Who Caught My Eye Week 11

November 15, 2018

BRYANT is the final piece in the work of art that is the Clemson DL, for me to thumbnail. I still think this is the finest front 4 that I have ever seen in college football during my 60 years of watching games. BRYANT is the long, lean edge protector opposite FERRELL. He has pass-rush skills, but is equally effective releasing back into shallow pass coverage. When looking at his stats, please remember a finite number of tackle opportunities are being divided amongst 4 players with elite skills and athleticism. In a physical ACC showdown game with BC, CLEMSON pulled away with a 27-7 victory fueled primarily by the Defense. BRYANT had a very solid night with 6 tackles, 1.5 Sacks, 2 TFL, and 1 QBH. He is so long that he often disrupts the vision of opposing QB’s as they look for throwing lanes. I would expect him to knock down even more throws at the next level. I don’t think pro teams are going to try to bulk him up, because in today’s pass-happy NFL, his ability to drop back into coverage will be valued even more than setting a stout edge. I feel his best standard defensive set will be in a 4-3 scheme, but he may have the versatility of a BUD DUPREE, who has really emerged the past two seasons with the STEELERS. Even though I have hinted that the entire Clemson DL may go in Round 1, I think BRYANT is more likely to be selected in Round 2.

CONEY led the Irish in tackles in 2017, with 116. Through 10 Wins this season, he has 87 stops. He is as steady as can be, and has a nose for the ball. He also trusts most of what he sees, which enables him to get to the ball on almost every down. His play has a habit of sneaking up on me whenever I watch the Irish. I don’t see a bunch of big play tackles from him, but at the end of the game he’s close to, or over, 10 tackles. Against FSU, he had 7 tackles, 6 of them solo. He has a habit of picking his spots and then chasing after the QB in the pocket. In 2017, he recorded 3 sacks, 10 TFL and 5 QBH. He is adequate in short/middle coverage, and could stay on the field as a pro if he can improve his play in reverse, just a bit. Without the flash, he reminds me of former Golden Domer TE’O, now with the Saints. I don’t see him as an elite player, and would expect a Round 4 selection for him.

I have watched LOCK on 3 earlier occasions and put down my pen, moving on to other players to watch, because of his erratic, frustrating play at times. I recall saying to myself that if this guy was the top ranked QB for the 2019 NFL Draft, then teams in need of their new franchise QB were going to need to wait another year. Last Saturday, I wrote his name down in my scouting notebook and decided a thumbnail was going to come out of the game against a solid Vandy squad. I’m not doing hand stands over his performance, but I am a bit more encouraged than earlier this season when I watched him. MIZZOU has transitioned into a run-first team now under HC BARRY ODOM. But I firmly believe that LOCK is not getting top level coaching from this staff, where the OC is DEREK DOOLEY, who has never been an OC or even a QB Coach before. Despite having some athletic receivers, I feel like I clearly see multiple dropped balls each game from the Tigers. The OL is average at best. LOCK had a good day, with 22/33, 67%, 253 yards, and 2 TD’s. But he also gave up 2 INT. Those forced, and/or inaccurate throws leading to Picks have happened too often in his college career. On the season, LOCK has passed a 62.5% completion rate, with 21 TD’s and 8 INT’s. His arm is above average, but not great. He looks a bit awkward at times when he runs with the ball, but can elude the rush and extend plays. He ran 5 times for 27 yards and 1 TD vs. Vandy. This guy may be very similar, development wise, to BLAINE GABBERT coming out of Mizzou almost a decade ago, and will need to be nurtured for a few seasons by a QB Guru, an OC/QB Coach at the pro level. I still like the long range potential, and think his college program let him down in his development, but I am thinking Round 3. His Agents better be realistic and get him to the Senior Bowl to get some pro coaching and show his wares. The Combine will be a big deal for him in every aspect.

At the start of the 2018 season, Ole Miss was my top ranked WR group, with LODGE the No. 2 returning guy from 2017, with 41 catches at 17.0 ypc, and 7 TD’s. He’s having a better senior season with 53 catches thru 10 games, including 3 TD’s. He’s a long guy, who is more of a chain-moving possession receiver than he is a deep threat. But once he gets his long legs into motion, he covers a lot of ground. An example of that skill was seen in the shootout with A&M, when he took a throw down the sideline, turned it up, and went 51 yards for a TD. No one caught him after he eluded the first couple of defenders. For the game, he had 6 catches for 122 yards, and 1 TD. I don’t see him as more than a No. 3 wideout in the pros, but he could be a very good one. We’ll see what his numbers are at the Combine. He could also be someone who benefits from a Star Game appearance, right across the border in Mobile, come January. Stepping out from under the shadow of his higher pub teammates could be a good thing for his pro prospects. An early Day Three Draft prospect right now.

In most instances, I do NOT go into games watching for underclassmen who might be emerging. I try to confine myself to seniors and clear star juniors. But when I watched the competitive MIZZOU/VANDY game, it was pretty hard not to be impressed with TE Pinkney. First off, he has a prototype NFL TE physique. Secondly, he is a smooth runner who can get separation. He also displayed good hands as a receiver, and some nice after-the-catch running. He blocks, in addition to developing into a serious receiving weapon. In 2017, he had 22 catches for 3 TD’s. He already has 35 catches and 6 TD’s this season. Against Mizzou, he caught 5 balls for 88 yards and 1 TD. His TD was a 33-yard catch in which he ran down the right sideline for 34 yards. He outran half of the Mizzou back-7 on that play. Only PINKNEY himself knows if he is considering leaving school early for the NFL, but I will find it very hard not to have him in my Top 100 if he does declare. I think this man could develop into a BEN WATSON type of pro.

The Wolfpack lost an incredible amount of talent from their Defense last Spring when the NFL Draft rolled around. Their entire DL of CHUBB, HILL, JONES and STREET was drafted. They lost others, and faced a huge defensive rebuild. One guy who really stepped up was a former S, who in 2017, beefed up and became a LB. In that 2017 campaign, GERMAINE recorded 69 tackles, 2 PD, and 2 INT’s. PRATT now sports almost ideal LB size for his transition into the NFL, and has exhibited some excellent pass-rush tendencies, without having lost his coverage skills. Thus, the likelihood that he gets a fairly early Draft call next Spring. This fall thru 9 games, he has 93 tackles. He’s a very instinctive player who can deliver punishment in his tackling technique. He can still drop into intermediate pass coverage, which bodes well for an NFL future. Against Wake, he recorded 12 tackles, 2 solo, and 1 TFL. I believe that he has serious upside at the next level, and could be the kind of guy that vaults into the Top 100 selections with an impressive Star Game performance.

A few seasons ago, a young man came out of nowhere to be a valuable receiver for DABO at Clemson, and made the NFL BUCS roster as an URFA. He’s still in the League. ADAM HUMPHRIES is that man’s name. Welcome to the follow-up version in RENFROW, who was originally a walk-on for the Tigers. I think he too will make an NFL roster, but might actually get drafted very late, come next April. The only difference in size is that HUMPHRIES is one inch taller at 5’11. RENFROW toils in a very talented, but young, receiver group for this year’s Clemson squad. As the senior glue, he is the go-to safety valve guy. Against an over matched Louisville team, RENFROW had 8 catches for 80 yards. RENFROW led the 2017 Tigers receiving corps with 60 receptions. I guarantee you that he will hold down multiple Special Teams roles at the next level. Guys like this earn their way into having an NFL career, and make valuable assets at, or near, the bottom of an NFL roster.

SCARLETT was a heralded recruit, and shared carries in his first two years in the Swamp. But he got caught up in that credit card scandal and was suspended for the 2017 campaign. He is back with the team this season under a new coaching staff led by Dan Mullen. I really like the way this guy runs. Of the 2 juniors sharing most of the carries, he looks like the more potentially explosive runner, and he showed it in a big bounce back W over South Carolina in the Swamp last Saturday. He carried the ball 18 times for 159 yards, also catching a ball. He pretty much carried the Offense with his runs in the 4th Quarter. He is explosive, but takes the time to read which blocks will provide the best running lane for him. He shows good field vision and very good balance, with quick feet and acceleration. He is now averaging 6.2 ypc on the season. Given his 4 years at Florida, I might expect him to declare for the 2019 Draft. My third round is getting rather full, so maybe I’d better say Round 4 potential for SCARLETT.

One of the key factors for NFL talent evaluators, in their never ending search for pro caliber players, is player development during his college career. For the elite guys, they hit it big right away, but there are not enough of those guys to fill an NFL roster. So they must look for players who have improved steadily and project whether they can grow some more under pro coaching. I bring up this concept because I had no intention of thumb-nailing SHURMUR as the 2018 season started. But having watched all, or parts, of 4 Vandy games this year, I think he deserves some attention and pro projection. Let’s start with the obvious, which is his size, as listed above. Almost a blue print for an NFL QB body. We’ll find out his hand size in January/February. He has started 40 games for the Commodores, and the team, under his watch, is about a .500 team, which is well above their status as a weekly automatic W for vaunted SEC opponents. He also has a solid football gene pool in the coaching ranks, including his dad, currently running the Giants. He is not a super athlete, but he can move around a bit to extend plays. VANDY gave Mizzou a run for their money last Saturday, and SHURMUR was a large part of it. He threw 24/35, 249 yards, 3 TD’s, and 0 INT’s against Mizzou. Over the past 3 seasons, his stats have improved in all major categories. He has gone from 54.4% completions to 61.0%, so far in 2018. His TD/INT ratio has gone from 9/10 to 25/10 to 17/5, so far this year. I now believe that he may get drafted, albeit late, (Round 5 or later), on the assumption that he may have more undeveloped potential to improve.

Even though State has a few less elite athletes than most winning PAC-12 programs, LEACH seems to get more out of his players than many might have expected. WILLIAMS might fit that mold, but he’s a really good football player who is in a scheme that happily suits his talents. Not only is he a good runner, but he fits the LEACH scheme of RB who are also excellent receivers. In the 3 Cougars games that I have watched, I have been impressed with WILLIAMS ability to create extra yardage once the ball is in his hands. WILLIAMS is the type of dual threat RB that NFL teams also covet, as they spend more time passing than running by a wider margin every season. Against Colorado, WILLIAMS ran 17 times for 60 yards, as well as catching 5 balls for another 43 yards. Gaining yards to control the ball/game clock and scoring TD’s are still what the game is all about. WILLIAMS has the versatility to help a lot of NFL teams. He is also a team leader. I suggest that he might look to come out early to support the family he is creating with a fiancee’, who already has a little one. If he does come out, he will have to post some impressive workout numbers at the Combine to move into the first two days on the Draft, but I can’t see him waiting real long on Day 3 to hear his name called.

For most of us NFL Draftniks, it is difficult to project the pro potential of Punters and Kickers, in great part, because we don’t understand what makes them good or bad mechanically. It’s a tad better with the Punters, because we can see their leg swing and body flexibility. We can also check hang-time. WISHNOWSKY pushes all the buttons on those accounts. He is also a stout fellow, having played Aussie football as a youth. He brings a valuable variation to the theme, in that he can punt straight on, ala USA Punters, but still has the ability to kick on the run, which can have advantages in certain situations. He is averaging a 47.0 yards per punt gross in 2018, after 43.9 in 2017. Against OREGON last week, he only punted 4 times, as the Utes had a successful day on Offense, but he averaged 57.3 yards when he did Punt, with a long of 68 yards. Hoping to see him at the Senior Bowl in January to listen to the sound of the ball when he strikes it, and get out the trusty Pigskin Paul stop-watch for hang time. But right now, I see him as the first Punter drafted, perhaps as early as Round 4.

Only two full weeks of action left in the College season, but Bowl Games come by mid-December, not to mention Conference Championships.