With no Seahawks game this weekend I’m doing my write-up early. A quick note — I will still be jumping on a live stream later with Robbie Williams after the Broncos vs Raiders game. We’ll discuss Seattle’s updated draft position, my horizontal board, the options for the Seahawks in the draft and a lot more. Do join us.
Firstly, injuries — the most notable being Hendon Hooker’s serious looking knee injury. It was non-contact — which makes you think ACL — and he was writhing in pain. There’s been no official confirmation yet but it looks like his season — and college career — is over. It’s a sad end for a player who has enjoyed a productive 2022 campaign.
It will also significantly impact his draft stock. Sudden projections of Hooker in round one were wide of the mark and unwarranted. However, he was a worthy flier in the middle rounds. Now he could, potentially, be out until mid-way through his rookie season where he’ll be 25-years-old.
It’s incredibly unfortunate for Hooker but his health and age will work against him now and seriously impact where he goes in the draft.
Clemson’s Bryan Bresee and Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson also didn’t play due to injury. Wilson was carted off with a suspected ankle problem a week ago so he could miss the rest of the year. Bresee has missed time due to kidney issues this season and he was held out of the Tigers’ stroll in the park against Miami with strep throat.
Finally, Calijah Kancey left Pittsburgh’s win against Duke with a shoulder injury. Pitt’s Head Coach said he was ‘OK’ after the game so fingers crossed he isn’t done for the year. Michigan running back Blake Corum also exited against Illinois with a knee injury.
The Georgia vs Kentucky game was a lot closer than expected. Given the way UK’s season has collapsed, this had the makings of a blow-out. If it wasn’t for the Wildcats’ defense it might’ve been — they played their best game of the year to repel Georgia multiple times, including some key fourth down stops. But it was to Kentucky’s credit that they stuck in there.
Will Levis will come out of the game with his reputation enhanced, despite a so-so stat-line. Yes he had another interception — although I have no idea what the play-design was on the pick. If you want to have a receiver run a route in behind the corner and ahead of the safety, you have to have a decoy to lure the cornerback out of position. Kentucky didn’t — which meant Kelee Ringo could squat on the receiver and make an easy interception. Rich Scangarello is under increasing pressure in Kentucky and it’s not hard to see why with moments like this.
Apart from that, Levis did his best to try and support the defense with almost no help — which has become UK’s calling card this year.
He had a superb 31-yard throw from deep inside his own end zone. UK started with a bad decision to fair catch on virtually their own goal line on the opening kick off. Then the O-line had a false start on 3rd down. Levis, with bodies around him in the end zone, lobbed a perfect pass to the right sideline. He showed wonderful loft and placement for a big-time completion vs Kelee Ringo.
Kentucky got to half-way on that really encouraging opening drive powered by the passing game. They then ran twice on 3rd/4th and 1 and didn’t convert.
A receiver had an enormous, horrible drop on 3rd and 4 with the score at 16-0. It went straight through his hands.
Levis led a 99-yard scoring drive against the Georgia defense to drag Kentucky back into the game. Not many quarterbacks can say that. They got the ball back at 16-6 and Levis again led them into field goal range only for the kicker to boot it 20 yards wide of the posts after a terrible snap.
This has been mission impossible all year. People are comparing Levis to quarterbacks in the PAC-12 with all day to throw against powderpuff opponents, with superior supporting casts in half-field, one-read schemes that are well-oiled and prolific. Levis is helping prop up one of the weaker SEC teams, competing against the likes of Georgia and Tennessee. He has been battered all year and is playing through turf toe and an injured shoulder.
Look what Georgia did to the one PAC-12 opponent they’ve faced this season for a comparison.
Teams are going to view Levis through a projection lens not a ‘he must perform and dominate at Kentucky’ lens and will consider his situation and supporting cast. He’s played behind one of the worst lines in college football all year, for a struggling play-caller with no receivers or tight ends to speak of.
I suspect he improved his stock yesterday and regardless of what others might say — he almost certainly won’t get out of the top-five picks and will remain a big contender to go first overall.
Generally I thought Georgia played in second gear. They never really felt threatened, even though it was a competitive game. Jalen Carter, for example, made some nice plays lining up as a five-technique to help against the run. He didn’t have a typical big splash in the passing game though. They only gained one sack on a day when I think most people expected four or five.
I mocked Kenny McIntosh to Seattle in round three earlier in the week and he showed why. He’s far more than a great pass-catching running back. He is tough, physical and shifty with great size. He had 19 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown. There are a handful of really good runners eligible for 2023 and McIntosh is right up there.
Anthony Richardson and Florida suffered defeat to Vanderbilt (which is not an issue — Vandy have been playing their arses off for weeks and Clark Lea is doing a heck of a job). Richardson made some wonderful throws downfield — including a perfect 35-yard bomb on 4th and 7. Touch, accuracy, placement — it was all there.
On another play with 11:50 left in the third quarter, Richardson threw an unreal pass from the 38-yard line for 20-yards on an absolute dime into good coverage, putting it in the only spot his receiver could make a play by the left sideline. It was a stunning throw — again with ideal velocity and touch.
He then followed up with a touchdown on the drive that showed off what makes him special. Countless times this year I’ve seen defenders draped all over Richardson (or hitting him) but because he is so big and strong, he doesn’t go down and is somehow still able to get a throw away. He did so here, in the red zone, for a score. Brilliant.
It happened again for his interception. He was literally being tackled by two players in the pocket, he stayed on his feet defying physics and still got a throw away to his receiver. Somehow, against all the odds, the receiver makes the catch but doesn’t complete the process. As he hits the turf the ball squirts out of his grasp, loops into the air and is picked off. It’s incredibly unfortunate and Richardson doesn’t deserve to have that interception marked against him. As we’ve been saying all season — not all picks are equal.
He had a long bomb downfield for a touchdown (again, releasing his pass while being hit). His third score came on a good release by the receiver on a red zone route. He finished 25/42 passing for 400 yards with three scores.
Richardson now has 23 total touchdowns and eight picks for the season. His talent level is through the roof and I’ll say it again — don’t count him out for the #1 overall pick as this process develops.
I felt sorry for Ventrell Miller in this game. Once again, the Florida linebacker left everything out on the field in a tremendous, largely unsupported performance on defense. With 11:55 left in the game he delivered an enormous hit in the open field. On review he was ejected for targeting — although I’m not sure it’d even be flagged in the NFL. He finished with 11 tackles in the game and was visibly emotional after the ejection. He misses half of his final game vs Florida State which is a real shame for a heroic figure for the Gators. I really hope the Seahawks consider him in the draft.
For Clemson, Trenton Simpson returned after a weeks absence and finally made some plays — recording two sacks against hopeless Miami. He was still largely on the periphery of the game with the superb Jeremiah Trotter (who isn’t eligible for the draft) really excelling once again. He is a complete linebacker — dominating at the LOS, brilliant in coverage. He will be a high pick in 2024. Back to Simpson — his first sack was a nice read/react when the coverage held the QB in the pocket. He showed a good closing burst to get to the passer. Simpson’s second sack was an unblocked blitz off the edge that led to a fumble. Both plays happened late in the game — he appeared to be spelled quite a lot early on and didn’t seem to be on the field much.
Myles Murphy had a better game setting the edge, winning with a combination of a strong arm and speed. K.J. Henry recorded another sack too. Frankly though, it was men against boys vs Miami and I didn’t feel we learnt too much from the experience of a game that was one of the most boring and routine we’ve seen this season. I will say though that I’m a big fan of Clemson left tackle Jordan McFadden. He reminds me a bit of Isaiah Wynn. He’s so natural in his drops, he locks on and controls and he has plenty of power. I love the way he stays in control of his feet once he engages a block and retains balance. I think he’s a tremendous option to kick inside to guard at the next level. Don’t be shocked if he ends up in the top-50.
All season I’ve been saying that a lot of NFL teams (most?) will grade Texas running back Bijan Robinson as the best player in the draft. For some reason draft media can’t differentiate from talent and grading and their own personal preferences over positional value. Any big board that doesn’t have Robinson in the top three, frankly, isn’t worth reading. He had 243 yards on just 25 carries against Kansas with four touchdowns. He is a superstar in the making and will likely be taken in the top-10, despite his position.
Alabama safety Brian Branch had a nice interception against Austin Peay. He read the play well and dropped into the right zone to be in position to make the play. It was similar to Kam Chancellor’s pick in the NFC Championship game against the 49ers — just further downfield. Branch also had a TFL. He’s not my favourite safety in the class (more on that in a moment) but it’s increasingly likely he’ll go in round one as a silky-smooth versatile defensive back who can cover the slot and either safety position.
Boise State’s JL Skinner is my favourite safety. He’s known for his thunderous hitting and size but he had two interceptions right at the end of the game vs Wyoming (a 20-17 win). It was a crazy ending (see below). Skinner now has four picks for the season. I get a feeling he will be firmly be on Seattle’s radar. Don’t be surprised if they prioritise taking him.
Here's the INSANE ending that clinched Boise State a spot in the MWC Championship Game: pic.twitter.com/TJxZyn3KIG
— Cover 3 Podcast (@Cover3Podcast) November 20, 2022
Spencer Rattler had the best game of his career by a mile for South Carolina against Tennessee. Going into the game he had eight touchdowns and nine interceptions for the season. In this game alone he had six touchdowns and zero turnovers. Where has this been for the last two years?
What a tease. This was a ‘first overall’ type display. He threw with a quick release to all areas of the field. He was reading the defense properly. He showed off arm strength and timing. He moved around to extend plays and made smart decisions. He completed 30/37 for 438 yards. He was majestic, magical. He looked like Patrick Mahomes.
It’s hard to know what to make of Rattler. He has so much talent but when things go wrong he looks hopeless. I gave him an UDFA grade on my board but after this, how can you not bump him up at least into day three based on potential alone?
It was good to see Cedric Tillman out there again for Tennessee. He had a wonderful 1v1 catch on a fade in the red zone on fourth down — beating talented cornerback Cam Smith. He is a classy big target who, if he tests well, could find a home in the top-45.
I wanted to end by talking about Utah’s tight end Dalton Kincaid. He had an unreal block to spring a jet sweep to the outside for a touchdown against Oregon. He consistently shows great hands and he can bail out bad throws. Kincaid has superb body control. I don’t know how he’ll test but for me, there aren’t many better players in college football in terms of week-to-week performance. How he performs at the combine will be big but I think NFL teams will love what he brings to the table.
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