Scouting sources who have been through Tennessee have said that the Volunteers don't have much talent for the NFL this year. One player who could emerge as a pro prospect is junior wide receiver Jauan Jennings. The 6-foot-3, 209-pounder has good size to him and flashed some potential last year when he totaled 580 yards on 40 receptions with seven touchdowns. The 2017 season got off to an unfortunate start for him as his Week 1 outing ended with injury after he caught three passes for 17 yards. Jennings took a hard shot from a few defenders in the second quarter and didn't return to the game. The nature of Jennings wasn't disclosed by Tennessee.
Georgia Tech safety Corey Griffin is the only Yellow Jacket on the Senior Bowl watchlist entering the season. This contest was a bad performance by Griffin that made him look like a undrafted free agent.
In the first quarter, Griffin missed a tackle at the second level. Later in the third quarter, he was late to help on a long run from the Volunteers. Rather than going for a wrap-up tackle or dishing out a hard hit, he went for a strip that caused him to miss the tackle and let the back, John Kelly, continue to gain yardage into Yellow Jackets territory. Early in the fourth quarter, Griffin took a bad angle and then missed a tackle on a receiver about 10 yards downfield, which let the receiver run down the field an additional 40 yards for a touchdown.
Griffin came back to make a touchdown-saving tackle around the 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter, but on the next play, he was late helping over the top, and Kelly bounced off him to get into the end zone at the goal line. Against Tennessee, Griffin totaled five tackles. He took bad angles, showed poor tackling form, and was late to react. Griffin will need to perform better in the weeks to come in order to earn a Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine invitation.
Tennessee tight end Ethan Wolfe could be a potential draft pick, and he got his season started with four receptions for 33 yards. Wolfe is more of a blocking tight end for the NFL and could be a third-day prospect.
This was a battle of strength versus strength, as Virginia Tech has been a steady factory of defensive back talent for the NFL. This year, Hokies cornerback Adonis Alexander could be an early-round pick, and he was going against a West Virginia team that consistently fields a prolific passing attack.
Alexander had some good plays in the first half. Early in the first quarter, Alexander made a tackle for a loss snuffing out a wide receiver screen. He then ran with a receiver stride-for-stride running a go route down the sideline to force an incompletion. In the second quarter, Alexander made a good tackle in run support. He later ran with a receiver downfield and knocked a jump ball away, playing the throw well and not interfering with the receiver. Alexander almost picked the pass off for the Hokies. Later in the fourth, Alexander came over the top to drill a receiver and break up a pass that would have been a big gain. He also slapped a pass away in the end zone on the final play of the game.
While Alexander had those positive plays, he also had some real negatives, as West Virginia killed him on slant passes. After getting a slant for about 10 yards, the Mountaineers beat Alexander on a slant to convert a third down. That happened again in the third quarter. West Virginia then went back to the well with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
Virginia Tech was playing Alexander in off-man coverage and the 6-foot-3 corner isn't fast or fluid enough athletically to defend slants in off man coverage. He needs to be playing more press man and zone techniques.
Alexander might also be a good fit as a free safety in the NFL, as he is a tough tackler and physical player. He could be used in man coverage on tight ends as well. With his size, he also could play press man on big wideouts. This game illustrated that while Alexander has excellent height and length, he has some athletic limitations with tightness to play off man coverage. That is very common for big cornerbacks like Alexander.
Virginia Tech junior linebacker Tremaine Edmunds was all over the field for the Hokies in 2016, but he was pretty quiet in the season opener of 2017. Edmunds got in on some tackles in run defense, but also got knocked out of the hole on a long run of about 40 yards. He also was burned for a touchdown, running down the seam, but the pass was overthrown. In Edmunds' defense, it was a bad mismatch with Edmunds trying to run with a quick target straight down the field. Edmunds looked tight and wasn't fluid in space against West Virginia. Improving in pass coverage in the weeks to come will be important for Edmunds' draft grade.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier is draft eligible, and he made his debut for the Mountaineers. Grier had a nice run for the Florida Gators two years ago before a suspension for performance enhancers ended his season early. He transferred to West Virginia and was forced to sit out the 2016 campaign.
Grier has a good arm and made some nice throws against Virginia Tech. However, Grier also had some accuracy issues, as he missed some wide-open targets downfield. He had a few potential touchdown passes go incomplete because he struggled with his ball placement. Grier improved in the second half, and he made some excellent passes including a 60-yard touchdown pass where he threaded the ball into a tight window between defenders. Grier completed 31-of-53 passes for 371 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Grier has started fewer than 10 games in his collegiate career, so continuing to improve at the collegiate level would make the most sense.
All eyes were on UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen as he returned to the field after missing the majority of his sophomore season with a shoulder injury. Rosen played well, but the UCLA offense struggled in the first half, allowing the Aggies to build up a huge lead. Texas A&M's secondary blanketed receivers, while the Bruins' offensive line had some issues with the speed of the Aggies' defensive front, allowing Rosen to take a lot of hits in the first half.
On his first drive, Rosen threw a rope to convert a third-and-long with a receiver open in zone coverage. Rosen passed accurately to the flat to convert another third down before the drive stalled near the end zone and the Bruins settled for a field goal. Rosen later threw a beautiful deep ball that dropped in perfectly to beat blanket coverage for a 54-yard completion that set up a first-and-goal for the Bruins. The Bruins were down 38-10 at the half, however.
Just after halftime, Rosen held on to the ball too long and didn't see a blitzer hunting him down. He was drilled and fumbled the ball away to the Aggies. Rosen came back to lead a touchdown drive, highlighted by a beautiful pass where he moved coverage with his eyes and a pump fake before drilling a fastball into a tight window to his tight end. That set up a rushing touchdown. On the next possession, Rosen threw some bullets to move the ball down the field with a short touchdown pass to end the drive. Midway through the fourth quarter, Rosen got extremely lucky as he had a pass sail between the hands of a safety before falling into his receiver's chest for a 42-yard touchdown pass. That made the game 44-31.
Shortly later, Rosen was fortunate again as he was under duress and threw a ball up for grabs in a crowd of two receivers and three defenders. A receiver tracked the ball down for a touchdown to make it 44-38 with three minutes remaining.
Rosen got the ball back with just over 2:30 remaining with about 70 yards to go, and no timeouts. He continued to use his tight end Wilson to move the ball inside the Aggies' 25 and then converted a fourth-and-6. Rosen finished off the drive, threading a needle to the back of the end zone on the sideline to give the Bruins the lead. Rosen completed 35-of-58 passes for 491 yards with four touchdowns. Rosen did get very lucky some throws weren't intercepted, but he still played his tail off.
This game could do a lot for Rosen's draft stock, as he executed one of the most epic comebacks in college football history. He never quit and continued to battle hard, showing toughness and resiliency to lead his team back when they were being blown out 44-10 in the third quarter.
There are four top draft-eligible quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft with USC's Sam Darnold, Louisville's Lamar Jackson, Wyoming's Josh Allen, and Rosen. Rosen illustrated that while he has some faults and isn't a dual-threat running quarterback, he could be the most natural pocket passer. Rosen has a strong arm with the best mechanics of any of those four signal-callers. If Rosen avoids injury and stays consistent, he should be a first-round pick next April.
Last year, Texas A&M safety Justin Evans got a lot of attention, but Armani Watts was the Aggies; best safety, as he made a ton of clutch tackles along with some splash plays in crunch time. Watts got his senior year started well with an impressive performance against UCLA.
Watts made his presence felt early in the first quarter when he forced a fumble that was recovered by the Aggies. That set up a short field to get points for Texas A&M. Watts had a few good open-field tackles to prevent a chunk runs from the Bruins. Late in the second quarter, he came on a blitz and skied high in the air to knock down a pass. Watts then flew over in pass coverage to make a diving pass break-up on a third down to get his defense off the field. Watts almost secured the ball for a highlight-reel interception. He continued to get in on tackles for the Aggies, as Watts flew around the field.
In man coverage, Watts had some problems with a wide receiver in the slot and then sophomore tight end Caleb Wilson got separation from Watts after running a great route down the seam. Late in the fourth quarter, Watts was beaten by Wilson again with a jab step to the outside and then a slant to convert a critical fourth down.
Those plays illustrated that Watts needs to improve in man coverage as good NFL safeties are called on to contribute in there. Overall, Watts played really well with a number of excellent tackles in space, showing good instincts with the ability to thrive in zone coverage and help in run support.
Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk is a future first-round pick and a potential No. 1 receiver in the NFL. Early in the first quarter, Kirk got open on a slant for a gain for 14 and then another reception of 11 to contribute to the first touchdown drive for the Aggies. Kirk also had a 43-yard punt return called back on a holding penalty. He had a 37-yard kick return as well. Kirk totaled 45 yards on four receptions. Throughout the game, Kirk was seeing double-team looks with a cornerback up close and help over the top.
There was a ton of NFL talent going head to head in this game, and the prospect that entered the affair as the highest-rated among the draft-eligible players was Florida State safety Derwin James. Sources across the league have raved about him, and one evaluator told me they have him among the top three players at any position entering the season. James had a solid overall performance and showed no ill effects from a knee injury that caused him to miss all but two games of last season.
On the first play from scrimmage, James got just enough of Alabama running back Damien Harris to get him to step out of bounds. As the last line of defense, it was probably a touchdown-saving tackle. James batted a pass a little bit later and almost caught it for an interception. He added a clutch tackle in space to prevent a big gain from Alabama.
Late in the third quarter, James had a huge clutch play for his team. On a third-and-goal, James made an open-field tackle on Jalen Hurts to force a field goal for Alabama after a blocked punt set up the first-and-goal. However, a few plays later, James couldn't wrap up Damien Harris on a touchdown run up the middle.
While this wasn't a flawless performance, it was good overall. James was healthy showing his great instincts and rare combination of great size, speed, physicality and versatility. He played dime linebacker, nickel corner, free safety and strong safety, and he did everything a coach could ask of him. This tape will be a net positive for James to end up being a high first-round pick.
One of the great draft matchups in this game was Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley taking on Florida State cornerback Tarvarus McFadden. Both are likely future first-rounders with Ridley having top-16 potential. On the second play from scrimmage, Ridley had a step of separation on McFadden, but Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts overthrew his receiver with an inaccurate pass. Ridley then made a huge play as he torched the Florida State secondary for a 53-yard touchdown. He was matched up on a true freshman Stanford Samuels III and flat out burned him with a great post route down the middle of the field.
In the third quarter, Ridley was about to have a cornerback toasted and drew a holding penalty to prevent a long reception. Ridley showed nice hands and an ability to adjust when he snatched a two-point conversion pass for Alabama.
Ridley totaled 82 yards on seven receptions with a touchdown. This tape will help Ridley's draft grade as his speed and route-running were apparent with the smooth receiver.
McFadden had a quiet game overall. In the fourth quarter, a freshman receiver ran by McFadden to get a step of separation going into the end zone, but the pass was a bit overthrown to fall incomplete. This tape shouldn't have a big impact on McFadden's draft grade.
Alabama junior safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is another future first-rounder. Early in the second quarter, 6-foot-5 Florida State wide receiver Auden Tate jumped above Fitzpatrick to make a short touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone. Shortly later, Fitzpatrick came back to make a nice play in run defense to snuff out a perimeter run for no gain. He then chased down a receiver in the flat to make a clutch open-field tackle after Fitzpatrick made a great break on the ball. After halftime, Fitzpatrick was tested on a go route, but he ran stride for stride with the receiver to prevent any separation. Fitzpatrick made some good tackles flying around the field.
Even though Tate got the better of Fitzpatrick on that play, Fitzpatrick played well overall, showing lots of versatility similar to Derwin James. Fitzpatrick played some man coverage, was all over the field in zone, made run tackles, and showed good instincts. This tape shouldn't hurt Fitzpatrick's draft grade.
Alabama running back Damien Harris had a very impressive performance to open his season. Harris broke out with a 34-yard run to open the game, blocked a punt on special teams, and had a critical touchdown run. He tallied 73 yards on nine carries. This tape will help Harris as a runner, showing that he can contribute on special teams.
Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton was impressive as a replacement for Reuben Foster. In the first quarter, Hamilton exploded into the backfield to get a tackle for a loss on a fourth-down stretch play to get the ball back for his offense. After halftime, Hamilton did a nice job of reading his keys and then firing by the scrum to get a tackle for a loss. He also dished out a hard hit on a blitz. Hamilton showed nice instincts and versatility in this contest.
Alabama nose tackle Da'Ron Payne draws some rave reviews from scouts who marvel at his physical skill set. In the first quarter, Payne showed some amazing speed to run from nose tackle to the perimeter and make a tackle on a wide receiver screen only five yards off the line of scrimmage. Nose tackles shouldn't be able to do that. In the third quarter, he made a similar play where he ran from one hash mark across the field to get a tackle in space on a back that caught a checkdown. Throughout the night, Payne was plugging his gap at the point of attack and showing excellent effort in pursuit. This is another tape that illustrates Payne's freakish skill set.
Alabama has three other defensive backs who will be playing on Sundays with early-round potential for the 2018 NFL Draft in strong safety Ronnie Harrison, cornerback Anthony Averett, and cornerback Tony Brown. Harrison has a great skill set. He had a mixed night against Florida State. Harrison was beaten by tight end Ryan Izzo for a third-down conversion where Harrison allowed separation. In the fourth quarter, he showed his speed with a sack coming around the corner and hunting down Deondre Francois with a punishing backside hit. Unfortunately, that sack injured Francois, and he was carted off the field. If Harrison plays up to his skill set, he should be a first- or second-round pick.
Just before the half, Brown broke up a pass in the end zone and was fortunate to not have been called for a pass interference. Brown then dished out a blistering hit on Deondre Francois to force an completion and punt. Brown had a solid, albeit quiet debut to the season.
ESPN and other draft analysts have hyped up Averett as a top-25 talent, but a few scouting sources have told me they have Averett much lower than that. Late in the first quarter, Florida State wide receiver Auden Tate beat Averett for a 38-yard completion. Averett was then called for an obvious pass interference in coverage on Tate. He allowed a couple other short completions in front of him. Averett has size to him, but he allows too many completions. This game was similar to how he performed last year, and he didn't look like a first-round pick against Florida State.
Tate was the prospect who probably helped himself the most in this game even though he had only two catches for 41 yards. The big wideout showed serious mismatch size with his catches over big defensive backs like Fitzpatrick and Tate. If Florida State can get Tate the ball consistently, this could be a massive junior year for him.
Lastly, Florida State defensive end Josh Sweat is a first-round talent, but sources have told me that Josh Sweat has a troublesome knee that is putting a serious medical red flag in his scouting report. Sweat was held in check mostly against Alabama. In the third quarter, he pushed through the right tackle to sack Hurts when he scrambled towards Sweat. Aside from that, Sweat was quiet. He will need to produce more in the weeks to come to help overcome the concerns that teams have with his knee injury.
There was the potential for a good draft matchup in the trenches with Florida junior left tackle Martez Ivey taking on a talented Wolverines defensive line led by Maurice Hurst and sophomore Rashaan Gary. However, it didn't materialize, as the Wolverines duo went against other Gators offensive linemen and dominated them from start to finish.
Early in the first quarter, Hurst shot through the right side of the offensive line to get a tackle for a loss and that set the tone for the afternoon. Later in the first quarter, Hurst made a good play reading a screen and getting to the perimeter to tackle the receiver for no gain. It was a huge play by Hurst because there was a lot of green in front of the Gator to create a big gain. Hurst continued to use his speed to fire into the backfield and cause a lot of disruption. He was consistently generating pressure on the quarterback. This was a nice start for the season for him.
Ivey played the best of the Gators offensive linemen, but he also struggled with a number of lowlights. There were a number of plays where Michigan defensive ends got upfield against Ivey to put pressure on the Florida quarterbacks. Late in the fourth quarter, Ivey was beaten to the inside to give up a strip-sack in the end zone that Michigan recovered for a touchdown.
After playing guard for two seasons, this was Ivey's first start at left tackle replacing David Sharpe, so he could easily improve after gaining some experience. This was an ugly debut at left tackle and Ivey looked a lot better at guard last year. Some scouting sources think guard might be his better fit in the NFL.
There were a few defensive players for Florida who had quality performances. The top among them was defensive end Jordan Sherit. In the first quarter, he used speed to fly around the edge for a sack and then added a tackle for no gain in the ground game. Late in the fourth quarter, Sherit added another sack with a speed rush. This was a good tape to get his senior year started well.
Junior defensive end CeCe Jefferson also flashed at times. In the second quarter, Jefferson had a clutch third-down tackle to get his defense off the field, and shortly later, he pushed through the left tackle to get a sack.
Florida senior cornerback Duke Dawson had one of the few highlights for the Gators. In the first quarter, Dawson had a pass interference as he reached around the receiver too early. He made up for it in the second quarter when he picked off a deflected pass around midfield. Dawson exploded down the field and weaved around a few Wolverines to get into the end zone with a 48-yard pick-six to tie the game at 10. Dawson has mid-round potential as a nickel back prospect for the NFL.
North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb is one of the top defensive lineman in the nation. Throughout the season opener, Chubb was getting into the backfield consistently and came close to a number of sacks.
In the second quarter, Chubb knifed to the inside to get a tackle for a loss in the ground game. A play later, Chubb almost had a sack, but lost his footing after darting by the left tackle.
Chubb had two painful missed tackles that really hurt his defense. The second came on a touchdown run in the third quarter where Chubb met the back in the hole but couldn't get him to the ground. That score put the Gamecocks in firm control of the game.
Chubb came back to get a tackle for a loss in the ground game. He also had a pressure on a stunt that helped cause a ball thrown up for grabs that was intercepted. He had a good run fill to set up a third-and-long.
Overall, Chubb had a mixed performance. He had a number of nice plays and consistently got the better of blockers with his speed and strength. On the down side, he had some painful missed tackles and didn't finish some sack opportunities. This tape shouldn't help or hurt Chubb.
South Carolina wide receiver/returner Deebo Samuel got his season started in great fashion against North Carolina State. It started right away as he took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. Samuel used his great speed to run through the Wolfpack coverage unit and pull away from any would be tacklers. In the second quarter, Samuel ran a nice route with a slant from the outside to catch a 6-yard touchdown pass.
In the third quarter, Samuel continued to kill NC State this time with a 39-yard touchdown reception. He streaked across the field on a deep post route, and in the end zone, Samuel stretched out with a beautiful leaping one-handed catch to secure the ball for the score. In the fourth quarter, he had a clutch 18-yard reception to help get South Carolina away from the shadow of their end zone.
Samuel totaled 83 yards on five catches with two touchdowns. This tape will definitely help Samuel's draft grade. He showed playmaking speed as a receiver and returner. Samuel ran some great routes with good hands. This was a great start to the season for Samuel and will help improve his draft stock.
Last year, South Carolina was without linebacker Skai Moore after an injury knocked him out for the year. In his return to the field, Moore had a respectable performance while also showing some rust. In the second quarter, Moore exploded into the backfield to help start a tackle for a loss. Moore later came close to a sack when he blitzed around the right side and forced an incompletion. He showed his fluid athleticism and speed while looking natural dropping into pass coverage.
In the final minute of the game, Moore had a scare as he was banged up on a play and limped off the field with trainers. Moore was back on the field a few plays later, but Moore illustrated his durability concerns and will have a medical red flag in his draft report. Staying healthy will be critical for Moore's draft grade this season.
In full disclosure, there were a few minutes of action in the first quarter that I couldn't see because a storm knocked the satellite out.
There was a good draft matchup in this game with Texas offensive tackle Connor Williams taking on Maryland defensive end Jesse Aniebonam, who had nine sacks last year. According to scouting sources, Williams is a projected first-round pick, and he could end up being considered a franchise left tackle.
In the early going, Williams was showing his impressive quickness and athleticism as he neutralized speed rushes at the point of attack. Williams showed good knee bend and leverage on his blocks. He made a bad read in passing off an edge rusher to his tight end who missed the block and allowed a pressure. Williams did the blocking assignment that the play was drawn up for, but he ended up blocking no defender rather than adjusting to help his tight end. Williams had a nice pancake block on Aniebonam on a play shortly later.
In the third quarter, a defender bull rushed into Williams to push him to the quarterback just after the ball was released. Aniebonam then rushed around the corner and Williams pushed him past the pocket and into turf. Aniebonam had to be helped off the field by trainers. It wasn't a dirty play and was a solid block by Williams that just resulted in an unfortunate injury. A few plays later, Williams showed nice technique to neutralize a bull rush to help give his quarterback time to throw downfield for a critical touchdown.
Williams had an excellent block at the second level to spring his back for a big run that set up a first-and-goal for Texas in the fourth quarter. The Longhorns went behind Williams to get a short touchdown run. With just under five minutes remaining, Williams got out of position to give up outside leverage. He had to drag the defender down to avoid giving up a sack, and Williams was called for a holding penalty. A few plays later, Texas converted a fourth-and-14, but once again, a hold by Williams hurt his team.
Overall, this was a disappointing start to the season for Williams. He looks like the weight he gained this offseason has helped improve the strength in his base. He still could use improvement on packing more punch at the point of attack and also can eliminate some mistakes in technique that allows him to give up ground when getting bull rushed. Williams also needs to clean up his hand usage as he was holding too much. He gave up some leverage and that got him out of position forcing him to hold. This tape shouldn't have a big impact on his draft stock, but he will need to play better in weeks to come.
Texas junior linebacker Malik Jefferson has flashed a great skill set the past few seasons, but has yet to put a season of good production together. There was talk and belief that would change with the new Texas staff playing Jefferson as a more traditional inside linebacker, but the indication from this game is more of the same from Jefferson. He has a great skill set that flashes from time to time, but he isn't consistently productive.
In the first quarter, Jefferson laid out a vicious hit on an attempted quarterback draw with a good open field tackle. Then he went quiet for a while. That set the tone of the game. From time to time, Jefferson would flash, but his motor and determination seems to run hot and cold. Jefferson has a Thursday night skill set, but he is going to need to produce more consistently in order to be a first-round pick.
In full disclosure, there were a few minutes of action in the fourth quarter that I couldn't see because a storm knocked the satellite out.
Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain is one of the top wide receiver prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. With Deshaun Watson in the NFL, there were natural questions if Cain would be able to produce as well while playing with a new quarterback. Those concerns were eased as Clemson blew out an inferior opponent and the quarterback play looked good.
In the first quarter, Cain burned coverage on a straight go route, running straight down the field by the cornerback for a 61-yard touchdown. Cain added another 9-yard reception from junior quarterback Kelly Bryant. The Tiger starters were out of the game pretty quickly as the rout was on, but it was a good sign for Cain's draft stock with what he showed in limited action.
Similarly, Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was in the game for roughly one half of action. Wilkins was having his way with the Kent State offensive line. He was firing into the backfield, holding his ground and causing disruption at the point of attack. Wilkins stuffed a number of interior runs. Unfortunately, Kent State's rushing offense didn't give Wilkins attempts to pressure the passer. Early in the fourth quarter, Kent State had attempted only FIVE passes all game. Thus, Wilkins will have to wait to get pass-rushing opportunities next week against Auburn.
Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen is one of the top signal-caller prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, and this was a tough test for him as his team was taking on a far superior opponent. That was evident all game as the Iowa defensive line dominated Wyoming's blockers. Allen was constantly under duress. The relentless pressure and defensive linemen hitting him made this a tough environment to evaluate Allen because he rarely ever had time to throw.
On one highlight-reel play that set Twitter ablaze, Allen twisted out of a sack using his big size and strength to bounce off a few tackles before Iowa could come up with a gang tackle to get him down. It was an impressive example of Allen's size, toughness, and determination.
Early in the fourth quarter, Allen made a bad decision as he stared down and telegraphed a throw across the field. That let Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson jump the route and pick it off. That interception was a killer as it came in Iowa territory with Wyoming trying to get back into the game at 21-3. The next possession saw Allen miss high with inaccuracy before making a good throw on a deep out. However, a few plays later, Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell dropped an interception that hit him right in the hands.
A few plays after Jewell dropped that pass, Allen was pressured as Wyoming was trying to set up a screen. Allen made a terrible decision as he forced a pass into traffic and it went straight to an Iowa defensive lineman for an interception. It was almost as if Allen threw it to the defender, as it went right into his chest.
Allen ended up completing 23-of-40 passes for 174 yards with two interceptions and zero touchdowns. Overall, Allen showed his big skill set with size, toughness, athleticism, and a strong arm. There were plays where Allen looked like a young Ben Roethlisberger. There were other plays where Allen showed bad decision-making and inaccuracy. Allen will probably be a high pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but this game indicates that he could be a work in progress who will need some developmental time. His completion percentage and interception total from 2016 provide proof of that assessment.
Scouting sources have told me that Iowa running back Akrum Wadley impressed them last year and in tape study this spring. Wadley got his season off to a good start against Wyoming, as he ran for 116 yards on 24 carries. In the fourth quarter, Wadley showed some excellent vision, elusiveness, cutting ability, and quickness with a run over 20 yards. He started to his left before cutting back to his right while making a bunch of defenders miss to move the chains for Iowa. This was a good tape from Wadley that shows his good skill set for the NFL.
In 1869, Rutgers played in the first ever college football game, beating Princeton 6-4. That has nothing to do with the article you're about to read, but Gus Johnson mentioned it at the beginning of the game and I thought it was a cool historical nugget. On to the analysis of the relevant draft eligible prospects in this contest.
The top prospect in this game was Washington left tackle Trey Adams, whom some team sources think is one of the top 2018 draft prospects in college football. Adams' final game of the 2016 saw him shut down Alabama's star defensive linemen in a phenomenal performance. In the early going against Rutgers, Adams showed some rust in this game and didn't look a nearly as good as he did in that game versus the Crimson Tide.
In the second quarter, Adams was called for a holding after he pushed a Rutgers defensive end into the turf. Adams then whiffed on a block to allow his defender to make a stop on a run for no gain. In the third quarter, Adams was late to make a read and allowed a lineman to cut to the inside for a near sack. After that, Adams started to settle down as he mirrored speed rushers and opened some nice holes while pulling to the right side. He ended up finishing the game with a lot of nice plays and blocks.
Adams has good athleticism on the edge with quick feet and agility. He is a smooth mover with length who makes it tough to get by him. He plays with nice body lean and leverage that he uses to help sustain blocks. There are times where he can get overextended. Adams also could use more strength for the NFL. He is not a true bull at the point of attack. It wouldn't be surprising if he gets better in the weeks to come. This uneven performance probably won't have a big impact on Adams draft stock.
Washington nose tackle Vita Vea is a big body at the point of attack who can be tough on offensive linemen. In the early going, Vea stuffed some runs for his defense before making a big play to start the second quarter. Vea shed a block using power to knock down hands and toss the guard to side. He then exploded down the pocket to almost get a sack, but he forced a bad pass into coverage that was intercepted by the Huskies. Shortly later Vea almost created a safety in run defense. In the third quarter Vea held his ground in a short yardage situation to stuff a run for no gain on a third down to force a punt for Rutgers.
This was a solid start to the season for Vea. He is a heavy nose tackle who is tough to move at the point of attack. However, for the NFL, he could be only a run-down player and that could have him fall lower in the draft as teams have downgraded run-defending nose tackles in favor of defensive linemen who can get after the quarterback.
Washington running back Myles Gaskin had an impressive night for the Huskies, and NFL evaluators will love what Gaskin did as a receiver. In the second half, Gaskin made a gorgeous over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone to put the game away for Rutgers. Gaskin had five receptions for 79 yards in a very impressive performance, showing good route-running, quickness, hands, concentration, and fluid athletic ability in space. He also ran for 59 yards on seven carries. This tape is going to help Gaskin's draft grade.
Last year, Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis went under the radar playing across from John Ross, but Pettis was a very good receiver for the Huskies in 2016. He got his season started well against Rutgers.
In the first quarter, Pettis got open running a deep post, and quarterback Jake Browning threw a well-placed pass for a gain of 55 yards. Pettis then went back to return a punt. He muffed the catch and was fortunate no Rutgers players were close to pounce on the ball. Pettis made up for it as he scooped up the ball and exploded down the field weaving through blockers and tacklers to score from 61-yards out. It was Pettis' sixth career punt return touchdown, tying him for the Pac-12 all-time record with Cal's DeSean Jackson.
In the third quarter, Pettis made a leaping grab for 23 yards between two defenders. It was a nice catch in traffic where Pettis showed concentration with a safety coming over the top. He totaled 85 yards on three receptions. The senior Pettis (6-1, 195) could easily end up being an early-round prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft, given what he can do as a receiver and as a returner.
One of the top tight end prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft is Wisconsin's Troy Fumagalli, and he proved why against Utah State. The night didn't start well for him though. In the first quarter, Fumagalli had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a late hit. Fumagalli bounced back though, as he ran an excellent crossing route to get open and convert a third-and-long for the Badgers.
Early in the third quarter, Fumagalli ran a crossing route on a bootleg and got wide open. After the catch, Fumagalli ran into the end zone from about 10 yards out for a 23-yard touchdown catch. On the next possession, Fumagalli threw a nice block on the perimeter to spring his back for about a 20-yard run. Early in the fourth quarter on a play similar to his touchdown, Fumagalli got wide open off a boot action. After catching the ball, he raced down the field another 20-30 yards for a gain of 44 yards on the play.
Fumagalli totaled 105 yards on five receptions with a touchdown. It was a good tape that gave Fumagalli the look of a second-day talent for the 2018 NFL Draft. He is a good route-runner with hands, athleticism and quickness to hurt defenses as a receiver. Fumagalli isn't a bull as a blocker, but he contributes and gives a good effort. This was an impressive tape that will help improve Fumagalli's draft grade.
Last year, Wisconsin had an excellent trio of linebackers with T.J. Watt, Jack Cichy and T.J. Edwards. This year they are down to just Edwards, as Cichy is out for the year with a torn ACL, and Watt is now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Edwards had a strong start to the 2017 season, including some clutch plays to turn things around for the Badgers after Wisconsin got off to a slow start in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Edwards bulled his way into the backfield to set up a tackle for a loss for a teammate. A few plays later, Edwards came over in zone coverage to drop a back with authority right after a catch. It went for loss of one. The next play, he tackled the scrambling quarterback in the open field to get his defense off the field on a third down.
With just a minute before halftime, Edwards made a big play for the Badgers when he caught a deflected pass for an interception to set up the Badgers in the Utah State red zone that led to the Badgers tying the game at 10 before the half. Early in the third quarter, Edwards made another open field tackle on a check down coming over from zone coverage to force a Utah State punt. Edwards looked good in zone coverage while also being tough against the run. This was a nice start to the season for him.
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington would probably have been drafted on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft if they had decided not to return to Stillwater. The duo lit up the scoreboard in 2016, and they picked up 2017 where they left off by dominating Tulsa.
On the first drive of the game, Rudolph made some short, precision passes, including showing his arm strength by throwing the out route to the far hash. He laid out a nice deep ball to new speedster wide receiver Tyron Johnson for a 44-yard touchdown. It was a well-located deep ball that let Johnson make a play for his quarterback. Rudolph should have pulled the trigger a little sooner as Johnson had to slow down to track the pass, but it still was thrown well enough to get the Cowboys a quick lead.
On the next possession, Washington got a step on the cornerback, who set up with outside leverage. Washington cut to the inside while running his deep post route to haul in a touchdown from 40 yards out as the safety failed in helping in the deep part of the field.
Rudolph was fortunate later on a 49-yard completion; he threw late on a far out, and the cornerback just missed the ball after humping the route. If Rudolph were a split second faster, the pass would have been a pick-six for Tulsa. As it was, the receiver spun downfield to get tackled just short of the goal line and set up a short touchdown run for the Cowboys. In the NFL though, Rudolph's pass probably would have been an interception returned for a touchdown.
Just before halftime, Washington ran another deep post route. He came back to adjust to an underthrown deep ball from Rudolph, and during the adjustment, the cornerback fell down. Washington made the easy catch and coasted into the end zone for a 77-yard touchdown.
It wasn't all good for Rudolph in the first half. He held the ball too long during the final minute and ended up taking a sack after rolling out. Rudolph fumbled the ball with his arm moving forward, and a Tulsa defender snatched the ball out of the air.
Tulsa's defense was completely overmatched, so this wasn't a legit test for the Cowboys' tandem of Rudolph and Washington.
Rudolph finished this contest having completed 20-of-24 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns. He also made a short touchdown run in the third quarter. Rudolph is a spread quarterback though, so for the NFL, he is going to need to learn working under center, calling plays in the huddle, and working in a pro-style offense rather than the predetermined plays of a college spread system. Showing improved field vision to work off primary reads will be very important for Rudolph's draft stock in the weeks to come. He also didn't illustrate impressive anticipation against Tulsa. But he did show his nice skill set with a good overall performance to open his senior year.
Washington caught six passes for 145 yards with two touchdowns. The Tulsa defensive backs weren't NFL caliber, so they weren't a serious test for Washington, but this was a good start to the year as he showed his ability to stretch defenses, adjust to the ball, and be a sure-handed receiver.
Ohio State is loaded with future NFL players, including many early round picks, but the most impressive draft-eligible prospect on the field was Indiana wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. Cobbs missed last season with an ankle injury, but he was one of the top wideouts in the Big Ten two years ago when he averaged 17.3 yards per catch (60-1,035-4). In this coming-out party, Cobbs had his way with the highly acclaimed young Ohio State cornerbacks.
Early in the first quarter, Cobbs made a tremendous leaping one-handed catch along the sideline, getting a foot down to make the 28-yard reception. He added two more receptions to move the chains and set up Indiana for an early touchdown. In the second quarter, Cobbs used his size to make an eight-yard touchdown catch over cornerback Denzel Ward.
Cobbs continued to abuse the Ohio State secondary during the second half. After getting open on a crossing route, he showed nice quickness and run-after-the-catch skills to get upfield.
Cobbs finished with 149 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions. He put his size, hands, quickness, route-running, body control, and ability to win 50-50 passes on display in this impressive performance. The loss to Ohio State was a phenomenal start to the season for Cobbs.
Of course, Cobbs can only produce if his quarterback gets him the ball. While this wasn't a flawless performance, Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow was impressive with how he threw the ball against Ohio State. Lagow was on fire during the first drive, getting the ball out quickly and throwing accurate passes to move the chains. He made a beautiful back-shoulder throw to Cobbs and then tossed a well-placed touchdown that led tight end Ian Thomas into the end zone.
Early in the second quarter, Lagow double clutched, which let a corner adjust to tip a pass that was picked off by another defender. If Lagow hadn't double clutched, his receiver would've been open in the end zone. Lagow came back to make some nice throws though, including an eight-yard touchdown strike midway through the second quarter.
Lagow put his team back in the lead in the third quarter with a short touchdown pass, but then Ohio State took control of the game. The senior quarterback battled, but he was simply overmatched. Still, he showed a nice arm with pocket presence and the ability to make precise throws into tight windows. Lagow completed 40-of-65 passes for 410 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He needs to improve his ball security as he nearly fumbled several times aside from actually losing the ball in the fourth quarter. This impressive start to the year gave Lagow the look of a draftable player.
Cobbs wasn't the only wide receiver who impressed in this game. Last fall, I put Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell in the first round of my 2018 NFL Mock Draft after a scout recommended to me that I do it. Campbell was a backup buried behind Curtis Samuel at that time, but that scout told me that Campbell possessed big-time potential and was likely to break out in 2017. This season's opener against Indiana seemed to prove that scout's evaluation was right on the money, because Campbell was a play-maker versus the Hoosiers.
Campbell got his season started by getting open on a crossing route and picked up extra yards with a nice run after the catch. However in the third quarter, Campbell had two painful dropped passes. The second was horrible as he was running wide open into the end zone for a potential 40-yard touchdown, but he dropped the pass. Campbell came back to make a nice reception, and he then went on to snag a short crossing route and explode down the sideline, showing his elite speed to run for a 74-yard touchdown. Campbell added more yards running through the secondary with shifty moves on other receptions. Against Indiana, he totaled six receptions for 136 yards and his one score. Campbell is is an explosive play-maker with first-round speed. Showing better hands in the weeks to come will help his draft grade.
Indiana tight end Ian Thomas had a coming-out party against Ohio State. The senior ran a great out and up route to get open before making a beautiful over-the-shoulder 18-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. He showed excellent hands and concentration to track the ball for the catch. In the third quarter, Thomas made his second touchdown reception, via a short pass to the flat. He totaled five receptions for 53 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 248-pound Thomas showed nice quickness, athleticism, and fluid route-running against Ohio State. This definitely was a good tape to cause evaluators to take notice.
Ohio State's defensive line is comprised of future NFL players. The most impressive of them in this contest was defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones. He showed excellent speed, athleticism, and disruption skills at the point of attack. On the second drive of the game, Jones fired into the backfield to pick up a tackle for a loss. Jones, a redshirt sophomore, has a first-round skill set and could be in store for a breakout year.
Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard has a good skill set, but he needs to produce more from it. Hubbard had a coverage sack late in the first half, but this was otherwise a so-so performance for him. You can see that he has pro size, is a quick defender, and is athletic with movement skills. If Hubbard can put some production together, he could end up being a first-round pick.
Another Buckeyes defensive end, Tyquan Lewis, was more impressive than Hubbard. In the first quarter, Lewis showed some power by using a rip on his inside arm to get leverage on the right tackle, which then let Lewis chase down Indianan's quarterback, Richard Lagow, for a sack. On the next play, Lewis picked up a tackle for a loss on an option run. Just before the half, Lewis slammed Lagow into the turf with a vicious hit that actually drew a grounding penalty the senior quarterback. Lewis generated a good tape with this contest to start his 2017 campaign.
Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward got some hype leading into this game, but it turned into a mixed night. He made an impressive play in the second quarter after running with the big tight end Ian Thomas down the seam as he timed his hand slap perfectly to knock the ball away from Thomas. Later on the drive however, Ward was beaten on a jumpball touchdown as big receiver Simmie Cobbs caught the score over the cornerback. Ward was in good position, but Cobbs just made a great play. Shortly later, a receiver got separation on Ward for a gain of close to 20 yards along the sideline. Ward then was called for a hold before the half.
In the fourth quarter, Ward came back with blanket coverage on a pass downfield. He showed good awareness to look back to the quarterback and was able to snatch a pass away for his first interception of the year. Ward has good cover skills, but showed some size-mismatch issues with Cobbs, and that could lead to him getting designated as a nickel corner only for the NFL.
Ohio State held out running back Mike Weber with a hamstring injury.