College Football Week 6: Prospect Battles To Watch

Last week, I had the eventual Defensive Prospect of the Week in my battles to watch. (Shout-out Notre Dame iDL Jerry Tillery, who's an absolute menace.)

So you should be sure to read this column every week. Big stuff happens.

Oklahoma WR 5 Marquise Brown v. Texas CB 11 Kris Boyd

I keep seeing Marquise Brown in the first round of mock drafts; in the tops of early big boards. And I really just don't get that.

Marquise Brown is special, stupid types of fast -- and that's awesome, and it will always be valuable in the NFL. That role -- that value -- will always be as a field-stretcher who can "take the top off" of a defense.

Is a field-stretcher worth Round 1 value? Man, I'm not really sold on that. He would need to be a top-flight deep threat down the field who also offers impact plays at the other levels of the field. He can be a field-stretcher by design and by use, but he has to be able to offer more.

John Ross, Will Fuller, Breshad Perriman -- these are Round 1 speedsters who don't offer enough to really live up to that draft slot.

If Marquise Brown is more than that mold -- and at his size and with his route tree in Oklahoma, I'm not sure he'll be able to prove he is -- then he should be able to handle size and physicality at the line of scrimmage.

Enter Kris Boyd. He's a listed 6-foot flat and 195 pounds and he plays with violence through the contact window. He does an excellent job redirecting vertical stems when he's working as Cover 2 corner -- likely his best NFL usage -- and that's where I'll be watching Brown.

Brown (5-foot-10 and 160 pounds) loses the size battle with Boyd from the jump, and he also is averse to the physical brand of football with which Boyd plays. Oklahoma will certainly move Brown into the slot to give Brown some easier releases -- at which point, Boyd will have to deal with Brown's teammate, the long and explosive CeeDee Lamb (only a sophomore). That's a good test for him as well.

Boyd does struggle when his back is to the football -- again, Cover 2 is the best usage. If he's asked to carry Brown into space, he'll be at a significant disadvantage -- so would most corners -- but Boyd especially must win some reps from trail technique to round out his profile.

Also watch: Oklahoma iOL 72 Ben Powers v. Texas iDL 90 Charles Omenihu

Utah LBs 30 Cody Barton and 22 Chase Hansen v. Stanford TE 82 Kaden Smith

Always a thrilling moment, that "Oh snap, who's this cat?" moment when you're watching tape. There's a lot of possibility packed into that little flash.

I knew Chase Hansen was a name to watch on the Utah defense. (Really, the entire Utah defense is watch-worthy, which is what makes this game so fun.) But his running mate -- Cody Barton -- I had heard little about. Hansen is the safety-to-LB convert that's all the rage in current college defenses -- he's got the crazy length and the All-Pac 12 honors of years past.

So, in a typical big tight end match-up, Hansen would be the player I circled in red. And I still will watch him! I'm sure he'll get reps against Kaden Smith or Colby Parkinson, the sophomore tight end for the Cardinal, and those reps will be huge for projection his pro translation, because Smith and Parkinson look like future pro players.

But those reps will be just as important for Cody Barton, my "Oh snap, who's this cat?" player.

6-foot-2 and a listed 232 (I think he's heavier), Barton was excellent dropping into coverage against the Huskies, even handling RB Myles Gaskin when he flexed out into space. At his size, I was impressed with his ability to gather and redirect -- and that same body control showed up in run defense as well. Barton looked powerful and flexible when attacking blocks in the first level, regularly presenting in gaps to either get involved in a tackle or force a redirection.

I'm so excited to see Barton and Hansen both handle this big Stanford offensive line, but the reps against Smith will be the ones I star.

Kaden Smith has been a riser during the Draft process, but it's been a peculiar rise for me to watch. Having evaluated him over the offseason, I can comfortably say he's not really doing anything he didn't do last year. Last year, he was big, great at adjusting to the football for his size, and tough to handle in the seam given his vertical ability.

This year, he is big, great at adjusting to the football for his size, and tough to handle in the seam given his vertical ability. He's just getting more targets, and his chemistry with QB K.J. Costello is shining.

Costello is willing to throw Smith open -- we saw that two weeks ago against Troy Dye against Oregon and last week with Drue Tranquill against Notre Dame. He only had one catch against Notre Dame on a rough night for Costello, but he'll need more than against the Utes -- they have a solid secondary, with CB Julian Blackmon and SAF Marquise Blair offering physicality and ball skills. So I expect a high-target night for Smith, and he'll face his toughest coverage yet between Hansen and Barton.

Also watch: Stanford LB 20 Bobby Okereke (had a rough game against Utah last year) v. Utah RB 2 Zack Moss

Miami OT 78 Tyree St. Louis v. Florida State EDGE Brian Burns

You know, if you pronounced St. Louis the fancy French way or whatever -- so it was "Louie" -- then Tyree St. Louis' name would rhyme, and that would be so dope.

Big match-up coming down the mountain for St. Louis here, as the hurricanes really haven't faced anyone in terms of EDGE rushers yet. Coming into the season, St. Louis needed to first show that he had successfully transitioned to the left side of the line after starting on the right for 21 straight games -- I think he's comfortably settled in now.

The next step was to show better depth and angles in his kick-slide, as St. Louis' inability to frame rushers initially off the snap robbed him of the pass-blocking efficacy possible with such great length and quickness.

That's why Brian Burns is such a great test for St. Louis. Burns has been splashy to start the season, but he got slept by Northern Illinois tackle Max Scharping in his first big test of the season (one we profiled here). St. Louis is Burns' next NFL-caliber competition, and given St. Louis' struggles with initial footwork and pass-setting, I'm edging Burns here.

Burns has a super explosive first step that gains a ton of depth, and his ability to quickly get parallel to offensive tackles can often force them to panic and hinge open. He has hit inside moves this year as a counter, but he can also still win that outside track with a great dip and rip -- excellent bend.

Burns has fallen a little out of the national eye following a lot of offseason hype. Much of that drop-off can be attributed to the awful play of Florida State -- nobody wants to watch their games -- so the national spotlight of the Miami represents a big opportunity for Burns to re-enter the national conversation.

Also watch: Florida State WR 8 Nyqwan Murray v. Miami CB 28 Michael Jackson


Written By:

Benjamin Solak

Director of Special Projects

Director of Special Projects and Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Locked On NFL Draft Podcast. The 3-Wide Raven.