With a few weeks of college football under our belts already, some of the best NFL Draft prospects in the nation are starting to separate themselves from the pack. The SEC took hits against Florida State in Week 1 and Texas in Week 2. But as we ease into conference play, the CFB SEC Week 3 preview does not include a marquee non-conference matchup.
However, an unranked SEC squad could surprise a ranked Big 12 school at home early on Saturday.
SEC Players To Watch in Week 3
Spencer Rattler gets a chance to prove to NFL evaluators that he can survive in adverse conditions. An NFL-worthy runner gets to test his abilities against a run-stuffing future NFL linebacker. And a Florida defensive back has to deal with Tennessee’s downfield attack.
Spencer Rattler Must Survive a Relentless Georgia Defense
Georgia began the season with UT Martin and Ball State, so the 10 points they’ve allowed through two weeks is certainly deflated by the competition. Georgia is still the single powerhouse in college football, and that dominance comes on both sides of the football.
Javon Bullard, Kamari Lassiter, Nazir Stackhouse, Smael Mondon Jr., Jamon Dumas-Johnson, and a slew of non-draft-eligible defensive talents take aim at the nation’s former top quarterback recruit.
It will almost certainly be an ugly day for Rattler. There is only so much adversity even the most elite talents can overcome. Rattler has Xavier Legette on the outside to go to, but Antwane “Juice” Wells has been a ghost trying to get back on his feet after battling a lower-body injury throughout camp that forced him to miss time during the North Carolina game.
Without a 100% Wells, Rattler is stuck. His offensive line protects about as proficiently as a Kevlar vest protects against a 7.62 without steel plates inserted. The result is often reminiscent as well, as Rattler ends up on the ground often.
Rattler probably should have declared last season. However, we have seen improvements in his process. He’s been a more confident decision-maker over the first two weeks of the season, and he appears more willing to tuck and run when the situation asks for that.
Maintaining his process under severe duress from Georgia defenders will be a great sign of his process above the shoulders, which is the one thing that has truly kept him from rising in the ranks of the 2024 NFL Draft class.
Mississippi State RB Jo’quavious Marks vs. LSU LB Omar Speights
The Air Raid is gone, and Jo’quavious Marks SZN is upon us. He’s been a pet cat since the summer, but the new offense is finally legitimately showing what he can do in a “traditional” offense. Through three weeks and two games, he ranks fifth in rushing yards among Power-Five schools. He has also added 91 receiving yards on eight catches.
Marks has proven an effective dump-off target out of the backfield, and the team has tried featuring him often in the screen game during that time as well. But if he can prove a dynamic wide zone runner and an explosive pass catcher out of the backfield in 2023, his draft stock could skyrocket.
But he is an all-purpose back despite his lackluster size. He’s an intelligent and willing pass protector, if not a little underwhelming physically.
Meanwhile, LSU LB Omar Speights will undoubtedly say hello to Marks a few times on Saturday. In Week 1 against Florida State, Speights was one of the only consistent tacklers on the LSU roster.
He’s an outstanding run defender, but the most intriguing part of this particular matchup comes in coverage.
How does the stocky linebacker work as a reactive athlete against someone as shifty as Marks? Speights displays high-end athleticism in his nearly 240-pound frame, but is he reactive enough to follow Marks on a Texas route?
Can Florida CB Jason Marshall Improve His Stock Against Tennessee’s Downfield Attack
We all remember the big play from Utah early in the game with Jason Marshall in tow, but that fault is not his. It was a great play call that caught the free safety driving downhill on an in-breaking route, and Marshall was out of position because he was leveraged outside in a Cover 3 responsibility.
Tennessee will consistently test the Florida defensive backfield vertically, and their QB has the kind of rare arm that can test distances that surpass normal coverage responsibilities. How Marshall operates under such unique conditions could do a lot for his perception within this draft class.
He possesses the physical talent of a high-end NFL cover corner, but the mental side of the game is one he still needs to undergo growth. Tennessee’s offense will be a great test.
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