Previewing the Big Games: College Football Week 2

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

After a very eventful first week of the college football season, with title contenders showing that they have some more work to do, we’re already at the eve of the second week. Opening jitters should be moving out of the way by now, and the truth (positive or negative) should start to shine through starting here. We have some big games to look forward to, but there are three that stand out above the rest, and those are the games I’ll be breaking down here. When the weekend is over, I’ll be back to break everything down yet again, hopefully improving on my 2-1 prediction record from last week.

No. 19 Oklahoma at No. 23 Tennessee: With both teams on the rise and coming off of impressive performances last week, eyes are set on this game, with people looking to the future. The winner shows that they might be a legitimate contender on the season, while the loser goes back to the drawing board.

jalen-hurd-1

Photo Credit: tennessee.247sports.com

Photo Credit: tennessee.247sports.com

Tennessee rushed for 399 yards last week, nearly having three players top the 100-yard mark, with Alvin Kamara going for 144, Jalen Hurd getting 123 and QB Joshua Dobbs getting 89 yards of his own. It was the school’s best single-game rushing performance in over 20 years, but now, that running game goes up against an Oklahoma run defense that ranked 11th in the country last season in yards allowed and 10th in yards per game allowed. The Volunteers won’t reach 400 rushing yards again this week, but if they can get some sort of consistency with their three-headed monster, you have to like their chances. [Read more…]

Project Shanks College Football Week 1 Review

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

A very newsworthy first week of the college football season is now in the books, and before our eyes can look ahead to the second week, we have to look back at what we’ve learned from the first set of games that took place across the country. From the players to the teams, and everything in between, here are the biggest takeaways after college football’s first week, in no particular order.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Photo Credit: USA Today

1. A few early contenders for the National Championship struggled in their first games. Even in victory. TCU, Baylor, Michigan State, Auburn and Oregon were all ranked in the top 10 to start the season, and even though they all came out victorious, none of them had an easy road to get there, and questions popped up left and right. [Read more…]

Previewing the Big Games: College Football Week 1

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

With the 2015 college football season already underway, and the first Saturday slate of games kicking off, it’s time to preview the big games from Week 1. Teams from all over the country are beginning their journeys towards a possible National Championship, but it all begins with the season’s first game. I’ll be back when the week is over to review the goings-on and see how close my predictions were. Let’s not waste any more time, though.

No. 15 Arizona State vs Texas A&M: Arizona State is quickly becoming a chic selection as a National Championship dark horse contender, and that discussion starts because of their offense. QB Mike Bercovici stepped in for injured starter Taylor Kelly last season, throwing for 1,445 yards and 14 touchdowns in what was essentially three-and-a-half games. Last season’s leading rusher, DJ Foster, has been switched to WR to replace Jaelen Strong, while Demario Richard takes Foster’s place at RB.

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A&M needs to improve on a defense that ranked 103rd in the nation, out of 128 teams, last season, including being No. 114 in rushing yards allowed per game. Former LSU Defensive Coordinator John Chavis joins the team in that same role this season, and that gives Aggies fans lots of hope, as Chavis led one of the country’s top defensive units every season in Baton Rouge. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Safeties

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

In football, safeties are literally and figuratively the last line of defense, sometimes the only things between opposing offenses and the end zone. More and more, safeties are asked to be Jacks of All Trades, capable of playing against the run or the pass, and to see the entire field play out in front of them. This requires people playing the position to be smart, instinctive and to have the ability to be versatile in what they do. This year’s class of safeties is certainly no different, with many players who have experience at multiple positions, or in multiple schemes.

1. Nate Andrews, Florida State – Perhaps the surest tackler of any safety in the country, Andrews is a tough, physical player that plays all over the field. He isn’t the biggest (5’11”, 210 pounds) or fastest (4.52 40) player you’re going to find, but with his intelligence, instincts and nose for the football, he doesn’t have to be.

Photo Credit: Florida State Athletics

Photo Credit: Florida State Athletics

One of Florida State’s top leaders, he leads by example and is, arguably, the hardest worker on the team. His teammates love his attitude, and they play hard for him. That type of leadership, especially at a young age, is very attractive to NFL front offices, who are often dealing with “me first” types of players. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Linebackers

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

As the game of football continues to evolve, the linebacker position continues changing with it. With different defensive fronts, hybrid schemes and better athletes comes a different direction for the position. You have LBs that are strictly on the field to provide a pass rush, and are basically players who were defensive ends, but are too light to play DE anymore. You have the “traditional” LBs, who stay in their spots and rack up the tackle stats, playing sideline-to-sideline. It seems like every team has a different fit, and therefore, a different set of ‘Backers to play with. This is another loaded position in the Draft, with plenty of names fighting it out for first-round spots.

1. Scooby Wright, ILB/OLB, Arizona – Wright isn’t someone that you would refer to as an elite level athlete. He runs a 4.65 40, which isn’t bad at all, but compared to the 4.4’s and 4.5’s that some LBs run, his number doesn’t jump out at you. What he doesn’t have in elite athleticism, he makes up for it with world class instincts and a motor that simply doesn’t stop. When you watch an Arizona game, you’d swear that Wright ends each of them with 20+ tackles. He’s around the football like he was playing on offense, whether it’s making tackles, stuffing the run, pressuring the quarterback, forcing fumbles, and so on. His 2014 numbers (163 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, six forced fumbles) are what your LBs would get if you fired up a season in NCAA Football on your PS3.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Photo Credit: USA Today

If there’s anything people can point to and say Wright needs to improve at it, it would be his pass coverage. Some would tell you it doesn’t matter much, though, because that isn’t what his game is. He can sometimes fall into a one-dimensional spell when it comes to his pass rush moves, but that is something that he can easily improve on, making him an even better prospect for 2016. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Defensive Line

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

The cornerstone of a great defense (some would say of an entire football team, in general) is a great defensive line. The pass rush that it creates makes life easier for the back end of the unit. Opposing running games would thrive in the open field without a great run defense at the line, clogging up holes. A good defensive lineman is often asked to do so many things these days, and the best ones do it with relative ease. The names on this list make great impacts on the games they play, whether it is being in a quarterback’s face every time they step back to throw the football, being ready to smash a running back before he can even get momentum built up, using his size advantage to affect a kicker’s attempts, or all of the above.

1. Joey Bosa, Defensive End, Ohio State – Many are calling Bosa the “next JJ Watt,” and for good reason. Bosa simply lives in opposing backfields, making life hell for anyone with a football in their hands. In his two seasons at OSU, he has a total of 99 tackles, 34.5 of them going for a loss, to go with 21 sacks and four forced fumbles… all while regularly being double-teamed or avoided altogether in the run game. Like Watt, Bosa plays with a great motor, always working hard and playing tough, no matter the score or situation.

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

At 6’6” and 275 pounds with a 4.7 40, Bosa is in the mold of the prototypical NFL defensive end. He has great strength, elite quickness, long arms, fast hands and he combines them with tremendous instincts to change games. As a pass rusher, he is multi-faceted, able to get to QBs whether he’s lined up on the inside or the outside. He sheds blocks as if they were set up by people half his size, doing so with a variety of different moves, meaning that opposing linemen have to be ready for any move at any time. Those moves also allow him to blow up holes and running room for RBs, closing up gaps as soon as they open. He is as close to unblockable as they come. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Offensive Line

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

Year in and year out, football teams of both the professional and collegiate variety produce star after star on offense, with quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and the occasional tight end getting all the publicity for making things happen. Almost without fail, though, the offensive linemen on those teams don’t get the recognition they deserve for what they do. Your team’s running game is the best around? Thank the “hog mollies” that are paving the way up front. Your team’s QB is putting up all kinds of big passing numbers? Thank his blockers for keeping him upright.

This year’s group of O-Line prospects features another group of stud tackles at the top, followed by depth at all three positions to round things out. NFL teams need to build their franchises around players like this, and there will be a couple more squads to have that opportunity next year.

1. Laremy Tunsil, Tackle, Ole Miss – A very athletic blocker with the ability to succeed in the running or passing games, Tunsil came into college as a heavily-recruited player, and has lived up to the hype. He’s super quick out of his stance when the ball is snapped, which allows him to take on speed rushers coming in off the edge, where that athleticism comes in handy and keeps him fighting.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Photo Credit: USA Today

In the run game, he uses his skill set to push holes open for his backs. Although he possesses a lot of strength, he doesn’t play in an offense that allows him to truly showcase it all the time. He isn’t what is considered a “road grader,” as he more finesses his way through run blocking, so he’ll have to show more of his power in 2015 if he wants to prove to NFL teams that he is the total package. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Tight Ends

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

When you look at the Class of 2016’s group of tight ends, you aren’t going to see anyone like a Rob Gronkowski or a Jimmy Graham, who can come in and become superstars immediately. What you will see is a group that is deep on those who can, and should, contribute immediately. You don’t need to catch 100 passes a year to be a successful NFL TE, and there could be a handful of players in college right now that will prove that in the future.

1. Hunter Henry, Arkansas – Some have referred to Henry as somewhat of a one-dimensional player, pointing at the fact that he doesn’t have eye-popping stats to back up their claims. What those people fail to realize is that Henry plays in a run-first offense, and has also had some very spotty quarterback play to deal with on top of that. He has caught a total of 65 passes since arriving at Arkansas two years ago, for a total of 922 yards and six touchdowns, so it isn’t like he’s just standing around, growing cobwebs.

Photo Credit: wholehogsports.com

Photo Credit: wholehogsports.com

In that run-first offense, Henry really shines, as he is a tremendous blocker. He’s strong off the snap and isn’t afraid to get in there and make room for his running backs. That’s a trait that NFL teams love to have in their TEs, but far more often than not, they merely have to settle on someone who “only” catches passes. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Wide Receivers

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

When you take a look at the group of wide receivers that lead the Class of 2016, one of the first things you notice is that there is no Amari Cooper here. There is no Sammy Watkins. There is no AJ Green. There isn’t a player that is a “sure thing” to dominate and do the same as a pro, without any sort of red flags, deserving or otherwise, popping up. It’s another deep class, with somewhere in the vicinity of 20 names being mentioned as people who could be drafted before the third round is over. There just isn’t that stud of the class to be head and shoulders above everyone else, which is actually a good thing. It means the names on this list will be in competition with each other all season long, jockeying for that top spot.

1. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh – In Boyd, Pitt has a player who has been successful in putting up numbers since the day he showed up on campus. In his first two seasons, he has a total of 163 receptions, totaling 2,300 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has the combination of size (6’2”, 200 pounds) and speed (has run a sub-4.4 40) that pro scouts drool over, and has the on-field intangibles that will transfer to the NFL. He works hard, is not afraid to play a physical game, is a very solid route runner and has a knack for making the clutch catch when his team needs him to.

Tyler-Boyd-Pittsburgh

Photo Credit: Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

The term “on-field intangibles” was used because of a DUI arrest that he had during the offseason. It will keep him out of the team’s season opener, but those closest to him and the program say it was a kid making a mistake, and not a troublemaker with poor decision making, as is the case with some college kids with arrests on their record. He has to stay out of trouble to even think about keeping the top WR spot on most teams’ draft boards, but if he can, he should succeed again in 2015. Pitt also returns their starting QB from last season, Chad Voytik, which should allow the duo to continue picking opposing secondaries apart. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Running Backs

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

The NFL seems to go back-and-forth between being a run-first league and a pass-first league seemingly every few seasons. For a little while, league offenses were all about the passing game, with record-breaking quarterbacks such as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady guiding their teams and taking them all the way. Things are beginning to shift again, as running backs are starting to become more important to a team’s success.

The NFL Draft Class of 2015 saw a loaded group of RBs, from Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon at the top, down to less talked-about gems like Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson, David Johnson and Jay Ajayi. As of now, the Class of 2016 isn’t as strong at the top, but one could argue that it provides more depth and more chance to find those hidden diamonds in middle rounds. As I did with the QBs, I’ll be looking at the top RBs in this class, why they’re ranked so high and what they need to do to continue seeing their stock rise throughout the season.

1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State – The man came out of nowhere to become the best RB in the country last season, absolutely decimating defenses, especially at the end of the year, when he ran for a combined 696 yards and eight touchdowns in his final three games. None of those three defenses he shredded would be considered poor against the run. In fact, Alabama, who was the first of those teams, had a top 5 defense against the run all year, and they still saw Elliott run for a whopping 20 percent of the total rush yards (and two of the three rushing touchdowns) they gave up all season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Elliott possesses a rare blend of size (6’0”, 225 pounds) and speed (4.5 40), using both to wear defenses down. He isn’t afraid of contact, showing a penchant for taking defenders on directly and winning far more of those battles than he loses. He is at home between the tackles, but has shown that he can stretch to the outside for home run plays with ease. In the NFL, backs are often called on to catch passes out of the backfield or to block in the passing game, and those are both things Elliott excelled at last season. He is heads and shoulders above anyone else in this class, and is as complete a running back as there is in the country. [Read more…]