Hey, we got to and thru the first week of complete collegiate action for the 2022 season, which leads us up to the 2023 NFL Draft season. The first few weeks of games are tune-ups primarily for the Conference action which truly gives us some serious and meaningful football.
Clearly the biggest “thing” that caught my eye this past week was the declaration that Division One football programs were going to expand the Play-Off roster from 4 to 12 teams. The actual start date for the new format may be 3 years off, until and unless the participating entities can exit their current agreements and adopt a new format. This means a give and take negotiation between the NCAA, Major Conference programs, Television, and the Bowl Games. I am thinking that the way things have been changing in the past 2-3 years that the influence of the NCAA and Bowl Game Committees will see a significant diminishment of their influence/power going forward, at least with D-1 Football, and perhaps basketball. I would suggest that the NCAA will revert to governing schools starting at the FCS level. And the Bowl Games will scramble for a place at the table… period. It’s all about the money, and television/streaming broadcasters and the big name colleges are going to call most of the shots.
I would have settled for expanding to a field of 8, but it looks like the National Champions of college football will soon need to win 3 or 4 games. Length of season for 18-20-year old athletes is a big concern to yours truly if we continue with 12 games schedules, Conference Championships and then as many as 4 Play-Off games. That’s 17 games on not yet mature minds and bodies. Hey, when money talks the room gets quiet and others just nod their heads while visions of money bags dominate all decisions.
Pros and cons of changes will be discussed for months, if not years, to come. For now we will discuss and ponder the current product in the current format. So enjoy!
Speaking of enjoying… my eyes and mind feasted on my first watches of the season. Except for free beer lines, the Big Ten game in Dublin was a success and a jolly concept. Now we just need to get Notre Dame to schedule an annual game in that venue, in lieu of an actual home game in South Bend. The Fighting Irish were part of this, but I refer only to the sometimes feisty fans trying to navigate those lines for free beer. Nice win for Northwestern, and another close loss for Scott Frost and his Nebraska squad.
Best prospect on the field in Dublin was likely Wildcats’ OT #77 Peter SKORONSKI. He’s not terribly long, especially in the arm length department, and may be best suited to an OG slot in the pro game, but he has a full tool chest of blocking weapons. He is muscular and thick. He uses those shorter arms to deliver some heavy handed punches in pass pro. He isn’t going sub-5.0 in the 40 at any workout, but he can move his feet and shows plenty of want-to and effort. He is tenacious, if not nasty, as a run blocker. He’s OG-1 for me.
PITTSBURGH and WEST VIRGINIA played a hard hitting and exciting game on neutral turf, in Pittsburgh. I felt like I saw 2 pro prospect QB in this one. The greatest irony being that after some travels in the highly controversial Transfer Portal both of them started their collegiate careers at Southern Cal. KEDON SLOVIS/Pitt and J.T. DANIELS. Slovis had long ago worn out his welcome in SoCal, amidst coaching rumors and change, despite taking over the starting job in Trojan country as a true frosh. DANIELS started for a while at USC, but injuries were his demise. He then went to Georgia and was all set to lead their National Championship run last season, but injuries derailed him again. Reading the tea leaves astutely he packed his bags again and ended to WVU. Both players performed well in the contest, but unless WVU improves the play of its OL, DANIELS may be lost to injury once again tis season.
The best actual prospect I feel I saw was the Mountaineers big wideout BRYCE FORD-WHEATON. He’s big dude at 6’3, 220 lbs. with good speed, excellent body control and good hands. He is reported as having a 40″vertical, which I can’t argue with after a couple of his catches. He wins on 50/50 balls the vast majority of the time. He’s not afraid to play in traffic and hands out punishment to those trying to tackle him. He is in my Top 100 already, with a good chance to make a run at Round 1, if he continues doing what I saw from him against PITT. His stats for the night were 9 catches for 97 yards and 2 TD. Very nice numbers and it seemed even bigger watching it live.
The following is partly why I like the Transfer Portal; An athletic young man by the name of JACOBY WINDMON played for 3 years at NEVADA, and then his coach left the program. He was 3rd Team All-Mountain West last season. But he entered the Transfer Portal, and got a call from the Michigan State program, whose Head Coach MEL TUCKER believes very strongly in that recruiting avenue. Against Western Michigan in the opener, WINDMON was a defensive star. He posted 7 tackles, including 4 TFL, all of which were Sacks. He’s listed at 6’2/230 and plays with fire and speed. He was selected as the Senior Bowl’s Defensive Player of the Week. Keep your eyes on WINDMON and his Spartan teammates in the coming weeks.
C.J. STROUD is my QB1 coming into the 2022 season. And he awed us with his athleticism in that 4th Quarter when the Buckeyes took over the game against a feisty Notre Dame Defense. But he also revealed some of the continued concerns about his overall game in the first half. Like most QB, even at the pro level, he can get happy feet and try to escape the pocket too quickly when he feels pressured. He also displays some scary throwing inaccuracy when escaping real or perceived pressure. But before we jump off the Stroud band wagon, let’s remember that this was game one of the season for Ohio State, with a large number of new players around him. The talent around him is there but not finely tuned yet. Remember that he is missing 3 of is 4 top receivers from last season. OLAVE & WILSON were First Round NFL Draftees and RUCKERT went in Round 3. Stroud and his offensive mates will get better on a weekly basis.
Let’s take a bit of a break here and flash a moment of truth here. Penn State QB SEAN CLIFFORD is still the same guy who wins some and losses some as Penn State’s starting QB.. He is not a legit Pro Prospect in my eyes. He hurts his Offense almost as often as he helps it. Head Coach JAMES FRANKLIN once again has too much overall talent on this roster to waste on a methodical, mediocre QB. Let’s open up that Offense Coach and get elite frosh QB DREW ALLAR out on the field… now.
Speaking of talent… let’s touch on Nittany Lion CB JOEY PORTER, the son of former NFL sack-master of the same name. PORTER is a long CB, at 6’2/195. He is so talented that he can play with a very aggressive coverage approach. He’s not afraid to stick his nose into the action in run-D support either. He is also not worried about getting beaten deep by opposing wideouts. He might be the top all-around CB in the next Draft. He and UGA/CB/KELEE RINGO, are my top 2 CB right now. And he played a key role in a close W against Purdue and it’s pass-heavy Offense.
Almost the entire Georgia Bulldogs Defense was drafted by the NFL this past April. However, if you thought Kirby Smart’s talent well might have run dry, you are wrong. And they showed it by limiting a solid Oregon team to 3 points last Saturday night. We won’t dwell on the reality that on a “neutral” game site, Oregon had to travel well over 2,000 miles to a game in Atlanta, while UGA took the bus. SMART is still loaded with talent, just a bit short on experience. Smart, and his staff, landed 30 new players through recruitment efforts, and they are almost entirely 4 & 5 Star talents. Now they just have to coach them up and start to integrate them into that D-system. You can’t say Oregon didn’t know what they were heading into given that their new Head Coach DAN LANNING was Smart’s D.C. for the past 3 seasons. But in administering a 49-3 licking , it sure looks to me like Georgia & Alabama might be meeting in the SEC Championship game as well as the Final 4 once again.
The UGA DL is about 3-deep, if their touted freshmen, led by MYKEL WILLIAMS, develops quickly.The man the middle of DL-1 is JALEN CARTER, DT, #88. He’s 6’3/310 and is strong, with even better mobility than DAVIS/WYATT of last season’s frontline. And he showed all of that against Oregon in manhandling blockers and bursting into the Ducks backfield on multiple occasions. He’s the leader here but my eyes saw plenty of good things from his fiends like JumboLB NOLAN SMITH #4, CB RINGO #5, and CHRIS SMITH, S #29. By the way, the Bulldogs have a trio of guys in their TE group, who all look like potential pros in the next couple of seasons.
Hey speaking of loaded TE rooms… how about TE group on the UTAH team that was upset by Florida on Saturday? DALTON KINCAID, #86 is the picture book TE at 6’4/248 with blocking skills and downfield pass watching ability. In a TE/H-B role is #80 BRANT KUITHE at 6’2/222. Kuithe was second in receptions and first in receiving yardage last season for the Utes. They both balled out and gave the Gators D lots of headaches in the secondary. And when it’s time to run the ball 3rd stringer LOGAN KENDALL is a load at 6’3/273.
TAVION THOMAS/RB/6’2/238, picked up right where he left off last season when he led the Utes in rushing with 1108 yards for 21 TD. Against Florida he carried 23 times for 115 yards and 1 TD. He is a big, powerful, and explosive runner, who can also catch a pass or two, when called upon. He is the most powerful college runner I felt I saw tote the rock last season, and looked like that same guy against the Gators D. He reminds me of A.J. DILLON, of the Packers.
So now let’s move on to the player who made my eyes bulge out, all game long… QB ANTHONY RICHARDSON #15 Florida, 6’4/237. He’s some kind of cross between CAM NEWTON, LAMAR JACKSON, ANDREW LUCK. He can do it all, and absolutely has the power to control a football game with his legs and arm. RICHARDSON dominated through the air (168 yds, 70.8%) and on the ground (106 yds, 9.6ypc, 3 TD) without committing a turnover. He is only a Soph, with only 1 start last season as a Frosh, tho he shared time with EMERY JONES. JONES saw the future at Florida in RICHARDSON and transferred after last season. The sky is the limit for this young man…
And likely for Florida’s football program… especially because of new head Coach BILLY NAPIER. NAPIER went 40-12 in 4 seasons at LA/Lafayette and quietly dominated the Sun Belt Conference. He’s a Saban disciple and will spend the next couple of years winning 10 games or so per season while he develops relationships with the high school football coaches who control the fertile recruiting grounds of Florida and it’s population of 21-million folks. He’s not flashy, but has an easy manner in public, and a solid firm hand with his football program. He should give the Gators the solid recruiting advantage they had back in the Spurrier recruiting days. Watch out Georgia & ‘Bama.
There are always lots of great stories out there in the world of sports, with college football being NO exception. It appears that MIKE NORVELL might be on the threshold of returning the Florida State program to an annual Top 25 team. And his Defense features what is developing into a storyline to watch this season. They have a young edge rusher who transferred in from little ALBANY. He blossomed in 2 years there and was sought after by just about every school in the nation. But he wanted to play for the Seminoles and he might be good enough to make fans forget the loss of former-Transfer JERMAINE JOHNSON, who left (with his 12 sacks) and was a First Rond Draftee of the JETS. VERSE is a tall, lean, but muscled athlete who covers the field from sideline to sideline, when he’s not using multiple moves to get to the QB. VERSE finished the LSU game with 7 Tackles, 3 solo, and those 3 were all Sacks. If he keeps up that kind of productivity he may leave after one year and find himself a high Pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He sure looked like a keeper with his play list Sunday night. So watch and enjoy ‘Noles fans.
Time to finish up on the computer keyboard and get ready for Week 2. By Thursday, I expect to have my “new & improved” Top 25 pro prospect rankings up.