2021 College Football: Week 3 Scouting Notes

The Week 3 schedule in college football looked, on paper at least, a little underwhelming, but thankfully the big games we did have this week kept us hooked to the very end. I did a deep dive on the two biggest games of the week Alabama @ Florida, and Auburn @ Penn State, and we’ll get to those later, but I wanted to get some notes down on a game that I’ve had circled for a while, a PAC-12 showdown between USC and Washington State 

USC @ Washington State

I’ve had a draft crush on Washington State Right Tackle Abe Lucas for a couple of seasons now. My infatuation with him hit new heights last year when Lucas’s Cougars played USC at The Coliseum. He held potential first Round pick, Edge Drake Jackson, to just 1 tackle and pretty much took Jackson’s soul home back to Pullman with him. The other watches of Lucas over the last couple of seasons have been almost faultless, so this was a game where I wanted to see if Lucas could do the same to Jackson this year, as he did in 2020. 

The answer? Well sort of.

 Jackson played much better than he did a year ago, making the biggest play of the game, a strip-sack in the End Zone which was recovered by USC for a TD. That sack didn’t come against Lucas, it was against Left Tackle Liam Ryan, and Lucas for the most part handled Jackson once more. This wasn’t the total dominance of a year ago but was still good enough for me to keep banging the Abe Lucas first Round drum.

 The actual game was one of two halves. Washington State dominated the first half as USC Quarterback Kedon Slovis was injured early on and replaced by true Freshman Jaxson Dart. The same fate would befall the Cougars as starting Quarterback Jayden de Laura was lost at half time. They tried a couple of different guys (and a hobbling back in de Laura) to try and salvage the game, but in the end were out done by the very good looking Dart, who may well keep the job going forward from the struggling Slovis.

Now I will say that USC Wide Receiver Drake London was superb here, but as usual with these write-ups, let’s leave the star names behind, and check in on a few guys who really looked good, but you may not know yet.

Armani Marsh, Nickel Corner, 5’10 187lbs, Senior

I’ve watched a lot of players over these first three weeks of the season, but Armani Marsh has my highest grade so far for his performance in this game. He lined up almost exclusively in the slot and stayed in the hip pocket of every USC Wide Receiver (including London) that he was lined up against. He has oily hips, flipping nicely to stay in phase with the receiver and clearly understands route concepts, as he seemed to be one step ahead of the game here, anticipating breaks and double moves. He wasn’t just good in coverage though, he was a force against the run too, constantly diagnosing run plays and taking the right angles to get in on the play. He filled up the stat sheet to the tune of 5 tackles, 1.5 for a loss and had two turnovers. He forced a fumble by punching the ball out of the Quarterback’s hand on a run and made a great interception at the goal line on a deep throw, whilst matched up in single coverage. 

I only have a couple of brief notes on him prior to this game, but a performance like this puts you on the rough diamond watch list for sure!

Brennan Jackson, Edge, 6’4 255lbs, Junior

The best Edge in this game was called Jackson, but it wasn’t USC’s Drake, it was Washington State’s Brennan. He looks longer than his listed 6’4 and moves incredibly well for a 250+lb man. He terrorised the USC Freshman Left Tackle all game, consistently winning the corner with speed and bend, but he also displayed good strength too when working back inside. He wasn’t afraid of taking on the interior lineman when stunting and was relentless on every snap. He officially only registered two tackles in the game, but he had countless pressures and forced the young USC quarterback consistently out of the pocket. 

I only have one previous note on him, a very impressive performance in the same fixture as this in 2020, so clearly he likes playing USC! 

Brennan Jackson taking down Oregon’s CJ Verdell Photo Credit: Saturday Blitz

Isaac Taylor-Stuart, Cornerback, 6’2 200lbs, Junior

USC traditionally produces very good Defensive Backs and Taylor-Stuart has the size and skills to make him potentially their highest drafted Corner since Adore’e Jackson back in 2017.

This is a guy that you need to watch the All-22 on to evaluate him properly, as he was barely targeted in this game. He looks the part of a modern outside Cornerback, with length and speed aplenty. Even though he is big enough, he doesn’t bully Wide Receivers off the line, he prefers to use technique to mirror and glide effortlessly upfield with them. You get the sense of calmness when watching him, he always seems to be in control of the situation and doesn’t get grabby. Obviously you can’t make plays if you aren’t targeted, but hopefully we’ll get to see other teams challenge him more, as I think there’s a really good corner here waiting to burst out.

Honourable Mentions:

Drake London (Wide Receiver, USC), Andrew Vorhees (Guard, USC), Tuli Tuipulotu (Defensive Tackle, USC), Liam Ryan (Tackle, Washington State), Cade Beresford (Guard, Washington State).,Ron Stone (Edge, Washington State). 

Auburn @ Penn State

As I mentioned last week, having the fans back in the stadiums is making these kinds of games seem real again.

A Penn State “White Out” game is a pretty awesome sight.

Over 100,000 people all in white, waving their white pom poms until their arms fell off and urging their team over the line, something that was drastically missing last season. 

This was a classic game of college offenses, against (almost) pro style defenses. The game was always close and was a surprisingly enjoyable watch but lacking somewhat in notable Offensive prospects to talk about. Both Quarterbacks on display here have minimal NFL appeal due to big arm strength issues, but for the college game they are a perfect fit for what their teams want to do. 

Penn State has a chance to run Ohio State (and possibly Michigan) close for the Big Ten title, and a main reason for this is their excellent Defense, and these two guys below are big parts of it.

Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, 6’3 256lbs, Senior

Ebiketie is a graduate transfer from Temple, who has slipped right into the starting spot vacated by 2021 first Round pick Odafe Oweh. He certainly looks the part, he has incredible quick twitch bend to him, and although not the biggest, he can convert speed to power when needed. He gave the Auburn Left Tackle nightmares with his speed, who at times over compensated and allowed Ebiketie back inside to exploit the gap left.

I’d already scored him highly in their week 1 match-up against Wisconsin, and I had a very high score on the one Temple game I got eyed on of him last year against South Florida, so he is now firmly established for me as a potential hot riser.

Probably more of an athlete than football player right now, but if he can show up on the biggest stages (Ohio State and Michigan) then I think we’ll start to hear big draft hype over him, and rightly so.

Joey Porter Jr, Cornerback, 6’2 192lbs, RS Sophomore

Bloodlines are important when it comes to evaluations, so having longtime Pittsburgh Steeler and elite pass rusher Joey Porter Sr. as your Dad will get attention. Not that Joey Jr. needs it as his play alone will grab you and keep you hooked. 

He has a very physical style of play, which can sometimes get him in trouble, but the recovery technique and sheer effort gets him out of these holes the majority of times. He is the prototypical NFL corner size wise, and although long speed may be a bit of an issue, his short area quickness and fluidity look next level. 

In this game he didn’t have to worry about Auburn Quarterback Bo Nix going deep downfield on him, as Nix doesn’t have that type of arm, so he got to keep everything in front of him and this is where he excels. He consistently took away anything underneath, and in the end Nix would only target  Penn State’s other Corner, Tariq Castro-Fields, and he had some success in doing so.

There’s a lot to like here, but he is yet to register an interception and only has 7 career pass break ups so ball skills may need improving. Just like Ebiketie, if he balls out again against Ohio State & Michigan, he will probably declare and be in that second tier of corners when all is said and done.

Honourable Mentions:

Jaquan Brisker (Safety, Penn State), Ellis Brooks (Linebacker, Penn State), Brandon Smith (Linebacker, Penn State), Rasheed Walker (Left Tackle, Penn State), Jahan Dotson (Wide Receiver, Penn State), John Samuel Shenker (Tight End, Auburn), Marcus Harris (Defensive Tackle, Auburn), Chandler Wooten (Linebacker, Auburn)

Alabama @ Florida

The top game of the week and I must admit this one exceeded my expectations, as Florida’s second half made the Number 1 ranked Crimson Tide panic a bit. The ‘Bama offense didn’t look like the usual machine it is, especially in that second half and a lot of credit must go to that Florida defense. I won’t bore you with much from this game, as I’m sure most people reading this would have watched this one, but I did want to highlight a player and positional group who impressed.

Florida Offensive Line

After a shaky opening quarter or so, the Florida Offensive Line really took hold of the game and allowed Quarterback Emory Jones more time than you’d expect, making plays through the air and on the ground. The Left side of the line really impressed me, led by Juniors,Left Tackle Richard Gouraige, and Left Guard Ethan White. Gouraige has experience at Guard, which showed in the run game as he mauled people out of the way. White flashed nice strength too in the run game but really excelled in pass protection. ‘Bama Edge Will Anderson is one of the best in the nation at getting to the Quarterback, but he was held sackless here, although he certainly did impact the game in other ways. 

If this Florida Offensive Line can stay together and keep the level of play up like the second half, we may be talking about multiple draftable guys from this unheralded bunch.

Gervon Dexter, Defensive Tackle, 6’6 303lbs, Sophomore

I don’t like putting non draft eligible players on these lists, as we are trying to get names out there ready for the 2022 Draft, but sometimes you just have to be ahead of the game and think about the 2023 Draft instead! Check out this clip of him from High School!

Dexter isn’t even a starter on the Florida Defensive Line, but my god when he’s out there on the field you know it. He is incredibly tall, with vines for arms, and you’d think he would win with speed built like that, but in the limited reps he got he just got low and destroyed Alabama’s Center with a powerful bull rush. At 6’6 it shows tremendous strength and knowledge to win leverage battles whilst giving up 4 or so inches, and this is what is so encouraging about this guy. He is still just around 300 snaps into his college career, but I’m saying now this guy maybe has that special something that’s been missing in recent Interior Defensive Line classes, we’ll just have to wait another year to see if that’s true.

Honourable Mentions:

Zachary Carter (Edge, Florida), Antonio Valentino (Defensive Tackle, Florida), Malik Davis (Running Back, Florida), Brian Robinson (Running Back, Alabama), Will Anderson (Edge, Alabama), Jayln Armour-Davis (Cornerback, Alabama)

Follow Keith on Twitter @LordLucken

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