On Last Week’s Episode:
Troy LB Javon Solomon vs. Kansas State RB Treshaun Ward
Ward led K-State with 58 yards on the ground in a game where QB Will Howard was the star of the show. The game was relatively close in the first half, but the Wildcats pulled away, in part thanks to a 1-yard TD reception by Ward. Solomon had four tackles and a sack.
Purdue S Sanoussi Kane vs. Virginia Tech WR Jaylin Lane
Though he did pick up a TFL, Kane was largely absent from this 6-hour delayed game. Lane led the Hokies in receptions but only for 54 yards, though he did reel in a TD. This matchup between teams residing in the bottom half of the P5 was a game of runs thanks to multiple rain delays halting momentum throughout the day.
Eastern Kentucky OT Josiah Ezirim vs. Kentucky EDGE JJ Weaver
It was a productive day for both players, albeit rarely against each other. JJ Weaver was disruptive with his speed rush but was swallowed up by the much bigger Ezirim. The Eastern Kentucky bookend was a big reason why this game was closer than expected, thanks to QB McKinney having all the time he needed in the quick passing game.
Arizona WR Jacob Cowing vs. Mississippi State CB Decamerion Richardson
The Bulldogs’ long and lanky secondary definitely had an effect on Jayden de Laura to the tune of four interceptions. Richardson quietly shut down his boundary side as de Laura was always booting to the field side. Cowing’s lone TD reception came against Richardson, however, leveraging the height difference to translate into a clear disparity in agility. Cowing was relatively quiet otherwise, only gaining 31 yards on seven catches.
Texas TE JT Sanders vs. Alabama STAR Malachi Moore
It was a rough day for the Tide defense overall, but Moore made his presence known both physically and metaphorically. Nevertheless, Sanders gashed Alabama with 114 yards on five catches, showing impressive athleticism and remarkable speed. Only one of those catches was against the STAR, as Moore was busy making WRs think twice about catching the ball on other parts of the field.
On to this week!
Saturday, September 16
South Carolina @ #1 Georgia (3:30 PM)
WR Antwane Wells Jr vs. CB Kamari Lassiter
South Carolina comes into this game having put up great numbers offensively but somehow ceding three scores to Furman. Georgia, on the other hand, has quietly dominated their matchups while avoiding the spotlight to the tune of a combined score of 93-10. Granted, the Bulldogs haven’t faced a team that is expected to put up much resistance.
In each team’s first conference matchup of the season, the result seems all but written in stone. South Carolina’s only hope may be to get Georgia into a shootout to test the yet-unproven QB Carson Beck. Thus, the Gamecocks’ hopes will ride on the arm of Spencer Rattler and the hobbled Juice Wells.
Wells is a big, strong WR that some may categorize as an RB-build, thanks to his powerful playstyle. However, he’s about average height (the label typically applies to shorter WRs, think James Washington) but carries 200 pounds very well. He plays tough through the catch point with tough hands and decent body control and won’t take arm tackles for an answer.
Against man coverage, he doesn’t create excessive separation using route-running or speed but is fully capable of utilizing two-route concepts to get open. He also has a good sense of sitting in zones, especially in the intermediate area of the field. Wells has far outplayed his recruiting pedigree that originally landed him at JMU. While putting up over two thousand yards the past two seasons, Wells has shown that he can perform regardless of the level of competition and was Spencer Rattler’s clear favorite target in 2022. Though he has a foot injury that’s been hindering him this season so far, the hope is that the light work he received against Furman last week points to the possibility of a full-go against Georgia.
Kamari Lassiter has made a name for himself as the hammer of Georgia’s secondary, posting regular highlight-worthy hits in the open field. Though he is only average-size, NFL draft scouts will take notice of any defender with the Bulldog brand name. It’s difficult to accurately assess Cover 3 side-saddle CBs (see: Gonzalez, Christian), but it is clear Lassiter has a good sense of his assignments. Not often do you see corners with the quick trigger to regularly accrue TFLs in the flat, and even fewer do so while lining up eight yards off the line of scrimmage.
What he lacks in length and speed, Lassiter makes up with enthusiasm. Kirby Smart has regularly pointed out Lasister’s effort and tackling prowess. We will see if his draft stock continues to rise as NFL teams value hard-hitting CBs and whether he can avoid the pitfalls of the system that tripped up prospects like Kelee Ringo during the evaluation process. Athenians should rest on the fact that he is able to do all these things and take a prominent role in a defense that’s littered with blue-chip prospects despite not having top-of-the-line physical tools.
A matchup against two physical prospects, especially on the outside, is always more enjoyable to watch as a spectator. When two finesse prospects face each other, it often advantages Cornerbacks and Offensive Linemen. However, assuming that Wells is healthy, the Receiver can have an advantage in more physical matchups. Neither Lassiter nor Wells will have a significant speed advantage over the other, and both will try to impose their physicality from the very beginning. While I don’t expect this game to be particularly close, this matchup will likely heat up in the third quarter. Wells has much more to gain from this performance, but Lassiter can make a real name for himself in what is shaping up to be a middling CB draft class with a good showing on Saturday. Look for the majority of Wells’ production to come in the middle of the third quarter, with roughly 20% also coming on the scripted portion out of the gate.
Other notable matchups:
(Saturday, September 16, noon)
#3 Florida State iDL Fabian Lovett Sr. vs. Boston College iOL Christian Mahogany
The All-22 from this game will be oft-pulled during the draft cycle to evaluate Mahogany. With recent iOL being drafted early out of Boston College, there is something to watch out for in what is likely a blowout.
#15 Kansas State TE Ben Sinnott vs. Missouri S Jaylon Carlies
Sinnott has received some hype as a potential TE3 in the 2024 draft class. Though he’s more of an H-type TE, being matched up with the gargantuan DB Carlies could show scouts that he’s capable of playing against NFL-level athletes.
(Saturday, September 16, 4 PM)
Western Kentucky WR Malachi Corley vs. #6 Ohio State CB Denzel Burke
Corley has been kept in check for the past couple of weeks due to injury. Both players are in the 2024 Draft conversation. But whoever wins this matchup puts themselves squarely in the mix for Days 1 and 2.
(Saturday, September 16, 5 PM)
#8 Washington TE Devin Culp vs. Michigan State LB Cal Haladay
Though there may be some drama regarding the Spartans’ Head Coach, the tough-nosed tradition of the Michigan State defense should remain. Albeit against possibly the most difficult matchup of their season, the wide-open offense of Washington. Though quiet for the first couple of weeks, Culp could expose the slower interior of the Spartan defense.