After the storm of unbelievable games in week 1, week 2 provided a much more calming schedule. It was a busy weekend in the Lord Lucken towers, so I’ve only managed to get a full watch of two games, but these produced some really good performances, and I’ve even got some skill position players to talk about too for a change.
Utah @ BYU
Menacingly dubbed “The Holy War” the game itself had a little bit for everyone, and was a much better watch than anticipated. BYU knocked off #21 Utah and ended a losing streak against them that had run since 2009. I’ve got both team’s Centers and Running backs to discuss here, as the ground game certainly dominated proceedings.
Nick Ford, Center, Junior, Utah, 6’5, 317lbs
Ford is a guy who I’ve been high on for the last couple of years. He brings versatility to the Utes, as he’s played every position on the Offensive Line for them, but he seems settled at Center now. BYU has some mammoth Defensive Tackles, but Ford showcased his strength in this game, moving them out of the way to provide some very enticing holes for the next guy we’ll talk about, to run through. He was often faced up with a Nose Tackle, but even here he was quick off the snap and dominated, mostly without help from the Guards too. You can see from the way he moves that he could be a Tackle, but I think Utah is using him wisely here at Center, as he clearly has the IQ to call the protections and he seems to thrive in the middle of all the chaos. He looks really athletic too, often out in front of screens and can easily get to the second level and handle the Linebackers. There’s a lot to like here, and even though this Utah team may not be pulling up trees, they have the makings of a decent Offensive Line, with Ford the headliner.
Micah Bernard, Running Back Freshman 6’0 202lbs
The main recipient of Ford’s hard work was redshirt Freshman Running back Micah Bernard. I liked what I saw from him in two games from last season, and he now seems to be the lead back for Utah, ahead of notable Oklahoma transfer T.J Pledger. The immediate stand out is how well this guy breaks tackles. He isn’t overly elusive, but he’ll run over you showing elite contact balance and strength. He has a nice build, really good vision and a powerful run style, but he has a little wiggle to him too. He had a stat line of 12 carries, 146 yards and a touchdown, which is a ridiculous 12.17 yards per carry, and he caught 4 balls too, so going forward you’d expect him to remain the focal point of Utah’s Offense. Whilst not draft eligible, I did want to shout him out, as I think he may end up being very highly regarded in the future.
James Empey, Center, Junior, 6’4 303lbs
James Empey is almost the complete opposite of Utah’s Center Nick Ford. Empey has a whopping 2,367 career snaps to date, and all of them have been at Center. You can see in his style of play that he is a little limited athletically, but in the pivot this isn’t as important as playing in space. We got to see a fair bit of him last year when all eyes were on QB Zach Wilson, but you could see then that the BYU Offensive Line was a good unit, led by Empey and third round pick Tackle Brady Christensen. Empey reminds me of a more traditional center, excelling in the run game first, understanding leverage and getting to the second level to seal linebackers. There were multiple plays in this game where he’d peel off a double team with the Guard and seal another defender off, creating huge holes. He clearly is the leader of this Offensive Line and has a very high football IQ, both very important traits to have when playing Center.
Tyler Allgeier Running Back, Redshirt Sophomore, 5’11 220lbs
Like Empey, we got to clamp eyes on Tyler Allgeier quite a bit last year thanks to Zach Wilson, and what we saw was very intriguing. He has a similar running style to the previously mentioned Micah Bernard of Utah, but with Allgeier you can see there’s something a little bit special here. He is such a smooth runner, very elegant and graceful, but then in the next step he’ll run over you too and show off a physicality that you love to see. He forced 8 missed tackles in this game against a very aggressive Utah defense, but did blot his copybook by fumbling, although luckily for him it went out of bounds and BYU kept the ball. He has the size you want in a bell cow running back, and I think he’ll test very well too, so he could easily be a top 100 selection if he plays this well all season and declares.
Simi Moala (Right Tackle, Utah), Brant Kuithe (Tight End, Utah), Blake Freeland (Left Tackle, BYU), Jaren Hall (Quarterback, BYU)
Washington @ Michigan
I do like a spectacle, and a Michigan night game at the “Big House” truly is a spectacle. Having the crowds back really is adding something to this season already and I think the players give that little bit more (if that’s possible) when there’s a full house. The game itself was a bit of a dour Defensive struggle for almost three quarters, but when Michigan began to pull away, they looked comfortable.
The big match-up from a scouting perspective was Washington’s Left Tackle, Jaxon Kirkland up against Wolverine Edge Aidan Hutchinson. If this had been a boxing match, Kirkland would’ve been stopped in the second quarter. Hutchinson has everything, and Kirkland, who I’m still high on, has limitations that I think we already knew about, they were just cruelly exposed here, and not just by Hutchinson either.
I like to look at the not so big names, if you haven’t guessed already, and here I’ve picked a couple of guys who had really nice games but are very much under appreciated.
Terrell Bynum, Wide Receiver, Senior, 6’1 190lbs
Bynum can be excused from Washington’s loss to FCS Montana last week, as he didn’t play. Unfortunately, Bynum has a bit of an injury history and has missed plenty of games over the last couple of seasons, but when he does play, he makes you take notice. The immediate impression with him is how natural he is. This guy knows how to catch properly, run efficient routes, and can go make a contested catch too. He caught five of his six targets, for 115 yards and a TD, not too shabby at all. This offense is struggling with a young Quarterback at the helm, but Bynum certainly made the plays he could against a very veteran Michigan secondary. Whenever he’s been on the field he’s stood out, now if we can just get a whole season from him, I think he’ll make people sit up and take notice.
Gemon Green, Cornerback, Senior, 6’1 181lbs
Michigan churns out decent Cornerbacks and I think Gemon Green is the next draftable one. Not as highly regarded as teammate Vincent Gray, I prefer what I’ve seen from Green last year, and during this game too. In fact, for the first three quarters he locked down everyone, it was only during the fourth quarter that he got a bit sloppy technique-wise and gave up a couple of catches. He looked smooth in transition and had great route recognition here, effortlessly sticking to the receivers. He plays the run really well too, no half-hearted tackling here, he was like a missile at times knifing down the ball carriers. Now he certainly benefited from playing against a flustered young Quarterback, but if he can play like this when the Wolverines play Penn State and Ohio State, we may have a late riser on our hands.
Ryan Hayes (Left Tackle, Michigan), Trevor Keegan (Left Guard, Michigan), Andrew Vastardis (Center, Michigan), Mazi Smith (Defensive Tackle, Michigan), Kris Jenkins (Edge, Michigan), Aidan Hutchinson (Edge, Michigan), Josh Ross (Linebacker, Michigan), David Ojabo (Edge, Michigan), Brad Hawkins (Safety, Michigan), Sam Taimani (Defensive Tackle, Washington)
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