College Football Week 1 Prospect Series

As we embark on an exciting season of college football, I’m thrilled to bring to you my prospect series. Each week, I’ll take a look at the best individual player matchups across the country with a keen eye on how successful performances can impact evaluations for the 2023 NFL Draft. As the season goes on, we’ll get a clearer idea of who the top prospects are at each position, and I can’t wait to learn more about this draft class.

For the first few weeks of the season, several of the top-ranked teams play non-conference teams with minimal draft-level talent. That will shrink this list for the time being, but keep an eye out for when conference play starts as we’ll get much more content for this weekly column.

OTs Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones (Ohio State) vs. Isaiah Foskey (Notre Dame)

After excelling at right guard last year, Paris Johnson Jr. is kicking to left tackle and hoping to solidify himself as a first-round prospect at the position. The five-star recruit has elite athletic attributes, and he’ll have a chance to put together some strong film against one of the best edge-rushing prospects in the class, Isaiah Foskey.

Foskey has a relentless motor and an explosive first step, but questions remain about his relative lack of play strength and proven bull rush game. Dawand Jones is more of the strength tackle for OSU as a mauler with powerful hands and a 6’8.5”, 370-pound frame, while Johnson is more of a finesse tackle. Either matchup will give Foskey a stern challenge and an opportunity to prove himself.

DL Jalen Carter (Georgia) vs. IOL T.J. Bass (Oregon)

In a weak interior offensive line class, T.J. Bass has a chance to emerge as a Day 2 prospect. Bass made the Outland Trophy Preseason Watch List as one of the best interior linemen in the country, and he made the First-Team All-Pac 12 last year. This week will present his toughest test of the year.

Jalen Carter was my fourth-ranked player in this class on my preseason big board, and he destroyed more highly-touted linemen than Bass as a true sophomore last season. Carter had PFF’s highest pass-rush grade of any interior defensive lineman in the country last year, and while Oregon will bring help for Bass on the interior, he’s at a clear advantage in this matchup.

TE Arik Gilbert (Georgia) vs. LB Noah Sewell (Oregon)

This isn’t a true one-on-one matchup, but I’m excited to see Georgia’s tight end room in action this season. Brock Bowers isn’t draft eligible, but Arik Gilbert and Darnell Washington are, and the trio make up by far the best tight end room in the country. Gilbert, in particular, has freaky athleticism and projects as a true matchup nightmare in the NFL.

Noah Sewell won’t be matched up one-on-one against Gilbert or any of the tight ends one-on-one full time, but this would be a great opportunity for him to prove that he’s improved in coverage. Per PFF, Sewell ranked 94th in coverage grade out of all Power Five linebackers with 100+ coverage snaps last season, and his progression in that regard is a major question mark for his draft status.

To his credit, Sewell is elite at stacking blocks and firing into the backfield to make plays. He’s a freight train in the open field who the elite Georgia offensive line will be constantly accounting for. Keep a close eye on how the Bulldogs gameplan for him in this matchup.

OT Robert Scott Jr. (Florida State) vs. ED B.J. Ojulari (LSU)

On Monday night, we’re treated to a matchup between two big-name Power Five teams coming off disappointing seasons. The big matchup I’m excited to see is between a top tackle and edge prospect in this class. Robert Scott Jr. has every opportunity to emerge as a top tackle prospect in this class with his movement ability at 6’5”, 334 pounds, but he must progress from a technical standpoint this year.

B.J. Ojulari is much more refined as a prospect. Despite being undersized (he had to work to get up to 250 lbs this offseason), Ojulari had 54 pressures last season per PFF, tied for the sixth-most in the Power Five. Ojulari explodes off the line of scrimmage with great instincts, flexibility, and balance. He’ll keep Scott on his toes in this game, and this could wind up an important game for draft evaluation.

QB Anthony Richardson (Florida) vs. Utah defense

The highest-upside quarterback in the 2023 NFL draft class, Anthony Richardson also has the potential to be incredibly polarizing. With a massive 6’4”, 230-pound frame and an incredibly powerful arm, the traits are well worth betting on. However, he will need to progress significantly from a technical standpoint to wind up a first-round pick next spring.

This week, he gets a massive test against the Utah defense. Despite the loss of Devin Lloyd, the Utes have a stout defense, especially in a secondary that features cornerback Clark Phillips, a potential first-round pick at the position. While it’s no Georgia, the Utah defense could present a harbinger of things to come for Richardson, and I’ll be absolutely fascinated to see how he responds to his first test of the season.

TE Luke Musgrave (Oregon State) vs. S J.L. Skinner (Boise State)

Each week, I plan to deliver a deep cut in the scouting world between two players, perhaps non-Power Five, who may not be on the national radar just yet. This matchup represents as much. Luke Musgrave has high-end athleticism, but he was barely featured last season with only 22 catches for 304 yards. Still, he is set to be a major contributor to the offense and could emerge as a Day 2 pick at tight end.

This week, he faces J.L. Skinner, one of my favorite safeties in this year’s draft. At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Skinner is a force to be reckoned with in the box, and PFF tracked him with 39 run stops last season, the second-most among safeties in the country. Questions will persist about his vision and instincts in zone coverage, and this matchup provides an opportunity to begin to round out his draft profile.

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

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