NFL draft matchups: There's a surprisingly good QB battle in the SEC this week

Eric Edholm
·7-min read

With a half dozen games (and counting?) canceled or postponed this week, it’s a tough time for college football. But the scouting beat goes on, and we’ve got a few matchups we’re jazzed about. Let’s make the best of what we have, shall we?

SMU QB Shane Buechele vs. Tulsa defense

Buechele and the Mustangs have played eight games. Tulsa has only had four so far, with four others needing to be rescheduled. Regardless, this is a big matchup between two prolific teams, with the winner likely to be ranked (SMU is already 19th).

So far this season, Buechele has been quietly good. He’s not receiving the attention that other 2021 QB prospects are, but he’s leading the country with 2,581 pass yards, is ninth in pass yards per game, has a 20-3 TD-INT ratio and has thrived even with WR Reggie Roberson Jr. out with an ACL injury.

SMU quarterback Shane Buechele is having another strong season. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
SMU quarterback Shane Buechele is having another strong season. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

The test against Tulsa’s secondary, which has allowed only five passing TDs in four games, will be a stiff one. Although CB Allie Green IV — Tulsa’s highest-rated senior defender entering the season — has struggled, committing six penalties, the rest of the group has stepped up. Keep an eye on 6-foot-4 junior safety/slot corner Kendarin Ray; the more we see him, the more we like.

But the Tulsa name you must know now is LB Zaven Collins, one of the most interesting 2021 prospects in the AAC. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Collins has a chance to be a top-50 prospect, having earned AAC Defensive Player of the Week twice in four games. Collins was unstoppable against Central Florida and South Florida, although he did get a little banged up late last game against East Carolina.

Buechele threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns in SMU’s 43-37 win last season, but this defense will be a stiff test. He’s trying to enter that early Day 3 prospect range, and another big performance here would help that effort.

Florida offensive standouts vs. Arkansas defense

Sure, this might be the Feleipe Franks revenge game, and don’t laugh — some NFL team will want to bring him in and see if it can rework some of his mechanical issues. (On top of that, he’s been pretty darned solid this season for the Razorbacks.)

But we’re quietly excited to watch the Gators’ offensive trio — QB Kyle Trask, TE Kyle Pitts and WR Kadarius Toney — against an Arkansas defense that has been reborn under new coordinator Barry Odom. The Hogs give up a fair number of yards (401.5 per game) but thrive on creating turnovers. They have 15 takeaways on the season (three fumbles, 12 interceptions) and have held some respectable SEC offenses in check this season.

Kyle Trask, left, once backed up Feleipe Franks for the Florida Gators. Now Franks is at Arkansas, ready to take on his former Gators teammates. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Kyle Trask, left, once backed up Feleipe Franks for the Florida Gators. Now Franks is at Arkansas, ready to take on his former Gators teammates. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Trask, Franks’ backup (and friend) with the Gators last season, has thrived this season and could end up being a top-50 overall selection in 2021. But he also has thrown pick-sixes in back-to-back weeks, so we’ll be watching to see how careful Trask is with the ball in this game. Both Trask and Franks can be careless with the ball at times.

Arkansas has held some good receiving weapons (George Pickens, Osirus Mitchell, Seth Williams, Josh Palmer) below their season averages and held talented Ole Miss TE Kenny Yeboah to one target and zero grabs in his 91 snaps against them.

But Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore and Texas A&M TE Jalen Wydermyer gave them some trouble. Moore is a quick receiver with some crossover traits to the Gators’ Toney, and Wydermyer will be the closest thing to a game-changing tight end the Razorbacks will have seen this season before they face Pitts.

Pitts is gunning for the top 10. Trask is trying to crack the first round. Toney has work to do but should be on the top-50 radar, even in a really deep and talented receiving group. All three are facing Arkansas for the first time. This matchup can help those three get closer to that goal.

Several prospects in Notre Dame-Boston College

One of the best games on the docket features the Irish, fresh off a monumental victory over Clemson, going on the road to face the upstart Eagles, which almost took down the Tigers a few weeks back.

But for our purposes, it’s a great chance to look at as many as a dozen potential 2021 NFL draft prospects.

Boston College OT Zion Johnson struggled in his first few games after kicking out from left guard to left tackle. But he’s come on in recent games and started to look more comfortable protecting the edge. We still think the 6-foot-2 1/2, 296-pound Johnson is a better run blocker than pass blocker, and he appears destined to play guard (or center?) in the NFL.

Boston College OT Zion Johnson is the Eagles' best senior NFL prospect. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Boston College OT Zion Johnson is the Eagles' best senior NFL prospect. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

But Johnson gets a fantastic test this week against the Irish’s pass-rush duo of Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji. We wrote about Hayes last week and believe he’s quietly a nice EDGE prospect. Ogundeji spends more time rushing from the other side, which means he could square off against BC’s other talented tackle, redshirt sophomore Tyler Vrabel (and son of Titans head coach Mike Vrabel).

Another good matchup within the matchup is Boston College TE Hunter Long possibly seeing some time against Notre Dame’s outstanding do-it-all defender, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

Long’s production has been impressive, even if his targets have been down in recent games after having 37 passes thrown his way in the first three games of the season. He’s only a redshirt sophomore and must mature in his route running and subtlety. Right now he’s thriving more based on physical traits.

We could see the Irish use Owusu-Koramoah on Long, or perhaps sophomore Kyle Hamilton (who will be a big-time 2022 prospect). Owusu-Koramoah matched up with Duke TE Noah Gray — one of the better senior tight ends in the country — a few times earlier this season and had success.

Owusu-Koramoah also can blitz, cover the slot, fill lanes against the run and drop well into zones. He had several big-time plays in the Clemson, including a fumble return for a touchdown, but he also missed a few tackles and was flagged three times (one declined). There is some legitimate Round 1 buzz on Owusu-Koramoah, whom we mocked at No. 19 overall last time around, but he still has some elements of his game he must clean up.

There also are two future pro QBs in the game. Ian Book has his detractors, but he delivered one of his best performances in the big upset last week and should find his way onto an NFL roster.

And for those getting a head start on your 2022 evaluations, Eagles QB Phil Jurkovec has been making some noise — and this will be his first game against the Irish after spending his first two years at Notre Dame.

There are plenty of other prospects you should know in this game.

Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg could end up being a top-50 draft pick this spring. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg could end up being a top-50 draft pick this spring. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Notre Dame LT Liam Eichenberg is making a run at a top-50 selection, and RT Robert Hainsey quietly has been excellent. Hainsey is at worst a Day 3 pick, as is RG Tommy Kraemer. LG Aaron Banks is a favorite of ours, too, although he has one year of eligibility remaining and could opt to spend a year at left tackle in 2021 after Eichenberg leaves.

Also keep an eye on WR Javon McKinley. Although he got off to a slow start and has yet to reach the end zone this season, scouts quietly put some late Day 2/early Day 3 grades on him this summer. The 6-1, 216-pounder is thickly built, runs through contact and has been a weapon on fade passes and 50-50 balls.

For BC, OG Ben Petrula and C Alec Lindstrom (brother of Falcons OG Chris Lindstrom) both could be drafted. There also are some fascinating underclassmen, such as WR Zay Flowers and RB David Bailey.

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