CFB week 10: Day of the defensive tackle

November 4th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

If you like quality defensive tackle play, Saturday was a treat.

Alabama’s Quinnen Williams put on a performance as good as you’ll ever see from a college DT. Auburn’s Derrick Brown dominated against Texas A&M. Clemson’s Christian Wilkins also put on a tremendous show — aided by his team mate Dexter Lawrence.

Let’s start with Williams.

Alabama beats LSU 29-0

There’s only one team capable of stopping Alabama this year. It’s Clemson. Just put them both in the playoff final now.

Quinnen Williams is a redshirt sophomore and not many Alabama players declare after a single season as a starter. It’ll be interesting to see which way Williams is leaning because against LSU, he was unblockable.

In the first half he took on a double team, disengaged and then sacked the quarterback for a six yard loss. On the second play of the second half he shook off the center with ease and sprinted into the backfield before dumping the QB on his backside.

In possibly the worst play call of the night, LSU had their quarterback run a QB draw up the gut. It was never on. Williams disengaged his blocker with a fantastic pull/push move and hammered the quarterback for a TFL. The same drive was ended when Williams stunted to the right, shoved off the running back’s attempted block and dumped the QB (who had to try and scramble) at the LOS for no gain.

With 1:34 left in the third quarter, Williams worked along the LOS to pursue the running back and hit him out of bounds. It’s an underrated play that teams will love. Having the athleticism and will to get on the move and stretch out running plays (and make the tackle) is a huge plus.

He had his third sack with 14:14 left in the game. Williams swims to get free of the right guard. The center notices the trouble and steps across to help. So Williams swims him too. He gets into the backfield and throws the QB to the ground. The assist goes to Isaiah Buggs for driving a double team into the quarterback from the edge, forcing him up and into the pocket where Williams was waiting.

I’m still not sure Williams will declare. Not many redshirt sophomores leave Alabama. Yet he’s played well enough this year for it to be a consideration. If he does turn pro, he has every chance of being a very early pick on this evidence.

Buggs and Raekwon Davis also played very well. Buggs had numerous pressures off the edge and also worked well on his snaps kicking inside. Davis, in the fourth quarter, drew a holding call and also shook off a block with a great swim move to force a pressure. Davis’ combination of size and athleticism will secure a place in the top half of round one. Buggs looks like a top-50 type.

Last week we highlighted how well Christian Miller is playing. Here he had one terrific rush against the left tackle to force a punt on third down. He exploded off the snap and ran by the LT before he’d even set his feet properly. He had no chance to halt his path to the QB. Miller also had a nice rush right at the end of the game — beating the tackle and hitting the QB from behind to force an incompletion.

Miller is a fantastic athlete with great quickness. He’s someone to keep in your mind. This isn’t a particularly deep draft class and as long as the health checks are right at the combine — Miller could go earlier than many are projecting.

Mack Wilson, the middle linebacker, benefits from Alabama’s talented D-line. He’s always kept clean. It enables him to roam around and make plays. He ended LSU’s final chance of points with a leaping interception in the end zone. It was a remarkable grab. This might be Alabama’s most talented defensive group, even with all the first round picks from previous years.

LSU played the first half against Alabama without Devin White. A dubious targeting call in LSU’s last game ruled him out for the first two quarters. It got worse. Ten minutes into the game, their second best defender — safety Grant Delpit — was flagged for targeting. And yet on review they overturned the call. It felt like a ‘make up’ call for a fortnight ago. Delpit’s hit was worse than White’s. There was absolutely zero reason to overturn it. I don’t want to see Delpit out of the game bu it very much felt like they didn’t want White and Delpit out at the same time. Not that it would’ve made much difference. LSU’s defense is very good but once again they were let down by an impotent offense.

Derrick Brown is legit

In a year dominated by talented defensive linemen, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown is near the top of the list. He was absolutely fantastic against Texas A&M, ending the game with with a sack and 2.5 TFL’s. That barely tells the story of his great day.

In the first quarter he put two offensive linemen on the turf D.J. Fluker style. He consistently controlled the LOS and carried two blockers. When he left the field for the first time as part of the rotation, Texas A&M immediately had a big gain in the running game.

On one play he drove his blocker deep into the backfield then shook him off with an inside spin move to pressure the quarterback. With 10:32 left in the game, Brown shot the A-gap and was far too quick for the guard who was desperately trying not to hold. He flew into the backfield, forced a bad throw and the subsequent field goal was missed (proving crucial in the end).

With 4:35 left he took on a guard and the full back at the same time and drove both into the running back to make a stop for no gain.

None of this compares to what should’ve been the play of the day. With 2:31 left, Auburn trailed 24-21. They needed a stop to extend the game. Brown engaged the center at the LOS and bull-rushed him seven yards into the backfield. He drove him straight into the QB’s lap. With his left arm he disengages and hits the QB, forcing a fumble. The ball fell right to a team mate on the D-line and somehow (I’m still not sure how) he didn’t manage to fall on the ball allowing a Texas A&M lineman to recover. Auburn still got the ball back and drove downfield to win the game — but this should’ve been the play. It was a major highlight reel moment for Brown and a play NFL teams will salivate over.

After Auburn took the lead 28-24 with seconds to go, Brown stunted to the outside then leapt into the air to tip a swing pass to the sideline for an incompletion.

This was a masterclass. Brown was aggressive, strong and set the tone. He’s quick and mobile for his great size. He can do it all — absorb blocks, line-up at the one, three or five, shoot gaps with quickness and get-off and drive blockers with a terrific bull rush.

He’s a cast-iron high first round pick and thoroughly deserves a home in the top-20.

Clemson quartet continue to wow

Let’s call it the Deshaun Watson effect. A couple of years ago everyone went cold on Watson. People started to knock him and nitpick. He went from possible #1 overall pick to late first rounder (if not worse). The group think was tiresome. Familiarity was breeding contempt.

It happens every year.

Highly touted prospects who return to school create ridiculous expectations. People expect the world. They’ve heard so much about these players, they expect outstanding performances every week. Maybe even every snap.

We’re now seeing the same thing with Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence. Fantastic prospects who are having great seasons. Yet if you look at the various mock drafts online, you’d think they’d been struggling.

Nonsense.

Today Clemson’s D-line flat out embarrassed Louisville.

Top-45 prospect Austin Bryant started things off with a sack by dominating a tight end. You can’t block Bryant with a TE. For some reason Louisville did it twice early in the game and he won both battles with ease.

Dexter Lawrence quickly followed with a fantastic bull rush, driving the guard into the backfield. Lawrence regularly occupied two blocks to make life easier for his team mates.

On one play with 9:28 left in the first quarter, Clelin Ferrell flew by the left tackle who barely got a finger on him. It was a perfect display of quickness, explosive athleticism and suddenness. Austin Bryant met Ferrell in the backfield after being given the TE as a blocker again. The QB was lucky to dodge both players before being hammered by a linebacker for a two yard loss.

On the next play Christian Wilkins shot through the A gap to make a TFL on the running back. On the same drive, Wilkins shot the B gap and wasn’t fooled by a play-action fake. He used a great rip move to get off his blocker and met the quarterback 10 yards deep in the backfield — forcing a throw away. Clelin Ferrell then blew up a running play, forcing the running back to cut back inside where Christian Wilkins was waiting for another TFL.

With 13:27 left in the second quarter, Wilkins stunted to the outside, got around the right tackle and hit the quarterback forcing a fumble (recovered by Louisville). Wilkins had another TFL when both he and Austin Bryant side-stepped blocks and met the running back in the backfield.

Finally with 13:32 left in the third quarter, Wilkins used a swim move to beat the centre and hit the RB in the backfield for yet another TFL. Two plays later, Wilkins and Ferrell shared a sack. It was a well designed play. Dexter Lawrence worked to the outside from defensive tackle allowing Ferrell to stunt inside. He exploded through the gap created by Lawrence’s unexpected outside move. Wilkins just flat out beat his blocker with speed and a swim move.

If you don’t think these four are playing well and worthy of a high grade, I don’t really know what to say. Ferrell is destined for the top-five. Wilkins is destined for the top-20. Lawrence should be a high pick. Bryant could go in the 25-50 range. Today was a masterclass.

For the second week in a row, Clemson put Wilkins at running back and Lawrence at full back in the red zone. Wilkins scored a touchdown last week. On Saturday it was the turn of Lawrence. He barrelled in for a two-yard score.

Elsewhere…

— Dre’Mont Jones collected another sack in Ohio State’s narrow victory over Nebraska. He’s up to 6.5 for the season — a major improvement on last year.

— Georgia linebacker D’Andre Walker limped out of the Kentucky game early with an ankle injury but thankfully returned to the game. Kentucky’s Josh Allen recovered a fumble following a high snap from the center. He barely had an impact apart from that and on multiple occasions Georgia had success running right at his side of the line (they ended the night with 331 rushing yards). One of the big differences between Walker and Allen is run defense. Walker controls his side of the line, uses his arms well and sets the edge. Allen isn’t as strong vs the run. Georgia DE Jonathan Ledbetter hasn’t had the production this year but he’s a name to keep on your radar. He had his first sack of the season and two TFL’s against Kentucky.

— Drew Lock led Missouri to a big upset win against Florida. He played well. Get ready for the Lock hype. In a year without a clear #1 quarterback, Lock could easily fill the void. Florida’s pass rush was surprisingly stymied by Mizzou, with Jachai Polite recording one TFL and no sacks while Jabari Zuniga didn’t make any plays in the backfield. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson — a safety converted to nickel this year — had seven tackles, a sack and two TFL’s.

— Rashan Gary has missed some time with an injury but he returned against Penn State, recording a couple of tackles. Chase Winovich added to his productive year with another sack, beating the right tackle with a nice B gap pressure. He also recovered a fumble in a blowout win. The combine is vital for Winovich but he looked very quick in this game — quicker than the other times I’ve watched him.

— Zach Allen failed to record a sack or TFL during Boston College’s latest win (vs Virginia Tech) but he did deflect two passes and have two quarterback hurries.

— Florida State lost again but the one consistent performer this year has been Brian Burns. He didn’t record any sacks against NC State but he did manage two TFL’s.

— For the first time this season, Washington State were broadcast on British TV. A lot of people have been asking for a thought on Gardner Minshew recently. It’s my first opportunity to watch him and it’d be unfair to judge solely on one game. There are some things to like. He looks off defenders, makes use of the pocket and seems relatively accurate (although there were some misses too). Yet physically he’s a long way off the ideal, the offense is a whole lot of checkdowns, passes into the flat and bubble screens. You can’t watch this tape and find evidence of 5-7 NFL throws. Minshew appears to have been having a great year and has elevated Washington State and created a high level of excitement in the process. But I’m not sure I just watched a pro quarterback. That said, you’ve got to love his character and energy.

— Washington cornerback Byron Murphy had his first interception of the season against Stanford. Murphy is undersized at CB but he’s sudden, quick to the ball and extremely physical. I’d love to see if he can convert to free safety.

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50 Responses to “CFB week 10: Day of the defensive tackle”

  1. David Ashton says:

    Nice Rob. I agree Quinnen Williams is exciting and the Clemson foursome are frightening.

    Which are the WRs and CBs you think could go top 2 rounds?

  2. AlaskaHawk says:

    This is the worst game I have seen Washington State play (not that I have watched many). Gardner Minshew seemed off in his passes. The defense wasn’t playing well, Cal’s Laird was ripping off a lot of big runs -Seahawks style. One interesting stat – Cal had won this matchup 11 times in the last 13 meetings.

    So it was going to take a massive effort to beat Cal. The defense wasn’t stopping much, more like slowing Cal down. The one interception they made, they fumbled out the back of the end zone and had to give the ball back to Cal at the 20. Youch. Gardner and Wash ST. finally started to look normal during the last drive. Where they quickly moved down field and scored. That last drive was what I remember them usually looking like.

    I still rate Gardner Minshew as a good backup and perhaps one day being a pro starter= similar to path of 49ers new QB.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Well, the new 49ers QB has played one game. Not sure his is a ‘path’ yet. He played a horrendous Raiders team. CJ Beathard might be back in soon.

      Minshew to me looks like an UDFA who will get a camp somewhere. There are things to like. Love his personality too. But not every player is a pro prospect. Minshew was going to Alabama in the off-season to start a coaching career. That might be his path after a camp with a team.

  3. clbradley17 says:

    Rob, what do you think of Jerry Tillery, the 6’6″ 300 lb.+ DL from Notre Dame? Here’s what I found at Walter Football about him:

    “Height: 6-6. Weight: 304.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.80.
    Projected Round (2019): 1-2.

    10/20/18: To open the season, Tillery was phenomenal and dominated Michigan to help Notre Dame to a seven-point win. In 2018, Tillery has 21 tackles with seven sacks and three forced fumbles on the year. He is playing like a first or second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

    8/29/18: According to NFL teams’ preseason data provided by team sources, Tillery checks in at 6-foot-6, 304-pounds with 33.63 inch arms, 10.63 inch hands, and a wingspan of 82 inches. They have him running a fast 40-yard dash at 4.80 seconds.

    Over the past few years, Tillery has played well for Notre Dame and has been active at the point of attack. For 2017, he totaled 47 tackles with nine for a loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Tillery had 37 tackles with three tackles for a loss in 2016. The sophomore played better than the numbers illustrate and caused some havoc in the backfield. Tillery has a good skill set to develop and is capable of compiling more production.”

    Would you prefer us to trade back a few spots and get an extra pick or 2, then pick Wilkins, Tillery or best available DL, especially if the top DEs and DTs are gone before we pick and it drops to the next level of talent until 50 or so? Just going by what you’ve said previous to past drafts about the top talent frequently being in the first 10-20 picks, then it levels off until the middle of round 2 of deep drafts at certain positions; not sure if 2019 will be like that or not.

    Also, who are you looking at for another great blocking TE we could pick up on day 3? #1 TE is probably Albert O at Missouri, but his teammate is a good receiver and excellent blocker – Kendall Blanton. Also from Walter Football:

    “Height: 6-6. Weight: 260.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.77.
    Projected Round (2019): 3-5.

    11/3/18: So far this year, Blanton has 15 receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.

    8/28/18: According to to team sources, some at Missouri like Blanton more than Albert Okwuegbunam. Blanton goes under the radar because Okwuegbunam is such a dynamic receiver, but Blanton is said to be a good receiver in his own right. He is a well-rounded player and a solid blocker. In 2017, Blanton caught six passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. He had 16 receptions for 161 yards and three scores as a sophomore.” And a good article on his blocking, etc.: https://www.kansascity.com/sports/college/sec/university-of-missouri/article220636955.html

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’ve seen games where Tillery has had a major impact and other games where he’s very quiet. I’m about to watch the Northwestern game from yesterday. My thought for him was top-50.

  4. Kenny Sloth says:

    Hard agree on Minshew. I was finally able to dig up some footage and saw the same technical ability, but lack of physical talent along with schemed production makes him a mediocre prospect

    • Rob Staton says:

      Great story, great guy. Hope the Cougs keep their run going. But he is what he is physically. Another highly productive QB in Leach’s system but not necessarily a pro prospect.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        This QB class is pretty disappointing so far. Hopefully we can resign Hundley or are comfortable enough with McGough so we dont have to hear about drafting a backup.

        Maybe McKenzie Milton in Udfa?

        Can’t wait to see what dumb ole UW has in it’s QBs next year

        Tunnel vision Browning has had a monopoly on that spot for too long

  5. Nathan W. says:

    Stanford has some monster tight ends that are worthy of high picks. Fun to see D Law get the rushing TD for Clemson yesterday. Greg Gaines had a pretty awesome interception off a tipped pass as well!

  6. Isaac says:

    Anyone interested in seeing a reunion with Bruce Irvin? Can the hawks afford him?

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’m not sure. Mingo has the SAM/LEO role sorted and Kendricks is coming back soon. You could use Bruce as a situational rusher but they went away from that after 2012 to play him at LB. And this is a fresh start for this team.

  7. JimQ says:

    Rob, don’t know if you saw the W. Virginia vs: Texas game Saturday, it showcased a promising senior QB in West Virginia QB-Will Greer. Greer is having a pretty good season and should be in consideration for a late Rd-1 pick or a fairly high Rd-2 draft pick – at least. Yesterday’s game against Texas would seem to indicate he also has an “it” factor and knows how to “finish” a game. Not a perfect QB but with some good NFL coaching he likely has a lot of upside + he seems to have the + mental makeup that most great QB’s have. Will Greer’s Stats so far in 2018:
    183/261/2618, 69.7% completions, 10.03/YPA, 28-TD’s, 7-INT, 19 sacks, 184.0-QB rating.

  8. Eli says:

    I think it would be a shame if Byron Murphy was transitioned to free safety, although as a UW alum I’m probably a bit biased. I’ve seen him listed as 5’10” to 5’11” and between 180 and 185 lbs. It’s not “freak athlete made in a lab” size, but until we see how he tests and learn about his arm length and other metrics, it’s a little early to say he needs to be moved off a position he’s absolutely dominating. When I watch him play he’s always around the ball, he’s an outstanding excellent tackler (just beautiful form and technique), and despite his size he can absolutely lay people out (go watch him in our game against Utah this year).On top of it he just has that swagger you like to see in a stud CB.

    For reference I looked up the size of some other top corners in the NFL:

    A.J. Bouye – 6’0″ 190 lbs.
    Darius Slay – 6’0″ 192 lbs.
    Casey Hayward – 5’11” 192 lbs.
    Josh Norman – 6’0″ 190 lbs.
    Marshon Lattimore – 6’0″ 192 lbs.
    Tre’Davious White – 5’11” 192 lbs.
    Kyle Fuller – 5’11” 190 lbs.
    Brent Grimes – 5’10” 185 lbs.

    Maybe Murphy needs to put on a few more pounds in the pros, but I think at this point he would be perfectly fine at his size. And given the depth UW has at cornerback and how good of a DB coach Jimmy Lake is, I think we would have seen Murphy transitioned to safety already if UW thought that was the best spot for him.

    I appreciate your analysis Rob, and hope I’m not coming across as disagreeable. Just watch a lot of UW football, and hope that when you watch Byron Murphy you can set aside your desire to see him as a safety and evaluate him for what he is right now, which is a really really good corner.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Well, I didn’t say he ‘needed’ to be moved to free safety. Personally, and it’s an observation I’ve made a couple of times this year, I think he’s well suited to FS. He’s physical and covers ground extremely quickly. He’s sudden.

    • Volume12 says:

      We literally just saw as recent as this past draft a sub 6’0 corner go in the top 5 and he’s been fantastic. Not saying Murphy is a top 5 talent, just agreeing with ya.

      I see a ton of Jaire Alexander in Murphy.

  9. Volume12 says:

    Quinnen Williams ain’t far off of Bosa and Bosa’s great. Every game of his is a clinic.

  10. Volume12 says:

    The f*** is Chris Speilman doing in the booth? Hitting spin moves on senior citizens? Someone come for this man.

  11. Volume12 says:

    I’m washed man. Shawn Springs and Patrick Surtain’s SONS are already collegiate players? Where did the time go?

    Why isn’t Miami DT Gerald Willis getting any love?

  12. cha says:

    Carson, KJ Wright, Rasheem Green active.

    Poona, Naz, Pocic & Prosise inactive.

  13. Volume12 says:

    Teddy is struggling. Big time.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Everyone has started poorly on defense today.

      Let’s not overreact. Feels a bit like people are ready to jump on Tedric every time.

      • Volume12 says:

        It’s unfair because going from ET to Tedric is a downgrade and he’ll always have to live in his shadow, but he hasn’t impressed me at all this season.

        Use to be the biggest jump young players could make would be between year 1-2, but now it’s year 2-3. Hope he keeps developing, if not he is what he is.

  14. Volume12 says:

    Rivers kills this team every time and now he gets to cook against a young secondary.

  15. Pran says:

    Shaq Griffin is getting beat last few games.. Is being #1 getting to his head?

  16. John_s says:

    Carson doubtful in the 2nd half.

    This might be a good time to remind people that Carson never played a full season in college or his first two years in the pros. He’s a fabulous talent but history says he will be nicked or miss games.

    People can hate on the Penny pick all they want but there’s a reason why the Seahawks drafted a RB

    • Rob Staton says:

      Exactly.

      They expected this. This is Chris Carson. He isn’t a 16-game beast like Marshawn. At no point in college or the NFL has been a bell-cow. It’s great that he’s been able to have some excellent games so far this year. But how many games does he miss now?

  17. Volume12 says:

    A throw on 1st down! Can’t believe I just saw that.

  18. AlaskaHawk says:

    Well – I liked the first drive and score. Offense just seemed to go downhill after that. The defense seemed to play better in the second half. What a game! shaking my head. San Diego is a quality opponent, and Seahawks are coming up short.

  19. Pepper says:

    Think today’s game showed the inexperience and youth on this Seahawks team. That’s alright. In a year expected to be a rebuild, retool or whatever, they’ve exceeded expectations. I have been and am looking at this season as developmental – a good start for a new group. Let’s hope they hit just as well in the upcoming draft and make wise extensions.

  20. Volume12 says:

    This game. Ugly, excitement, boring, fun, bad ref crew, good Russ/bad Russ, missed kicks, etc.

    Seattle desperately needs another pass rusher, but also someone in the middle that isn’t gonna get blown back off the ball.

    • FresnoHawk says:

      Definitely need DT’s that won’t get moved around!

      • clbradley17 says:

        I thought the reason we kept Poona Ford as an undrafted rookie is because he’s a rock in the middle who doesn’t get moved around or blown off the ball, but he was a healthy scratch today – only left Jarran Reed and Shamar Stephen at DT. Why not scratch practice squad WR Malik Turner instead?

        LA has 2 very good RBs, and both Gordon and Ekeler averaged 7 or more yards per carry against us. 2019 draft is the deepest in years for D linemen. Let’s draft at least 2 more huge DL who can stop the run and collapse the pocket and will rotate with Reed and Ford.

  21. Volume12 says:

    Troy Aikman aka captain buzzkill. Crying over a celebration? lmao