Credit where it’s due to E.J. Manuel. He put in probably the best performance of his career to inspire Florida State to a big win over Clemson and the Seminoles are now in pole position to win the ACC. However, I still have no confidence in Manuel as a pro prospect. He has all the physical tools you want and certainly he looks the part. In this game he abused a sluggish Clemson defense with some clinical passes – but against a tougher defense the athleticism and arm strength won’t be enough. In the NFL he’s going to need to make quick decisions at the line, he’s going to need to diagnose confusing coverage situations and he’s going to need to progress through reads. He does none of this at the moment and when challenged, often makes poor decisions. He faced no pressure against Clemson and it afforded him the chance to make plays. There will be tougher tests to come for Manuel and he’ll show why, unfortunately, he’s always going to be more of an athlete than a quarterback.
For Clemson, DeAndre Hopkins had a fast start – catching a 60 yard bomb from Tajh Boyd on the opening possession. He got deep, did well to locate the football and win it competing against the defensive back. Hopkins ended with five catches for 88 yards. Andre Ellington will have a role in the NFL too – he only had 55 yards from 14 carries but he added a spectacular touchdown reception from a double pass – breaking off a 52-yard run. He had 4 total catches for 87 yards. Bjoern Werner didn’t have much of an impact as a pass rusher for Florida State but he did make one key open field tackle and he also recorded a pass deflection. This is the first time in 2012 Werner hasn’t recorded a sack. Clemson’s up-tempo quick-hitting offense didn’t really allow much of a pass rush.
We published tape of Manti Te’o vs Michigan State yesterday, but the Notre Dame linebacker was even better against Michigan yesterday. He had two interceptions and a forced fumble in a 13-6 victory. Luke Kuechly was the 9th overall pick this year because of athleticism, intangibles and the way he churned out 100’s of tackles in his college career. Kuechly was never a big playmaker though, rarely impacting games for his team. Te’o isn’t the same kind of athlete, but he has more of an X-factor. For me he’s the superior player.
Georgia’s Jarvis Jones didn’t play against Florida Atlantic last week, but he returned in a 48-3 victory over Vanderbilt and recorded yet another sack. In three games he has 4.5 in total and could easily be the first player drafted next April depending on need. Quarterback Aaron Murray continued his possible Heisman charge with 18/24 passing for 250 yards. He had three total touchdowns and zero turnovers. Murray is only around 6-0/6-1 in height and he can be very streaky, but he’s started well this year. If quarterbacks like Tyler Wilson, Tyler Bray and Landry Jones continue to struggle, he could easily develop into a first or second round pick.
Whatever Logan Thomas is doing right now, it isn’t working. Virginia Tech rebounded after a bad loss to Pittsburgh last week, beating Bowling Green 37-0. However, Thomas completed just 11/26 passing for 144 yards. He had an interception too – but on a positive note had three total touchdowns and 65 rushing yards. Even so, this appears to be another mixed performance. It’ll be an upset if he declares for 2013 in this form.
It was a better day for Geno Smith at West Virginia. This was the Mountaineers toughest game so far and they squeezed through 31-21 against Maryland. Smith ended with 30/43 passing for 338 yards and three touchdowns. However the big star of the day was Tavon Austin – 13 catches, 179 yards and three touchdowns. Austin is a potential first round pick as an explosive playmaker. We’ll take a closer look at him over the next few days but he has a little DeSean Jackson and Percy Harvin to his game. You can see Smith’s tape from the game at the top of this article. Obviously this also includes Austin’s 13 catches. Take a look, because as discussed we’ll come back to this guy later in the week.
The honeymoon period is over for Jim Mora – and to some extent for talented running back Jonathan Franklin. After exploding into the new season, he managed just 45 yards from 12 carries against Oregon State as UCLA lost 27-20. Tight end Joseph Fauria had two catches for 20 yards. I’ll watch the tape of this one later in the week.
Marcus Lattimore had his most productive day since returning from injury. The South Carolina running back had 85 yards from 21 carries with two touchdowns against Missouri – but he also added 60 yards from seven receptions. If he can keep building momentum on an unbeaten team, his stock will rise. The Gamecocks won comfortably 31-10.
Somehow, Washington State lost 35-34 to Colorado. Marquess Wilson had another big night, registering five catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns. It’ll be no consolation for Mike Leach. Colorado were 17 down with 7:22 to play and winless until this week.
Underrated UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams had another sack as the Tar Heels defeated East Carolina 27-6. Williams has 3.5 sacks in four games. He’s a strong interior presence against the run but he can penetrate and rush the passer. He’s scheme diverse and should be an early pick next April.
Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson maybe came down to earth a bit this weekend. He had only two receptions for 20 yards and two rushes for 12 yards in a 47-26 win over Akron. He was also partly responsible for a pick six early in the game – losing position and not being physical enough to shield the ball. That could be the reason he failed to record any stats in the first half, with Bray zoning in on other targets. Patterson is still raw and needs to rebound in the next game. It was a better day for Justin Hunter with eight catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Bray finished with 27/43 passing, 401 yards and four touchdowns. It’ll be interesting to see if Bray favours Hunter over Patterson going forward. The reverse was true in previous weeks.
Arkansas is a mess. A complete shambles. Poorly coached, the Bobby Petrino scandal has hit them harder than anyone could expect. They were beaten again yesterday 35-26 by a superior Rutgers team. Tyler Wilson’s stock is sinking. He completed 20/39 passing for 419 yards and three scores, but he also had two interceptions. But perhaps most damaging is the way his team failed to respond to the ‘quitters’ speech last week. If you’re going to call out your teammates, it has to have an impact. On a more positive note, Cobi Hamilton had 10 catches for an incredible 303 receiving yards and three touchdowns. It was another long day for Knile Davis however, who had just 17 yards from ten carries.
Matt Barkley is going through a poorly timed slump. Against California he was OK, but had another two interceptions to go along with two scores, 192 yards and 22/34 passing. USC’s usually functioning offense is a bit off-cue at the moment, largely due to issues on the offensive line. Here’s the thing though – Barkley has to be able to adapt to that. Teams picking early next year will need to feel confident that he can operate in not-ideal circumstances. He’s too technically talented to drop too far, but it’s this kind of scenario that makes him a top-10 pick rather than the top-1 pick. He doesn’t have the physical tools to carry a team that isn’t performing. And this is what we’ve always said about Barkley’s stock – some teams will love his poise, accuracy and field intelligence. Others will wonder whether he’s physically gifted enough to warrant a very high pick. Robert Woods only had 5 catches for the day for 30 yards.
Landry Jones is still playing like Landry Jones. Oklahoma lost at home to Kansas State yesterday 24-19, with Jones going 28/43 for 298 yards, one touchdown and one interception. However, we’re seeing the same old issues with pressure, the same inability to react when the play breaks down, zero inspiration and awareness. At one point Jones rolled out of the pocket and locked onto a receiver downfield, took an age and was sacked – forcing a fumble which was returned for a short touchdown. Its plays like that he should be avoiding at this stage in his career. He started last season as a mid-round talent and 12 months on, things aren’t getting any better.
I’m going to watch the LSU/Auburn tape later this week, but I did notice that through four weeks Barkevious Mingo is sackless. That has to be some concern for a speed pass-rush specialist whose only opposition so far has been North Texas (blowout), Washington (blowout), Idaho (blowout) and Auburn (close victory). Sam Montgomery, in comparison, has two sacks. Corey Lemonier on the other hand is going from strength to strength. I did watch a bit of the Auburn game last night and he was flying around making plays. He had two sacks on the night – now five for the season against tough opponents like LSU, Clemson and Mississippi State. His stock is flying up the boards. He might be the best pure pass rusher eligible for 2013 after Jarvis Jones. He’s not a big defensive end and will either transition to a 3-4 OLB or need to play in a system that favours speed vs prototypical size (eg Seattle). Yet Lemonier is one of the fastest risers in college football and is creating a big impression.