Ohio State dominate in the trenches
A lot of the talk following Ohio State’s thumping of Clemson will be about Justin Fields’ heroic performance or Trey Surmon’s running.
Yet the big highlight from the game was the play of both their lines.
Surmon had the freedom of the Superdome. He also flashed power, agility and he finished his runs. It was a terrific performance. Yet the O-line dominated up front, bullying Clemson from start to finish.
It’s not that surprising. Long gone are the days of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell. Clemson’s D-line looked small. They had no answer.
Guard Wyatt Davis and center Josh Myers were superb. Davis could easily go in the top-20 and Myers is a possible first rounder too. They pushed Clemson’s overmatched D-line all over the field, creating massive running lanes and keeping an injured Fields relatively clean.
Ohio State recorded 639 total yards including 254 running. When that happens, it’s nearly always because the line dominated and you have the talent to capitalise.
For all the modern day intricacies of football — being able to kick the other teams arse up front still carries a lot of weight.
On the other side of the ball, it was another fantastic performance by Ohio State’s D-line — led by the brilliant defensive tackle pairing of Haskell Garrett and Tommy Togiai.
They play with real intensity up front, can create pressure and absorb blockers. With so much talent at linebacker, Ohio State’s second-level defenders are often free to roam and play clean.
The play of both lines will give the Buckeyes a shot against Alabama.
Sermon makes another statement
The great play of the lines shouldn’t take anything away from Sermon. He’s exploded onto the scene as one of college footballs top skill players.
He was a useful part of their rotation earlier in the season, churning out five or six YPC on around 10-12 carries at the start of the year. A 112-yard performance from just 10 carries against Michigan State seemed to earn him a greater role in the Big-10 Championship game, where he ran for 331 yards against Northwestern.
Here he simply carried on where he left off. Yes — the running lanes were often huge. Sometimes he was six or seven yards downfield before even being confronted by a tacker. Yet he bulldozed his way beyond tackles and has rare, gliding agility for a player who is listed at 6-1 and 215lbs but looks bigger.
He ended the game with 31 carries for 193 yards, adding another 61 as a receiver.
The Seahawks shouldn’t be sheepish about adding at running back every year. The key is to find cheap, serviceable talent at the position and depth. For all the hand-wringing about drafting a runner early, it’s a great way to get cheap club control for four years and a player who can contribute quickly.
Once you start to view draft picks as a mere opportunity to acquire cheap talent for four or five years, rather than a constant search for a decade-long acquisition, the drafting of a running back early simply means a way to get bang for your buck.
The Seahawks have carried four runners all year. Clearly their preferred style comes with a big physical demand. They also struggle when their leading runners are out, as we’ve seen in 2019 and 2020.
With respect to the likes of Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas, they seem to be good guys who can chip in on special teams (and in the case of Homer, pass protect well). They are limited though. When Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde were out earlier this year, they preferred to start Alex Collins and Bo Scarborough off the street than trust Dallas to lead the way.
The Seahawks would be better off filling their depth with players who can actually carry the load if needs be. I suspect they will find a way to retain Carson. Yet as he reaches free agency and with Hyde also out of contract — it would make sense to add a talented runner at some point.
Sermon could be a player to monitor. He had a 35 inch vertical at SPARQ (explosive) and ran a 4.27 short shuttle. There will be questions as to why he never truly delivered at Oklahoma but he’s shown enough this season to warrant a serious look during the draft process. With their lack of picks, the Seahawks will need to look for a rough diamond.
Fields’ performance should make the Dolphins take notice
Trevor Lawrence will go first overall, regardless of what happened on Friday night. The next two quarterbacks — Zach Wilson and Justin Fields — could easily come off the board at #2 and #3.
The Dolphins, who appear set to gain the #3 pick thanks to the Laremy Tunsil trade, should consider adding whoever is left.
Tua Tagovailoa is limited. He always was. At Alabama, he never flashed great physical qualities. He had the luxury of playing behind a hulking O-line, handing off to Najee Harris and throwing to DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle.
I’m not for a second arguing that he was ‘bad’. He just wasn’t special.
We’re seeing that in the NFL too. He’s done fairly well as a starter. Yet it’s not unfair to suggest he has a physical ceiling. Is he ever going to elevate Miami to a level they increasingly appear capable? If you’re the Miami Dolphins, you at least have to be asking that question — even if you retain some faith in a player you drafted in the top-five just a year ago.
Here’s the thing though. This is presumably the last chance Miami will have to draft in the top-five for a long time. If they grade Wilson or Fields highly, don’t they owe it to themselves to consider drafting either?
It’s not really any different to the Cardinals drafting Kyler Murray a year after selecting Josh Rosen. Taking multiple shots to find a franchise quarterback should be praised, not criticised.
Tua has shown more than Rosen did as a rookie. He’s also been hauled off the field for Ryan Fitzpatrick on more than one occasion.
An open competition between Fields and Tua next year wouldn’t be a negative. Both players would likely retain some value too — so you can trade the guy who loses out.
Three new names stand out
This week I’ve been running through the list of players who declared who I haven’t been able to watch so far and three players really stand out.
I was so impressed with USC safety Talanoa Hufanga. There will be concerns about his pure speed (he only ran a 4.74 at SPARQ). Yet the way he reads the field, reacts decisively and tackles/hits with a belting tenacity is top notch.
He’s incredibly physical and delivers some exciting hits. He can rush and blitz as well as anyone I’ve seen in college football over the last few years to create extra pressure. Hufanga plays with real fluidity and directness — he’s just a joy to watch. Testing will determine how early he goes (and if he runs poorly he’ll likely be limited to the middle rounds). I suspect whoever takes him won’t regret it. He has a big-time pro future.
I spent more time studying North Carolina running back Javonte Williams. He’s a lot more suited to the Seahawks than I initially thought.
He broke so many tackles in 2020, finished runs and provided an X-factor throughout. He plays with the physicality Seattle likes and he fits their size preferences at 5-10 and 220lbs.
He set records at UNC this year with 22 total touchdowns.
Williams worked as part of a one-two punch with Michael Carter to deliver 249 yards per game (10th best in the country). Their 35 combined touchdowns was second only to the backs at run-heavy Army and was level with Alabama.
I’ve seen him projected anywhere from round two to round four. Williams needs to be on our radar going into the combine. If he tests well in the vertical and broad jump — he could be someone they seriously consider.
The third player I watched closely was LA Tech’s Milton Williams. He’s about 6-4 and 280lbs but he plays with fantastic quickness and athleticism. He’s so quick off the snap, compliments his natural speed with decent hand technique and he’s a playmaker on the D-line.
He’s a very exciting player with inside/out capabilities and reports suggest he could be one of the star performers at the combine.
If you missed our 49ers preview podcast, check it out below:
You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.