Before getting into the college football notes, check out our Seahawks season preview live stream below…
This weekend was my first opportunity to sit down and watch live college football (along with some YouTube streaming). Here are some notes and thoughts:
1. The top quarterbacks are massively overrated
It’s only one game but based on what I saw this week combined with my previous study from last year, I’m not buying into the consensus grading for Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler or North Carolina’s Sam Howell.
Neither player gives me the same feeling Zach Wilson did a year ago. They have their moments, of course. I’m not suggesting they’re totally hopeless. But if I was a fan of a team in the franchise quarterback market, I wouldn’t be looking at the 2022 draft for answers.
At least unless someone new emerges.
Rattler was the second best quarterback on the field on Saturday and was completely outshone by Tulane freshman Michael Pratt.
He finished with two interceptions but it should’ve been three. Rattler’s first pick was a terrible decision, lofting a floated deep ball into double coverage. It was beyond reckless. His second interception was thrown way off target and behind his wide open tight end.
There should’ve been a third. He threw another suicidal pass into thick coverage and just floated it into the air, begging to be picked off. The ref’s threw a flag for a DPI which was one of the worst calls you’ll ever see. The receiver was shoving the defender out of the play and his team mate jumped in to make the pick. If anything, it was OPI.
Rattler has physical tools and he’s very capable of extending plays. Yet to me he looks like a player who trusts his traits too much. He takes chances and gambles and that won’t cut it against pro opponents. Heck, it nearly cost Oklahoma a game against Tulane.
This was a trend early last season too. I’ve no doubt he’ll settle down as the weeks go on but for me there are big concerns about how he plays the game.
College players throw interceptions. They have bad games and make mistakes. There are different levels of error though. Opponents can make plays, you can be pressured, you can be forced into bad decisions.
Just chucking throws up into double coverage under no pressure? That’s different. Just thinking ‘ah f-it’ and lobbing one up? You can’t just do that. Having a play design where the TE is your first or second easy read and you throw it late and five yards behind him? Not good.
With Rattler, I just get the impression this is what he is. A toolsy player who takes chances. When the risks come off, great. When they don’t, we get a lazy, mistake-riddled performance like today that almost costs his team a game.
On the other hand, Pratt was poised, accurate, laid everything out for his team and almost pulled off the upset. He had great command of his offense and made the right decisions. He will be one to watch going forward.
Meanwhile, Howell and North Carolina were handily beaten by Virginia Tech on Friday. To me, Howell is a case of a player being elevated by internet scouts purely because he earned the starting role as a true freshman. It catches attention, people take notice. It’s assumed he must be something special but he’s not as good as some think.
He has a reasonable arm but he’s not elusive. He showed well on some quarterback keepers in this game but you’d never mistake him for a dynamic runner. There’s very little improvisation when the script breaks down.
I’m concerned about his accuracy and consistency. Too often he frets in the pocket under serious pressure and drops his eyes. I don’t think his tools are so good that you look beyond any of this.
To me he’s a fairly regular mid-round draft pick. At least with Rattler there’s the possibility of him working things out over time. Howell to me just appears pretty average.
Liberty’s quarterback Malik Willis is a very intriguing player and one to keep an eye on. There were a lot of flashy ‘wow’ plays on tape in 2020. There were also some ‘WTF’ moments and some serious technical issues he needs to address.
2. A safety worth a mention
Tulane’s Larry Brooks, take a bow. He delivered the toughest, most dynamic clean hit we’ve seen in years against Oklahoma. It was absolutely textbook — with superb striking range, power and it knocked an opponent out of the game.
Big hits are a thing of the past for the most part — and understandably so as the game transitions to a post-concussion-controversy era.
So it was such a delight to see Brooks deliver such a crushing blow — and that the refs acknowledged it by keeping the flags off the ground.
Furthermore, he also recovered an onside kick that gave Tulane an opportunity to win and he recovered a fumble which would’ve been crucial had it not been for the dumb flag on Rattler’s third pick.
Brooks is 6-0 and 200lbs and a junior. I’ll be keeping an eye out for him.
3. Kayvon Thibodeaux has an injury
With a mediocre looking quarterback class in 2022, Oregon’s star pass rusher had a pretty clean route to being the #1 overall pick with a good season.
However, after an impressive start including an early sack…
— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) September 4, 2021
…he left the game with an injury and re-emerged on the sideline wearing a walking boot.
It’s reportedly an ankle injury which isn’t good news.
Meanwhile another pass rusher had a bright start to the season. Ohio State’s Zach Harrison had a tremendous sack/fumble against Minnesota, leading to a scoop-and-score touchdown for impressive defensive tackle Haskell Garrett.
The pair have a chance to really elevate their stock this season.
Aidan Hutchinson (DE, Michigan) also started with four tackles and a sack against Western Michigan. Provided he can stay healthy, Hutchinson has every chance to be a high pick next year. He has everything — great athleticism, size, power and the nouse to work out a route to the quarterback. Terrific talent.
Buckeye receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson both were productive too. Olave had four catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson recorded five catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. On the score, Wilson created a country mile of separation on a 56-yard throw-and-catch.
That said, I have reservations about their testing speed. They will have productive seasons, no doubt. But if they test at the combine I wouldn’t expect the kind of times that will have scouts salivating. Wilson ran a 4.61 forty at SPARQ. Olave only managed a 4.73.
4. A pair of running backs to keep an eye on
Kenneth Walker is 5-10 and 210lbs. He transferred from Wake Forest to Michigan State and on his MSU debut ran for 264 yards against Northwestern.
He scoured four touchdowns and had 11.5 YPC.
Walker has the size Seattle likes, he ran with power and explosion and showed breakaway speed on a long run to start the game. He’s one to watch moving forward, although he didn’t test at SPARQ so I don’t have any numbers as an early gauge.
Last week I highlighted UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet as one to watch. In a big win against LSU he again impressed, running for 117 yards on just 11 carries and a score.
He’s working in a backfield rotation which limits his snaps but so far he’s making the most of his opportunities with a tough, physical running style. Tacklers bounce off him, he has great balance and quickness. He accelerates quickly to get through the gears and he appears to have good vision to read opportunities and the physical talent to take his chances.
He also had a 35-yard reception in the game.
I’m a big fan. He’s a Michigan transfer and a former four-star recruit. He’s originally from California and seems to be settling back in on the west coast. Take the opportunity to check him out when you get a chance.
5. Tight ends make an impression
Two of the leading TE’s for 2022 were productive albeit in losing efforts.
Cade Otton had eight catches for 82 yards in Washington’s embarrassing effort against Montana. It’s hard to think what UW’s offense would look like without Otton.
Jake Ferguson had nine catches for 52 yards as Wisconsin lost to Penn State. Ferguson made one incredible diving, one-handed catch.
Both players warrant close attention this year.
Iowa’s Sam La Porta is someone I haven’t studied closely yet but will do. He’s highly rated by many. He had five catches for 83 yards as Iowa hammered Indiana. He’s difficult to bring down and had one play by the right sideline where he broke two tackles and dodged another for a few extra YAC.
The play of the day by a tight end, however, goes to UCLA redshirt junior Greg Dulcich. He scored on a 75-yard run-and-catch where he dodged one open-field tackle, sprinted down the sideline and then hurdled another defender to fall into the end zone. He had two other impressive plays too. I’m intrigued to see more.
6. Something my wife said
The Louisville logo flashed onto the screen at one point on Saturday. My wife, who wasn’t initially watching the college football, spotted and laughed loudly.
“Look at that bird! With its teeth and its beak!’
I’d never noticed until now. Why the hell does it have teeth!??!
7. Quick-hitting thoughts
— I am not convinced Justyn Ross at Clemson is as good as the internet believes. He started the season with four catches for 26 yards as Clemson toiled and struggled against Georgia’s ferocious and creative pass rush. It was pleasing to see Jordan Davis standing out again for Georgia. He’s not just a huge, space-eating defensive tackle. He’s more athletic than people realise and he’s capable of dominating the interior. He’s one of the best players in college football.
— Highly rated LSU pass rusher Ali Gaye also had a sack against UCLA, engaging with the right tackle and hand-fighting to disengage before finishing to the QB. Safety Eli Ricks is one to watch for the 2023 draft. He had four picks last season and had a good interception against UCLA — reading the play superbly. He has good size. One final note from this game — the commentator describing Caleb Johnson picking off Max Johnson as a ‘Johnson on Johnson crime’… was… interesting. At least he only called it a house call when Kayshon Boutte scored his second touchdown. Boutte, for what it’s worth, looks like a real talent. He had nine catches for 148 yards and three scores.
— It’s going to be an absolute precession for Alabama this season.
If you saw any prospects worth checking out this season jot their name down in the comments section. I have a few other games saved on my system to get into in the coming days.
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