COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- While Alabama had the majority of draftable prospects on the field on Saturday, the matchup between Alabama sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson and Texas A&M sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett was a battle I was excited to monitor.
Ultimately, that matchup was overshadowed by Derrick Henry's 236 yards rushing (153 in the first quarter) and the three interceptions for touchdowns by the Alabama defense. Let's take a look at the play of some of the draftable prospects in this game along with a few future high-rounders thrown in.
Derrick Henry, RB: Henry is not a flashy runner, but continues to show an ability to gain "chunk yards" (carries of 10-plus yards). In the first quarter alone, Henry had "chunk" runs of 19, 15, 55, 24 and 14 yards. Henry has long legs which take awhile to unfurl which makes his burst to the line of scrimmage very average, but once he gets up to the second level, he shows deceptive long speed. He's a north/south runner who is doing his best work from inside the box. Henry can run zone plays, but might be best in gap schemes downhill. Henry uses a subtle change of direction, but doesn't have the feet for jump-cuts or plus lateral movement. Henry ran with excellent vision and made good choices, and just beat up Aggie tacklers.
A'Shawn Robinson, DT: Robinson had several snaps inside as Alabama was trying to get him matched up on undersized A&M center, Mike Matthews. Right now, he looks like a big, physical player who relies on power over skill and he has a long way to go before he's a more consistent factor as a pass rusher. His draft grade will depend on projection over just tape work.
Reggie Ragland, LB: He's just very rarely out of position. Ragland found good depth in zone coverage and didn't need any help as a tackler, which is no surprise with his size and strength. Ragland will need to diagnose quickly and take good angles because his speed to close out to the sideline is just average.
Ryan Kelly, C: Kelly left the game with a concussion, and the difference in the Alabama interior running game when he was in versus out of the game was night and day. Kelly did a nice job of playing with leverage and working with his guards to blow holes open. Kelly doesn't always look pretty doing his job, but when he engages, he's usually good at getting defenders blocked. He is a draftable center with NFL potential.
Cyrus Jones, CB: Jones likes to play from press. Jones is a savvy cornerback, but he doesn't always play with the cleanest feet from a coverage standpoint and will allow separation a little too often. Jones more than handled his business on the perimeter against the run and the screen game. His fumble on a punt return is a mark against him, but his ability to return punts will help his NFL stock. He's looks like a late Day 3 draft selection at this point.
Here are some other Crimson Tide players that caught my attention:
Cam Robinson, LT: Robinson had a terrific game against the best pass rusher in the nation in Myles Garrett. I expected Alabama to give him help throughout the game, but most of the time, he matched up mono-a-mono on Garrett and held his ground. Robinson won't be eligible to apply for entry into the NFL draft until 2017.
Jarran Reed, DT: Reed plays like a pro already. He showed off his quality hand play and ability to 2-gap or win the edge against the A&M. Reed didn't produce big numbers vs. the Aggies, but he did his job.
Jonathan Allen, DT: Part of the Alabama rotation along the defensive line, Allen dominated during portions of the game thanks to the power in his hands and his ability to discard linemen and get after the ball. The junior ended the game with four tackles for loss and two sacks.
Eddie Jackson, S: Jackson played with very good range and awareness, which put him in position for two easy interceptions, including one for a touchdown. Jackson's running after the interception was quite impressive. I also noticed a nice burst in closing out receivers on short to intermediate throws. Jackson also added a couple of pass breakups.
Brandon Williams, CB: New defensive coordinator John "Chief" Chavis welcomed Williams over from the offensive side of the ball -- where he was a running back -- and Williams is rotating snaps at cornerback. Alabama clearly knew where Williams was on the field, and tested him early and often by throwing screens at him and then challenging him downfield in the second half. While Williams might have size and good long speed, he is slow to flip his hips and burst down the field. There is no short-cut for Williams' development at cornerback and he'll have to continue to learn on the run. He's a traits-based prospect at this time.
Mike Matthews, C: He's as technically sound as you might expect with a good, wide base and above average footwork. However, he had his issues with Alabama's power. Matthews is undersized and will always have issues with pure power despite the quality of his technique.
Myles Garrett, DE: Garrett is the best pass rusher in college football, but is just a sophomore so we'll put him in the "ones to watch" category for now. Garrett didn't have the success against Cam Robinson in their one-on-one matchups that I expected, but did showcase his edge-bending talent on a few snaps. It is worth noting that Garrett is carrying much more muscle on a frame that is rapidly filling out. Alabama also showed respect to Garrett by throwing screens and running the ball on obvious passing downs in order to keep him in check.
Germain Ifedi, RT: I wasn't able to focus on Ifedi as much as I would have liked, but on the snaps where I zeroed in on him he showed of above average change of direction with his feet and the desired hand placement you look for in pass protection. I also saw some quality run blocking from Ifedi on a couple of snaps. Scouts see Ifedi as a guard, but I still believe he can be an NFL tackle. I did notice that there were a couple of snaps where his anchor was an issue against bull-rushes.
Tra Carson, RB: Carson plays beyond the initial contact and we saw that again today. The first man that tries to tackle him will take a lick, but the issue Carson will have with pro scouts is that he has little to no elusiveness and doesn't appear to have enough speed to threaten the edge at all. Carson is a downhill power back who can finish runs, but will be tagged as a short-yardage grinder.
Josh Reynolds, WR: Complete non-factor thanks to poor quarterbacking and the continued success of freshman wideout Christian Kirk. Reynolds is a junior and will likely be headed back to school.