2024 NFL Draft: College Football Game Recaps – Week 5

Notre Dame 21, Duke 14

  • Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt has started 27 straight games for the Fighting Irish. He did well overall against Duke, not allowing a sack and consistently contributing as a run blocker. Overall, Alt was rock solid, but in the fourth quarter, he came close to giving up a sack when an edge rusher got around him with a speed rush.

    Alt looks like a future NFL starter and a safe pick to turn into a quality pro. He is big with long arms, has good strength in the upper body, uses his hands well, and has good technique. Alt has been consistent and productive. However, he has issues with his anchor because he is stiff and doesn’t bend well. That lack of bend is a challenging issue given how tall Alt is. Sometimes, Alt will bend at the waist, which leads to him having some issues with sustaining some blocks. Alt has some physical similarities to former Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey. At the next level, Alt might be better off on the right side.

  • Some in the media have projected Duke quarterback Riley Leonard to the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, although others have view him lower than that. Still, Leonard definitely has a pro skill set with size, arm strength, and mobility. Against Notre Dame, Leonard played hard and tough, but he did not have an impressive game that will help his draft grade.

    Late in the first quarter, Leonard had a pass off the mark, leading his receiver too much so it fell into the arms of a cornerback for an interception. The Notre Dame pass rush was all over Leonard throughout the first half, which left him out of sync. He was missing his targets, overthrowing some wideouts in the middle of the filed and also throwing other passes behind receivers. Leonard was still doing some damage with his feet, but he had a fumble on a sack just before the half. The Duke offensive line was really struggling and not helping Leonard at all.

    Early in the fourth quarter, Leonard used his legs to take off on a 33-yard run and set up the Blue Devils in the red zone. To finish the drive, a receiver was wide open in busted coverage and Leonard tossed a short touchdown pass to him. With only seconds remaining in the game, Leonard was strip-sacked and tackled awkwardly. It looked like he had a very serious ankle injury with how it was twisted underneath Notre Dame defensive tackle Howard Cross. Leonard finished completing 12-of-27 for 134 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He ran for 88 yards as well. He actually ran for even more, but the NCAA deducts sack yardage from rushing totals.

    Leonard has a pro skill set, but this game illustrated that he could use refinement in terms of accuracy, staying poised, and ball security. The junior would be better served by returning to Duke for 2024 and continuing his development rather than entering the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Duke left tackle Graham Barton is a potential first- or second-round pick for the 2024 NFL Draft, but he unfortunately missed this game with an injury.

Ole Miss 55, LSU 49

  • LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels has early-round potential for the 2024 NFL Draft, and he needs to produce some dominant tapes to have a shot at being a first-round pick next April. Against Ole Miss, Daniels had some ugly plays, but he also battled and kept leading his team to points. LSU’s defense really struggled, however, causing team to fall way behind in the first half before Daniels led his teammates back to take the lead in the second half.

    In the first quarter, Daniels lofted in a perfect deep ball for what should have been a long touchdown, but his receiver dropped the pass. After missing on a few throws, Daniels took off on a run after scrambling and took a vicious hit from an Ole Miss defender that jarred the ball loose. The Rebels recovered the fumble to kill the drive. After that play, Daniels was much better.

    Daniels came back to toss a well-placed fade pass to the back of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brian Thomas Jr. It was a perfect throw and catch over tight coverage. Shortly later, Daniels exploded down the field on a quarterback draw for a 55-yard run. That set up a rushing touchdown to keep LSU in the game. Shortly later, Daniels and Thomas hooked up again on an end-zone fade route for another touchdown. Just before the half, Daniels hit another drop fade route with a perfect 29-yard touchdown pass. Daniels was red hot, lofting in perfect fade routes that beat good coverage from the Ole Miss defensive backs. The Tigers were down 31-28 at the intermission, but Daniels had put up 234 passing yards and three scoring strikes that had kept his team in the game.

    To open the third quarter, Daniels took off on a scramble of about 25 yards. On the next play, he did a quarterback sneak to plunge into the end zone. Having been down a lot, Daniels put the Tigers on his back and had them in front 35-31 early in the second half. Midway through the fourth quarter, Daniels drew the defense offsides, and he took advantage by airing out a bomb to Thomas in the front of the end zone. Thomas hauled in the 34-yard scoring pass, but his feet landed out of bounds. The officials, however, blew the call and gifted LSU the touchdown.

    After the Rebels took a six-point lead with under a minute remaining, Daniels hit a receiver on the run for a gain of over 40 yards to get inside the 35. Daniels then caught another break when he had an Ole Miss corner jump a route and drop an easy interception. A few other passes to the end zone were knocked away before Ole Miss came away with the victory. Daniels completed 27-of-36 passes on the day for 414 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 99 yards and a score.

    Overall, this tape is going to help Daniels’ draft grade. He showed an arm capable of burning defenses downfield, while also displaying impressive accuracy, touch and placement on his deep balls. Additionally, he used his feet and athletic ability to hurt defenses on the ground. As a pocket passer, Daniels could use more refinement for the next leve, which might make him more of a second-day prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Ole Miss quarterback Jaxon Dart played well against the Tigers. He operated Lane Kiffin’s offense well, throwing some precision passes and leading his receivers for more yardage. On the opening drive of the game, Dart guided Ole Miss down the field on 14 plays before tossing a short touchdown pass to a wide-open receiver on fourth-and-goal. Shortly later, Dart took advantage of blown coverage and found Dayton Wade wide open for a 15-yard touchdown.

    Late in the second quarter, Dart hit a receiver down the seam. That wideout then exploded down the field for a gain of 56 yards. Dart led him to a big play, and the receiver rewarded his quarterback. At the end of the third quarter, Dart took off on a run up the middle of the LSU defense and hurdled a tackler while gaining 27 yards on the carry. That led to points for the Rebels. Dart also used his athletic ability again for a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.

    Late in the game, Dart fired a superb back-shoulder pass to get to the Ole Miss 30. A few plays later, he threw a screen pass that put the Rebels back in front with just under a minute remaining. On the evening, Dart completed 26-of-39 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns.

    For the pros, Dart has ability to be a rhythm passer and has enough mobility to help his offensive line with buying time. He might be short of the skill set to be a starter, but at the very least, Dart has some backup potential.

Georgia 27, Auburn 20

  • Georgia tight end Brock Bowers has had some quiet games to start the 2023 season, but that hasn’t been on him. The Bulldogs have a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator, plus lost other good talent to the 2023 NFL Draft. As a result, Bowers has not seen as many looks and receiving opportunities this season.

    Georgia got Bowers involved in the first half by using him as a power running back on a third-and-short. He caught a few short passes before Bowers getting open on a dig route in zone coverage, which turned into a 29-yard gain. The new set of downs led to a rushing touchdown on the next play. Early in the fourth quarter, Bowers got open along the sideline, and after making the catch, he darted back to the middle to rumble down field for a 37-yard gain. Later on the drive, he made two receptions despite defenders being draped all over him. Late in the fourth quarter, Bowers got open on a dig again, converting a third-and-12 with a big gain. Georgia capped the drive with Bowers getting open on a slant and adding 25 more yards on the way to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown. His huge second half led to the Bulldogs avoiding an upset and coming away with a tough road win. Versus Auburn, Bowers caught eight passes for 157 yards and one touchdown.

    For the NFL, Bowers looks like a receiving weapon and a dynamic contributor in the passing game. He is superb after the catch, possessing excellent feel, route-running, and coverage recognition. While Bowers isn’t the biggest of tight ends, he is a tough competitor as a blocker. His performance against Auburn will help him to be a first-round pick next April in the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Georgia welcomed defensive back Javon Bullard back to the field in this contest. The team really missed Bullard in its tough game against South Carolina. In the first quarter of this contest, Bullard saved a touchdown by racing across the field to force Tigers quarterback Payton Thorne out of bounds after a 61-yard run. On the next play, Bullard made a diving pass breakup, which was an excellent play. Bullard was around the ball throughout the game and was a key contributor to limiting the Auburn rushing offense.

    For the next level, Bullard is a hybrid nickel corner and safety, similar to sensational Detroit Lions rookie Brian Branch. Bullard is not quite as good as Branch, as Branch is bigger, better at tackling, and a little more instinctive. Still, Bullard has a similar style of play and role to Branch.

USC 48, Colorado 41

  • USC quarterback Caleb Williams is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, and he gave proof of why with a dominant performance in Boulder. While he didn’t have a mistake-free game, Williams showed that he is a special arm talent and playmaker for the next level.

    Williams contributed to a touchdown drive to start the game. Shortly later though, he overthrew a wide-open receiver running vertically down the field on what could have been a long touchdown with an accurate pass. To kill that possession, Sanders fumbled a shotgun snap, but he was able to recover his loose ball.

    Late in the first quarter, Williams had all day to throw and nothing was open. He showed his creative ability by rolling to his left and then finding a receiver downfield. Williams lofted the ball downfield, and it dropped into a receiver on the run, letting him explode down the field for a 71-yard touchdown. Shortly later, Williams had another clear pocket and threw a laser to a receiver going down the seam for a 24-yard touchdown. Williams also had a short touchdown toss in the first half, and he then threw a 26-yard touchdown just before halftime, hitting a short out route to a receiver who did the rest to break a tackle to explode downfield for the score.

    In the third quarter, Williams tossed two short touchdown passes, and he was overwhelming the Colorado defense. However at the end of the third quarter, Williams threw his first interception of the year. He had a receiver wide open on a wheel route deep down the field. Williams did not move his eyes fast enough and see the wideout until late. Williams did not get enough arm on the pass while throwing on a roll out, and the ball fell short into the arms of a Colorado defensive back. Williams finished the day completing 30-of-40 passes for 403 yards, six touchdowns and an interception.

    As a passer, Williams is a dynamic playmaker and a future franchise quarterback. He stands tall in the pocket, showing excellent composure and patience to let routes develop. When Williams decides to pass, he has a quick throwing motion with a fast arm whip. The most important attribute for any quarterback is accuracy, and Williams has it, showing the ability to fire passes by defenders into tight windows. Williams shows an impressive ability to alter his arm angle to fire balls through windows. When defenders leap to bat down passes, Williams will drop his arm to throw from the side or get very creative with quick flips from a standstill, a side-arm delivery, or even a jump pass if necessary. This outing is going to help Williams be the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders was dominating the competition to open the 2023 season before having a rough game against Oregon a week ago. Sanders bounced back taking on USC, putting together an impressive performance. It was not without some mistakes, but Sanders competed hard and kept putting up points on the USC defense.

    In the first quarter, Sanders moved the ball on a drive by using his legs and arm to move the ball. He had a good drive end when he did not take a check down and forced a pass downfield, which went incomplete and then resulted in a missed long field goal. At the end of the first quarter, Sanders rolled to his right, looking to connect to Weaver, but his receiver broke to the inside when Sanders expected him to go to the outside. The pass went right into the cornerback for an interception, which set up the Trojans deep in Colorado territory.

    Sanders came back to loft in a touchdown pass to Jimmy Horn Jr. It was a great read and throw by Sanders, who saw the safety come downhill, and he lofted in the pass to Horn behind the safety with a perfectly placed pass that led him into the end zone from 30 yards out. Just before the half, Sanders used his legs to take advantage of an open field and blasting off down the field for a 25-yard touchdown run.

    In the third quarter, Sanders connected for a touchdown with a screen to the tight end, and Sanders made a superb throw to a receiver for a two-point conversion, but the receiver’s foot landed on the chalk. Early in the fourth quarter, Sanders had a critical fourth down, and he made a huge play rolling to his right and throwing a perfectly placed pass to a well-covered receiver to get a touchdown for the Buffaloes.

    On a fourth down in the fourth quarter, Sanders held the ball too long and took a costly sack that gave the ball back to USC just past midfield. He came back to throw a touchdown down the seam to make it a one-score game with 1:43 remaining. The Trojans recovered the onside kick to kill the comeback attempt. Sanders finished completing 30-of-45 passes for 371 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for another score.

    This game illustrated that as good as Sanders has been, he, like every other player, has things he could do better. When under pressure, Sanders needs to get the ball out. His tendency to backpedal is not going to work in the NFL thanks to the speed and athleticism of pro edge rushers. Sanders also will need to take his check downs more. Sanders will have to work on that, but by the sounds of it he will have another season of college football to work on his craft before going pro. On the positive side, Sanders is a very accurate passer with excellent feel, instincts, composure, mobility and toughness. He looks like a future NFL starter and could be a high first-round pick in whichever draft he decides to enter.