I’ve arrived in Seattle (I don’t remember the flight being +10 hours, every day’s a school day). Quick shout out to Mattia who I met at the airport.
The jet lag is kicking in so I’m going to run through the weekend notes quickly.
— Another week, another electric performance from Spencer Rattler. Nothing is surprising with draft media but the total lack of attention paid to Rattler is unbelievable. He’s completely turned his career around. Gone is the cocky gunslinger who trusted his arm to a fault, basically doing whatever he wanted in the name of an attempted big play. Now we see an incredibly mature signal-caller who plays within structure, has the arm talent and skill to be creative on the move and he’s spent the entire year playing behind a sieve of an O-line, giving him first-hand experience of dealing with pressure.
Look at this throw:
— Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) November 19, 2023
It’s probably not in Rattler’s top-10 throws for the season (which is saying something) but it’s a big-time NFL play. He’s under immediate pressure. He knows he’s going to get hammered (and he was). He throws a strike anyway for a touchdown. He’s done this all season.
South Carolina have won five games this year and it could’ve been more. It’s all because of Rattler and the man who caught that touchdown, Xavier Legette. There’s no doubt for me Rattler belongs in the first round next year. If he lasts beyond that, someone will get a bargain. He is too talented to ignore. He’s been on a long journey from the High School documentary to Oklahoma and then South Carolina. The player we’ve seen this year is the player who was being touted as a potential top-five pick two years ago. A lot of the quarterbacks who are being talked up in the media wouldn’t stand a chance behind his O-line. He was superb against Kentucky on Saturday and don’t be surprised if a whole bunch of people suddenly remember who he is over the next few weeks.
— Jordan Travis suffered a serious injury on Saturday and will miss the rest of the season. It’s a crushing blow for a player who was showing a lot of promise as a potential mid-round pick (and it also pretty much ends any attractiveness in having Florida State in the final four). How will it impact his stock? He won’t be able to do anything pre-draft and teams will have to check on his progress and recovery throughout. It’s a huge shame for the player. I suspect this will have a fairly serious impact on his stock too, given the extent of the injury.
— Michael Penix Jr continued his run of being clutch, making some eye-catching throws while also being quite erratic and inconsistent in another win for Washington. You have to credit him for the way he is helping the Huskies remain unbeaten. You have to admire the arm talent. Yet you also can’t ignore what’s happened recently.
In the first four games of the season, his PFF grade was 89.9. In the next seven games, his average grade has dropped to 72.2. His completion percentage in the first five games was 75.9%. Again, the number has dropped considerably in the following six games (59.5%).
There’s another trend that’s interesting. PFF tallies ‘big time throws’ as a statistic. He had a season-high five BTT’s against Oregon State, matching the number he had against Oregon. He also had four against Utah, taking his season total to 30. This has enabled him to jump above Jayden Daniels (28) to have the second most BTT’s in college football behind Drake Maye (33). So while the completion percentage has dropped, he’s also started to make more big time throws.
Penix is a really difficult projection. Everything about his arm screams NFL starter. There are 3-5 throws every week where your jaw-drops — arm talent, power, accuracy, touch. Yet there are also so many throws that appear to just be pre-determined shots to areas of the field. Thus, the high number of incompletions. In the NFL you need to be able to throw layered passes with timing and anticipation. It can’t just be shots determined before the snap.
He’s also faced more pressure recently. He’s been sacked four times in the last four games, compared to one sack in his first four games. Penix faced 33 pressures in the first five games when he was putting up massive numbers. In the next six games, when the numbers dropped, he’s faced 67 pressures. Given he will face constant pressure in the NFL, is it safe to argue that what we’ve seen in recent weeks is a better reflection of what he’ll be in the NFL?
It’s also impossible to ignore the brilliance of Rome Odunze. Often you can just identify when he’s 1v1, throw it his general direction and his body control and tracking is so good he’ll make the play. He’s a first round talent.
I’ve spent more time agonising over Penix’s stock than any other player this season because it’s such a contrast in pro’s and con’s, what’s obviously good and what’s difficult to project as translatable. I’m hoping watching him live on Saturday might give me a definitive answer. I’m planning to publish my first horizontal board after the weekend’s college football games.
— It was more of the same for Miami and Tyler Van Dyke. He’s clearly a talented player and there’s a pro in him. However, the Hurricanes are just so badly managed he’s been caught up in the mess. He had some good throws at the weekend. He has a decent arm. He moves well for his size even if he’s never going to be an improv-artist or a threat with his legs. There are flashes where you think he’s legit, then he throws wildly on fourth down in the red zone with the game on the line. I actually hope he doesn’t turn pro and transfers to somewhere like Kentucky or Washington. Go somewhere where they’ve had transfer success with good offensive staffs.
— JJ McCarthy is the most overrated player in draft media. It’s not that he’s bad. He’s just not a first round talent. His arm is nothing special. His accuracy is spotty at best. Michigan have only played one good team (Penn State) and he had eight throws in the game. He’s carried by the rest of the team. On Saturday against Maryland he had a bad pick and two dropped interceptions. Where’s the hype coming from?
— LSU has decided that the rest of their season is a Heisman campaign for Jayden Daniels and I’m here for it. Eight total touchdowns on Saturday and they fed him every one. For more on Daniels, check out my piece from last week.
— Miami saftey Kam Kinchens. My word. He fell asleep in coverage to give Louisville their first score, not travelling with the man he was supposed to be covering. He was ‘Moss’d’ on a downfield shot. A tight end stiff-armed him into 2033. Then, after two other defenders ran into each other creating a wide-open receiver, the pièce de résistance. Kinchens had ideal positioning by the sideline. All he had to do was contain the receiver and push him out of bounds. It’s a bad play already, don’t make it worse. Somehow, the receiver (despite having no space) just runs straight by Kinchens. It’s one of the worst whiffs I’ve ever seen. It ended up being the game-winning score.
Sure, he read a telegraphed, poorly thrown pass for an interception from centre-field earlier. Great. The rest of his game was a house of horrors.
— From overrated to underrated — Washington State receiver Josh Kelly is a heck of a player. He produces spectacular plays, he’s a one-handed-catch ‘trick-shot’ specialist and he’s been a great target for Cam Ward. Another player I’m looking forward to seeing live on Saturday.
— T’Vondre Sweat needed a big season and he has delivered. He’s been the most consistent ‘splash’ interior D-liner this year. He had a blocked extra-point attempt on Saturday that was returned for a two-point conversion. His ability to create and disrupt at his mammoth size is highly impressive. If he can stay motivated and perhaps shift some bad weight, watch out NFL.
— Just as Will Howard was really finishing strongly, he had one of ‘those’ games for Kansas State and Kansas. He has a knack for bad turnovers and bad nearly-turnovers. Kudos to him for helping get the Wildcats over the line but it’s the type of game that makes you think day three instead of day two. That said, he did still have some really nice ‘pro’ throws in the game.
— There might not be a more unheralded duo in college football than Missouri’s Brady Cook and Cody Schrader.
— Carson Beck was excellent for Georgia against Tennessee — the best I’ve seen him play so far. I’m going to re-watch that game tonight before I collapse in a jet-lagged coma.
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