College football officially kicked off last week with few solid matchups to wet the appetite of football fans. But for NFL draft fans, the Week 1 slate will debut many incredible talents. Although skills players will take center stage, some of the best matchups in college football this week will be between those offensive and defensive line in the trenches.
The 2023 NFL draft boasts some incredible defensive line talent, especially among the edge rushers. Offensive line, while not quite as strong as last year’s groups, looks promising after a summer of film study. The battles these two groups will engage in will intrigue the more keen football fans and offer up some incredible moments.
As such, here are the best defensive line matchups to watch for on the first big Saturday of the 2022 college football season.
The Best of College Football Week 1
Isaiah Foskey (Notre Dame) vs. Paris Johnson Jr./ Dawand Jones (Ohio State)
The most important of the defensive line matchups in Week 1 of college football is a two-for-one special featuring Notre Dame and Ohio State. Isaiah Foskey is widely beloved as one of the top pass rushers in the 2023 NFL draft class, while Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones are the Buckeyes elite duo of bookend tackles that will be charged with containing Foskey.
Foskey possesses elite athletic traits and can rush from a multitude of different spots, but can also be relied upon for his edge presence. He shows upside with his hand usage in both phases of the defense, but needs to show the most improvement as a pass rusher. He’ll use his own blend of short-area quickness and power to supplant both Buckeye tackles.
Johnson Jr. is viewed as one of the top offensive linemen in the 2023 NFL draft, showing great explosiveness and athleticism despite his own flaws. Jones is considered a solid day two option that uses overwhelming size to win at the point of attack. Both players will have their hands full, as they must block one of the most explosive pass rushers in the nation.
Jalen Carter (Georgia) vs. T.J. Bass (Oregon)
This is the first major interior matchup of the weekend between two excellent NFL draft prospects. Jalen Carter is considered a top three player in the current class, while Tyler Bass is among the top ten at his position. Both will be key to their respective team’s chances at a victory, making for a potentially incredible game.
Carter plays with an incredible blend of power and finesse, using his overwhelming strength to breach the A-gap of the offensive line. He needs to show progress with his hand usage this season to cement his status. However, Carter’s athleticism and football IQ will make him a worthy opponent of Bass.
Bass is arguably one of the best guards in this class, showing great explosiveness, awareness, and positional versatility. He can play in a phone booth, using that same explosiveness to dominate. One is more incredible than the other, but both are exciting players to watch.
Nolan Smith (Georgia) vs. Steven Jones Jr. (Oregon)
The second-best matchup in Georgia/Oregon is another fantastic matchup between two great prospects. Nolan Smith is aiming to raise his stock after an inspiring 2021 season. He’s “toolsy”, but undersized, for the edge position, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fairs against the 6-5, 340 Steven Jones.
Jones played mostly guard in 2021, but is finally getting a chance to play left tackle full time this season. As mentioned previously, Jones is a massive player who wins with size and power from his core. This will be the best edge matchup in this game, however, Jones’s teammate Malaesala Aumaveae-Laulu will face Smith’s teammate in pass rusher Robert Beal. This will be a nice little battle to keep an eye on as well.
Princely Umanmielen (Florida) vs. Braeden Daniels (Utah)
As far as NFL futures go, this Saturday night battle has the potential to be one of the most important in the entire 2022 college football season. Umanmielen is a former four-star with plenty of athletic traits and a high ceiling while Daniels could be an ascending prospect in this class at left tackle.
Umanmielen’s teammate Brenton Cox Jr., who is also a highly-touted pass rusher, could also get some looks against Daniels. Although the spotlight will be on the quarterbacks in this game, this trench battle will be an interesting aside to monitor.
YaYa Diaby (Louisville) vs. Matthew Bergeron (Syracuse)
This is a personal favorite of mine between two incredible prospects. Diaby is a highly athletic five-technique who flashed plenty of potential in 2021. Bergeron is a powerful offensive tackle who could climb into the top 100 conversation with a good season. Both are high ceiling players that should be on everyone’s radar.
Diaby has little trouble flattening his hips to turn a corner. He’s an older prospect who needs to develop his hands outside of speed-to-power, but has plenty of potential. Bergeron is a sound technician who has patient hands and a nice anchor that will be used well against Diaby.
Ikenna Enechukwu (Rice) vs. Andrew Vorhees (USC)
This is an underrated matchup of Week 1 between one well-liked prospect and one that has zero hype whatsoever. Enechukwu comes from an underpublicized program in Rice, but he’s a talented football player. He wins with snap timing and length which helps him as a gap penetrator.
Vorhees is a malicious guard who has enough power of his own to star as an interior blocker. Vorhees struggles with awkward hand placement and Enechukwu knows how to manipulate angled pressures.
Byron Vaughns (Utah State) vs. Tyler Steen (Alabama)
Our last matchup is by far the most low-key — despite the teams involved. After Evan Neal left for the NFL, Alabama found a suitable replacement in Vanderbilt transfer in Tyler Steen. He’s not an elite athlete like Neal, however Steen is a solid all-around prospect who has a nice anchor in pass protection.
Vaughns is a great athlete who, like many on this list, is a high-ceiling player who can get some serious attention with a stand-out performance.