It was conference championship weekend and per usual, it featured a minimum of surprises, except perhaps the Friday night dominance of Oregon against Utah. Let’s just say that the Final 4 matchups are a bit less than surprising with LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma topping the field. Somehow that has a familiar ring to it. The other non-surprise of the weekend was the plethora of pro prospects in action. Here are some of the top players that got my attention.
JULIAN BLACKMON #23 Utah S 6’1/205 Sr This former CB made a smooth transition to S for his senior season. BLACKMON had been hailed as the QB of the Defense in his play this past Fall. He combines CB coverage skills, as well as an aggressive, run stopping demeanor. Unfortunately against Oregon, he was put out of action with a non-contact leg injury. On the play immediately after his departure from the game, HERBERT went deep against his replacement for a 45-yard TD pass. Until that injury, he had been handing out contact punishment to Oregon runners and receivers. He left the game with 4 Tackles already to his credit. BLACKMON’s 2018 season stats give a clear picture of his value and versatility; 60 T’s, 1.5 Sacks, 2 FF, 4 INT’s, and 4 PD. Depending upon the severity of his injury, BLACKMON has already accepted an invite to play in the Senior Bowl.
HASISE DUBOIS #8 Virginia WR 6’3/215 Sr Much as expected, the Cavaliers were pretty much trampled by a peaking at the right time, Clemson squad last Saturday. The Cavs Defense was no match at all for the Clemson Offense, but their Offense put up a struggle and got some points on the board. DUBOIS, their unsung wideout, was forced to shoulder a bigger load than ever because injuries to their other fine senior, WR JOE REED, kept him off the field for this contest. And DUBOIS made quite an impression on yours truly, and I am sure on other personnel folks as well, with a big night as their top weapon. The big, strong receiver caught 10 balls on the evening for 130 yards and a TD. He’s not a speedster, but is fast enough, in combination with some nice route running and a willingness to fight for the ball in traffic, to get his share of receptions. He was the victor in fighting for 50/50 balls several times against a solid, veteran Clemson secondary. On the season, he had 65 catches for 979 yards and 4 TD’s. With the NFL’s constant need for more quality, young WR’s every year, I expect DUBOIS to be drafted late on Day 3. Combine and/or Pro Day workout numbers will be important for DUBOIS.
JAKE HANSON #55 Oregon 6’5/297 OC Sr. I found Oregon’s convincing W over Utah to be a surprise, given the overall dominance by the Ducks. The Oregon OL played a huge role in the victory. Even though he’s not the best overall athlete of the group, HANSON is the glue that held this line together. He missed a couple of games later in the regular season, but his return provided a security blanket effect for QB JUSTIN HERBERT. HANSON is not an overpowering presence. He gets his job done with athleticism, solid technique and FBI. He does not dominate DL opponents, but he cleverly uses technique to move his opponents away from the action. His footwork is outstanding, especially in pass-pro, where his technique allows him to handle bigger defenders. Leverage and mobility are his two biggest weapons. Overall, he is well suited for the current NFL offensive styles which feature RPO and moving pockets and free-flow QB play. I think he can have a solid pro career much along the lines of another Oregon OC named MAX UNGER.
VICTOR JOHNSON #75 Appalachian State OT 6’5/295 Sr This long, athletic looking OT is very likely to be moving up Prospect ranking lists in the months ahead. After the Mountaineers Bowl appearance, he is next scheduled to appear at the NFLPA star game. JOHNSON has been a Sun Belt 1st Teamer for the past 3 seasons. The game with Louisiana/Lafayette was my first chance to watch him this season. He’s athletic, with excellent footwork. He also appears to be a natural knee bender and thus excels in pass-pro. He also does a nice job of staying low out of his stance and uses very long-looking arms to jolt and keep defenders from getting into his body. He runs his feet well, but occasionally gets nervous and reaches for his block. He could use a bit more bulk and brute strength on his frame, which I am pretty sure some NFL team will address with diet and more weight room training. He is really good already, and looks to have the tools to refine his technique, as he is coached up. I have him in my Top 100 prospect list and he’s likely to remain there, even as underclassmen make their declarations to leave school early.
CHRIS MILLER #3 Baylor S 6’0/185 Sr Miller is another aggressive defender that had a lot to do with the success (11-2) of Baylor football the past two years. He is a good athlete who runs well and has a nose for the football. He also hits a ton when he closes in for a tackle. I actually worry that at only 185 lbs. he’s in danger of knocking himself out of action at times. Despite having to miss part of one possession in the Conference title game with Oklahoma because of knocking himself out, he returned to action and finished the game with 10 Tackles, which included 1 TFL. His 2019 stat sheet is very impressive with a Bowl Game still to come: 81 T’s, 2 FF’s, 3 INT’s, and 7 PD. His 40-time at post-season testing will be an important number for his profile sheet. In today’s pass-happy NFL, he should have little problem finding ways to make his way onto the playing field. I would also expect him to be a key Special Team player for his pro team. He has had a productive senior season and may have earned himself a Draft selection. I just read last night that he will participate in the NFLPA Bowl in January.
MICHAEL WARREN #3 Cincinnati RB 5’10/222 Jr WARREN has been a reliable, productive performer for the Bearcats since his frosh season. He ran for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons. He carried a big load against Memphis last weekend, with 23 rushes for 99 yards and 2 TD’s, and was also on the receiving end of one pass. On the season, with a Bowl appearance to go, he has rushed for 1,160 yards and a whopping 14 TD’s, while also recording 19 receptions for another 2 TD’s. He’s a tough young man, who uses strength and balance to seldom go down on contact from the first tackler. I see him having serious pro potential as a short yardage runner. He runs low, with a forward lean. He also shows good blocking habits in pass pro, which will help keep him on the field as a pro. The two words I most often associate with his style of play are dependable and tough. I see him being a mid-round draftee if he comes out. I certainly would recommend for him to declare for the 2020 Draft. He runs so hard and tough, that he hardly needs another 200+ touch season in college if his goal is to play pro football. A mid-Round Pick slot is likely waiting for him, by a team in need of a No.2 RB with multiple skills.
Mark me down as astonished by the fact that, for the 3rd straight season, Oklahoma HC LINCOLN RILEY has his QB in the Final 4 for the Heisman Trophy. Baker Mayfield, 2017, and Kyler Murray, 2018, have won the past two trophies. This year, ‘Bama-transfer JALEN HURTS will be in NYC this Saturday. I think he’s unlikely to beat out JOE BURROW and/or CHASE YOUNG, but he was the guy that everyone said couldn’t throw very well before TUA took his job in Tuscaloosa. Good players all three, but I can’t help but think that Riley may indeed be the QB Whisperer supreme in college football today.
Too bad Georgia was so beaten up that they couldn’t give LSU a better contest last Saturday, but I had no interest to see a rematch between LSU/Georgia in the Final Four had Georgia won. IMO, the way things played out with Utah also losing, the Final Four committee got a gift from the football gods in making their choices pretty easy.
While watching App State and La/Lafayette battle it out for the Sun Belt title, I was impressed with the overall talent on both squads. And that talent was used well by the two Head Coaches, who were a combined 20-2, if you take away their head-to-head matchups.
Just a sleeper for you to watch out for in the next few months leading up to the Draft: JORDAN FEHR/LB/APP STATE. He’s 6’3/235, with good weight room strength and a supposed 40-time of under 4.50 seconds. He’s list as being on the NFLPA Bowl roster right now.