Greetings Faithful! Happy New Year…Happy 2021…Happy College Football Playoff Day! What an exciting way to kick off the new year with both semi-final matchup’s back-to-back as well as the Peach Bowl!
Today’s article will feature a preview of both semi-final games that include the Rose Bowl between #1 Alabama vs. #4 Notre Dame and the All-State Sugar Bowl semi-final rematch from last year’s blockbuster classic between #2 Clemson vs. #3 Ohio State. In the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, we have #8 Cincinnati vs. #9 Georgia.
As a friendly reminder, not every top prospect will be featured in these articles for a couple of reasons. They have opted out or cannot play in the game, or they are not a fit or a realistic possibility (Trevor Lawrence) for the 49ers in April.
With that said, let’s jump in and preview these games and meet some prospects!
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl:
#8 Cincinnati vs #9 Georgia
Kickoff: 9:00 a.m. (PT)
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, GA
Line: Georgia -6.5 o/u: 50.5
This almost has similar vibes to the All-State Sugar Bowl in 2019 when Georgia squared off against Texas. Georgia was heavily favored, and yet it was Texas who stole the show. Many believed that the Georgia team simply “didn’t show up.” Will this Georgia team show up in 2021? On paper, they are a better team, but papers mean nothing once we kickoff into action. This is an undefeated Cincinnati squad who played a complete season and must feel bitter and disrespected being left out of the College Football Playoff. Why not us? He has been the question Group of 5 schools has been screaming since the inception of the Playoff. On the other side of the coin, you have Georgia, who was already embarrassed a couple of years ago in the Sugar Bowl and Kirby Smart has too much pride and competitive spirit that he will have his team focused and ready. Tough game to call…I think Georgia wins, Cincinnati covers, and the score goes over. Give me Georgia in a nail biter 34-31.
Cincinnati Prospects to Watch:
Desmond Ridder, QB – Cincinnati
Height: 6’4” – Weight: 220 lbs.
2020 Stats: 2,090 yards, 17 touchdowns, 66.4 completion percentage, 6 interceptions. 609 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.
Desmond Ridder has led his Bearcats to three consecutive bowl games and now a New Year’s Six Bowl. Very impressive. He continues to grow on me and will continue to move up the ranking board, especially with a strong performance against a stiff SEC defense such as Georgia. The biggest improvement with Ridder this season has been his accuracy. He went from UDFA territory to early Day 3 territory, and because he is a QB, depending on how well his stock takes off, he could even potentially end up as a day two pick. Ridder is a clear-cut, dual-threat weapon. He can extend plays with his legs and be a threat on the ground. In addition, he can complete throws at all three levels on the field. He has a lively arm and a tremendous amount of athleticism. He has flourished in zone-reads and QB runs, where he can often break tackles and extend plays. Doesn’t panic and moves fluidly within the pocket. Watching Ridder, he still needs to polish up his consistency with ball placement. Ridder is fun to watch and someone who will need to sit and learn for a year or two before taking the reins. I see him as an early day 3 pick at the moment.
Myjai Sanders, EDGE – Cincinnati
Height: 6’5” – Weight: 258 lbs.
2020 Stats: 21 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks.
We shall see if Sanders decides to declare for the draft. Sanders has been fun to watch all season long along the edge of the Bearcats' defensive line. You have to love his length and overall measurables for an edge defender transitioning to the pro level. Has outstanding quickness and initial burst off the line. Sanders has heart, effort, and relentless determination to play in and play out. Hands are ruthless and violent. His frame is narrow, and he may need to bulk and build himself up more for the pro level. I have not seen that bull rush ability too much in Sanders, who instead wins with size. Sanders is a late day two-early day three pick who fits best as a 4-2 defensive end.
Georgia Prospects to Watch:
Tyson Campbell, CB – Georgia
Height: 6’2” – Weight: 185 lbs.
2020 Stats: 17 tackles, 1 interception, 4 passes deflected
It’s been a long time coming , but we see you Tyson Campbell pic.twitter.com/MET7QmzQ4I— LEE Ring (@HBTFD1) November 29, 2020
Ok you gotta watch twice....— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 4, 2020
Tyson Campbell flying across formation in man coverage to tackle the flat on 3rd & Goal
Then watch the other CB DJ Daniel just tossing the WR off him
These boys play a physical brand for UGA @tysoncampbell_ pic.twitter.com/93OgBparuL
One of the more well-rounded corners in this 2021 Draft class. Like many other SEC elite corners, he has exceptional athleticism and plays a physical brand of football. His quickness and burst allow him to hang with receivers at all three levels on the field. His closing quickness is one of his best traits, especially for someone of his size and measurements. I like his anticipation and awareness of where the play is going to occur. Like many corners transitioning to the next level, Campbell will need to develop solid consistency and technique. Campbell is a first-round fringe prospect who can drop to day two.
Richard LeCounte, Safety – Georgia
Height: 5’11” – Weight: 190 lbs.
2020 Stats: 16 tackles, 3 interceptions, 4 passes deflected.
Richard LeCounte is your typical high-safety center fielder who can cover a lot of field. Has served as that leader and captain role, often communicating and getting teammates on the same page, which is a skill that I love to see at the college level and is often overlooked. His football IQ, instincts, and awareness are all top-notch. His instincts and speed often put LeCounte in prime positions to make an impact and a play. His size, particularly his height, is a bit of a concern, to be honest. I don’t like him matching up one to one with tight ends. Where he excels is a tackler in the open field against receivers breaking up their momentum.
#1 Alabama vs. #4 Notre Dame
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (PT)
Location: AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX
Line: Alabama -19.5 o/u 66.0
That is not a misprint… 19.5 points favor Alabama. I want to come out and say this will be a shootout with the Tide and Fighting Irish trading touchdowns for four quarters. Like everyone else they have faced, I believe the Tide’s offense will overwhelm the Irish defense. I think points will be aplenty in this one. As strange as this sounds to type, I am not sold on Bama’s defense this year, and mobile quarterbacks such as Ian Book can give them some fits. However, can Book and the offense have a flawless performance for sixty minutes? I’m not counting on it. I respect Notre Dame and what they have done this year, defeating a number one Clemson squad. Notre Dame covers, and the over hits! Give me Alabama by two touchdowns, winning 42-28.
Alabama Prospects to Watch:
Patrick Surtain II, CB – Alabama
Height: 6’1” – Weight: 203 lbs.
2020 Stats: 18 tackles, 1 interception.
Surtain has the measurements and traits that scouts and evaluators seek at the next level. His frame and long and lengthy arms are ideal for the position as he transitions to the pro level. He has demonstrated his ability to play in press coverage and has developed his technique to play in a variety of schemes. I like his patience and anticipation for where the play is going to occur. He has ballhawk instincts and has the speed to match any receiver at all levels on the field. He can play in both man to man and zone coverages and, overall, is the most complete cornerback in this draft class as of this writing. Surtain is a top 15 pick and, at the moment, the CB1 of this draft.
Alex Leatherwood, OL – Alabama
Height: 6’6” – Weight: 310 lbs.
Alex Leatherwood has been consistent along the Alabama offensive line during his collegiate career. Leatherwood has good balance and efficient lower and upper body strength. I love his initial step out of the snap and his ability to take on pass rushers. He trusts and uses his hands aggressively. His down blocking in the running game is a big plus, and his positive contributions in the ground game provide lanes for the ball carrier.
Notre Dame Prospects to Watch:
Liam Eichenberg, OL – Notre Dame
Height: 6’6” – Weight: 305 lbs.
Another pro-ready tackle out of Notre Dame. Eichenberg has the build, frame, and measurements that evaluators seek at the next level. He has outstanding punch power while taking on defenders along the edge. He has experience and abilities to play the left tackle position and should transition to that position at the pro level. Trusts his feet and overall movement, especially lateral movements along the line. He has a tremendous blocking radius. Another important trait is his veteran experience and ability to communicate and recognize packages and looks the defense might be bringing on the next play. Eichenberg is a first-round prospect.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB – Notre Dame
Height: 6’2” – Weight: 216 lbs.
I know linebacker isn’t high on the priority list, but that shouldn’t stop the 49ers from taking one and continuing to build upon one of the best units in the NFL. What I love most about Koramoah is his ability to make plays and impact the passing game. He can match up against tight ends, often being a thorn on their side. His explosiveness, particularly within the first five yards of the line of scrimmage, is a sight to see. He also has success in blitz packages and has demonstrated his abilities to disrupt and cause chaos in the pocket.
All-State Sugar Bowl:
#2 Clemson vs. #3 Ohio State
Kickoff: 5:00 p.m. (PT)
Location: Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Line: Clemson -7.5 o/u 65.5
We meet again…Those three words are fitting for these two teams who will be playing in a semi-final for the third time since 2016. Ohio State has kept the score of last year’s Fiesta Bowl displayed in the training facility all season as a reminder…You think they are excited to get revenge in this one? On the other side, Clemson is 4-0 against Ohio State. Playing on this stage has become all too familiar and comfortable for this team, especially this group of seniors seeking their third straight national title appearance. Ohio State is an outstanding team, who has the personnel to defeat Clemson. What I think they are missing this season is the consistency that has been sorely missing all season. Add on that they are catching a Clemson squad playing in peak mode, and I think it will be five for five for these Tigers from Clemson against Ohio State. Clemson wins, covers, but the score is under 65.5 barely. Give me Clemson winning 38-28.
Clemson Prospects to Watch:
Derion Kendrick, CB – Clemson
Height: 6’0” – Weight: 190 lbs.
2020 Stats: 17 tackles, 1 interception, 5 passes deflected.
#Clemson CB Derion Kendrick is a prime example of a prospect that will be a late bloomer (converted from WR in 2018) that turns into a really good player. Just needed reps. He’s getting better every week. pic.twitter.com/eERKGpfpvP— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) October 11, 2020
Derion Kendrick with the scoop and score for Clemson (-23) and the Tigers are starting to pull away in the 4th Qpic.twitter.com/vVJGNBRHqA— MyBookie Sportsbook (@mybookiebet) December 6, 2020
Derion Kendrick is another pro-ready corner in the pipeline from Clemson, SC, to the NFL. Fun fact…Kendrick played receiver before playing quarterback in his junior and senior seasons. Why do I bring these fun facts up? It shows me that he understands and can relate to the game from multiple angles. I think these are important traits for evaluators and GM’s to consider when selecting prospects in the draft. Originally recruited as a wide receiver, Kendrick switched over the corner in the spring of his sophomore season. He hasn’t left the position since then, and Clemson is thankful for it. I love his ball skills and anticipation. Can read a quarterback’s eyes and anticipate a receiver’s routes. Again, this goes back to familiarity with those positions. I’m excited to see Kendrick play in the big stages once again at this point in the season. Kendrick is a day two pick at the moment.
Nolan Turner, Safety – Clemson
Height: 6’1” – Weight: 205 lbs.
2020 Stats: 51 total tackles, 3 interceptions.
Nolan Turner will be remembered for his game-sealing interception last season against Justin Fields and the Buckeyes. Unfortunately, he will be suspended for the first half of this game due to a targeting penalty charged to him in the ACC title game against Notre Dame. Turner will be able to play in the second half. Nolan Turner has been a steady and calm force in the Tigers' secondary. He will be a notable absence in the first half as I believe he is the glue and veteran presence that keeps the secondary in place. I love his awareness and instincts. He has a knack for where the play will occur and has some ballhawk qualities about him. He has good but not great speed, and at the next level, I don’t see Turner as that elite centerfielder type of safety. Turner is a day three pick at the moment. He can be an intriguing rotational player for the 49ers at a position that seems to deal with multiple injuries.
Ohio State Prospects to Watch:
Justin Fields, QB – Ohio State
Height: 6’3” – Weight: 222 lbs.
2020 Stats: 1,512 yards, 15 touchdowns, 5 interceptions.
Why Justin Fields? Some may be asking. I am not necessarily saying Fields is a fit for the 49ers, nor do I think the 49ers will even select a passer in the first round. I’ll be honest; I am almost never a fan of Ohio State quarterbacks going to the NFL…However, Fields is not your typical Ohio State passer. The Georgia transfer has performed admirably since his arrival to Columbus last year. Fields can make all the throws and passes that have been asked of him. Can throw with quality timing and anticipation. On the tape, I saw his ability to throw to receivers in tight windows and hit receivers on the run. I am also impressed with his ability to move within the pocket and extend the play with his legs. Fields runs with purpose and doesn’t just run to run. There is dynamic quality in his runs. He also happens to be one of the best passers in the nation on the run. Has the velocity, arm strength, and accuracy that will help Fields translate to the next level. Fields needs to work on not forcing through a play that is breaking down. We say that against Indiana and Northwestern this season. He also needs to work on his blitz recognition. He will continue to build his field vision, which is still in development. There will be a hundred and one different opinions on quarterbacks in this draft. I’m not saying Fields is my choice, and this is not an endorsement for Fields (For what it’s worth, my favorite QB is out of reach). I wouldn’t be surprised if the 49ers take a long look at Fields. Fields is a Top 10 pick.
Wyatt Davis, OG/C – Ohio State
Height: 6’4” – Weight: 310 lbs.
Wyatt Davis is projected to play at the right guard position at the pro level. Davis plays with a relentless and violent style along the offensive line. This has a major positive impact on the run game and creates lanes for the ball carrier. Please watch plenty of highlights from the Big 10 Title Game! He has multi-year experience with the Buckeyes and has shown growth and improvement each season. He has sufficient lateral, quick movement and shifts very well, trusting his balance and footwork. Hands are violent and will push back against oncoming pass rushers and pressure. He has shown significant growth in the pass protection and has developed into a steady three-down lineman that scouts and evaluators seek. You don’t see too many guards going in round one. Davis would be a pleasant surprise to break that trend.
I recently predicted that Mac Jones would win the Heisman Trophy. However, DeVonta Smith and his playmaking abilities have been so, so impressive this season. I will make my FINAL prediction with Smith taking home the honor as the first receiver to win the award since Desmond Howard in 1991.
Who are YOU excited to see in action on this New Year’s Day? Please share in the comments below!