2021 Dream On-Field Matchups Series Part 1

Edwin Weathersby II

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 are matchups we'd love to see on the field on this fall.

QB Caleb Williams vs. LB Jeremiah Trotter, Jr.

Williams, an Oklahoma commit, is the No. 1 overall SI99 prospect and No. 1 quarterback. Trotter, our No. 5 linebacker prospect, is headed to Clemson. When I was with the New York Giants scouting department, the late and great Larry Ennis, a well-respected scout with the Giants (and one of the best QB evaluators I've ever been around), once told me he felt Giants middle linebacker Antonio Pierce should have been the MVP of Super Bowl XLII. Ennis felt Pierce matched New England Patriots QB Tom Brady audible-for-audible and check-for-check throughout the whole game, getting Big Blue's defense in the correct fronts, alignments and coverages. Of course, the Giants held the Pats' record setting offense to just 14 points in the game. 

Naturally as QB, Williams can control a game. Yet, Trotter is among the most instinctive linebackers in recent recruiting memory, and this would be a fascinating matchup of a pair of talented players at dueling positions of control on the field - as was Pierce vs. Brady. Each's instincts, feel, savvy, ability to adjust and pre and post-snap mental processing would be put to the ultimate test. Another factor in this matchup would be Williams' athleticism and ability to threaten defenses as a runner. Would Trotter be able to hug and match Williams when on designed QB runs, draws and scrambles? Would Trotter be deployed more as a blitzer? How would Williams adjust his protections? Would Williams speed up his delivery at the top of his drop? So many fascinating questions to be answered in this dream-scenario chess match.

RB TreVeyon Henderson vs. LB Smael Mondon

This is more than just a dream matchup of our No. 1 running back vs. No. 1 'backer. A Friday night game between Henderson and Mondon would be box office and then some. Here's why:

Henderson has excellent vision and mental processing from the RB position. He makes good decisions with the ball to bang, bend or bounce, plus he sets up blocks well. The Ohio State commit shows good awareness of pressing holes in his approach in zone-concept runs, while quickly processing information and replacing linebackers in alleys. He has the lateral agility to perform a myriad jump cuts, and he can pick-and-slide, chop-and-go and more. Oh, and he's also the most explosive runner in the country as well thanks to impressive short-area quickness to dart and great long speed.

Mondon is an athletic 'backer with elite range. He can track runners horizontally in flow with speed. Yet, some feel he's a bit more of an athlete than an instinctive linebacker at this point. Thus, this matchup vs. a runner like Henderson would provide the new Georgia commit a platform to prove his instincts and mental processing are on par with others in this class. Seeing Henderson routinely identify Mondon pre-snap and adjusting his approach to line of scrimmage while watching Mondon get the chance to show he can match wits with a heady runner is the "game within the game" that we'd love to see. Plus, both prospects have explosive traits for their positions, which only would increase the excitement.

EDGE J.T. Tuimoloau vs. OT Amarius Mims

This is almost like when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Tuimoloau, 6-foot-5 and nearly 280 pounds, is the No. 1 EDGE and No. 2 overall prospect in the country. At 6-foot-7 and more than 300 pounds, Mims is No. 13 overall in the SI99 and the No. 3 offensive tackle. Tuimoloau can rush both from a two-point and three-point stance from five, seven and wide-nine technique alignments, and shows explosive traits at the snap. Yet it's his power, strength, balance and athleticism for a big edge-defender that sets him apart from others.

Mims is a fantastic athlete and can work as a mythical "dancing bear" as a left tackle. He also has big paws to end things early for rushers, as well as mass and standard strength in his anchor. Watching to see what approach Tuimoloau would take vs. Mims would have us on the edge of our seats all night. Would J.T. opt to try to use power and strength to beat Mims on pass-rushing downs? Or would he prefer to use speed and quickness? What combination of moves would J.T. mix in and how would he execute them with his mitts? Would he come into the game with a defined pass-rush plan on how he wants to attack Mims for four quarters? Or would opt to take a series or two to feel him out? Would Mims prefer to jump set vs. J.T. to turn things into phone booth brawl? Or would the Georgia commit prefer a classic 45-degree pass set and work with patience? How about an old-school vertical set? Would he be able to recover inside?

Then there's the matchup in the run game. Mims is devastating on base blocks, as he's driven several defensive ends through the second level on tape. He's also capable of reach-blocking, folding, pinning and sealing, as well as pulling and wrapping into holes. Tuimoloau has great strength to punch at the point, peak and shed with power. He can routinely set an edge and anchor. Plus, he has impressive short-area quickness to reach runners from the backside. 

Watching these two mammoths duel in the run game would be just as fascinating as watching them on passing downs.

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