2020 NFL Draft Spotlight: A.J. Epenesa gets national stage vs. Iowa State

NCAA Football, NFL Draft

Our 2020 NFL Draft spotlight heads to where College Gameday is this week, along with a look at a big non-conference matchup and some quarterbacks.

The last couple weeks of the college football season have given us very good match-ups between ranked teams that featured a lot of 2020 NFL Draft talent. This week, not so much.

Week three is always that down week where most teams are playing weak non-conference opponents or weak conference opponents, and the meat of the schedule hasn’t kicked in yet. That leaves us fans without a clear-cut top game of the week.

That doesn’t mean fans of the draft should take the week off from football. Plenty of good match-ups for prospects still exist this weekend. Here are a few you should keep your eye on.

Iowa vs. Iowa State

The edge class for 2020 has been a two-man race so far. Chase Young has grabbed the early headlines, but Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa has been just as impressive. Epenesa has a great combination of technique and strength, in that he does a great job getting low and gaining leverage while also using great hand placement to drive tackles off their sets.

This week, Epenesa gets a bigger test than he’s had the first couple of weeks. The Iowa State Cyclones have two senior offensive tackles with lots of experience. I expect Epenesa to stay lined up at the left defensive end spot, so he will match up with Julian Good-Jones. Good-Jones is a more athletic tackle with very quick feet. Epenesa should have the advantage with his power. Should he move over to the right side at all, he will deal with Bryce Meeker, who anchors very well as a power tackle.

The other matchup in the trenches flips the script. Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs is all over big boards and his move to left tackle makes him that much more intriguing for scouts. Iowa State’s defensive line is its strength, and Wirfs will get a heavy dose of senior Ja’Quan Bailey on the edge. Like Epenesa, this will be a nice test for Wirfs.

Arizona State vs. Michigan State

While the game above has match-ups on both sides, this game focuses when the Sun Devils are on offense and the Spartans are on defense. Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin has flown under the radar in the running back class, but he has the three-down ability as a runner and a receiver. Benjamin has just 3.7 yards per carry so far this season, but he does have 126 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns to go with it.

It will be tough sledding for Benjamin this week on the ground. The Spartans have a great defense, led by defensive end Kenny Willekes and linebacker Joe Bachie Jr. Willekes has been a force on the edge so far this season, with three sacks already. He has very good hand usage to disengage from linemen and has a decent get off. Bachie Jr. is a very good downhill linebacker who reads and attacks in the run game.

More quarterbacks

We’ve talked a lot about the quarterback class and have featured a quarterback every week so far on the 2020 NFL Draft spotlight. It doesn’t change this week.

North Texas quarterback Mason Fine has a lot of tools you want in a quarterback. He’s got the fastball for quick throws and excellent touch when he throws deep on the boundary. Fine often goes to his first read, and if it isn’t there he usually opts to run. It will be a great test for him against the California secondary this week. They gave Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason some issues last week. Look out for safety Ashtyn Davis once again.

Speaking of Eason, he and the Washington Huskies take on Hawai’i this week. Look for a bounce-back week from Eason (even though his line doesn’t completely reflect his own performance), and keep an eye on Cole McDonald from Hawai’i. He has some nice arm talent but tends to push his luck and turns the ball over.

Skill positions

There are a few games to watch some skill position players in action, a couple of which present good wide receiver/cornerback match-ups.

Florida State and Virginia meet up in an ACC tilt this weekend, and watching Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall go up against Florida State’s big wide receiver Tamorrion Terry. Terry is listed at 6 foot 3 and 203 pounds. Get ready to watch the physical play between these two, especially in the red zone.

Alabama travels to play South Carolina for the first time since 2010. Gamecocks senior wide receiver Bryan Edwards will be tested if he lines up opposite Crimson Tide corner Trevon Diggs, who is having a very good season so far. Diggs has great ball skills and good route recognition as a former receiver.

Also, watch South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw and Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood. They might not match up across one another, but both haven’t gotten much of a test yet.

There will also be plenty of skill guys to watch as TCU takes on Purdue. We’ve highlighted Brycen Hopkins before, but TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor is extremely explosive in space and could thrive against Purdue.

Next: 50 greatest college football teams of all time

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