NCAA

Top NCAA Football Prospects To Watch 12/21-12/27

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The college football bowl season is upon us and this week’s slate of games is a great appetizer of things to come. There isn’t a ton of great individual matchups because the most talented teams don’t play until next week, but there are still a number of very good prospects that will be pitted against each other this week.

Without wasting any time, let’s take a glimpse at a few individual matchups to keep you scout’s eye on this week.

Jordan Howard vs. Jeremy Cash

The premier matchup of this week occurs when Duke goes up against Indiana. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman was arguably the best running back in college football last season; therefore, many expected there to be a big drop off in production for the Hoosier’s this season. Jordan Howard hasn’t let that happen as he has been one of the most dynamic running backs in the nation. Duke’s Jeremy Cash will be tasked with defending Howard for the majority of the game.

Cash is arguably the most productive defender in the country this year for the Blue Devils. He plays a hybrid safety and linebacker role and he is always in the backfield. He utilizes his incredible quickness and instincts to knife into the backfield and make a ton of plays. He is a limited player in coverage because he has stiff hips, but he is a dynamic player in the box.

Howard is a big and strong running back that is a nightmare to tackle. He plays behind his pads and he generates power extremely well with his powerful hip snap. He has some wiggle to his game and he can make defenders miss from time to time. The Indiana running back is at his best when he is going downhill and he is a menace in short-yardage situations.

Both of these players won’t like go in the first two rounds, but they both have the potential to be extremely productive in the NFL if they are used correctly. It will be interesting to see which one has the bigger day this week.

Kareem Hunt vs. Tyler Matakevich

A matchup between two of the better small-school prospects takes place when Temple takes on Toledo. Kareem Hunt is one of the better running back prospects in the country and Tyler Matakevich may be the best small-school prospect on defense this year.

Hunt is an extremely productive running back that possesses some of the balance out of the backfield in the country. Toledo’s running back doesn’t have a ton of power, but he does a great job of bouncing off tacklers and keeping his legs churning to get the most out of every run. Furthermore, Hunt is a great receiver out of the backfield as he possesses a similar skill set to David Johnson from last year’s draft class.

Matakevich is limited athletically, but he makes up for it with his effort and intelligence. The Temple linebacker is always around the ball as he is among the nation’s leaders in tackles. He isn’t a great coverage linebacker, but against the run, it is hard to find a player who sifts through the garbage better.

Hunt has an opportunity to really take advantage of Matakevich in the passing game where he can utilize his route running ability and soft hands to make the linebacker look foolish. In the run game, it will be a different story as Matakevich will make sure it is tough sledding for Hunt.

Jake Brendel vs. Malek Collins

The matchup between UCLA center Jake Brendel and Nebraska defensive tackle Malek Collins looks like a mismatch on paper. Brendel is a fringe draftable prospect and Collins gets some first-round hype from some well-respected draft analysts; however, this matchup will be a look closer than many will believe.

Collins is a lightning quick defensive lineman who knifes into the backfield with ease. He is extremely strong at the point of attack and he makes a lot of splash plays throughout a game. Nevertheless, Collins isn’t a technician and he tends to go through lulls throughout a game. He doesn’t utilize great hand technique and his footwork is a mess at times.

This is where Brendel can take advantage because while he doesn’t possess NFL qualities with his strength or athleticism, he is one of the more technically sound centers in college football. His hands can be slow, but he uses good angles and his footwork is usually sound.

Many are saying that Collins should have a big game that will propel his stock upward, which will lead to him declaring for the NFL draft, but Brendel has a good opportunity to thwart those aspirations if he plays technically sound.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com