What Caught My Eye Week 8, 2021 College Season

By | October 28, 2021

As usually transpires, as the season progresses, teams continue to show their true colors. But hiccups occur, like in the Big Ten, where despite the return of SEAN CLIFFORD at the QB position, and playing at home in Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions fell after what felt like a gazillion OT’s, to lowly Illinois. As good of a recruiter, and overall Head Coach that JAMES FRANKLIN is, he continues to poke along with an archaic Offense and a “don’t lose the game” mentality. Trapped yourself again Coach FRANKLIN. Oklahoma State had their bubble burst, but just barely, at Iowa State. Clemson confirmed that they are primarily a mediocre group this season without TREVOR LAWRENCE and a running game. They are now 4-3 on the year. The Florida Gators are also 4-3, in case you did not notice.

So for now, the ranks of the unbeaten in FCS play are:

GEORGIA  7-0     I’d feel a lot more confident about them if J.T. DANIELS could get healthy and start at QB down the stretch, but Oh My… that Defense!

OKLAHOMA    8-0   And now looking like the real deal with CALEB WILLIAMS as their QB.

MICHIGAN    7-0       Looking pretty solid, but the Fighting Harbaugh’s still have those Buckeyes to face, but at home in the Big House this year.

MICHIGAN STATE   7-0     Rested up after a BYE, but heading over to Ann Arbor this weekend.

CINCINNATI     7-0       Still being questioned, but still winning. They play SMU next month, so someone bites the bullet with an L.

SMU      7-0      Making the AAC look pretty strong this year. Can they survive intact after Houston (6-1) on the road this weekend?

TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (UTSA)  8-0    Who dat, them RoadRunners… beep, beep.

WAKE FOREST    7-0     They may be even more underrated than the 2 AAC teams.

SAN DIEGO STATE     7-0     Yet another non-Power Five program (Mountain West) trying to run the table and crash the Bowl party.

Next week, I will post my rankings of the TOP 15 teams, as I see them. A few showdown games this weekend, and that could shake things up a bit.

 

So for now, let’s look at some thumbnails of guys who got my attention in games last weekend…

#4    CALVIN AUSTIN  WR/RS    Memphis    6’9/165      This year’s version of TUTU ATWELL, who was drafted by the RAMS in Round 2 last Spring. UCF did a fine job defensively keeping the ball away from AUSTIN. Through 3 Quarters of play, he had only 3 touches from scrimmage. By games end, he had 7 receptions, but was bottled up after the catch and only totaled 44 yards receiving overall. He also has some serious moves and quickness as a Punt Returner. He averaged 9.4 ypr last season in that role, including 1 for a TD. He also had over 1,000-yds receiving in 11 games last season, and was voted 1st Team All-AAC. Much like ATWELL, it will take some creativity by an NFL team to find the best way to utilize a limited number of touches per game, due to his size. Included in his “pitch-count”, so to speak, should also be some manufactured touches, ala gadget plays, like jet-sweeps. For my taste, that limited touch factor means his best Draft spot would be early on Day Three, like Round 4.

 

#18   DAMONE CLARK   IB   LSU    6’2/245    Clearly too late to save ED ORGERON’s job, the LSU team seems to have found itself and is looking competitive and a tough out for other SEC teams. The leading tackler from 2020 was CLARK, who tied for the lead with JaCOBY STEVENS, who is indeed currently in the NFL. CLARK leads the FBS as we head into Week 9 with 57 solo tackles. And it was his effort against Ole Miss that rocketed him to the tackles lead.  In that game, he recorded 19 Tackles, 7 of them solo, and had 2.5 TLF, one of them a Sack. He also forced a fumble. Ole Miss coaches must have been wondering if there were two #18’s that they needed to scheme for as the game wore on. CLARK may come up a bit slow to excite scouts when he runs his Combine 40, but as many of us say, ‘go watch the tape’. He can be a punching tackler and he also seems to diagnose plays well, and react quickly. One of those TFL was on a goal line stand where he read the hand off and shot into the backfield to upend the runner. CLARK has been a tackling machine since his Soph season in 2019 when he got 50 tackles, followed by 63 last year. I don’t think his stats will get him into the Draft until Day 3, but for a team that needs a big thumper with a nose for the ball, he looks to have the stuff to play pro ball.

 

#92    NEIL FARRELL   DT   LSU   6’4/320     I’ve been watching FARRELL in LSU games for the last 3 years, and I like what I see. Of course, I appreciate his size as a thumper to hold up blockers at the line-of-scrimmage, but he does more than that. Given his weight, I also marvel at his ability to still play with energy to the whistle, and later in games when big guys often fade. For his size, and where he plays inside on their DL, I would view his stat line to be exceptional against Ole Miss: 7 tackles, 4 solo, 3 TFL, and 1 Sack. I also think he does a better than average job with his hand usage. And the power in his initial hand punch jolts some blockers who tangle with him. I consider him to be underrated, and underappreciated in his play. I think he fits in just about any DL scheme, and would put him in the early Day Three, Rounds 4/5 range. I would luv to see him for a practice week in Mobile come February.

 

#25    HASSAN HASKINS    RB    Michigan   6’1/220      The unbeaten Wolverines have a dominant running tandem in BLAKE CORUM and HASKINS. Against a tough, but overmatched Wildcats Defense, HASKINS carried 23 times for 110 yards and 2 TD’s. He is a strong runner that likes to see hole, hit hole, with the chance to gain multiple yards after contact. At the finish of his runs, he usually shows leg drive and forward lean for that extra yard or two. His speed to the edge is questionable, but in today’s NFL where a team of 3 RB’s share carries, catches, and blocking assignments, he should make a quality No.2 and be selected early on Day Three of the Draft.

 

#97    AIDAN HUTCHINSON   DE/ER    Michigan    6’6/260   Very nice to see HUTCHINSON playing at a pre-injury level again, after missing most of the 2020 season. He’s playing several roles from several different locations on the field for the Wolverines. Being an old guy and a purist, I’d rather see him line up as a 4-3 DE. However, watching him against Northwestern, it is clear that his athleticism will allow him to be a very versatile weapon for an NFL defense soon. Northwestern made a point to avoid testing him as much as possible. Besides 3 Tackles, 1 fumble recovery, and 1/2 Sack, AIDAN was quite effective in his edge-rush work, as well as disrupting the short passing game out into the flat. He’s not quite a THIBODEAUX, but his game will clearly transfer to the NFL. He does remind me of a healthy, collegiate DAVID POLLACK/UGA, and I would expect a mid-late First Round Draft selection.

 

#74    SEAN RHYAN   LT    UCLA  6’5/318     RHYAN has come a long way in his 3 years in the UCLA football program. While watching THIBODEAUX ply his wares, it dawned on me how effective RHYAN was in keeping him under control. And when Oregon coaches moved THIBODEAUX over to the other side of the formation, not only did he look better, but RHYAN looked dominant against other defenders. He’s a big guy now, with nice long arms and great natural knee bend. No ‘heavy legged, waist bender’ is this guy, as a guy named MAYOCK used to say in evaluating prospects. He displays excellent hand use in his initial punch, and the ability to steer defenders around without grabbing and holding.  I have been hearing very positive things about his play this season, but I have only caught glimpses of his play until this big game. RHYAN appears to have all of the prerequisite talent and technique required to transition into a starting LT in the NFL. If he declares for the 2022 Draft, right now I see him in the late First Round, with room to move even higher.

 

#8   CHRIS STEELE    CB     Southern Cal    6’1/190      I know that STEELE was called for several PI penalties with his aggressive/physical press cover work. I also know that several nice catches came at his expense. However, I could not take my eyes off of him against Notre Dame. He plays fearlessly, and is willing to take a chance on making a big play. His stat of 2 Tackles does not truly represent his willingness to mix it up on run defense. And one of those tackles was a TFL where he tackled the ball carrier before the play could be turned upfield. He also put himself in position to make an INT on the night also. My point is that despite some mistakes and miscalculations, I was impressed with his attitude and athleticism. I think he has a legit shot at an NFL starting CB spot, perhaps just not as a Rookie. Top 100 Prospect to me.

#2   COREY SUTTON   WR   Appalachian State    6’2/200    SUTTON was the top receiving weapon at APP STATE back in 2019. He possesses a healthy combination of size and speed to break a game open. He finished the night against Coastal, and a big upset W for APP, with 6 receptions for 113 yds and 1 TD, which was an athletic catch of a TD pass from BRICE. He has developed a solid bond with his QB and has been on a tear in the last month. He indeed has long speed and dependable hands. He also works the sidelines to his advantage with good footwork and solid play in not allowing defenders to force him out of bounds. He looks to be right on the bubble for a Top 100, Day 2 Draft position. Looks like an NFL No.2 receiver in a couple of seasons.

 

#5   KAYVON THIBODEAUX    DE/ER    Oregon   6’5/258    KAYVON had a tough start to the season with an early injury and is just getting back to full time play. Against a solid UCLA team, he showed his athleticism and his football skills to the hilt. He was virtually unblockable, and disrupted the Bruins Offense all day long. When the smoke had cleared, and the Ducks had escaped with a tough W, his numbers were outstanding: 9 Tackles, 8 solo, 4.5 TFL, 2 Sacks, and 1 Forced fumble. In a loaded Draft Class for 2022, THIBODEAUX ranks right at the top on most Prospect lists. In a year where I still don’t see a Top 10 QB prospect, athletes like this guy have a chance to headline the Draft. If you can’t justify a QB selection, then get a guy that will chase the QB all day long. By the way, he’s not just an edge-rusher. He plays the run and holds the edge as well, now that he has bulked up to over 250. Despite my praise and his stats, he played with a heavily taped-over left hand and some padding on his right wrist. My point being, just imagine a fully healthy THIBODEAUX, if you will.

 

SLEEPERS to watch…

#28   CHRIS BERGIN    SS/LB   Northwestern   5’11/215    I believe that BERGIN has enough talent and clearly enough FBI to pursue an NFL career, if he so chooses. He is best suited for a SS spot, but could find some time as a LB on long passing downs. Day Three Draftable. Against Michigan, 16 Tackles, 9 solo.

#5    ISAIAH BOWSER   RB   UCF  6’1/225    The Knights usually feature 5’9/185 speedsters in their backfield. Luckily HC GUS knows how to use a bruising, between the Tackles, runner like BOWSER. Against Memphis, he carried 26 times for 111 yards.

#1     ‘BIG KAT’ BRYANT    DE/ER   UCF   6’5/245    Bryant was frosh All-American at Auburn, but his play never ascended. So he followed MALZAHN to UCF and is having an impact in the AAC. Might work his way into a Round 7 Draft slot.

#56   LIAM SHANAHAN  OC  LSU  6’5/305    Not many guys transfer from Harvard after 3-years to start in the SEC. He’s not a Top 100 prospect, but he is a steady, reliable player.

#95    MYRON TAGOVAILOA-AMOSA    DE  Notre Dame   6’4/265    This young man weighed about 290 lbs. and played inside until this season, but coaches saw potential on the edge. He lost weight and has shown flashes outside this season. Has the body and athleticism to play in the pros. And yes, he is a cousin of TUA!

#9   DEMETRIUS TAYLOR   DL   Appalachian State  6’1/290    Short for a DL, but plays all-out and collapses the pocket on a weekly basis. Could find a role as a pro in a DL rotation. Team leader type.  Nice combination of strength and energy.

#7  SAM WILLIAMS  OB  Ole Miss     6’4/265    A big piece of a good Defense that got some nice new pieces to play around him now. Has solid pass-rush skills. A specific position slot is not as important for him as the fact that he has progressed significantly since coming to Oxford from the Juco ranks.

 

Just as an aside to explain how I am using the term “sleepers” in these articles. For my scouting purposes, these sleepers would be players who are not a slam dunk to be drafted, but if not, may have enough of something to be signed to an NFL Training Camp, 90-man roster.

If you are looking for a nice little nap time this coming Saturday, then just flip on a College Football heavy network. Not too many top notch contests this weekend, but it will get better.

Cheers

Pigskin