attack. He moves extremely well for a player of his size as well, being a legit pass rusher with his quickness of the ball and hand usage.

Smith’s status for this game is currently up in the air as he is facing a felony weapons charge stemming from a 10/7 incident. Charges were filed yesterday against Smith who hasn’t been told one way or another if he will be good to go for Saturday. Regardless, Smith is recognized as one of the best DL prospects in the draft class and losing him would represent a big blow to Big Blue’s title hopes.

#9 Clemson vs #23 North Carolina 7:00PM CST ABC

The Clemson Tigers look to hold off the upstart North Carolina Tar Heels to keep their status as the top team in the ACC Conference.

For the Tigers, DL #11 Bryan Bresee is a name to hold underneath the microscope, the 6’5, 300lbe defender is a physical specimen on the defensive line, having impressive burst, strength, and power to rag doll blockers and get after the passer. Still, while Bresee has the pedigree and is physically gifted, he has struggled to turn those gifts into production, having only 12 total tackles and 2.5 sacks this season. The film on Bresee presents the same concerns as there are stretches throughout games where you don’t feel his impact. Bresee still will be looked at as one of the most promising DL prospects in the class with the potential to become a legit difference maker in the league if he gets everything to click.

The Tar Heels boast one of the best offenses in the conference thanks to the stellar play of freshman QB Drake Maye. However, his top target, WR #11 Josh Downs is the player you should watch in this matchup. After getting off to a slow start to the season Downs is on fire, having topped the century mark in five of his last six games. The 5’10, 175lb junior has caught 83 passes for 929 yards and 11 TDs so far in 2022, building off his impressive 2021 campaign of 101 receptions for 1,335 yards and eight scores.

Downs may lack ideal size, but he is a reliable pass catcher that can make you pay when he is open grass. Downs projects to be a great fit in the slot where he can use his speed and quickness to stress opposing defenses at the next level.

What are your thoughts of the games and prospects listed above? How do you think they will fare on Saturday? Will you be tuning into any of these games specifically? Who else will you be watching for this weekend as a potential draft prospect for Pittsburgh? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!





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