BBD Editor: Dan Hope
College football, and arguably its biggest star, will be back in action Thursday at 6 p.m., when superstar South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in a game televised nationally by ESPN.
The bulk of the attention leading up to this game has been placed on Clowney, and rightfully so: the junior is a virtually unanimous choice as college football’s best defensive player, is coming off of a 13-sack season and is projected to be a top-two selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
That said, Clowney isn’t the only top prospect playing in Thursday night’s college football season opener. The second-best prospect in the game may be North Carolina left tackle James Hurst, the player Clowney will spend most of his night lining up directly across from.
Going into his senior season, Hurst is a legitimate first-round candidate for the 2014 draft. He is a very well-rounded offensive tackle with the all-around game to start on either side of the line, but to be a top draft pick in a class full of offensive tackle talent, Hurst must continue to get even better in his senior season.
Hurst starts his season with an opportunity to make a name for himself, for better or for worse. Facing Clowney will be the toughest test of his college football career, and it is likely that Hurst’s flaws will be exposed. But if Hurst can hold his own and conversely prove to be a tough test for Clowney, he will impress scouts and could vault himself into the top tier of offensive tackle prospects.