The 7 Best Defensive Line matchups in Week One of College Football

College Football Week One
Photo Credit: Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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. 

Friday Night Lights – A Small Rural Indiana Rivalry

Welcome to a Friday Night Lights feature, staring two Indiana county rivals facing off for their Milk Can Trophy! Enjoy!

Union City

Well it was a calm Friday evening. Work was over. I got all cleaned up, and while taking the dog out for a potty break I heard cheers and air horns. I got curious, and the wife had informed me that the Union City (IN) Indians — her HS alma mater — was playing their county rival the Winchester (IN) Golden Falcons. Being a fan of the game and wanting to take a step back to memory lane, I thought “why not go watch the game?” Then a bright idea popped into my head while showering: go to it, take notes, and write a feature on it.

Well here we are! Let’s get into things shall we?

Also, quick note: Come to find out it was Union City’s Senior Night.

It was a close offensive shoot out from the word go, or at least since I got there.

The game was close to the end of the half when I managed to arrive. Precisely with 3:49 minutes left in the second quarter and visiting Winchester backed up on their own 12 or 11 yard line on a 2nd & 18 due to a penalty flag. Score was Winchester 29 – 14 Union City. The Winchester offense was showing promise with their undersized offensive line compare to the Indians’ front 4.

What honestly kept me interested is how well the smaller group played. Throughout the entire game they utilized a lot of sweeps, traps, and power pulling plays. The OL unit stayed low and drove their legs, but during the series when I arrived they couldn’t get it done. QB #12, Brayden Tippett, showed promise with his arm and legs in attempts to keep that drive open, but the punting unit ended up coming on.

The Golden Falcons did everything they could to stop a dynamic brotherly backfield in the Union City offense. RBs #5 Blayne Daniels and #6 Bradin Daniels were tearing up the field behind a nice blocking scheme. This allowed the Indians to start making a comeback drive and score a nice TD. Unfortunately they missed out on two more points when missing a two-point conversion.

The Score was now WC 29 – 20 UC!

As I was waiting for the kick off, I started to mingle with the home team crowd. Was informed of some nice information there, too. Focusing back on the game, I see #5 Blayne Daniels kick a long one down to the 5ish yard line. Not only is this kid a strong runner with vision, he’s also capable of being a good small college kicker. Winchester was looking to make a quick answer drive down the field without any issues. That is, until #12 Tippett threw an interception that was almost returned for a TD. Thankfully for the Golden Falcons, the returner tripped up at the 12 yard line.

Union City fell short of a touchdown right before the half in attempts to make the game closer.

Winchester set to kickoff to start the second half.

It wasn’t anything too special, but it seemed that Winchester was looking to utilize squib kicks all night or didn’t have much leg power. Union City had a solid return and put them into good field position. Winchester #12 Brayden Tippett & #4 Braxton Bosworth looking to set a good defensive tone with good reads to stop the Indians offense. Tippett making good angles with great side to side flow to make a few tackles.

Even with that good tone set, Union City was able to put up a score via the air. QB #25 Brenden Wright tossed a nice short pass to #14 Xxavier Ware. Ware just so happened to break the defenders ankles even though Winchester #88 Cooper McCoy had great initial coverage to get his open TD. PAT was good. Putting the score at 27 – 29.

Once Winchester got the ball back at their own 11, this explosive young offense started to kick things into gear with more angry runs by #4 Bosworth. Also real quick, I do want to point out Winchester OL #68 Andy Toney was doing all the proper footwork, hand motions, and drive that you can ask for in a starting guard.

Anyways, Winchester unfortunately ended up having to punt giving the Indians the ball with decent yardage. Winchester #9 Maddox Rose was playing fairly decent lock down coverage most of the night, until a missed tackle on his part gave Ware some key yardage.

Fast Forward a bit

Union City’s Ware scored once again through the air — and trucking some defenders — putting them up 34 – 29. The first lead change of the game. At that moment, I decided to move around to get another angle of the game. During that time, I happened to meet up with an unnamed scout. We were both impressed on how things were going in this small town rivalry game.

The Golden Falcons have been finding themselves having success with the wideout screens. The Indians struggled to defend, but #10 Elijah Moore in the LB corps was looking to make a name for himself. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough. Bosworth & Tippett for Winchester were doing everything the could to extend plays and eventually score a touchdown. Winchester was back up 37-34.

The Golden Falcon defense came up big, stopping an Indians offense that had great yardage, forcing them to punt for what seemed like the first time since I arrived at the game.

Last chance to seal the deal.

The Union City Indian defense had to come up strong within the final minutes. The fast nature and angry run mentality of the Winchester Golden Falcons was just too much.

You could tell that they were shutting down and shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. Winchester took advantage of the situation and scored another touchdown putting them up 44 to 34. That proved to be the final score. The Golden Falcons managed to stop a garbage time TD, winning their Milk Can trophy.

This game was fun to watch through and through, and brought back some memories that were locked in the back of the brain from my ball days. If you have the opportunity to go to your local game, I’d highly recommend it.

Wrap up and sign off.

Before completely signing off for this piece, I just want to give a quick list of players who I think would do well at the D3, maybe D2 level.

  • Kolson Clemons, OL – Union City #72
  • Adrian Corona-Lara, OL – Union City #75
  • Brendan Wright, ATH – Union City #25
  • Brooks Burelison, WR – Winchester #6
  • Braxton Bosworth, RB – Winchester #4
  • Bayden Tippett, LB – Winchester #12

Some of these kids, if they play at the next level will probably have to change positions — but they’ll do well in my opinion.

I hope everyone who reads this enjoyed it. Don’t forget to follow Around The Block Network on all forms of social media & have a great day!