Every Tuesday I take a look through my notebook from the games I’ve sat and watched over the previous weekend and highlight a few things I wrote down. There may be some things you missed, some players who stood out for good or bad reasons, or even just some things I’m going to keep my eye on more closely when I get into detailed scouting on certain prospects.
What I can tell you is there’ll be very little rhyme or reason as to the games I’ve chosen to watch, or indeed as to what I choose to comment on.
So let’s get into it shall we?
Alabama vs Miami
Bryce Young sure as hell looked poised and ready to be the next 1st round QB taken out of Alabama didn’t he? He showed great awareness, shifty feet to evade the rush (one particular play when Bubba Bolden burst through unblocked stood out to me), and unerring accuracy under pressure. If you thought the QB position was potentially the weakness you could exploit in this Alabama team this season, you’d better think again.
Contrast his performance with D’Eriq King, who was being built up as the guy to help Miami upset the raining National Champions. King didn’t look at his best which may be partly down to how good the Alabama D is, but I also worry he’s not yet fully confident after the knee injury. I’ll be interested to see how he goes the rest of the year.
Speaking of the Alabama D – they were just dominant in this game. Will Anderson, the Sophomore edge rusher was a real stand out for me, showing exceptional technical ability when it came to obtaining leverage and the way he uses his hands to constantly win battles at the line of scrimmage. Definitely one to watch.
Another dominant force in this game was OT Evan Neal, who just continued to show why it is that so many already view him as a top 10 pick.
Final note is that I hope I get to see more of Bubba Bolden this year. His early ejection for targeting meant I didn’t get much of a read on him unfortunately, but he looked like a solid tackler who plays the run well in the brief snippets I saw.
Georgia vs Clemson
Let’s start by talking about that Georgia Defense shall we? I’m not sure I could have been any more impressed than I was by this unit, who threw many different looks at Sophomore QB DJ Uiagalelei who was making only his 3rd start for Clemson.
This group is absolutely full of playmakers with immense sideline-to-sideline speed, athletic ability, and most importantly of all have an innate ability to read an offense and diagnose what they’re doing that split second earlier than most. Nolan Smith, Jordan Davis and Adam Anderson all wrecked havoc when it came to getting penetration upfield and putting Uiagalelei under pressure.
Smith’s first sack came on a 3rd and 8 play with Georgia dropped 8 into coverage and yet Smith still beat his man almost immediately off the snap and turned the corner so fast the other offensive linemen who should have been there to help protect simply couldn’t get to him in time.
Jordan Davis displayed some power moves that I don’t think I necessarily realised he had in his game before now. Adding to a skillset that already had him down as a likely top 50 player in the draft means he may be putting himself into 1st round contention and possibly even higher than that. I’ll be really interested to see if he can keep up this level of performance all season.
The linebackers also really shone for Georgia, with Nakobe Dean being the real standout with 2 sacks (more than he managed in the whole of 2020 and 2019 combined) and just being around the ball on pretty much every play. He looked, and played, like the leader of this defense – making pre-snap adjustments depending on what look Clemson was giving them offensively.
To quickly finish off on Georgia, the other guy I was looking forward to watching was JT Daniels. I came away very disappointed. I’m not going to overeract to one game here but I didn’t see a 1st round QB ready to carve through NFL defenses based on this performance.
To be fair to Clemson then, their defense also put up a great fight and showed a lot of what it was capable of doing.
I saw a lot from Andrew Booth that I liked – both in coverage where he pretty much locked down anyone who came near him, but also his tackling. There were a couple of standout plays from him; a great open field tackle early in the game to prevent a 1st down, breaking free from a blocker on his way to bringing down the running back, and then the way he diagnosed a screen pass in the 4th quarter, ran downhill and made an inch-perfect tackle to blow that play up before the back could barely make a yard.
Sophomore DT Bryan Bresse is one I’ve added to my watchlist as I came away from this game very impressed with how much penetration he was able to get consistently.
I also really enjoyed watching James Skalski play at inside linebacker. He’s very animated, an absolute ballhawk and clearly the leader of the Clemson defense. He apparently has a tendency to be over-aggressive at times so I’ll be interested to see if he’s been able to clean up those issues but with his ability to play fast I could definitely see him making an NFL roster.
On offense, Justyn Ross didn’t look like the Justyn Ross of old. They looked his way early and often, but I’m not convinced he’s fully recovered from the neck injury that kept him out of the 2020 season.
By contrast Joseph Ngata, when Clemson eventually decided to throw his way instead of at Ross, made some very impressive catches. There was one on the sideline when he was pinned by the DB and still managed to get a foot down inbounds (which is the rule in college for a completed catch) and then following it up with a catch over the middle when in traffic that displayed his strong hands and excellent body control to keep hold of the ball.
Michigan State v Northwestern
I thought about leaving it there as 264 yards and 4 touchdowns against a Northwestern team that had received Top 25 votes from both the AP and Coaches in preseason really should speak for itself.
The boy was just on fire. His vision on his second touchdown run in particular was sublime – completely freezing the defense and cutting back the other way through a massive hole. He showed great quickness too and just a huge amount of desire to make play after play for his team. I think I might have found my new Jaret Patterson!
Jayden Reed made a couple of catches that made me sit up and take notice, using his body well on one particular reception to make sure the DB couldn’t make a play on the ball.
And Xavier Henderson, one of the Spartans cornerbacks, also shone. Northwestern couldn’t get much going on his side of the field at all and he also came through with a sack on a 3rd down play late in the game that effectively ensured there was no way back into the game for Northwestern.
I’ll be intrigued to watch how Stephon Robinson goes for Northwestern this season. The speedy receiver displayed his ability to run past defensive backs a couple of times in this game and the transfer from Kansas might be able to carve himself a role as a deep play and/or return threat.
North Carolina v Virginia Tech
I’ve seen the overreaction to both Spencer Rattler (who I didn’t watch) and Sam Howell’s performances over the last few days and so I want to start with the performance of the North Carolina quarterback here.
In 2020 Howell had Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dazz Newsome, and Dyami Brown around him on offense, all of whom have departed for the bright lights of the NFL. Howell clearly doesn’t yet have the chemistry built up with those stepping in to replace those 4 draft picks and the whole offense was definitely a few beats behind where it would want to be right now.
Josh Downs, a Sophomore who made only 7 catches as a true freshman, was the one who looked most likely to step up for the Tar Heels. At one point I wrote down that he “is literally the only offensive playmaker on this team” for Howell to go to – and that doesn’t bode well for North Carolina if that trend continues.
The offensive line was also terrible – allowing VT to pretty much do whatever they wanted on defense and still be able to put Howell under pressure. The Hokies won the line of scrimmage all night and North Carolina just had no answer.
So onto Howell then. Would I have liked to see more from him? Absolutely. But everything that had people talking about him as a good QB is still there and among the 3 INTs there was at least one (if not two) that are on the receiver and not him, and the 3rd was a QB desperate to make a throw with the game on the line late, so while it wasn’t his smartest move you can also understand what he was trying to do given the game situation.
What I will say is that he needs to bounce back quickly from this – and hope that his team’s offensive line coach can work some magic this week!
On that Virginia Tech defense then, the biggest standout for me was cornerback Jermaine Waller who made life very difficult for any receiver who ended up on his side of the field and displayed his strong coverage abilities throughout the game. He also picked up an INT as a result of that coverage ability, though as I said earlier it was more of a mistake by the receiver than being a great play by Waller.
5 things I wish I watched…but didn’t
- Matt Corral’s performance for Ole Miss – I’ve heard, and read, lots of good things.
- Penn State overcoming Wisconsin on the road.
- Iowa’s beat down of Indiana.
- UCLA – and in particular Greg Dulcich.
- Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton – the buzz is high right now!