‘Tis the season for over 40 college bowl games sponsored by some very obscure companies to celebrate the mediocrity of 6-6 teams. Surely there is an angry old man somewhere waving his fist screaming about how “everyone gets a trophy” and “the Millennials are ruining everything.” At TOJ, we love bowl season. Maybe not for the games because watching two small schools battle for an irrelevant trophy is not very appealing, but it gives us a chance to watch some teams that we did not get a chance to watch this season and evaluate some prospects who may not have been regularly exposed to us.
Matchup: Clemson vs. Notre Dame
Time: 4:00 p.m.
1) EDGE Clelin Ferrell (6-foot-5, 260 pounds)
2018 Stats: 13 games, 47 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, 10.5 sacks, 2 FFs
Career: 42 games, 158 tackles, 48 TFLs, 26 sacks, 4 FFs
Ferrell is in a race with Josh Allen to be the second best pass rusher in the class behind Nick Bosa. Allen is a more refined prospect, but Ferrell has a length, speed, and athleticism advantage. He needs to develop more ways to beat tackles in terms of pass rush moves because he won’t be able to rely as heavily on his raw abilities at the next level, but his raw abilities are pretty darn good. When he pins his ears back, he can become one of the most explosive, disruptive pass rushers in the league.
Projection: 1st round pick (top 10)
2) DT Christian Wilkins (6-foot-4, 300 pounds)
2018 Stats: 13 games, 46 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 4.5 sack, FF
Career: 53 games, 187 tackles, 39 TFLs, 15 sacks, 2 FFs
No single aspect of Wilkins’s game really stands out above some of the other top defensive tackles in the draft, but he might be the most well-rounded after Ed Oliver. He has been a stalwart on this Clemson defensive line throughout each of Clemson’s runs to the College Football Playoff. He is capable of stuffing the run and applying pressure on the quarterback with an inside pass rush. He is strong, athletic, and versatile. He starts from day one and has an immediate, immense impact for whichever team drafts him.
Projection: 1st round pick
Other names to watch:
CB Trayvon Mullen: 1st-3rd round
DT Austin Bryant: 2nd-3rd round
LB Tre Lemar: 2nd-3rd round
OT Mitch Hyatt: 2nd-3rd round
WR Hunter Renfrow: 5th-6th round
Notre Dame’s prospects:
1) DT Jerry Tillery (6-foot-7, 310 pounds)
2018 Stats: 11 games, 28 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 7 sacks, 2 FFs
Career: 41 games, 133 tackles, 23 TFLs, 12.5 sacks, 3 FFs
Do not be alarmed by Tillery’s significant dip in tackle production (56 in 2017 down to 28 this year), it was just a product of a significant uptick in double teams. His massive frame combined with his strength and motor will make him a tough matchup for any opposing offensive linemen. His size does work against him because as the old saying goes, “low man wins.” At 6-foot-7, Tillery has a hard time being the “low man” and any offensive lineman capable of establishing a low base against him has a chance of shutting him down. Still, you can’t teach his size or motor. He will make his way into the back end of the first round.
Projection: 1st-2nd round pick
2) CB Julian Love (5-foot-11, 190 pounds)
2018 Stats: 12 games, 61 tackles, INT, FF, 15 passes defended
Career: 37 games, 174 tackles, 5 INTs, 2 FFs, 2 TDs, 38 passes defended
Love has a knack for closing on receivers and knocking the ball down. He is a bit undersized but relies on instinct and his ability to essentially run the route for the receiver. When I see that he had 20 passes defended in 2017 and another 15 in 2018, I worry a bit because it means teams still felt they could pick on Love. On the other hand, it shows he still dealt with the throws and was one of the top corners in the nation this year. The draft process will be key for Love. He can go anywhere from the middle of the 1st round to the middle of the 3rd.
Projection: 1st-3rd round pick
Other names to watch:
LB Te’von Coney: 2nd-3rd round
TE Alize Mack: 3rd-4th round
OL Liam Eichenberg: 3rd-4th round
OG Alex Bars: 3rd-4th round
C Sam Mustipher: 3rd-4th round