Every weekend college football showcases intriguing matchups between future professional players battling in one-on-one situations. The result of these matchups will have implications in the 2022 NFL Draft order. Although the draft is still months away, NFL teams have their sights on players to preemptively stack their boards and assign grades to players. All of these prospects are eligible for the draft and some even have the opportunity to be drafted early. These matchups will allow NFL front offices to see how they produce against the best competition. NFL scouts will have their eyes on these upcoming matchups in Week 9 to help answer questions throughout the draft process.
Penn State S Jaquan Brisker vs. Ohio State TE Jeremy Ruckert
This game’s matchup will feature two of the better prospects at their positions for the 2022 NFL draft. Jaquon Brisker is a 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior safety who has started 17 games for the Nittany Lions. Through his career Brisker has shown he is a hybrid safety who can be an effective tool in game planning. He has the ability to be a physical box defender who can help in run support while also having the athleticism to make plays in coverage down field. He was selected as 3rd-team All Big Ten in 2020 and has continued his good play into the 2021 season. This matchup will show how effective he is when covering large and athletic tight ends. Safeties who can man-up tight ends are highly regarded at the next level so this game will have an impact on his draft stock.
Jeremy Ruckert will be on the offensive side of the ball for this match up. Ruckert is a 6-foot-5, 250-pound senior who has been a leader for their team the last two seasons. Ruckert is versatile as a tight end with the ability to line up as an H-back, in-line blocker and in the slot. He has the physicality to be an effective in-line blocker and the demeanor to be brutal in split zone blocking. Ruckert has shown ability as a receiving tight end as well. He shows good get off on his release with the strength to fight through chips at the line of scrimmage. He runs solid routes with the ability to manipulate safeties in the seam to free other players around him. Ruckert has slightly above average speed and burst for a tight end but is consistent in catching the ball. This weekend will be a good matchup between two physical players who are 2nd and 3rd level threats on their side of the ball.
Mississippi State OT Charles Cross vs. Kentucky DE Josh Paschal
Saturday 7:00 PM
Mississippi State will be battling 12th ranked Kentucky this weekend with a good amount of NFL talent colliding. Charles Cross is one of the better prospects for Mississippi State this year. Cross is a 6-foot-5, 310-pound redshirt sophomore who was named Freshman all-SEC by the coaches in the conference. Cross has great physical tools that can make him a top offensive tackle prospect this year. He shows the athleticism to use multiple different pass protection sets and has the agility to get to the second level in the run game. There are times he shows unrefined footwork and hand placement but he is still a young, raw player with a high ceiling. Cross will be looking to stun a very good Kentucky pass rush this week to show he can handle NFL talent as a young player.
Kentucky’s defensive line has been spearheaded by Josh Paschal’s play this season. Paschal is a 6-foot-3, 278-pound redshirt senior who has started 30 games for the Wildcats in his career. Paschal is an aggressive edge player who has had the versatility to line up anywhere on the line. His violent hand usage and ability to create lock-out with his arms has been a key reason he has been so impactful. Paschal is a good run defender with the power to create knockback with leverage and the motor to chase plays from the backside. This weekend will be a good test to see how Paschal handles strong and lengthy offensive tackles on the edge. NFL scouts will be intrigued to see the battle between Paschal and Cross take place this weekend.
SMU WR Danny Gray vs. Houston CB Marcus Jones
Saturday 7:00 PM
A smaller school matchup between two talented players will take place when SMU and Houston square off in this AAC conference showdown. On the offensive side of the ball will be receiver Danny Gray. Gray is a 6-foot-2, 199-pound senior who has started 15 games for the Mustangs over the last two years. He has good height for a receiver and explosive run after the catch ability. He can take shorter receptions and use his speed to slice through secondary defenders for bigger gains. Gray has a tendency to body catch when targeted over the middle of the field. He can separate using his length and quick footwork on the outside. Gray can struggle using speed to separate due to a lack of long explosive burst when running deep routes. Gray will be looking to show what he can do against the 3rd ranked team in their conference.
Houston’s Marcus Jones is a unique player who can be considered a Swiss army knife of an NFL prospect. Jones is a 5-foot-8, 190-pound senior who has made 13 starts as a cornerback for Houston after transferring from Troy in 2019. He is primarily a corner but is a slot receiver and All-American punt returner for Houston as well. Jones has the speed and agility to man-up receivers in both the slot and wide. His smaller stature is made up for by his tenacious attitude at the catch point and closing speed when targeted. Jones will most likely be considered for a slot DB position at the next level due to his agility and height but this weekend will be an indicator of how he handles length on the outside.