CFB Week 1 draft scouting spotlight: Utah vs. Florida

After a nice appetizer in what was termed Week 0, this weekend sees college football explode onto the scene. Week 1 kicks off on Thursday night with a matchup of the Florida Gators and Utah Utes.

Last year’s meeting was the game that launched Gators QB Anthony Richardson into prominence. Richardson wound up being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft and his three rushing TDs in the opener against Utah were part of that progress.

While there isn’t a surefire first-rounder on either roster, there are still quite a few prospects for the 2024 draft to watch in an appealing Pac-12 vs. SEC matchup.

As was the case a year ago, it starts at quarterback. Utah has a good one in Cam Rising, but he’s likely not playing while he continues to recover from a torn ACL. Florida’s Graham Mertz is among nine Gators who appear on the Senior Bowl’s preseason watch list, and the Wisconsin transfer can quickly elevate himself with a good showing.

Mertz gets some talented weaponry at his disposal. Wide receiver Ricky Pearsall works well out of the slot and is adept at making catches away from his body. RB Montrell Johnson Jr. can break the big play and shows pretty good vision and acceleration through the hole without rushing the process.

Perhaps the most interesting Gator is TE Dante Zanders, who has flip-flopped between tight end and defense lineman and overhauled his physique in the process. Zanders only caught 10 passes a year ago, but he’s poised for a bigger senior season with positional stability and a leaner frame.

On defense, Florida offers CB Jason Marshall Jr. and bendy pass rusher Princely Umanmielen. Both have early-round draft potential. With Rising and top Utah TE Brant Kuithe sitting out, they could shine under the Western lights.

Utah’s top prospect expected to play is offensive lineman Sataoa Laumea. He’s one of the top interior offensive line talents in the early draft conversation and might be the best pulling run blocker in college football. He’s expected to play right tackle in 2023. Another TE, Thomas Yassmin, is one of 10 Utes on the preseason Senior Bowl watchlist.

Others to watch


LB Micah Bernard

S Cole Bishop

OG Ethan Calvert

RB Ja’Quinden Jackson

DE Connor O’Toole

DT Junior Tafuna

CB Zemaiah Vaughn


C Kingsley Eguakun

DB Jaydon Hill

OG Micah Mazzccua

S R.J. Moten

DT Cam Jackson

LB Scooby Williams

Story originally appeared on Draft Wire