Nebraska vs. Northwestern Preview: Week 0 Prospect Roundup

Image via NUSports.com

Northwestern vs. Nebraska preview
PHOTO BY CRAIG SULLIVAN

Nebraska vs Northwestern Preview

Let’s take a deep dive into some of the best 2023 NFL Draft prospects in this Nebraska vs Northwestern preview!

College football’s return begins with the annual Week 0 matchups. Although these aren’t the crowd-pleasing matchups that come later in the season, these early games offer a nice appetizer.

By far the most anticipated game in Week 0 is the inter-conference bout between Nebraska and Northwestern. This is the biggest Power Five game, between two teams looking to bounce back.

This BIG 10 rivalry game has the allure of being set in the Irish capital of Dublin, with the actual game taking place at Aviva Stadium. 2022 marks an important year for both teams, especially for Nebraska after coming off a 3-9 season in 2021. Their last win came against Northwestern in the fall of 2021, scoring a whopping 56 points against the Wildcats.

2021 was also a trying season for the Northwestern Wildcats, finishing the season with the same record as their opponents at 3-9. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald hopes to rebound in 2022, hopefully through their downhill rushing attack lead by their impressive room of running backs.

More important than their individual team aspirations are the draft prospects found within each team. Both squads have plenty of talent on their rosters with each varying in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. The following list will attempt to preview all of the 2023 NFL Draft prospects you should care about as you watch this exciting Week 0 matchup of Nebraska vs Northwestern.

Nebraska vs Northwestern Preview: NFL Draft Prospects

Northwestern 

Evan Hull – Running Back 

The Wildcats haven’t been known for their offensive star power. However, that doesn’t mean they lack talent at the skill positions. In the last five years, players such as running back Justin Jackson and wide receiver Ben Skowronek haven’t been the most impressive prospects, but have carved out roles at the next level nonetheless. This year, the Northwestern Wildcats have another solid skill player in running back Evan Hull. 

Hull had a breakout year in 2021, amassing 1009 yards rushing at 5.1 yards-per-carry on almost 200 touches. Additionally, he rushed for seven touchdowns while catching another two through the air.

At 5-11, 210 pounds, Hull has a dense build that allows him to carry good strength in his lower body to churn out runs down the field. He’s not an elite-level athlete, at least on tape, however, he shows good fluidity in between the tackles that allows him to create extra yards. 

Playing against a stout Cornhuskers front, Hull will have a chance to showcase his ability and potentially get more eyes to his game. He’s certainly an underrated prospect coming out of the summer, but is certainly worth some attention in Week 0 this Saturday. 

Peter Skoronski – Offensive Tackle 

Similar to his former teammate and 2021 first-round pick Rashawn Slater, Wildcats offensive lineman Peter Skoronski is Northwestern’s biggest offensive star by a long shot. Skoronski is considered to be one of the top offensive tackles in the 2023 NFL Draft, and one of the best players in the BIG 10 Conference. 

Skoronski shows excellent power with a crisp anchor, having great lower half strength that helps him to supplant opponents with little issue. He’s an excellent mover in the second level, with his foot quickness and hip fluidity allowing him to take advantageous angles to his targets.

The biggest draw to Skoronski’s game, however, is his versatility — or rather — potential positional versatility. Skoronski lacks elite arm length, so there are questions as to whether he’ll stick at offensive tackle or not. He’s had experience at center, which should open up different opportunities for him to see the field. 

As mentioned above, the Cornhusker’s front seven looks to be stout this year, with their pass rushing possessing a three-headed rotation that could give Skoronski some struggles on Saturday. Even so, Skoronski could quickly cement himself as one of the top tackles if he comes out sharp against Nebraska

Adetomiwa Adebawore – Defensive End 

Where Northwestern has begun to shine over the last five years is with its defense. A few edge rushers such as Earnest Brown IV, Dean Lowry, and Ifeadi Odenigbo have made it to the league — with varying degrees of initial success. This year Adetomiwa Adebawore could be the next Wildcat edge rusher to make his way to the professional level. 

Adebawore was recently featured on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks Lists, where he was highlighted for his impressive strength and weight room prowess. He also showed good numbers in the three-cone drill as well, reflecting the above-average change of direction skills found in his college film. He has solid first-step quickness that will allow him to establish leverage while using that elite strength to maintain gaps. 

Adebawore was not a highly thought of player initially by yours truly after summer scouting, but after more film study his stock has begun to rise a little bit in my rankings. He has a great opportunity to make some noise this weekend against a Nebraska offensive line that lacks elite talent. Adebawore is a solid day three prospect at this point and could continue to rise if he builds off of a promising 2021. 

Cameron Mitchell – Cornerback 

Greg Newsome was great for the Wildcats and quickly became among one of the best cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Newsome was a quick riser in that draft class after not being a widely discussed prospect for much of the early process. This isn’t to say that Cameron Mitchell will reach the same heights as his former teammate, however, he is one of the BIG 10’s best-kept secrets. 

Mitchell plays outside corner for the Wildcats and, despite not possessing elite ball production, there are still elements of his game that show some promise. Mitchell plays with quick feet and solid fluidity in his hips, allowing him to be a relatively successful man-coverage corner with some good activity in his hands.

At this point, Mitchell is an underrated prospect but looks to have a good weekend against the Cornhusker’s receivers. 

Nebraska

Casey Thompson – Quarterback 

The Texas Longhorns had a down 2021 season under their first year with Steve Sarkisian, although quarterback Casey Thompson was one of the bright spots for the team. Now at Nebraska, the 23-year-old passer aims to guide the Cornhuskers to the promised land in the BIG 10 in 2022.

Thompson possesses some good athletic traits when using his legs, with great foot quickness which allows him to break off big runs down the field. He has a solid arm, too, and has several instances where he’s been able to astutely press the ball downfield. 

Although it’s unlikely that Thompson will be considered among the ranks of Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, he could carve out a nice place for himself in the 2023 draft class. And that journey starts on Saturday. 

Travis Vokolek – Tight End

Chase Allen was the focus at tight end for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Now that duty has turned over to Travis Vokolek. With Zavier Betts off the team, there isn’t a top-end pass catcher for Thompson to rely on. Vokolek has nice speed with solid hands, but in a deep tight end class he’ll need to find his footing.

Ochaun Mathis – EDGE 

Nebraska’s second biggest offseason addition is pass rusher Ochaun Mathis. The former Horned Frog transferred this year after having a solid career at Texas Chrisitan. He finished his career at TCU with 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for a loss, with eight of those sacks coming during the 2020 season.

Mathis already has many fans in the draft community, but will have an excellent opportunity to gain more with a great performance on Saturday. 

Mathis already possesses some solid athletic traits, showing a good initial step and change of direction skills when operating from gap-to-gap. He stands at 6-5, 260 pounds, possessing great length for the edge position with enough mass to anchor versus the run. Mathis is still learning the finer points of pass rushing, but has the potential to improve and showed plenty of promise in 2021. 

Caleb Tannor – EDGE 

By far the biggest unknown out of every player mentioned here is the “other” edge rusher at Nebraska, Caleb Tannor. After starting only a handful of games in 2020, Tannor made the jump to full-time in 2021 and the results were not disappointing. While he didn’t necessarily crush the stat sheet, the raw athleticism on display was something to behold. 

Similar to Mathis, Tannor is still somewhat raw as a pass rusher. However, he can absolutely supplant tackles with speed-to-power, using his length to stun offensive linemen and drive them deeper into the backfield. He has an incredible burst off the line of scrimmage, while his body control allows him to play underneath his opponents.

Tannor vs. Skoronski will be must-see television on Saturday. 

Garrett Nelson – EDGE 

The final pass rusher in the Cornhuskers’ Hydra linebacking core is veteran and reigning team sack leader,  Garrett Nelson. Coming off of a six-sack 2021, the lead pass rusher of Nebraska is an underrated prospect in this class. He’s not as athletically gifted as his teammates, but Nelson still has plenty of talent of his own and is certainly worth a look going forward. 

Nelson has solid hand technique when operating as a pass rusher, but still relies heavily on effort and power. More so than his teammates, it will be interesting to see what improvements he’s made as a run defender. Run defense was not his strongest suit in 2021, with him struggling to set a physical edge against the inter-conference competition. He’ll likely see snaps against Skoronski as well, so viewers will get the chance to see how he fairs against top talent early on. 

Luke Reimer – Linebacker 

The final prospect in this preview is the Cornhuskers’ 2021 tackles leader in linebacker Luke Reimer. Reimer isn’t an elite-level athlete but has proven he can make consistent plays against the run. The 2021 All-Big 10 Honorable Mention is one of the teams’ top defenders, and its easy to see why.

Reimer has shown on film how easily he deconstructs blocks, using hand force and body positioning to stave off potential blocks. He’s quick on the hoof against the run, and tries to be the first player to the football. He’s deceptively sticky in man coverage versus tight ends, but will not be heavily relied upon in that regard. Reimer is still a junior and may not even declare this year. However, he’s still worthy of your time. 

The Baylor Defensive Line is loaded with draft prospects

Photo via Baylor Athletics

The Baylor Bears have plenty of defensive talent poised for a big 2022 season!

baylor defensive line
Photo Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The Baylor Bears were one of the better defenses during the 2021 college football season due in large part to the stout play from their defensive line. Despite ranking 31st in the country and fourth in BIG 12 in total defense, the squad allowed only 345.9 yards per game while only giving up 29 total touchdowns to their opponents.

Last year the team sent quite a few of their players to the NFL including defenders Jalen Pitre and Terrell Bernard. In the 2023 Draft. Baylor looks to add many more players to NFL rosters next year, including stout offensive linemen Jacob Gall and Connor Galvin. However, it seems the defense will once again carry the bulk of future professionals — led by their defensive line.

Siaki Ika – Defensive Tackle

Chief among the Baylor defenders is defensive tackle Siaki Ika. After spending the two previous seasons with the LSU Tigers, Ika joined the Bears in 2021 and immediately made his presence known. He finished the season with 24 total tackles, six tackles for a loss and four sacks.

Ika won the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year award for his efforts on the field. Additionally, Ika was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List, an honor presented to the best defensive player of the year. As the core of the Baylor defense, Ika looks to lead the unit to another year of high-level play against a wide open Big 12 conference.

As a pure prospect, Ika is one of the best nose tackles in the country due to his elite play strength, vision and pass rush prowess. Despite his 6-4, 358 build, Ika has plenty of pass rush juice, proving his ability to toss opponents using a combination of hand quickness and power. He’s able to dictate run lanes with hand placement and force runners into cut back lanes.

Gabe Hall – Defensive End

The number two on the Baylor defensive line is five-technique defensive end Gabe Hall. Despite not receiving any big honors last season, it was a productive outing for the junior defensive linemen. Hall finished last season with five sacks, 18 total tackles and seven tackles for a loss.

At 6-6, 296 pounds, Hall plays with a ton of power behind his frame and can hold his own at the point of attack. Baylor likes to deploy him at defensive end while also dropping him inside at three-technique. He has strong hands which allows him to toss offensive linemen in the run game when acting as a gap penetrator.

Hall is an ideal player on a three-man front given his versatility and above-average athletic traits. Hall looks to have a breakout season for the Bears defense playing next to Ika. He’s continuing to work on his pass rush abilities, which were already intriguing as is.

Jaxon Player – Rotational Defensive Tackle

Ika isn’t the only transfer the Baylor Bears will be fielding during the 2022 season. Former Tulsa Golden Hurricane Jaxon Player joined the squad earlier this year after opting to leave his former program following the 2021 college football campaign.

Player is known for this stout build at 6-0, 299 pounds, as well as his raw display of power from his low pad level. He shows incredible first step quickness from his three technique spot, which allows him to hit his opponents with good force to leverage pressure.

2021 was Player’s best statistical season to date, finishing the year with 50 total tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and five sacks. He has solid bend in his hips, which allows him to push the pocket and leverage pressure in the backfield. Although he may not start, Player will give plenty of juice to an already impressive defensive line.

Closing Thoughts

The Baylor Bears are likely to have another successful season in a BIG 12 conference without a clear cut headliner. The rotation of Ika, Hall, and Player is enough to handle the elite runners from Texas, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State.

TJ Franklin and Cole Maxwell are other key players on the Baylor defense, despite not being on NFL Draft radars just yet. Even so, the Baylor defense is an elite unit (especially on their defensive line) from top to bottom and will be a fun study this fall.