After a season that produced a countless amount of thrilling games, shocking upsets, and constant changes in the polls and rankings, we have reached the pinnacle moment in college football. Today is the College Football Playoff National Championship game featuring the No. 1-ranked and defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide facing off against the No. 2-ranked Clemson Tigers. Would you believe this is the fourth time in as many years these two teams will be meeting in the College Football Playoff, and the third time in four years they will meet to crown a national champion?!?! Alabama and Clemson have been the standard for excellence in college football, and this rivalry is one to appreciate across all of sports. It truly is a meeting of the best two teams in college football.
The Tide and Tigers have combined for the last three national championships with Bama winning in 2016, before Deshaun Watson returned the favor with a last second touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow to win it all for the Tigers in 2017. Bama and Clemson met last year in the national semifinal in the Sugar Bowl where Bama won with ease before claiming another national title, defeating SEC rival Georgia in overtime. That sets the stage for Bama-Clemson IV. Both teams will have starting quarterbacks who could be the number one overall pick in the 2020 draft (Tua Tagovailoa – Alabama) and the 2021 draft (Trevor Lawrence – Clemson).
For San Francisco 49ers fans the venue should be all too familiar. This year, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara will host the title game after the Bay Area bid was granted in November of 2015. Field conditions will be an intriguing storyline to watch, especially with rain in the forecast all weekend and Monday morning before kickoff. However, these two teams bring loads of experience, and are so evenly matched that we should expect nothing short of a thrilling game that should come down to the wire.
Josh, Alex, and Greg have provided six prospects to keep a close eye on this game. Perhaps one or more of these prospects will be playing their first professional football game in this very building next fall! Are there members of the Crimson Tide and Tigers you hope to see in a 49ers uniform? Please share in the comments below who you are excited to see in action tonight!
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0) vs. No. 2 Clemson Tigers (14-0)
Trayvon Mullen, CB, No. 1 - Clemson
Height: 6’1” | Weight: 195
2018 Stats: 30 tackles, 1 sack, 3 passes deflected
Clemson, as we all know, boasts one of the most impressive front sevens we’ve seen in recent memory and one of the most wildly talented defensive lines in college football history, having the likes of Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Christian Wilkins, and Dexter Lawrence - with help like that it’s hard not to benefit if you’re someone playing in the secondary on that team. Trayvon Mullen, while he benefits from playing behind a star-studded line, does posses all the skills one would want in a starting cornerback. He is long and physical and flourishes most in zone and press coverages; his long arms allow for more margin of error than most. Mullen is a sure tackler and, while he lacks standout speed, he makes up for it with unique ball skills and a keen sense of how plays will develop. He’s going to benefit most from either being in a scheme-specific defense or by, possibly, converting to safety. What’s clear at this point is that Mullen has a skillset worthy of consideration on day 2 of the NFL Draft.
Damien Harris, RB, No. 34 - Alabama. Height: 5’10” | Weight: 214 lbs 2018 stats: 139 rushes, 819 rushing yards (5.9 average), 9 touchdowns, 20 receptions, 201 receiving yards
The 2018 NFL draft class was loaded at running back (and I mean loaded) so it made sense for Damien Harris to return for another season with the Crimson Tide before heading to the pros. The decision, unsurprisingly, has led Harris and his Alabama teammates to yet another shot at a National Championship - and we’ve all effectively lost count as to how many this would be for ‘Bama.
Harris flies under the radar but has had a productive career at Alabama as he has rushed for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in 3 seasons as a starter. He is a steady player who routinely gets the most out of his opportunities; he also flashes the ability to produce some big plays. His best attribute is his balanced and quick jump-cut. This allows him to make smooth adjustments when working through the line of scrimmage. Harris also features the quick-twitch ability to accelerate once he finds the open hole. He isn’t one to ‘wow’ you with big plays but he is consistent in his production and should be able to make it at next level as someone who can be relied on to move the chains.
Austin Bryant, DE, No. 7 - Clemson
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 265
2018 Stats: 41 Tackles, 8 Sacks, (Defensive MVP of the 2018 Cotton Bowl Classic)
One of the four elite prospects along Clemson’s defensive line. Bryant displays quick burst off the line of scrimmage, and comes of swiftly along the edge, often creating disruption in the opponent’s backfield. Uses his hands to fight off and evade blocks, often using rips and pulls. While he needs more polishing against the run Bryant does an effective job in crash down opportunities. Bryant has good size and measureables for the position. Bryant has a blend of lower and upper body strength, and has a physical presence along the line of scrimmage. One of his best traits is his stand-up ability and athleticism in open field away from traffic.
There is an injury history with Bryant, including a period of eight games that he missed during the 2016 season. Has good ball instincts and anticipation where the play is going to occur. Has improved his play in pass protection, however where Bryant will do most of his damage is rushing the passer from the edge. Bryant still lacks some extension and pass rush counters that he will need to improve upon at the next level. What is intriguing to me about Bryant is his ability to be a three down defensive end, who seems to play stronger as the game carries on. With all that said, I still believe there are areas for Bryant to grow. He is not going to be asked to anchor the line or edge which could benefit him as he transitions to the next level. Bryant also brings with him a ton of big-game, high-pressure experience. At the moment I see Bryant as a day two prospect towards the back end of round two or early in the third round.
Mitch Hyatt, OT, No. 75 - Clemson
Height: 6’5” | Weight 305
From the moment he arrived on campus as a 5-star prospect, Mitch Hyatt has been everything the Tigers could have hoped for on the offensive line, playing perhaps the most important position on the field after quarterback. Hyatt has been the team’s starting left tackle protecting high-prized passers from Deshaun Watson to Trevor Lawrence. He is the recipient of the ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the conferences’ top offensive lineman. Hyatt has demonstrated his ability to frame pass rushers out of position. Hyatt has long arms and a frame desirable at the next level. Hyatt has also been battle tested, having played the left tackle position since his true freshman season. Hyatt offers great lateral speed and agility, often mirroring the pass rusher. Hyatt has quick feet and the ability to shift and adjust to the wide variety of pass rushers he has faced.
Hyatt will use his speed to seal off blockers and close gaps during run protecting. Often times Hyatt will move down the line to cut off defensive tackles. Hyatt does a great job with his hands to keep pass rushers in front of him, while holding his ground. Even when he is initial beat, Hyatt will use his frame and hands to push defenders away from the pocket, keeping it clean for the passer. Hyatt needs to trust his balance more and work on finding his levels. At times he can get caught too high at a bad level. This puts pass rushers in an advantage position to get by Hyatt. However, with all that said, Hyatt has been as reliable as they come on the offensive line. Here’s one last fact I’ll leave you with. In 2007, Hyatt went up against elite talents such as Bradley Chubb, Harold Landry, Josh Sweat, and Nick Bosa and didn’t give up a single sack. His experience, professionalism, and maturity offer a well-rounded prospect to a team at the next level. Hyatt is looking like a day two prospect.
Clelin Ferrell, DE, No. 99 - Clemson
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 265 | 40 time: 4.78
2018 stats: 11.5 sacks, 51 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 2 pass deflections, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown, and 3 forced fumbles
The 49ers’ are in desperate need of an edge presence, and if Nick Bosa or Josh Allen is not the selection, Clelin Ferrell is equally an excellent choice to establish a dominating fear off the edge. Ferrell is a junior prospect that has shown the capacity to improve throughout his collegiate career. With a complete game showing dominance both against the run and the passing game, Ferrell offers a perfect blend of size, length (long arms), strength, quickness, and athleticism. He displays great burst off the edge utilizing his length to his advantage playing with excellent leverage, body control (terrific bend), balance, adept at holding the point of attack and releasing with nice change of direction skills, agility, foot quickness, and power.
Ferrell also displays an excellent ability playing front-side blocks at the point of attack utilizing his length and power to successfully stack and shed showing a solid game setting the edge. Moreover, he brings impressive skills defending back-side blocks with nice athleticism, agility, length, and closing speed.
Jonah Williams, OT, No. 73 - Alabama
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 301 | 40 time: 5.02
A premier offensive tackle and potentially one of the top prospects in the entire 2019 draft, Jonah Williams is an athletically gifted technician with great length (long arms) and agility playing with a savvy attacking mentality. A force in the run game, the junior displays light fluid feet, great explosion, and has showcased more physicality to his game rolling his hips after engagement driving defenders off the ball walling them off and/or towards the ground finishing blocks. The former five-star prospect has a nice pop at the point of attack with violent hands (heavy hands), and also displays the excellent ability to reach the second level with a quick fluid movement and sound awareness quickly engaging and swallowing second level defenders in a heartbeat cutting off blocks, as well as, displaying excellent mobility and range when pulling working on leverage on outside runs.
Utilizing his long arms, lateral quickness, balance, and a quick first-step, Williams easily mirrors defenders in pass protection with a smoothness to his game, proper technique, and an impressive ability to quick-set mirroring defenders with suddenness and fluidity adjusting to movement and redirect. Moreover, Williams has shown the capacity to improve throughout his collegiate career with improved technique in keeping hands high and inside providing a solid jolt/punch at the point of attack maximizing his strong hands and arm length locking out his vines to sustain blocks away from his frame for long periods of time. He also brings versatility with the capability to play both tackle positions.