Alabama vs Arkansas
We touted the possibility of Alabama vs Arkansas turning into a beat-down, but I’m not sure anyone expected 52-0. ‘Bama knocked the soul out of Arkansas, you could see it visibly leaving the Razorbacks as the game progressed. Tyler Wilson watched on from the sidelines, helpless, and then called out his teammates for quitting in the post-game press conference. It’s hard to tell how that’ll impact his stock. If it inspires Arkansas to hit back after two bad defeats, people will say Wilson was right to criticise. If they continue to struggle, it could be seen as a black mark. Whatever the situation, Wilson will be sitting at home tonight wondering if he made the right choice not to turn pro this year.
The game turned into an exhibition of everything that makes Alabama a great football team – dominating ground game, unforgiving defense and economical passing. It was also a platform for Chance Warmack to show why he might be the best overall talent eligible for the 2013 draft. He was immense today. In fact, ‘immense’ may be too weak to describe what he did to the Arkansas defensive line. Time and time again he would handle an opponent, turning a lineman towards his own goal posts to create a huge running lane. It’s not just that he’s a powerful guy who can out-muscle even the biggest lineman, the technical quality on show was of the highest level. Leverage, hand placement, assignment. He’s mastered the Alabama blocking scheme and he has the physical tools to dominate.
One of the things I was sceptical about with Warmack was pass protection compared to pure straight line run blocking. Well, no issues today. His footwork was just as good as the power up top, and he handled everything Arkansas threw at him. One play stood out – with 3:01 left in the half, he pulls from left guard to right side – hammering two defenders into each other and springing Eddie Lacy for an easy touchdown. Athleticism, technique and power. Chance Warmack is going to walk into the NFL and be one of the best guards in the league straight away. Within a year, he could be the best guard in the league. Alongside UNC’s Jonathan Cooper, two of the best prospects for next year’s draft are interior offensive lineman. Teams should not be afraid to draft them as early as the talent warrants – they deserve to go in the top 10-15 picks.
If you want to dominate on the ground, play tough and use the run game to control the clock – you need a guard like Warmack. He’s right up there with Jarvis Jones and Matt Barkley. He doesn’t play a position as important as quarterback or pass rusher, but he might be the best overall 2013 prospect.
Cornerback Dee Milliner also showed why he’s going to be a top-15 pick with 3:48 left in the first quarter. Arkansas went for a double-pass trick play, with a receiver wide open on the right hand side. The Alabama defense bought the fake, but Milliner reacted immediately and sprinted across the field to break it up. Recovery speed is probably the most important quality in a cornerback and Milliner flashed his range on that play. He’s got the size, he’s got the ability to play run support at a high level. The play highlighted here showed speed and quick reactions. He’s the complete package. He almost had an interception on the very next play – plus a return into the red zone – but the play was called back upon review with the nose of the ball just touching the ground. Make no mistake – Milliner is a top 2013 prospect.
It was a bad day for Arkansas overall and unfortunately Knile Davis isn’t the player we once knew. Not yet anyway. He has time to find some form, but he’s far from the dynamic playmaker we saw prior to a season ending ankle injury last year. Things could get ugly for the Razorbacks after this setback today and last week’s loss against U-L Monroe. Tyler Wilson needs to lift this team.
California vs Ohio State
Ohio State defensive end John Simon had a quiet first half, usually absorbing double team blocks and struggling to have an impact. He hit back in the second half and got a big sack on third down with 5:48 left in the third – just flat out beating the left tackle off the edge, closing on the quarterback and finishing. Simon flashed superb dip and balance to round the corner. He’s not a dominating athlete and he’s not going to blow anyone with size/speed. He’s a pure football player – reliable, full of effort and he has production. A good team will draft John Simon and they won’t regret it.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins looked good anchoring the run up the middle and had an impressive day for the most part. He leans into the guard, tempts the back into the created hole and fills the gap quickly. There were times where he tried to attack the edge and it was too easy for the tackle – he needs to stay in the middle where he has much more success. He had a big sack towards the end of the game, beating his man for speed with a nice swim move thrown in for good measure. He closed brilliantly and looks like a great athlete for his size. I liked him today. He impressed me more than he had in any other game I’d seen so far. There’s a decent group of defensive tackles this year along with Jonathan Jenkins, Sylvester Williams and Kawann Short.
California receiver Keenan Allen only seemed effective on underneath routes or running short/across. He ended with 80 yards from nine catches, which emphasises how he was used. He doesn’t have a quarterback capable of getting it downfield consistently so he wasn’t able to be much of a playmaker. The biggest play he made was a pass back to the quarterback on a double-throw. He drew a pass interference on 3rd and 20 with the game on the line and 2:06 on the clock, but the drive ended with an interception. Allen was covered by three defensive backs and still drew the flag on a throw-and-hope. Allen’s stock will be determined by his combine work out. He’s big – but can he run a quick time? And will teams buy into the potential if he can? He’s a tough player to judge based on college performance.
Washington State vs UNLV
Receiver Marquess Wilson had a mixed night, but most of it was positive. He got his first touchdown on a crossing route from close in, with the quarterback flipping a well judged pass to the back of the end zone. He’d earlier found separation on a deep ball during the first drive but the quarterback Halliday threw too high. He’s smooth running routes, he gets open. At times he looked really polished. He made a second score for an 81-yard strike. It’s a 3rd and 16 play so difficult to get deep and create separation, but he still managed it. Wilson adjusted to the ball, made the catch and took it home – out-running the defense. He also had a couple of sloppy dropped passes – both could’ve led to touchdowns. There’s enough talent to make Wilson an intriguing prospect, but I do wonder if he’ll end up being a second or third round value pick rather than the top-32 first rounder.
Defensive end Travis Long had a sack on the first UNLV drive, leaping over a blocker to make the tackle. On his second sack, he dipped inside and took on two blockers to get to the quarterback. Long has a knack of making plays and he’s a player I want to see more of. He has four sacks in the two Washington State games I’ve seen this year. Like Wilson, he could end up being a value pick.
Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner had another sack against Wake Forest, taking his total to six in three games. I’m going to review the tape on Sunday, but he’s an exciting prospect who should be a high pick next year should he declare.
I’ve said several times on this blog that I didn’t expect Logan Thomas to declare for the 2013 draft. He didn’t attend the Manning Passing Academy this year, and I just had a feeling he’d last the distance at Virginia Tech. If he has many more games like today, that will become a certainty. He threw three interceptions in a poor defeat to struggling Pittsburgh. He ended with a stat line of 14/31 passing, 265 yards, one touchdown and three turnovers. Virginia Tech are traditionally slow starters and there’s still time to turn things around. Yet Thomas just isn’t doing a good enough job right now and it might be time to scratch him off the list of 2013 prospects. He doesn’t look ready for the NFL and he’ll know that.
Tennessee faded badly against Florida, losing 37-20 despite leading 14-10 at half time. Tyler Bray was, well, Tyler Bray. At times he threw some pretty passes – he scored two touchdowns and registered 257 yards. He also completed just 50% passing and had two interceptions. Receiver Justin Hunter had two bad drops, but also a smart 42-yard play downfield adjusting to the ball after creating initial separation. Cordarrelle Patterson had another big day – eight catches, 75-yards and a touchdown. Patterson could be the best receiver prospect eligible for the draft. He looks every bit a #1 NFL receiver – tall, lean, strong and fast. And because he’s new to college football, you get the feeling he’s only scratching the surface of his potential. I asked Kevin Wiedl of Scouts Inc and ESPN about Patterson – he believes he has a chance to be big time, describing him as “physically a special talent”. He’s a player Seahawks fans should monitor. The one concern I have is maturity.
DeAndre Hopkins had another big day for Clemson – notching seven catches for 95 yards. His production hasn’t suffered despite the return of Sammy Watkins from injury. Hopkins will be generating some interest after his fast start to the new season. Andre Ellington also had another good day at running back, rushing for 59 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
It’ll be interesting to see Geno Smith against tougher opponents in weeks to come. In his first two games he’s barely been tested – and the numbers show that. Against James Madison he scored five touchdowns, connected on 34/39 passing and recorded 411 passing yards. Receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin caught 24 of those 34 passes – Bailey had 173 yards and three scores, Austin 113 and one touchdown. The Dana Holgorsen offense is working smoothly to start the year. If Geno Smith can keep winning, he’ll be a Heisman contender. And he’ll boost his stock.
It turns out Smith was the only big-name quarterback to boost his stock today. We’ve touched on Logan Thomas and Tyler Wilson, but Matt Barkley also had a tough day. USC’s pass protection was superb last year – but against Stanford it was terrible. Barkley barely had any time in the pocket and he struggled as a consequence – he had no touchdowns and was intercepted twice in a gutting 21-14 defeat. He completed less than 50% passing with 253 yards. The Trojans had big ambitions this year, as did Barkley. This’ll be a tough one to take. Robert Woods had five catches for 45 yards.
Wisconsin are struggling this season and they just about edged Utah State 16-14 thanks to a missed field goal with the last kick of the game. Montee Ball again had a heavy workload – and an average below four-yards per carry. He had 37 attempts for the night for 139 yards and a key touchdown. He had a lot of tread on the tires before deciding not to turn pro this year. Running nearly 40 times a game for a bad Wisconsin offense isn’t helping his stock in any way at all.
Manti Te’o lost his grandmother and girlfriend this week, but still played for Notre Dame tonight in a relatively easy win over Michigan State 20-3. Just think about that for a second. Te’o was excellent, all over the field and having an impact. He deserves complete respect for the manner in which he played and conducted himself. There were emotional scenes at the end of the game. He spoke after the game and held himself together. How? He’s a credit to his football team and 32 GM’s tonight want Te’o on their roster next year.