Weekly prospects preview

By | October 21, 2021

Weekly prospects preview … We college football fans have been truly spoiled through the first half of the season as there have been great games on the schedule week in and week out so far this season. Not so much this weekend, though, as there are exactly zero games between ranked opponents, which apparently ties the record for fewest such games in a single week. However, we live by the credo that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. So we’ll be using the weekend to check out some individual players that we’d like to get an extended look at …

  • And it starts with #1. In fact, this could be the first weekend this season that pro scouts get their first real chance to evaluate Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (#5, 6-5, 260), the consensus top prospect overall top prospect for the upcoming draft, when the 10th ranked Ducks’ play at UCLA at 3:30 PM ET on ABC. Thibodeaux was injured in the early minutes of Oregon’s season opener and hadn’t played much at all until the Ducks’ last game. He’s finally healthy and back up to speed and should get a good test against UCLA, especially when he lines up at RDE where he’ll be facing rising Bruins’ LT Sean Rhyan (#74, 6-5, 320) who has gotten his own first-interest from the NFL scouting community.
  • While Thibodeaux is generally considered to be the top DE prospect in this year’s draft class, there are in fact a number of really good DEs with first round potential for 2022 including Aidan Hutchinson (#97, 6-6, 260) of Michigan whose 6th ranked Wolverines host Northwestern on Fox’s Big Noon Kick-off on Saturday. Hutchinson isn’t as athletic as Oregon’s Thibodeaux, but he has excellent length and an explosive get-off. Plus, he’s also got one of those non-stop Bosa/Watt type motors and appears to be a top 5-10 candidate on most team’s boards around the league.
  • Hands up everyone who predicted that when Purdue hosted Wisconsin at the end of October that it would be the Boilermakers that were ranked and not the Badgers. But 25th ranked Purdue got a huge statement win last weekend defeating then second-ranked Iowa right in Iowa City. For good measure, the Boilermakers go into Saturday’s game (3 PM ET; Big Ten Network) with Wisconsin with far and away the better prospects for the 2022 draft. Continuing a theme, for example, Purdue has one of the more disruptive DEs in the country in George Karlaftis (#5, 6-5, 260.) Like UM’s Hutchinson, Karlaftis isn’t going to just run around people, but he has a really unique combination of strength, quickness and lateral agility, combined with maybe the best technique in college football. The lack of pure foot speed could ultimately keep him out of the top half of this year’s opening round, but then somebody is going to jump all over the proven productivity later on the first night. The Boilermakers also feature one of the most dangerous receivers around in David Bell (#3, 6-2, 205), who is 4th in the country in receiving yards per game while averaging almost 18 yards per catch so far this fall.
  • Speaking of hands up, hands up everyone who predicted that Pitt would be ranked and Clemson wouldn’t when they played in October. Didn’t think so, but the 23rd ranked Panthers who lead the ACC Coastal Division by more than two full games, have been one of the most surprising teams in the country this season. And the Panthers are led by veteran QB Kenny Pickett (#8,  6-3, 220), who just maybe the most surprising player in college football. He may also be the best! A career 60% passer who averaged a consistent 13 TDs versus 9 picks through his first three years as a starter, Pickett is currently third in the country in passing efficiency with a 70% completion mark including 21 TD passes against just one IC. Folks can check him out personally Saturday afternoon (3:30 PM ET; ESPN) when the Panthers host perennial national contender Clemson in a ‘prove it’ challenge for Pickett and Pitt!
  • Under normal circumstances Southern California at Notre Dame (7:30 PM ET; NBC) would almost by definition be the game of the week in college football. And the Irish have sort of done their part, posting a 5-1 record to rank 13th nationally. However, its been a downright trying year for USC which has already lost three times and is already mired in the bottom half of the PAC-12 standings with little hope of digging out their current hole. The irony here, though, is that the Trojans actually have the better prospects for the 2022 draft; indeed, USC has literally as many top prospects for the upcoming draft as any program in the country. Athletic DE/OLB Drake Jackson (#99, 6-4, 255), for example, has top 10-15 potential with the athleticism to be very much in the mix to be the second pass rusher selected this year after Oregon’s Thibodeaux. The Trojan you keep hearing pro scouts can’t get enough, though, is WR Drake London (#15, 6-4, 210), a big physical receiver with speed and athleticism who has simply been uncoverable this fall. For the record, London, the #2 receiver in the country to date, is on pace to catch 130 passes for over 1,600 yards so far this fall and it shouldn’t shock anyone if he starts to get top 5-10 mentions sooner rather than later.