The battle of the ‘Carolinas’ is a momentum game for both opponents for multiple reasons. First, both teams have aspirations of conference titles and major bowl games. Secondly, the Carolina’s have become fertile recruiting grounds and neither team wants to give way to any of their own in-state. A win gives the victor bragging rights when walking into homes on the recruiting trail – keeping the future of these programs on stable ground on their own turf.
On the field, this game features a boatload of 2014 NFL Draft talent on both sidelines. While South Carolina boasts the best CFB player in the land in Jadeveon Clowney but North Carolina may edge out the Gamecocks in terms of overall draft depth. Despite being decimated by the 2013 NFL Draft (Jon Cooper, Giovani Bernard, Sylvester Williams, Brennan Williams, and Travis Bond) – the Heels bring back a talented roster that will be the apple of many NFL talent evaluators eye.
On the opposing sideline, Steve Spurrier’s crew faces a similar problem as their opponents in this contest. The 2013 NFL Draft had its way with the Gamecocks roster (D.J. Swearinger, Ace Sanders, Marcus Lattimore, Devin Taylor, DeVonte Holloman). That said, the cupboards aren’t bare for a team boasting the nation’s top player.
After the break, check out how both teams fare with draft prospects.
Eric Ebron, TE, Junior
The 2014 NFL Draft TE class has a shot at being a special one at the top of the class. With Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Colt Lyerla headlining the possible underclassmen entrants, it’s easy to overlook Eric Ebron.
Don’t expect Ebron to be overshadowed for long as he could breakout in week one against South Carolina. Ebron is a superior athlete to the more highly touted ASJ as he possesses fantastic speed and quickness. If (and it’s a fairly big ‘if’) he can catch the ball more consistently this season expect Ebron to join the discussion as the draft’s (possible) top tight end.
James Hurst, OT, Senior
Hurst will have notched almost 50 starts in his collegiate career when it’s all said and done. The highly recruited tackle out of Indiana, started since stepping foot on the UNC campus and hasn’t looked back. Hurst is a borderline first-round prospect that does most everything well.
This contest will be the one NFL talent evaluators turn on when taking a long, hard look at Hurst. Hurst draws the Jadeveon Clowney matchup in week one – a make or break performance for Hurst’s bid to join the talk of first-round tackles.
Kareem Martin, DE, Senior
Martin is a guy we’ll be watching closely this season. I thought, at times, he looked a little lost last year after a fantastic sophomore season. Clearly, the change in scheme had Martin thinking a bit too much in 2012 and he should be much better with a full season under his belt.
Martin possesses an ideal frame and athleticism to be a difference maker as a 4-3 DE at the next level. He’s been able to standout among some quality players along the UNC defensive line throughout his career and is primed for a breakout season. When I watched Martin in 2012, I thought third-round prospect but I fully expect him to jump into late day one discussion with a solid senior season.
Tim Scott, CB, Junior
Tre Boston gets a lot of the love in the UNC secondary – and for good reason – but Scott is the standout in our book. The junior corner was very good in 2012, despite the UNC secondary getting picked on. He led the team in passes defended and will continue to get better with more experience.
Despite being an underclassmen, Scott should have over 30 starts at season’s end. At 5-foot-11, 180 pounds – Scott may lack elite size at the position but makes up for it with instincts and athleticism.
Tre Boston, S, Senior
The former corner has spent the last two seasons at safety and has steadily improved. Boston has proved he can play centerfield and make plays on the ball with regularity. His tackling technique leaves a bit to be desired – despite leading the team in tackles.
Boston is going to test well and we expect another big season on the field, which could push him to the top of what appears to be a fairly weak safety class.
Bryn Renner, QB, Senior
Renner is going to be a kid that endears himself to coach’s, while the scouts may look at his average physical tools. He’s a coach’s kid that plays with a headiness and toughness that stands out.
Renner possesses very average tools but he’s a competitor that shows elite intangibles. He’s become a favorite of the draft community and will be a player that will consistently rise – if he can put up solid performances this season. Expect Renner to be the second-tier of quarterbacks mix and this contest will go a long way in his evaluation.
Others to watch: Russell Bodine, C, Junior – AJ Blue, RB, Senior