A stroke of good luck (again) for Central Florida, and no Hurricane here. So with tv reception solid I did watch multiple games on Saturday. Herein, are my thumbnails on selected prospects who I saw in action.
I guess we can expect to see Clemson just about every weekend and for the second straight week I watched them systematically undress their opponent, this time Syracuse. And after watching two games I am absolutely overwhelmed by the athleticism, versatility and productivity of ISAIAH SIMMONS, #11, who I guess we will call a LB, but who can play anywhere but DT, or CB. SIMMONS is 6’4, 230 and looks to be the best athlete on the field every time I see him play. He’s more athletic as a SS than teammate TONY MUSE, who plays S and will be drafted next Spring. I’ve seen him with his hand on the ground to rush from DE. He plays inside or outside in the LB group. His greatness was somewhat shielded from our eyes the past two seasons because the entire Clemson DL was of pro caliber. But now he’s making plays all over the field. Just to point out his versatility his stats for the Saturday Win over Syracuse included, 11 Tackles, 8 solo, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks. Previously this season, I watched him drop into coverage multiple times in the A&M game, and I mean deep coverage, for a couple of pass break-ups. Purely and simply this young man is an athlete deluxe, who an NFL team could build a defense around. Though a junior, I suspect this season is his audition for an NFL career. He’s a Top 10 Pick in my eyes!
Let’s take another moment here and talk about yet another superior athlete currently wearing a Clemson uniform, as he prepares to be a very high 2020 Draft Pick section: #5 TEE HIGGINS, WR, 6’4/210, Jr. He’s another on a growing list of Clemson receiving stars who will shine in the NFL as early as next season. HIGGINS led the Tigers in catches last season with 59, which included 12 TD catches. His size is exceptional and I am anxious to see his hand size, arm length and vertical jump numbers at the next Combine. He makes even medium sized DB look like kids trying to go up with him for the ball downfield and/or near the sidelines. It is almost comical watching the smaller DB try to break things up, and usually ends up with another reception. His body adjustments to the ball in the air are uncommon. Against Syracuse HIGGINS had 7 catches for 150 yards. For a quick comp I would say he reminds me an awful lot of another former Clemson star wideout in MIKE WILLIAMS, currently of the Chargers. I expect him to also come out for the 2020 NFL Draft and should get serious consideration for a late First Round selection.
After a noon game ran a bit long Saturday I had my eyes treated to a dominant pancake block as the network flashed to join the Houston/Washington State game in progress. No surprise, the blocker was Houston LT JOSH JONES. JONES is a senior who has been a starter since his frosh season. He stands 6’7 and weighs about 310 lbs. He has a nice long frame and can move for a big guy. He is a very good player, although not elite. He moves his feet well in both pass-pro and run blocking, and displays good balance. He plays with intelligence and has clearly learned his craft. I noticed on several occasions, while in pass-pro, that he allowed the DE lined up against him to take an elongated, wide route to the pocket which took him well past the pocket. JONES just let him run himself out of the play after one initial hand punch. He was more concerned with not letting that rusher inside of him to the pocket. Smart play. He has a solid chance to claim a Top 100 prospect ranking and be taken in Round 3 if he has a solid 2019 season.
While talking about that HOUSTON/WAZOO game let’s look a bit at the latest QB for Mike Leach. He is #18 ANTHONY GORDON (6’3/210), who thought he had a shot for the starting QB job last season. But it was a shot in the dark, when GARDNER MINSHEW transferred in and won the hearts of Cougars fans, as well as the starting QB job from Leach. MINSHEW just took over the starting job in Jacksonville, with the injury to Nick Foles, and has looked like he has a pro future indeed. Meanwhile, back up on the Palouse GORDON won the starting job this year and is playing at a very effective level. In a shoot-out kind of game that featured spread style offense on both sides of the line-of-scrimmage, the Cougars against the Cougars played out with GORDON warming up to the task. He completed 36/48, 75%, 440 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT. He showed very good mobility in extending plays and a live arm. He also has clearly captured the confidence of his teammates. It is highly unlikely that GORDON will climb up the prospect rankings to a high draft rating, but it is not inconceivable that he just might make himself a late round draftee, with NFL back-up potential.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the emergence of a winning football program in Central Florida known as UCF, then you might be an elitist who only pays attention to the Power Five conferences. Shame on you, because the UCF Knights are the real deal and even seem to have survived the exit of HC Scott Frost back to his alma mater Nebraska two years ago. JOSH HEUPEL, his replacement, never skipped a beat until a Bowl Game loss to LSU last season. Part of the program’s success is purely and simply the veritable mother lode of talent in the state of Florida, which is now the third most populated state in the country. They recruit well, and regularly get native Floridians who want to return to their home state after starting out in Power 5 programs. Speed and athleticism are the hallmarks of this crew, which is now 3-0 and features yet another Hawaiian born QB. But he’s only a freshman so for now let’s talk about some upperclassmen who are Draft eligible for 2020.
I know it is highly debatable, but perhaps the fastest/quickest football player in NCAA ball is UCF RB #9 ADRIAN KILLINS, who is only 5’8/165. But probably the only question with him as a future pro is how to use him, without using him up. I see him as an early Day Three draftee, whose touches will need to be monitored so he does not get broken every week or so. He is not just some track guy, whose only talent is pure speed. Just ask him and he will tell you he’s a football player. So last week as the Knights pummeled Stanford in a 45-27 Win, and before HC Heupel called off the dogs after 3 Quarters, KILLINS rushed 8 times for 44 yards, caught 4 passes for 28 yards, and ran back a Kickoff for 22 yards. His best talent as a pro might end up being as a Punt Returner. Every time he touches the ball he gets the home fans fired up and opposing coaches get stomach pains.
Let’s stay in Central Florida for one more thumbnail. This past Draft the Cowboys took UCF DT TRYSTEN HILL /DT with Pick 58 of the draft in Round 2. Their pick was based on the physical talent he displayed at Combine workouts. At least to the Cowboys satisfaction HILL was able to explain his issues with the new coaching staff in 2018 that rendered him to back-up status after starting his first 2 years at UCF. HILL is currently in the Cowboys DL rotation. The best DL on this year’s KNIGHTS team is BRENDON HAYES, who plays DE at 6’3/293. He has some penetration skills, but looks best suited for an NFL job as a 3-4 NFL DE. He also strikes me as a solid candidate for playing time in a 2-man situational DL setup, which has become more popular in recent seasons. As such, he is not likely to post glamorous numbers. But his combination of size, strength and decent mobility make him player that opponents must account for on every snap. He had only 1 official tackle against Stanford but that was for a TFL. He was also credited for 2 QBH. I think his stock will rise over the remainder of this season and he will make a solid mid-round NFL DL prospect.
J.K. DOBBINS/RB/Ohio State has had a fine collegiate career to date, and after 3 games this season he looks prepared to add a bright red cherry to top off his career in Columbus. With Dwayne Haskins moving on to the NFL, and a sophomore transfer QB taking snaps, the offense looks to be in a heavier run mode for this season than they were in 2018. Despite a plethora of wideouts in their passing attack (who we will discuss in the upcoming weeks), DOBBINS looks to be the featured weapon in their offense for this season. And he can carry that load. He has a nice combo skill package of being a strong, hard to bring down RB at 5’10/217. Thru 3 games he already has 425 yards rushing. The Buckeyes opened their Big Ten schedule last weekend with a road win in Indiana. They wore down a solid Hoosier team to win convincingly 51-10. And Big Ten opponents got a good luck at what they will face in the weeks to come. DOBBNS carried the ball 22 times for 193 yards and 1 TD. He also caught 2 balls for 14 yards and another TD. He can run with power inside, as well as display the speed to turn the corner and take it outside. He may not be a flat-out blazer, but he shows enough speed to outrun most defenders. His combination of good field vision, as well as balance to bounce off would-be tacklers allows him to gain extra yards once past the line-of-scrimmage. DOBBINS is a junior who I expect to turn pro, and will likely be a second round pick next April.
A few more names here to at least mention, who caught my eye last weekend. I have every intention of watching them in game action again and then thumb-nailing them in the coming weeks.
CHASE YOUNG DE/ER Ohio State JR
BRYAN WRIGHT LB CINCINNATI SR
D’ERIQ KING QB HOUSTON SR
GABRIEL DAVIS WR UCF JR
MICHAEL PITTMAN WR USC SR
RAY LIMA DT Iowa State SR