Week 5 was filled with eye-opening performances, both good and bad, that led to adjustments on the field and in the rankings. How will good teams bounce back from lackluster performances? Can the underdogs who outperformed expectations build off of previous results to change the narrative on their seasons? With the conference slate in full swing now, each week you can prepare for trouble, make that double, protect the world from devastation, to unite all peoples within our nation… where was I? Oh, right. Here are some NFL prospects who may be facing each other this week.

Saturday, October 8

Auburn @ Georgia (3:30 PM)

EDGEs Derick Hall and Colby Wooden vs. OTs Broderick Jones and Warren McClendon

Buy one get one free sale for this SEC matchup! Georgia’s poor showing last week stunned the nation, resulting in a slide in ranking. Contrastingly, Auburn is in the middle of a hapless season and in need of any bright spot the team can muster. This won’t be a close game, but there may be some action on the edges.

Wooden is a versatile tweener body on the Tiger front. His above-average burst and adequate length are deployed all across the defensive line, from 1-tech to EDGE. His best tool is his ability to deconstruct blocks. From the engaged position, Wooden has a good hump-and-pull move to shed blockers. At 6’5″ and around 280 pounds, he is one of those prospects that could lose the weight to play EDGE or bulk up to play 3-Tech. The concern in both cases is a lack of length, as he has noticeably short arms and questionable burst for the next level.

Courtesy of Adam Sparks/Inside the Auburn Tigers

Wooden’s running mate, Hall, fits much better into a singular role. He has adequate to a good size for a stereotypical EDGE rusher at the next level at 6’3″ and roughly 250 pounds. He has remarkable quickness off the snap to gain the advantage on the outside shoulder of the tackle. Hall has enough strength to prevent pushback, though could build out his counters toolbox to more effectively disengage at the point of attack. Hall also plays a little high, as he often engages blockers at the shoulder instead of on the chest plate. This leaves him vulnerable to good punchers that easily take away his momentum.

Georgia bookends OTs Jones and McClendon, will be tasked with keeping the Auburn DL at bay. While the UGA offensive line doesn’t boast the behemoth 1,700-pound unit it has in the past, these tackles demonstrate the blue-chip recruiting success that Georgia enjoys year after year. Jones plays tackle like a heavyweight amateur boxer with his hands low, tempting the defensive lineman to take the first swing. Once engaged, very few defenders have a chance against his overwhelming strength. Jones also moves easily as a puller and on combo blocks. His one weakness may be his impatience, as he would be more effective if he could keep his hands high and avoid lunging at the nearest defender when his assignment isn’t immediately clear.

McClendon was the lower-rated recruit between the Georgia tackles, but may actually find opportunities sooner in the NFL. The patient tackle doesn’t move nearly as well as his counterpart but has comparable strength, if not even better. McClendon shows the patience that Jones lacks with a good-looking kick step. While he is roughly the same size as Jones now, McClendon has room on his frame for even more mass, with a potential move to guard at the next level. Though he isn’t the swiftest or agile lineman, he understands the angles to win on play leverage and rarely loses the body leverage battle.

These two pairs provide an interesting insight into the battles within the matchups in the SEC. If I was Jeff Schmedding, I would deploy Hall against Jones. Jones’ weakness in patience might lead to opportunities for Hall to simply go around the block and wreak havoc in the backfield. The other side, of Wooden versus McClendon, would be a battle of strength-on-strength in the literal sense. Should the defenders switch sides, Hall would be trying to circumvent a brick wall while Wooden wouldn’t stand a chance against the power of Jones. The Auburn pair are definitely at the disadvantage here. But, if Hall and Wooden can create some chaos in the backfield, War Eagle may just have a chance at writing their own ending in Athens.

North Carolina @ Miami (4:00 PM)

WR Josh Downs vs. CB Tyrique Stevenson

UNC’s defense-is-optional approach to the 2022 season has led to some exciting endings in games that were much closer than expected. On the other side, we found just how unpredictable hurricanes can be, even when it arrives on the Hurricanes’ off week. With two weeks to think about their loss to Middle Tennessee State, Miami faces some chatter of a QB controversy and a slew of injuries.

Courtesy of Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Though the Tar Heels have been in some close games, neither of them was when WR Josh Downs has been playing. The twitched-up receiver already has 22 catches and 230 yards in three games, good for second on the team despite missing 40% of the young season. Downs’ most notable trait is his crazy athleticism. Despite his diminutive size, at 5-10 and 175 pounds soaking wet, Downs is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. He has more TDs than games played this season. Whether it’s the deep ball, varying pace to get open in the intermediate, or prescribed touches for RAC, he can do it all. While NFL teams will be wary of his lack of length and play strength, Downs’ tape will show a receiver that can get open with strong hands that finds ways to win the ball even if it won’t be on jump balls.

The Hurricanes are hoping for a good prognosis on CB Tyrique Stevenson’s injury from two weeks ago for any hope of slowing down the surprising UNC passing attack. With the ideal size and good athleticism, he has the traits NFL teams are looking for. Stevenson has a good feel for where his receiver is and is able to sense when to play in phase versus when to turn and run. His click and close demonstrate above-average agility that is on display down the field as well. Though he already has an interception on the year, he is not a ball hawk and tends to play pattycake with his receiver when the ball is in the air because he relies on his sense for locating the receiver instead of his eyes.

Downs’ skillset perfectly matches Tyrique Stevenson’s Achilles heel. Though Stevenson has the near-ideal size for the CB position, covering Downs requires a comparably frenzied athleticism to hope to mirror. Downs may struggle down the field, a zone that has been a pleasant surprise from QB Drake Maye, as Stevenson’s length and hand fighting will draw the route off course at times or height will simply be too much to maneuver. However, in the short to intermediate ranges, Downs will have a field day. The question will be how much RAC Downs will be able to create with Stevenson’s speed to match Downs.

Other Notable Matchups

Michigan WR Cornelius Johnson vs. Indiana CB Jaylin Williams (potential injury)

Tennessee OT Darnell Wright vs. LSU EDGEs

Texas LB DeMarvion Overshown vs. Oklahoma RB Eric Gray

Utah RB Tavion Thomas vs. UCLA LB Darius Mussau

Clemson WR Joseph Ngata vs. Boston College CB Josh DeBerry

BYU TE Isaac Rex vs. Notre Dame LB JD Bertrand

LB Jack Campbell vs. RB Chase Brown

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