Scouting Notebook: Is Texas Back?
Texas is currently sitting at four straight wins. In other words, they're back. Not that phony lose to Maryland in the season opener back. I'm talking back in that way where I believe Texas has a chance to upset the highly ranked Oklahoma Sooners this upcoming weekend. Is that probably a massive jinx and star Sooner quarterback Kyler Murray will drop 60 points on the Longhorns? You betcha. Speaking of the Longhorns, I had a chance to go in depth on pretty much the entire team against USC thanks to cutups. This next section will break down all the players I watched during cutups this week and what I saw from them. Brace yourself.
Texas vs. USC
For USC vs. Texas, I cut thirteen Texas players and nine USC players, along with two offensive line cutups that I did not look in depth at.
Texas QB Sam Ehlinger
Ehlinger has been hit with a lot of criticism from folks in the draft community, and his early season performances made it reasonable to put in Shane Buechele. The coaching staff stuck through the rough start and it seems to be paying dividends. I don't believe Ehlinger is ready to lead this team into great success due to his accuracy inconsistencies, but he has the physical tools to be a future pro prospect. He is currently not eligible for the draft as a true sophomore, but he has the arm talent to make big throws downfield with the athleticism to scramble for first downs. If the development is maintained for another two years, watch out.
Texas RB Tre Watson
I wanted to see Watson demonstrate some of the quickness and agility that he showed during his time at California, where I evaluated him for 2018 prior to his medical redshirt being given. Watson did not seem fully recovered from the knee injury that delayed his pro opportunities. He wasn't even the best back on the team in my opinion, as sophomore Daniel Young was harder to bring down and put on a display of power in between the tackles. Watson is averaging a modest 56 rushing yards per game on the season and may struggle to crack 700 yards unless he starts creating big plays. Right now I would mark him down as a UDFA who lacks any particular trait that elevates him from your typical college back.
Texas WR Collin Johnson
Now let's talk about a player who looked impressive when I got to get a good glance. I don't know what I was expecting out of the 6'6" 220 pound wideout, but I got way more than I bargained for. His route-running isn't fully developed yet and his game is reliant around his hands and jump ball ability. That said, Johnson is one of the best in the business in this regard. His high-pointing skills are some of the best in this class, as he knows how to climb the ladder and make plays over the heads of defensive backs. An underclassman at the moment, I am convinced that he will declare for the draft and be a hot commodity due to his upside. He isn't as strong with his press release as someone like N'Keal Harry, but has more variety and hand usage with his get off.
Texas TE Andrew Beck
Beck missed the majority of his 2017 season due to injury, but showed legitimate draftable upside in his performance against the Trojans. Primarily utilized as an H-back, Beck was moved around the offense and wore every hat that was needed. His blocking is not perfect, but he shows the determination and leg drive to move linebackers and undersized edge rushers out of the lane. He'll likely be too small to play in-line at the next level, but should be an excellent hybrid blocker/receiver. While his pass catching productivity is lackluster I believe he is primed to take off in that role once he gets in an offense that gives him proper looks. Beck came out smoothly when asked to play from the slot and looks like a solid 4.7 mover in the open field.
Texas DL Charles Omenihu
Let's talk about the player on the Texas roster with some of the most riser potential of anyone in this class. Omenihu isn't the same type of player that UTSA's Marcus Davenport was last year, but I believe he has the potential to make the same leap Davenport did during the all-star circuit. He's a chiseled 6'6" and 275 pounds with the frame to add more weight and play inside. He could simply stay in his current role of rotating between the edge and the interior. While he lacks a legitimate go-to move as a rusher I like the motor and length, along with the ability to get skinny between gaps and find his way into the backfield. This isn't a round one player at the moment, but I would not be shocked to see him climb from the mid rounds of the board into an early day two slot.
Texas DL Chris Nelson
The opposite of Omenihu in terms of physical makeup, Nelson is a bowling ball of a human being at chunky 6'1" and 300 pounds. Nelson doesn't possess any excellent measurables that will make him a mismatch against pro players, but I believe he's savvy enough to get into a training camp. His get off is solid and he finds his way into opposing backfields with his bull rush. It will be important for Nelson to continue developing a pass rush and learning to maximize his size in the run game if he wants to have a shot at sticking beyond the summer rosters next year. Fun player, even if he isn't a highly touted one.
Texas EDGE Breckyn Hager
Versatility is the first thing that comes to mind when you see Hager. He will likely be used as a rush linebacker or pass rushing specialist end, but has been a great move piece for Tom Herman's staff. Against USC, Hager played all the way from 3-tech to Mike, and looked damn good doing it. His mobility isn't his strongest asset, but he will be reliable dropping into coverage when needed. There isn't enough bend or hand usage at the moment to be trusted in getting pocket penetration, nor is the frame large enough to handle additional weight, but there is a role to be carved out for Hager. It will be up to the staff at Texas to figure out how he should be turned into a real force.
Texas LB Gary Johnson
If you play inside linebacker there is no doubt going to be questions about your role in the defense. Evaluators are going to wonder whether you are a space filler or the guy who the rest of the group rallies around. Playing arguably the most cerebral position on that side of the football, Johnson displays the control and traffic cop attitude that teams want to see from starters at the next level. The senior is the heartbeat of the defense and the moving pieces would not fit right without him making plays. He's not an A level athlete or maybe even a B level athlete, but he has the quicks to get to the football whichever way it flows.
Texas LB Anthony Wheeler
Johnson is the field general, while Wheeler is the infantryman tasked with getting the job done. Wheeler is even less of an athlete than Johnson and it shows up in some questionable coverage reps, but I like his length and tackling form. Don't expect him to make sideline to sideline plays on the football, as he'll likely be utilized as a run defending outside linebacker who can take up short zones and disrupt underneath routes. Maybe not even a draftable player yet on my board due to a limited ceiling, but the floor should be making a camp roster.
Texas CB Davante Davis
When I first began Davis' cuts I was blown away that nobody has been bringing up his name. He is a very mediocre tackler and should never be asked to take on ball-carriers in space. When given free shots that can close out plays prior to the marker he frequently slides off the back hip and ends up on his face. But watch the way he moves around the football field. Easy backpedal. Fluid transitions without missing steps or losing control. If he can learn to hone in his gifts there are starting caliber traits in his game. You can find his performance against Texas linked later in the article's The Film Look section.
Texas CB Kris Boyd
The first three minutes of Boyd's game against USC were pretty middling. I saw a stiff guy who looked about 6'2" and couldn't close the distance in zone coverage. He wasn't reacting with explosiveness or arriving at the catch point in time to disrupt the receiver's process. Then he shifted away from playing zone and starting manning up in press, and I understood why he was getting top ten discussion for this year's draft. No, not top ten cornerback discussion. I'm talking top ten overall discussion. That's still way too rich for my blood considering the role Boyd will likely be forced into as a pro (massive man cover guy who can't break on ball), but I understand why people want to buy in. He's the better of the two Longhorn corners, but it's not like they're on a different planet from what I saw.
Texas CB/S P.J. Locke III
I came into P.J. Locke's cutups with the expectation of a hard hitting safety who just annihilated folks despite his average size at 5'11" and 205 pounds. In reality, Locke is a tough as nails nickel corner who can occasionally slide back into two or three deep looks with the closing speed to make up for defensive openings. I loved the enthusiasm he brought in run defense, but the tackling is a massive issue. When he hits guys he does it with every bit of his being, but it's often not enough to knock down sturdy runners and he rarely wraps before slamming his weight into the opposition. He's going to get destroyed against taller opponents if you force him to play against anyone but slot receivers in the NFL, and he may lack the footwork to mirror those guys off the snap. I doubt he gets drafted due to the array of questions around his game, but the fire is there to be a special teams overachiever.
Texas S Brandon Jones
Omenihu was the most impressive player on the Texas team in terms of pro potential, but don't sleep on the underclassman safety Brandon Jones. Jones was suggested as a cutup to me by The Draft Network's Brad Kelly, and he did not disappoint. Thank you, Mr. Kelly! We've got a good one! Jones played all the way from the line of scrimmage to single high and looked solid during all of it. I don't believe he has the range to play the back end like that on Sundays, but there is enough functional athleticism to play two deep. A move to linebacker wouldn't surprise me either if a team deems him too slow to be a safety in the NFL. He's well built at 6'1" and 205 pounds with the room to pack on some mass.
USC QB J.T. Daniels
Yes, I know he is a true freshman. He's not draft eligible, just like the aforementioned Sam Ehlinger. But holy horse droppings, Daniels can SLING it. You don't see a lot of underclassman who just effortlessly put the ball around the field like he does. The calmness in the pocket is something that will need to be instilled with years of collegiate experience, but boy oh boy is this fella gonna be a good one if he keeps this up. He has shown the guts to try any throw and can nail 50-60 yard passes over the top. Considering quarterbacks are the easiest position to do cutups for (other than offensive line), I have been making sure even the young folks get their games put out there. We'll revisit these early days in three years when he's draft eligible and check the progress.
USC TE Tyler Petite
Petite was the higher touted tight end prospect in this matchup compared to Texas' Beck, but I don't think he's in the conversation as a draftable prospect yet. His blocking at this point is straight up atrocious, as he gets nuked on contact even when working as an H-back. He'll always make his paycheck working on the outside, but I expected a lot better than Mike Gesicki incarnate. The receiving skills aren't bad, as he has the movement skills to get free against college linebackers and light zone coverages. But watch him and tell me what he does better than Beck. Bulk up and learn to handle linebackers first and foremost, then we can start draft stock.
USC DL Malik Dorton
Dorton was not a one-man wrecking crew by any means, and it shows in his lackluster stats for the year. Through five games he only has two sacks, which isn't bad by any means, but it's the production of a late round selection. The play is better than you'd anticipate given how he has affected the box score. Dorton is still developing his pass rush skill set, but I am drawn to his get off speed and overall quickness out of his stance. He'll need to turn that water into wine by incorporating his hands and finding gap penetration, but the 6'2" 280 tweener could become a rotational interior guy with the right situation around him.
USC EDGE Porter Gustin
Gustin is known for a few things by the draft community. His superhuman workout/eating regimen that was detailed by Trevor Sikkema here. His long list of injuries that have put him off of achieving at a high level as he has gotten further into his college career. His effectiveness when he is on the field. There's a lot to learn about Porter Gustin, but his talent stands out immediately. Having recorded six sacks already in five games, he has already shattered his single season record for sacks. A fractured toe put him out in 2017 and he dealt with a torn meniscus prior to the 2018 season which put his future in doubt. Luckily he overcame the meniscus injury and has been excellent so far. I don't believe in Gustin's bend or ability to play with his hand in the dirt. As an edge setting outside linebacker who can strong hand tight ends and make hustle plays? He's perfect. Power is Gustin's calling card and he easily discards unprepared opponents with active hands and some quickness you don't always anticipate. He's not a first round or maybe even a second rounder, but he looks like a second contract type of guy who will only get better as he ages and hones his craft.
USC LB Cameron Smith
You've heard the saying about expecting someone to look bigger in person. I really do hope Smith looks bigger in person. He dropped about 20 pounds this offseason to help with his mobility and improve his game overall, but he looks very light at 6'1" and 230 pounds. I haven't seen his game prior to this season so I can't comment on the change much, but this is not the player I anticipated finding. Much like Johnson is the heartbeat for Texas, Smith is the heartbeat for USC. He played a wider array of roles such as coming off the edge, frequently blitzing the A and B gap, and generally rotating around to the sides of the linebacker group. I don't think he's a liability in coverage, which is the criticism I heard most frequently last year, but I'm not sold on the ability to navigate traffic and find the ball-carrier.
USC CB Iman Marshall
Marshall has been one of the higher touted prospects for the team this season, and he shocked many analysts when he decided not to declare for the 2018 Draft. I had not seen him at that point and had no clue whether or not it was a good decision, but he seems like a starting caliber corner at the next level. The first thing that pops off the screen with Marshall is his length, but he gets around easily for being 6'1" or larger. His transitions to click and close on the football in zone aren't great, but they are enough to suffice as a rookie. His ability to mirror off the line of scrimmage and stay on the hip of receivers on all levels of the field is what stands out. Marshall is built for the league and his combination of traits makes me think he'll get taken day two at the latest. Circle his name.
USC CB Ajene Harris
USC isn't known as a cornerback factory by any means, but they've got some good ones here in this trio. Harris is the smallest of the group, and the least likely to find pro success, but I think he can still get drafted if things pan out right. He's similar in role to Texas' Locke, though his man cover skills seem to be an improvement from Locke's. At a slender 5'10" and 190 pounds he'll be relegated strictly to working against slot corners in the NFL. I'm curious to see how he looks going forward because a lot of his coverage reps had him slanted towards the ball and playing zone instead of letting him just run step for step with someone. The run defense will never be a positive, but it didn't appear as a major issue. Harris is likely a low ceiling guy who gets into camp and maybe even snatches a practice squad spot.
USC CB Isaiah Langley
Believe it or not, Langley is actually situated behind redshirt freshman Greg Johnson on the depth chart. He's technically the fourth corner, even though he is interchangeable with Johnson on most series. I don't know what the coaching staff is seeing on the practice field to make them bet on Johnson, but Langley is much more reliable. He is only listed at 5'11" and 175 pounds, but plays much larger than that. He looks maybe an inch below Marshall out there, and seems to be closer to 190 pounds than 175. His game is largely built on winning at the line of scrimmage and forcing timing errors with his press ability, but Langley can turn and hoof it downfield with his opposition. He won't test as anything special and will draw some questions for being relegated behind Johnson, but coaching staffs will see the tools that set the floor with him. I'd invest a late round pick based on what I saw.
USC S Marvell Tell III
Tell me what you'd heard about Marvell so far and I could probably give you ten other opinions. He's an enigma in the draft community. Some pundits have cited league sources who believe he is a first round talent. Others believe he is the top safety in the class. Don't forget the folks who think he's a late day three selection. If we're being quite honest here, I don't even know what he is yet and I watched him. Tell is listed at 6'2" and 195 pounds, but he doesn't always play up to his size. He has a very low stature and stays hunched at all times when in play. Marshall looks bigger than him when the two are lined up near each other. While there are no fatal flaws in his game there aren't any qualities that leap off the screen. Good but not great in almost every area, I'd put Tell as an early day three prospect who can start in a pinch, but needs to show off his gifts as an athlete more during the action.
Florida State vs. Virginia Tech
For Florida State taking on the Virginia Tech Hokies I did cuts for six Seminole players and two Virginia Tech players.
Florida State RB Jacques Patrick
I'm far from a truther on Patrick, but I was impressed with the tough running I saw last year when cutting up Florida State vs. Southern Miss in the bowl game. Patrick isn't a great open field mover and will get caught from behind, but he has an attitude as a runner. It wasn't completely on display against Virginia Tech and I've heard some other negatives recently about his performance in 2018, but the power back formula doesn't grow weary in the league. I'd have him as a late rounder or UDFA target who can maybe build himself into a RB2 to take the burden off a worn out bellcow.
Florida State WR Nyqwan Murray
Murray reportedly sent down to second team duties earlier in this season, but I was surprised to see it happen. He wasn't an excellent target for Francois against the Hokies, but he made plays when the ball got in his hands and operated his routes well. I'm not sure what the ceiling is for Murray if he gets away from the schemed touches, but he's worth looking at as a potential day three selection.
Florida State DL Fredrick Jones
Wanna talk about another player who is built like a tank? Jones doesn't possess much in the way of pass rush ability, but he can stand up at the point of attack and move bodies around. His push/pull move is something I'd keep an eye out for going forward. He does a great job of getting into the chest of blockers and then discarding them as the ball arrives. Arm length is going to be one aspect of his game that will be highly criticized by evaluators. He could end up measuring with arms under 33", which would be less than adequate for someone tasked with shedding blocks and impacting the run game.
Florida State DL Demarcus Christmas
Christmas is much thinner than his counterpart in Jones, and it shows in the way he moves around the field. I didn't see much in the way of great hand usage or a developed plan of attack when trying to get into the backfield, but he is a persistent rusher who can knife through gaps and get skinny in between linemen. I'd like to see him stay lower to the ground rather than rising high out of his stance, but there is more like to frame wise than with a lot of other college defensive linemen. He's listed at 6'3" and 310 pounds, which looks like the right play weight for him, although he might be able to add some muscle.
Florida State EDGE Brian Burns
Burns was the talk of the town for the first week of real college action after he decimated the Virginia Tech team, but I didn't see the bend or pass rush acumen I expected from him. He was talked up as a potential first round selection, but his game looked more like a reliable rotation guy until he can develop further. I'm talking mid day two value. One positive was I got to see Burns for the first time, and he looked much bigger than I expected. He's listed at 6'4" and 230 pounds, but I'm not buying that for a second. He looks like a lean 250 pounder. I'd say stay in school based on the small sample size I've got.
Florida State S A.J. Westbrook
No buzz has circulated around Westbrook, although most of his teammates on the defensive side of the ball have received some kind of attention. Westbrook looked like an undersized safety who hasn't yet filled out a decently long frame. It showed up big in run defense situations where he was unable to square up and finish his tackles. If he doesn't put on the pounds he'll be relegated to playing the back end, which is something I don't believe he has the range to do. It'll be easier for Westbrook to bulk up than to improve his closing speed to the sidelines. He sits firmly in undraftable territory for me.
Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson
My first two quarterback reviews on underclassman have been pretty friendly, so allow me to bring this all back down to Earth. Josh Jackson may end up losing his starting job in full later this year, although I do believe he is talented enough to maintain it. I didn't see anything special in regards to physical traits, although he had some good moments moving around in the pocket. Jackson is out for a significant amount of time with a broken leg, and it is unknown when he will be back in the mix.
Virginia Tech RB Steven Peoples
Zach Hicks and I had a bit of a discussion about the bruising back in Blacksburg, and he told me Peoples dropped about twenty pounds heading into the season of play. If that's true, I'm terrified to know how he looked last year. He's still very thick at 5'9" and 220 pounds. The lack of quickness and general inability to create yardage for himself is going to make him an undrafted player barring a massive turnaround. He's on pace for over 900 yards on the ground, but his competition will get stiffer this weekend when the Fighting Irish come to town.
LSU vs. Miami
In the LSU-Miami matchup I did cuts for eight Miami players and six LSU players.
Miami QB Malik Rosier
Malik Rosier lost his job. He lost it and he's probably not getting it back, considering the arm talent and potential that underclassman N'Kosi Perry has shown for the Hurricanes. It's a rough break for Rosier who was my 19th ranked senior quarterback with potential to rise further with a good final season. There are moments where everything clicks and he makes some great downfield throws, but overall the accuracy is not there in the short and intermediate game to be an NFL quarterback. Even if Rosier doesn't get his job back and has to come into the NFL with very little senior tape he'll get a camp invite.
Miami RB Travis Homer
First impressions on Homer? He's better than I anticipated. While Homer doesn't have excellent contact balance or good in-between the tackles ability, he is a smooth lateral mover who can make plays in the open field. When given a lane to get going he's capable of breaking off long runs thanks to quick acceleration. Homer hasn't had any huge games so far this year but the traits he displays are that of a mid-round selection. He's a great fit for today's NFL where backs are given opportunities to work in space more than ever before.
Miami DL Gerald Willis III
Here's a riser that nobody really expected. Willis has barely played any college ball until this year, as he was dealing with things off the field and transferred from Florida to Miami as an underclassman. But my goodness, was it worth the wait. Willis has legit top 25 potential if my eyes aren't playing tricks on me with the tape. His pass rush is nearly impossible to predict for offensive linemen, and it's just as difficult to stop. He flies off the snap and utilizes a variety of techniques to get free of blockers. The quickness with which he works is unnatural. Willis drew a lot of attention for his LSU performance, but he has over ten tackles for a loss through five games and looks to be an early round selection so far.
Miami EDGE Joe Jackson
Jackson was a hot name in the summer, with many analysts talking about him as a potential first rounder. He's put together like a first round defensive end. With a thick core and long limbs, Jackson is listed at 6'5" and 260 pounds. He's physically maxed out, but that's not a bad thing considering how he looks. There's not much nuance with his pass rushing yet, nor does he tilt and turn around the arc cleanly. I wouldn't say he's a copy of Marcus Davenport, but they have a similar thickness and length. If everything comes together he'll be a late day one or early day two pick.
Miami LB Shaquille Quarterman
I've heard mixed thoughts on the Miami linebacker corps. Some analysts believe Quarterman and his running mate Michael Pinckney are mid round selections. I'm not sure I buy into either of them round one or round two guys, but both showed consistency in finishing their tackles and bringing down targets by themselves. Quarterman is on the heavier side at 240 pounds and may need to play outside linebacker to avoid coverage duties as a pro. I did enjoy the paths they took to the football. Quarterman rarely took angles that put him out of the play.
Miami CB Michael Jackson
Jackson is another senior who held the eyes of many media evaluators during the summer. While he has not be discussed much during this season I'm convinced he's going to be a top five cornerback in this class based on what I've viewed. While Jackson is not overwhelming in press he has the footwork and overall tools to play man coverage against anyone in college football and hold his own. Utilizing the sideline as a means of boxing out receivers and forcing them away the ball is difficult, but Jackson understands how to pin his opponent. I'm excited to watch more of him going forward.
Miami S Jaquan Johnson
Top 50 selection. Book it. Barring some medical reports or off-field concerns that we're unaware of, you might as well lock it up. Johnson lacks the sideline to sideline speed of someone like Jessie Bates III last year, but he can play single high if needed. His best work against LSU came when he was allowed to come downhill and make plays on underneath stuff. He lights up unexpecting receivers during the catch process and knocks the ball away with his contact frequently. His tackling isn't always reliable in solo situations but he has the attitude of an enforcer. At 5'11" and 190 pounds there will be questions about how his frame holds up in the NFL, but I think he can add weight without losing a step. No doubt, Johnson is one of my favorite players through cuts this year.
Miami S Sheldrick Redwine
One of the guys I'll be putting on the all-name team, Redwine looked like a serviceable run defender who lacked the range to play the deep ball. He was frequently used single high against LSU, but I think he'll be relegated to playing in the box as a pro because of a lack of straight-line speed. I do think he's pretty reliable as a tackler, but he'll need to show some more overall to his game if he wants to become anything but a depth player when he gets into the league next year.
LSU RB Nick Brossette
Brossette bursts onto the scene with his 125 rushing yard performance against the Hurricanes to kick off the year. He immediately drew attention as the replacement for Derrius Guice, as he sat behind both Guice and Leonard Fournette waiting for his opportunity. Brossette is a meat and potatoes runner who doesn't do anything to create yardage for himself. I saw nothing trait wise that would separate him from other runners at the college level, although his production is off to a good start.
LSU TE Foster Moreau
#18 is a special jersey number for the LSU Tigers. It is given out to players who demonstrate the values that the program is built around. Over the past decade players like Tre'Davious White, Lamin Barrow, and Bennie Logan have donned the number. Moreau is a solidifying force on that offense, and he provides another powerful body mover on the line. When tasked with taking on linebackers he can put them out of the play. He's nothing special as a pass catcher, but could be a reliable safety net for his quarterback in the pros.
LSU DL Rashard Lawrence
Willis was the highest achiever of the game according to most media outlets, but I was unimpressed by his performance. His balance was questionable and he struggled to get pressure with one-on-one reps, and could not get free of blockers within the desirable time window. The body type may be appealing to some, but I don't know if he can handle stronger and longer offensive linemen as he looks to make it in the league. I've seen other evaluators saying top 50 discussion. I'm thinking more top 150.
LSU LB Devin White
This wasn't my first look at Devin White and the rest of the LSU defense, as I was lucky enough to watch them take on Auburn on broadcast. White has been impressive in both games. He displays excellent instincts, great form tackling with the power to finish by himself, and the perfect body type for playing in the league. White is a physical specimen (I apologize for using this term) at 6'0" and 240 pounds. He's built like a superhero. I've yet to dive deep into the underclassman group at linebacker, but he's probably sitting at the top spot for me through the early work.
LSU CB Greedy Williams
Speaking of other highly touted guys from LSU who might get picked in the top 10, let's talk about Greedy Williams. The term "vines for arms" does not do it justice what this guy has. I'm talking 36" arms. Like, scratch your knee without bending over type arms. His length makes him a pain for receivers to deal with in zone coverage, and he knows how to close the distance and make plays on the football. Williams doesn't profile as an elite athlete, but he's a very good one. Likely a 4.43-4.47 runner he has the tools to keep up with any opponent in any situation. I'd like to see him engage quicker in the run game and take better angles, but that's rather minute given what he can do in coverage. The hype is warranted.
LSU S John Battle
Not to be a Debbie downer and end on a negative note, but I thought Battle was one of the least impressive players I did cuts for on the Tigers. He's probably a 4.7 40-yard dash type of athlete who doesn't possess any traits that suggest starting ability as the pro level. He'll have trouble getting to his target in the open field, and may be limited to playing a special teams role when he makes the jump. I'll be looking out for him to hopefully make a big push for his draft stock as this year continues.
Anyways, that's all I've got for you as far as mental notes go from this past week of cuts. The quality of teams playing was exciting, as I usually have to watch teams like Tulane and Middle Tennessee State go at it. Let me know if you enjoy this segment as something to have moving forward. I know it's a long one, but it's the easiest way of sharing my thoughts from what is pretty much an initial look at these guys.
Risers and Fallers
QB Will Grier, West Virginia
The climb upwards for the Mountaineer quarterback seems inevitable, as he continues to toast conference defenses. The show continued as anticipated when he diced up Texas Tech to the tune of 370 passing yards and a trio of touchdown throws. The Red Raiders don't house the strongest defense, but there are talented prospects such as Jah'Shawn Johnson and Dakota Allen that were unable to bait Grier into turnovers or big mistakes. Starting the year it seemed like Grier was on everyone's mind as a day two selection. He may just be building a first round resume.
RB Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Armstead put on a clinic against a tough Boston College defense as he rushed for 171 yards and four touchdowns against the Eagles. Armstead isn't the biggest back at 205 pounds, but he runs with some tenacity and understands how to create some opportunities in between the tackles. I need to do a deeper dive on his tape, but I like what I see so far.
DL Zach Allen, Boston College
Temple got annihilated by Allen. Not just beat. Not just beat up on. I'm talking straight up karate kid crane kicked. Eight tackles. Two sacks. Four tackles for a loss. Two passes defended. It's worth noting that Temple has been pretty mediocre with their pass protection thus far in the season, but Allen's performance should not go unnoticed because of Temple's talent level. He has the tools to be a future starter in the league, but putting things together throughout the rest of the year will be key.
DL Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
Tillery's statline this past weekend was the most impressive of any player this season. Yes, any player this season. The defensive lineman for the Irish posted four sacks. Four sacks. Against an offensive line in Stanford that may see every starter get drafted at some point. I'm talking guys like Jesse Burkett, Brandon Fanaika, and A.T. Hall. I'm talking a killer's row of linemen who should not be getting beaten. Tillery was not discussed as a potential first round pick, but he should be given his performances this year. The only defensive tackle I'd comfortably put over him at the moment is Houston's Ed Oliver, who is the Vegas favorite to be selected first overall in April.
EDGE Jachai Polite, Florida
Credit to Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL on Twitter) for being the first man to get the Polite hype train rolling. It has taken off since he posted a clip of Polite turning the corner and showing excellent ankle flexion. Polite has four sacks on the season, and those numbers may be revving up as they've all come during the past three games. The guys over at The Draft Network have been stirring over their looks at Polite. He's been moving into the spotlight for a lot of folks.
LB Bobby Okereke, Stanford
Speaking of the guys at The Draft Network, who I'm sure will be brought up quite frequently in this notebook, they were really impressed with Stanford's Okereke. His speed isn't sideline to sideline caliber from my understanding, but there is buzz around his potential as an inside linebacker with coverage abilities.
QB Ryan Finley, North Carolina State
Finley was labeled by ESPN's Todd McShay as the top quarterback in the class. I don't think that's going to stand too long given the emergence of guys like Haskins and Herbert, but it was always an unreasonable take to have. I don't know what is in that ESPN cafeteria, but I want a slice. Finley's limited arm strength and inability to extend plays has been on display this season. It's doubtful that Finley ends up as the first quarterback on any NFL team's board. He might be a day three selection.
QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Haskins had faced relatively mild competition outside of TCU, who is proving to be less and less impressive each week. Penn State was the first real challenge for Haskins in what was hopefully a heisman push and a resume building season. He was ineffective on downfield passes and looked unreliable when pressured. I'll have to break down his performance against the Nittany Lions in further detail, but there is some ground for the consensus QB2 to make up against Herbert.
QB Brian Lewerke, Michigan State
Talk about a fall from grace for a player that was QB1 for a lot of analysts heading into September. Lewerke has been unreliable as a decision-maker and has generally been labeled as a work in progress. His physical gifts are appealing, but they haven't been applied to the field yet. He's coming off of a performance against Central Michigan that was heavily criticized, one in which he only posted 185 passing yards and an interception.
RB Bryce Love, Stanford
The heisman campaign is over for Bryce Love. It hurts to say it since I was a massive fan of his game last year and hoped for some magic, but he has been shut down this season. He has been banged up and unable to break off long runs so far. At this point it's a fair question to ask if Love will top 1000 yards on the ground by season's end. I'm unsure how much Love has dropped off in terms of actual play given I haven't reached cutups for him, but it looks like he is slipping.
RB Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic
Singletary was a big producer in his first two seasons at FAU, as he averaged over six yards per carry in each campaign. He's currently averaging 4.1 per carry and is pacing for just over 1100 yards to finish the year. Compared to 1918 yards on the ground last season, it's a step down to say the least. The schedule does lighten up as the Owls get further into the conference play, but Singletary will need to step up if he wants to be considered an early round selection when he comes out.
LB Te'Von Coney, Notre Dame
Coney has always been a question mark for me, as I firmly believed his teammate Drue Tranquill looked more complete as a prospect, but our resident defense expert Gavino Borquez had Coney as his 4th ranked linebacker heading into the year. The hulking frame results in some stiffness in coverage that may prevent Coney from holding down the middle of the field. He's not carrying much wasted weight on his body either, so it'll be important to see if he slims down for the pre-draft circuit.
Ready to get your weekly dose of FCS discussion? Time to get your fill of stats from the lower division, along with a catch of the year contender.
QB John Lovett, Princeton
44-69 (63.8%), 644 passing yards, 9 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.
Where was Chad Kanoff prior to having a breakout senior season and getting a camp invite with the Arizona Cardinals? He was busy having a quarterback battle with junior John Lovett. Lovett got injured last season, but he's back for a senior year with the Tigers as their undisputed quarterback. I think Kanoff was a much better pro prospect, but there are reasons to be interested. He's throwing to two powerhouse FCS receivers in Stephen Carlson and Jesper Horsted and should continue to put up good numbers. Lovett has one of the most abnormal releases I've seen from a quarterback, as he has an over-the-top motion where the ball comes out super early.
QB Jacob Dolegala, Central Connecticut State
85-136 (62.5%), 958 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, 1 interception.
This one comes down the grapevine quite a ways, but I believe it was ultimately sourced from Emory Hunt who does some deep work on the FCS prospects. While I may not always agree with Hunt's evaluation process, I do give him props for always finding someone that hasn't been previously mentioned. Dolegala is 6'6" and 235 pounds with some good stats for the whole year. He was mostly ineffective against the Ball State Cardinals in the season opener but has been gradually producing more as the schedule pulls along. I haven't watched him yet, but I'll be taking a look in the near future
RB/FB Joe Protheroe, Cal Poly
148 rushes, 660 rushing yards, 7 touchdowns.
It's not every day a back suddenly starts averaging 37 carries per game, but that's what happened to Protheroe over the past three weeks. Protheroe's statlines in the last three contests are 43-228-3, 34-176-0, and 35-139-3. Cal Poly has been unable to find much success, but Protheroe's sudden emergence is interesting. He rushed for 1334 yards in 2016 before his 2017 campaign was cut short by a knee injury.
WR Alexander Hollins, Eastern Illinois
43 receptions, 601 yards, 9 touchdowns.
Hollins finished last year with 47 receptions, 694 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Needless to say, he's going to outperform those numbers by a wide margin if his current pace is maintained. The 6'1" senior hasn't drawn any national attention for his production, but the numbers are going to be enough to draw closer looks. I'll be keeping an eye out for him as we get further along into the year.
WR Davion Davis, Sam Houston State
26 receptions, 258 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. An FCS receiver makes an insane catch and gets on ESPN SportsCenter top 10. A couple years ago Morgan State had a guy do it. Now it's Davion Davis' turn. The difference between the Morgan State player and Davis? Davis is gonna get a real shot in the NFL. He isn't on pace to match his statline of 78-1206-17 from last season, but there is a good shot to play in the Shrine Game or NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
The Film Look
I mentioned Texas CB Davante Davis earlier in the as a player who pleasantly shocked me despite his inability to play the run game or make plays on the ball in flight. He'll likely end up as a UDFA on my board if he doesn't improve those areas at all, but I think the tools are there to draw in a team looking for a bargain bin athlete at the position. He'll be a name I keep close eye on moving forward in the season as he'll be facing some big tests in his conference. Even if Kris Boyd gets the major action, he'll still be facing some quality #2 receivers like Gary Jennings from West Virginia. See what you think on his pro potential and check out the Texas cutup.
Big Boy Throw of the Week
We weren't blessed with any truly outrageous throws this week that came onto my radar, but I was happy to see Herbert throwing darts like this one against California. It looks eerily similar to a throw Rosen made this weekend where the anticipation and trust in his receiver on the outbreaking route allowed him to throw his receiver open despite very difficult coverage. Herbert nearly won it last week over Tyree Jackson. I'm sure he'll be winning it again by the year's end.
Kelly Bryant and Fairness
Alright, let me get on the pedestal. Lamar Jackson being asked about a potential move to receiver blew up a powder keg of racial tension in football. Was it as prominent as the Kaepernick situation? Of course not, but it was one of the biggest topics in the draft community all through the 2018 circuit. The proposition of Lamar moving to receiver was always outrageous, but let's keep our sanity when analyzing race and how it affects evaluation of quarterbacks for those in the league and media.
First we have to address this supposed coded language that so many individuals cite as examples of racism in scouting. To do this I'm going to look at scouting reports for four black quarterbacks, two of which are considered pocket passers (Jameis Winston and Teddy Bridgewater) and two of which we consider dual threat (Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson). All four are first round selections with skill sets that the league deemed worthy of investment. Jackson and Bridgewater were both picked last. Newton and Winston both picked first. These reports come from NFL.com, although the sentiments were shared amongst many evaluators.
Did not make pro-style reads or go through progressions. Sloppy footwork and accuracy issues. Generational athlete at the quarterback position. Passes have plenty of juice; excellent arm talent. Off-field concerns and questionable character away from football.
Advanced going through progressions and scanning field. Good arm talent with the willingness to take chances downfield. Football character is highly touted despite off-field issues. Starts making mistakes when the forced to navigate the pocket and throw from messy areas. Lacks the athleticism to extend plays.
Scanned the whole field in a pro style offense. Footwork is excellent and always tuned in. Timing and touch is ready for the league. Coach on the field; as good as it gets mentally. Very slender frame could make him easy to hurt. Arm is average. Does not have the mobility to make plays on the move.
Special athleticism allows him to be a playmaker in both the run and pass game. Arm talent is a plus, effortless with some of his flicking throws. Gradual improvement in decision-making and control of offense during time at Louisville. Slim frame will be dangerous, especially when he takes off. Narrow base results in accuracy issues to the outside. Does not frequently get past second read. Pocket awareness needs improvement.
Jackson and Newton are two of the primary players cited when accusations of racism in scouting are brought up. Criticisms are called coded language with these dual threat quarterbacks who are athletically gifted, but such coded language is never used for pro style passers like Bridgewater and Winston. Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State will likely be the next first round quarterback who will have his race go unmentioned because he won't be drawing concerns about whether his game translates from college to the pros. Now let's move on from first round quarterbacks to the discussion I saw on Twitter.
Kelly Bryant being told to switch positions is racist.
That's what the headline is going to be for some folks. Executive Director of the Senior Bowl Jim Nagy stated that some teams are considering Bryant as a good player to switch to receiver or tight end. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller shared the sentiment, saying that he sees Bryant moving to receiver for the NFL. While I would like to see Bryant spend another year at his native position and get a shot as a passer first, I have no qualms with the suggestion. I graded Bryant as 35th best senior quarterback during summer scouting, which was out of a 42 quarterbacks total. He's tough, has some movement skills, and looks well put together at 6'3" and 220 pounds. But he can't throw a good football and has nothing from a decision making standpoint that suggests he'll make it as a quarterback.
Last year when Lamar was asked about playing wide receiver, we saw crowds suggest Wyoming's Josh Allen should play tight end. When I suggested a move to tight end or receiver might be the only way Bryant makes it in the league, I was immediately countered with the same suggestion for Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald. For the record, I am far from a Fitzgerald fan. That said, Fitzgerald possesses much better arm talent and displays the ability to hit difficult NFL passes. His scrambling ability is built to succeed in the NFL because of his ability to elude pass rushers in the pocket and take off downfield organically. I was questioned on Fitzgerald's arm compared to Bryant's, so let me use the video below to explain why Fitzgerald has the better one.
Don't think of this from any perspective of accuracy or mechanical setup. The goal of this video is to help give insight into the velocity the football has for each throw. The difference in velocity is massive when it comes to the pro game, so consider how these would look against tighter windows with better defenders.
Bryant and Fitzgerald aren't exact copies of each other in terms of release motion, but they both release the ball from start to finish in about .3 seconds. Neither have extensive motions that make the release longer than it needs to be by a significant amount. Fitzgerald's release from the top of his motion's arc (ball has stopped going upwards and begins going forward) is a bit quicker getting out than Bryant's in my opinion, but it's a minor detail.
Bryant throws a pass that goes 23 air yards in 1.17 seconds, while Fitzgerald throws a pass that goes 21 air yards in .87 seconds. Extrapolate that number to 23 air yards and Fitzgerald would have the ball arriving in .95 seconds. This number may not seem significant, but the difference is stunning on the football field. The average human reaction time is .25 seconds for visual stimuli. A well-trained athlete can react even faster than that, of course. It's things like this that make ball velocity so important. Trust me, I paraded guys like Matt Linehan and Cody Kessler who couldn't throw a tennis ball through a gentle breeze. You must be this tall to ride. You must throw this hard to play.
It's time for us to dispel this narrative that black quarterbacks are frowned upon and aren't given a fair chance. The idea that many dual threat quarterbacks aren't unprepared for the professional game, they're just misused or mistreated by racist coaching staffs is bogus. This isn't 1978. There are always inherent biases that lurk for evaluators, but don't mistake prospect criticism as malevolence and racism.
Welcome to the reader questions segment, where I'll be answering the questions you folks send in about the draft. I may not be able to answer every one of them in detail, but I'll point you in the right direction and let you know what I know. The brand is built around being thorough and going into the deep end of the pool, so don't be afraid to send in whatever you've got.
"Is there any RB in this class who could be a round one guy?" - Zutoo @ZutooSports
At the moment, I'd have to say no. I know some people want to buy into David Montgomery but I haven't seen excellent athletic abilities from him yet. Damien Harris would've been in the running if his usage with the Tide didn't become non-existent with Tua at the helm. I don't think guys like Snell or Singletary have the requisite athleticism to be a first rounder, so it'll likely be a year where we go without. My two top guesses at the moment would be Bryce Love and Texas A&M's Trayveon Williams. I know neither are hot names, especially with Love having a down year, but both are perfect fits for spacing mismatches. If Love hasn't fallen off talent wise since last year I'd feel comfortable betting on him. The amount of power he has for his size is shocking, and I think he can be a bellcow if his body can take the wear and tear. That's based on older evaluations though. Williams is just electric. Maybe not a tackle breaker or someone you want to give the ball 25 times a game, but he'll rip off long runs and make people miss. I'm grasping at straws for these names though.
"Have the Clemson defensive tackles improved from last season?" - Garrett Ballard @NFLBallard
I'll be quite honest, I haven't seen much of Clemson so far this year. Other than the A&M game they haven't faced anyone of note, so I've been hesitant to check out their games. I think most people have been dodging evaluating that team. From what I've heard Dexter Lawrence has been more agile, as he is completely healed from an injury that hampered him last year. Christian Wilkins on the other hand has reportedly been the same guy. I think it's worth noting that pretty much everyone has fallen off on Wilkins as a first rounder. I was very low on him last year, so it's probably going to be an improvement this year regardless of how much he changes his game. I'll make mention of them when I reach the A&M vs. Clemson cutup.
"What do you think about the linebacker position in general? Seems like there is going to be a need to put safety type of players there in the future." - Fourth @fourthizzle
We're seeing a lot of bigger linebackers adjust their game and slim down to make the transition to the pro level. Like I mentioned earlier on, Smith from USC dropped about 20 pounds heading into this year. Plenty of other examples like that are scattered across college football today. I don't think we'll see guys getting down to the 210 range just because of the need for taking on blockers, but it would not shock me to see 220 pounders become the norm. We're kind of already shifting that way lately, and it's one of the things that RAS has noticed as a major trend. We don't see those 250 pounders like we used to. Lots of 235 pound guys. I think there is enough athleticism with those 235 pounder guys to get the job done in coverage, and that's really what is important.
Week 6 Matchups
Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown vs. Texas CB Kris Boyd/Davante Davis
I haven't talked about Brown yet this year on here. Let me do that. That man is FAST. Like, 4.3 or better type fast. That transcend space and time when he gets into a foot race type of fast. I feel very sorry for whichever Texas corner gets the task of covering him downfield, but prayers up to that guy. It's probably gonna be Davis, who I think has a better shot of matching Brown step for step. Either way, Brandon Jones better be on his A game playing deep or there are going to be some big plays.
Wake Forest OG Phil Haynes vs. Clemson DL Christian Wilkins/Dexter Lawrence
Shout out to Andrew Moss for banging the Haynes drum for the past six months. Apparently Haynes gave him the ol Joe Greene, "Hey kid, catch..." treatment in the Wake Forest weight room a year ago and he still hasn't washed himself since them. In all seriousness, Haynes was good enough to be an all-conference selection in an ACC filled with... high recruits? I'd hold off on calling that conference a talent rich one on the offensive line, but Haynes is deserving of the honor. He has missed some time due to injuries in the past but should be at 100% when he takes on the duo of Wilkins and Lawrence. Hey Garrett, you still reading? Here's the game you want to watch for those Clemson defensive tackles in.
Florida State QB Deondre Francois vs. Miami DL Gerald Willis III/Joe Jackson
This is a test of survival for the frequently punished Francois. His offensive line is going to part like the red sea and allow Willis to come rolling straight into his lap. If Jackson gets anything off the edge you might as well start picking what to bury him in. Mahogany or walnut? Only the best for the son of #FSUTwitter.
Kentucky RB Benny Snell vs. Texas A&M Defense
Kentucky's Snell has been running rampant through the SEC so far, including drubbings of Florida and Mississippi State. Snell takes on a tough test in the A&M defense that brings heat up front with guys like Kingsley Keke, Daylon Mack, and Landis Durham. It will be a blast to see if the stampede continues through another middle of the pack SEC team.
Mississippi State OL vs. Auburn DL
Now this is another high level matchup in the trenches similar to what we saw between Notre Dame and Stanford. Mississippi State is bringing potential day two selection in Elgton Jenkins, Darryl Williams, and Deion Calhoun. Auburn is bringing similarly ranked guys like Dontavius Russell, Andrew Williams, and Marlon Davidson (I don't agree about him but to each their own). The key factor is going to be what rising star Derrick Brown does for the Tigers. He has been a force so far during his 2018 campaign and may be taking the next step towards a first round selection. This is SEC football at its finest. Dogs at the line of scrimmage.