Hello my football friends. Hope you missed my content the past two weeks, but I also hope you weren’t worried too much. Two weeks ago I caught a flu bug at my doctor’s office that laid me out, but it was not Covid. Then, of course, last week I spent mucho time in preparation for, and in fear of Hurricane Ian. He came to visit my home near Orlando, but once again my concern for living on/near the water was confirmed. Unlike those poor unfortunates who live on the coast I live inland and have only minor damage to my property. Things should be back to normal for me by the end of this week… kinda.
Fortunately, I have been able to watch most the desired college and NFL games and have pages full of notes to draw from in attempting to catch up with fall football. Please bear with me if some of this gets a bit disjointed and out of sequence.
I think the most prominent football story which carries over during the past few weeks pertains to the health and safety of one TUA TAGOVAILOA/QB/Dolphins. After a pretty clear mis-diagnosis two games ago it is now clear, even to a layman, that despite claims of back issues TUA has been concussed two straight weeks, the second being the scary scene against the Bengals last Thursday night which sent him to a Cincinnati hospital. He has finally, officially been diagnosed as having head trauma/concussion symptoms and is in the NFL protocol. The independent neurological medical expert, who bought into the athlete’s original story of back issues, has been terminated from that role by the League, after the NFLPA asked for an inquiry into the entire process. If we have learned two things from this dangerous little drama they should be:
Do NOT let the athlete talk your medical tech into a totally unrelated medical issue being their health problem. When in doubt on a medical issue, especially head related, err on the side of caution.
Do NOT hesitate to penalize a team which makes decisions which clearly override medical evidence to keep their better players out on the playing field.
As we enter October it is time for Rookies who have been shielded a bit during September to see more playing time. Some of these player insertions are clearly in response to vet injuries. But just as many will now be driven by the realization that the mediocre vet is a poor bandage, and the future is probably now for the heralded Rookie who had been sitting on the bench.
Could it be time already for the Steelers to face reality that if they are to have any chance at a Play-Off berth, or even keeping Mike Tomlin’s non-losing season streak alive, they need PICKETT starting at QB? I think they may be ready to move forward with KENNY PICKETT instead of Mitch Trubisky as their starter. Now let’s be real here… PICKETT did not exactly overwhelm with his relief role last Sunday for the Steelers. But I watched game film and to my eyes 2 of his 3 INT were more on his receivers than him. And you can’t deny that he also energized his teammates and the Steelers fans. But is TOMLIN really ready to adjust his previously demonstrated reluctance to start Rookies? I remember the quote from one NFL Head Coach, that for every Rookie that he started it cost him 1 Loss (at least). Now it may not have been Mike Tomlin, but if it wasn’t, I have to believe he has had that thought go through his mind more than once.
I clearly do NOT recall the willingness of D-1 college Athletic Directors to fire their Head Coaches during the season very often in the past. And particularly in the first month of any season. But the funeral pyres are being lit weekly over these coaching firings.
SCOTT FROST/Nebraska his Alma-Mater
PAUL CHRYST/Wisconsin his Alma-Mater
Given this early season purge I do not find it hard to believe that we have not seen the end of this coach purging, in-season style. I made note of Frost/Chryst both being fired at schools where they both played QB, and quite well, back in the day. That makes it even harder to cut them loose in-season.
On the brighter side of things, some teams are off to rather successful starts to the 2022 season, much to the surprise of many football observers.
SYRACUSE is now 5-0 and several of their players are playing their way into the spotlight as pro prospects, partly because of their teams’ success, not to mention their own personal talent. One of their defenders is rising quickly, coming off an All-ACC 1st Team performance in 2021 when he recorded 110 tackles for the Orange. I watched their game with Purdue coming into Upstate New York. It was a true barn burner with the ‘Cuse pulling off late game heroics in a 32-29 victory. MIKEL JONES/LB, who is an athletic 6’/225, showed out with 10T- 6 solo- 1 Sack- 1 1/2 TFL. He also showed the athleticism to provide coverage on RB & TE coming over the middle of the field. He’s not in my Top 100 yet, but he’s early Day 3 draftable.
Week 3 of this season featured another showdown contest between SMU, @ MARYLAND. The TERPS are flexing some muscle this season. But the eyeball full of talent that I noticed most prominently in the 34-27 Maryland victory was SMU WR RASHEE RICE (#11). RICE is a long 6’3/205 receiver who wins most jump ball scenarios that come his way. But he also has the speed to go deep, and the hands to pull in slightly errant throws. I can’t wait to see his vertical jump at the Combine! Against the Terps he recorded 11 catches, for 193 yards. He has all the tools, and I recently just had put him in my Top 25 list. No regrets for that move, at all.
I am here to tell you that the PAC-12 is having a serious “up-season”, so far. LINCOLN RILEY @ USC, DAN LANNING @ Oregon, KALEN DEBOER @ Washington appear to be infusing some solid, young blood to the coaching ranks west of the Rockies. And CHIP KELLY, almost given up for dead a couple of seasons ago is following up his 8-4 season of 2021, with a 5-0 start to this season. The Transfer Portal has been kind to many FBS programs, and thePAC-12 is part off that excitement. UCLA, for instance, lost 26 lettermen from the 2021 roster, and returned only 8 starters. But recruiting, and the portal, have boosted them up. Big showdown this weekend with the Bruins hosting UTAH.
I will cover this talking point in more detail later this Fall, but I want to bring to your attention a couple of not widely known CB who play in the PAC-12 this year and are sure to be Top 100 Draft Prospects by season’s end. They are;
CHRIS RODRIQUEZ #0 Oregon (portal) 6’2/200
REJZOHN WRIGHT #1 Oregon State 6’2/195
Every year one of the “cute” topics within the realm of NFL Draft Prospects is identifying the top Long Snapper prospects. Even venerable Senior Bowl Director, and former NFL Scout, JIM NAGY jokes about calling a couple of his NFL scout friends to get a few names to use in that position category. After all he needs at least 2 of them to fill out his Senior Bowl rosters. So, I will borrow a name from an almost Senior Bowler last January, who decided to go back to school for another season. And I got a chance to watch him in action last night (10/05) in the make-up game featuring SMU @ UCF. He plays for UCF and his name is ALEX WARD, #32, a 6’4/240 Senior, who actually looks and acts like a legit football player. No, I did not break out a timing device to check his snap time, but I did not see holders or Punters chasing any of his snaps and best of all to Special Teams coaches I saw the man get downfield to cover Punts after his snapping was over. So I say, he is legit, and you can add him to your prospect lists, tho hardly likely to be draftable. Had to drop this nugget in .
One of my personal favorite prospects had a big weekend game for himself against Kansas State. His name is TYREE WILSON of Texas Tech. WILSON is one of those “first guy off the bus” specimens who look like football athletes before they even don the pads each week. He is 6’6/275 with reported 35″ arm length. He broke out big time last season with 7 sacks and 6.5 TFL for the Red Raiders. And he has picked up where he left off, with a rousing start to his 2022 season. #19 had 6 tackles, 4 solo, including 2 Sacks and 1 QBH. He also forced and recovered a fumble. He was selected as the Senior Bowl Defensive Player of the Week, for his efforts against K-State. You will also see him climbing in my New Top 25 prospect list on Friday.
By the way, the Senior Bowl Offensive Player of the Week, was ZAY FLOWERS, WR, Boston College. The slight frame, but elusive FLOWERS was expected by many to come out for the 2022 Draft. But he stayed at Boston College for one more season and is cementing a slot as a Top 100 Draft Pick for 2023. Flowers caught 44 balls last season and looks like a guy who will surpass that mark for 2022. Against Louisville this past weekend he caught 5 ball, including 2 for TD. He’s elusive after the catch, and stretched those 5 catches into 151 yards. For you math challenged that number translates to 30 yards per catch. To my eyes he has become the East Coast version of USC/Jordan Addison who transferred from PITT and is blowing things up in the Pac-12. FLOWERS may not be the first rounder that ADDISON is projected to be, but he’s moving himself into a Top 100 slot at his current level of play.
CLEMSON and NC State had their early ACC showdown game, and the Tigers pretty much controlled the game, running away a bit in the 4th Quarter. In this era of Edge Rush mania Clemson Senior K.J. HENRY, may be emerging as a strong sleeper candidate to earn a Day Two Draft rank. Due to injuries and position unit strength on the Clemson roster HENRY has flashed at times, but never played enough to get serious pub, except in scouts’ notebooks. He is very likely to blow up the numbers game at the 2023 NFL Combine. During the victory over the Wolfpack, HENRY recorded 2 T, 1 TFL & a Fumble Recovery. As an Edge player he has every chance in the world to become a prominent name by later season because of his athleticism at a position of great value these days. His bend around the corner is A+ quality.
Getting my game schedule prioritized for this coming weekend and hoping for a healthy, clean weekend for the first time in almost a month at my house in Florida. Hoping to get back into a weekly groove of reporting for you.
P.S. Don’t forget to watch for my updated Top 25 this weekend.