Zach's Draft Corner: Pre Combine Athletic Freaks/What to Watch
Image Credit: Larry Kuzniewski
Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
The base level of athleticism in the pros is such that, unless you are a generational athlete (see, Tyreek Hill), you need a lot more than pure athleticism to succeed. That’s not the case in college. There are certain players every year where you turn on your TV and are on the edge of the seat whenever you see them on the field, and that’s because their athleticism is so much better than anyone else on the field that they can take over the game in a single play. Those who can combine that athleticism with nuance and technique are those you see taken in the first round. Others may be seen as projects, but will still get drafted because coaches are egomaniacs who always think that they can teach any player how to succeed.
This week, we aren’t going to focus on technique. Instead, we’re just going to take a look at the people whose athletic prowess will lead them to dominating the NFL Combine and who are men among boys when they walk onto the field.
Quarterback - Khalil Tate, University of Arizona
Long gone is the day when the quarterback was a statue in the pocket with a dad bod. Instead, the most athletic kid on the team is now put in the quarterback spot at a young age, and they grow up and become Khalil Tate. At 6'2" and 216 pounds, Tate doesn’t have the prototypical size for a pro, but the rest of his physical traits more than make up for this slightly below average stature.
Tate burst onto the scene in 2017 with 1,411 rushing yards, despite throwing for only 1,591 yards in 11 games as the starter. This is especially impressive because, in college, sacks are counted as negative rushing yards for the quarterback. Kevin Sumlin came in this season and has tried to make him more of a passer, to mixed results. When he's at his best, he's peak Colin Kaepernick: he has a rocket arm with the speed and evasiveness to outrun and outmaneuver even the best defenders. There are plenty of accuracy and mechanical issues, but Tate is the best pure athlete this quarterback class has to offer.
Honorable Mention - Tyree Jackson, University of Buffalo, Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State University
Running Back - Darrell Henderson, University of Memphis
Outside of small sample sizes, the Mendoza Line for NFL running backs seems to be 4.0 yards per carry. Above that in a large sample, and you’re doing well. Below that, and you might be replaced. You can cut Henderson’s average in half and he would still be above that line. Henderson averaged 8.9 yards per carry on 130 carries in 2017. This season, all he is doing is eclipsing those numbers, averaging 9.5 yards per carry on 135 carries.
These numbers seem great in a vacuum, but college has a lot of gaudy stats and it can be difficult to put them in context: 9.5 yards per carry is 2.5 yards per carry better than anyone with 135 carries or more. Since 1956, for players with 300 career carries, Henderson’s 8.3 yards per carry is the best. When you include receptions (15 for 283, 18.9 yards per reception), he averages 10.4 yards per touch on 150 touches. That's 3.8 yards per touch better than anyone with at least 150 touches this season. The sample size is too big to shrug this off as being a fluke. On the field, he is the quickest and fastest player in pretty much every game. This will certainly carry over to the combine, which he should dominate.
Honorable Mention - Miles Sanders, Penn State University, Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic University
Wide Receiver - David Sills V, West Virginia University
There certainly are guys that are quicker or faster in a vacuum. There are probably receivers who can jump higher. But if you look at the overall athletic profile, I’m not sure there’s a better overall athlete than Sills and what he can do at 6'4" and 205 pounds.
I've outlined before how he can give away his routes and how he has questionable hands. While it may keep him from ultimately being successful, the fact that he has put up 15.8 yards per reception over 24 career games with 110 receptions, along with 31 touchdowns, shows his big play ability. Further, if he is able to create separation despite his route running deficiencies, he has to have outstanding athleticism. Sills is the type of player where you will see what he can do, at his size, at the combine and start to wonder if you can coach him to overcome some of those deficiencies and turn himself into a star NFL talent. I’m not sure that’s possible, but Sills certainly has the athletic profile of a number-one receiver.
Honorable Mention - Marquise Brown, University of Oklahoma, T.J. Vasher, Texas Tech University, Parris Campbell, Ohio State University, Penny Hart, Georgia State University
Tight End - Noah Fant, University of Iowa
The best predictor of athleticism that we have right now is the SPARQ score, which uses an advanced algorithm that takes in a player's size as well as their times and reps in Combine drills and outputs a percentile score of their overall athleticism as compared to players in the NFL. At the 2018 NFL Combine, Mike Gesicki of Penn State turned heads with a SPARQ score in the 99.3 percentile of all tight ends when he ran a 4.54-second 40-yard dash, a 4.10-second shuttle, and had a 41.5-inch vertical jump. During a spring workout at Iowa, Noah Fant crushed school records with a 3.95-second shuttle and a 42.1-inch vertical jump. On top of that, in one play against Nebraska in 2017, Fant caught the ball, ran 64 yards with pads on, and leapt into the endzone, all in a matter of about 7.5 seconds. On a per-yard basis, Fant ran almost as fast after catching the ball and with pads on than Gesicki did in gym shorts and coming out of a track stance.
Fant’s numbers from a spring workout after his true sophomore season all eclipse tight ends that were known as athletic freaks in past drafts, including Gesicki and David Njoku. Even Vernon Davis, back in 2006 when he was mainly known as being the most freakishly athletic tight end we have ever seen, recorded a 4.17-second shuttle and a 42.0-inch vertical jump. Fant isn’t just elite athletically. He’s special.
Honorable Mention - Albert Okwuegbunam, University of Missouri, Josh Oliver, San Jose State University
Offensive Line - Greg Little, Ole Miss
It's tough to really measure athleticism for offensive linemen. They work in such small areas that it can be tough to really separate a lot of them. That's why Greg Little is the most obvious pick here. Even in such a difficult evaluation, and despite his technical flaws, it jumps off the tape how athletic he is.
At 6'6" and 325 pounds, he moves incredibly well. He is supremely explosive out of his stance on runs, nimble on his feet moving back in pass protection, and can pull and get to the second level as good as any tackle in this class. The combine, which measures just about everything except how well a player can block, will put Greg Little on display in a very beneficial manner.
Honorable Mention - Chris Lindstrom, Boston College, Colton Jackson, University of Arkansas
Defensive Line - Clelin Ferrell, Clemson University
There's a lot to be said about the comparisons between Nick Bosa and Clelin Ferrell. While Bosa has Ferrell beat in the power aspects of the game, which likely make him the better player and prospect at this time, Ferrell is the better overall athlete.
At 6'5" and 260 pounds, Ferrell still has the best speed and explosion in this class. Given what he'll likely do at the combine, if Al Davis was still alive, there would be a major conversation about the Raiders taking him above Bosa. Right now, Bosa is still the likely first edge defender coming off the board. However, Ferrell’s athletic profile makes it a conversation, and whoever gets him as a consolation prize is in luck.
Honorable Mention - Ed Oliver, University of Houston, Olive Sagapolu, University of Wisconsin (see here)
Linebacker - Devin White, Louisiana State University
Measuring in at 6'1" and 255 pounds, White fits the physical profile of a modern linebacker. With sub-4.5 speed and a very thick frame, White has the athletic profile of a top linebacker in the league. He is very inexperienced on the defensive side of the ball, as White was actually the fifth-ranked running back in the nation for his recruiting class. This actually explains his elite athletic profile, while also excusing his slow start on defense.
LSU moved him to linebacker as a freshman, and he has turned some heads. The straight-line speed has been mentioned, but White also has superior short-area quickness and change-of-direction speed. So far this season he has also exceeded expectations on the mental side of the game, which means we could see White making a Roquan Smith-like jump into the top 10 of this draft.
Honorable Mention - Ben Burr-Kiven, University of Washington
Cornerback - Kendall Sheffield, Ohio State University
Ohio State coaches were ecstatic when Kendall Sheffield, a former five-star recruit who left Alabama to become the top junior college prospect after the 2016 season, committed to be a Buckeye. The 6'0”, 180-pound cornerback was touted as one of the most athletic, size-speed prospects in years. Sheffield was also recruited as a track athlete and ran an Ohio State record 6.663-second 60-meter dash. I did the math for you, and that pace translates to a 4.06-second 40-yard dash. Long story short, Sheffield is one of the fastest prospects the NFL has ever seen. He may not be best cover guy, but this athletic profile could be the best we have ever seen coming out of college.
Honorable Mention - Levonta Taylor, Florida State University, Amani Oruwariye, Penn State University
Safety - Deionte Thompson, University of Alabama
Alabama is good. Alabama is also extremely fast. However, the fastest of them all may be Deiointe Thompson. Words can't do him justice. He is the definition of an athletic freak, but also has the instincts and technique to get even further ahead of plays. So just watch this. That guy who is faster than everyone else on the field? That's Thompson. He's a special athlete at the safety position. Also, that video was from 2017 in his first career starts. In 2018, he’s even better. Safeties are not a premium position, but Thompson is still a top-10 lock with his combination of technique and athleticism.
Honorable Mention - Chris Johnson, University of North Alabama, Brandon Jones, University of Texas
The sheer amount of college games on at any given time can be completely overwhelming. Every week, in the TV Guide section of my column, I will choose the top two games at any given time slot and outline the various prospects you can watch in those games. That way, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and hit the “Previous Channel” button on your remote to toggle between games chock full of pro prospects. Here is your guide for week eleven (all times Eastern, Playoff rankings in parentheses).
Friday, November 9
(23) Fresno State University at Boise State University, 10:15 PM, ESPN2
Fresno State has to be kicking themselves. An early season loss to a terrible University of Minnesota team is the only loss to speak of for the Bulldogs, and a game they certainly should have won. Marcus McMaryion (senior quarterback, #6) has some interesting traits behind center, but KeeSean Johnson (senior wide receiver, #3) is the name to watch in this game. A player with his name can only be a wide receiver, and he is living up to his Hall of Fame namesake so far in college. Jeff Allison (junior linebacker, #9) is the leader of the Fresno State defense, and is the only draftable name on that side of the ball.
Boise State had a rough few weeks earlier in the season, but Brett Rypien (senior quarterback, #4) has put the Broncos back on track. Alexander Mattison (junior running back, #22) and Ezra Cleveland (redshirt sophomore tackle, #76) will look to control the ground game for Boise State. David Moa (junior defensive end, #55) suffered a season ending calf injury, but Jabril Frazier (senior defensive end, #8), Tyler Horton (senior cornerback, #14), Curtis Weaver (redshirt sophomore outside linebacker, #9) all have potential on defense, even though the true calling card of this Boise State team is their gunslinger behind center.
Saturday, November 10
University of Wisconsin at (20) Penn State University, 12:00 PM, ABC
Wisconsin was seen as potentially having the best singular unit in college football with their offensive line. While the line (every one of them is a prospect, so just watch and enjoy) has been good, the rest of the team has disappointed. Nonetheless, if the lines is able to open holes for Jonathan Taylor (sophomore running back, #23) and provide a clean pocket for Alex Hornibrook (junior quarterback, #12) to throw to an overall underwhelming group of targets, then Wisconsin may have a chance to pull off the upset in Happy Valley. Regardless, Wisconsin’s defense will have to step up, but they have plenty of talent to do so with T.J. Edwards (senior linebacker, #53), Andrew Van Ginkel (senior linebacker, #17), Olive Sagapolu (senior nose tackle, #99), D'Cota Dixon (junior safety, #14), and Ryan Connelly (senior linebacker, #43).
Penn State lost quite a bit of talent in the 2018 draft process, but they still keep churning out legitimate players. Miles Sanders (junior running back, #24) has filled in very well for Saquon Barkley, and may be the best draftable running back in the Big Ten. Conner McGovern (junior interior offensive line, #66) and Ryan Bates (junior tackle, #52) anchor a surprisingly strong Penn State offensive line. Juwan Johnson (junior wide receiver, #84) and DeAndre Thompkins (senior wide receiver, #3) are in line to return from injury, strengthening a Penn State offense that needs playmakers. Trace McSorley (senior quarterback, #9) has gutted out some tough victories for the Nittany Lions this season, but a crushing loss to Michigan last week showed a true disparity in talent between the two teams. Amani Oruwariye (senior cornerback, #21) is a top-five cornerback prospect, while Koa Farmer (senior linebacker, #7), Shareef Miller (junior edge, #48), Kevin Givens (junior defensive tackle, #30), John Reid (junior cornerback, #29), Robert Windsor (junior defensive tackle, #54), Steven Gonzalez (junior defensive tackle, #57), and Nick Scott (senior safety, #4) all have the potential to be Day 3-type prospects.
(10) Ohio State University at (18) Michigan State University, 12:00 PM, FOX
The morning slate is all Big Ten. Nick Bosa (junior defensive end, #97) may very well be the first overall pick next year, but he is missing the remainder of the season with a core injury. Dre'Mont Jones (junior defensive tackle, #86) and Robert Landers (junior defensive tackle, #67) each have first round aspirations with their strong 2018 campaign. It seems like Dwayne Haskins (redshirt sophomore quarterback, #7) is the most likely to join Bosa in the first round after his hot start to the season. Ohio State’s receivers, Parris Campbell (senior wide receiver, #21), Johnnie Dixon (senior wide receiver, #1), K.J. Hill (junior wide receiver, #14), and Terry McLaurin (senior wide receiver, #83), all have the athletic profile to get drafted, but need to show the production to go along with it to have a real chance to be more than Day 3 prospects. Michael Jordan (junior guard, #73) and Isaiah Prince (junior tackle, #59) anchor an offensive line that will look to clear room for Mike Weber (junior running back, #25), who has outperformed talented true sophomore J.K. Dobbins in the first four games. Prince in particular has been exceptional as a right tackle this season. On the back end of the defense, Damon Arnette (junior cornerback, #3), Kendall Sheffield (junior cornerback, #8), and Jordan Fuller (junior safety, #4) hope to continue Ohio State’s recent tradition of strong play in the secondary. Dante Booker (senior linebacker, #33) and Jashon Cornell (junior defensive tackle, #9) are likely undrafted guys, but should find a camp home next summer.
Michigan State features Brian Lewerke (junior quarterback, #14), who has had a disappointing season thus far and is looking more and more certain to return to school for his senior season in an attempt to reclaim his lost luster. He leads an offense with some dynamic and balanced weapons, including Felton Davis III (senior wide receiver, #18), L.J. Scott (senior running back, #3), and Matt Sokol (senior tight end, #81), although Davis and Scott are dinged up and their status is unknown for Saturday. It would be a bad time for both to miss games, as Michigan State has been sputtering and Michigan is starting to catch fire. On defense, Khari Willis (senior safety, #27), David Dowell (junior safety, #6), Justin Layne (junior cornerback, #2), Raequan Williams (junior defensive tackle, #99), Kenny Willekes (junior defensive end, #48), and Joe Bachie (junior linebacker, #32) all have hopes of being drafted from a talented, albeit underachieving, Michigan State team.
Oklahoma State University at (6) University of Oklahoma, 3:30 PM, ABC
The Red River Rivalry is one of the best rivalries in the Big 12, and it generally plays out that the first team to 50 wins. Defense is certainly optional here. Oklahoma State is having a down year as far as draftable talent, but they still have plenty of offensive firepower. Justice Hill (junior running back, #5), as overhyped as he may be, is still a good back for the Oklahoma State system. Tyron Johnson (junior wide receiver, #13) was looking to take over the receiving game from recent draftees James Washington and Marcell Ateman, but he just isn't at their talent level despite the strong production. Taylor Cornelius (senior quarterback, #14) is taking over the mantel left by Mason Rudolph, slinging the ball all over the field effectively. Britton Abbott (senior tight end, #41) is a sneaky name to know in the undrafted market. Trey Carter (senior defensive tackle, #99) is the leader of the defense, although Oklahoma should have their way. Jordan Brailford (junior defensive end, #94) and Justin Phillips (senior linebacker, #19) are late-round prospects, but names to know nonetheless.
With Rodney Anderson (junior running back, #24) being out for the season with a knee injury, “Hollywood” Marquise Brown (junior wide receiver, #5) has stepped up and is proving his worth as a big-play receiver. Kyler Murray (junior quarterback, #1) is a Heisman candidate, but his committed baseball career means that his football career will be limited to this season. Enjoy him while you can. Ben Powers (senior guard, #72), Cody Ford (junior guard, #74), Bobby Evans (junior tackle, #71), and Dru Samia (senior tackle, #75) have been exceptional along the line thus far, and look to continue that dominance against a strong Texas team. While the Big 12 isn’t known for defense, Neville Gallimore (junior defensive tackle, #90), Prentice McKinney (senior safety, #29), and Caleb Kelly (junior linebacker, #19) are all talented enough to hear their names called next April.
(16) Mississippi State University at (1) University of Alabama, 3:30 PM, CBS
Mississippi State’s true talent is on their defensive line, with Jeffrey Simmons (junior defensive tackle, #94) and Montez Sweat (senior defensive end, #9) both looking like first-round locks, potentially even in the top ten overall picks, while Gerri Green (senior defensive end, #4) is working his way into the Day 2 conversation. An Alabama offensive line that is strong at every position will be a great test for this trio of talent. Johnathan Abram (senior safety, #38), Mark McLaurin (senior safety, #41), and Jamal Peters (senior cornerback, #2) are the beneficiaries of the strong defensive line, as they usually don’t have to maintain coverage for very long. Leo Lewis (junior linebacker, #10) and Chauncey Rivers (junior defensive end, #5) round out the talented defense. Nick Fitzgerald (senior quarterback, #7) was heralded as a possible breakout quarterback this year, but he continues to prove he is more running back than thrower. Elgton Jenkins (senior interior offensive line, #74) and Darryl Williams (junior interior offensive line, #73) are good linemen to have on a strong running team, and will look to continue their exceptional run blocking against the Crimson Tide. It’s a tall task, and one they will likely fail at.
This is because the Crimson Tide have perhaps the most talented defense in the country. Deionte Thompson (junior safety, #14), Anfernee Jennings (junior outside linebacker, #33), Raekwon Davis (junior defensive tackle, #99), and Mack Wilson (junior linebacker, #30) all have lived up to the first round chatter they have been receiving thus far. Isaiah Buggs (senior defensive tackle, #49), Terrell Lewis (junior linebacker, #24), and Quinnen Williams (redshirt sophomore defensive end, #92) are all having solid seasons as well, and are starting to garner first round buzz themselves. Saivion Smith (junior cornerback, #4), Shyheim Carter (junior cornerback, #5), and Trevon Diggs (junior cornerback, #7) have come on strong this season in the secondary, and would all be drafted if they decide to enter the 2019 draft. On offense, Jonah Williams (junior tackle, #73), Matt Womack (junior tackle, #77), Ross Pierschbacher (senior guard/center, #71), and Lester Cotton (senior guard, #66) hope to all come off the board before the end of the second round, and should open plenty of running lanes for Damien Harris (senior running back, #34) and Joshua Jacobs (junior running back, #8). Irv Smith, Jr. (junior tight end, #82) has almost matched his 2017 production in the first three games, giving Alabama another weapon to play with. He isn’t draft eligible, but Bovada lists Tua Tagovailoa (sophomore quarterback, #13) as the current Heisman favorite at -1000 odds, so he’s worth watching nonetheless.
Florida State University at (3) Notre Dame University, 7:30 PM, NBC
If anything, you should watch this game for the off-chance of seeing your friendly, neighborhood Draft Corner author in the stands! While I celebrate my friend Perry’s upcoming nuptials in the audience, the Seminoles will try to crash our party on the field. Florida State is the rare occasion where the whole is way, way less than the sum of their parts. They are very talented on paper, meaning their games are still a must-watch for draft scouts, but the team is just not good as a whole. Demarcus Christmas (senior defensive tackle, #90) and Brian Burns (junior defensive end, #99) have proven to be a dangerous duo on the defensive line, and Levonta Taylor (junior cornerback, #1) and A.J. Westbrook (senior safety, #19) form a strong secondary. These four have needed to be strong, as the offensive talent has been lacking. Derrick Kelly II (senior guard, #74) and Alec Eberle (senior center, #54) seem to have regressed, and Deondre Francois (redshirt sophomore quarterback, #12) has looked terrible against real football teams. Jacques Patrick (senior running back, #9), and Nyqwan Murray (senior wide receiver, #8) have also disappointed. The offense really needs to step up if Florida State wants to challenge anyone this season and make another bowl game.
Notre Dame’s talent starts with a stifling defense, led by a trio of first-round hopefuls in Jerry Tillery (senior defensive tackle, #99), Julian Love (junior cornerback, #27), and Te'Von Coney (senior linebacker, #4). Alohi Gilman (junior safety, #11), Julian Okwara (sophomore defensive end, #42), Khalid Kareem (junior defensive end, #53), Daelin Hayes (junior defensive end, #9), Drue Tranquill (senior linebacker, #23), Asmar Bilal (senior linebacker, #22), Nick Coleman (senior safety, #24), and Shaun Crawford (senior cornerback, #20) all provide valuable support for the Fighting Irish, and are late round prospects. On offense, Notre Dame does have some talent, with Alize Mack (senior tight end, #86) being the best of the bunch. Alex Bars (senior tackle, #71), Tommy Kraemer (sophomore tackle, #78), Sam Mustipher (senior guard, #53), Nic Weishar (senior tight end, #82), and Dexter Williams (senior running back, #2) all hoping to have a strong 2018 and work their way into draft consideration. Chase Claypool (junior wide receiver, #83) and Miles Boykin (senior wide receiver, #81) have opened eyes recently with strong route running, speed, and size, and gives Notre Dame a pair of playmakers on the outside. Notre Dame also boasts one of the strongest pairs of specialists in the country, with Tyler Newsome (senior punter, #85) and Justin Yoon (senior kicker, #19) each competing for the top spot at their respective positions. The story of this game, though, is with Notre Dame’s quarterback situation. Ian Book (junior quarterback, #12) took over for the struggling Brandon Wimbush (senior quarterback, #7), and the results have been glorious for the Fighting Irish. However, a rib injury will push Wimbush back into the starting role, making this game a whole lot closer than it should be.
(2) Clemson University at (17) Boston College, 8:00 PM, ABC
Clemson is simply sleepwalking to an undefeated season at this point, winning the past three games by a total of 155 points. BC might be the biggest test left on their schedule until the Playoff. Christian Wilkins (senior defensive tackle, #42), Dexter Lawrence (junior defensive tackle, #90), Clelin Ferrell (junior defensive end, #99), and Austin Bryant (senior defensive end, #7) form maybe the best defensive line in the country, leaving Kendall Joseph (senior linebacker, #34), Mark Fields (senior cornerback, #2), Tanner Muse (junior safety, #19), Isaiah Simmons (sophomore safety, #11), Albert Huggins (senior defensive tackle, #67), and Tre Lamar (junior linebacker, #57) with the task of cleaning up whatever manages to make it past the line. One intriguing name to note is Trayvon Mullen (junior cornerback, #1), who has improved as the season has gone on and worked his way into the CB2 conversation behind Greedy Williams of LSU. On offense, Mitch Hyatt (senior tackle, #75) looks to work his way into the top tackle conversation, while Hunter Renfrow (senior wide receiver, #13) is proving his worth as a potential slot receiver. Greg Huegel (senior kicker, #92) is another kicking prospect who has a chance to make it into the NFL with a strong senior season. However, the big storyline with Clemson this year has been the usurping of incumbent starter Kelly Bryant (senior quarterback, #2). Bryant was benched in favor of freshman Trevor Lawrence (#16), whose absolutely special arm talent was evident from the moment he stepped onto the field. Bryant didn’t play in enough games to lose his ability to redshirt, so he will look to become a graduate transfer and play his final season of eligibility elsewhere next season.
A.J. Dillon (sophomore running back, #2) is easily the stud of this BC team. 49er fans should be very interested in this game, as the top-three draftable prospects for the Eagles are Zach Allen (senior defensive end, #2), Lukas Denis (senior free safety, #21), and Chris Lindstrom (senior guard, #4), who are all fits for the 49er system at positions of need and may grade out as Day 2 options. Will Harris (senior strong safety, #8), Connor Strachan (senior linebacker, #13), Wyatt Ray (senior defensive end, #11), Ray Smith (senior defensive tackle, #96), and Taj-Amir Torres (senior defensive back, #24) should all see training camps next year from this BC defense. Tommy Sweeney (senior tight end, #89) is a blocking specialist at tight end, but can do enough as a receiver that he will get drafted somewhere as a second tight end. Jon Baker (senior center, #77), Aaron Monteiro (senior tackle, #67), Michael Walker (senior wide receiver, #3), Jeff Smith (senior wide receiver, #6), and Sam Schmal (senior tackle, #73) are late-round prospects that could go undrafted, but will have at least a cup of coffee in the NFL.
University of California at University of Southern California, 10:30 PM, ESPN
Cal was the west-coast surprise of the season, but has come back down to earth with some bad losses (e.g., UCLA). Last week, they gave Washington State everything they could. Though they came up short in the end, it shows that this team, especially on defense, is a good team. Jordan Kunaszyk (senior linebacker, #59) has been very strong in run support, with Jaylinn Hawkins (junior safety, #6) and Ashtyn Davis (junior safety, #27) sealing the back end of the defense and creating turnovers in excess. Addison Ooms (senior interior offensive lineman, #57) is as reliable as they come on offense, and Cal’s best playmaker Vic Wharton III (senior wide receiver, #17) will look to start producing at a level commensurate to his talent. When Cal can’t move the ball, Steven Coutts (senior punter, #37) will step in and try to pin the USC offense back deep in their own territory to give Cal’s defense plenty of room to operate.
At 5-4, USC is certainly not having the season that Trojan fans expect out of one of the traditionally premiere programs in the country. Tyler Petite (senior tight end, #82) and Daniel Imatorbhebhe (junior tight end, #88) have regressed this year to late round hopefuls. Toa Lobendahn (senior guard/center, #50) leads the offensive line with the mobility and skill of a tackle but the length of a guard, and will likely stay inside at the next level, hurting his draft stock. Cameron Smith (senior linebacker, #35) and Marvell Tell III (senior safety, #7) are the top prospects on this team and could easily be Day 2 picks on defense, while Porter Gustin (senior outside linebacker, #45), Iman Marshall (senior cornerback, #8), and Christian Rector (junior defensive end, #89) could be later round prospects.
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