What Caught My Eye Week 13

December 2, 2020

The biggest item that caught my eye Sunday morning was all the press coverage of the Denver Broncos Covid-19 plight in their QB Room. After multiple appeals and requests to the League to at least move the game to Monday or Tuesday so that unaffected QBs could suit up, the answers from the League Office had all been “N-O, a thousand times NO. Translation… Fuck You Broncos franchise. And that also includes Broncos fans, who are already suffering through a losing season, plagued by injuries. So the Broncos played their contest with the Saints, with an undrafted Rookie WR KENDALL HINTON promoted from their Practice Squad as the sacrificial lamb to start at QB because all 4 of their rostered QB’s were on the Covid list. So much for the NFL having any concern for the competitive element of their games. Nor the fact that the Ravens get to play Tuesday night, in a decision made shortly after League MVP QB Lamar Jackson tasted positive for Covid. Gee, what a surprise! What did Broncos GM JOHN ELWAY do to piss off ROGER GOODELL this time. As players, teams, and their fans have stated multiple times during the tenure of Commish GOODELL, “Where is the consistency in decision making?” There seems to be very little from situation to situation. Shame on you NFL, and kudos to young Mr. HINTON for giving it the old college try.

Since I mentioned last week that CB prospects WADE and SURTAIN were at the top of my CB rankings list. For lack of space I left it at that, but have decided that I should post the full list before the scouting trail goes cold. So…

  1. PATRICK SURTAIN    Jr   Alabama
  2. SHAUN WADE    Jr   Ohio State
  3. JAYCEE HORN    Jr   South Carolina
  4. CALEB FARLEY    Jr   Virginia Tech
  5. ERIC STOKES     Jr   Georgia
  6. ASANTE SAMUEL    Jr    Florida State
  7. PAULSON ADEBO    Jr    Stanford
  8. ELIJAH MOLDEN   Sr    Washington
  9. KARY VINCENT     Sr     LSU
  10. DERION KENDRICK   Jr  Clemson

I stayed up rather late last Friday night. And as it turns out, I was very glad I did. The Oregon/Oregon State intra-state rivalry game was a doozy. The first half was played in a mist and ever increasing fog. Just when I thought they might call the game for lack of vision, the fog lifted and it was a back and forth battle all the way to the end. The underdog Beavers took a big bite out of the Ducks with a last minute go-ahead TD to claim the victory. And the frosting on the cupcake for yours truly was getting my first live look at an explosive, dynamic RB by the name of JERMAR JEFFERSON (#6) of Oregon State. JEFFERSON is a 5’10/217 Junior that plays many of his games very late at night for 2/3 of the country, and on a mediocre, at best, team. However, this young man has the look of something special as a pro prospect. He is incredibly fast, as he demonstrated in an early 82-yard TD run in which he sprinted past everyone else on the field. He also shows power to and thru defenders, as well as contact balance to not go down on the first hit very often. Other than looking at a highlight reel, which I strongly urge that you to do, the best I can do is recap his record setting night. He carried the ball 29 times and gained 226 yards, with 2 TD’s. He can convert the tough short yardage runs to move the sticks. He will block in pass pro. And on occasion he will bust a big one. In 4 games in this 2020 Covid season, he has gained 675 yards at 7.4-ypc, and scored 7 TD’s. And he’s not running behind an elite, though adequate, OL. In an offense with seemingly no other pro prospects, he is a stud that looks like he has the makings of a star in the pro game. I think he has First Round Draft potential if he comes out for the 2021 Draft.

Now let’s take peek at a young man who has carved a niche for himself as one the most successful QB’s at a school with a storied football tradition, Notre Dame. And that moderately talented young man is QB IAN BOOK (#10). He pretty much fits that old label as nothing elite, “but all he does is win”. Which he did once again in a very important road game against a Top 20 UNC team this past weekend. BOOK measures 6’0/206, and has average arm strength and running ability. However, he has leadership skills and a high FBI, which allows him to Captain and QB a Top 4 ranked Fighting Irish squad. In Notre Dame’s 31-17 road win over the Tar Heels, BOOK went 23/33- 69.75- 279 yards and 1 TD pass. He also chipped in with a net-48 yards rushing. This victory boosted BOOK’s Notre Dame career record to 29-3 as their starting QB. He is not a great athlete, but he can extend plays with his legs. If he escapes the pocket cleanly, he can get serious yardage with his legs. Comparing his play this season to when he gained his first start a few years ago, his growth as a QB is considerable. He has the look, to me, of a guy who gets drafted on Day 3, Middle Rounds, and makes someone a very nice No. 2 QB who will win his pro team some games when their starter is missing. BOOK has accepted an invite to play in the Senior Bowl.

It never ceases to amaze me at some of the ironic names and faces that become associated to each other in the sports world. One of the fastest rising Prospects for the 2021 NFL draft is LANDON DICKERSON/OC/Alabama (#69). He’s the starting Center for ‘Bama this season after splitting last season starting between OG and OC. The biggest irony of this man’s emergence is that he began his career at Florida State. FSU, which has been cursed by the lack of a quality OL over more than a decade now, in this man’s opinion. And here is one that they let get away from them. DICKERSON has earned a reputation as a very high level energy guy and the annoying guy that plays past the whistle most of the time. He is bigger than most OC’s at 6’6 and weighs 325 lbs. He doesn’t always play with picture-book technique, and I doubt he will tear up the Combine, but he’s more than competent in both pass-pro and run blocking. And with his tough-guy attitude and high FBI, he should make a solid starting OC in the NFL. He commanded his area of the line-of-scrimmage against Auburn, which has some solid pro prospects along their DL. He may be moving his way into the Top 100 Prospect lists right now, and he will get another showcase for his talents, after accepting an invite to the 2021 Senior Bowl.

Just as many expected, it has been a down year for LSU Football after storming their way to the National Championship last season. 14 players from last year’s championship group are now dotting NFL rosters, including the 2020 NFL Draft’s No. 1 Pick in QB JOE BURROW. What more than a few folks have overlooked, or forgotten, is that the team also lost its Offensive and Defensive Coordinators in JOE BRADY and DAVE ARANDA to other coaching opportunities. Head Coach Ed Orgeron is still trying to determine who his starting QB should be, and it showed against Texas A&M. But the true cream rises to the top, on occasion, and such was the story of LSU WR TERRACE MARSHALL (#6). The 6’3, 200 wideout is having a better than solid season, considering the QB chaos and lack of an elite running game down on the Bayou. MARSHALL has 48 catches on the season, including 10 TD grabs. He is fast and runs smooth patterns. He’s a great looking athlete and is a scoring threat each week. Against a solid, if unspectacular, Aggies secondary, MARSHALL finished his work, in the rain, with 10 receptions for 134 yards and 1 TD. It was an exemplary display of adjusting to two different passers and working his way through a struggling situation with good effort and production. I like this guy just as much as I did JUSTIN JEFFERSON last season. And what you see from JEFFERSON as a Rookie for the Vikings, is the kind of performance I can see from MARSHALL next year as an NFL Rookie. Let’s take the easy way out and call him an early Second Rounder in the 2021 Draft.

Speaking of the game in College Station, my eyes were opened a bit wider watching A&M LB BUDDY JOHNSON (#5) roam all over the field, playing a large role in wrecking what was left of the LSU Offense. For those of you, who like me, were somewhat oblivious of JOHNSON despite the fact that he led the Aggies D in tackles last season with 77, his play last Saturday was first class. At 6’2, 240, he carries his weight well and gets around the field. It will be most interesting to see what kind of workout numbers he posts at the Combine. He’s not a super athlete to my eyes, but he certainly is quite active and effective in multiple roles. He is also a sure tackler that should thrive in an NFL that now preaches “see what you hit” on a regular basis. Against LSU, JOHNSON recorded 9 tackles, 5 of them solo, and also recorded an Interception. In the Aggies 7 Games, JOHNSON has 66 Tackles, with 2 Sacks, 2 FF, 1 INT, and 3 PD. Quality production from a Round 4 guy,  IMO.

Let us never forget that football is a team game with 11 players per side working as a team within a team, to win enough individual battles to triumph as a total team. I was reminded of that concept in watching the Florida Defense in action against Kentucky last Saturday in a 34-10 victory. Earlier this season, the Gators were rolling along to their 6-1 record, primarily on the back, or should I say right shoulder, of QB KYLE TRASK, who is putting up Heisman-like numbers to put up points in droves for the Gators. But to seriously challenge for an SEC Title and an invite to the Final Four, it was clear that the Defense would have to step it’s play up a notch or two. Going into the 2020 season, Florida’s huge anchor of DT TEDARRELL SLATON (#56), 6-5, 340, was expected to throw his considerable weight around and control the line-of-scrimmage. He looked stout to me, but not dominant very often. Then last week, he got his inside DT mate KYREE CAMPBELL (#55) back from injury. And what a difference it made. With CAMPBELL (6’4/295) using his quickness to keep blockers busy, and not allowing a spare blocker as often to double-team SLATON, SLATON looked like his old self, plugging the center of the line like a brick wall. SLATON posted 7 tackles on the game, including a TFL and several pocket pressures. CAMPBELL himself collected 4 Tackles. The sum of the two players was greater than the value of each one individually. Kentucky was simply unable to run up the middle of the Florida Defense with these two big guys back together. Both SLATON and CAMPBELL will likely be drafted next year, both on Day 3.

The Big 12 showdown between Iowa State and Texas was a fun watch on Friday afternoon from Austin. I am intrigued by the play and pro potential of Texas Jr. JOSEPH OSSAI (#46). The 6’4/253 defender splits his snaps between a down-lineman DE  and an OLB/ER. Though 253 #’s makes him a bit light as a DE with his hand in the dirt, he showed in this game that he has the strength to set the edge. Given that RB BREECE HALL of the Cyclones is their top weapon, it was clear that OSSAI was playing at DE to provide more talent to their DL unit. He also showed the burst to rush the QB on multiple occasions, though not getting a sack for his efforts. He is a sideline to sideline pursuit guy when he stands up as a LB. The Longhorn coaches moved him around from side to side, which played to his athleticism. He gets considerable penetration, and to my eyes, much of that success is due to him taking slant angles to get between blockers along the OL. He may not be the pure edge-rush specialist of a VON MILLER, but he has the potential to be a very disruptive player at the next level, in the hands of a creative D.C. If he declares for the 2021 Draft, I would expect a Second Day selection spot for him somewhere from mid-Round 2 to early Round 3. His final draft spot might well be determined by how well he performs on-field drills a the Combine. His quickness and speed numbers will be significant.

One of the most interesting Draft eligible players in this game for Iowa State was TE/CHARLIE KOLAR. Kolar (#88) is a Junior and has the overall frame of a big wideout at 6’6/257. He also sports the captain’s “C” on his jersey. The Cyclones TE group in general boasts more weapons than their wideout group. He has nice hands and can run good patterns. Though he often lines up in the slot, he can serve as a viable inline blocker when needed. He shows reliable hands and if PURDY’s throws are well timed, KOLAR is capable of compiling some positive gains on Y-A-C. My only concern regarding KOLAR is his seeming tendency to start games very slowly. He had only 1 catch in the first half of this game, yet ended the game with 6 receptions for 131 yards. I saw a similar performance from him in the season opener against LA/Lafayette. Being a slow starter for whatever reason is not desirable in the pro game. Full game consistency is far more desirable from any receiver. KOLAR is Draft eligible, but seems to have given no signals as to his intentions to declare for the Draft or return to the Cyclones. If he comes out this year, then he will have to post some solid workout numbers at the Combine to be Drafted before Day Three.

Today’s NFL is drifting away from 3 LB sets, as 5-6 DB’s are not uncommon as early as 2nd Down in today’s passing dominated pro game. As such, with many downs being played with 2 LB’s, it is critical that any LB that wants to play 3-downs must have some serious coverage skills as well as solid tackling skills. One of the best at fulfilling present day versatility in the LB position is CHAZZ SURRATT (#21) of UNC, who checked into the Tar Heel program as a QB. Now he almost fits the LB prototype at 6’2/225, and has a very, very high FBI. Some personnel people have expressed to me that he truly understands the dynamics of his current position. He is not a dominant, physical player that hits a ton. He’s a fly-around athlete that will likely stand out statistically at the Combine. In the tight battle with Notre Dame last Friday (17-31), SURRATT had his usual productive game day with 7 tackles, 4 solo, including 1 Sack and 1 QBH. For the 2020 season, thru 9 games, SURRATT has recorded 75 tackles, 40 solo, with 6 Sacks and 1 INT.  He will be most productive for a pro team that employs a base 4-3 scheme where they can keep blockers off of SURRATT so he can use his athleticism to get to the ball. I would rank him as a Day Two draftee in Round 2 because of his versatility and athleticism. However, he is not the impact player that is required for Round One, IMO.

TEXAS A&M has one of the best Senior OT duos in college football, in DAN MOORE (#65) and CARSON GREEN (#54). MOORE is the smoother athlete of the two, who at 6’5/315, is one of the smoothest looking pass blockers around. His footwork is sound, whether dropping into pass-pro or drive blocking for the run game. On the other side of the line is a brawler and hustler in GREEN at 6’6/320. His style of play is not as pretty as MOORE’s, but is just as effective. On a very talented OL in the NFL, GREEN could make a high effort team leader type. GREEN has been playing full-time since his freshman season. And the same is true for MOORE. So that gives the Aggies hard working, savvy vets on both ends of their OL. MOORE might go early in Round 4, with GREEN lasting another Round. But don’t bet against either one earning a starting job in the NFL within a couple of seasons.

By the way, just to be consistent, let me mention that last week I showed 15 D-1 games either postponed or cancelled once again thanks to Covid-19. The clock seems to be ticking close to midnight here. Perhaps the most significant scenario to detail Covid’s potential impact on a muddled college season would be to mention that, after cancelling their game to Illinois due to Covid concerns last Saturday, Ohio State must play their last 2 scheduled games or be ineligible for the Big Ten Championship game.