Week 2 is behind us and as always there's plenty to talk about in the world of College Football and the NFL Draft. We covered a good amount of it on this week's Journey to the Draft podcast, but here are the things I'll be keeping my eyes on in Week 3.
This is a player who had a strong performance a week ago and helped his stock because of it.
I'm a huge fan of Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise. While I don't think he'll get drafted in the first round, I believe that he will be an NFL player for a long, long time and play at a starting level. The Jayhawks won their first road game in 46 (!!!) tries this past weekend on the road in Central Michigan, snapping the longest streak in the country. It wasn't Wise who stood out in this game, however, as senior linebacker Joe Dineen earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors with a 14-tackle performance that included an interception in a game where Kansas forced six turnovers.
Dineen is a short, squatty linebacker and a bit of a throwback, but has been a stalwart for the Jayhawks and earned second-team all-conference honors a year ago, which led to him being placed on the Senior Bowl Watch List entering the season. Wise is the better prospect, but keep an eye on Dineen as he works to improve his draft stock.
PREDICTION: Dineen posts double-digit tackles again, but this time in a home loss to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who bounce back from a drubbing at the hands of Ohio State.
This is a player who continues to generate positive attention and has the arrow pointing up with his draft stock at this point in the process.
I wrote last week about the Mississippi State defensive line as it prepared for a matchup with Kansas State, and this week I wanted to give some love to the Bulldogs' offensive line, a group that's been written about since last week's win. The Bulldogs have a couple of future NFL starters up front, but the guy I want to focus on is center Elgton Jenkins. The senior has experience at tackle, guard, and center at the college level. He boasts heavy hands, a strong anchor, and a great frame for the position. Jenkins isn't what I'd call a great athlete but he's rarely on the ground and moves well enough that he can fit in any scheme at the next level. I like him best at guard but think he could certainly start at center in the NFL as well. Jenkins will almost certainly be at the Senior Bowl in January, and that entire MSU offensive line will help the program earn more wins than people expect this fall.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State hosts Louisiana-Lafayette at home in Starkville this Saturday in what I think will be a laugher. This one won't be close.
Best Pro Comparison
Comparing draft prospects to NFL players is tough, but here's a player with an easy picture to paint when looking at their NFL future through my eyes.
Ole Miss has a trio of very talented receivers, but the only senior in the group is wideout Damarkus Lodge. At 6-2, 195 pounds, Lodge has good speed on the outside and can certainly stretch the field. He, like the rest of the Rebels' receivers, works in a lot of different releases off of press coverage and is pretty skilled with his hands off the ball. Lodge also flashes impressive ball skills. I like his ability to track deep throws and play the ball in the air. The concern with him has been drops. He's been unable to consistently finish at the catch point, sometimes on routine pass plays. His route running also stands to improve as well.
However, I think Lodge has traits to be a deep threat on the outside, and he reminds me of some of former University of Cincinnati wide receiver Chris Moore, who was taken in the fourth round back in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens (he had two catches for 9 yards Thursday night against the Bengals). Moore was also an angular deep threat who played the ball pretty well in the air but had issues with finishing on throws. Lodge should be productive in his final year on campus, and I expect him to be at the Senior Bowl in January.
PREDICTION: Ole Miss plays in one of the best matchups of the week against the Alabama Crimson Tide. I expect this game to be won or lost in the trenches, though I think the Tide come out on top. I do think Ole Miss will have trouble keeping them from moving the football. Lodge gets his share of catches, however, as the Rebels try to turn this into a track meet. The senior finishes with a 5-for-95 stat line in the loss.
This is a player who comes from a lower level of competition but has a very bright future in the NFL.
I had a chance recently to study Northern Illinois left tackle Max Scharping from a game earlier this year against Iowa. A four-year starter for the Huskies in the MAC, Scharping has spent the last two years on the left side after his first two years on the right. The question I have after watching him is his level of athleticism, but he's deliberate with his hand-use in the run game and appears to have a pretty strong anchor in pass protection. I think he has the ability to slide inside to guard at the next level (that may actually be where I like him best). I'd like to see more of a mean streak when I watch Scharping moving forward, but I have a lot more work to do on him. To this point, however, he looks like a player who should be able to stick in the NFL. The NIU program has had some success putting linemen into the league in the past (Doug Free and Ryan Diem, most recently).
PREDICTION: I mentioned Central Michigan's loss to Kansas this week at home, and that's who Northern Illinois has next up on the conference slate. I like the Huskies to get their first win of the year over the Chippewas as NIU comes out victorious by 10-plus points.
This is a player with a special tie to the City of Brotherly Love or to the Eagles that you should keep a close eye on.
In Week 1, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold went nuts on Monday Night Football and this week one of his former teammates has a big matchup with an out-of-conference foe. USC tight end Tyler Petite has soft hands, competes in the run game, and is savvy after the catch. I think he'll be an NFL player but projects better as a second or third option as opposed to being a true starter and three-down player. Petite has been used all around the formation for the Trojans throughout his career, and his coordinator, Tee Martin, is the man to be thanked for that. Martin, a former NFL quarterback, actually spent some time on the Eagles roster in the mid-2000s under Andy Reid.
PREDICTION: USC takes on Texas this Saturday night in one of the more high-profile games of the week, and this is expected to be a tight battle. The Trojans beat the Longhorns last year in overtime, but I think this one goes the other way. USC has had just too much turnover on offense and I think Texas will be able to run the ball, which is the way it wants to play. I'll take Texas in a close game before the Longhorns pull away late to win by over a touchdown.
Three Matchups To Watch
One of the first things NFL evaluators do when scouting college prospects is watch them against the best competition. How did a wide receiver fare against the best cover corner on his schedule? How did a pass rusher do when he faced a top-flight left tackle? How did a quarterback perform against the best defenses on the schedule? These are the first games scouts will look at, and here are three matchups that fit the bill this week.
1. LSU G Garrett Brumfield vs. Auburn DT Dontavius Russell
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Alabama - 3:30 p.m. - CBS
This is a huge game for both teams, and LSU needs a big performance from its offensive line, led by senior guard Garrett Brumfield. Now in his second year as a starter, Brumfield has some athletic limitations but I like a lot of what he has to offer. The left guard is a natural knee bender, heavy-handed, smart, and tough. I expect him to battle hard against a very tough matchup this Saturday.
This Auburn defensive line is loaded with talent, namely in the underclassman ranks, but one name to keep an eye on from the senior class is Dontavius Russell. The four-year starter for the Tigers has legit NFL size at 6-3, 320 pounds, and flashes disruptive ability inside, particularly against the run. That's what makes his one-on-one battles with Brumfield so interesting, because while Brumfield isn't necessarily powerful, he's at his best in a phone booth. This is going to be a battle of heavyweights in the trenches.
PREDICTION: This is an early battle of unbeatens in the SEC West. The home team has won 16-of-18 in this series, and with this game taking place in the Plains, I lean toward Auburn coming home with the W. Remember, Auburn likely ends up in the College Football Playoff a year ago had it not slipped up in this game after blowing a 20-0 halftime lead. You know Tigers coach Gus Malzahn is hammering that point home this week. If LSU has any shot, it's got to be with quarterback Joe Burrow, the junior transfer from Ohio State, putting the team on its back. Still, I'm going with the Tigers here in a fun game with a double-digit win.
2. Ohio State T Isaiah Prince vs. TCU DEs Ben Banogu/Ty Summers
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas - 8 p.m. - ABC
The Buckeyes have steamrolled the competition so far this year. This matchup will be different, as head coach Gary Patterson will look to defend his home turf in a game that will be HUGE for future recruiting battles. There's a lot of intrigue in this game, but one battle that I find interesting on both sides is in the trenches. Ohio State lost a couple of starters from last year's offensive line, but right tackle Isaiah Prince returned. Patterson is known as a great schemer up front. Prince has plenty of experience, but I'm not sure if he has the foot quickness to react to stunts and twists on the fly. Prince is a bulldog in the run game, and makes a living smashing 3-technique defensive tackles at the point of attack. His lack of lateral quickness could be an issue against an athletic TCU front.
The Horned Frogs have two senior defensive ends in converted linebacker Ty Summers, who is lining up against the left tackle, and Ben Banogu, who will see the most of Prince lining up on the offensive right side. A transfer from Louisiana-Monroe, Banogu started 14 games for TCU last year and won Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors to go along with being a first-team all-conference selection. Banogu, at 6-4, 249 pounds, finished with 8.5 sacks, and has pretty light feet, enough so that he could give Prince some trouble in this game.
PREDICTION: I think this game is much closer than the experts seem to think. Ohio State blew out its first two opponents, but TCU's offense has a lot of upperclassmen at the skill positions and will have enough firepower to at least try and keep pace with the Buckeyes with potential superstar sophomore Dwayne Haskins at the helm. This will be the kind of game that gets the hype train roaring for whichever team comes out on top, and I do think it will be the Buckeyes, just in a tightly fought game in an unfriendly environment for OSU.
3. Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur vs. Notre Dame Defense
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana - 2:30 p.m. - NBC
Anytime a young quarterback starts full time in the SEC he's going to get my attention. Kyle Shurmur did that when he took over the reins for Vanderbilt as a true freshman back in 2015, when he started the final five contests down the stretch. Since then he's been nothing but productive, and while that may not always play out in the win-loss column for the Commodores, Shurmur has shown enough pro-style traits that he's certainly in the conversation to be the first Vandy quarterback taken in the draft since Jay Cutler in 2006.
The son of former Eagles offensive coordinator and current Giants head coach, Shurmur obviously gets tested on a nearly weekly basis in the SEC, but he's got a great out-of-conference test this week with a trip up north to South Bend. Notre Dame's defense swarmed Michigan in Week 1, and has a tremendous amount of talent at all three levels of the field. The two guys who have impressed me most for the Irish are defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and linebacker Te'Von Coney. Tillery is an athletic madman with heavy hands and a motor that doesn't stop. Coney is an instinctive, aggressive linebacker who has really come into his own and projects well to today's league. Expect to hear a lot of both of their names in this game.
PREDICTION: I like the Irish to roll in this game by at least two or three scores. They fell a little flat in a win over interstate rival Ball State a week ago, but I think they bounce back against the Commodores in a big way. Shurmur struggles in the loss.
What fun is making predictions if we're not keeping score?
Last Week: 7-1
Season Record: 7-4
After an 0-3 start, I rounded back into form last Saturday. I had a feeling Kentucky would end that drought against Florida with an upset win on the road. Let's see how I do this week ...
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts, Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as the Journey to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.