— LSU beat Texas in a highly entertaining contest, punctuated by the performance of Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow. He was a surgeon in the second half, ending with 31/39 passing for 471 yards and four touchdowns. For years LSU were let down by poor quarterback play. This year it could be one of their key strengths. Burrow really looked the part as he sliced Texas open. Every time the Longhorns scored, Burrow would immediately answer. He looked like a pro in this game. If he can keep it going, he’ll end up on the NFL radar.
— LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton is well sized and does a great job tracking the ball in the air. There was further evidence of that in this game. He’s not a face-guarder and he regularly gets his head around to locate the ball in the air. Fulton was beat on an early touchdown. On the previous play he’d judged the throw to perfection — leaping to make a PBU on a shot to the right sideline. Texas went with the exact same call on the next play and Fulton didn’t get deep enough in his drop before leaping for the ball — leaving the receiver wide open to make a catch and run. It’s not overly concerning though. Fulton shows the traits to cross over to the next level — sticky in coverage downfield and on shorter routes. He can kick inside to the nickel. He’s physical and tracks the ball well. The occasional minor error can be rectified by scheme and coaching. The reality is — in Seattle’s scheme he’d never be asked to be in the position he was to get beat on the Texas TD. He’s a promising player within a good looking 2020 cornerback class.
— Jabari Zuniga (DE, Florida) was a player we talked a lot about last season as a possible Seahawks pick. He’s off to a flying start this season. His display against UT Martin on Saturday takes him to 3 sacks and 4.5 TFL’s in just two games. He’s a complete defender and is already taking over the Jachai Polite role as Florida’s main pass-rush threat. Another top pass rusher, Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos, gained half a sack in a big win against Buffalo. South Carolina’s possible first round defensive tackle, Javon Kinlaw, has sacks in back-to-back games to start the season. He had a TFL too in a blowout win vs Charleston.
— I need to watch more of Kenny Willekes (DE, Michigan State). He’s a difficult projection. Will his production translate? How good is he as an athlete? On tape it’s very easy to appreciate his effort and quickness. He’s been a playmaking machine for a while. He’s continued to produce this season despite suffering a bad injury a few months ago. Willekes had two sacks and two TFL’s against Western Michigan.
— For the last few years, Clemson’s defense has made the NFL draft headlines. This year the top prospects are on offense. Receiver Tee Higgins and running back Travis Etienne have immense talent and that showed again against Texas A&M. Higgins is such a fluid, natural receiver. Clemson do a tremendous job coaching up technically and physically gifted receivers. Etienne is a threat as a runner or receiver with an excellent lower-body base to create explosive power and quickness. Both could easily go in round one.
— Coming into the season I spent some time talking about Eno Benjamin (RB, Arizona State). He’s a powerful, gritty running back but he needed to show a bit more in the passing game. Against Sacramento State he had four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown to go with 69 yards rushing. He’s talented and fun to watch.
— Last season we highlighted Maryland running back Anthony McFarland as one to watch. He’s diminutive but fast and explosive. Against Syracuse he had 75 rushing yards on 14 carries and two catches for 45 yards. He added three total touchdowns. He’s a playmaker and someone to monitor this season.
— Alabama were never likely to be threatened by New Mexico State but Tua Tagovailoa confirmed his credentials as the front-runner to go #1 overall next year. He was accurate, comfortable and he’s made a terrific start to the season. He scored four touchdowns in the game before taking a seat. Jerry Jeudy scored three touchdowns and had 103 yards on eight catches. It’s very possible Jeudy lands in the top-10 in 2020. Raekwon Davis recorded a TFL in an easy 62-10 win. Alabama always wait a few weeks to play anyone worthwhile.
— Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn) didn’t have a great start against Oregon last week. He collected a TFL in a modest win against Tulane. Ohio State’s Chase Young had 1.5 sacks and 1.5 TFL’s against Cincinnati. Running back J.K. Dobbins — a SPARQ freak who led the Nike event in 2016 with a 146.76 score — is off to a great start this season and had 141 yards on 17 carries plus two touchdowns. Ohio State’s offense will be tough to stop this year and Georgia transfer Justin Fields is fitting in very well at quarterback (although it’s a scheme that is very kind to QB’s).
— I’ve been a fan of Steven Montez (QB, Colorado) for a long time. He’s underrated. He led his team on a fantastic second-half comeback to beat Nebraska in overtime. That included a 96-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker and a superb corner-of-the-end-zone throw with seconds left to tie the game. Montez can be streaky at times but he’s big, mobile and has a terrific arm. Laviska Shenault was quiet again. He had five receptions for 31 yards and three runs for six yards. I said last week he didn’t look anywhere near his best. Is there an issue?
— We highlighted Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue) as a player to watch at the end of last season and I want to try and see more as the weeks go on. Against Vanderbilt he had 13 catches for 220 yards and a touchdown. Purdue won a key game 42-24.
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