If you want to play QB in the NFL, you had better be mentally tough. So, it was great to see Memphis QB Riley Ferguson battle back from a first half where he looked off, to lead the Tigers to a comeback win on the road in Houston. Yes, he had some help from his defense with turnovers, plus a KO return for a TD – but he rebounded well and kept going. A game like this doesn’t change his raw tools, but it does show he needs to work on his footwork and accuracy, particularly when rolling right. However, that’s the case for many modern college QBs, so you are betting on raw tools, mental makeup and football intelligence. The media won’t know the last part, but he has the first two.
Another Tiger having a bad day, but still making an impact in the game was WR Anthony Miller. He had some drops, including an easy swing pass early in the game. However, he will finished with 10 catches for 178 yards! Two catches were really nice, showing good body control to keep his feet in bounds and catch the ball away from his frame. At other times though, he did seem to be fighting the ball a bit. It’s the first down day of the three games I’ve watched so far however, and I still like him.
On the other side at WR, was Houston’s Linell Bonner who finished with 8 catches for 121 yards. It seemed when they needed a play on 3rd and one 4th down, Bonner was the target and he responded. He has decent size at 6’0″ 200 lbs, and I really liked the play where he went up, attacked the ball and out faught the corner for a big play. He also laid out to make another nice catch. For sure, he looked draftable and you never know if he could push into the mid round with a good post-season.
Colorado State WR Michael Gallup was an interesting watch. He stood out athletically at this level of play, but he didn’t consistently separate. The commentators were talking about how he didn’t play much WR in high school, and then was injured in junior college, so he’s a little raw with this route running. However, I would certainly say the raw tools are there to work with – he might need a year, but I think he’s got potential. He looked exciting after the catch, and with better QB play, would have had at least two big catches.
Colorado State C Jake Bennett is listed at 290 lbs, but looks heavier. Generally, his base looked solid – but he did get dumped on his backside and almost gave up a safety as he correctly was called for holding. He looks good when he gets his hands on people, and he can work square nicely. I’m not sure he’s a top athlete and this will likely determine whether he’s drafted. Still, he made some nice blocks and has a shot.
I mentioned in previous articles that I was worried about the lack of speed of Michigan LB Mike McCray. When matched up in coverage against Saquon Barkley, you saw it. The ESPN/ABC commentators were talking about it being a tough matchup, which it is, but there are matchups like that every week in the NFL.
I’ve been impressed with Michigan DT Maurice Hurst this year, but he was very quiet against Penn State. His quickness got him penetration a couple of times, but it was a down game for him.
Penn State TE/HB Mike Gesicki is reported to be healthy now and he had a big game as a receiver. His adjustment to a back shoulder throw was impressive, although he only got one foot in bounds. He also went up and high pointed what was pretty much a jump ball from his QB. I’m not sure he has the quickest feet in a short area, but he has some hops and enough speed to separate.
I doubt Colorado will be on UK TV again – indeed the same teams we get each week (Tennessee for the 4th time – did CBS expect that game to be close?!), I’m surprised we got them. So it was unfortunate that OT Jeromy Irwin was ejected for targeting and CB Isaiah Oliver left the game with injury. Irwin looked technique conscious – not the best athlete, played a touch high – but has heavy hands and I think from the brief glimpse he has a shot to be drafted. Oliver is a junior, but I’ve seen him on a couple of lists – so gave him a watch. He was generally in off, but did play a little press man, where he tended to use a guide arm and then run with his man. He was called for pass interference on an underthrown ball, he turned for the ball but then ran through the receiver. He was a little unlucky with that one. On the play he got hurt, I think he was expected safety help, but he didn’t show recovery speed – instead trying to undercut the post, diving, missing the ball and getting hurt in the process. Difficult to judge him.
I also want to Colorado RB Phillip Lindsay. With little or not help from the passing game, he still had a nice game. At 5’8″ 190 lbs, he’s not the biggest – but he’s one of those small/quick step type of runners, who will be perfect for a bad weather team. He ran hard and I think has a next level shot.
There’s no question that college spread offenses are bad for Quarterbacks who want to play in the NFL. They don’t prepare you to be an NFL progression passer. Teams bet on raw tools and it might work, but if you look at someone like Paxton Lynch, it’s been a struggle for him to crack the starting lineup. In addition to the fact that college Quarterbacks are used to making a read off one player, usually a Linebacker or Safety, and getting the ball to a usually open receiver, the other common concern is footwork. Many spread Quarterbacks take the snap and to get depth quickly, take a massive step. Many then throw from a wide base, meaning they can’t step into throws, or go from this wide base to a narrow base and balls tend to go high. While Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is not perfect as an NFL progression passer prospect, his base is better than many in this class. He looks balance in the pocket and he made several throws where ball placement was excellent. He didn’t have a great game against Texas, who did a nice job in terms of covering a talent Cowboy WR corp (including James Washington, who struggled to separate at times). As the game progressed, he started to force throws. He also was holding the ball a little too long. In terms of physical tools, his arm is more than enough to play in the league. He’ll need development in terms of progressions, where he can do it, but is too slow right now – but most college signal callers are going to be like this.
I had a look at Oklahoma State right tackle Zachary Crabtree and he looks to have talent. He’s not a people mover in the running game, and his base can be a little narrow – but he has talent in pass protection. When faced with wide pass rushers, his first step is nice. He also showed an ability to close the door on inside rushes, extending his arms and absorbing. He looks like a solid prospect.
I had another look at Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson and it was more of the same. When he sees it, he’ll make a flash play – and looks good when doing it, like first round good – with his “plus” athletic ability. The problem is that much of the time he doesn’t figure out the play. He takes false steps and takes too long to process what is happening. He does have make up speed – as on the 3rd and 3 zone read keeper Rudolph ran late in the game, where he made the tackle despite taking false steps – but too much he’s out of plays. He also struggles to get off blocks. He’ll need a system where he can attack and not have to think – and be kept clean. Prospects can’t do much about where they land, but he’s one who needs to right place. Of course, ideally he should return next year, but most declare these days.
Watching college football on TV in the UK is a frustrating business. Our 100% American sports channel NASN was taken over years ago by a company who then struggled financially. That caused ESPN to step in, but only briefly as now one of the BT Sports channels bears the ESPN name, but we get a lot of non-American sport on there. We only get games which are on ABC/ESPN or CBS – so no Fox or NBC games. Oddly, Indiana featured for the third time this season – with Notre Dame yet to feature. Like I said, frustrating. Anyway, I took in the Indiana/Michigan State game for another look at WR Simmie Cobbs Jr., who I like. With a young QB who is a better runner than passer right now, it’s not always Cobbs who is featured. However, he is still productive. I really like his ability to catch the ball away from his body and the fact on curls/come back routes, he doesn’t just sit – he attacks the ball, making difficult for a CB to click and close on the ball. Separation is a slight concern projecting forward to the NFL – but the way he used his hands on a back shoulder throw was encouraging – knowing not to extend his arms and get called for offensive pass interference. He looks like a top 100 talent.