Welcome back to the Prospect Battle preview column. Last week we had a quick hiatus, as I needed to write about Ben Burr-Kirven, the Washington LB deserving of more attention.
If you missed that, you better go read it now. Just to be safe.
Let’s get into this week, shall we?
Mississippi State iOL Elgton Jenkins v. LSU iDL Rashard Lawrence
This is a Top-75 match-up I’m excited to watch.
Both Jenkins and Lawrence made my Top-75 board — though both were later guys to make the cut. Jenkins was an adjacent viewing — I was really in the Mississippi State film to watch his teammate Darryl Williams — but Jenkins stood out to me as the more consistent player.
I was very impressed with Jenkins’ size, hand placement, and lack of panic at the pivot. He’s tasked with a lot of movement reps in the Joe Moorhead offense, and while he isn’t the quickest guy on the planet, he has enough explosiveness off the snap to generate a quick angle and get his hips in a leveraged position. His ability to lock hands on a chestplate and then maintain his grip through the play impresses, and has helped spring multiple second-level runs.
He’ll be going up against a lot of power in Lawrence, however. In that I think Jenkins is great at the snap, getting his hands active and quickly engaging to prevent the initial rush, Lawrence also wins a lot of his reps at the snap. He has great penetration burst off the line of scrimmage, and his hands are active to swipe and swat impediments away.
When they are engaged, I’ll be really interested to see who wins the power battle. I think Jenkins sets a fine base in pass protection but can get walked back at times when he surrenders leverage, and Lawrence plays with great pad level to threaten the depth of the pocket.
Jenkins has a clear advantage in the running game, as I think his quickness and angles will regularly put him in a spot to win against the LSU interior. I’ll probably edge Lawrence in the passing game, given his penetration ability and good hand usage, but I could see a four-quarter back-and-forth developing across the game. That’s what I’m hoping for.
Alabama OT Jonah Williams v. Tennessee EDGE Darrell Taylor
Big-ups to Darrell Taylor, who Ledyard rightfully called the lone bright spot for Tennessee. Of course, that was before they upset Auburn and their young pass-catchers seemed to wake up, but that’s a different matter.
Taylor is comfortably the best Draft-eligible player for the Volunteers, and a prospect on the rise. A nice athlete with an explosive first step, Taylor understands how to read offensive tackles’ sets, and is willing to work two-way goes and counter moves accordingly. He’s a little stiff on the outside and needs to win with explosiveness to corner, but his hand usage is good enough that he can fight his way around the edge to generate consistent pressure — that’s great to see.
His biggest test of the year will be Jonah Williams and this Alabama offensive line. Taylor is more frequently over the right tackle than he is the left, but his reps against Williams are key for both players.
Williams has length concerns that have some projecting a move to the interior at the next level. Taylor is an effective outside lane rusher — he wants to corner on you — so length concerns should be exposed by a rusher of his caliber. I don’t think Williams’ length concerns are that much of a debilitating problem, to be frank — but if they are, we will see it when Taylor gets pressure on Saturday.
For Taylor, he’s facing a solid athlete with great technique, so his ability to work inside and read sets may be limited but Williams’ patience and body control. It may be a long, fruitless night of trying to win the corner, but his best path to success is dipping that shoulder and bending the edge. He does need to improve in terms of reducing surface area around the arc. That will be the key factor I’m watching for.
Also watch: Alabama EDGE Anfernee Jennings v. Tennessee LT Trey Smith
NC State WR Kelvin Harmon v. Clemson CB Trayvon Mullen
With DK Metcalf unfortunately out for the season with a neck injury, the door is open for Kelvin Harmon to be the leading WR in the clubhouse. As of today, that’s where I have him: 17th overall on my board, still a head above JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Deebo Samuel for the top WR slot.
Harmon wins with high IQ receiver play at all three levels of the field. He isn’t a dawdler, working complex releases and head fakes and other tomfoolery: he snaps into his breaks with clean footwork and immediately presents a throwing window to his quarterback. He has a big frame and uses it well to maintain leverage on smaller corners and leave room for the pass to arrive. In contested catch situations, he thrives with an alpha mentality and strong hands.
Trayvon Mullen…I don’t know much about Trayvon Mullen. What caught my eye on Mullen wasn’t tape — it was a note in Matt Miller’s Scouting Notebook from last week. Miller says Mullen is a potential Top-20 pick who may even pass LSU’s Greedy Williams as the top corner on some NFL boards.
In his scouting report, Joe — our ACC guy — identifies Mullen as a strong press corner given his length and physicality, but he has short-area quickness concerns. Harmon can beat you in the short areas, but he’s really dangerous when he’s working downfield. I’ll be most interested in watching Mullen’s ball-tracking and attacking abilities going up against Harmon, who’s elite in that area. If Mullen wins a few, I’ll start paying attention to him as that potential early round corner.
Also watch: NC State QB Ryan Finley v. Clemson defense (resume game!)