Every week of this college football season, I have given previews of ten of the most intriguing players in college football that given weekend. This week, two the juggernauts in college football will be meeting in what should be an epic match up; The Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers. Both teams are absolutely stacked with NFL talent at all levels of their teams, but I am most interested, in terms of the Eagles draft, in the battle in the trenches that will be occurring when LSU is on offense. LSU has the best running attack in the country with stud offensive linemen and Heisman candidate and sophomore phenom, Leonard Fournette. Fournette and the Tigers' line will have no simple task, as the Alabama Crimson tide has arguably the most talented front seven in the country.
Saturday, 8 PM on CBS
Who to watch on the LSU line:
Vadal Alexander, Tackle/Guard: The 6-6, 346 pound guard is a behemoth. Despite his immense size, he has good movement, incredibly long arms, game changing strength and a great mean streak. He is an impact player in the passing and running game. Alexander has spent much of his career at guard, but moved out to right tackle this season and there has been very little drop off in his play. His long arms make him incredible hard to get around on the edge, and he does a good job anchoring against more powerful players. Where he can get tripped up is coming two high off the snap, giving up leverage and making himself more vulnerable as a blocker. He cannot win on just physical skill alone in the NFL and his consistency will mean the world against the Alabama front tomorrow.
Jerald Hawkins, Tackle: Jerald Hawkins has played much of his career on the right side of the line, but has moved to left tackle this season to take over for former LSU Tiger and Cowboys' imaginary first round pick, La'el Collins. Hawkins has a great frame, standing at 6-5 and 305 pounds. He carries his weight very well and has light feet. He does not have Alexander's immense power, but he is still a strong player who plays with an attitude. He is certainly the better athlete of the two and plays with more consistent technique. Hawkins has come on strong all season at left tackle and he has an opportunity to assert himself into first round consideration tonight with a strong game.
Ethan Pocic, Center: The best prospect on the LSU line and one of my favorite offensive linemen in the country, Ethan Pocic is a beast. At first look, the 6-7, 305 pound Pocic looks more like a tackle than a center. It would seem unlikely that a player with his size would thrive on the inside of an offensive line. Despite his height, Pocic has done an excellent job this season maintaining consistent and low pad level. Pocic is incredibly technically sound and is a good athlete to boot. He has quick feet getting downhill and he is as strong as anything. His long arms and strong hands allow him to basically blank defensive linemen when he initiates contact. Pocic has not gotten as much publicity as he deserves, but he may be the surest thing along the offensive line in the country.
Who to watch on the Alabama Front:
A'Shawn Robinson, Defensive Lineman: Robinson will not often show up on the stat sheet, but the 6-4, 313 pound, versatile defensive linemen keys a lot of the production for Alabama up front. The junior is incredibly strong, with violent hands and a stout base. He plays very well against the run and can push the pocket in the passing game. He has experience playing five technique and Alabama will often use him at nose tackle in nickel packages, similar to what Philadelphia does with Fletcher Cox. Robinson is still raw in terms of developing pass rush moves, but all of the physical traits are there for the talented defender.
Jaran Reed, Defensive Lineman: Due to his role primarily playing nose tackle, Reed's name will not come up on a broadcast as often as it should, but the junior plays a pivotal role on that defensive line. At 6-3, 313, Reed is a bit "light" for a nose tackle, but he plays with incredible strength. He is rarely moved off his spot in the run game and he does an excellent job taking up blockers in the passing game and can even create disruption on his own. While he is not an incredibly dynamic presence at nose tackle, he is an incredibly solid and consistent player who will hold down the middle of an NFL line for years to come.
Jonathan Allen, Defensive End: Like Robinson, Allen is used all over the defensive line and the way he can make an impact anywhere at 6-3, 270 pounds is really impressive. He does not possess Robinson's natural power, but Allen plays with great technique, quickness and great motor to create disruption. Alabama has no issues using Allen out on the edge or inside the defensive line, but his balanced skill set allows him to disrupt anywhere from the formation. He will have an excellent opportunity against LSU to show he can play against top level rushing attacks and also disrupt the pass game against various types of offensive linemen.
While there are tons of other great players in this game like Leonard Fournette, OJ Howard, Derrick Henry, Reggie Ragland and Kendall Beckwith, the six I previously mentioned should draw the most of Eagles' fans attention.
Other games to keep an eye on:
Oregon v. Cal (Saturday, 10:30 on ESPNU): Jared Goff has had a rough three week stretch but has an excellent chance to rebound against a weaker Ducks defense.
TCU v. OSU (Saturday, 3:30 on Fox): Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson headline one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but I wonder how they will do against Emmanuel Ogbah and the undefeated OSU Cowoys.
Clemson v. FSU (Saturday, 3:30 on ABC): This game will have a bevy of NFL talent. Keep an eye on how the studs on the Clemson defense can keep Dalvin Cook and the seminoles in check.