3:30pm ET | ABC/ESPN2
Quickness versus power. Bend against bulk. Call it whatever you want, but this will be a matchup of contrasting tools and skill-sets in the Pacific Northwest on Saturday afternoon when Washington travels to Eugene to take on Oregon.
The Huskies feature some bigger names, such as underrated QB Jake Browning and record-setting RB Myles Gaskin, but in all likelihood RT Kaleb McGary will be the first UW player taken in the NFL draft. Going into the season, there was some debate among scouts as to whether it would be McGary or left tackle Trey Adams who would hear their name called first, but a back injury ended Adams’ season before it started and now there is little doubt about who will come off the board first in late April. We have stated it before in this column and it is worth repeating that NFL teams covet experienced major program offensive linemen and Saturday will be McGary’s 40th career start.
With only five senior starters, the Ducks are an extremely young team and Jelks is widely regarded by NFL scouts as their top draftable player. There is talk that ultra-talented junior QB Justin Herbert could leave early, but if he decides to stay in school then Jelks is the Ducks’ best chance of having a player drafted in the first three rounds.
In this week’s matchup, let’s start with the size factor. Our first live exposure to McGary was in the season-opener against Auburn and he is a big man. Evaluations are, to a degree, incomplete without seeing a player up-close because a player’s body type is a critical part of projection to the next level and McGary has the frame that NFL teams are looking for on the edge. Conversely, Jelks is sleek, thinner-hipped, and very lean. Scouts are going to love Jelks’ length, however, his lack of lower bulk will put him at a disadvantage against McGary if he is asked to hold the point-of-attack on a consistent basis.
On run-downs, Jelks does a good job setting the edge when he plays over tight ends because he has the shock in his hands to stun people, but engaging and holding his ground against a bigger bodied guy like McGary in the run game could be a challenge. One of the things that stood out when we saw McGary play live against Auburn’s big, physical defensive front was how initially quick and mobile he was. We came into that game thinking McGary might possess some prototypical right tackle athletic limitations, but that is hardly the case. Most right tackle prospects are shorter-area plodders, but McGary does some good things pulling, cutting off the backside, and working up to the second-level. His athleticism will be put to the test this week against Jelks, who makes the majority of his plays working edges and chasing plays down from behind.
In passing situations, this will not be an all-day type of matchup because Oregon likes to move Jelks around on sub-downs. Most of the time, Jelks will standup and rush off the edge from a two-point stance, however, he will reduce inside, sometimes to nose tackle, where he can use his good get-off quickness against interior offensive lineman and his range to loop outside. When they do square-off, McGary will have to stay patient in his pass sets against Jelks. Scouts we have spoken with are intrigued by Jelks’ combination of twitch and length and he has the cross-face quickness to get McGary off-balance if McGary is not disciplined in his technique. The one area that might prevent McGary from being a swing tackle at the next level would be his ability to handle wide speed rushers, so this will be a game that NFL scouts focus on when trying to determine how much position flexibility McGary will have as a pro.
Another long-bodied senior defender to keep an eye on in this game is three-year starting OLB Justin Hollins, who had sacks in each of Oregon’s first four games. When we saw Oregon play at Cal earlier this year, Hollins looked like a HWS (height/weight/speed) player that could ascend thru the process, especially for 3-4 teams.
The Senior Bowl has already seen each of these teams play live once and we are scheduled to see Washington play again when they travel to Cal on October 27.
Michigan State WR Felton Davis vs. Penn State CB Amani Oruwariye
In last year’s matchup, Davis had 12 receptions for 181 yards and one TD while Oruwariye made one of the most impressive interceptions of the season. Both are taller, above-the-rim players who should have some jump ball opportunities on Saturday.
Michigan TE Zach Gentry vs. Wisconsin LBs Ryan Connelly, T.J. Edwards, and Andrew Van Ginkel
Gentry is an ascending prospect and he is coming off his best receiving game of the season (7 receptions, 112 yards) but will have his work cut out for him both blocking and receiving against the trio of Connelly, Edwards, and Van Ginkel, which might be the best senior group in the nation.
Nebraska WR Stanley Morgan vs. Northwestern CB Montre Hartage
Morgan and Hartage are both tough, productive Big Ten players that still need to showcase one defining trait that will translate to NFL success. They have a good opportunity to do so in this intriguing outside matchup.
Baylor WR Jalen Hurd vs. Texas CB Kris Boyd
Hurd bet on himself with his position change from RB to WR and he will be challenged by the physicality and aggressiveness of Boyd, who is putting together a very solid senior season.
Georgia DE Jonathan Ledbetter, LBs D’Andre Walker and Natrez Patrick vs. LSU RB Nick BrossetteBrossette waited his turn at LSU and he is taking advantage of the opportunity this season. NFL scouts will want to see what he does against Georgia’s front-seven, including senior prospects like Ledbetter, Walker, and Patrick.
-- Jim Nagy, Reese's Senior Bowl Executive Director