The college football season comes to an end tonight in what will likely be a dominant display of future NFL talent. Both rosters feature a plethora of first-round picks, all the way down to Day 3 gems. If you are at all interested in the draft process, this game is must-see TV. As always, let’s talk about the game, leave questions on prospects and enjoy.
No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 1 Alabama
College Football Championship Game
8:00 PM Eastern, ESPN
Clemson and Alabama have clashed in three of the last four Championship games. While it makes for boring entertainment, it also allows for familiar scouting. Both teams, though, are somewhat different incarnations on offense from those that met in 2016 and 2015. Former Clemson starting quarterback Kelly Bryant was benched in favor of highly recruited freshman Trevor Lawrence. Unfortunately, neither Lawrence nor running back Travis Etienne are draft-eligible. A young team, the only prospects the Tigers have on offense this year are slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and left tackle Mitch Hyatt. Both players are extremely experienced and battle-hardened, but are likely to be selected on Day 3 of the draft.
The real draft stars for Clemson are on the defensive side of the ball. Their defensive line is legendary at this point, with defensive tackles Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and defensive end Clelin Ferrell being evaluated as first round talents. Unfortunately, Lawrence was recently cited by the NCAA for a failed drug test and will not be participating. Other defenders like cornerback Trayvon Mullen or junior linebacker Tre Lamar will need to pick up some of the slack.
The Crimson Tide managed to fend off Oklahoma last week by racking up points quickly and basically spending the rest of the game defending that lead. With sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, this isn’t your typical Alabama team that depends on running the ball. Like Clemson, they can put up points in the passing game. Also like Clemson, they don’t have many draft-eligible prospects at the skill positions. Senior running back Damien Harris is still around, but he’s been sharing carries with two of his teammates. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. is undersized at 241 pounds but flashes elite athleticism. On the offensive line, there’s tackle Jonah Williams and center Ross Pierschbacher, who we’ll see at the Senior Bowl.
The Crimson Tide defense has first-round talent at every level. The highlight is defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, a pass-rushing phenom and likely top-five pick. His line-mate Raekwon Davis isn’t as impactful, but may be the better run defender. The linebackers are led by inside linebacker Mack Wilson, who never really lived up to his potential. In the secondary, Deionte Thompson looks like an ideal center fielder in the mold of former Buckeye Malik Hooker.