Most college football teams are beginning their conference matchups at this point in the season and that creates an interesting dynamic for Detroit Lions scouts.
This Saturday (September 25), in order to maximize your viewing pleasure, we’ve identified one game in each TV time slot, as well as multiple prospects in each game that we believe Lions scouts may be keeping their eyes on.
If you’re interested in going back and looking at the previous Saturday watchlists to revisit some of the players profiled, you can find those links here:
Now, on to this week’s games.
Graham Mertz, QB, Wisconsin (redshirt sophomore)
vs Notre Dame at Soldier Field, Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, on FOX
In 2020, Graham Mertz took over for Jack Coan as Wisconsin’s starting quarterback job after Coan broke his foot. When it was clear the Badgers were sticking with Mertz, Coan transferred to Notre Dame.
The two will face off against each other today.
Coan, a senior, could draw some draftable grades this cycle, but scouts’ eyes should be on the winner of that head-to-head battle. As a redshirt sophomore, Mertz may still be a year or two away from declaring for the NFL draft, but for the “let’s wait until 2023 to draft a quarterback” crowd, Mertz is a player to keep your eyes on.
When Mertz isn’t on the field, keep an eye on…
Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame (redshirt sophomore)
“You can be one of the most talented runners out there, you can be the most talented route runner out there, but if you can’t block, you can’t play for me. Point blank. Period,” Lions assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley said this past offseason.
Kyren Williams checks this box in a big way, as both a receiver and a blocker. As a runner, Notre Dame asks Williams to run in between the tackles, but at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, he may be a bit undersized for it at the NFL level. That being said, he is close to a complete back and by the end of the season, Williams could carve out a spot as one of the top-5 backs in this draft cycle.
Jalen Catalon, S, Arkansas (redshirt sophomore)
vs Texas A&M at Arlington, Texas, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, on CBS
The Lions need playmakers in the secondary and Jalen Catalon is already an impact player early in his career. A ranging safety who can play all over the field, his size (5-foot-10, 200) is his only drawback—though he plays much bigger:
Arkansas SAF Jalen Catalon (5095, 189, rSO) is a no nonsense and downhill attacking safety. Runs the alley and plays the game with intensity and announces his presence when arriving at ball locations. Lots of similarities to Lamarcus Joyner. https://t.co/p1zy8yeLKq pic.twitter.com/sNktAiDbLI
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) June 16, 2021
Attack. Attack. Attack. Whether it’s in run support or coverage, Catalon trusts his instincts and makes plays.
When Catalon isn’t on the field, keep an eye on…
DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M (junior)
After drafting Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill in the second and third rounds of the 2021 draft, they may not be in the market for another interior defender. Although, if they finish the season with a top-5 pick (as most anticipate) they’ll need to have done their homework on DeMarvin Leal.
Leal plays defensive end at TAMU, but at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds he’s likely best suited as a 4i-technique at the next level. If the Lions decide Michael Brockers isn’t the answer—and he’s probably not long-term—Leal is a ready-made replacement.
Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State (junior)
vs Nebraska, Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, on FS1
Walker, a Wake Forest transfer, has thrived in Michigan State’s pro-style offense, routinely hitting holes, getting to the edge, and finding cut-back lanes. Walker leads the NCAA in three critical areas: Rushing yards with 493 yards, rushing yards after contact with 372, and 35 broken tackles (20 of which came against Miami last week, per Colton Pouncy of The Athletic).
Walker’s vision, quickness, burst, and leg drive give him a lethal combination of skills that defenses have no answer for. Expect that trend to continue against a weak Nebraska run defense.
When Walker isn’t on the field, keep an eye on…
Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraksa (redshirt junior)
A converted tight end, Cam Jurgens has been the Cornhuskers starting center for three seasons now. He’s athletic but has struggled with snapping the ball over his career. Teams will consider signing him as a UDFA and switching him to guard when they see video clips like this:
Quarterbacks in primetime viewing
- QB Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) vs West Virginia, 7:30 p.m. ET, on ABC
- QB Sam Howell (North Carolina) at Georgia Tech, 7:30 p.m. ET, on ACCN
If you’re a Michigan fan and a half-hour of watching State is all you can handle, grab the remote and find these two games. Rattler and Howell certainly haven’t lived up to the preseason hype, but it’s important to remember both are underclassmen, and getting a scouting base on them could be valuable in 2022 or 2023.
Bonus primetime viewing, for the die-hard fans
- K Gabe Brkic (redshirt Junior, Oklahoma) vs West Virginia, 7:30 p.m. ET, on ABC
Since you’ve already got the Oklahoma game in your Saturday night viewing rotation, don’t change the channel if they get in field goal range because Gabe Brkic is worth watching.
If you just look at the box score for Brkic you may think he’s a solid kicker but nothing to spend time writing about:
2019: 17 of 17 on field goals, 52 of 52 on extra points
2020: 20 of 26 on field goals, 49 of 49 on extra points
2021: 5 of 7 on field goals, 13 of 13 on extra points
But context matters. This season, his two misses came from 31 and 54 yards, while his five made field goals have come from 26, 51, 55, 56, and 56 yards. He can boom it.