In a blink of an eye here we are at Week 10 and into the final stretch of regular season games. The biggest shock this week was #3 Michigan State going down to Purdue, although this always felt like a trap game for the Spartans after their emotional win over Michigan last week. Purdue has previous too, beating then #2 Iowa a couple of weeks ago, so this wasn’t as shocking as it appeared.
I guess the biggest storyline is how many of these top 10 ranked sides struggled this week, with what looked like easy opponents on paper at least. With the exception of #1 Georgia, who smashed Missouri into a different world, we had #2 Alabama not having it easy with LSU, #4 Oregon struggling to beat Washington, #5 Ohio State letting Nebraska keep it closer than it should have been, and #6 Cincinnati almost blew any hope of a play-off berth, by letting Tulsa get within a yard of tying their game at the death.
None of these teams are playing great all-round football right now, but luckily for them there is still time to hit their strides before Conference Championship weekend.
I managed two in depth analysis games this week, both from the ACC, but two totally different types of games. We had the run-heavy, tough defensive match-up between Virginia Tech and Boston College, and the complete opposite game with a 100+ combined points, chuck it as far as you can with no defense, between the previously unbeaten Demon Deacons of Wake Forest and the party pooping Tar Heels of North Carolina.
We’ll start the round up with a game that could have well taken place in the early 80’s….
Virginia Tech @ Boston College
I felt sorry for the Hokies as they were doomed pretty much before Kick-Off in this one. Not only was it the Red Bandana game, which already gets the crowd up a level or two, but star Quarterback Phil Jurkovec made a surprise return from a Week two hand injury to give the Eagles another big boost. Factor in that Virginia Tech lost their starting Quarterback Braxton Burmeister to injury in the first quarter and had to go with a deer-in-headlights freshman for the rest of the game, they never really stood a chance.
I’d seen the Hokies play in Week One, but much has changed for them in the intervening weeks. The Offense was without their best Wide Receiver in Tre Turner, who was injured, lost their starting Quarterback early, and really struggled to threaten a very good Boston College Defense. In my week One write-up of the Hokies game I mentioned that Left Tackle Luke Tenuta looked very good replacing Christian Darrisaw, and he was excellent here again in this game. In fact, the Offensive Line certainly did their bit to help the replacement Quarterback, he just wasn’t up to the task. There’s been plenty of hype over the Hokies Edge Amare Barno, but I’m not buying in. He looked like a good athlete but was often lazy in his work and disinterested in plays that went away from him. He looks like he’s getting the buzz for having big stat numbers last year, but he was held to just one tackle here and looked barely draftable.
This was my first look at Boston College, and I wanted to pay close attention to the Offensive Line, which has a couple of guys who are very highly rated. Two members of that unit really stood out, alongside a very smooth and athletic Nickel who impressed in what was an excellent overall defensive effort.
Zion Johnson, Left Tackle, 6’3 316lbs, Senior
I liked 2019 Zion Johnson a lot, and I mean A LOT. He was moved to Left Tackle in 2020 and didn’t look the same player in the three games I caught, including a bit of a horror show against Cincinnati. They had moved him back to Guard for this season and the reviews were coming in that he was back to that 2019 form, so I wanted to see this for myself. Well, in typical fashion, they had to move him back to Left Tackle for this game as regular starter Tyler Vrabel was out injured.
Initially I was very disappointed, as I wanted to watch him back at Guard, as that’s almost certainly where he’ll line up in the NFL. However, what we got was a magnificent performance at Tackle that has boosted his draft value again.
He seemed so much more composed out there this time, smooth in his kick slide and still dominant out in space in the run game. In fact Boston College ran the ball 54 times and only attempted 13 passes, so this suited his skill set anyway, but it was clear to see that this is a player who seems to have found his form again and is enjoying playing good old fashioned, smash mouth football.
With the added bonus of being position versatile, I can’t see how Johnson gets out of day two of the draft.
Christian Mahogany, Guard, 6’3 318lbs, Sophomore
The other very highly touted member of this Boston College Offensive Line is Center Alec Lindstrom, but he once again disappointed me here. I see a guy who is consistently beaten physically in the run game, and although a decent pass protector I don’t see how this guy is getting first round buzz, that’s just insane to me.
Whilst watching Lindstrom struggle it wasn’t difficult to notice the guy next to him playing out of his mind. Mahogany was everything I’d hoped Lindstrom would be, strong as an ox, good positional awareness and a nasty so-and-so. He was a big reason why Boston College dominated on the ground, but he isn’t one dimensional either, as he looked very comfortable when they did occasionally drop back to pass. This had me scrambling to my scouting notes spreadsheet to see what I’d got from the 2020 season on him, and it was three very well graded games. I have the Clemson tape from a few weeks back to go through at some point, plus hopefully another game from their remaining schedule, so I should get a decent idea of where he is right now. So far it looks like he has the makings of yet another top-quality Eagle Offensive Line prospect. Being only a Redshirt Sophomore though, I’d expect us to have to wait at least another year before grading him properly for the draft, but let’s get his name out there now, nice and early.
Josh DeBerry, Nickel, 5’11, 176, Junior
It was surprising that in amongst all this old school running, blood and sweat style of football, a skinny looking Nickel Corner shone brightest amongst the Eagles defenders.
DeBerry has a long lean look to him, but he certainly wasn’t afraid to mix it up with the big boys in this game. He was very active against the run, taking good angles and fighting through blocks to get in on tackles. He was credited with 2 tackles for a loss and a sack, but he was also sticky in coverage throughout, albeit against a nervous Freshman Quarterback with limited weapons. He’s almost exclusively in the slot this year, but he has spent time on the outside too, particularly last year, and still graded very high, so we do have a nice all-round skill set with DeBerry.
This whole Boston College defense is full of no names, but I think a few will emerge over the next 12 months or so and become very draft-relevant, with DeBerry at the head of the list.
Ben Petrula (Tackle, Boston College), Joey Luchetti (Tight End, Boston College), Pat Garwo (Running Back, Boston College), Elijah Jones (Cornerback, Boston College), Luke Tenuta (Tackle, Virginia Tech), Lecitus Smith (Guard, Virginia Tech), Brock Hoffman (Center, Virginia Tech), Kaden Moore (Guard, Virginia Tech), Jordan Williams (Defensive Tackle, Virginia Tech).
Wake Forest @ North Carolina
This game was nuts.
I thought I’d seen the best game of the year a few weeks back with the Red River Showdown, but this one will push that close. This game could have been a Big 12 match-up, all offense, with defense being an optional extra, and a couple of young Quarterbacks who were just chucking it around for fun.
I’d seen both these teams once, so I wanted to check back in again on them, especially with Wake Forest still unbeaten at this point. The Demon Deacons looked in control early, as their defense was able to take away the pass from the Tar Heels with some excellent play from their starting corners. Unfortunately, they lost both of these guys to injury by the end of the First half, so had to move a safety over to play corner, and that’s when it all started to fall apart for them. It’s a shame as I believe without these injuries Wake Forest wins the game, but as it stands now they may be without them for the three most important games of their season, as they play NC State, Clemson and Boston College to complete the regular season. A loss against any of those, but particularly the Wolfpack, may leave their dreams of reaching the ACC Championship in tatters.
Unsurprisingly there’s no defensive players on this write-up, but we’ll look at some more good Offensive Lineman and a couple of impressive skill position players, one from each team for both.
Let’s start with a couple of big old nasties…..
Marcus McKethan, Guard, 6’6 335lbs, Senior
To be honest I could have grouped the whole Tar Heel Offensive Line together, as they all were excellent in this game, but I’m going to give some props to my favourite of the bunch and a really under the radar prospect.
Before this season I had 8 graded games of McKethan and he ranked above all other Offensive Lineman I’d looked at. He has continued to dominate, at least in my eyes, in the two games so far this season and is my favourite sleeper prospect, regardless of position for the 2022 Draft.
He is everything I like in an Offensive Lineman. Built like a house, but can move and isn’t heavy footed, able to dominate one on one in the run game and excels in Pass Protection, which is handy as they do like to throw a lot. He was a key cog in that awesome running attack they had last year, and you’d have thought that would have got scouts attention, but for whatever reason, he is hardly making any noise in the draft world.
He has played all but 13 of his 2319 career snaps at Right Guard, but he has the size and length to make a transition to Right Tackle if needed. He may not test as the best athlete in the world, but this tape is too good to ignore and I really hope he gets drafted and has a shot to compete in the NFL, as he deserves that chance.
Michael Jurgens, Center, 6’4 298lbs, Junior
Just like above, I could have taken any of the Wake Forest Offensive Line to talk about, but I settled for Jurgens who really impressed me here in this game.
Jurgens is the best Center I’ve watched in some time. Not the biggest, but adequately sized and very mobile, Jurgens is fundamentally sound and a true leader of the line. I’m a big fan of Left Tackle Zach Tom, who was playing Center for the Demon Deacons until Jurgens came along, but Jurgens has allowed them to move Tom to the more coveted Left Tackle role, whilst not degrading the pivot position
My previous notes show good overall grades but a concern in Pass Protection, but he was really good in that facet of the game here, and he had to be, as Wake Forest threw it 51 times. He had a great anchor and read the game really well, teaming up with both Guards to help out if needed. He’s a player with a great football IQ and has leadership traits, both valuable for the Center position, and will be amongst the top guys for the position in the 2023 draft.
Ty Chandler, Running Back, 5’11, 221lbs, Senior
When Running Backs Ty Chandler and Eric Gray both transferred out of Tennessee after last season I think we all felt that Gray was by far the better prospect, and had landed in a much better situation (Oklahoma) than Chandler. Fast Forward 10 weeks into the regular season and Chandler has 884 yards at a 6.18 average and 13 Touchdowns, compared to Gray’s pedestrian 303 yards, 4.73 average and just 1 Touchdown.
Now numbers aren’t everything as we know, but Chandler looks like a totally different player now and is certainly taking full advantage of his opportunity in Chapel Hill. During his time in Tennessee he seemed to lack any special traits and just seemed like an average college Running Back with limited upside. Now what we’re seeing is something totally different, a back displaying good vision and space awareness, tackle breaking ability and a burst that we never got to see before. He had some really impressive moments in this game, including 6 runs of more than 15 yards, and 150 yards after contact. This was his biggest statistical game of the year (213 yards, 4TD’s) so more games like this and we’ll have to look at him seriously as a late round guy.
Jaquarii Roberson, Wide Receiver, 6’1, 182lbs, Senior
Roberson really caught everyone’s attention last year, putting up 926 yards receiving over just 9 games. He has carried this into this year and has similar numbers, with 848 yards through the first nine games, and is forming a lethal partnership with fellow Wideout A.T Perry and the Demon Deacons Quarterback Sam Hartman.
Roberson had 7 grabs for 111 yards and two scores in this game, and apart from one drop he was excellent. He works from the slot on the majority of snaps and is a very crisp route runner giving Nickel Corner’s nightmares with his ability to separate in either direction. Excellent with the ball in hand, he can create extra yards in tight areas and although not the biggest receiver, he isn’t afraid of contact.
Now his size may put some teams off and he may not be the fastest receiver either, so with this potentially being a very good Wide Receiver class, I do wonder if someone like Roberson slips further than they should come draft day. Testing for Roberson will be vital, as if he runs faster than expected he could end up sneaking into that late round three range, but more than likely we are looking at an excellent mid round steal.
A.T Perry (Wide Receiver, Wake Forest), Loic Ngassam Nya (Guard, Wake Forest), DeVonte Gordon (Right Tackle, Wake Forest), Sam Hartman (Quarterback, Wake Forest), Gavin Holmes (Cornerback, Wake Forest), Asim Richards (Left Tackle, North Carolina), Jordan Tucker (Right Tackle, North Carolina), Desmond Evans (Edge, North Carolina).
Follow Keith on Twitter – @lordlucken