North Carolina 41, Miami 31
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye is the consensus second-rated quarterback prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft, although some might prefer Maye to USC’s Caleb Williams. Maye had a slow start versus Miami, but he gradually found his rhythm to lead the Tar Heels to a big home win.
Early in the game, Maye made some questionable passes, overthrowing a screen pass incomplete and then coming close to an interception by throwing a ball up for grabs in a crowd of defenders. Maye got lucky that the ball was tipped away for an incompletion. However on the next possession, Maye bought some time before finding a receiver open on the sideline and connecting with him for a gain of 47 yards. To end the drive, Maye hit Devontez Walker on a hitch post for an 18-yard touchdown.
Maye got lucky on the ensuing possession, as he took a blind-side strip sack in the front of the end zone, but a teammate recovered the fumble and ran it out of the end zone. Throughout the first half, Maye struggled to find his rhythm and had a number of passes off the mark. The Miami defensive line was putting steady pressure on Maye as the North Carolina’s blocking front was really struggling.
In the third quarter, Maye finally had time to let some downfield routes develop. At one point, Maye hit Walker on a deep crosser, and Walker darted into the end zone with a 33-yard score. Shortly later, Maye had a short play-action roll-out touchdown that put Miami in a big hole. Maye completed 17-of-33 passes against the Hurricanes for 273 yards and four touchdowns.
Overall, this tape had some good and bad from Maye, so it will be neutral overall. There is no doubt that Maye has starter ability with a strong arm, field vision, accuracy and mobility. He is a worthy franchise quarterback prospect and high first-rounder in any draft class.
Miami’s Kamren Kinchens was one of the best safeties in college football in 2022, and he picked up where he left off with superb play to open this season. A neck/injury knocked, however, him out for a few weeks, but he returned a week ago versus Georgia Tech.
Kinchens played well against North Carolina, doing a good job in pass coverage downfield. Late in the first quarter, Kinchens blitzed up the middle to get a sack of Maye. Shortly later, Kinchens came down in zone coverage and made an excellent pass breakup. If Kinchens can stay healthy and remains consistent with how he performed in 2022, he could be a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and should fall no lower than Round 2.
North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray is one of the top linebacker prospects for the 2024 NFL Draft, and he showed why taking on Miami. Late in the first quarter, Gray recovered a fumble at the goal line to keep points off the board, and shortly later, he was superb at reading and snuffing out a screen for a loss. Gray continued to make tackles, limiting runs and going sideline-to-sideline in pursuit. In the third quarter, Gray did a excellent job of getting depth in his drop in zone coverage and then making a leaping interception to set up his offense in Miami territory.
Gray’s performance against the Hurricanes will help his draft grade for the passing-driven NFL. He showed the ability to defend the pass-making plays in coverage downfield and dealing with the perimeter passing attack. There is no doubt that Gray has good instincts and is very adept at reading his keys to get in position to make plays. Many non-pass-rushing linebackers slip to the second day of NFL drafts, and Gray could be an excellent value pick if he ends up going on Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft.
Miami junior quarterback Tyler Van Dyke had a rough game last week, tossing three interceptions versus Georgia Tech. North Carolina took control of this game in the early going, but Van Dyke made some impressive throws in the second half that illustratedd his next-level arm talent.
Midway through the second quarter, Van Dyke hung tough in the pocket despite knowing he was going to take a big shot. Van Dyke instead aired out a perfect pass deep down the field for a 35-yard touchdown. He took a massive hit but delivered a beautiful pass. In the third quarter, Van Dyke fumbled a snap, and the loose ball was recovered by the Tar Heels. And later he tried to fit a pass over North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray, but Gray made a superb leaping interception. In garbage time, Van Dyke did throw two excellent touchdown passes that showed superb ball placement in the end zone on one throw and then leading his receiver for a long score in the final minutes. Van Dyke also had an interception on essentially a Hail Mary on the final play of the game. Against North Carolina, Van Dyke completed 31-of-47 passes for 391 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
For the next level, Van Dyke is a big pocket passer with a strong arm, accuracy, and field vision. However, he is a limited athlete and not a running threat. Because of those limitations, Van Dyke could end up being a second-day prospect similar to Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup quarterback Kyle Trask.
Notre Dame 48, USC 20
USC quarterback Caleb Williams is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, but for those who prefer North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, they were given evidence to support their opinion. Williams had a disastrous first half on the road at Notre Dame.
Early in the first quarter, Williams had a rusher running free and in his face, but the normally secure Williams made a terrible decision, tossing the ball off his back foot. The pass sailed over his receiver to a Notre Dame safety for an easy interception. On the next possession, Williams used his legs to convert a first down after holding the ball too long on a play, but he did help engineer a field goal drive. Williams also had an impressive touchdown run that was called back on a holding penalty.
During the second quarter, Williams scrambled and climbed the pocket before throwing an ill-advised pass into double coverage that got tipped and picked, which set up the Fighting Irish deep in USC territory. On the next possession, Williams followed suit again with a bad pass thrown up for grabs. That again resulted in an easy interception for Notre Dame. In the final seconds before halftime, Williams held the ball too long and was strip-sacked.
Early in the third quarter, Williams was sacked on a number of plays, but he came back to lead a scoring drive with a short touchdown pass. Williams had more issues with sacks, as the Notre Dame defense was teeing off on the Trojans defensive line. His receivers were struggling to get open as well, and his line was not sustaining blocks. Williams finished completing 23-of-37 passes for 199 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
This tape will not help Williams at all, and evaluators who are critical of the USC offense will have some more proof that Williams is further behind than the media realizes. However, Williams has had a propensity for holding the ball too long going back to previous seasons. For the pro level, he definitely has to get quicker at getting the ball out. He puts lot of pressure on his offensive line, and at the pro level, he will end up taking a lot of hits if he doesn’t get faster at pulling the trigger. Plenty of good NFL quarterbacks had bad and ugly games at the college level, and this outing won’t push Williams out of being a high first-round pick. WIlliams’ performance against Notre Dame, however, just might fortify the opinion of evaluators who prefer Drake Maye.
Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt has started 29 straight games for the Fighting Irish. He did well overall against USC, not allowing a sack and being a consistent contributor as a run blocker. For the NFL, Alt looks like a future starter and a safe pick to turn into a quality pro. Alt is big with long arms, has good strength in the upper body, uses his hands well, and has good technique. He has been consistent and productive for the Fighting Irish.
However, Alt 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, and that 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.
Washington 36, Oregon 33
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is in the running to be the third-rated quarterback prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft behind USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye. Versus Oregon, Penix had a mixed outing. While he did not look like a high first-round pick, he looked like a capable passer for Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft with upside to develop.
In the first quarter, Penix made a smart play after seeing Oregon jump offsides. That gave Penix a free play, so he took a shot, lofting in a perfect deep ball to wide receiver Rome Odunze that tight coverage for an over-the-shoulder catch and a gain of 43 yards. On the next snap, Penix pump faked to the right before coming back to the left for a 26-yard touchdown pass. That was an impressive play on which Penix manipulated the safeties and helped create space for his receiver.
Shortly later, Penix lofted in another 26-yard touchdown with a perfect pass that led his receiver open into the back of the end zone to beat tight coverage. However on the next drive, Penix had a receiver running wide open down the sideline for a long gain, but he overshot his wideout with an inaccurate ball. Penix came back to make some nice throws, but just before halftime, he had some bad luck when Odunze stumbled on a route, which let an Oregon cornerback have an easy interception near midfield.
In the third quarter, Penix lofted a touchdown pass to Odunze, who made a phenomenal catch over the back of the cornerback. In the fourth quarter, Penix was clearly playing in pain, but he threw a frozen rope to convert a fourth down in Oregon territory. That drive resulted would end with a fourth-down run stop by Oregon near the goal line. Penix had one more chance late in the fourth quarter, and he lofted in a beauty for a gain of 35 yards. On the next play Penix connected with Odunze after throwing a pass up for grabs on the back shoulder in the front of the end zone, and Odunze made a leaping grab for an 18-yard touchdown. Penix completed 22-of-37 passes on the day for 302 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
Penix has a quality arm capable making all the throws needed at the next level. He flashes some downfield accuracy, dropping passes into tight windows and beating good coverage by the placement of his passes. At times, Penix has shown that he has some issues passing in the face of the rush, and that can cause him to have some passes off the mark when he is thrown off rhythm. Penix needs to improve his mechanics and his footwork will need development. For the 2024 NFL Draft, Penix looks like a second-day prospect with upside.
Versus Oregon, Odunze caught eight passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Odunze is dangerous at making contested catches as he has a tall, lanky frame with good leaping ability and ball-adjustment skills. However, Odunze lacks speed and is not a shifty route-runner who will create separation from NFL cornerbacks. Hence, Odunze is more of a second-day pick for the 2024 NFL Draft to turn into a No. 2 or 3 pro receiver.
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix is a potential mid-round prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft, and he had a respectable performance against Washington. In the first quarter, Nix used his legs to run for a critical first down before rolling out and throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Patrick Herbert. Midway through the second half, Nix saw a receiver running wide open in busted coverage, and he lofted in an easy touchdown pass to Troy Franklin from 30 yards out. Nix kept working the ball through the Washington defense and set up a rushing touchdown to put the Ducks in the lead in the fourth quarter. Late in the game, Nix had the opportunity to potentially run for a fourth-down conversion or convert with a pass, but he had his throw go wildly off the mark.
After a Huskies touchdown, Nix had one more opportunity to win or force overtime. Nix started to move the ball with short completions thanks to Washington dropping lots of defenders deep to prevent a big play. Nix finished completing 33-of-44 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns.
Nix looks like a mid-rounder for the 2024 NFL Draft who has some upside. He possesses running ability and enough arm strength to make the required throws. Nix could use development as a pocket passer because he has been a read-option quarterback in college while playing for Oregon and Auburn. As a pro, he might be more of a backup than a starter at the NFL level.
Florida 41, South Carolina 37
There was the potential for a good draft matchup in this game with South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler and wide receiver Xavier Legette taking on Florida cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. Legette played well against the Gators, catching five passes for 110 yards and showing that he has an early-round skill set. Rattler and the Gamecocks largely targeted other Florida cornerbacks, but Marshall was inconsistent with some good plays in coverage and some bad ones.
On South Carolina’s opening drive, Rattler rolled to his left and lofted in a well-placed pass to the back of the end zone to tight end Tre Knox to tie the game at 7. On the next Gamecocks possession, Rattler had a long completion on a 50-50 pass where his receiver came down with the ball. That play set up a rushing touchdown, and Rattler tied the game with a check-down to a back that turned into the score. Rattler led a field goal drive and had a few possessions not produce points because of poor blocking up front.
Midway through the second half, Rattler showed his athleticism and some speed by taking off on a 26-yard run when he had all of his receivers covered. A few plays later, Rattler threw a strike to hit Knox on the run and set up a first-and-goal. Rattler then rolled out to toss an easy score to put South Carolina in the lead early in the fourth quarter. Rattler added another touchdown pass to put his team up by 10 early in the fourth quarter. Late in the game, Rattler threw a ball up for grabs that Marshall should have intercepted, but he dropped the pass. It would not have mattered because of a roughing the passer penalty, but it was a dangerous throw and a bad drop by Marshall.
Down by four with 47 seconds remaining, Rattler got the ball back but then made a bad mistake. With some rushers bearing down on him, Rattler kept retreating and then threw a pass up for grabs into a crowd of defenders and had the ball picked off. Rattler finished completing 23-of-30 passes for 313 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
For the NFL, Rattler has a starter’s skill set with a strong arm, mobility, accuracy, and an ability to improvise his team into a big play. However, Rattler is short and has been streaky throughout his career. This season, Rattler has demonstrated big improvement in ball security with a massive reduction in interceptions, but the ending versus Florida undermines that image of improvement. As a result, Rattler could be a second-day or mid-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft who has upside to possibly grow into being a starter at the pro level.
There was the potential for another draft matchup with Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall taking on South Carolina cornerback Marcellas Dial. Unfortunately, they did not match up against each other very much, and both had game tapes that will help them overall with pro evaluators.
In the second quarter, Dial had close coverage on Gators wide receiver Kahleil Jackson, but Jackson was able to hang to the contested catch despite Dial smacking at the ball. It was good coverage on Dial’s part and just a better play by the receiver. Midway through the second half, Dial got called for a clear pass interference after he pushed the wideout into the turf to keep him from making a play on the ball. Early in the fourth quarter, the Gators tested Dial on a deep ball, but the South Carolina corner made a very nice play to get underneath and break up the pass. Dial did a superb job of running stride-for-stride to prevent separation.
Dial looks like an early-round prospect given his size, speed, and athleticism to run with receivers. He could stand to improve his ability to play the ball, but the skill set is there for him to be a cornerback who covers up and prevents separation.
Late in the fourth quarter, Pearsall had a clutch contested catch to convert a fourth-and-10. A few plays later, Pearsall got open on a slant for a 21-yard touchdown with only 47 seconds remaining. Pearsall finished with 10 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown. He put together a superb tape against South Carolina that showed quickness to get opening, reliable hands, enough size to win contested catches, and sufficient speed to challenge defenses vertically.
Pearsall is an interesting receiver for the next level. He is a shifty route-runner with quickness, athleticism, and generally reliable hands. His style of play is makes him something like a poor man’s Cooper Kupp. In the NFL, Pearsall could end up being a quality No. 2 or 3 receiver.
Alabama 24, Arkansas 21
Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner is a future pro speed rusher, but he has some limitations that make him more of a mid- to late first-rounder in the 2024 NFL Draft, and that was seen in how he played against Arkansas. Facing a run-based Razorbacks offense, Turner was a non-factor for the majority of the game. Turner is undersized at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, and that presents limitations for the next level when it comes to run defense as Turned will be going against offensive tackles who are 70-100 pounds heavier.
In the fourth quarter with the Crimson Tide on their heels only up by three, Turner used his speed to dart to the inside before powering through the left tackle to male a critical third-down sack of Arkansas quarterback K.J. Jefferson, which forced a punt. Turner is a dynamic speed rusher, but with his limitations, he might be more of a mid- to late first-rounder in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Early in his college career, Razorbacks quarterback K.J. Jefferson looked like he could emerge as a NFL prospect, and he offered a reminder of that kind of potential with how he played at Alabama. Jefferson is a tough runner who has some arm talent to push the ball down the field, plus he is a gamer that never that quits.
After a quiet first half, Jefferson came alive, starting with him rewriting the Arkansas record book via a touchdown pass late in the third quarter. Shortly later, he made an amazing play by shaking a tackle attempt from Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold in the pocket before rolling to his left to find a receiver on an outlet. That target then scooted down the field for a first down. To finish the drive, Jefferson lofted in a third-down touchdown pass with a well-placed ball in the front of the end zone. The Razorbacks then succeeded on the two-point conversion to cut the Alabama lead to three points early in the fourth quarter. Jefferson had led the way for 15 points to get his team back in the game. Arkansas, however, suffered from some bad breaks that killed the comeback attempt. Jefferson finished completing 14-of-24 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for some key yards as well.
For the NFL, Jefferson has some running ability to go along with size, strength and toughness. However, he needs development as a pocket passer. His footwork is going to need work too. He also runs a college read-option offense and will have a lot to learn in terms of pro style. In the 2024 NFL Draft, Jefferson looks like a pick for the early rounds of Day 3.
Alabama right tackle J.C. Latham put together another game, showing that he is a first-round talent for the 2024 NFL Draft. Latham was superb in pass protection against the Crimson Tide, locking up their edge rushers and sustaining blocks through the whistle. He also was effective in the ground game, demonstrating his power to knock defenders backward and keep them from getting in on tackles.
The 6-foot-6, 326-pound Latham has a good skill set and a ton of upside. He did not give up a sack in 2022 and allowed very few pressures while manning right tackle. There is no doubt that Latham is a powerful prospect with the ability to generate movement at the point of attack. He makes winning blocks look easy thanks to serious strength and an ability to sustain. However, Latham is more of a right tackle than a left tackle for the NFL given his feet and movement skills.
LSU transfer Landon Jackson had a breakout game for Arkansas, having his way with the Alabama left tackle. Jackson showed a strong rip move to get a sack, and then shortly later, he tossed his blocker to the side with a counter to the inside for another sack of Jalen Milroe. Midway through the second half, Jackson used his hands to shed the block and loop around the outside to get another sack of the quarterback. Jackson was a one-man wrecking crew who helped get the ball back for a struggling Razorbacks offense. He totaled 3.5 sacks, a tackle for a loss and some tackles in the ground game.
The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Jackson is strong at the point of attack and good length to keep blockers from getting into his chest. Jackson is a junior who had two sacks on the season entering this game after recording three sacks in 2022. He has upside and could emerge as a nice prospect for the 2024 or 2025 NFL Draft.