Saturday Lookout: Time To Enjoy Bama's Offensive Playmakers
A unique and challenging college football season is approaching it’s business end. For many this will be the final weekend before bowl season.
Despite numerous roadblocks, somehow a semblance of a season survived and has provided great entertainment for fans.
With one week of regular season play remaining (barring rearranged games) there will be one eye cast towards conference title weekend. However, there are plenty of storylines and players to scout on Saturday – here’s our lookout list for the weekend.
Take time to appreciate ‘Bama record breakers
The SEC Network were proud to announce through their Instagram this week that Najee Harris and Devonta Smith were the first running back/wide receiver pair to post 20 and 15 touchdowns respectively in an SEC season.
Alabama are the most successful college football program in recent history. As such, it’s easy to gloss over their talent and take it for granted. That said, it would be worth your while to turn on Saturday’s game against Arkansas. Despite the Florida Gators looming on the horizon don’t expect the Crimson Tide to take their foot off the gas.
Running back Najee Harris began the season as my number two rated running back but he has since leapfrogged Travis Etienne. Harris’ blend of physicality and nimble feet seem ready set for a smooth transition into the NFL. Harris has become the bell cow despite a host of talent in the running back room. This season has also allowed him to showcase his talent as a receiver, a major plus for the next level.
Likewise, Devonta Smith has worked his way up my draft rankings and threatens to leapfrog consensus no.1 Ja’Marr Chase. I have Jaylen Waddle as my number 1 currently, with Smith and Chase neck and neck one spot behind. A dominant display against LSU’s talented Derek Stingley showed just how complete a receiver Smith is. Smooth routes, separation on all levels and even an eye-catching grab to boot (see below). Don’t sleep on Smith, he could just be the first receiver off the board come April.
DEVONTA SMITH IS RIDICULOUS pic.twitter.com/NhCkPJAccB— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 6, 2020
Ball-hawk Brown catches eye for Spartans
Michigan State’s cornerback Shakur Brown first came to my attention when the Spartans were defeated by Indiana. Despite having a tough day against Ty Fryfogle, Brown showed plenty of potential and earned his two interceptions that day. They added to his pick in the season opener against Rutgers.
Brown then proceeded to go back-to-back games with double picks when State upset Northwestern the week after. My notes on Brown have him as a solid tackler despite limited size. However, his ability to track the ball and keep his eyes on the QB while providing tight coverage are a major plus. His hunger for splash plays make him susceptible to giving up big receptions but he is well worth further study.
The NFL knows the importance of turnovers and how they can change the course of a game. A ball hawk like Brown will always garner attention from scouts. He faces Penn State and one of the best receivers in the Big 10 this week. Jahan Dotson proved a difficult assignment for Ohio State prospect Shaun Wade so it will be interesting to see how Brown measures up.
Gilbert set to transfer but freshman Boutee is equally intriguing
LSU’s season as reigning college football champions couldn’t have gone any worse. Ed Orgeron announced a self-imposed Bowl ban this week, coupled with 1st year star Arik Gilbert opting out for the rest of the year. The tight end is said to be heavily considering transferring in what would be a huge body blow for the TIgers, considering he had been one of the most consistent pass catchers on the team.
All this on top of a thorough beatdown from SEC rivals Alabama. The 55-17 rout showed just how dramatically LSU had suffered after the departure of key players and also opt outs from the likes of Ja’Marr Chase. One potential bright spot on offense, has been the emergence of freshman receiver Kayshon Boutee.
Boutee was responsible for an embarrassing drop inches before he stepped into the endzone against Alabama. Yet it didn’t overshadow what was an impressive display for the wideout. Boutee accounted for 111 receiving yards on the day, giving LSU hope that the future is bright. Orgeron’s ability to recruit well obviously remains but he will depend on the likes of Boutee to form the nucleus of a once again competitive Tiger side next season.
Canes’ Phillips could be a dark horse in weaker edge class
Another major opt-out at the start of the season was Miami edge-rusher Gregory Rousseau. Rousseau had shown flashes of immense talent but most of his production came from the interior where he often lined up as a 0 technique. His absence means there isn’t a prospect at the position considered a top 10 lock.
The likes of Kwity Paye and Jayson Oweh haven’t really strung together enough top performances to be considered sure things as of yet. One prospect that has boosted his stock this year is Rousseau’s stand in. Having transferred from UCLA in the offseason Jaelan Phillips has logged 7.5 sacks in nine games.
On Saturday the Canes face off against North Carolina in an intriguing matchup. The Tar Heels offense has the potential to be explosive. They have an excellent QB in Sam Howell, an envied running back duo and a pair of deep threats in Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome. If Miami are going to slow them down then forcing pressure on Howell will be vital. Phillips remains undecided about declaring for the draft but another good showing and he could benefit from a weak edge rushing class.
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com