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Top 2020 NFL Draft QBs Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa get their first test in Week 1

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The Oregon quarterback’s resolve will get tested against Auburn while Alabama has an easy matchup against Duke.

Redbox Bowl - Michigan State v Oregon Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert? Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa? That is the question pro teams are asking themselves at the onset of the college football season.

Both quarterbacks will be in the spotlight Week 1, but they have teammates who will join them one day in the NFL. Tagovailoa’s Alabama team is stacked on defense. Herbert’s Ducks have several guys on offense who will playing at the next level.

Elsewhere this week: Don’t overlook Vanderbilt’s draft prospects in an SEC matchup with Georgia.

Bama’s best defensive prospect is out, but well, it’s Bama

Alabama has a relatively easy Week 1, playing against Duke in Atlanta Saturday afternoon. Tagovailoa won’t get tested much by Duke’s defense, especially since cornerback Mark Gilbert is expected to miss the game while recovering from a second hip surgery.

However, Alabama was dealt a blow this week after star linebacker Dylan Moses suffered a torn ACL in practice. Coming into the season, Moses was regarded as the top linebacker prospect from the 2020 draft, and not much of a dropoff from 2019 first-rounders Devin Bush and Devin White. Now we’ll wait and see if he returns to Alabama for his senior season or if he goes pro.

Of course, the Tide are still loaded with NFL prospects on defense. The most obvious one is defensive lineman Raekwon Davis. He had a down 2018 season, but it’s hard to ignore a 6’7, 312-pound defensive lineman with 11 career sacks.

Fellow defensive linemen LaBryan Ray and Phidarian Mathis are in store for big seasons as well.

Alabama also has a nice pair of versatile edge players in senior Anfernee Jennings and junior Terrell Lewis. Lewis will reportedly be suspended for a portion of the game. At least he’ll finally see action at some point. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL and 10 games in 2017 with a broken right elbow.

In Alabama’s secondary, safety Xavier McKinney can blitz and play out of the slot. Alabama also uses cornerback Shyheim Carter a lot on the inside, and he could fit that role decently in the NFL. Fellow cornerback Trevon Diggs has nice size at 6’2 and is more accustomed to playing outside.

How will Herbert and his OL handle Auburn’s potential top-10 DT?

Oregon will face a much stiffer test going against Auburn Saturday night. One of the things that has stymied Herbert during his college career has been pressure. On Saturday night, Herbert will see plenty of it from an Auburn defensive line that features possible top-10 pick Derrick Brown.

It was a stunner when Brown decided to return to Auburn for his senior season. He was a potential first-round pick this year because of his ability to dominate versus the run and push offensive linemen backward into the pocket. He’s still hit-or-miss as a pass rusher, but he should create some pressure on Herbert.

Fellow Auburn defensive linemen Marlon Davidson and Nick Coe profile as NFL players as well. Davidson, an edge rusher, is particularly intriguing. He was Auburn’s leader in quarterback pressures last season with 11.

“I improved on my hands last year. I was getting back to the quarterback but I was just one step too slow. Now, I’m trying to get my footwork faster now, so everything should tie into it,” Davidson told the Auburn Villager.

Herbert will rely on an offensive line that has its own solid pro prospects, including versatile senior Calvin Throckmorton and center Jake Hanson. Herbert also has some future NFL targets to throw to in tight end Jacob Breeland and wide receiver Juwan Johnson.

With Moses out for the season, Oregon’s Troy Dye will be competing with Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons to be the best linebacker prospect in the country. A high school safety, Dye has good movement skills for a linebacker and can cover tight ends. He’s not the biggest, but he’s a good athlete. In front of him, massive defensive tackle Jordan Scott eats up blocks. He’s probably a Day 3 prospect at his point, though, because he’s limited to playing the run.

Keep an eye on Vanderbilt’s explosive offensive trio

In Week 1, SEC play gets underway with Georgia at Vanderbilt on Saturday night. While we’ll talk a lot about Georgia throughout the season, this game is worth watching for Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn. At 5’10, 218 pounds, Vaughn is built like an NFL running back and averaged 7.9 yards per carry a year ago. You read that correctly.

That’s not it for Vanderbilt on offense. Tight end Jared Pinkney is the best prospect at his position for the 2020 draft. He’s big and athletic and knows how to get open in the middle of the field. Wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb excels in the underneath game and had 87 receptions last season.