Who Caught My Eye Week 3, 2021

September 22, 2021

Let’s see here… Southern Cal fired respected Coach Clay Helton a week ago. And the Football Gods have responded, and with a vengeance. Starting QB KEDON SLOVIS went down to a serious injury against Washington State. He was replaced by true frosh JAXSON DART, who had a great game against Washington State. This story sounds eerily familiar for the Trojans. SLOVIS, as a true frosh, replaced J.T. DANIELS, who now starts at Georgia after DANIELS suffered a season ending injury.

Front runner for Head Coach of the Year for the 2021 season has to be MEL TUCKER at Michigan State. His Spartans upset Miami (F) in Miami (or close to it) to go to 3-0. They opened the season with a W @ Northwestern. They now stand 3-0 with a team most picked to battle Illinois at the bottom of the Big Ten. Long way to go, but he deserves a prop right now.

I felt like I saw some god-awful officiating in almost every game I watched on Saturday. Some of their errors weren’t even fixed upon replay. Felt like I also saw some pretty terrible coaching from the sidelines as well. The worst combination of the two was a 4th Quarter attempt by Penn State to go for a yard and a half on 4th Down right around mid-field. They fake the snap to the Punter, to a DL, who ends up in a Rugby scrum, which eventually gets the first down. But wait, one ref decides he saw that the scrum was halted by “forward progress” just short of the first down. Nobody got it right on that one.

Let’s get on to some scouting, shall we…

#0   DARRIAN BEAVERS     LB     Cincinnati    6’3/250      Make way for an emerging star and Draft prospect. In the second half of the game with Indiana, BEAVERS was absolutely dominant. As dominant as one man can be with 22 players out on the field. BEAVERS escaped the cesspool that UCONN has become, via the transfer portal,  and has worked his way up the depth chart for the Bearcats. He looked good in 2020, finishing second on the team in tackles. Last Saturday, he got my attention initially with a few first half plays, and the realization what an astute, physical specimen he was. But as Cincinnati took over the game in the 2nd Half, he was everywhere making plays, and literally punishing people. He was instrumental at controlling the line-of-scrimmage with some physical tackling, and even put on pocket pressure multiple times. I also caught him dropping into shallow pass coverage, with good results. For the game, he recorded 9 Tackles, 6 solo, 2 TFL, I sack, and a Fumble recovery. And to be honest, that doesn’t even begin to tell of his total impact on the game. I would expect that he will post some seriously good performance numbers at the Combine, regardless of the format involved. From off my Board and into my Top 100, and it is still September.


#3  MALIK CUNNINGHAM    QB     Louisville     6’1/200         There is just something about Cunningham that catches my eye every time I watch him out there leading a mediocre Louisville squad. And yes, I imagine it has something to do with the similarities to LAMAR JACKSON that I see when I watch him take off and create. No, he is not LAMAR, and is not going in the Top 100, never mind Round 1. But he is a double threat athlete with his arms and/or legs. He also seems to have evolved nicely in his overall decision making in the past two seasons. The Cardinals puled their record to over .500 (2-1) with the home win over a solid UCF team. And CUNNINGHAM was the star. With his arm, he went 23/38- 60.5%- 265 yds- 1 TD- 1 INT. He also carried the ball 13 times for another 99 yards and 2 rushing TD’s. He inspired his teammates and fired up the home crowd with his playmaking. Keep your eyes on this guy for the rest of the season. He’s working on being a solid Day 3 QB Draftee.


#18     J.T. DANIELS     QB     Georgia   6’3/210      Like many college QB’s in recent years, DANIELS started early (@USC), got hurt (knee) and transferred because he lost his job (to SLOVIS) while rehabbing. After a delayed start in 2020, he came on to lead the Bulldogs to big things late in the 2020 season. He completed 67.2% of his throws for 10 TD’s and 2 INT’s. He was locked in to be the UGA starter entering 2021. He did nothing to tarnish his late season numbers from last year, as he passed 23/31- 74%- 303 yds- 3 TD’s- 1 INT in a sterling effort against an overworked Gamecocks Defense. He shows some mobility to extend plays and an accurate arm. He throws with touch, although deep trows are not his forte’ right now. He seems poised for a big year, with lots of W’s and great stats. I have him as a clear First Rounder in 2022, and how high he goes (Top 10?!) is totally up for grabs, with his on-field success. He has 2 years of eligibility left, but with a high projection, I tend to believe he will go for the dough and declare in January.


#5    KAIIR ELAM    CB     Florida     6’2/195    If you look at rosters around the NFL these days, you just might be able to proclaim that the Florida Gators might have a solid claim to be labeled DBU. They are putting secondary prospects into the NFL every year now. This year should be no exception, and you can count me in as feeling that ELAM may just be the best CB prospect in this year’s DB class, with all deference to DEREK STINGLEY/LSU. His size is outstantding and he looks/plays fast enough to cover just about any wideout. He can also be physical, and will help with tackling in run support. He shows very good ball skills both in locating and getting to the throw. He gives receivers fits with his make-up speed and is likely to get more than his share of 50/50 throws. Against an always talented Alabama passing attack, and receiving group, he was credited with 4 tackles, 3 passes defensed and 1 INT.  His season is off to a great start. I see a very good chance of ELAM being the first CB off the board in Round One, next April.


#86    PEYTON HENDERSHOT    TE     Indiana   6’4/254    Last Fall I watched Indiana on 3 occasions while they marched to a 6-1 regular season record, then lost a tight game to Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl. It was clear that HC TOM ALLEN did indeed have something special going on within the Hoosiers football program. In 2 of the 3 games I watched  I made sure to watch the performances of TE HENDERSHOT. He had the look of a good player, but his performances said otherwise. He got very little separation in his route running, and didn’t block worth a damn. His hands were inconsistent and by the end of the season he he had tallied only 23 catches. I basically wrote him off as a failed prospect. Time for a second chance to assert himself. He looked like a totally different player in the game with Cincinnati, which has a top notch college secondary. He gathered in 6 receptions for 60 yards and 1 TD. I saw only one clear drop on his part, and though not ferocious, I actually caught him blocking on several occasions. He’s a bit bigger, up to over 250 from reported 240, in last year’s program. And actually garnered some yardage after several of his catches. He is not going to rank Top 10, in a very strong TE group this year, but if he is going to show more of what he did in this game throughout the season, he should have a shot at being drafted on Day 3. Good progress on his part.


#73    EVAN NEAL   OT     Alabama      6’7/350     How about if I said to you that NEAL is a better, more efficient overall blocker than anyone along the OL that was drafted out of Alabama last April? I mean it. He uses his length and athleticism to provide all-around blocking in either the run or passing attack. He is so long and tall that he looks slim, even at almost 350 lbs. He looked totally calm and collected carrying out his assignments, whether in the passing game or running attack. He’s more technician than bully-blocker at this stage of his career. And for today’s pass-first NFL, that works just fine. He’s a pleasure to watch, and reminds me some of TYRON SMITH, USC/COWBOYS. He comes into this season as a First Round lock, and may find himself being the first OL to be Drafted next Spring. His game performances, and program pedigree, give him an early edge. And I saw nothing to tarnish those jumping-off points in his blocking against Florida.


Since I am in a contrarian mood (you did catch that, right?), I am offering up, with all sincerity, a couple of twofers for your consideration, as Rod Serling would have said, more or less.

The first is from the CINCINNATI @ INDIANA game, which featured some exceptional action and some high end pro prospects in uniform. I felt like I was watching the best pair of CB’s in college football in Cincinnati’s shut-down Corners GARDNER & BRYANT.

#1   AHMAD GARDNER  6’2/200      If you missed seeing GARDNER totally disrupt the IU passing attack, I strongly urge you to get a look at game footage and check him out. He looks long and lean, but he has natural strength at 200 lbs. He also has sure hands to either break up or intercept throws. With Cincy’s front seven, GARDNER had no need to play a big role in run stop support, but he does not back down in general. He had 28 tackles in 10 games last season to go along with his coverage work that netted 6 PBU’s and 3 INT’s. Against IU, he got 1 PBU and 1 INT. Most teams, including IU in this game, just don’t try to pick on GARDNER very often. He’s a sure thing First Round CB.

#7   COBY BRYANT      6’1/198        Teams have to throw at someone, so by default BRYANT sees a lot more throws his way on game day than GARDNER. And I would be the first to admit that he is not the player that GARDNER is, but he’s damn good, and I think he has good upside. Last season he had 7 PBU’s and 4 INT’s. Against IU, he was credited with only 1 PBU, but he still battled all day. You have to keep in mind that PENIX, HOOSIER QB, only complete 17 passes all day, out of 40 throws. He also had 2 TD’s, but 3 INT’s. His receivers were covered much of the day, especially in the second half. BRYANT was tested but held is own.

These two guys help make the CINCINNATI secondary almost impenetrable, and IU has a pretty solid Offense against most teams. As I said, GARDNER looks like a First Rounder, shortly after ELAM is taken. The less refined BRYANT may have to wait until early Day 3 to be selected, but I see both of them starting in the NFL in short order.


Later, I found myself watching the early season SEC East showdown between SOUTH CAROLINA and GEORGIA. The mother lode of talent that UGA HC Kirby Smart has assembled may in fact surpass the talent at Nick Saban’s program. It is my considered opinion that the best DT duo in the country plays for the Bulldogs, in JORDAN DAVIS & DEVONTE WYATT. This pair dominates the line-of-scrimmage, even in a system of DL rotational pieces that somewhat limits the snaps these two receive each game. These two may even rival a pair of Georgia DL who dominated football a while back by the names of SEYMOUR & STROUD.

#99    JORDAN DAVIS    DT    Georgia     6’6/340   A monstrously huge human being and athlete. Every time I see him, whether in uniform or out, “massive” is the word that pops into my mind. He controls the line-of-scrimmage and can occasionally put on the burst to bully through a gap and penetrate to the ball, or the pocket. Against South Carolina, he recorded 2 tackles and 1/2 Sack. But don’t be confused by those paltry numbers. Watch a Georgia game or two and notice the tackles being amassed by their LB group. Quite often, it is DAVIS, and partner WYATT, who eat up multiple blockers and allow those LB’s to head straight to the ball. I noted the passing of former LIONS DT ROGER BROWN, and my mind immediately likened DAVIS to BROWN, who at just 300 lbs. was a giant compared to most 260 lb. DL in the 60’s. ALEX KARRAS, partnering with BROWN, got the headlines for penetrating opponents’ backfields, but much of that was BROWN taking up multiple blockers to clear a path for KARRAS. DAVIS is a first round talent, and the question becomes how high.

#95    DEVONTE WYATT   DT  Georgia     6’3/315   WYATT gets a load of credit for improving his play year after year, to approach DAVIS’ excellence. Both he and DAVIS sought extra conditioning and dietary planning help from the UGA Training Staff last off-season to improve their quickness, stamina and strength. And it appears to be working. WYATT is still no DAVIS, but he makes more and more plays every season as a Bulldog. Against the Gamecocks, WYATT also had 2 Tackles including 1 TFL.  Watch game tape to see instant replays during games and you may notice how often WYATT appears in pursuit of the ball around the line-of-scrimmage. Luv his story and his motor. His target would appear to be reaching Top 100 prospect status, thus putting him in the 3rd Round of the Draft.


Sleepers to watch for…

#4    NOLAN SMITH  LB   Georgia    6’3/235    Another athletic big time recruit who gets to play in a rotational LB scheme. He got hot against the Gamecocks, with 7 solo Tackles, 2.5 Sacks & 1 Forced Fumble. Who’s turn in the UGA front 7 this coming weekend?

#24    JEROME FORD    RB    Cincinnati   5’11/215     Took a while for the Bearcats to get rolling, but he helped them dominate the 2nd Half vs. IU, rushing 20 times for 66 yards and 2 TD’s. A strong runner with very good balance to absorb hits. Inside attack weapon.

#77  CALEB JONES    OT   Indiana  6’8/350    This big guy is still developing, but looked very solid blocking a tough Cincy D. Showed good footwork and natural knee bend in his pass-pro.

That’s it for this week kiddos. I’ll find some more guys to talk about after this weekend’s action.