Here are my initial reactions from the first week of the college football season, including thoughts about some of the nation’s top offensive prospects.
Sam Bradford wasn’t impressive
The story of week one has to be the injury to Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. The hit he took didn’t look good at all, and it’s obvious the Sooners’ offense is going to struggle in his absence. However, maybe the bigger story is that Oklahoma’s passing game seemed out of sorts even with Bradford in the game.
Sure, he was 10 of 14, but he threw for only 96 yards in the first half, and the Sooners’ offense looked more dangerous when it was running the football. Bradford didn’t seem overly confident or decisive behind his new offensive line, so it will be interesting to see how he does once he comes back and competes against some of the better defenses on Oklahoma’s schedule.
Neither was Jevan Snead
When I first turned on the Mississippi game, my initial impression of QB Jevan Snead was that this kid is going to make a push to become the top quarterback prospect in the 2010 NFL Draft. But the longer the game went on, the more I thought I was watching an early season Ole Miss game tape from 2008. Snead looked uncomfortable in the pocket, he forced the ball down the field, and he struggled making decisions in the face of pressure.
He finally found a rhythm toward the end of the game, but he seems to have taken a bit of a step back from the end of last season. Now, I’m not writing him off because of one performance, but I am saying he looked a lot more like the guy starting for Ole Miss at the beginning of last year than the one starting at the end.
There's Talent at Tulane
Lost in the shuffle of the 37-13 beat down Tulsa gave Tulane on Friday was the performance of Green Wave wideout Jeremy Williams. Williams finished the day with five receptions for 139 yards and even had a touchdown called back. He’s a tall, well-built athlete who gets up to speed quickly out of his stance and is a powerful route runner.
Williams showcases a willingness to go up and attack the football and is a load to bring down in the open field. He’s fully-recovered from a hand injury that cost him most of his junior year, and he now looks like one of the nation’s top senior wideouts.
And Another talented wideout
Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone knows he has a special talent in wideout Mike Williams, and QB Greg Paulus looks capable of getting him the ball consistently this season. Williams finished the day with seven catches for 94 yards and one touchdown and has the type of athletic ability to make NFL scouts drool.
He exhibits good vertical speed, but it’s his body control and explosion that really jumps out on film. Williams definitely possesses the talent to make a move toward the top spot in the senior receiver rankings.
Double Trouble in Tennessee
Sure, Tennessee only played Western Kentucky, but it looks like head coach Lane Kiffin has quite a talented pair of running backs to lean on this season. I went out on a limb earlier this year and said RB Montario Hardesty could be poised for a great year under Kiffin if he could just stay healthy. And after watching him run for 160 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, he looks well on his way.
However, with the emergence of freshman RB Bryce Brown, who carried the ball 11 times for 104 yards and a touchdown, Kiffin doesn’t have to ask Hardesty to carry the entire load week in and week out. It will give him a much better chance to stay healthy in 2009.
USC OT Shines
USC QB Matt Barkley and RB Joe McKnight grabbed all the headlines in the Trojans’ opening week win over San Jose State, but the effort of senior left tackle Charles Brown shouldn’t go unnoticed. Brown looked very fluid in pass protection and did a great job quickly getting out of his stance and hitting/sealing moving targets at the second level. In particular, he repeatedly stonewalled San Jose State standout linebacker Justin Cole off the edge and pretty much made him a non-factor all game (I’ll touch more on Cole’s effort tomorrow).
Washington will be a Pac-10 Power Sooner than Later
If you stayed up late to watch the Washington-LSU game on Saturday night, you definitely took in one of the best games of the weekend. I can’t say I was shocked by the impressive play-calling by Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian or the skill set of QB Jake Locker. But what I was shocked about was Washington’s overall talent at the skill positions. Underclassman Chris Polk, James Johnson, Devin Aguilar and Kavario Middleton all looked impressive and will be main building blocks in helping Washington turn around its football program.
A Pair of Junior Quarterbacks Shine
Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen and Washington QB Jake Locker both had very good outings in week one and made some favorable impressions in NFL scouts' minds. Clausen looks like he improved his arm strength quite a bit this offseason and was throwing the football as confidently as ever since his arrival at Notre Dame. He looked accurate when he was asked to stick some throws into tight areas and made good decisions from the pocket. I’m excited to see Clausen play against some of the better defenses on the Notre Dame schedule, but this was a very promising start for the junior signal caller.
Speaking of strong defenses, Washington’s Locker saw one of the fastest, hardest-hitting defenses in the nation last weekend and still performed at a high level all game. He didn’t look overwhelmed by LSU’s team speed, was very punctual with the football and made good decisions in the face of danger. He finished the game with 321 yards passing, 51 yards rushing and was consistently accurate both from the pocket and on the move. His overall skill set is so impressive that I think the kid is going to continue to mature and eventually become the nation’s top QB prospect during the next two years.
The Senior Quarterback Class, Not So Much
I took some heat last week for having a lot of the so-called “top-rated” quarterbacks so low on my list of senior rankings. The stats, however, speak for themselves. Here are three guys who really struggled in week one.
Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan: 18-31, 108 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT vs. Arizona
Juice Williams, Illinois: 18-28, 179 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT vs. Missouri
Andy Schmitt, Eastern Michigan: 18-31, 183 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT vs. Army