2024 NFL Draft: College Football Game Recaps – Playoffs

Washington 37, Texas 31

  • Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has enjoyed a big season, leading Washington to an undefeated regular season and into the college football playoff. Penix continued his strong year by playing well in the opening round of the playoff. In the first quarter, Penix lofted a ball down the deep sideline to wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk on a corner post. Polk broke free from a couple of tackles and took off down the field for 77 yards to set up a short rushing touchdown. On the next drive, Penix missed a receiver on third down, forcing Washington to punt. Penix came back to toss one of his signature back-shoulder throws for a gain of 29 yards. That helped set up a rushing touchdown for the Huskies.

    In the second corner, Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze ran a deep post down the field and Penix dropped in the bomb for a 52-yard gain to Odunze, who made a superb contested catch with a defender draped all over him. Penix had some other nice passes, but then had a receiver running open into the end zone for a would-be 29-yard touchdown. Penix, however, overthrew the receiver for an incompletion. On the next play, Penix did nice job of scrambling to climb the pocket before throwing a laser down the field. The pass was a little short for Polk, but the ball bounced off the hands of both the defensive back and Polk, but Polk was able to catch his deflection in the end zone for a score.

    In the third quarter, Penix threw a bullet down the middle of the field for a 19-yard touchdown. He then led a few field goal drives to put the Longhorns away. Versus Texas, Penix finished completing 29-of-38 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns.

    Penix is a complicated evaluation for the next level. On the positive side, Penix has a quality arm and when he is on, he can light up a defense. Penix is dangerous at pushing the ball downfield, and he is very skilled at throwing back-shoulder sideline passes. When Penix is playing well, he is lethal along the deep sideline and can loft in some beauties. Penix puts air underneath his passes and will drop in very catchable passes.

    Penix also shows the ability to function in the quick passing game in the short part of the field, firing some bullets into smaller windows to move the ball. Penix is a patient passer who will allow routes to develop, and he doesn’t panic when he has to hold the ball. Penix also has some functional mobility to dodge the rush and pick up some yards on the ground. He has quality size and a sturdy build for the next level.

    Penix has good intangibles as well. There is no doubt that he is a tough leader who will play hurt and give his team everything he has. Penix has faced adversity over his collegiate career, and he fought hard to put his team in the college football playoff.

    On the negative side, Penix has demonstrated ball-placement flaws in the back half of the season. At times, Penix showed that he has some issues passing in the face of the rush, and that can cause him to have some throws off the mark when his rhythm is disrupted. Penix needs to improve his mechanics. His footwork needs a lot of development for the pro game, and poor footwork can lead to him having passes spray off the mark. Penix needs to improve his feet and accuracy significantly to be an effective starter at the pro level.

    Another big area in which Penix needs to improve is field vision. Sources say one thing that concerns them is Penix is either not reading coverage, or he is just throwing into it anyway because he predetermined where he was passing the ball. That will be a big problem in the NFL because it will lead to interceptions. Penix also has issues when teams drop large numbers in coverage and only rush him with three or four. Taking away easy throws has caused problems for Penix. For the next level, Penix is going to have do significant work in developing his field vision, working through his progressions, and making the right decision on where to pass the ball. Washington’s college offense is very basic compared to what Penix will be running as a pro.

    For the NFL, Penix looks like more of a backup to start out his career. He has a quality skill set, so he has the potential to grow into being a starter. Multiple NFL team sources have projected Pemnix to the second day or mid-rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft. Some sources said they had Penix graded on the bubble between being a backup or a player with starting potential.

  • This was another good tape from Odunze and Polk. Odunze totaled 125 yards on six catches, while Polk hauled in five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown. Odunze is a big outside receiver who is very dangerous on back-shoulder and jump balls. He may not create a lot of separation from NFL cornerbacks, but he is able to use his size and leaping ability to make plays. Polk has some quickness as a route-runner and quality size. He could be a sleeper steal as a second-day pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Washington defensive end Bralen Trice hasn’t had a big season in terms of production, but he has played better late in the year. His hot play continued against Texas, as he made some splash plays that made a big difference for the Huskies. In the first quarter, Trice used a swim move to dart to the inside of Longhorns right tackle Christian Jones and get a sack of Quinn Ewers. In the second quarter, Trice came over in pursuit to get a tackle for a loss on a stretch run play. Early in the third quarter, Trice got in on a tackle in the ground game and punched the ball out. A teammate recovered for a huge turnover that set up the Washington offense inside the Texas 35-yard line. On the next drive, Trice rushed up the middle to force a third-down incompletion that got his defense off the field. Later in the fourth quarter, Trice got by the left tackle to get a sack of Ewers.

    This tape definitely will help Trice with pro evaluators. He showed pursuit ability with quickness and athleticism to cause disruption in the backfield. In the 2024 NFL Draft, Trice has second-day potential.

  • Texas wide receivers Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell are potential first-round picks for the 2024 NFL Draft, but the Longhorns struggled to get them involved for most of the game. In the first half, Worthy had a 16-yard reception. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when he had his second catch, as he got behind coverage to make a 29-yard reception. A few plays later, Worthy got open in the end zone running a slant, but Ewers thought Worthy was going to stop his route, so the pass dropped incomplete. To finish the drive, Adonai Mitchell made a leaping grab over a cornerback on a fade route to get a touchdown on the board for Texas. Worthy had only two catches for 45 yards, and Mitchell totaled four receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown. Overall, this contest won’t change the standing of either with NFL teams. Both still figure to be first- or second-round picks in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Michigan 27, Alabama 20 OT

  • Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy has first-round potential for the NFL, and this game was a mixed outing for him. At the very opening of the game, McCarthy scrambled on his first pass attempt and didn’t see an Alabama defender on the sideline. McCarthy threw a terrible, reckless pass that was intercepted. Luckily for McCarthy, the defender had stepped out of bounds, so it became an incomplete pass. Later in the first quarter, McCarthy rolled out and found an open receiver for a good gain after the cornerback fell down. To end the possession, McCarthy found running back Blake Corum running wide open to the flat for an eight-yard touchdown.

    After missing an open receiver with an inaccurate pass on a deep out, McCarthy made some key throws in leading a touchdown drive. McCarthy made an outstanding move on a trick play. A running back did a throwback pass as a lateral, and McCarthy contorted his body to make the leaping one-handed grab. If McCarthy hadn’t made the catch, it could have been a fumble that Alabama would have likely recovered. After controlling the ball, McCarthy immediately lofted a pass to an open receiver for a chunk gain. It was a good throw, despite McCarthy not having the ball by the laces. To end the drive, he hit a receiver on a crossing route. The wideout then turned down the field for a 38-yard score.

    In the third quarter, McCarthy missed a first down by throwing behind his receiver on a crossing route. The wideout made a good adjustment to make the catch, but the movement caused him to stumble to the turf short of the first down. On the next drive, McCarthy had some passes come out too hard for his receiver, missing another conversion. The receiver should have caught the ball, but McCarthy could have thrown a more catchable pass.

    Late in the fourth quarter, Michigan was down by seven and time was running out. McCarthy found Corum wide open in the flat for a fourth-down conversion and a 35-yard gain. McCarthy soon took off on a run for a dozen yards himself. Shortly later, he found freshman receiver Roman Wilson open downfield for a 29-yarder. McCarthy capped the drive with an easy toss to Wilson in the flat for a short touchdown that tied the game at 20-20. McCarthy would finish the evening having completed 17-of-27 of his passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns.

    Overall, McCarthy had a mixed game. He threw some good passes, but also had some inaccurate throws. Team sources note that McCarthy has a strong arm and throws well outside the numbers. However, they said they see his vision and instincts as issues. McCarthy has a habit of being late throwing down the middle of the field, and that leads to some misses. He can also be reckless with the ball, and that was illustrated with how this contest opened. Beyond having quality arm strength, McCarthy is a good athlete with running ability. Given the number of NFL teams searching for a starting quarterback, McCarthy looks like he is destined to be a first-rounder this coming April in the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner is a speed rusher for the NFL, and he was seeing good offensive line talent versus the Wolverines. In the first half, Turner was quiet thanks to the Michigan offense utilizing a nice game plan that featured the ground attack with some timely completions. In the third quarter, Turner made a nice play in pursuit, flying to the sideline to push the quarterback out of bounds for a loss of a few yards. Early in the fourth quarter, Turner showed his functional strength to take on a pulling guard, hold his ground, and then get start a tackle of Blake Corum.

    For the NFL, Turner is a lightning-fast speed rusher off the edge. He has serious first-step quickness and a burst to close. Turner is a legit threat to blow by offensive tackles and make game-changing plays as a pass rusher. While Turner (6-4, 242) is undersized, he plays physical for a leaner player and is better against the run than one would expect. Turner should test well before the 2024 NFL Draft, and he could end up going as a top-16 selection in April. Team sources have compared Turner to Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns, and Turner could be a superb NFL pass rusher just like Burns is.

  • Alabama right tackle J.C. Latham was seeing some good talent with the Michigan defensive line. Early in the first quarter, Latham allowed a defender to get upfield and pressure quarterback Jalen Milroe. Later in the second quarter, Latham got confused by two blitzers coming at him without any help. Latham tried to adjust to get a block, but he missed both defenders, who sacked Milroe. On the play, Latham should have taken the rusher to the inside and let Milroe adjust to the outside free rusher. Latham did a nice job of run blocking in the second half to help Alabama take a lead. However on the final play of the game, Latham got pushed back into Milroe, who was running a quarterback draw, and that helped lead to Michigan tackling Milroe. Latham also seemed to be injured after Milroe kicked him in the back of the leg.

    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.

  • Alabama cornerbacks Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion ‘Ghost’ Arnold have a shot at being late first-round picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. On the first drive of the game, Arnold broke up a third-down pass to get his defense off the field. McKinstry later made a key third-down tackle to force a Michigan punt. In the in fourth quarter, McKinstry made a good open-field tackle with nothing but grass behind him. The Wolverines struggled to pass the ball for a lot of the second half, and the success they had came on underneath routes. McCarthy was not challenging Arnold and McKinstry downfield.

    Arnold is the more talented cover corner, but McKinstry has seen more media hype. Arnold is a good cover corner for the pros, but he has a concerning lack of speed for the next level. Arnold might be a pick in the back half of the first round during the 2024 NFL Draft, but he will need to go to the correct scheme to help him pan out. McKinstry has good size and straight-line speed, but he lacks twitch and is limited to being a press-man corner. Sources also say McKinstry has a bad body due to a poor work ethic around weight lifting and training. McKinstry is a potential late first-round or early second-round pick for the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Michigan running back Blake Corum could be one of the top running back prospects for the 2024 NFL Draft, and he showed why against Alabama. In the first quarter, Corum had a nice run on a pitch to the left side, following his blocks and using his quickness to accelerate into the secondary. Corum got wide open for a touchdown reception as well. Throughout the first half, Corum ran hard downhill on the Alabama defense. The Crimson Tide made superb adjustments to limit the running game in the second half, but Corum got Michigan a key fourth-down conversion with a catch and run to midfield. In overtime, Corum exploded up the middle of the Alabama defense for a 17-yard touchdown run. Corum showed his power to push through tacklers and power his way into the end zone. He demonstrated the vision and jump-cut ability on his scoring run that made him Michigan’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns.

    Corum looks like a potential starter for the NFL. He has good vision and patience to let plays develop. Thanks to his strong build, Corum can pick up yards after contact and is able to push through tacklers. Corum will need work in pass protection and receiving for the next level, but he could be a starter and steady back as a pro. In the 2024 NFL Draft, Corum could be a second-day pick.

  • Michigan defensive tackle Kris Jenkins played well against Alabama and showed why he will be an early-round pick in April during the 2024 NFL Draft. Early in the second quarter, Jenkins looped around on a stunt to cut between the left and right tackles to help get a sack of Jalen Milroe. Throughout the evening, Jenkins did an excellent job against the run, eating up blockers and not giving up any ground. Jenkins is a tough run defender who can contribute some in the pass rush. He looks like a late first-round or early second-round pick for the 2024 NFL Draft.