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2021 Dream On-Field Matchups Series Part 2

SI All-American continues its new series with examining particular dream matchups on the field between elite 2021 college football prospects.

Believe it or not, it is easy for many to forget that college football recruits actually play football. People can get so wrapped up in a prospect's recruitment and his offer list, visits and finalists, they completely lose sight of why a recruit is highly touted.

At SI All-American, our objective is to always put a heavy emphasis on a prospect's on-field performance with pads on. This allows a full evaluation of a prospect's skill set, instincts, mental processing and toughness, as well as their movement skills, explosiveness and athleticism. With the COVID-19 pandemic derailing senior seasons of many of our elite prospects, we unfortunately will not get to see them on the field this year.

Yet, after we got over our sadness, we started thinking, "what would be our absolute dream matchups that we'd pay to see?" Thus, a new SI All-American series was born.

Below is the second installment of matchups we'd love to see on the field on this fall.

QB Preston Stone vs. S James Williams

Stone is No. 86 overall in the SI99 and the No. 10 QB prospect. He's been on the national radar since before high school, so he's no stranger to the big stage. In fact, among the qualities our staff loves about Stone is his confidence and moxie

Williams is the top safety in the country, checking in on the SI99 board at No. 19 overall. At 6-foot-5 and weighing more than 210 pounds, the Miami commit has "monsterback" traits both literally and figuratively.

This dream matchup would get both coaches and evaluators geeked for several reasons. For starters, Stone is not just a QB - he's a playmaker at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. Watching him on tape is pure fun, as he can be as creative as unpredictable.

Williams is a defensive chess piece who can win on all three levels. Seeing where he would work most of his snaps vs. the athletic Stone would be fascinating. Would Williams play on level three as an apex/middle-of-the-field safety? Or would he be deployed as a split safety in two-shell looks? If so, would he prefer to play in the boundary vs. Stone or to the field to be able to roll down to challenge Stone in space to combat second reactions and designed-QB runs that the Texan can execute?

Stone would certainly need to account for Williams in each pre-snap phase by locating where he is and on what level. Stone's mental processing would be challenged by Williams, as the QB would need to be disciplined in his reads and progression work. The SMU commit can indeed be casual and loose with the football, as he is a gunslinger. This results to where Stone can sometimes be baited into careless mistakes in the passing game due to a tendency of desiring high-risk throws. Williams would definitely be salivating at this element within the matchup.

Would Williams want to blitz Stone at all? If so, would he prefer A-gap pressure? Backside pressure? Frontside? Third-level pressure? This could be dangerous, as Williams would get just one shot during the snap and Stone can make defenses pay with his legs vs. the blitz. This would also allow evaluators to get a keen sense of Stone's mental processing to locate his hot reads as well. 

Also, on third downs, would Williams ask to be a hug player/green-dogger directly to Stone? Many simply know this as "spying", a technique mobile QB's like Stone frequently command from opposing defenses. Can you imagine on a big third down, the 6-foot-5 Williams aligned square in the middle on level 2 as a nickel or dime 'backer and watching Stone go through his progressions, not liking what he sees before taking off to run and Williams mirroring him? We're talking about two of the most athletic prospects in the 2021 class opposing each other on a money down. 


WR Emeka Egbuka vs. CB Ga'Quincy McKinstry

This matchup would have both sizzle and steak. Egbuka is the No. 1 wide receiver in the SI99. The Washington native has terrorized secondaries in the Pacific Northwest since he was in the ninth grade. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Egbuka's lean frame indeed has wire strength. He has standard all-around athleticism, but his route-running traits and ball skills are what separates him from other receivers.

McKinstry, affectionately known as "Kool Aid" by many, is one of the best athletes in the 2021 class at nearly 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds. He's been on our staff's radar for three years, and is also an accomplished basketball player. Through the spring and summer, conversations around McKinstry's game centered on he's more of an athlete than a technician at corner, right now. However, our staff has monitored his development keenly this season and we feel that he is beginning to marry better technique on the perimeter with his fantastic athleticism. McKinstry is the No. 4 CB prospect in the country

Watching a receiver like Egbuka, who prides himself on diversifying his release portfolio, disciplined stemming and route running, separating with secondary releases and executing a full tree, go against McKinstry would be must-see TV.

Would McKinstry opt to press and re-route Egbuka for a full game? If so, would Egbuka allow the Alabama commit to consistently land an off-hand jam? Or would Kool Aid choose to use a motor technique and mirror Egbuka's releases and stems with quick feet and step replacing? How would Egbuka attack McKinstry vs. squat/loose man coverage alignments? 

Would McKinstry want to travel with Egbuka for the full game? Would Egbuka prefer to stay in the boundary as an X? Or play in the field some as a Z? Would McKinstry follow him if he lined up in the slot?

Then, there's the separation aspect! McKinstry would certainly need to stay disciplined and trust his technique vs. Egbuka, who can get his head and shoulders outside his framework at junctions and shoot out of his breaks to detach from coverage. If Egbuka gets a couple catches early on, does McKinstry grow frustrated and throw out his technique to start back to relying all on his athleticism?

How about the speed component of this matchup? Egbuka certainly would want to test McKinstry deep to see if he can stack him vertically. McKinstry would welcome this test, as he's capable of staying in phase with pretty much anybody. 

Finally, and perhaps the most intriguing and exciting part of this matchup, is when the ball is in the air. Again, Egbuka has great ball skills and hands, as he is capable of tracking and adjusting before using graceful body control to pluck the ball with his paws and play strong at catch points. Yet McKinstry is a talented basketball player who also has very good leaping ability, as well as length and ball skills that translate from both his hoops background and work as a receiver himself. Can you imagine how fun this matchup would be to watch in the red zone, alone?

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IOL Bryce Foster vs. IDL Maason Smith

Big people beat up little people. 

Size allows a team to compete.

The offensive and defensive fronts are paramount to a team's success.

These are sentiments and philosophies our staff believes in, and a Foster vs. Smith matchup would be a blockbuster to watch in the trenches to fortify those sentiments.

Both stand nearly 6-foot-5 and weigh nearly 330 pounds. Foster is the No. 1 IOL prospect in the 2021 class, and Smith is No. 36 overall in the SI99. 

This matchup would not be for the faint of heart.

Foster is a classic guard who is a bully in a phone booth. His strength, power and toughness are fantastic, and he is a rare IOL prospect who appears ready to contribute to a college offensive line sooner than later.

Smith has heavy hands at the point, and his amazing power and strength allow him to bully offensive lineman down after down. This would be a matchup of two bullies on the field trying to establish themselves as the alpha. 

In the run game, would Smith allow Foster to execute base blocks and move him off his mark? Or would Smith punch with power, stack, anchor and peak before attempting to shed Foster to go hunt - if he's asked to play with two-gap principles? Who would win the hand placement battle? Would Foster be quick enough at the snap to execute a reach block on Smith in zone concepts? Or would Smith attack at the snap to try to beat Foster early and disrupt a single gap? 

Then there's passing downs. What a treat this would be. Smith likes to use a swim move, as well as bull-rush among other preferences. Would Foster choose to mix his pass sets vs. Smith or would he prefer to routinely jump-set Smith to turn this into a phone booth brawl? Foster has a powerful anchor in pass protection thanks to a strong lower half, but Smith has a strong punch that can put offensive linemen on skates. 

Does the immovable object or unstoppable force win here? 

We can only dream.

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