When Arkansas State University and University of Central Arkansas meet Saturday in Jonesboro, two players -- one from each side -- will garner more attention than most. And they'll likely being lining up eye-to-eye, face mask-to-face mask on almost every play.
ASU senior wide receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. and UCA senior cornerback Robert Rochell will not only be the most intriguing individual matchup for fans Saturday, but also NFL scouts. Both Adams and Rochell are expected to be draft picks in the spring, with Rochell expected to go between the second and third rounds and Adams somewhere between rounds four through seven, though, his stock is rising.
As expected, leading up to the game the teams' head coaches had nothing but good things to say about their opponent.
ASU's Blake Anderson praised Rochell.
"He's a great player," Anderson said. "Long, got speed and he's not afraid to be competitive. That's obviously why the NFL guys like him. He'll get beat on a play and he'll come right back on the next play and make a big play."
And UCA's Nathan Brown did the same for Adams.
"To me, Jay Adams will be as good of a receiver as we'll face all year," Brown said. "Just look at his physicality, the ability to catch the ball, track the ball and make those tough catches in the air. We feel like we've got a couple kids that can do that over here as well, but Jay does it as well as anyone I've seen."
As for the players themselves, Adams and Rochell have a mutual respect for each other, both noting that neither were highly recruited out of high school.
And now they both have the chance to play at the next level.
"I'm definitely looking forward to it just because both of us are draft prospects," Rochell said. "They want to see him go against good DBs, they want to see me go against good receivers. It's something that will help both of us."
For Adams, he has a great appreciation for Rochell's 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame combined with his 4.38 40-yard dash time, which makes him one of the better corners he has faced in his career. Adams said the only corners comparable would be that of Georgia's Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes, who he played last year and are both listed above 6-1 and 185 pounds.
"He has good size for a corner," said Adams, who has caught 20 passes for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns. "He's pretty long and fast, something corners don't usually have all together. He's known for his size, but he's got some speed, too."
And for Rochell, he respects Adams' unique ability to come down with some of the most difficult of catches while also being a great route runner. At 6-3, 220 pounds, Adams is one of the bigger receivers Rochell has gone up against.
"I haven't faced someone with his skill set," said Rochell, who has 11 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble he returned for a touchdown this season. He also has 10 career interceptions. "Just him attacking the ball. Him being a bigger guy, he can run a little bit as well, he comes out of his breaks physically, which makes him a better receiver than most because he does those things so well."
Come Saturday, it's unclear if Rochell will man-up Adams the entire game as Arkansas State has multiple talented receivers, including seniors Dahu Green and Brandon Bowling.
But no matter who Rochell matches up with, Brown likes his player's chances.
"I love Robert Rochell and everything he's about," Brown said. "I think matching him up with the best player on any team is definitely an advantage to us because I believe that much in Robert and I think that much of his ability."
And it's that kind of ability that has ASU offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf saying Rochell is someone the Red Wolves have to pay attention to throughout the entire game.
"You look at our outside receivers and we've got really good length and it's an advantage over the guy you're playing against. [Rochell] negates that because he's just as long as our outside receivers are," Heckendorf said. "He's a really good player. It'll be a great challenge for outside wideouts and it's one I think they're going to be excited to matchup and go into those one-on-one battles and see what they can do. He's got our attention and he deserves our respect based on how he has played and what he's put on tape."
Green, who is ASU's tallest receiver at 6-5, has especially been a help in taking some of the pressure away from Adams.
Due to their length and size, the duo causes a lot of problems for their opponents, which can often up opportunities for others like Bowling, who caught 7 passes for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns against Coastal Carolina last Saturday.
"It opens things up for both of us because sometimes teams will really key in on me, so having Dahu on the other side they have to key in on him as well," Adams said. "It also opens up the middle for our inside receivers, like Brandon Bowling. Everything opens up when you have that many talented receivers out on the field."
Meanwhile, UCA is confident in its other corner, junior Deandre Lamont.
Lamont has played well opposite of Rochell, totaling 13 tackles, 1 interception and forcing 1 fumble. Lamont and Rochell are looking forward to the challenge of facing ASU's talented receiving corps, saying it's probably the most deep and talented wideout group they've faced.
"They probably won't be the fastest, but they're going to be physical," Rochell said. "They're going to use their length and their strength to block you out to catch the ball. So being physical with them will make the game a whole lot easier on our behalf."
Either way, at some point, Rochell and Adams will line up across from each other and a ball will likely come their way.
And while it may not be the deciding factor in who wins the game, it'll certainly be one of the more exciting one-on-one matchups this season for both teams and players.
"I can't wait," Rochell said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."