Well, just like that the college football regular season is over, but boy did we go out with a bang.
Rivalry weekend is always special, and I swear every year I learn something new about these traditional games and their origins. These games are always packed with incident, drama and usually a fight or two, and this year didn’t disappoint.
The biggest storyline was Jim Harbaugh finally getting a win over Ohio State at the seventh attempt, and in doing so shaking up the Playoff picture. Auburn could, and should, have beaten their hated rival Alabama, but if you don’t take your chances, Nick Saban will do his best Freddy Krueger and continue to haunt you forever. It will be interesting to see if the Crimson Tide are “punished” by the committee for their narrow win, and perhaps moving them to number four, and in doing so hinting that a loss to Georgia in the SEC title game could be the end for them this season.
I pulled a long weekend of football watching madness, fuelled only by fried food and fizzy sugar laden drinks, and I’ll go through three of the in depth games I took in, starting in chronological order and the Egg Bowl…
Mississippi @ Mississippi State
This wasn’t the classic I was hoping for. I felt this new improved Bulldog Offense would have a field day against a rather porous Rebel Defense, but Ole Miss came out ready for the hostile environment, and one defender, who we’ll discuss below, had himself a day. Rebel Quarterback Matt Corral is still playing on two bad wheels, but while he was limited athletically, no one can fault the intangibles he is showing right now. He continues to carry this team on his shoulders, and even when not 100% fit he is leading his team to big wins, which will not be lost on the scouts watching.
I did a deep dive on the Bulldogs a couple of weeks ago, so I’ve picked two Ole Miss guys for my notes instead, starting with that defender who had a big day…
Sam Williams, Edge, 6’4, 265lbs, Senior
Williams was one of the top JUCO transfers in 2019 and had flashed big time talent during the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He has taken it to a whole new level though this season, and those flashes are translating into production. He currently sits joint fourth nationally in sacks, with two of the three above him being superstars Will Anderson and Aidan Hutchinson, so he is in elite company.
I was always going to pay close attention to Williams’s match-up with Bulldog left tackle Charles Cross, as Cross has ascended draft boards and is now widely regarded as a 1st round lock, if he declares. If Cross does declare he may want to hide this tape from scouts as from the second quarter onwards Williams owned him. It had started off cagey with Williams mainly lining up against the shaky Bulldog right tackle and having success there, but as the game wore on, they switched Williams over to the other side and let him loose against Cross. Williams won in many different ways, which shows what a nice all-round skill set he has. He could get the outside arc and run it, he could win dipping back inside, and he could win with power too. Cross won a few reps as well, and if Williams didn’t win early, we could see a lack of counters on show. He also is a little inconsistent defending the run, but I think that is something that all pass rushers suffer from a bit, and I don’t think it’s worse than most of the top guys in this draft.
Detractors will point to a lack of length and only average overall athleticism, but what he put on tape here against a projected top level NFL prospect, and what he has done production wise in the SEC, should at least get him drafted in the top 100, if not top two rounds.
Jeremy James, Right Tackle, 6’5, 330lbs, Sophomore
Jeremy James is only a redshirt Sophomore, but he appeared on my radar last year with some great performances whilst playing guard as a Freshman. This year he has moved over to right tackle and been exceptional in the games I’ve seen. He is clearly the best, and most consistent, offensive lineman the Rebels have, and this is a line that features highly regarded left tackle Nick Broeker too.
James looked great in this rivalry game, with all the Bulldog’s pass rushing success coming away from him, as he held down the right side easily. He is big and can engulf edges if they try to get into his chest, but he also has good length to control them if they try to take the outside. He is one of those offensive linemen that just looks effortless and smooth gliding about, but still can pack a punch in the run game too.
Obviously one for the future here, but if Broeker heads to the NFL early, I think James could take over the Left Tackle spot and really propel himself into the national spotlight in 2022.
Makai Polk (Wide Receiver, Mississippi State). LaQuinston Sharp (Center, Mississippi State). Cameron Young (Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State). Martin Emerson (Cornerback, Mississippi State). Jett Johnson (Linebacker, Mississippi State). Dontario Drummond (Wide Receiver, Mississippi). Tavius Robinson (Edge, Mississippi).
Missouri @ Arkansas
So, my interesting rivalry weekend facts I learned this year were that, a) Missouri and Arkansas are actually rivals and, b) this game is known as the Battle Line Rivalry. It’s all to do with the State line, between the two states, dividing the North and South during the American Civil War. It goes to show you can sit and watch a college football game and learn historical facts in the process.
As a game this wasn’t really close at all, with the Razorbacks dominating for long spells and running out 34-17 winners. The Arkansas stars on Offense continued to shine, and a not quite 100% fit Treylon Burks still continues to make big plays. He is so dynamic and the Mizzou defensive backs had no answer to his skills. In what will be an excellent crop of receivers in the upcoming draft, you could argue a case for Burks to be anything from WR #1 to WR#5, they are all that close at the top.
For the Tigers they had a few players who stood out and fought all the way to the end, and we’ll talk about those guys here…
Tyler Badie, Running Back, 5’8, 194lbs, Senior
Now, I’ll admit coming into this season I wasn’t as high on Badie as most, but he has impressed me twice now this season and will be moving up my rankings accordingly.
He is having a monster year, sitting third nationally with 1,604 yards at a very healthy 6 yards a pop. In this game he was the Mizzou offense, rushing for 219 yards and a touchdown. They only had 65 yards passing as a team, so they just kept feeding Badie the ball and letting him run loose. For a smaller back he really runs tough, rarely going down on first contact and always making positive gains. He has some nice wiggle in space and is also willing to run through tacklers too if required. This was his fifth 200-yard game of the season, and he has 574 yards in the last three games alone, against Arkansas here, and South Carolina and Florida previously. He is clearly on a hot streak and you can see that in the way he was running here, very confidently and with purpose.
Now my issue with Badie has always been in Pass Protection. Three down backs are so valued these days, but Badie is close to being a liability if left to help out in pass protection, which makes him limited. He can catch the ball really well, so he can be used as a third down back, but this won’t get him drafted early though.
Even with this incredible season he is having, the size limitations and pass protection issues mean he figures to be a day three pick. Where on day three will depend on how he tests and what teams’ value in their running back room.
Javon Foster, Left Tackle, 6’5, 297lbs, Junior
I’m a sucker for athletic left tackles, and I think I’ve stumbled across a bit of a hidden gem here in Javon Foster.
He only started two games last season at right tackle but has started all year in 2021 at left tackle. I caught the game in Week three against Kentucky, when the Wildcats were playing well, and he really impressed, and he’s backed that up with another impressive performance here against Arkansas.
He is another who doesn’t seem to get fazed at all by flashy edge rushers, and he held an early season favourite of mine, Arkansas’s Tre Williams, to an almost blank stat line. Now it’s not just pass protection he excels in, as Badie’s 200-yard performance on the ground suggests. He sealed edges quickly and got to second level nicely too. He, and to be fair the whole offensive line in general, dominated at the point of attack and created some very nice running lanes that Badie took full advantage of.
If he can kick on next year, we may have someone who can rise in the rankings and take people by surprise.
Michael Maietti (Center, Missouri). Luke Griffin (Guard, Missouri). Isaiah McGuire (Edge, Missouri). Allie Green (Cornerback, Missouri).Treylon Burks (Wide Receiver, Arkansas). Dalton Wagner (Right Tackle, Arkansas). K.J Jefferson (Quarterback, Arkansas). Hayden Henry (Linebacker, Arkansas). Montaric Brown (Cornerback, Arkansas).
Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State
Not just a word I use to describe getting my 5-year-old daughter to bed, but it’s also the name given to this wonderful rivalry game. And I think Bedlam certainly lived up to its name here as this was a crazy game, with twists and turns, and perhaps a surprise winner, depending on how you feel about the Sooners this year. It was easily the best game entertainment-wise I watched during this marathon session, and it had the best fight in it too. The Cowboys were deserved winners in my book, but they made sure that they left their fans sweating until the end, and credit to the Sooners for coming back and never giving up. We didn’t know this at the time, but this was Lincoln Riley’s last game as Oklahoma Head Coach as he, somewhat surprisingly, ditched the Sooners to take the vacant USC job. As much as I love the traditions around USC, jumping ship to L.A whilst Oklahoma head to the SEC soon seems a very strange decision to make, but I’m guessing all may not be well in Norman right now. Oh and of course the money may have something to do with it too!
Anyway, there were plenty of big-time performances in this year’s Bedlam, but I’ve gone with a Cowboy Receiver and a Sooner Cornerback who really impressed, probably because they very rarely lined up against each other….
Tay Martin, Wide Receiver, 6’3, 186lbs, Senior
Davontavean “Tay” Martin transferred out of Washington State the same time their Head Coach, Mike Leach, left to take the Mississippi State job. It would have been easy for Martin to go with his former Head Coach to the Bulldogs, but he chose Oklahoma State instead. He didn’t feature much last year, registering just 15 receptions for 149 yards in the shortened Big XII season. He has however become the #1 receiving option for the Cowboys this year and has almost double the yards as the second placed guy. He is a tall, thinnish receiver, with average athleticism, but he made big plays at big times in the game and was a vital part of the team’s success. He does a great job of high pointing the ball and is physical enough to win through contact too. Coming from Washington State and their “Air Raid” offense he wasn’t used to running a diverse route tree, and while that is still evident to a degree now, you can see how he is much more comfortable with what they are asking him to do.
Still not on many people’s radars right now, if the Cowboys go on to win the Big XII and sneak into the College Football Playoff, he may well get some new fans, especially if he can play like he did here on an even bigger stage.
Woodi Washington, Cornerback, 5’11 191lbs, Sophomore
I was going to talk about Sooner Edge Nik Bonitto this week, who I think is criminally underrated, but I like to go a little deeper in these write-up sessions, so I moved onto a great named, young cornerback instead.
Washington flashed a little last year as a Freshman when he started five games to end the season. I was looking forward to seeing what he could do in 2021, but he was injured in week two and only returned in week eleven. I caught that week eleven game against Baylor, and although rusty, he still made some really nice plays. Now it seems he is fully healthy, we got an in-your-face, refuse to back down, the kind of display that I love from cornerbacks. Did he get beaten at times? Yes, but it’s how he bounced back that was impressive. Even after a couple of rough pass interference calls (wrongly in my book), he kept the level of aggression up and played the same way and trusting his ability, which he has a ton of. He had two interceptions in the game and a pass break-up, to go along with 6 tackles too. The first Interception is a brilliant read in zone and jumping a route, whilst the second is showing athletic ability and readjusting himself to grab a tipped ball. He seemed comfortable in phase with the wide receivers, and almost always was able to get to the catch point and contest catches. I do like these types of physical, cocky cornerbacks and if he can beat the injury bug next year I’ll be expecting big things from him.
Brayden Willis (H-Back, Oklahoma). Kennedy Brooks (Running Back, Oklahoma). Nik Bonitto (Edge, Oklahoma). Spencer Sanders (Quarterback, Oklahoma State). Tyler Lacy (Edge, Oklahoma State). Devin Harper (Linebacker, Oklahoma State). Christian Holmes (Cornerback, Oklahoma State).
This concludes the 2021 season’s scouting notes.
Focus will now turn to the tape I’ve missed during the season, and getting eyes on as many prospects as possible in the lead up to the 2022 NFL Draft. I’ll be contributing to the Full 10 Yards 2022 NFL draft guide, which is something that has always been a dream, and I honestly can’t wait to get started.