Prospect Preview: (16) N.C. State at (3) Clemson

Last weekend we had a top 15 matchup with two Big 10 powerhouses. A stellar Wisconsin team traveled to the Big House to be the first big conference test for the Wolverines. Michigan passed with flying colors by blowing Wisconsin out by 25 points. Michigan will travel this weekend to Michigan State for a big in-state rivalry against the green and white. For this week though, we’ll move on to a top 20 matchup in the ACC. N.C. State and their offensive firepower will take on Clemson’s deep, well-coached team.

North Carolina State enters the game at an undefeated 5-0. Their non-conference schedule was pretty easy with the closest game coming against FCS James Madison. In ACC play they have beaten Virginia and Boston College, two teams that are formidable bowl teams, but by no means powerhouses. The offense has looked good to this point, scoring more than 30 points in three of their five games this season, and just missing it on another occasion. The offense will need to put on a show, and the offensive line will need to be superb if they want to have a shot in this one.

Clemson is also undefeated thus far, sitting at 6-0 on the season, as it seems like they are every season at this point. They got a scare against Syracuse, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute remaining, but they rebounded against a decent Wake Forest team, eventually winning by 60. The offense is significantly more dynamic with freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence at quarterback and the defense has some very good prospects at all positions, giving them a very good shot at making the playoffs this season again.

College football is one of the most unpredictable sports there is and it’ll take another crazy game for N.C. State to upset Clemson.

QB Ryan Finley, N.C. State

Ryan Finley began his career at Boise State before transferring to North Carolina State for his sophomore season. He threw for 18 touchdowns as a sophomore. As a junior in 2017, he was named to the Academic All-ACC team, as well as throwing for over 3500 yards and 17 touchdowns. He holds the second longest streak ever for pass attempts without an interception in the FBS with 339. Russell Wilson holds the record for 379 attempts.

Strengths

Finley is a very safe quarterback who takes care of the ball. His interception rate is incredibly low and he’s a great quarterback to have if the team around him is good enough to make plays to win games. He does a good job of looking off defenders and surveying the field for an open target. The ball comes out on time and on target regularly and his completion percentage proves that true. His velocity on short throws is manageable and his footwork is pretty good as well.

Weaknesses

Finley’s biggest knock for next year’s draft, and probably the main thing that will push him back to day 3 is his inability to throw the deep ball. As mentioned, his velocity over a short distance is alright, but as soon as he has to throw the ball downfield the velocity falls substantially below average. Often he can’t get the ball deep enough to open targets, and his velocity on mid-range and deep passes simply won’t suffice at the next level.

Current Projection: Round 6-7

DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson

Wilkins was ranked as the fourth best defensive tackle as the nation in his recruiting class, and as a highly touted recruit headed to Clemson, he nabbed First-Team freshman All-American honors. Since then, in 2016 as a sophomore, he received First-Team All-American honors, and in 2017 he was voted as a Second-Team All-American. He had his most productive season as a sophomore with 13.0 TFLs.

Strengths

Christian Wilkins has good bend and makes himself as small as possible to beat offensive linemen. He generally faces double teams, which says more for him than it does for many other defensive line prospects because Clemson is really stacked with a solid prospect at each position. He’s quick and has a good burst off the snap. He’s a good tackler and his understanding of when to release off blocks is pretty good as well.

Weaknesses

As good as Wilkins’ is at understanding when to release off blocks, he struggles to get off blocks. Not only does he get blocked too easily on run plays, but he gets pushed back several yards a few times a game. He takes plays off every once in a while and looks at times like he is completely gassed. His stamina might be a question going to the next level, but taking some plays off usually doesn’t pop on film because of the two other early round prospects on the line.

Current Projection: Round 2

WR Kelvin Harmon, N.C. State

Harmon broke out onto the scene as a freshman and was named the team’s freshman of the year after breaking the freshman receiving record with five touchdowns. He was also named to the All-ACC Freshman Team. As a sophomore last season he finished with 69 receptions, also the most in N.C. State history for a sophomore. He was named to the All-ACC First-Team by ACSMA. He had his best game of last season against Clemson and to this point this season, he’s well on track to surpass all the statistical marks he put up last year.

Strengths

Harmon does a great job of catching the ball in stride and taking off with it. He also is a good and very willing blocker. His route running is superb and he has great speed to create separation down the field. He’s extremely fluid in and out of breaks and sells his fakes really well. At 6’3, 215 he is a menace for defenders to deal with because he can make plays down the middle of the field or on the sideline. His body control is good and he regularly makes contested catches by high pointing the ball and utilizing his body to render cornerbacks useless.

Weaknesses

Harmon really does not show very many weaknesses at all. Limited by Finley’s throwing ability, and by being the only true weapon on the offense, we are yet to see him show out in the red zone. He has a big frame and he has showed the ability to make the tough catches that we would look for, but it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Current Projection: Round 2

DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson

Lawrence was listed as the second overall rated player in the 2016 class behind only Rashan Gary. He was a Freshman All-American and he shared rookie of the year honors with Clelin Ferrell. He was a Second-Team All-American and First-Team All-ACC selection as a sophomore in 2017 while playing through an injury for the majority of the season. To this point this year, he hasn’t been incredibly productive but he has been a focal point of offensive line gameplans but he has looked good so far.

Strengths

Lawrence does a great job on the bull rush and when he gets his legs under him he’s very difficult to block. Lined up in the 3T spot most of the time, he hit the gap constantly for pressures. Lawrence is a strong defensive lineman who rarely gets pushed back off the line. When he isn’t making plays by getting through the line, he stands his ground on the line to be a force on runs that go between the tackles.

Weaknesses

Like his counterpart Wilkins, Lawrence also takes a few too many plays off and it would be something to keep an eye on heading to the next level. He pops straight out of his stance on the snap causing him to lose some of the power that he would be able to have. He gets eaten up by offensive lines and when he doesn’t get a good break off the snap, he doesn’t do very much on passing downs.  Production isn’t everything, but it would be nice to see Lawrence do some damage in the upcoming games.

Current Projection: Round 2

Conclusions

Clemson has been a powerhouse for several years now. While N.C. State has been good this year and they could put up a fight against Miami to be the second most talented team in the ACC, they would need the performance of a lifetime by Finley to beat the Tigers. Clemson is a justifiable heavy favorite and the game may be over before the clock turns over to the fourth quarter. .

Twitter: @MaxEFreedman

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