South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst has a serious buzz about him in the scouting community - as we reported this week - and he flashed why against Missouri. Early in the first quarter, Hurst caught a pass in flat and rumbled for close to 10 yards. Later on the drive, Hurst was running wide open down the sideline for about a 30-yard touchdown, but the pass was overthrown. While Hurst wasn't making a big impact as a receiver, he was impressive as a blocker, hitting blocks to open holes for his back in the first half.
In the second half, that changed as South Carolina was finally able to get Hurst the ball. Hurst ran down the seam and caught a pass between two defenders. He cut to his right and ran away from the defensive backs to bolt down the field for a 39-yard touchdown. Shortly later, Hurst made a phenomenal catch, reaching back away from his momentum to snatch a pass for a gain of about 20. In the fourth quarter, South Carolina gave Hurst a goal-line carry on a stretch run. He lowered his shoulder and powered into the end zone to get a rushing touchdown. It was a play of incredible athleticism for a tight end, as he ran away from a speed rusher to turn the corner before blasting his way into the end zone.
This game illustrates why there is such a buzz about Hurst in the scouting community. He showed serious speed with fluid athleticism, good route-running, and soft hands as a receiver. He could be a mismatch receiving tight end in the NFL. Hurst also is a tough blocker with strength at the point of attack, and he gives a good effort. If Hurst were younger, he would be a first-round pick. While he will be a 25-year-old rookie, Hurst still has a shot of going on Thursday night next April.
Missouri defensive end Marcell Frazier is an early-round talent, but he didn't impress against South Carolina. He started the game well before going quiet. In the first quarter, Frazier burned the left tackle with a speed rush. He almost got the sack, but he spun the quarterback around and that set up a sack for a teammate. Frazier had some pressures and was just average in run support. This tape won't help Frazier's draft grade.
South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel was one of the standouts in Week 1 of college football, and he didn't disappoint in Week 2. Last week, Samuel took the opening kickoff of the season back for a touchdown. He did it again in the second quarter. Samuel broke a tackle around the 25-yard line and then exploded down the field for the score. Shortly later, Samuel took a jet sweep and weaved through the Missouri defense for a 25-yard touchdown run. As a receiver, Samuel finished with five receptions for 45 yards. With explosive playmaking skill to contribute as a receiver, runner, and returner, Samuel could turn himself into a hot prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft.
Clemson 14, Auburn 6
There were a lot of nice draft matchups in this game. One that featured two players who will be playing in the NFL next year was Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins taking on Auburn guard Braden Smith. Wilkins is a likely first-rounder, while Smith will probably go on Day 2.
In the second quarter, Wilkins used power to knock down the hands of Smith and then speed to close to start a sack of Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Wilkins came close to another sack in the third quarter, getting free from the left guard to get a hit on Stidham. Wilkins was moved around and was active all night getting at the point of attack. Aside from giving up that sack, Smith wasn't bad and generally was effective. Neither player should see a big impact from this tape.
The draft-eligible prospect who was the most impressive in this game was Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell. He dominated Auburn sophomore left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho, as Ferrell was just too fast. In the third quarter, Ferrell came with a speed rush around the Wanogho and had a strip-sack of Stidham. Auburn was lucky that Wanogho dived on the loose ball to retain possession. Ferrell then used a spin move to almost get another sack of Stidham, but the quarterback was able to duck under Ferrell to escape. Shortly later, Ferrell came close to another sack, as he used speed to run around the corner and chase Stidham out of the pocket.
Ferrell looked like a first-round edge rusher in this game. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder has good length to him with NFL size and speed around the corner. The redshirt sophomore could enter the 2018 NFL Draft, and if he does, this tape will help him to be a Thursday night selection.
Ferrell wasn't the only defensive end who stood out for Clemson as the Tigers notched double digit sacks. Junior end Austin Bryant had multiple sacks as well, using speed to run around the right tackle throughout the night. He had sacks on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter. Bryant showed impressive speed to close and was athletic to run around blockers. This tape will help Bryant's draft grade as well.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham didn't have much of a chance, as the Clemson defensive line dominated Auburn's offensive front. Stidham held onto the ball too long at times and took some unnecessary sacks. He needs to speed up the process with getting faster at making decisions and getting the ball out. Stidham was 19-of-29 for 181 yards. Over the first two games, Stidham has shown some rust after not playing football last year. His current track would suggest that he returns to Auburn in 2018.
Auburn junior power back Kamryn Pettway was making his season debut after being suspended for Week 1. Pettway ran hard, but didn't have good running lanes, as the Clemson front seven controlled the line of scrimmage. Pettway totaled 74 yards on 22 carries.
Clemson junior wide receiver Deon Cain going against Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis was matchup of early-round talents. Late in the second quarter, the Tigers finally got Cain involved when they threw a jump ball up, and Cain made the reception over Davis for a gain of 20 yards. In the third quarter, Davis was running with wideout Ray-Ray McCloud, but Davis was late turning his head around and McCloud made an acrobatic back-shoulder catch. The next play, Clemson went after Davis again with Cain, but Davis was able to slap the ball away. A few other shots at Davis went incomplete as he had blanket coverage and didn't allow his receiver to get open. In the fourth quarter, Davis had a blistering hit on Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant on a stretch run to the perimeter.
Cain finished with two receptions for 27 yards. Davis allowed a couple of receptions, but played well. He ran with receivers and prevented separation throughout the night, even on the couple of plays where wideouts made catches. Davis was physical, and he battled and showed starting potential for the NFL with size and speed. This tape will help Davis' draft grade.
Penn State 33, Pitt 14
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is a stud runner who could go in the top 10 of the 2018 NFL Draft (he's as high as No. 2 in Walt's 2018 NFL Mock Draft.) Early on against Pitt, it was his own team that limited Barkley rather than the opposing defense. In the first half, Barkley didn't get a lot of opportunities, as Pitt controlled the time of possession, and Penn State had quarterback Trace McSorley drop back to pass a lot. Barkley had only five attempts at halftime for 22 yards. However, he did flash some serious quickness and power. It was questionable play calling by the Nittany Lions to have Barkley only carry the rock five times through two quarters.
In the third quarterm Penn State finally got Barkley involved as he ripped off over 20 yards on their first drive. Barkley then ran a great route out of the backfield going vertical down the seam. He burned a linebacker with a jab step to the outside before cutting back straight down the seam. McSorley hit him in stride, and Barkley did the rest racing into the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown reception.
Barkley added a run of 22 yards off the left side using his speed to turn the corner and then had an 11-yard burst around the right side. Barkley showed his power, running through two defenders and pushing his way into the end zone.
Barkley ran for 88 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown. He also led Penn State in receiving with four receptions for 45 yards and a score. Barkley showed he is a devastating player with excellent speed, power, vision, balance and athleticism. This tape will help him to be a high draft pick.
Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki got his season started well last week, and he continued his strong play versus Pitt. In the first quarter, Gesicki caught a short touchdown pass, as he got wide open in busted coverage running down the seam. Shortly later, Gesicki caught his second touchdown pass getting open running across the field and being left alone in the flat. Gesicki turned up field to dart into the end zone from about 10 yards out. Gesicki got open for a gain of almost 20 yards in the fourth quarter.
Gesicki finished the day with 39 yards on four receptions and two touchdowns. The numbers don't fully illustrate how impressive Gesicki was. He ran good routes, and he showed quickness, athleticism and soft hands. This tape will help Gesicki's draft grade.
Indiana 34, Virginia 17
Indiana wide receiver Simmie Cobbs, Jr. was one of the breakout players in Week 1 in college football, as he dominated the Ohio State secondary with 149 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions. Once again the Hoosiers offensive line struggled, so it took some time before Cobbs was able to make his presence felt. Late in the second quarter, Cobbs caught a 10-yard slant and broke a tackle to get more yards. Cobbs weaved around defenders to dart into the end zone with a 29-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, Cobbs made a pretty one-handed catch over a defensive back along the sideline for a nice gain.
Cobbs finished with five receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. This tape will only help to reinforce his early-round grade as he once again showed mismatch size with good route-running, hands, toughness, body control, and the ability to run after the catch. Combined with what he did in Week 1, Cobbs has his 2017 season off to a fantastic start.
Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow battled hard and passed the ball well against Ohio State in Week 1, so it was surprising to see him struggle against Virginia's defense. In the first quarter, Lagow ran a zone read run and fumbled the ball after taking a big hit. Lagow then made a bad read, as he threw to a well covered receiver. The ball was also tossed too short, and that led to an easy interception for Virginia. After that play, Lagow was pulled from the game for freshman quarterback Peyton Ramsey. Lagow was only 3-of-10 for 24 yards with the interception and fumble. This performance made Lagow's game against Ohio State look like an aberration, and this tape will definitely hurt his draft grade.
Virginia defensive tackle Andrew Brown has a first-round skill set, but some NFL sources feel that Brown doesn't always play up to it. Brown had some good moments against Indiana and finished some plays off. In the second quarter, Brown fired behind the line of scrimmage to get a tackle for a loss of one. He had a good pass rush for a pressure that pushed Lagow off his land mark in the pocket to lead to an incompletion. Just before halftime, Brown had a nice speed rush through a guard to help start a sack for a teammate.
While Brown had some positive plays, there were also some pass-rushing opportunities that he didn't do anything with. Indiana sent some double teams his way, and Ramsey is more of a running threat, so Virginia had Brown in containment on some pass plays. In order to be a first-round pick next April, Brown is going to need more pass-rushing production in the weeks to come.
Virginia linebacker Micah Kiser should get drafted next April, and this tape showed his activity. Kiser did well making a number of tackles in the ground game. In the second quarter, Kiser left the field with trainers, but he came back a short while later. After halftime, Kiser exploded into the backfield on a blitz to get a third down sack. Shortly later, Kiser pushed his way into the backfield and sacked the quarterback a second time after an end forced him to step up in the pocket.
Kiser is a tough run defender and a quality blitzer for the NFL. However his speed, athleticism and movement skills appear limited in pass coverage. As a result, he looks like a run defender and rotational linebacker rather than a three-down starter in the pros. That could send Kiser into the mid-rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. Showing more pass-coverage skills this season or at the East-West Shrine/Senior Bowl would be huge to improve Kiser's draft stock.
Louisville 47, North Carolina 35
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson had an excellent Week 1 performance to start his junior year, and he continued his strong play, carrying Louisville to a road win over North Carolina. In the first quarter, Jackson found a receiver wide open in busted coverage for an easy short touchdown pass. Jackson, however, then made a terrible decision on a third-and-goal. A defender was taking him to the ground and Jackson threw a ball up for grabs that floated to a few Tar Heel defenders, but they dropped an easy interception. That led to Louisville getting a field goal when they should have produced a turnover.
Jackson came back to make an incredible play. Off play-action, Jackson calmly stepped out of sack, kept his eyes downfield as he stepped up, and threw a perfect pass deep down the middle to lead hit his receiver perfectly in stride about 45 yards downfield. The great pass by Jackson let his wideout Jaylen Smith run an additional 30 yards untouched for a 75-yard touchdown. It was an amazing play by Jackson that showed arm strength, accuracy, field vision, composure and escapability.
In the third quarter Jackson took a zone read run up the middle of the Duke defense and then darted down the field for a 43-yard rushing touchdown. On his next drive, Jackson moved the chains with a 19-yard completion where he took his time in the pocket, anticipated his receiver coming open, and then fired a bullet into a window to get a chunk completion. He added another rushing touchdown, showing toughness to power through some defenders near the goal line. Midway through the fourth quarter, Jackson threw a critical 30-yard touchdown, anticipating his receiver coming open down the seam. The ball was a little behind his target, but good enough to get to his target. Jackson added another rushing touchdown with just over three minutes remaining.
Jackson completed 25-of-39 passes for 393 yards with three touchdowns through air while running for 132 yards on 19 carries with three touchdowns on the ground. Jackson's his running ability gets a lot of attention, but more importantly for the NFL, he looked good passing from the pocket. He worked through progressions and made some good anticipatory throws, illustrating his intelligence with feel. There is no doubt that Jackson has a good arm capable of making any throw required in the NFL.
Entering the season, the big area that Jackson needed to show improvement for the NFL was accuracy. This performance illustrates that Jackson has gotten better with his accuracy and ball placement. He isn't flawless and still can have some passes go off the mark, but Jackson threw with a lot of precision against North Carolina. Continuing to throw accurately while adding weight to his frame are the two big tasks for Jackson to prove himself to NFL evaluators this season and in the months prior to the 2018 NFL Draft.
Louisville defensive end James Hearns is another prospect for the NFL. In the first quarter, Hearns made a touchdown-saving tackle a yard in front of the end zone, using his speed to get to the sideline and shove the back out of bounds. Hearns then gave a second effort to get off a block and get a tackle for a loss. Hearns didn't have a big impact in the pass rush and did see some double teams. To help his draft stock, Hearns needs to rush the passer better in the weeks to come.
Unfortunately, Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander was out of this game with a knee injury. Alexander is a early-round prospect for the NFL. Hopefully he returns next week as it will be great to see him matchup against Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain.
Duke 41, Northwestern 17
Scouts who have been through Northwestern have told me that they were impressed with what they saw from Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Thorson has size to him and was coming off completing 28-of-38 passes for 352 yards in Week 1 against Nevada. Week 2 didn't go nearly as well, as Northwestern was dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Thorson was under constant duress and his receivers were awful at getting separation for their quarterback.
There were a few lowlights on Thorson, including a few passes off the mark that were a little high. He also threw the ball too hard to lead it to bouncing off the hands of his receiver. Thorson held onto the ball too long on a few plays as well. In the third quarter, Thorson threw a pass off the mark behind his receiver. That let a Duke defensive back make a diving interception. Thorson then threw another pick, but that pass was on the wide receiver, who should have made the catch or at least knocked it down.
Thorson ended up completing 11-of-29 for 120 yards with two interceptions. While he didn't have a good game, Thorson did show that he has pro potential in terms of his skill set. He can throw the deep out with a fastball that can be fit into tight windows. Thorson has quality mechanics with a quick delivery. He's a quarterback that will go under the radar, but could be a nice value pick.
Northwestern running back Justin Jackson was also shut down by Duke owning the line of scrimmage. Jackson ran for 18 yards on seven carries with a short touchdown run in the second quarter. However, on the first drive of the game, Jackson had a linebacker bull rush through him to get a sack that forced a Wildcats punt. Jackson is going to need to perform better as a blitz protector in the weeks to come to impress NFL evaluators.