Trevor Lawrence hands the ball off to Travis Etienne

The Other Guys: Top Non-Quarterback Prospects in the Sugar Bowl

  • CFP
  • Clemson
  • Clemson Tigers
  • College Football Playoff
  • NFl Draft
  • Ohio State
  • Ohio State Buckeyes
  • Sugar Bowl
By Alex Koslow January 1, 2021 0 Comment
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The Sugar Bowl between Clemson and Ohio State is the most anticipated college football game of the season. Not only is it a rematch of last season’s Fiesta Bowl, but it once again features two of the top NFL prospects at quarterback.

Trevor Lawrence has essentially been crowned the best 2021 prospect since he stepped on the field in 2018. He’s already led the Tigers to a national championship and is a Heisman finalist this season. Justin Fields is a little bit more of a mystery. He was projected to be the second-best QB and a top-five overall prospect. However, BYU’s Zach Wilson has rocketed up draft boards and is threatening the QB2 spot.

Analysts will be talking non-stop about the Lawrence-Fields battle throughout the game and even beyond, but let’s not forget about everyone else. As always, these two programs have a ton of NFL talent on their rosters. Here are some of the more intriguing prospects that will take the field in New Orleans.

Clemson

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RB Travis Etienne, #9

Outside of Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne is easily the most prolific NFL prospect. He came into the season as the leading candidate for the title of best running back. In just 11 games, Etienne rushed for 882 yards and 13 touchdowns. His receiving also greatly improved, posting a career-high in yards with 524 and adding two touchdowns.

Etienne’s skill set is tailor-made for the NFL. He’s a terrific runner that displays great field vision and is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball. A combination of explosive burst through the line of scrimmage and quick change of direction makes Etienne a terror to bring down. In the open field, Etienne also displays incredible contact balance and rarely gets taken down on the first contact.

If there is a fault in Etienne’s game, it’s his size. He’s only 5’10″-205 pounds, even though he plays bigger. He also struggles in pass protection, where he too often makes improper reads from blitzes. These are minor faults and in no way should deter a running back-needy team in selecting Etienne.

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CB Derion Kendrick, #1

The story of Derion Kendrick at Clemson is an interesting one. He started as a receiver his freshman season in 2018. Out of necessity, he switched over to corner in the spring of 2019 and has resided there ever since. Considering Kendrick has only played two seasons at corner, it’s impressive how highly coveted he seems to be.

Kendrick uses a similar skill set that he had as a receiver as a corner. His footwork is clean, and he shows a knack for changing direction quickly. When in position and the ball’s in the air, Kendrick has shown a solid ability at fighting with receivers and forcing tough catches.

The knock on Kendrick as a prospect is simply that he’s not a natural cornerback. His technique needs to be polished, but a competent NFL coach should be able to clean that up. Since he’s still learning the position, Kendrick is sometimes slow to process what’s happening at the snap and receivers can regularly separate from him. A work in progress, but Kendrick is a fascinating prospect.

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OT Jackson Carman, #79

At 6’5″-335 pounds, Jackson Carman is a hulking human being. He easily stands out as the anchor of a solid Clemson offensive line. Carman is a brutal player and constantly shows off tremendous power and strength. It all starts with his hands, with the ability to place them quickly and effectively. In pass protection, Carman has the length to keep defenders at bay, and even if he can’t extend, he’s a wall and no one is going to push him around. As a run blocker, Carman can move anyone he wants to out of a hole. He turns defenders out of running lanes with regularity and pushes them off the line of scrimmage.

Carman’s blocking technique is what’s holding him back from being a higher- rated prospect. If he gets his hands on a defender, it’s a done deal. But he doesn’t always do that well. He’ll occasionally lean forward when attacking a defender on the edge and that gets him off balance. He doesn’t have the quickest feet so when he leans and gets off balance, he struggles to recover.

Honorable Mention: WR Amari Rodgers, DT Jordan Williams, LB Mike Jones Jr., LB James Skalski, Edge Xavier Thomas

Ohio State

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IOL Wyatt Davis, #52

Wyatt Davis is one of the most pro-ready prospects in 2021. In over 900 offensive snaps, Davis was the fourth-ranked guard in 2019 with an 82.6 rating. He’s taken a bit of a step back in 2020, but he still projects as a highly effective NFL guard.

Davis has a nice blend of strength and quickness that is sought after in a zone-heavy team. He explodes off the snap and his lateral movement for reach blocks is tremendous. To generate power, Davis keeps a low pad level and shoots his hands into the chest of the defender to push them off the ball.

Getting to the second level isn’t an issue for Davis and he is more than capable of consistently hitting his landmarks and taking up space. His lower body strength can be seen in pass protection with his ability to anchor and keep a clean pocket.

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WR Chris Olave, #2

Chris Olave will add his name to the extensive list of Ohio State receivers that have made it to the NFL. Seven have been drafted overall, with five of them being taken in the first three rounds. Olave is just as talented as any of those before him.

Olave is a finesse route runner and has incredible footwork. He doesn’t attack a defender in ways more savvy receivers do, but he’s still able to gain separation by getting them off balance. His smooth-running style and his ability to seamlessly change direction at every level give defenders fits.

Scouts will question his strength at the next level with Olave only coming in at 185 pounds. He gets away with it at the college level, but with more physical receivers in the NFL, teams could second guess taking him higher. Production can always be a determining factor as well and Olave doesn’t have the numbers on his side. Over his 25-game career, he’s only picked up 1,565 yards with 20 touchdowns.

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IDL Haskell Garrett, #92

There’s always some value in finding depth players in the draft. Players can have long careers being rotation guys and Haskell Garrett fits that mold. Garrett is a powerful run disrupter and can play anywhere on the interior of the defensive line. He has quick violent hands that he uses to shed blockers.

Garrett’s limitations begin with his athleticism or lack thereof. He doesn’t have explosive tendencies off the snap and doesn’t have NFL-level lateral quickness. As a pass rusher, Garrett wins with a powerful bullrush but doesn’t have the pass-rushing repertoire needed to be a consistent threat.

Honorable Mention: CB Shaun Wade, RB Trey Sermon, IOL Josh Myers, LB Baron Browning, LB Pete Werner

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