The College Football Playoff culminates tonight with the No. 1 Clemson Tigers taking on the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in Glendale, Arizona. The game kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on the many ESPN channels. As we've done all bowl season, Greg Valerio and Jake Narayan are back to provide some thoughts on the various draft prospects taking part in Monday's game. Jake took a look at some notable Clemson prospects, while Greg broke down Alabama prospects to watch. Below that, we've listed out all the necessary viewing details.
Shakin' The Southland previews national title game
2015 was ridiculously good, but 2016 can trump it all with just one game!
No. 1 Clemson Tigers draft prospects
OG Eric Mac Lain - No. 78, 6'4, 305 lbs
The class of offensive lineman is very impressive. Teams needing O-line help will be able to find ones with a very high ceilings all throughout the draft. Guard Eric Mac Lain looks to be a smart pick, around the middle of the draft.
Strengths: He began his college career playing tight end, as he did in high school, therefore, athletic ability is no question. He moves like a tight end but looks like an interior lineman. Mac Lain possess the speed to get to the next level and take on a linebacker. He uses his hands and feet very well, and has great strength, which translates to him getting push in the run game.
Weaknesses: Mac Lain needs to shape-up his pass blocking just a touch. He also needs to learn to bend his knee and not his hip to better improve his balance, which can transform his whole game, and even land himself on a starting lineup in the NFL.
TE Jordan Leggett - No. 16, 6'5, 250 lbs
Much like last year, the tight end position isn't exactly loaded with NFL-bound athletes. However, the talent is still better than that of the 2015 draft. Jordan Leggett is one of the biggest risers at the tight end spot, but I still expect him to be selected in the later rounds.
Strengths: Standing at 6'5", 250 lbs, Leggett is a huge target to throw to, especially inside the red-zone. He has solid hands and will make catches in tight windows with ease. He uses his big frame to block out defenders and make a reception at its highest point. He is also a viable run blocker. It's a hassle to block Leggett as he can scrape you down the line of scrimmage to create a hole.
Weaknesses: He is not a speed guy, and I don't expect him to be considering his size. His route running needs major cleaning up, crispy routes means more separation from a DB or linebacker. He needs more explosion off of the line, as well.
DE Shaq Lawson - No. 90, 6'3, 275 lbs
Following the 2012 season spent at Hargrave Military Academy, Shaq Lawson landed on Clemson campus in 2013, and made an immediate splash. In his freshman year he recorded 10 tackles for loss to go along with his four sacks. In his sophomore campaign, Lawson recorded 11.5 TFL's and three and a half sacks, while becoming the second player in Clemson history to manage double-digit tackles for loss in his first two seasons. The extent of these accomplishments are even more impressive considering he was still back up to NFL jettison Vic Beasley.
Strengths: The ball recognition of Shaq Lawson may be the biggest upside to selecting this play-maker that will hands down make an immediate impact and can transform your defense, causing offenses to have to scheme around such a big obstacle. His combination of upper-body strength and that pesky leverage allows him to evade an offensive lineman with fluid ease (which is why he has so many TFL's). Lawson has an innate capability of changing direction while tailing a quarterback to finish off a play, despite not retaining great explosion.
Weaknesses: He lacks the explosive first step, and is sometimes is the last defender to move when the ball is snapped. His inconsistent pass rush may be resolved by losing weight, but it still worries me. He throttles down before the play is over, mainly due to the fact he is being well-blocked, resulting in him getting discouraged. He absolutely needs to improve on pursuing the ball down field, which reverts back to him losing weight. Losing weight would also resolve his stiffness.
CB Mackensie Alexander - No. 2, 5'10, 190 lbs
The cornerback selection in this draft is some of the best we have seen in some time, and Mackensie Alexander most definitely qualifies as one of the top-tier corners in the ranks for the 2016 draft. With most teams needing a defensive back having their sights set on a Vernon Hargreaves III or Jalen Ramsey, Alexander is a sleeper with rewarding talent. I definitely do not advise passing up on this man right here if you are in need of a defensive back.
Strengths: To say the least, Mackensie Alexander is a true lockdown corner. I base the excellence of a CB not by the number of interceptions they have, but by how much the ball is tossed their way. Considering Alexander tracks the most elite receiver on the field, and has zero career INT's, it shows me the more than solid job he's doing. His greatness doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but rather the island he puts these dominant receivers on. His man coverage is some of the best in the business at the collegiate level. He extends his arms out in their entirety, rerouting receivers very smoothly. Alexander looks the part, he is one of the most gifted and natural corners at it right now.
Weaknesses: His negatives don't include too many facets of his game. One thing he really needs to improve on is being more under control when he is flying up to make a tackle. At times, Alexander tries to blast the ball carrier rather than just wrapping up and securing the tackle. His zone coverage skills also need brushing up, but it's nothing a DB coach at the next level can't develop.
S Jayron Kearse - No. 1, 6'4, 210 lbs
The safety spot is another loaded position. It holds first round talents in surprising depth. Kearse will undoubtedly be a first round selection, and has a chance to make an immediate difference at the next level. The highly-touted Clemson Tiger showcases tremendous size.
Strengths: Let's start with obvious, he possesses an outstanding frame, perfect for matching up with monster tight ends, something the NFL has no shortage of. Kearse is so athletically gifted. He has all the tangibles you look for in a safety, and more. He is an absolute ball-hawk in the back end of the defense, so range is no question. The ability to come up and render vicious blows leads you to wonder if he will move up and play inside the box, much like Deone Bucannon of the Arizona Cardinals.
Weaknesses: Speed is not what Jayron Kearse is known for. However, difference-makers like himself find ways to get it done day in and day out. I mentioned the jarring hits he delivers at times, this is also a negative. Considering the athletes in the NFL are much bigger, faster, stronger, hitting an opponent with your shoulder and not expecting them to bounce off of it is absurd to say in pro football.
No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide draft prospects
DT A'Shawn Robinson, No. 86, 6'3, 312 lbs
A'Shawn Robinson, a junior, is a very strong long-armed defender with great size, length, power, instincts, and athleticism. A large stout run stuffer, Robinson showcases excellent power continuously winning against front-side blocks at the point of attack easily capable of handling two-gaps with tremendous strength and leverage. Robinson is solid in collapsing the pocket, has sound awareness to stop ball carriers next to him utilizing sensational hand technique (great power in hands) stacking and shedding, and plays with good leverage and power with a high motor chasing down ball carriers. He has quick feet with balance to navigate through the trash and the athletic ability to defend superbly against back-side blocks. Robinson shows the versatility to play NT in a 3-4, as well as the 5-technique, and is a highly intelligent player.
Robinson's season stats: 43 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections, and 1 fumble recovery.
ILB Reggie Ragland, No. 19, 6'2, 252 lbs
Reggie Ragland is a superb downhill plugger type of linebacker with a terrific combination of size (6'2" - 254 lbs.), physicality, speed, toughness, and strength. Ragland is a fierce and terrific tackler with quality bulk-ability easily taking on bigger blockers at the point of attack winning with proper leverage separating with violent and powerful hands stacking and shedding, impressive sideline-to-sideline capabilities, and very skilled coming off the edge. A tremendously smart player with a high football IQ, Ragland showcases excellent instincts and speed easily reading run keys and has the play speed (straight-line speed with a burst) to track down the football with impressive closing speed. Shows quality ability to play in coverage as well. Moreover, he brings value on special teams where he's a strong tackler hitting with immense explosion. Ragland is the best pure inside linebacker in the draft class and could've been a top draft pick in 2015, but he wanted to go back to school and earn his degree.
Ragland's season stats: 97 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 7 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles.
TE O.J. Howard, No. 88, 6'6, 242 lbs
O.J. Howard, a junior, is a mismatch in the middle of the field and on the perimeter displaying an impressive combination of size (6'6" - 242 lbs.), speed, explosion, athleticism, and strength (benches 405 pounds and squats 500 pounds). A dangerous receiving weapon in the middle of the field, Howard can easily take advantage of defenses with his 4.59 speed up the seem, the suddenness to separate and get away from man coverage taking advantage of his impressive length and athleticism, finds holes in zone and squares up presenting a large target and catching radius for the quarterback, and extends hands away from the body to make the catch (58% of his catches have moved the chains for first downs). Along with good catching and great YAC ability, his blocking has been steadily improving as well, where he shows an excellent base, platform, and hand positioning blocking inline, and athletic ability with agility to swing his hips blocking in space when detached; moreover, he slides laterally extremely well with a solid base, platform, and hand positioning in pass protection.
Howard's stats ten games in: 33 receptions, 394 yards, and averaging 11.9 yards per reception.
C Ryan Kelly, No. 70, 6'5, 297 lbs
Ryan Kelly has a terrific combination of size (6'5" - 297 lbs.), strength, toughness, football instincts, and athleticism. An intelligent anchor on the offensive line, Kelly thrives in run-blocking utilizing sound leverage, excellent foot agility moving laterally after the snap, active hands, tremendous strength to drive defenders sealing them away from the action and opening holes finishing blocks displaying good movement reaching the second level. Kelly showcases solid quickness, athletic ability, efficient technique, anchors the pocket extremely well setting a quality base for the quarterback to climb, and nice balance when anchoring in pass protection. Tremendous leadership skills and a savvy reliable player (34 career starts), Kelly is efficient giving up no sacks this year, zero holding calls, and only one penalty received throughout the season. He's also a great fit in a zone-blocking scheme.
RB Kenyan Drake, No. 17, 6'1, 202 lbs
Kenyan Drake has been an excellent compliment running back to the powerful Derrick Henry, and he is likely projected in a similar role at the next level. Drake displays superb skills as a receiver out of the backfield with solid reliable hands and good route running. He showcases a terrific combination of size (6'1"), speed (4.40 40), agility, and athleticism with amazing quick feet, superb stop and start quickness, nice change of direction skills, and tremendous burst with amazing acceleration exploding into a second gear pulling away from defenders. Drake possess sound vision and instincts, showcases impressive inside running ability making decisive consecutive moves in a short area maintaining low pad level exploding through the cracks hitting the hole with adequate power. Moreover, with his elite speed, Drake shows the excellent capacity to hit the home run play at anytime. He is fair in pass protection, but will need more room for improvement (has a tendency to lunge towards defenders propelling himself out of the action). Drake is a perfect zone-blocking scheme running back showcasing great patience, vision, and will one-cut exploding to daylight adding his terrific ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield. I believe Drake would be a great compliment back to the 49ers' Carlos Hyde. Drake also has been battling several injuries throughout the season (also a broken leg in 2014); therefore, durability could be a concern.
Drake's season stats: 76 rushes, 407 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, 1 touchdown, 27 receptions, 255 yards, averaging 9.4 yards per reception, and 1 touchdown.
Everything you need to watch the title game is below:
College Football Playoff Championship
No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 2 Alabama
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. PT
Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
TV Channel: ESPN family of channels (MegaCast explained below)
TV Announcers: Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Radio Announcers: Mike Tirico, Todd Blackledge
Spanish Broadcast: ESPN Deportes
Announcers: Lalo Varela, Pablo Viruega
Favorite: Alabama -7
Weather: 51°F, Clear (Retractable roof)
ESPN Megacast Information: The entire ESPN family of networks will be involved in the broadcast, bringing back the ESPN Megacast production the network used for last year's title game. While the regular television broadcast will be on ESPN and the readio broadcast will be on ESPNRadio, there will be a host of other options to fully cover the game:
- Film Room (ESPN2) - Florida coach Jim McElwain, Brian Griese, and CHris Spielman will break down the game from multiple angles as it happens.
- ESPN Voices (ESPNews) - Teddy Atlas, Michelle Beadle, Jay Bilas, Taylor Twellman, and Marcellus Wiley comment on the game from a "living-room" type of environment.
- Homer Telecast (ESPNU) - Joe Tessitore will host former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and former Alabama center Barrett Jones as they provide "homer" analysis of the game.
- Finebaum Film Room (SEC Network) -Paul Finebaum, Greg McElroy, Booger McFarland, and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will watch and analyze the game, while interacting with fans via the phone and Twitter (#FinebaumFilmRoom).
- Sounds of the Game (ESPN Classic and ESPN3) - 100 microphones throughout the stadium bring the natural sounds of the game without analysts. Will include pre-game and halftime ceremonies.
- Command Center (ESPN Goal Line) - Split screen with live action and immediate replays of every play, isolate coaches cameras, and ESPN Radio broadcast.
- Mock Replay Booth (ESPN 3) - Recreated replay booth to give an inside look at the replay process in which every play is reviewed. Hosted by former ACC Coordinator of Officials Doug Rhoads and with ACC Replay Official Ralph Pickett and SEC Replay Communicator Ben Oldham.
- Pylon Cam (ESPN3) - Continuous stream of the cameras from the eight pylons around the field.
- Home Town Radio (ESPN3) - ESPN telecast with selectable Alabama and Clemson home radio broadcasts.
- Data Center (ESPN3) - Analytical data and social media content throughout the game.
- Spider Cam (ESPN3) - Continuous feed of the overhead/behind -the-offense camera.
- Taco Bell Student Section (ESPN3) - Cameras in the student section for reaction to every play.