There was lots of big college football news this week. The SEC is starting their league play, while the NCAA has ruled to allow players who have previously opted out to opt back in.
This weekend’s slate of games still isn’t really stacked — we’ll see more as the season progresses — but we’re finally getting to see a lot of different prospects. With CFB’s best conference kicking off, it’s the first must-see weekend of college football.
The Kansas City Chiefs improved to 2-0 by defeating the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday — but their performance was nothing to write home about. The team came out pretty flat and didn’t seem well-prepared for the Chargers’ game plan — and Los Angeles pass rushers had their way against the Chiefs’ offensive line. Now that we’ve spent two weeks highlighting college linebackers, let’s change our focus to offensive linemen.
Prospects to watch
Trey Smith | IOL | Tennessee
Tennessee vs. South Carolina, 6:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time
Smith had been contemplating entering the 2020 NFL Draft but opted to return to Tennessee for his final season. He’s dealt with some blood clotting issues, but he’s been medically cleared to return. That might be his biggest hurdle to overcome.
Trey Smith IOL— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) September 25, 2020
If Smith can stay healthy and pass all the medical checks, he has every chance to be a rare top 20 pick along the IOL.
++ Unique power
+ Powerful punch and drive
+ Eats up stunts
+ Movement for size
- Stiffness through the hips
- Can play off balance/rely on str pic.twitter.com/hppJn9QMLU
Smith is a massive player who has experience at both tackle and guard — but he looks better on the inside. For his size, he’s a quality mover — but he won’t be misidentified as super nimble or a top-end player in space. That said, he is more than capable of climbing to the second level, pulling around the horn and landing blocks on the move.
Where he really shines is with his power — both as a run blocker and in pass protection. When he keeps his base, he can blow players off the line of scrimmage, opening big running lanes. He has the strength to hold his ground, along with the explosive power to quickly get off the line of scrimmage. Extremely quick players can challenge him in pass protection, but he has the agility to stay in position well enough that he can use his power to control them.
To improve his draft stock, Smith just needs to stay healthy enough to pass all of the medical checks during the process. He could improve his conditioning to become more flexible — which would improve his scheme fit with more NFL teams — but when healthy, he’s still a Round 1 talent.
Samuel Cosmi | OT | Texas
Texas vs. Texas Tech, 2:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time
Cosmi is another offensive lineman who could have entered last year’s draft — and had a good chance to be in the top 50. Saturday’s game may not be his biggest test of the season, but it’s his first against a Power 5 program.
Sam Cosmi OT— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) September 26, 2020
Labeled as a great athlete for OT but equally impressed with some of the nuance displayed.
+ Trap technique when engaged
+ Lateral agility/flexibility
++ Varies pass sets based on rush
+ Grip once locked
- Lean lower body
- Pad level
- Wide/low hands pic.twitter.com/uwcgrRP74i
In terms of playing style, Cosmi is the polar opposite of Smith. He’s an elite athlete who has a pretty advanced repertoire of blocking techniques in pass protection. For a college player, his hand usage is pretty advanced. Pairing that with his natural athleticism makes him a very promising tackle prospect.
His footwork isn’t always consistent — and his pad level is often too high — but more often than not, he can make up for those issues. As a run blocker, he brings a unique skill set that allows him to get out into space and make difficult reach blocks that zone-blocking NFL teams will covet. Historically, the Chiefs have loved prospects like Cosmi — but given recent additions along the offensive line, that could be changing.
Cosmi could improve his already-solid draft stock by adding more strength and size to his frame; he can be overpowered. Players with his athletic skillset usually get drafted early, but he could solidify that by adding some lower body mass and improving his pad level.
Matchup to watch
Alex Leatherwood and Deonte Brown vs. Nick Bolton
Alabama vs Missouri, 6:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time
Bolton is an athletic, coverage-based linebacker who performed well when he was forced into playing MIKE linebacker for the Missouri Tigers last year.
Nick Bolton gunna be a PROBLEM pic.twitter.com/F2vtsA68R9— Barstool Mizzou (@BarstoolMizzou) February 10, 2020
Bolton has been very productive in coverage, making many plays on the ball while handling rather complex responsibilities. He has good range and is quite explosive, making him an ideal WILL linebacker at the next level.
When he asked to play MIKE last year, he had to spend more time banging between the tackles and working through reads, which was more challenging for him. This season, he should continue to grow, transitioning from a coverage linebacker to one who can play all three downs.
Like most years, Alabama has loads of talent across the offensive line. But the two best prospects are left tackle Alex Leatherwood and interior offensive lineman Deonte Brown.
Alex Leatherwood OL #70— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) August 23, 2020
++ OT/OG experience
+ Varied hand usage
+ Utilizes length well
++ Quick feet laterally; easy mirror
+ Gets into space under control
+ Hand placement & speed
- Play strength doesn't match aggression
- Weight over toes frequently
Senior Bowl Top 250 pic.twitter.com/9kSrhdfGcb
Last year, Leatherwood (#70) kicked out to left tackle and continued to showcase an intriguing skillset. His feet are incredibly quick — and he displays good hand placement to make mirroring pass rushers very easy.
Even when run blocking, he can get out into space quickly, making lots of difficult blocks on the move. Like Cosmi, he lacks strength in his lower half, but he plays an aggressive brand of football — one that can sometimes pull him out of place.
Brown (#65) has also moved around the Alabama line, playing right guard last season. He is a powerhouse of a run blocker, constantly moving bodies off the line of scrimmage. He always seems to land his hands inside a defender’s chest — and then keeps his legs moving after contact. He brings that same demeanor to his pass protection reps, too — but his average lateral agility and lack of playing experience shows up more often in pass protection.
The bottom line
There is no certainty that the Chiefs will draft — or even show interest — in any of these players. But considering what we’ve seen from the team so far this year, this is a good list of players you should keep an eye on. As you watch your college football games on Saturday, try and catch at least a few snaps from these players.