Week 2 of the college football season kicks off on Friday night. The Big 12 Conference has several matchups, allowing its top prospects to shine nationally. We know that Texas is looking to upset Alabama, but there are prospects throughout the Big 12 with an opportunity to rise the 2024 NFL Draft boards.
We’re highlighting seven players in this CFB Week 2 Big 12 preview. Each player is already on the PFN Scouting Team’s radar and has room to improve their outlook.
Big 12 Players To Watch in Week 2
Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
Safe to say that all eyes will be on Quinn Ewers on Saturday evening.
Ewers was dominant last year against Alabama before being knocked out of the game with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. He peppered Nick Saban‘s defense with accurate passes to all field levels, putting the tide on the brink of a season-ending loss before it even began.
It’s easy to forget that Ewers was outplaying eventual No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young in the contest. Ewers is extremely talented, with an arm that is not the strongest but is capable of manipulating the ball better than anyone else in college football.
The big question for him in this game is whether he can continue growing as a decision-maker under pressure and improve the mechanics that get the most out of what his body can give.
Make no mistake: if Ewers plays well, he will vault into the top 10 of mock drafts sooner than later. While it’s fair to be concerned about Ewers, his arms, strength, and ability to create outside of structure, there’s still room in the NFL for dominant pocket passers.
He fits the prototype, so it’s about making his play fit the projection.
Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas
Star Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy will have his hands full against Alabama star cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry.
We saw this battle last year, and it was a give-and-take for both players. I expect the same this year, as both players are projected to go in the first round and be among the most explosive and high-end talents at their respective positions.
Worthy is going to be a polarizing prospect in most regards. Like Zay Flowers last year, Worthy does not have the bulk we typically see out of first-round playmakers. This is a concern, even as the NFL embraces smaller and shifty year players, who often weigh well under 200 pounds now.
The new school of thinking will embrace Worthy more as a prospect than ever. His speed is very good, but his quickness and his sharp route running makes him a stand-out prospect.
But at the same time, because he relies on soft skills more than natural athleticism that will separate him from NFL competition, he must win as often as possible with those skills against a prospect like McKinstry.
The range for worthy is probably between the end of the first round and the end of the second round. That’s not a significant range, but it can be influenced greatly by a single game like this. If Worthy shows out, he’ll start making his argument for being one of the top four receivers in the class.
Devin Neal, RB, Kansas
The Kansas Jayhawks started with an uneasy first half of week one against Missouri State before figuring out how to overwhelm the inferior competition. Being without star quarterback Jalen Daniels seemed like it would be an issue, but his backup, Jason Bean, performed well in his absence.
Even as Daniels is expected to play this week, the focus is on star running back Devin Neal.
Kansas kicks off Friday night against Illinois. Though Illinois does not have the same talent level as Kansas, they are well-coached. Kansas could risk losing if Daniels does not play or gets knocked out. This is where Kansas will need to rely on Neal more.
The middle-round depth of running back talent is not especially strong in the 2024 NFL Draft class. As the PFN scouting team has worked to rank the top-10 running backs in this class, Neal is pushing his way up closer to the middle of those rankings.
His 94-yard performance last week showed why.
Neal has good quickness, especially in the open field, as he can make a defender miss things with various moves that he executes quickly. He has decent play strength, knowing how to lower his shoulder at the right time to withstand a hit and fall forward.
But speed and quickness make him stand out as an inside zone specialist. His toughness between the tackles will be on display against Illinois, allowing him to boost his stock.
Neal’s ceiling will likely earn him a spot below our top five running backs. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good second running back on any NFL depth chart. He’s experienced, has a great skill set, and has a track record of success at Kansas as one of the main focuses of the office.
Gabe Hall, DL, Baylor
The Baylor Bears were embarrassed in Week 1 against Texas State.
No one expected this Baylor team to be blown out 42 to 31. Optimism had increased entering the season around Baylor considering they lost most of their games in 2022 by one score. There was certainly an argument to be had that Baylor would bounce back based on averages.
However, that didn’t happen. And the blame goes down the line, including their best players. Defensive tackle Gabe Hall is someone we expect to be a very good player based on his NFL build and track record of production.
Instead of making a big impact on the game, Hall was mostly invisible throughout the Week 1 battle. He registered only one tackle and was otherwise uninspiring. While I saw stretches of this last year from Hall, as he is more of a run-focused defender, this was against lower competition in the first game of his senior season.
Things must change quickly, not only for Baylor but also for Hall. This stacked defensive tackle group entering the league in 2024 has no room for many players to be ineffective while on the field.
Hall has great power, enough burst that allows him to get past blockers, and great awareness that allows him to finish place. As Baylor faces No. 12 Utah on Saturday, Hall will be given a spotlight as he looks to improve upon his draft stock, which currently has him as a Day 3 talent.
Rondell Bothroyd, EDGE, Oklahoma
Speaking of an underwhelming Week 1 debut from a defensive lineman, Rondell Bothroyd from Oklahoma fit the bill. Transferring from Wake Forest to the Sooners, Bothroyd has the opportunity to show that he can be one of the most productive players in the nation before graduation.
At 6’4″ and 258 pounds, Bothroyd amassed 13 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss at Wake Forest over the last two years. Despite this, he logged just one assisted tackle in Oklahoma’s blowout Week 1 win.
It’s not a big deal that Bothroyd was not changing the game in his first game with the new program against a cupcake. But as I mentioned with Hall, you want to see traits be maximized and then a linear path of improvement.
Bothroyd was one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the country last year. As Oklahoma gets ready to face SMU at home on a bigger stage, this could be a breakout game for him. SMU runs a pass-heavy office that will allow Bothroyd to pin his ears back and consistently get after the quarterback.
Rayshad Williams, CB, Texas Tech
One of my top Day 3 cornerback prospects in the 2024 class is Rayshad Williams of Texas Tech. With his huge 6’3″ frame, Williams is very effective in challenging receivers at the catch point, making it difficult for them to come down with the ball in possession.
He doesn’t have the most speed, and he doesn’t have the ball production that has made him a household name at this point. But his raw cover stats are impressive, and the film is encouraging that he could develop into a rotational player at the next level. Williams did not play consistently in Week 1 in transfer auditions.
I’m looking to see if Williams earns the start this week and how he performs against a mighty Oregon Ducks team that will certainly challenge him. Facing off against Ducks star wide receiver Troy Franklin is a tall task given his speed and natural play-making ability.
Performing well this week should give Williams a massive boost in the chances he makes the All-Star circuit. However, if not a starter or someone who plays a heavy snap load, it could be a sign that he lost his spot in the rotation.
Javon Baker, WR, UCF
The final player in our spotlight for the Big 12 this week is UCF wide receiver Javon Baker. Baker is one of my favorite players in the conference because he plays tough, has strong concentration, and has a huge catch radius despite not being the biggest or fastest player on the field.
Because Baker wins with effort, more so than great speed or agility, he will have a limited upside projection into the NFL.
But that doesn’t mean he brings no value or is not a draftable talent because he is. The UCF often performed well last week but did not feature Baker as much as expected. That’s not shocking or overly concerning because this team has several quality receivers to rely upon.
As UCF travels to take on Boise State, Baker becomes more of a priority to watch. Washington blew Boise State out last week, giving up huge performances in the passing game to several wide receivers.
There’s no excuse for good receivers not to produce against Boise State. Last week indicated their talent and effort to Boise will give as a pass defense this season.
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