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Titans Fan Guide: 2017 Premiere Edition

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Florida
Minkah Fitzpatrick. Do Want
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland at #23 Texas NOON FS1

- The weirdly dressed Terrapins travel to weird Austin and take on a retooling Longhorns program. Maryland posted a 6-7 record, which was good for a fifth place finish in the Big Ten East division. The fighting turtles are hoping for a better second year under DJ Durkin. The Horns have been going through tough times themselves, posting a 5-7 record that saw Charlie Strong fired and moved to USF. HC and Horn alum Tom Herman takes the reins after being hired away from Houston. His hire was the worst kept secret in all of college football last year. Can these two once prestige programs get it going in the right direction before too long?

Maryland prospect to watch

1. D.J. Moore 5'10 215 WR Junior

- Stefon Diggs who? Moore is a dynamic playmaker that makes Diggs look slow in comparison. A deep threat and proficient route runner. He stood out to me when I had the chance to watch some Terps football. Look for him to have a big year and possibly declare early.

Texas prospects to watch

1. Connor Williams 6'6 320 OT Junior

- It could be argued that Williams is the best offensive lineman in the 2018 class and you wouldn't find too many disagreements. He's that good. He's been a starter at left tackle from day one of his freshman season. He's talented enough to stick at left tackle in the pros as well.

2. Malik Jefferson 6'3 240 LB Junior

- Jefferson has been inconsistently consistent during his first two years in Austin thanks to a myriad of changes swirling around the team. He's been miscast as an inside linebacker due to depth concerns. A pass rush terror that can also play in coverage. Could be one of the most talented linebackers in the class and a top draft pick by year's end. The general of the Horns' defense. He was formerly the top ranked recruit in the state of Texas.

Cal at North Carolina 12:20 PM ACC Network / WatchESPN

- The Bears and longtime frenemy / former Duck Justin Wilcox travel to Chapel Hill to take on the reloading Tar Heels. Cal struggled to a 5-7 record in 2016 and fired Sonny Dykes and the Air Raid offense as a result. North Carolina posted a 8-5 record, which was good for 2nd place in the ACC Coastal division. UNC has prior experience in dealing with Pac-12 teams, losing to Stanford in the 2016 Sun Bowl. It's interesting matchup between Wilcox the defensive specialist against the spread offense minded Larry Fedora. The Heels are trying to cope with the loss of current Chicago Bear Mitchell Trubisky. Cal, meanwhile, wants respectability and some defense along the way.

Cal prospect to watch

1. Tre Watson 5'9 190 RB Senior

- Watson served as a partner in crime to Tennessee Titan Khalfani Muhammad and will finally get his shot as the main guy in 2017. Like Muhammad before him, Watson is an undersized running back at only 5'9 190 and a terrific athlete. He has prior experience as a return man and is a good receiver out of the backfield. He projects as an UDFA right now but can improve with a great year as the lead back. NFL teams will question his size, however.

North Carolina prospect to watch

1. Brandon Harris 6'3 220 QB Senior

- Harris transferred into UNC as a graduate transfer from LSU. He's a fundamentally raw prospect that never really developed during his stay in the Bayou. Good athlete can make something out of nothing on broken plays. He's a perfect fit for Larry Fedora's spread system. Could be in line for a big year if Fedora can develop him.

#11 Michigan vs. #17 Florida 3:30 PM ABC

- The who has a starter that isn't suspended or brand new bowl. Michigan only has a total of FIVE starters coming back on either side of the ball. Florida, on the other hand has up to a whopping TEN players suspended for this game, including star receiver Antonio Calloway. The Wolverines are coming off a dramatic loss in the Orange Bowl while the Gators are coming off a 9-4 record that was good enough to win the SEC East. Which team's depth will ultimately win out in Dallas?

Michigan prospect to watch

1. Mike McCray II 6'4 248 LB RS Senior

- The leader of a depleted Wolverines defense that will be a chore to play against. A Big Ten legacy as father played for the rival Buckeyes. An above average athlete and fundamental tackler. Will be relied upon to set the tone as the leader.

2. Rashan Gary 6'4 287 DT Sophomore (2019)

- Gary is a beast inside the trenches. He didn't get as much press as the other freshmen tackle standouts but more than held his own. He was the top ranked recruit in the entire country for his class. Look for him to declare as a junior barring injury. He's a good one.

Florida prospects to watch

1. Martez Ivey 6'5 315 OL Junior

- Ivey has had an inconsistent career to date due to injuries but really turned it on as a sophomore. He's a rare five star recruit that has panned out for the Gators on offense lately. Position versatile as he can play both tackle and guard but will primarily start at left tackle in 2017. First round possibility if he declares.

#3 Florida State vs. #1 Alabama 8 PM ABC

- The third ranked Seminoles take on the top ranked Crimson Tide in what is being billed as the best season opener ever. The talent on both sides is immense as expected. These two programs definitely have the pedigree and prestige to have the honor of opening college football to the masses in newly built Mercedes Benz Stadium. They also have many former legends enshrined in the College Football HOF across the road. Which one of these heavyweights will emerge as the victor in Atlanta tonight? The loser isn't necessarily knocked out of the playoff chase either. Will the protégé (Jimbo Fisher) outshine the master (Nick Saban) tonight? Or will Saban dominate another one of his former assistants again? At last check, the Tide is favored by 8 (if you're into that sort of thing). I could have listed the entire two deep for both teams legitimately.

Florida State prospects to watch

1. Derwin James 6'3 212 S Junior

- The best safety prospect in the nation without question. He's an elite athlete with great instincts. The engine that makes the Noles defense hum. NFL teams will love his size as well. A physical force tackling opponents. He has injury questions as he missed virtually all of 2016 with a knee issue. A virtual lock to declare early.

2. Tavarus McFadden 6'2 198 CB Junior

- McFadden returns in 2017 as the country's leader in interceptions. Elite ball skills and athleticism. Fundamentally sound as a tackler. NFL teams will fall in love with his measureables and production thus far. Another lock to go pro early. Xavier Rhodes who? He's that good. Similar game to former Nole Antonio Cromartie without the health problems.

3. Derrick Nnadi 6'1 313 DT Senior

- Nnadi is the latest prospect in a long line of productive Seminole defensive tackles. He really came on as a junior and could've gone pro but came back to school. A handful to deal with on the interior. Just starting to scratch the surface of his talents. He's the anchor that the Noles can rely upon on defense.

4. Josh Sweat 6'5 249 DE Junior

- Sweat is a pass rush terror for any lineman to go against. He has speed and length for days on end. Has bulked up considerably since his freshman year. Injury history is a concern for pro teams as he nearly missed a chunk of his freshman season due to a catastrophic knee injury in HS. Also has picked up little injuries here and there. If he's 100% right, then there's few other pass rush talents like him.

Alabama prospects to watch

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick 6'1 203 CB Junior

- The nation's best cornerback prospect and it isn't particularly close, either. Impact day one starter even as a freshman. Elite athlete. Position versatile as he played safety a ton last year after Eddie Jackson went down with injury. He's good. Not much left to be said. Possibly the most talented of the Bama corners of recent lore.

2. Calvin Ridley 6'1 188 WR Junior

- 2016 was not a fun experience for him as the Tide were breaking in a true freshman QB but he has a ton of potential. The Tide's WR1 this year. Pretty good athlete. Outstanding route runner. Above average blocker. The matchup between McFadden and Ridley should be fun to watch.

3. Da'Shawn Hand 6'4 289 DL Junior

- One standout lineman leaves, another enters. Hand is in the running for best defensive lineman in the country. He was a beastly force even in a "backup" role last year. Played a bunch in 2016. The next in a long line of Tide stud DLs. Teams will question his DUI where he fell asleep in a parked car, though. Clean record otherwise.

4. Bo Scarborough 6'2 236 RB Junior

- Last seen utterly dominating Clemson's hapless defense before getting injured in the 3rd quarter of the national title game. The heir apparent to current Titan Derrick Henry made a name for himself in 2016 after sitting in 2015 for a bit. Size and speed aren't questions, let's just say that. Look for another big year before going pro.