There were more than a few barn burners during week one of the college season, including several upsets. A number of defensive prospects from losing teams impressed NFL scouts as did a pair of running backs from the wining side. Here are the Risers and Sliders from week one.
Davon Godchaux/DT/LSU: Few expected LSU to lose to Wisconsin yet even in defeat Godchaux looked every bit the dominant defender. He led all LSU defenders with 9 total tackles and when he wasn’t making plays on the ball Godchaux was occupying double team blocks and allowing teammates to get to the action. He’s an explosive and relatively athletic defensive line prospect who can play in a variety of systems and someone I stamped with a first round grade before the season.
Jeremiah Clarke/DT/North Carolina: Few speak about Clarke, who I graded as a potential third rounder last month, but during the Tar Heels loss to Georgia the red-shirt sophomore displayed his awesome potential. The stats were solid, 6 tackles, but Clarke’s ability to hold the point and control blockers was very impressive. Listed in the program at 6-feet/5-inches and 315-pounds, Clarke plays with tremendous leverage and does not give up an inch of ground to opponents. Like Godchaux, he was able to make several nice plays on the ball as well as occupy gaps which allowed teammates to make the tackle. There’s nothing but upside to Clarke’s game and we could soon be talking about a potential top 45 choice.
Elijah Lee/LB/Kansas State: Lee is another underclassman prospect who does not get enough next level recognition. During the Wildcats loss to Stanford the linebacker posted a game leading 12 tackles, making plays sideline-to-sideline. Lee is slightly undersized yet a three down defender who quickly arrives on the scene.
Tanzel Smart/DT/Tulane: The Green Wave lost a close contest to Wake Forest by a score of 7-3 despite holding the Demon Deacons to 175-yards total offense and credit must be given to Tanzel Smart. A prospect I described as one of the better three technique tackle prospects before the season, Smart finished with 4 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack. He was omnipresent and tough to stop all evening. Smart’s quickness, change of direction and ability to get leverage on opponents is impressive.
Nick Chubb/RB/Georgia: All eyes were on Chubb who looked almost heroic in his return from the knee injury he suffered last October which ended his season. Against a solid North Carolina defense Chubb amassed 222 yards on the ground and punched the ball into the end zone twice. He looked strong, relatively elusive and displayed better than expected speed, running away from Tar Heel defenders late in the fourth quarter on a 55-yard score. Chubb has the makings of a top 60 pick in the NFL draft, a ranking he’ll receive sooner rather than later if he continues to prove good health.
Kareem Hunt/RB/Toledo: Hunt’s totals during Toledo’s victory over Arkansas State were not spectacular as his 78-yards rushing ranked second on the team. What was impressive was his improved quickness, burst and agility. As reported during my MAC season preview, Toledo coaches and NFL scouts were not happy with Hunt’s conditioning entering the 2015 campaign but it looks as though he’s ready for his senior season. His pass catching out of the backfield and ability to make important receptions far from the line of scrimmage was also attractive.
Sleeper Prospect: Josh Magee/WR/South Alabama: Off the 2014 film I graded McGee as a priority free agent and speedy receiver has started quickly as a senior. Ignored by scouts entering the season, Magee finished with 7 receptions for 113 yards (16.15-yard average) and 1 score during the Jags upset victory over Mississippi State. The slender yet speedy wide out who came to South Alabama by way of the University of Alabama then UAB, offers potential as a slot receiver/return specialist on Sunday. A late season contest against LSU in mid-November is a date to circle as Magee faces-off against the very tough Tigers secondary.
Small School Prospect: Cooper Kupp/WR/Eastern Washington: I reported through the beginning of January that Kupp was heavily weighing his NFL options but in the end decided to return to EWU. It seems to have paid off in the early going. Graded as one of the better senior receiver prospects by most scouts, Kupp was stamped with a second day grade. Scouts believe Kupp is one of the best route runners from the senior class, which compliments his vacuum like hands. A year ago he made everyone take notice during the season opener against Oregon when he totaled 15 receptions for 246 yards with 3 scores. On Saturday Eastern Washington upset Washington State and Kupp turned in another dominant performance posting 12 receptions, 206 yards and 3 scores. Kupp is sized well (6-feet/2-inches, 210-pounds), reportedly runs under 4.5-seconds and has thus far justified the grades he received from scouts .
Josh Dobbs/QB/Tennessee: The numbers weren’t awful but Dobbs struggles against Appalachian State was evident all night during the season opener. Against a defense which possesses just two potential late round picks on defense, Dobbs completed barely 50% of his throws for under 200-yards passing. There’s plenty of time to turn it around but Dobbs must be on his game against Florida in three weeks.
Zach Banner/T/USC: I graded Banner almost three rounds lower than scouts at season’s start and many got a glimpse why during the Trojans loss to Alabama. Tide defenders ran around Banner most of the night as the offensive tackle was to big and clumsy to stop the Alabama pass rush. He offers a nice degree of natural talent but to reiterate what I said last month, to this point Banner is not much more than a developmental prospect.