Scouting Notebook: CFB WEEK 1
With a jam-packed slate of games, Week 1 of College Football kicked off with a bang. With so much action we have a jam-packed Scouting Notebook to begin the season.
Jacksonville State vs UAB
Jacksonville State’s Zerrick Cooper, Clemson transfer, was highly touted coming into the year and the national media got their first taste of the quarterback on Wednesday against UAB. Against a Blazers’ defense with speed and hustle it was a difficult night. There were odd glimpses of a potential connection with receiver PJ Wells but it was a rough outing that won’t move his draft stock much.
On the other side it was Mac McWilliams who impressed for UAB. The redshirt freshman won’t be eligible until 2023 and is slightly undersized at 5’10 but he was excellent in man coverage. He was responsible for several pass break ups and was quick to the tackle ensuring that JSU found it difficult to move the chains.
UCF vs Boise State
Two intriguing quarterback prospects went toe to toe on Thursday in a back and forth encounter between Boise State and Central Florida. Dillon Gabriel’s stock is high and you can see why. He threw with excellent velocity and kept the defense on their toes with his ability to run the ball.
That said, there were two major blots on his copy book. An interception in the redzone on the first drive was returned for a TD and he followed that with another underthrown pick in the second half. A true mixed bag.
The Broncos Hank Bachmeier struggled to get his offense moving outside of the first quarter but showed some positive traits. Despite coming under heavy pressure throughout, he shifts around the pocket nicely and has the toughness to sit tight and make the play with rushers bearing down on him.
That pressure mainly came from Auburn transfer Big Kat Bryant, who was the star of the show for the UCF Knights. Bryant looked lean and powerful, causing a major headache for the offensive tackles. His build allows him to prosper with a hand in the dirt but also as an outside linebacker-style edge rusher. Expect a big year from him against lesser competition than that he faced in the SEC.
The final player that caught the eye was 6’2, 300lb defensive tackle Kalia Davis. Having skipped last year due to Covid-19 he was back at the heart of the defensive line causing problems. He disrupted the run game by getting into the backfield on multiple occasions but has the twitch that NFL teams like in 3-tech’s. With three sacks to his name in 2019, Davis is a name to keep an eye on.
Minnesota vs Ohio State
The bad news of the midweek slate came in this Big 10 showdown. Having amassed 163 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, Mohamed Ibrahim left the game with what turned out to be a season-ending achilles injury. Before that, he had shown an excellent combination of physicality, vision and speed, which the Buckeyes had no answer to. It’s a shame we won’t get a full season of Ibrahim as the Gophers lead back.
It took some adjusting for CJ Stroud to look comfortable as Ohio State’s new signal caller but he settled down in the second half. A big part of his, and the running game’s, success is the absolute beastly offensive line the Buckeyes possess. Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere will be the names to watch this year but Paris Johnson could be better than both. The sophomore will be eligible in 2023.
We saw glimpses of a high-level matchup early between Ohio State edge rusher Zach Harrison and Gophers behemoth of a right tackle Daniel Faalele. Those snaps will be scrutinised by NFL scouts for sure. Harrison began to enjoy real success though when shifted to the opposite side. He demonstrated his disruptive style, forcing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. It was good to see Harrison get some early production considering he has only accounted for 5.5 sacks in his previous two seasons.
Tennessee vs Bowling Green
It was nice to see Michigan transfer Joe Milton hit the ground running, literally, on Thursday night. Only last year, Athletic writer and broadcaster Bruce Feldman highlighted him as a dark horse to be a first round pick. Things didn’t work out in Ann Arbor but he seemed confident on his Vols debut.
Despite it not being a faultless performance (there were multiple instances where Milton held on to the ball too long and one where he didn’t hold on at all), it showed what there is to build on. Milton has a strong arm but to see him move as a powerful, physical running threat was also impressive. The traits are there, whether he can do enough in a single season to convince evaluators is yet to be seen.
Another name from Tennessee to keep tabs on is linebacker Jeremy Banks. The 6’2, 225lb converted running back had a couple of intriguing flashes. You could certainly see the athleticism he has brought over from the offensive side of the ball. He should go some way to filling the gap left by Henry To’oTo’o.
Michigan State vs Northwestern
Michigan State have found an identity for the offense and it comes in the shape of running back Kenneth Walker III. He put in a fantastic performance, rushing for 264 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is another example of a team getting immediate benefit from the transfer portal. The Spartans look set to benefit from Wake Forest’s loss.
Another name that won’t get too much focus but certainly popped on initial viewing is tight end Connor Heywood. At 5’11 and 230lbs he is a difficult projection but he made a strong, contested grab and two ultra physical blocks on a couple of Walker’s TDs. A converted running back, he may not have many suitors but that type of physicality and attitude is always rewarded in special teams berths at the next level.
Georgia vs Clemson
It was a defensive masterclass in Charlotte with the talent-laden Bulldogs coming out on top. It was hard to ignore the dominant display from defensive tackle Jordan Davis. In my pre-season rankings, I noted he could do to add more juice on pass rushing downs and he certainly did that.
His running mate Jalen Carter was similarly disruptive. At 6’2, 310lbs he showed twitchiness off the line of scrimmage befitting a man of much smaller stature. A five-star recruit it appears Carter will be the anchor on the line once Davis departs.
While Nakobe Dean grabbed most of the headlines at linebacker, partner Channing Tindall was also impressive. While his snaps have been limited in season’s previous, the now senior will have a chance to state his case in a more prominent role this season.
Notre Dame vs Florida State
Sunday dished up a barnstorming encounter that showed that Florida State may be stirring once more. A big part of that was their defensive line. It wasn’t only current Georgia linemen that feasted this weekend, former ones did as well. Jermaine Johnson logged five tackles and 1.5 sacks and was a constant thorn in the side of Notre Dame’s offensive line.
Finally, in a week where the headliners at QB struggled, Jack Coan looked settled in his first start for the Fighting Irish. It was by no means a flawless display but 4 touchdowns and 366 passing yards showed that he may be an upgrade from Ian Book. Had top target Michael Mayer not had a couple of pivotal drops then the victory may have been more comfortable.
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.