Midway through the season, players have had enough time on the field to start to solidify their resumes and separate one another from the pack. For some, it’s a matter of overcoming pre-season expectations. For others, it’s reaffirming previous playing history.
There’s been a lot of good football this weekend, here are some of the best of the best.
Wide Receiver Anthony Miller, Memphis
The fifth year senior dominated against the Huskies on Friday night; logging 15 receptions for 224 yards and 4 touchdowns. Miller won with quick throws, deeper developing patterns and contested catches alike. I’ve seen Miller live twice this season (UCLA/UConn) and he’s combined for 24 catches, 409 yards and 6 touchdowns in those games.
Miller is making a strong push to be considered in the top tier of senior receivers.
Linebacker Junior Joseph, Connecticut
Joseph has continued to turn it on this year, hitting double digit tackles for the third straight week. Joseph told me over the summer that he’d cut double digit pounds in an effort to move better in space; and he’s doing just that. Joseph looked effective Friday night on runs between the numbers, attacking forward and consistently squaring up his tackle attempts.
Running Back Nick Chubb, Georgia
16 carries, 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. Chubb had his moments last year as well, but he’s much more true to form physically nearly 2 years removed from an ugly knee injury. Chubb ran with power and balance on a number of chunk runs, highlighted by his 33 and 14 yard romps for scores.
Firmly established as the 3rd back in the class at this point from my eye.
Defensive Tackle Kendrick Norton Jr, Miami
Norton got love for playing FSU QB James Blackman’s leg as a guitar after an early sack. But there’s plenty more to appreciate: Norton is a nimble player with terrific power, consistently capable of setting the point of attack and gaining penetration.
Norton will have more draft eligibility at the end of the year, but he’s physically ready for life at the next level.
Defensive End Chad Thomas, Miami
Thomas was a load when attacking interior gaps. On multiple occasions Thomas was able to play through a late challenge by blockers and get backfield penetration. He, like his teammate Norton, is physically primed to win with strength at the next level.
Cornerback Tavarus McFadden, Florida State
McFadden was physical in the secondary against the Hurricanes. The referees were content to allow contact in space, to which McFadden was happy to oblige. Yes, McFadden was beaten on the game’s deciding play; but it was just as much a great play by the offense as it was anything else. Ironically enough, the one play where McFadden didn’t pin his receiver with an aggressive stab was the one that lost the Seminoles the game.
Quarterback Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier came up big in the second half of a game that teetered on the brink of a blowout. Down 17-3 in the 2nd half, Grier started gunning down the field and came up with two 50+ yard touchdown passes.
Grier’s strengths as a passer continue to be a perfect marriage with Coach Holgerson’s offense and his down field passing skills are something that suggest there’s a life in the NFL awaiting him.
Running Back Damien Harris, Alabama
Black or white? Vanilla or chocolate? Harris or Scarbrough? Well, Harris had himself a day today; logging 124 yards on 14 carries. The highlight? A 75-yard touchdown run; which showed some impressive long speed to outrun Safety Armani Watts.
Harris isn’t a name regularly talked about; he shares carries and is potentially part of a loaded running back crop. But he runs with burst, balance and some nice vision, making him a strong pro prospect.
Linebacker Skai Moore, South Carolina
Moore landed his thirteenth career interception against the Razorbacks, a pick-6. Moore may not have great functional strength, but he’s a new age linebacker showing to be fully back from a neck injury that cost him all of the 2016 season.
Moore continues to look just as free in space as he did before the injury.
Wide Receiver Braxton Berrios, Miami
The Hurricanes had little working in the first half against the Seminoles. But that was before they started feeding targets to WR Braxton Berrios, who won from the slot with terrific route running. Berrios fits the mold of a slot target at the next level with some nice short area quickness, clean route skills and good hands. 7 receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown on a back shoulder target were essential to Miami finally beating Florida State.
Quarterback Ryan Finley, North Carolina State
The first standout of the weekend, Finley played on Thursday night and was, simply put, terrific. Finley still has yet to throw an interception on the season and he’s showing high aptitude in the three and five step concepts of the offense.
Finley has down well all year getting the ball out “on schedule” and has the Wolfpack firing on all cylinders.
Tight End Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
Hurst has been a favorite of mine since the summer, but started slow against NC State. The production has ramped up in the last several weeks, highlighted today by a long 62-yard touchdown reception.
Hurst is a fascinating prospect, knocked most notably by age, so strong play may push him into the draft pool at the end of the year.