EYE ON B1G – Featured Prospects, Indiana returnees, National Championship Quick Hits

By: Vinnie Calderone | @CenzoNFL

Ohio State vs. Alabama in Miami  

Ohio State and Alabama face off in a rematch of the classic 2015 matchup that saw Ohio State upset Alabama on their way to a National Championship. There are undoubtedly many headlines for this game. Two NFL caliber quarterbacks set to face off, the dynamic running back matchups, big-time linebackers and much, much more. The buzz has been coach Nick Saban’s daughter arguing that Ohio State is only claiming a COVID-19 health scare in order to let Justin Fields have more time to heal. As if Ohio State needed it, the fuel has certainly been provided.  

Justin Fields looks to build off his stellar game versus Clemson. The ribs could be an issue but since there have been no reported missed practices; he should be good to go for the big game. Ohio State did a lot of different things on offense to confuse the Clemson defense, led by defensive coordinator Brent Venables. They were continually taking shots, utilizing motion, and the prolific run game with now lead backer Trey Sermon slowing the game down for his quarterback. It won’t be as easy against Patrick Surtain II and the Alabama offense. Safeties on Clemson were not in the right positions for most of the game, and that won’t happen with an Alabama coached secondary. Look for Jordan Battle and Daniel Wright to control the defense’s back end and not make things so easy for Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson downfield.  

It will be interesting to see how both defenses contend the run. Alabama soundly handled Notre Dame’s rushing attack, but it could be a little more difficult against Ohio State. Trey Sermon has exploded on the scene since the Big Ten Championship game. He’s rushed for 524 yards in the last two games with three touchdowns. Alabama running back Najee Harris has quite literally leaped over the competition this season on the other side of the ball. He was fifth on the Heisman ballot, and for a good reason. He’s a prolific runner that has a streak of nastiness in him, being able to put his shoulder down and run someone over. He’s a freak athletically but his quickness in his cuts is his best trait. The Buckeyes have to slow down Harris to have a chance at being the national champions. When Harris is going, Alabama is lethal with the play action.  

Keep an eye on Jonathan Cooper on Monday. Cooper is a phenomenal defensive end that has had issues with injuries throughout his college and high school career. If Cooper can repeat his success from the matchup versus Clemson, the Tide may be in trouble. The Crimson Tide offensive line is stacked with talent, so it will be a good game for NFL scouts to evaluate Cooper as a prospect for the 2021 Draft.  

We are set to watch a highly intense football game on Monday night. Both teams have faced a fair share of adversity, and it has shown throughout the season that they can handle it and have gotten closer because of it. It’s tough to predict a game like this because of how many superstars  

are set to play. The variable will be the defenses for both teams and how they handle their pass rush against Fields and Jones. When both quarterbacks get pressure, they can be thrown off of their games. 

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Featured Prospects  

Haskell Garrett – DL – Ohio State  

It’s safe to say Garrett will be a top-five defensive lineman in the upcoming NFL Draft if he declares. He is a headache for offensive lineman because of his mixture of size and athleticism.  On a side note, there’s no need to question Garrett’s toughness. He has shot in the face this past offseason and returned only weeks later.  

Shaka Toney – DE – Penn State  

We will hear a lot about a lack of production when discussing Toney’s game, just like his teammate Jayson Oweh and it’s fair criticism for a top prospect. But his traits are extremely impressive and should not be overlooked. He has an excellent bend, quick hands and lots of other crucial defensive end qualities. It will be interesting to see how NFL teams value him come draft day.  

Shakur Brown – CB – Michigan State  

As one of the best playmakers in college football, Brown has certainly made a name for himself during his junior season. He is an intelligent player who plays with reliable instincts in coverage. Brown can cover receivers in zone and man well but is best when he is in man coverage. He has an excellent knack for high pointing the football and making a play on the ball. Brown has the potential to be a sneaky late 1st round pick with an impressive pro day/combine appearance. 

Micah McFadden – OLB – Indiana  

McFadden is an explosive linebacker that can make plays all over the field. Although he has not declared yet, it will be interesting to see where he would go in the 2021 NFL Draft. If he doesn’t declare this season, he could very well be one of the top linebackers taken in 2022. It’s something to keep an eye on if you cover the NFL Draft.  

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Indiana returnees  

The most notable returnee is Marcelino Ball. He is set to return to school after a stellar 2020 season. Most scouts had him as a mid-round pick but he must have unfinished business at Indiana that he wants to finish. This will only benefit his draft stock for the 2022 NFL Draft. Ball is an athletic linebacker/defensive back hybrid that has a ton of range. He’s most effective dropping back in pass coverage but he can make plays at the line of scrimmage as well.  

It will be fascinating to see what the other defensive talent like Micah Mcfadden and Jamar Johnson do in terms of declaring. The risk is there for some of these guys to phase out of the first or second round because of how top-loaded it is. It’s no secret that Indiana could have a  boatload of talent returning on the defensive side of the ball and the Tom Allen coaches Hoosiers could have a successful season next year. You can’t forget the return of Indiana standout quarterback Michal Penix Jr, who tore his ACL in the 2020 season. Penix was having an incredible year before his injury and he will indeed be looking to prove he’s an NFL-caliber quarterback in 2021.