On Last Week’s Episode:
Colorado QB Shadeur Sanders vs. #17 TCU Safeties Mark Perry and Millard Bradford
Prime Sr. may have grabbed all the headlines, but Prime Jr. declared himself a Power 5 QB in a big way.
Toledo S Maxen Hook vs. Illinois TE Tip Reiman
The Illini may have eked out the win, but Hook’s interception didn’t make it easy. Reiman chipped in with 33 yards on two receptions.
South Alabama S Yam Banks vs. #24 Tulane QB Michael Pratt
Pratt gets my vote for QB3 at this second. Banks needs some refinement but can definitely get to the next level.
#5 LSU LB Omar Speights vs. #8 Florida State RB Trey Benson
Speights was affecting plays all over the field, just on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage. Benson only contributed 47 yards on the ground in a Seminole Stomping.
Saturday, September 9
#11 Texas @ #3 Alabama (7:00 PM)
TE JT Sanders vs. S Malachi Moore
*Author’s note: There may be an undisclosed injury holding out Malachi Moore. It may be worth monitoring this situation.
It seems every year since Vince Young’s iconic run in the 2005 National Championship game, we’ve been asking whether Texas is back. Texas is currently in their longest conference championship drought since they joined the Big 12 in 1915. I guess it’s a good thing they won’t be in the Big 12 starting next year, right? While the Longhorns got a cupcake to kick off the season, a trip to Bryant-Denny isn’t going to be so easy.
While I’m focused on the TE/S matchup here, I’d be remiss to neglect the WR/CB battle we’re likely to see in Texas WR Xavier Worthy and Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry. I’ll probably cover them individually at some other point in the season,
I’ll quickly cover this matchup. Worthy needs to clean up the drops but still has plenty of potential to play himself into a top-five WR in the upcoming draft. This needs to be supported by a bit better deep-ball anticipation by Quinn Ewers. McKinstry is going to be facing a slew of draftable prospects throughout the season and even more so in the postseason. Ga’Quincy, yes, that’s his given name, is lanky for his height. This allows him to stay in a receiver’s pocket down the field, but he is more susceptible to hard sells by the offense. I think McKinstry wins this battle throughout the evening.
Sanders originally arrived in Austin with the hopes of being a two-way player. With players like Shohei Ohtani and Travis Hunter making it look easy to play both ways in their individual sports/roles, people may forget that the ideal development path is to pick one position and stick to it. At 6‘4″and 245 pounds, Sanders actually has the ideal measurables one might look for in an EDGE.
But those same tools serve him well in his role as a Tight End. As of right now, Sanders is more of an athletic tools-based prospect than a refined technician. His thick frame allows him to box out, and his impressive acceleration allows him to separate from much smaller and quicker DBs. He will need to clean up his blocking, as he’s primarily only effective when he can square up a defender. Sanders could also stand to shore up his discipline in staying on task with his assignments and decreasing the number of flags he draws.
Moore inherits the revered STAR position in Nick Saban’s defense in his fourth year in Tuscaloosa. Effectively, this position asks a DB to easily flex between the slot and deep zones in the zone match system. Historically, this position was secured by Tide standouts like Dee Milliner, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Brian Branch. Moore is a big DB, standing at 5-11 and weighing a tick under 200 pounds. That beefy frame combined with his quick trigger makes him a real asset in the run game and will help him to cover receivers like Sanders.
However, he will need to work on shedding blocks, as he can quickly get washed out of plays by lead blockers on the edge. Saban always taps his most intelligent defender for the STAR, and Moore is no exception. While he struggled earlier in his career when he was forced to rotate at the spot with current Detroit Lion Brian Branch, he should really shine with the position all to himself. His strength is not really in taking up a deep zone, instead preferring to make quick work of short to intermediate zones in Cover 5. This matches him up well against Tight Ends.
Moore probably won’t be asked to travel with Sanders the entire evening in Tuscaloosa. Rather, I think they’ll bump into each other more because of their roles. Texas has a glut of receiving options, so the Tide will probably just match up with whoever is lined up across. If I was Sarkisian, I would try to utilize Sanders more on out-breaking routes against the long but lanky outside CBs of Alabama while utilizing the unit speed of the WRs on deeper routes.
This should also take Moore out of the picture on outside runs and pin pulls. Defensively, Moore’s plus instincts should serve him well, dropping back in more central zones. Ultimately, Ewers is probably the limiting factor in the Longhorns’ passing success. But, the contest of physicality between Sanders and Moore will be one to watch. I predict a modest receiving day for Sanders, but I also think Moore will be strategically taken out of the game by the offense.
Other Notable Matchups
(Saturday, September 9, noon)
Troy LB Javon Solomon vs. Kansas State RB Treshaun Ward
After averaging over five YPC over Southeast Missouri State last week, we’ll see how Ward fares against a much stingier Troy Defense. Solomon’s old-school LB build will try to stand against the formidable Kansas State OL.
Purdue S Sanoussi Kane vs. Virginia Tech WR Jaylin Lane
A matchup of two teams expected to finish near the bottom of their respective conferences. We’ll see if Kane’s hips don’t lie against Lane’s quick, decisive crossers. Also, pay attention to the other Hokie WR, Ali Jennings.
(Saturday, September 9, 3 PM)
Eastern Kentucky OT Josiah Ezirim vs. Kentucky EDGE JJ Weaver
You will never see me turn down the opportunity to talk about an FCS team, let alone one from the Atlantic Sun Conference. Converted DL Ezirim has the frame that will have scouts jumping. Kentucky’s own Count Rugen will see if Ezirim has the quickness to contain draftable speed rushers.
(Saturday, September 9, 7:30 PM)
Arizona WR Jacob Cowing vs. Mississippi State CB Decamerion Richardson
Cowing only got a limited run against Northern Arizona, but we’ll see if the long Bulldogs’ Secondary poses a challenge to the smaller WR. Richardson may be the longest of them all.