Week one of the college season featured some incredible finishes as well as a few outstanding performances. It was a weekend when defensive line prospects stood out while quarterbacks fell flat. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week one.
Josh Doctson/WR/TCU: Late last week I highlighted Doctson’s challenge against what’s likely to be the toughest pair of cornerbacks he’ll face during the regular season, and the senior came out on top. Rated as the top upperclassmen receiver by a number of scouts, Doctson was the most productive pass catcher on the field during the Horned Frogs victory over Minnesota. He finished with 8 receptions for 74 yards and one score, coming up big during the games critical moments. Though not a speedster with a hefty yards per catch average, Doctson looked very polished in the season opener and caught everything thrown his way.
Will Fuller/WR/Notre Dame: Fuller dominated what is considered a solid Texas secondary during the Notre Dame trouncing of the Longhorns. He showed game breaking skills, hauling in 7 receptions for 142 yards and 2 scores. And though his second touchdown grab of 66 yards was the result of a busted coverage, Fuller played fast and was consistent in his all around game.
Jake Butt/TE/Michigan: The Wolverines lost a close contest to Utah but witnessed the development of a rising star. Listed on a number of NFL junior watch lists around the league, Butt finished with 8 receptions for 93 yards and 1 score against the Utes. He stepped up during the games important moments, coming away with several key receptions to keep drives alive. Already known as a competent blocker, Butt impressed scouts with his overall performance in week one.
Kamalei Correa/DE-OLB/Boise State: Correa is another name on underclassmen watch lists around the league and he proved deserving against Washington, finishing the game with 6 tackles, including a team leading 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack. Correa’s athleticism stands out on film and though much of his production comes out of a three point stance, he’s equally effective in space chasing plays in pursuit or dropping off the line into coverage. Boise State has had much success placing this type of defender into the draft (Demarcus Lawrence and Shea McClellin) and word I’ve been hearing the past few weeks is Correa’s plans include the 2016 draft.
Cassanova McKinzy/DE-LB/Auburn: Justifiably there are several Auburn defenders that could’ve made this list but I chose McKinzy for his overall performance. The senior finished with 6 tackles including 1 for loss and made plays up the field as well as in pursuit during the victory over Louisville. I love the way McKinzy plays within the system and is consistently around the action. Carl Lawson was more impactful while Jonathan Ford was more productive but I was impressed with the completeness of McKinzy.
Matthew Ioannidis/DL/Temple: The Owls defense imposed their will on Penn State during their surprising victory and Ioannidis was a big part of the effort. The senior finished with 4 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack as well as breaking up 1 pass. Ioannidis made plays all along of the line of scrimmage and if he could not get to the ball he occupied blockers thus creating opportunities for teammates. He’s not a prospect that will test well prior to the draft rather a scheme diverse defensive lineman who could have a long career as a back-up in the NFL.
Sleeper- Christian Jones/WR/Northwestern: Coming off the 2013 film I graded Jones as a potential late round pick entering his senior season. A knee injury enventually shelved him in 2014 so it was great to see the big bodied receiver bounce back during his first action in more than a year. Jones led all pass catchers during the Wildcats upset victory over Stanford posting 5 receptions for 52 yards, and outplayed the Cardinal’s highly regarded Devon Cajuste. Dismissed by scouts entering the year, Jones is a sure handed receiver with excellent size as well as next level potential if he remains healthy.
Small School Prospect- Jamaal Jones/WR/Montana: The Washington transfer has been a productive three year starter for Montana and projects as a number five receiver at the next level. Off to a hot start in 2015, Jones has hauled in 17 receptions for 205 yards during the Grizzlies two games this season. He’s a sure handed, underneath receiver who can line up in the slot or on the flanks.
Christian Hackenberg/QB/Penn State: I’ve been a bit outspoken on this site and during interviews in my opinion that Hackenberg is the most overrated prospect in the nation. His play against Temple further confirmed my belief. The offensive line did nothing to help the situation as he was sacked ten times but Hackenberg is making the same mistakes as a year ago. Indecision, staring down receivers, poor choices as well as woeful inaccuracy plagued him throughout the loss to Temple as it did in 2014. During a conversation with a league insider last week, someone who specializes in quarterbacks, the point was made that while stats may not be important red flags are raised when a college quarterback cannot complete 60% of his throws. After completing 58.9% of his throws as a freshman, Hackenberg’s accuracy fell to 55.8% last season. On Saturday he completed just 44% of his passes. Inner circles rumblings say Hackenberg is expected to bolt for the draft after this season and numerous sources tell me the signal caller has already decided on an agent. And while Hackenberg may be a terrific arm talent, he looks anything but NFL ready.
Kevin Hogan/QB/Stanford: Hogan was graded as a fringe late round pick by scouts entering the year based on his physical skills. During the loss to Northwestern the four year starter proved he’s still more athlete than passer. Hogan’s deer in the headlights look was only surpassed by inaccurate passes which sailed high or wide of open targets. Over the past four years Hogan has never established himself as anything other than a practice squad player for the next level.
Justin Holman/QB/Central Florida: Like several of this week’s risers, Holman has been listed on a number of underclassmen watch lists around the league. Similar to Kevin Hogan, Holman is a terrific arm talent that’s more thrower than passer. His stats were not terrible in the loss to Florida International but his accuracy and inability to consistently hit receivers in stride, or miss them outright, was bothersome. In a bit of irony Holman and the Knights take on Hogan and Stanford this weekend. The Cardinal defense is significantly better than the FIU opponent Holman faced last week, so he’ll have a chance for redemption.
Was Saturday night’s performance by Jake Coker the shape of things to come or the exception to the rule? The physically gifted signal caller, who was considered nothing more than camp fodder by scouts before the season began, played efficient, mistake free football during the Tides victory over Wisconsin. Should he continue to build upon his performance we could see Coker invited to several pre-draft scouting events.
Keep an eye on Emmanuel Ogbah of Oklahoma State. His athleticism is impressive and was on display against Central Michigan. His stats line was solid (2 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 QBH) and the way Ogbah disrupts the action or forces ball handlers to reroute is impressive.
As previously mentioned last week I highlighted Josh Doctson’s match-up against the Gophers pair of talented cornerbacks and Briean Boddy-Calhoun came out worse for the wear. Boddy-Calhoun, ranked by some scouts as the number two senior cornerback prospect in the nation and ahead of his teammate Eric Murray, gave up a lot of underneath receptions and seemed to be playing back on his heels. As I stated in my Big Ten prospect preview, his lack of height and unpolished ball skills are a concern.