NFL Draft: 6 players to watch this weekend in college football’s week 0

As the NFL wraps up the preseason, college football is nearing kickoff for the official start of the season. However, before there’s week one, there’s week zero.

Saturday will mark the start of the 2023-24 college football campaign with week zero — a small slate of games before the rest of the country’s top teams kick off in early September.

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In the 2023 edition of week zero, powerhouses like USC and Notre Dame (in Ireland) will be on display along with Hawaii, Vanderbilt, San Jose State, San Diego State, Ohio and others.

With college football comes chatter about the NFL draft.

While it may seem early for draft season, week zero will debut some of the top prospects in the country on Saturday, including the widely projected No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams.

With college football looming, here’s a look at six names to watch in week zero that you could hear when the 2024 NFL draft rolls around in April.

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If you’re reading this post, there’s a strong chance you know who Caleb Williams is. However, the defending Hesiman trophy winner is good enough to still warrant being mentioned here.

At 6-foot-1, 216 lbs, Williams is touted as one of the best prospects in the 2024 NFL draft class. Coming off his debut season in Hollywood, Williams threw for 4537 yards and 42 touchdowns with only five interceptions on his way to a Heisman trophy. Williams shattered Southern Cal’s records for total yards, passing yards and touchdowns last season.

Williams has all the arm talent in the world and shows off different angles to fit the ball into tight windows. Yet, where he’s special is off-script. The Trojan passer has the ability to get creative and make things happen when the game turns into backyard-style football — similar to some of the top passers at the NFL level.

There’s little doubt Williams will be a very popular name when draft season hits in April.

In the most recent mock draft from Curt Popejoy of NFL Wire, Williams came off the board at No. 7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Where to watch: San Jose State at USC — Saturday, 5 p.m. PT

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Led by Lincoln Riley, Caleb Wiliams and a load of NFL-ready prospects the Southern California Trojans will have a lot of eyes on them as they vie for a spot in the college football playoff.

While the Trojan defense was a notable weak spot in their 2022-23 campaign, the unit is still headlined by NFL talent, starting with safety Calen Bullock.

During his sophomore season, the safety recorded 48 tackles along with snagging five interceptions for the Trojans.

At 6-foot-3, the Trojans have a lengthy playmaker looming in the secondary. For his size, Bullock can fluidly roam the field in zone coverage and attack passing lanes.

If the Trojans’ defense is going to make the step they need for Riley’s squad to become a legitimate playoff contender, Bullock will likely need to be heavily involved.

Where to watch: San Jose State at USC — Saturday, 5 p.m. PT

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Maction stand up. The reigning MAC Offensive Player of the Year is set to return in week zero against San Diego State. During 11 games in the 2022-23 season, Kurtis Rourke ripped the ball across the field for 3257-yard passing to go along with 25 touchdowns and four interceptions. An ACL injury against Ball State put an end to his season in November.

While his name won’t be mentioned alongside Caleb Williams, or even Sam Hartman who will both be on display in week zero, Rourke is worthy of a nod as a player who could come off the board late.

The Canadian passer will spin it all over the field, including looking deep downfield with high-arching tier drop passes into the bucket. At 6-foot-5, Rourke has an intriguing enough arm that scouts will be taking a peak when he steps on the field.

Where to watch: Ohio at San Diego State — Saturday, 4 p.m. PT

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Coming in at No. 2 on Jeff Risdon’s offensive tackle watch list for Draft Wire is Notre Dame’s Joe Alt. The 6-foot-8 top prospect is set to open the season in Ireland against Navy in week zero. Yes, the Fighting Irish in Ireland. Not sure how that doesn’t get you excited for football season coming back.

With long arms, Alt is an ideal blend of athleticism and size that can fit in any zome scheme. The former AP All-American can move all over the field in space and erase defenders with his smooth athleticism.

With another strong season in South Bend, Alt has the chance to be one of the first offensive linemen off the board in April and serve as a franchise tackle for the team that pens his name early on draft day.

Where to watch: Navy at Notre Dame — Saturday, 11:30 p.m. PT

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After transferring from Ohio State, former four-star edge Javontae Jean-Baptiste landed in South Bend with Marcus Freeman and the Irish.

In 25 total games across four seasons for the Buckeyes, Jean-Baptiste registered 10 tackles for loss including eight sacks. Jean-Baptiste notched 4.5 of his sacks last season with Ohio State before entering the transfer portal.

With a chance to start, the 260 lb defensive lineman has the opportunity to push himself up draft boards starting on Saturday in Ireland against Navy.

Where to watch: Navy at Notre Dame — Saturday, 11:30 p.m. PT

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After three years of not having a player drafted, San Jose State’s Villami Fehoko came off the board to the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2023 draft. The Spartans will look to continue that trend of having a player drafted in 2024 with Brent Brennan.

While they will look to replace multiple key contributors like Elijah Cooks, Justin Lockhart is set to return as Chevan Cordeiro’s top target. Lockhart, a former Nevada transfer put up steady numbers during his first season in San Jose with 578 yards and on 36 receptions with a single score.

With more of a featured role as a top option for the veteran Cordeiro, the 6-foot-3 target has the chance to get noticed by scouts. Heading into the season, Lockhart was named to the preseason All-Mountain West team.

To stay in the game against USC, San Jose State will have to push the ball downfield to keep pass with Lincoln Riley’s fiery offensive attack. Lockhart will have the chance to make an impression early with a tough matchup in week zero.

Where to watch: San Jose State at USC — Saturday, 5 p.m. PT


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