Lots of new names and head scratching moves in College Football this past weekend. And although it’s early, those upsets keep on coming.
After speculation for at least the last 2 seasons NEBRASKA Head Coach SCOTT FROST had been rumored to be on the hot seat at his alma mater. FROST arrived in Lincoln to coach the team he played QB for once upon a time. But in 4 seasons the most W’s he could come up with was 5 in pre-Pandemic 2019. And the 3-9 season last year set him up for extra scrutiny this season. After a home loss to GA Southern last Saturday, in a home game at Memorial Stadium the guillotine dropped. A quite interesting piece of the firing is that Nebraska now owes FROST his $15-million buy out, by not waiting 3 more weeks, which reportedly would have cut that figure in half. Guess money doesn’t matter to the Huskers A.D. I would expect FROST to collect his money and cool his jets in any job hunting he might pursue immediately. I also expect a lot of open jobs to crop up at the end of this football season, per usual.
Speaking of which, tho I hope not, I would suspect that a lot of internal second-guessing is already under way at NOTRE DAME, where most of us felt the hiring of DC MARCUS FREEMAN, when Brian Kelly moved on to LSU, as the new Irish headman was a solid decision for Notre Dame football. The player’s who by and large supported Freeman’s hire better gird up their loins and pick up their level of play after getting off to an 0-2 start with a loss to Sun Belt Conference MARSHALL in South Bend. And to add fuel to the fire, QB TYLER BUCHNER incurred an injury in the game and may be out for 4 months. My calendar says, see you next year TYLER. Tough times, at least for now, in South Bend.
ALABAMA traveled to Austin, Texas to face the Longhorns and by all rights deserved to lose that game. But they eeked out 20-19 on a last second field goal. The ‘Bama run game looked pretty anemic and only patience and perseverance by QB BRYCE YOUNG in the 4th Quarter saved Saint Nick from an early season loss. YOUNG again looked like a guy with ice water in his veins.
From a scouting standpoint a large question would seem to have been answered about ‘Bama transfer-RB JAHMYR GIBBS. He only rushed for 22-yards on 9 carries, behind a clearly less than standout OL effort by the Tide. But especially in the 4th quarter he shined catching passes out of the backfield. On the day he had 9 receptions for 74-yards and 1 TD. One announcer proclaimed that GIBBS might catch 80 balls a season in the NFL. He is a prospect to be watched as the season progresses and SABAN somehow raises up the play along that OL.
Super Prospect, OLB/ER WILL ANDERSON, who has even inspired Heisman hopeful talk coming into this season had one of the worst days I think I have ever seen from such an elite prospect, in this game. His stat sheet showed 5 tackles- 2 solo- 2 TFL- 1 Sack. Not elite work for a player of his stature, but it gets worse. He was flagged for 4 penalties and did not get near the ball much all day long. Bad day Will! You have some ‘splainin’ and make up work to do.
A big player in this contest was JAYLAN FORD/Texas a nice sized (6’2/238) LB for the Long Horns. Technically he backs up OVERSHOWN on their depth chart coming into 2022 action, but I think that is changing as we speak. OVERSHOWN had a solid effort, but it was FORD who led the team in tackles and overall defensive play with 10 T- 6 solo- 2 TFL- 1 Sack. He is Draft eligible for 2023 and should see some regular scrutiny in the coming months.
Last week I was singing the praises of Florida QB ANTHONY RICHARDSON in the teams upset Win over UTAH. But against a tough, physical SEC KENTUCKY team the Gators were outclassed, and physically whipped, in a game that was never as close as a 16-26 score might indicate. Without much to work with in the “weapons” department, other than Travis Etienne’s frosh kid brother TREVOR, RICHARDSON was without playmakers and overwhelmed looking like a shell-shocked young player. His receivers group is pedestrian, at best, and they really struggled with fast ball throws all day from a harassed RICHARDSON. He showed no touch on his throws in this game, and repeatedly threw into double coverage situations. Even his numbers were really bad; 14/35- 40%- 143 yds- 0 TD- 2 INT. This was just as bad on Offense as the previously reported ANDERSON was on D. He also rushed 6 times for 4 yards. This weeks prospect summary of RICHARDSON’S work says… stay in school for another season.
But let’s talk about some of the guys on that solid Kentucky defense for just a bit, starting with the Senior Bowl’s Defensive Player of the Week , JORDAN WRIGHT, who mostly plays the “JACK” position in their D alignment. In DC Brad White’s scheme the “jack” is a hybrid OB/ER position. WRIGHT is an athletic, 6’5/233lb. with good mobility and a high FBI. To win the D PoW title from Jim Nagy and his crew all he had to do was post 6 tackles, 4 of them solo, record 2 TFL, 1 Sack, and haul down 1 INT. The vet senior is climbing up the prospect lists, and not just in the opinion of Senior Bowl scouts. The aforementioned stats are impressive, and especially against a formidable SEC program like Florida.
But here is the real stunner in this discussion. Technically speaking WRGHT plays second string to another excellent prospect at that “jack” position, and his name is J.J. WEAVER, #13, who measures 6’5/242, and reminds me quite bit of JOSEPH OSSAI, who played the same kind of role at Texas, but missed his NFL Rookie season to an injury last Fall. WEAVER actually led the Wildcats D in tackles this game with 9/3 solo, against the Gators. I did notice them both on the field at the same time occasionally last Saturday. These guys are examples of the quality of players that Head Coach MARK STOOPS has brought to Kentucky as he has established his brand of football program at the “basketball” school. Once you get past Alabama & Georgia, Kentucky is right up there with the best of the rest in the SEC these days.
I am not pronouncing a final status analysis at this stage, but I am still lukewarm to QB WILL LEVIS as a top pro QB prospect. And his play in this game brought out almost all of the pros and cons of LEVIS as a college QB. He has very good size at 6’3/230, and an above average arm. But he is a bit slow on pulling the trigger on throws. He seems a bit slow in reading the field. He did complete a healthy 66% of his throws last season, which is fine, but his 24 TD passes/13 INT is at less than a 2/1 ratio. That’s below what was NFL OC’s are looking for. His numbers for this game were OK, but certainly not elite: 13/24- 54%- 202 yds- 1 TD- 1 INT. I obviously want to watch him in a few more games, but it was the Kentucky D that won this game not QB LEVIS. Not by a long shot.
Let’s slide over to the Gators Defense, which isn’t bad and has a lot of pro caliber potential, as usual. The most impressive amongst their pro prospects is GERVON DEXTER who plays inside at DT much of the time, but certainly could also handle a 3-4 DE slot quite nicely as well. At 6’6, 315 he’s the kinda guy you want coming off your team bus first. It took my eyes just a bit over 1 Quarter before I made a note to myself that he was the best looking pure athlete, and football player, out on the turf in Gainesville. He is flexible and athletic, which was on total display when he changed direction to garner an INT with soft hands. For the game he recorded 7 T- 3 solo- 1 1/2 Sacks and said Interception. This young man displays some of the same athleticism and savvy that a guy named TRAVON WALKER did at Georgia last year, as he vaulted to the top spot in the NFL Draft. Keep a close watch on this guy folks.
OL is not shaping up as an elite group for the 2023 NFL Draft, and that statement already assumes many underclassmen will come out early. But in watching Arkansas wear out the South Carolina team on both sides the ball, I found myself watching specifically for Razorbacks OC RICKY STROMBERG. He’s not elite, but I see him as a bit of a poor man’s Creed Humphrey. He’ s a big, strong fella at 6’3/315, or so. He’s clearly a leader amongst his fellow OL group. He has good mobility and can pull and/or chip block inline and still slip out to second level blocks. He looks and acts like a football player, and my initial look of this season says he could start some day in the NFL.
The 2022 NFL Draft once again featured a slew of top notch receivers. Many of them were, once again underclassmen. This fact obviously meant that for another good crop of receivers to be ready for the 2023 Draft some younger guys would have to emerge during this college football season. From what I have been seeing just a few into the season that development process is indeed in motion.
The Senior Bowl Offensive Player of the Week was CHARLIE JONES/WR/Purdue. JONES transferred from the ground attack program at Iowa to the more open style of play at Purdue, under former star HS/Collegiate QB JEFF BROHM, and son of a gun if he didn’t win that weekly status by catching 9 balls, for 133 yds & 3 TD. I don’t think he’s going to emerge as a Top 100 player, but he may get himself drafted next year if he keeps this up.
South Carolina landed QB SPENCER RATTLER thru the Transfer Portal and set out to upgrade the weapons around him on Offense. In comes WR ANTWINE “JUICE” WELLS from James Madison U, where he caught 83 balls, for 1250 yards and 15 TD last season. The Gamecocks OL has looked pretty weak early on this season, so Rattler has been running for his life more than a bit. And he didn’t seem see much of WELLS in the first half of the game with Arkansas. But in the second half the Rattler/Juice combo was unstoppable. WELLS caught 8 balls for 189 yards, including a 62-yard catch and run TD. WELLS is 6’1/205 lbs and looks athletic in his pattern running work. Again, not likely to climb all the way up to Round 1 consideration, but maybe Day Two.
I watched that wide open, overtime contest, between TENNESSEE and PITT. I finally got a good solid look at VOLS wideout CEDRIC TILLMAN, all 6’3/215 of him. I do not know what the 40-time projection is for him, but he looked like a solid 4.40 as he got open deep several times. He has a strong, fit body along with some dependable hands. He can and will block with that nice sized body of his. He was open often and went all the way on a 62-yard catch and run for a TD. He was also front and center in making a special catch late on a key 3rd down play. This guy looked clutch and physically what you want for an NFL wideout. I ill commit to him. as a Top 100 prospect already. Maybe I forgot to mention that in 2021 he caught 64 balls for over 1,000-yards and including 12 TD. He’s just out there building on an already outstanding resume’.
Just a quick mention here that early season upsets were sprinkled in again last weekend. The biggest was no doubt APPALACHIAN STATE going to College Station, TX and nocking off Texas A&M. All those recruits that Texas oil money bought for HC Jimbo Fisher weren’t enough to beat the Mountaineers from Boone, N.C. That App State program has certainly build a reputation this millennium as a giant killer.
That’s about it for this week. Nice slate of games coming up this weekend, so I expect no difficulties coming up with some story lines and prospect projections again next week for you.