The first college football Saturday is finally upon us. Tomorrow, the 2018 season kicks off with four games between 5:30 PM and 10 PM. This slate of games features not a single ranked team and nary a top prospect among the group. However, a close watch will reveal a few 2019 draft sleepers who could make for an exciting debut the season.
The 5:30 match between UMass and FCS Duquesne will feature some interesting players for the Minutemen. Marquis Young garnered Second Team All Conference honors at running back and returner last season. The six foot, 194 pound runner averaged over 5.4 yards per carry while scoring nine touchdowns on the ground and chipped in two more scores on returns. Joining him on offense is senior receiver, Andy Isabella. Isabella is undersized at 5’9” and 186 pounds, but went over 1,000 receiving yards last year and has scored 17 times in the last two years. Young and Isabella figure to be a dynamic duo on the UMass offense and it’s likely they feast on lowly Duquesne. On the other side of the ball, senior cornerback Lee Moses is looing to follow up on a strong 2017 where he led UMass in interceptions. The 5’11” ball hawk is the leader of the Minutemen defense and he will have his eyes on making big plays to start 2018.
The 7 PM game with Rice facing off against FCS Prairie View will have very little name recognition. However, senior cornerback Brandon Douglas-Dotson may very well be worth tuning in. The senior cornerback led Rice in PBUs last year and he is poised for a breakout season. Can the undersized corner have a senior campaign that propels him to draft recognition?
The games get more interesting later in the night. Hawai’i and Colorado State will play each other in the first match up of two FBS programs of the year at 7:30 PM. For the Rams, Izzy Matthews will be taking over the starting running back role. The six-foot, 220 pound bruiser scored eight touchdowns backing up Dalyn Dawkins last season, but figures for a big senior year as the team’s featured offensive player. On defense, junior cornerback Anthony Hawkins could be an early entry candidate after he was the Rams’ best defender in 2017. The 5’10” cornerback will have his hands full with Hawai’i receiver, John Ursua. Urusua was leading the nation in yards per game last year before suffering a season ending injury midway through 2017. The dynamic pass catcher most notably opened that season with a 12 catch, 227 yard, one touchdown performance in a Hawai’i win. The savvy playmaker is hopefully healthy and will want to make up for lost time with a huge junior year.
The final game of Saturday is a 10 PM Eastern match up between New Mexico State and Wyoming. Wyoming, fresh off losing their starting quarterback to the first round of the NFL draft, will have to muster some offensive firepower this season. While Josh Allen was the star last season, CJ Johnson was a sneaky playmaker on the Cowboys offense. Johnson only caught 30 passes, but the 6’2” receiver averaged almost 18 yards per catch and scored seven times in those limited chances. It is clear that Johnson makes the most out of every target and Wyoming would be smart to get him involved early against the Aggies. New Mexico State will try to counter Johnson’s playmaking potential with a defensive playmaker in Shamad Lomax. Lomax had the team lead in interceptions last year and the 5’10”, 195 pounder isn’t afraid to make a big tackle either. With high pre-season expectations for Lomax, he will look to show out big to start the season. Wyoming has a defensive playmaker of their very own. Andrew Wingard was a leader and ball-hawk for the Cowboys last season, picking off five passes and forcing a fumble. The six foot, 210 pound defender is a physical, heady player and is probably the most senior starter of the whole team. His leadership and knack for the big play will certainly come in handy against New Mexico State.