Production-wise, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph and his deep receiving group won the day, but who else helped themselves in Week 3 of the college football season?
John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
The Gators and Vols game was a bit of a let-down in terms of featuring some poor execution and frustrating play, but despite being on the losing side, there was a clear standout performer on the field in Tennessee back John Kelly. The junior actually led Tennessee in rushing yards by a RB last season (Dobbs at quarterback had the most on the team), but is enjoying the beginnings of a true breakout year with both Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara no longer on the roster. Kelly was the most compelling player on show as time and time again he ripped off lengthy gains both on the ground and through the air for a total of 237 offensive yards.
On 19 rushes, he put up 141 yards (7.42 per carry) with a touchdown, and took his six receptions for an additional 96 yards, good for 16 yards a catch. The 5’9”, 205lb runner came up big in key moments, particularly in the fourth quarter with a tackle-breaking 34-yard touchdown to get the Vols back in the game, then again on the next drive by taking a screen pass 52 yards to set up the next score. His team may have lost, but Kelly could not have done much more.
Kelly may not be the biggest back but he is certainly one of those who plays bigger than he’s listed. What immediately stands out in his game, and a trait that made Kareem Hunt such a favorite of mine in the build up to the last draft, is his outstanding balance that sees him adjust to contact, bounce off of defenders, break tackles, shake off arm-tackle attempts; he is so difficult to take down to the ground. He backs that up with a very useful stiff arm and to drive his legs for extra yards, along with impressive burst to make the most of space in front of him for big chunk plays. A very instinctive runner, Kelly reacts and adjusts to movement and play development in front of him very effectively. He’s off to an excellent start through the first few weeks of the season.
Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
There was some questionable defensive play at times for sure, but the entertainment value was high in the dramatic 48-45 upset win for the Memphis Tigers over UCLA early on Saturday, and though there were several notable performances, Miller stole the show. He was a star last season with 1,434 receiving yards and a massive 14 touchdown catches (plus one rushing) in 2016, but this was a great spotlight to a wider audience. Miller torched the Bruins constantly in this contest as he piled up 9 receptions for 185 yards, a huge average of 20.56 per catch and a pair of touchdowns, with the addition of a couple carries for a further 10 yards.
The variety of plays stood out as much as anything, making an impact with deep catches, on shorter ones with yards after the catch, over the middle or tiptoeing up the sidelines, out of the backfield; he is so tough to cover and it speaks to his versatile playmaking ability. One of the highlights saw Miller at full stretch to secure a deeper pass, extending and getting his hands underneath the ball to make a play that few receivers can. He burned the UCLA defensive backs with his speed on a couple occasions including on one of his touchdown grabs. His other score came from a catch at the one yard line but Miller finished the play by keeping on his feet while a Bruin tried to take him down, extending the ball across the goal line.
The former walk-on is not the biggest, listed at 5’11”, 190lbs, but is a superb athlete with the top speed as well as short area quickness and footwork to get an edge of separation. He backs that up with sharp routes and great hands, not only to secure the ball but also to deflect press coverage off the line and down the field. He’s a savvy, polished player with high football IQ and well-developed field and positional awareness. His stock is on the rise after this performance, but still could ultimately prove a draft weekend steal should he get picked up relatively late in the process.
James Looney, DL, California
Looney has been on the radar for a few years but was someone that I paid closer attention to in this past game in an intriguing matchup against Ole Miss. Truthfully, the early impressions over the opening part of the game were a little bit underwhelming and if looking at the stat sheet afterward, his impact appeared barely minimal with just one tackle and one quarterback hurry. However, the more you watch the senior lineman over the course of the game, the more you can like and appreciate the fundamentals, smart play, technical proficiency and the hidden impact.
The Rebels came into this game as one of the most statistically productive offenses in the country through the first couple weeks with a loaded receiver group and a progressing young talent at quarterback in Shea Patterson. This improving Cal defense limited them to 16 points though, and Looney played a nice role throughout, even if the front line’s cause was certainly helped by an injury to the Rebels’ center and a resulting reshuffle of the offensive line. Looney drew a holding penalty from the left guard after disrupting the pocket, some early pressure forced the action from the quarterback on a couple occasions, he managed to generate some good movement when taking on double teams, and his presence allowed several teammates to reap the benefits on key plays, even if it didn’t result in a boost to his own stat sheet.
A transfer from Wake Forest a few years back, the 6’3”, 280lb D-lineman may not have standout measurables but can line up across the defensive front both inside and outside, is technically and fundamentally sound, uses his hands well along with effective and efficient leverage and pad level, all while working hard with a good motor and smart play. There’s a lot to like that could earn him a roster spot as a reliable rotational asset.
Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
The opening week loss to Michigan was met with far more negatives than positives for the Gators, but for a secondary that was replacing a significant amount of lost talent to the NFL from last year’s team, there were flashes from the primary returnee that was looked at to step up as the leader of the group. Duke Dawson had some nice moments both in coverage and run support against the Wolverines, and added a spectacular moment with an explosive juking pick six defensive touchdown. He again looked the part in a strong performance in the win over Tennessee.
There were a couple disappointing plays in the opening series, including giving up a completion after allowing a yard of space for his marked receiver, but nearly came up with a play in the second quarter, recognizing the play and breaking off from his man to break up a pass that wasn’t far from an interception. His best sequence came midway through quarter three though. With the Vols on the one yard line, Dawson was again close to a pick as he broke up a fade pass, then next in the series, made an effective open field tackle on the aforementioned John Kelly, something that not many people managed on the day, or indeed all season so far. He completed the red zone stand by making a fantastic interception, his second of the year, by reaching behind and snagging a difficult ball out of the air cleanly for the turnover.
Overall, Dawson finished with six tackles including a tackle for loss, two pass breakups and the interception. Unfortunately, he had to leave with a head injury midway through the fourth.
As well as being a playmaker with impressive ball skills, the 5’10”, 202 lb corner shows off easy, smooth athleticism with the acceleration to keep with receivers deep, and the reactions and mirror skills in short areas to keep in position on route breaks. Playing both zone and man coverage, as well as both outside and over the slot, he is versatile, as well as showing good commitment against the run.
Erick Smith, S, Ohio State
On a roster packed with talent, not least on the defensive side of the ball, Erick Smith is someone who will be often overlooked, but deserves some credit for a very solid impactful outing against Army. The triple-option run-heavy offense of the Black Knights may have its limitations in showcasing the full skill set of a defensive back prospect, and the talent level much lesser than the Buckeyes will face elsewhere this year, but Smith impressed none-the-less. Lining up in the box for the most part then working backward and laterally, Smith stayed positionally disciplined throughout, with good awareness and focus in reading the game well.
He reacted well to play action on the occasions that Army did pass the ball. In one instance Smith made a quick move to chase back and close down a receiver running free and deep, then making a diving stretching pass breakup that wasn’t far from being a spectacular interception in addition to saving the potential touchdown throw. Later, he showed good recognition to leave his man to support Denzel Ward at corner, meeting to ball as it arrived for another breakup.
He made a second touchdown-saving play, this time on special teams after the Knights’ returner had broken free from the OSU kick coverage, making a last-ditch stop to bring him down at midfield that otherwise was going all the way. The 6’0”, 203lb senior finished the contest with 9 tackles and 2 pass breakups.
Small School Watch: Chris Streveler, QB, South Dakota
In the only Top 25 matchup this week in the FCS, the game proved a blowout as #23 South Dakota dominated #10 North Dakota by 45-7, much in thanks to their dynamic quarterback Chris Streveler, a 6’2”, 220lb senior transfer from Minnesota playing his second year for the Coyotes. A threat not just through the air but on the ground also, he had a massive game that included completing 23 of his 30 passes (76.7%) for 290 yards and a TD throw, plus a further 65 yards and two more scores as a runner.
Streveler is an unquestionably elite athlete with outstanding speed as a runner to go with the physical and stout frame, but it’s been his consistency as a passer that has come into question, something that was somewhat reflected in his 60% completion rate last season in his first year as a full time starter. He’s showing encouraging progress early this year though, up to 67% through the first three games, while piling up 15 total touchdowns (nine passing, six rushing) without throwing an interception.
There are traits to like about him as a passer, featuring a strong arm and a quick release. The velocity he generates on his throws is just easy, with a little flick of the wrist all that’s needed to launch the ball down the field. Even with his improvements so far this year, the ball placement can be a little off, and his lower body mechanics could well be the source. Though solid in his drops with quick feet, and while not losing any of the ball speed when doing so, he doesn’t fully step into his throws in a way that would allow for more repeatable consistent accuracy, and regularly throwing off his back foot.
There’s work to do in his progressions, and will often take off early on the run, but it’s an effective part of his game, and there are still plenty occasions of scrambling to throw on the run, keeping his eyes downfield. He’s a real gamer too. It was a free throw on a defensive offside penalty, but after throwing a pick in the North Dakota game, he chased back a long distance down the field to make the tackle; some don’t like that, but it does speak to his competitive mentality. Streveler may be developing as a passer, but has excellent physical traits and athleticism to potentially work with.
Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen had another tough outing against a Power Five opponent in Oregon. Here, we look at a defensive back who drew a highly difficult matchup in one of the games of the weekend.
Iman Marshall, CB, USC
In the first game played between the two since the memorable 2006 Rose Bowl, Texas and USC did not disappoint in a game that had its errors in execution but was gripping throughout. Marshall is highlighted here in the stock down section of the article, but to begin with, it should be noted that he had plenty of positive impact on the game, with the well-built 6’1”, 205lb corner getting in on the action in run support regularly, that gave him eight tackles (including four solo stops) and one tackle for loss on the day. The issues though, can be summed up in simply a name; Collin Johnson. Marshall won’t be the last to have bad memories of the imposing 6’6”, 220lb sophomore receiver, who is poised for a true breakout year, but it resulted in some rough film in coverage for the junior Trojan.
It began immediately from the first Texas drive, as Marshall slipped and was punished by #9 of the Longhorns for 48 yards. Into the second quarter and the DB couldn’t stick with Johnson early in the route, and proceeded instead to clearly resort to tugging desperately at the receiver’s jersey that was bizarrely somehow missed by the officials. Similar happened later on in Q2, with Johnson completing a catch with Marshall in coverage, despite the corner again appearing to interfere on another non-call.
The second half saw more difficulties, with Johnson beating Marshall off press coverage early to gain an easy yard of separation before making the diving catch. Shortly after in the same quarter, and perhaps in an attempt to compensate for being beaten deep a couple times, Marshall gave up too much cushion underneath for a simple completion. Marshall has size and physicality, plus the ball skills and playmaking ability that saw him total eight breakups and three interceptions last season, but this was a challenging matchup with an unquestionably difficult opponent that got the better of him on the day.
Who stood out for you this week? Discuss in the comments below!
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