Two games kind of stand out this weekend. Firstly, Baylor’s defense did a great job boosting Geno Smith’s Heisman campaign. Then Georgia and Tennessee, perhaps inspired by the efforts of WVU and BU, decided they’d give the defense a weekend off too.
Geno Smith gaining momentum
No prizes for guessing who’s the Heisman front-runner at this stage. Geno Smith scored eight passing touchdowns against Baylor, recorded 656 yards, completed 45 passes and even added 31 yards rushing. After four games he has 21 total touchdowns and zero turnovers. Tougher games are on the horizon and he’s going to have to avoid the occasional off-day he experienced last year (see: Syracuse) but there’s no doubting he’s a talented quarterback with pro-potential. His deep accuracy has always been pretty good and he’s above average in most of the key areas – arm strength, athleticism, accuracy and field IQ. He does everything pretty well and when you look at him physically, you wonder if he’s only scratching the surface of his potential. Realistically he could improve his upper body strength without getting too big to improve his throwing velocity even further.
In terms of the draft, perhaps the most important thing isn’t so much how well Smith is playing – but the way other quarterbacks aren’t. Matt Barkley hasn’t been at his best in the last two weeks. Tyler Wilson’s season is imploding at Arkansas. Logan Thomas lost again today and won’t declare. Aaron Murray looks sharp but lacks the physical tools to make him a top pick. Right now Smith is the only guy with any momentum. Teams will realise he’s playing in a prolific scheme, but it’s the same scheme that pushed soon-to-be 29-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden into the first round. If he can keep winning and keep up the production, Smith will be in contention to be the first quarterback off the board.
Of course, it helps having a pair of talented wide outs. Tavon Austin again looked spectacular – recording 14 catches and 215 yards plus a couple of scores. In the last two games he has 27 catches, five touchdowns and 394 yards. Austin could be Smith’s answer to Kendall Wright and certainly the RGIII-to-Wright connection helped both players in the 2012 draft. For all Austin’s lack of size, he’s an electric playmaker. Don’t sleep on the other WVU wide-out Stedman Bailey. He also lacks size at around 5-10, but it’s hard to ignore a 13-catch, 303 yard performance including five touchdowns. Crazy numbers.
And while we’re talking about receivers, let’s also touch on Terrance Williams at Baylor. We highlighted him over the summer and he’s started the year well – culminating in an even better yardage display than Bailey this afternoon. He had 17 catches against WVU, 314 yards and two touchdowns. He has 667 yards and six touchdowns in four games. There might not be a Julio Jones or A.J. Green among the 2013 receiving class, but there’s a fair amount of depth.
Georgia’s defense struggles, apart from one player
Alec Ogletree has missed games at Georgia for a variety of reasons. He missed a game in 2010 through suspension after being arrested and charged with misdemeanor theft stemming from an incident involving a stolen scooter helmet (OK….). He missed six games in 2011 with a broken foot. Georgia suspended him again this year for four games after he failed a drugs test. This is a guy with baggage. This is also a guy who can play the linebacker position very, very well.
On a night where defense was an afterthought, Ogletree stood out. More so than superstar pass rusher Jarvis Jones who was a non-factor, or the massive interior presence of Jonathan Jenkins. He led the team in tackles on the night and played a solid game without error. He also flashed great athleticism, charging from sideline-to-sideline and tipping a pass at full stretch into the hands of safety Damian Swann. The off-field concerns are a major red flag, especially for a guy who will likely be expected to make a lot of defensive calls at linebacker. Even so, it’s hard to ignore him when he plays like this. Put the guy in a good locker room and he’s going to be a great pro.
Jarvis Jones struggled to have an impact and it’ll raise concerns that others have voiced in the past. He’s had dominating games in his career, but rarely on the big occasions. When his team needed plays on defense he couldn’t avoid double teams or find a way to get involved. Tennessee has one of the best overall offensive lines in college football with legit pro-talent, but Jones still needs to flash in a game like this. He’ll have plenty of other opportunities in 2012 to prove this was just an off-night.
On the other side of the ball, Aaron Murray continues to impress. He had an interception on a tipped pass, but he looked assured apart from that. I particularly liked his decision making and execution shown in tough spots – at one stage he wanted to throw deep down the right but rejected it, moved inside and threw a dart into a tight window. The receiver didn’t get the pass but it was a perfect throw and decision. He’s not a bad athlete but he’s more mobile than athletic. He hasn’t got ideal physical attributes but he has plenty of zip when required, but he’s probably maxed out in that sense. Can he be effective at the next level? It’s something I’m still trying to work out, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
It was an odd night for Tennessee’s offense, lurching between elite and nightmarish equally. They ended the game with three Tyler Bray turnovers. Bray is a natural passer who looks really impressive at times, throwing bombs around the field. He’s got a bit of Brock Osweiler to his game with an awkward throwing motion and he’s tall and thin. He’s much more erratic than Osweiler, who actually had a good college career until the wheels came off at Arizona State. The best way to describe it is – he has the Jay Cutler disease. Natural passer, looks great on form – but he has moments in a game where he falls apart and he can’t get it back. Cutler, technically, has always been on a different level because Bray is slingy with his release, he gets into difficult throwing positions due to bad footwork and he too often steps backwards before throwing off-balance. He won’t get away with that when scouts watch the tape.
Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson showed the best and worst of his game on the night. In the first half he had a horrendous drop on a deep pass, beating his man and needing only to catch the ball for a long touchdown. The concentration dipped, he dropped the football and it was a huge error. Last week he practically disappeared from the Akron game after a mistake led to a pick-six, and the same almost happened again tonight. He had just two catches – both in the dying embers of the game – for 31 yards in safe coverage. And just when you’re ready to write the guy off as a possible high pick, he runs a reverse to the house for a 46 yard touchdown. He’s an extreme playmaker with the ball in his hands, physically he’s superior to any other 2013 eligible receiver. And yet you still feel he’s a long way away from being an effective pro. He’s not a mature guy and maybe that has an impact on the little mental mistakes? Even so, he has incredible potential. He’s just a risky project.
It wasn’t a good night for Justin Hunter, who was ignored for most of the game. He ended with three catches for 46 yards. Tonight’s showing won’t convince anyone he’s back to 100% after recovering from a serious knee injury.
We highlighted Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson this week – and he was at it again today. He had nine tackles, forced a fumble and recorded a sack against Central Florida. He’s a classic three technique prospect and will be rising up a lot of draft boards. One to definitely watch for the Seahawks.
Logan Thomas struggled again and almost certainly won’t declare for 2013. The Virginia Tech quarterback had two picks, two total touchdowns and 242 passing yards completing 17/30. But most importantly, he couldn’t lead a talented VT team past Cincinnati and it’s now two recent defeats to opponents he should be beating. One of the big disappointments of 2012 so far.
Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins did his best to keep up with some of the crazy numbers today. He caught 11 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown as the Tigers won 45-31 at Boston College. Running back Andre Ellington had 25 carries for 131 yards and a score.
Keenan Allen is still suffering with middling quarterback play at California. He had a big 44 yard pass play in defeat to Arizona State, but he ended with just four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. The combine will determine his draft fate.
Tyler Wilson won’t be sending a Christmas card to Bobby Petrino this year. Arkansas is a complete shambles – the latest example a 58-10 defeat to Texas A&M. Wilson threw two bad picks and finished with 29/59 passing, 373 yards and a score. On the plus side, Knile Davis looked sharp on the touchdown pass, sprinting through tackles and looking somewhere back to his best. Unfortunately he also fumbled twice. Receiver Cobi Hamilton kept up his good form with 11 catches for 162 yards. Aggies defensive end Damontre Moore looked superb – he was a terror off the edge in the parts of the game I saw, forcing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and getting a sack. I want to see more of this guy because he has first round potential.
North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams had another sack in a blow-out victory over Idaho. He now has 4.5 sacks in five games. He’s an older guy due to his JUCO roots, but he’s still one to watch. Underrated.
I’ll be watching Ole Miss vs Alabama on Sunday, prior to Seattle’s game at St. Louis.