Inside the War Room Week Three
In this week’s Inside the War Room I take a look at one of the top playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, one of the most overlooked matchups of the weekend, and talk about several players who stood out in week two of action.
Playmakers Make Plays
One thing is certain in football the top players tend to make the play at the biggest moment. Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu showed he fits this bill when he made a spectacular interception against Michigan State this weekend which propelled Oregon to seal the game against the Spartans. This is not the first time he has shown he can be counted on in crucial moments of games either having picked off six of his career eight interceptions in the red zone. His playmaking ability has allowed him to earn accolades from a verity of sources including being named All Pac-12 for two consecutive seasons, and earnings comparisons to NFL greats such as Darrelle Revis. He has also earned plenty of praise from us at Inside the War Room being named the fifth best senior prospect in our August Big Board, and being named this week’s Prospect of the Week.
When scouting Ekpo-Olomu the first thing that stands out to me is his tendency to create turnovers. He has 15 forced turnovers since 2012, including six forced fumbles in 2012. He is a very athletic player who shows the ability to flip his hips and run with any wide receiver, he also shows excellent feet which puts him in great position in coverage. Which bring me to his best asset which is his great technique while you might find corners that are bigger than him, or run faster you will be hard pressed to find a corner that has better technique. One other positive with this prospect is his ability to return punts.
The biggest negative with him is his lack of great size. He is listed at 5-10 by the University of Oregon, and according to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah the NFL measured him in at 5-9 ¼ this spring. His lack of size could be a concern especially for teams that like to play press coverage with bigger cornerbacks. Ekpre-Olomuwas rarely plays press coverage at Oregon, and is not the most physical corner at the line of scrimmage. However, this is not a major concern as there are plenty of NFL teams who like to play their cornerbacks in off coverage
While Ifo Ekpre-Olomu may lack the size some teams like his outstanding technique, and playmaking ability should earn him a mid-first round draft grade. I look for him to be a starter in the NFL, although I don’t think I would put him in the same category as Darrelle Revis, but more in the category of a player like Miami Dolphin’s CB Brent Grimes.
Something to Prove
This weekend we could see one of the longest streaks in NCAA history end when Kentucky goes up against Florida this Saturday in Gainesville. The Gators have beaten the Wildcats 27 straight times, which is the sixth longest streak in FBS history. However, the Wildcats could end this streak behind their sixth ranked defense which is led by several NFL prospects.
The leader of the Wildcats defense is led by my number one senior defensive end Alvin Dupree. Last season Dupree was named second team All-SEC after recording 9.5 tackles for loss, and seven sacks. Dupree is joined on the defensive line by one of the more underrated defensive ends in Za’Darius Smith. Smith was named Inside the War Room’s July 18th Prospect of the Week due to his tremendous upside, and pass rushing ability.
However, if the Wildcats are to pull off this upset they will have to shut down an offense trying to prove that they are capable of bring Florida back to contention in the SEC. This offense is currently first in the nation in points per game scoring 65 points in their season opener, and also ranking 4th in passing offense. The offense is led by quarterback Jeff Driskel who is completing 69% of his passes so far this season. Driskel is a player who has underachieved most of his career, but might be turning the corner under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. The offense also has pro prospects in TE Clay Burton who caught seven passes last week, OT Trenton Brown, OT Chaz Green, OG Max Garcia, and FB Hunter Joyer.
While Las Vegas has Kentucky as big underdogs in this game I would not be surprised if they are able to keep this game fairly close, and could even see them pulling off the upset. However, I think the Gators defense will be able to shutdown Kentucky’s offense which should allow the Gators to prevail this Saturday. But no matter the outcome one of the most interesting matchups of the weekend will be to see Kentucky’s underrated defense go up against the rejuvenated Florida offense.
Week Two Standouts
Week two had several standout players, and quite possibly the star of the weekend is a small school quarterback from Henderson State in Kevin Rodgers who completed 75% of his passes for 408 yards, and seven touchdowns in only one half of football. Rodgers is one of the better small school quarterbacks in this year’s draft, and he should get plenty of interest as a priority free agent. The player that stood out the most at the FBS level was Alabama WR Amari Cooper who tied the school record with 13 receptions for 189 yards in the Tides 41-0 victory over Florida Atlantic.
Several other FBS players stood out this week including Marcus Mariota who looked like the front runner for the number one pick in the 2015 draft with his performance over Michigan State. He threw for 318 yards, and 3 touchdowns vs. one of the top defenses in college football. Another quarterback who stood out this weekend was Notre Dame QB Everett Golson who completed 68% of his passes for 226 yards, and 3 touchdowns vs. Michigan.
Week two was a big weekend for wide receivers as well with Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett hauling in 6 receptions vs. Iowa State for 136 yards which averaged out to 22.7 yards per catch. East Carolina WR Justin Hardy had a big game as well hauling in 11 passes for 133 yards vs. South Carolina. One more receiver who caught my eye with his performance was Richmond WR Stephen Barnette who caught 10 passes for 124 yards vs. Virginia. However, the most impressive receiving performance belongs to Henderson State WR Darius Davis who recorded 203 receiving yards for five touchdowns in one half of football.
Several small school running backs stood out this week led by Azusa Pacific RB Terrell Watson who rushed for 207 yards, and scored three touchdowns in the team’s upset win over Grand Valley State. Two Missouri Valley running backs caught my eye as well with the first one being Southern Illinois RB Malcolm Agnew who rushed for 147 yards on only 18 carries three of which he took for touchdowns. South Dakota State running back Zach Zenner gained 193 yards vs. Cal Poly, and became the Missouri Valley all time leading rusher. One other running back who caught my is former Texas RB Joe Bergeron who is now playing at Texas A&M-Commerce. Bergeron averaged ten yards per rush and ran for two TD’s in teams win over East Texas Baptist.
A couple of other players who looked great this weekend include Stanford OT Andrus Peat, North Dakota State LB Carlton Littlejohn, and McNeese State DB Aaron Sam. Peat held up extremely well against USC’s defensive line. He played some TE as well which showed off his impressive athletic ability. North Dakota State LB Carlton Littlejohn had 12 tackles, and returned a fumble for a touchdown vs. Weber State. Aaron Sam held up extremely well against Big Ten power Nebraska, and recorded seven tackles and returned one interception 98 yards for a touchdown.
Ten Football Thoughts
1. I think the NFL was caught red-handed when the Ray Rice tape came out this week. I don’t believe for a second that they didn’t see this video before TMZ did, and think they thought the tape would never come out so they could push the issue under the rug. When the video came out they rushed into damage control which included him being suspended indefinitely, and being cut by the Ravens. I also think we will see Ray Rice playing in the NFL next year.
2. I think one person extremely happy with Alabama hiring of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is WR Amari Cooper who has been featured in the team’s offense this season. He has recorded 25 receptions for 319 yards this season. Last season he only recorded 45 receptions for 736 yards.
3. I think Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah showed that playmakers make plays when it counts the most when he recorded a 59-yard TD reception to win the game for Nebraska over McNeese State. This game winning reception also likely saved Nebraska’s season, and any shot they have at being a Final Four team.
4. I think the team that got hit by the injury bug this week was Florida. The Gators lost TE Jack McGee for the season with a broken tibia, and fibula. The team lost OT D.J. Humphries for two to three weeks with an ankle injury as well. This is not good news for the Gators who battled injuries all last season, and whose coach Will Muschamp is on the hot seat
5. I think the Big 10 looked awful this weekend. The only team that looked like they could contend on a national level was Michigan State, who ended up losing to Oregon. However, this loss might have actually been a bright spot for the Big 10 whose other teams looked downright awful. Ohio State which was supposed to be a power in the conference lost to an average Virginia Tech team by 14 points. Michigan looked like they didn’t even belong on the same field as Notre Dame in their 31-0 loss. Several Big 10 teams lost to MAC schools including Purdue being beat down by Central Michigan, and Northwestern losing to Northern Illinois. Even the Big 10 teams that won over the weekend looked less then great. Nebraska needed a tremendous play to win vs. FCS McNeese State, and Iowa looked awful vs. Ball State in their 17-13 win.
6. I think it’s interesting that according to Elias that 456 of the 1,696 players on NFL 53-man rosters were undrafted. The fact that 27% of players playing in the NFL were not drafted should show college players it doesn’t matter where you are drafted, but what you do when drafted that matters.
7. I think Auburn RB Cory Grant is proving he can’t be any every down back in the NFL only carrying the ball 20 times in the last two games. With that being said he is showing big play ability averaging 8.9 yards per carry. His best bet in the NFL will be as a change of pace running back, but in order to prove he can play this role he will have to show me more in the passing game only hauling in two passes so far this season.
8. I think Florida DT Leon Orr needs to player smarter if he wants to earn a first round draft grade this year. In last week’s game against Easter Michigan he was panelized with two personal fouls, which shows a lack of discipline in my eyes.
9. I think the NCAA made the correct decision in allowing Penn State to be bowl eligible this season. I think the NCAA should have allowed the court system to handle the Jerry Sandusky situation, instead of punishing players who had nothing to do with the situation.
10. I think Fordham QB Michael Nebrich needs to have a much better performance than he did vs. Villanova if he wants to make it into an NFL camp. He completed only 50% of his passes with two interceptions in the team’s 50-6 loss.
North Dakota State RB John Crockett gained 13 pounds of muscle this summer and is now up to 215 pounds. … USC MLB Hayes Pullard was kicked out of the Stanford game due to targeting. … Baylor QB Bryce Petty did not play last week vs. Northwestern State due to a back injury. … North Carolina LB Norkeithus Otis missed the game vs. San Diego State due a hamstring injury. … Nebraska WR Jamal Turner is done for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon. … Ohio State C Chad Lindsay has given up football due to injuries. … Ohio State TE Jeff Heuerman has been slowed by a foot injury, and has yet to record a catch this season. … Iowa OT Brandon Scherff will miss two to three weeks with a knee injury. …