2021 College Football: Week 7 Scouting Notes

Week 7 Scouting Notes

With three of the AP top ten on a bye, this did seem like a bit of a filler week with not much to get overly excited about. But, as usual in the college football world, we had a shock result (Number two Iowa losing to Purdue) and plenty of storylines to keep us amused.

 The biggest storyline of the week was probably Oklahoma benching QB Spencer Rattler and starting true freshman Caleb Williams. He led the Sooners to a comfortable win against a tricky opponent in TCU. You have to think, barring injury of course, that Williams will start for the rest of the season now, and with that you feel the Sooners will continue to improve and be a threat to win it all. 

The first game we’ll look at would have looked like a total mismatch at the start of the season, but here in week 7 these two teams are of similar qualities, and that must hurt for all Clemson fans out there.

Clemson @ Syracuse

I’d love to say this was an enjoyable watch, but I’d be lying! I hadn’t seen Syracuse yet and only caught Clemson in Week 1 against Georgia, so this was a good chance to gather data on these two teams. From the 17-14 score line you’d have thought this was a big defensive struggle, but it’s far more accurate to say this was a tale of two fairly incompetent offenses really. 

The standout player for Syracuse was freshman cornerback Garrett Williams. He was having himself a nice day until, unfortunately, he got injured just before half time defending a fake punt. That play changed the momentum of the game and ended up giving Clemson the lead they never relinquished, but Williams had done enough for me to certainly mark him down as another very decent looking Syracuse defensive back. 

There was one more good-looking defensive player for the Orange, and a couple of underrated offensive players from Clemson we’ll feature here, and we’ll start with the guy who caught that fake punt…

Davis Allen, Tight End, 6’6 250lbs, Junior

Going into the season Clemson had two very good Tight End prospects in Allen and Senior Braden Galloway, but this offense just isn’t the same machine it has been in the last decade or so, and both have struggled to put up any relevant numbers. Through the first six weeks they had combined for just 10 catches, for 59 yards and no TDs. Compare that to last year where these two went for 43-616-6 combined over the twelve-week season they played. Obviously losing Quarterback Trevor Lawrence can explain some of it, but this current offense is lacking a true identity right now, and the Tight Ends are suffering.

Galloway was out injured for this game, and perhaps that’s what sparked this semi breakout game from Allen. He has been mainly used as an inline Tight End this season, but he spent 19 of his 48 snaps off the line as an H-back or split out wide and he got to show us how well he can play when used more as a receiver. That’s not a knock on his blocking as he always gives effort and can seal edges nicely, but what he hasn’t had a chance until now is to show us those great hands he has. 

The highlight play was the fake punt catch, which was a tough sideline grab whilst having two defenders around him, but he also proved a valuable check down for his inexperienced quarterback throughout the game too. He made a couple of clutch chain moving catches, and whilst the final numbers don’t look much (8-49) it was nice to see him back being involved in the offense. 

Still only a Junior he’ll probably stay for another year, but this isn’t a great Tight End class coming up, and he may just fancy his chances of getting drafted if he did declare, which could save him another season in this failing offense.

Jordan McFadden, Offensive Tackle, 6’2 300lbs, Junior

McFadden is clearly the best Offensive Lineman on this Tigers team. I’ve been a big fan of his for some time now, with great grades playing Left Tackle in 2019 and Right Tackle last year. He’s back over at Left Tackle again, although his measurables would suggest he would be better suited to playing Guard. Whilst that’s where his NFL future will certainly be, he is currently needed by Clemson on the blindside and he is certainly playing to a very high level again out there. 

The rest of the Clemson Offensive Line is a bit of a shambles and Syracuse were happy to target, with a great amount of success, the other four guys and pretty much leave McFadden alone. Now he did get to feast in the run game, as he went looking for defenders to wipe out and take out his frustration on. He plays with the nasty attitude you want in an Offensive Lineman, and he moves well too which is probably why he is still playing Left Tackle for a top program. He hasn’t given up a sack, hurry or pressure in the last three games, which is almost 200 snaps, and that does show how good he is in pass protection when challenged. 

He is another who may want to get out of Clemson after this season, but it’s a deep Offensive Line class, so although I like him a lot right now, I think he would be better going back or transferring out next year.

Photo Credit: On3.com

McKinley Williams, Defensive Tackle, 6’4 285lbs, Senior

Williams is one of many “super” seniors on 2021 college rosters. As a sixth-year player, he like many others, is taking advantage of the NCAA giving everyone a free year of eligibility after the Covid hit 2020 season.

Williams has always flashed ability, but the production didn’t match the flashes until last year, where he racked up 8 tackles-for-loss in just 11 games. He only has 1 tackle for loss through 6 games this season, so again we’re just seeing the flashes of what he could be rather than a finished article. He possesses a nice burst off the ball, can get skinny through the line and penetrate and disrupt, but without the end product he’ll have a hard time getting noticed, especially considering his smaller build. 

He was in the backfield a lot in this game, but as we previously mentioned, the interior of that Clemson Offensive Line isn’t good, so we’ll take this game with a little asterisk next to it for now. Hopefully I can get a couple more Syracuse games in and he’ll be able to add to the production he started to get last season and make himself a draftable guy.

Honourable Mentions:

Phil Mafah (Running Back, Clemson), Trenton Simpson (Linebacker, Clemson), Mario Goodrich (Cornerback, Clemson), Matthew Bergeron (Left Tackle, Syracuse), Chris Elmore (Tight End, Syracuse), Sean Tucker (Running Back, Syracuse), Garrett Williams (Cornerback, Syracuse).

Kentucky @ Georgia

This was billed as the biggest game of the week, but I think deep down we all knew what was going to happen. We all love an underdog and I was secretly hoping Kentucky would pull the upset, but this Georgia Defense is bordering on being illegal and I’m not sure there’s an Offense out there that’s going to trouble them. Now I will say that this was closer for longer than I thought it would be, but the final score of 30-13 I think is an accurate reflection of the game. 

For me the same Kentucky players are standing out, particularly Edge Josh Paschal, so we won’t go over them again here. I did think one of the Offensive Line guys came out of this game with his soul still intact, unlike the other four, and we’ll discuss him here along with a couple of fast rising Bulldogs who are getting plenty of buzz right now. 

Luke Fortner, Center, 6’5 300lbs, Senior

This is my fourth watch of Kentucky this year and Fortner has been outstanding in two of them, this one and Missouri in week two. He is a starter at Center this year after playing exclusively at Guard for the last three years, but he certainly doesn’t look out of place in the pivot. 

This will be the sternest test of the year for him, as he went up against three interior defensive line guys who may all be first rounders over the next two drafts. 

We’ll start with the negatives though…. He gave up a sack and a QB hit in this game, the sack being his first conceded hit this season. This looked like a miscommunication to me, and whilst being the center it’s his responsibility to arrange the protection, you can’t always count on the others to follow the instructions. The other negative was how poor the run game looked. Kentucky entered the game with Chris Rodriguez leading the SEC in rushing and their total running game averaging 5.54 yards per carry. Georgia crushed that, allowing just 51 yards at a 1.89 average. When you watch the tape you see so many plays where Kentucky lineman were being beaten straight off the snap, but apart from that one play, Fortner wasn’t guilty of getting beaten at all, and in fact he was the only Wildcat to get any push on that ferocious Georgia front seven. He certainly held his own against these big boys, and this tape, although not totally clean, should be watched when evaluating him for the draft, as this is as close to, if not better than some NFL defenses.

Jalen Carter, Defensive Tackle, 6’3 310lbs, Sophomore

When you’re stuck behind two seniors of the stature of Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt, it must be hard to get noticed, but Jalen Carter is doing just that, taking full advantage of the opportunities when they come along. In fact, in this game Carter played the same number of snaps as Davis, and six more than Wyatt, showing that Georgia is very happy to have all three on a similar snap count. 

He was a beast against Kentucky, registering a sack and two Quarterback hits and countless impressive run fits against the leading SEC rushing attack, and a dangerous running quarterback too. He looks ridiculously athletic, moving like a man 50lbs lighter at times, but still showcasing strong hands and winning with power too. Apart from the aforementioned Fortner, Carter was unblockable and a constant disruption to the Wildcats’ offensive game plan. 

Only a true sophomore now, he’ll be a first rounder next year for sure as there’s no reason to think he won’t improve, as he’ll be the feature guy on that line next year with the other two gone to the NFL.

Nakobe Dean, Linebacker, 6’0 225lbs, Junior

This will be the highest ranked draft prospect I’ve talked about all season. Dean has been so good this year that there is now talk of him being LB1 in this class, and I can’t argue with that. This Georgia defense is so talented it’s rude, they have potentially first rounders in the 2022 NFL draft on all three levels on this defense, which is absolutely absurd. 

I liked what I saw from Dean last year, but this season, his second as a starter, he is really taking it to a whole new level. He has such good range and awareness, he attacks at speed and doesn’t miss tackles, and can cover backs and Tight Ends downfield too. It probably helps playing behind that incredible front four, but he is playing at a very high level in his own right, and with Georgia the #1 team in the nation right now, he is getting the plaudits he deserves. The only real negative we have is a possible size issue, but these smaller, faster linebackers are finding homes on NFL rosters nowadays and thriving. 

The Linebacker class for the 2022 draft class promises to divide opinion, but one thing is for sure, no one is playing better right now than Nakobe Dean.  

Photo Credit: Georgia Athletics

Honourable Mentions:

Will Levis (Quarterback, Kentucky), Yusuf Corker (Safety, Kentucky), Justin Rogers (Defensive Tackle, Kentucky), Jordan Wright (Outside Linebacker, Kentucky), Carrington Valentine (Cornerback, Kentucky), Josh Paschal (Edge, Kentucky), Brock Bowers (Tight End, Georgia), Darnell Washington (Tight End, Georgia),  Stetson Bennett (Quarterback, Georgia), Devonte Wyatt (Defensive Tackle, Georgia), Kelee Ringo (Cornerback, Georgia), Latavious Brini (Nickel, Georgia). Lewis Cine (Safety, Georgia), Derion Kendrick (Cornerback, Georgia)

Arizona State @ Utah

I got a bit over excited last week about Arizona State, so I thought I’d check them out again and it looks like I cursed them! For the 1st half at least, I thought I was definitely watching potential PAC12 champions, but the wheels fell off in the second half and the usual stout Sun Devil defense gave up 28 unanswered points. 

What this game did prove is how parity reigns in the PAC12, and these teams will beat each other and stop any chance of any of them making the College Football Play-Off. The PAC12 will be one of the main beneficiaries if/when they expand the play-offs, but until that happens, we’re unlikely to see any of them in the current four team format.

Anyway, back to the notes, and we’ll start with a whole position group who impressed. 

Cole Fotheringham, Tight End, 6’4 243lbs, Junior

Brant Kuithe, Tight End, 6’2 230lbs, Junior

Dalton Kincaid, Tight End, 6’4 242lbs, Junior

Can a team really have three legitimate NFL Tight Ends prospects on one roster? 

Yes they can. In fact, there’s two teams, as both Utah and Georgia currently have three Tight Ends who will be on NFL rosters in the future. The Georgia guys will be the most talked about, but these three Utes are very good too and need to be discussed. 

We’ll start with the highest ranked one in Kuithe. His role in the offense is predominately as a pass catcher and he is vital to their passing game, as Utah lacks great Wide Receivers so they utilise the Tight Ends and Backs more. He only had 3 catches here, but two were for touchdowns, showing his redzone capabilities. I was impressed with the effort in blocking as they often sent him in motion to crash the edges on run plays, but he does need that running start at his size to make an impact there. He won’t be for everyone come draft time, but he is similar in size to NY Giants Evan Engram, and although not the athlete he is, he will still be used as a mismatch piece, especially near the endzone.

Kincaid has burst onto the scene this season, having played just five games in 2020 and having only one catch in those games. He was previously at the University of San Diego, an FCS school, where he was an AP All-American. He has good size and speed and looks very comfortable when engaged with bigger Defensive Linemen. He currently leads the team in receiving yards (232) and he and Kuithe act as a potent one-two punch in their passing attack. We’ll have to see how he tests, but there’s enough here to like on the limited tape we have so far of him.

Photo Credit: Utah Athletics

Fotheringham is more of a blocking Tight End. He was really impressive in this game, perhaps the best of all three, as he consistently got push in the run game and held up in pass protection too, when they did try and throw downfield. The most surprising thing in this game was that he also caught four passes, having only had five grabs in the previous five games! He looked very natural catching the ball, and although more of a plodding running style, he was effective when targeted. He reminds me of a third Tight End in the NFL, and whilst unlikely to be drafted you’d expect him to hang around on a roster and become useful.

Devin Lloyd, Linebacker, 6’3 235lbs, Senior

Lloyd, like Nakobe Dean, is flying up the Linebacker rankings. 

He was the best player on the field for either side in this game, giving us an all effort performance that was incredible to watch. His stat line was impressive: 8 tackles, 4 for a loss, 3 sacks and a pass defensed, and for once the stats didn’t lie as he was everywhere making plays as it suggests. They use him at all three Linebacker spots, Mike, Sam and Will, and he is effective at all three. In the middle he used his IQ to identify which gaps to attack, and on the outside, he was equally comfortable covering backs out of the backfield or rushing the passer. In fact, he ended the game with a glorious outside rush for a sack, beating one of my favourite Left Tackles (Kellen Diesch) in the process. He reminds me of how Kentucky used Jamin Davis last year, and he ended up being a first-round pick, and there is a possibility that Lloyd could be too.

Honourable Mentions:

Devaughn Vele (Wide Receiver, Utah), Braeden Daniels (Right Tackle, Utah),  Cameron Rising (Quarterback, Utah), T.J Pledger (Running Back, Utah),  Tavion Thomas (Running Back, Utah), Mike Tafua (Edge, Utah),  Jonah Elliss (Edge, Utah),  LaDarius Henderson (Guard, Arizona State), Dohnovan West (Center, Arizona State), Kejuan Markham (Safety, Arizona State).

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