Every week throughout the college football landscape, there are hundreds of interesting one-on-one battles between NFL Draft prospects. Many times, the most talked about matchups include a top QB versus a top CB, or a LT versus an elite pass rusher. This week, however, the top matchup, at least in my humble opinion, doesn’t include any of those positions. I think it’s Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson versus South Carolina DT Kelcy Quarles.
Both of these prospects have had excellent seasons thus far in 2013, particularly Quarles, who has absolutely exploded this year.
Quarles (6-foot-4, 298 pounds) began the season, like most Gamecock defenders, especially on the defensive line, hidden in the shadow of teammate Jadeveon Clowney. But through eight games, Quarles, not Clowney, leads the Gamecocks in sacks (seven to two), as well as TFLs (10 to 6.5). You can make the argument that Quarles has all those stats because 10 of the 11 offensive players are devoted to blocking Clowney, but we’re not here to discuss that.
Surprisingly, not too many people have been talking much about Quarles despite his stellar year thus far. He began the year as a fringe candidate to leave school early for the draft, and in merely half a season has absolutely skyrocketed up DT big boards. Simply based off of play this year, there might not be a DT nationwide who’s played as well as Quarles. Though this week, he’ll have his toughest test to date in Jackson.
Jackson, unlike Quarles, did enter the year high on his positional big board, and big boards overall. The 6-foot-4, 335-pound monster began the year as a fringe first-to-second-round prospect, which is truly impressive for a guard, and has been outstanding all season long, failing to disappoint. While the Bulldogs season may not have been going as well as they’d hoped, they certainly can’t blame Jackson, who’s played a huge role in helping the Bulldogs pound out 205 rushing yards per game.
This is like clash of the titans, only it’s real, and it doesn’t have anything to do mythological Greek gods. You have two gigantic men just bursting with physical gifts who are not only playing in an all-important SEC game, but are also looking to continue building up their draft stock. A strong performance by one will most certainly look good on the resume, while a poor performance will be closely scrutinized.
Regardless of the outcome of the game, I expect an absolute dogfight inside between these two guys. They won’t be going against each other every play, but when they do, expect big things, both literally and figuratively. My early prediction? I think Jackson slightly wins the one-on-one matchup, but the Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs anyway.