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Tuls | Electric offense propels West Virginia past Kansas in a running back showcase

Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire

Scouting Notes

Tuls | Electric offense propels West Virginia past Kansas in a running back showcase

West Virginia Mountaineers vs Kansas Jayhawks

09/23/2017

Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS

Score:  West Virginia (56), Kansas (34)

Notable Prospects Entering the Contest

West Virginia Mountaineers

Will Grier, QB (Redshirt Junior): Throwing for 347 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with 25 completions on 39 attempts does not do Will Grier’s performance in this game justice. He may have made a couple questionable decisions, but some of his throws were fit for Sundays. With his arm strength and deep ball placement, he has the traits to be a next-level prospect, and he showcased both in this game on multiple occasions. I understand it was against one of the worst defenses in the Big 12, if not the country, but the throws Grier made in tight windows Saturday were special. I am going to hold off on the hype for now because of the opponent, but this was an especially promising performance for the former Florida Gator. Stock: Same

Justin Crawford, RB (Senior): At the beginning of the game, the game plan for Dana Holgorsen and co. looked like it was to give Justin Crawford the ball on every single play. Here is the thing: it worked. As a runner, Kyle Crabbs said to me that he was like a B-version of Melvin Gordon, and I could not agree more. With his ability to create inside or out with both agility and vision, it is hard to predict where Crawford ends up. To make things worse for defensive coordinators, he has the breakaway speed to take any run to the house if given a lane. I still have qualms about his lack of production as both a receiver and pass protector, but he is one of the most polished senior running backs in the nation, as the Jayhawks found out the hard way with his 125 yards on the ground. Stock: Up

Al-Rasheed Benton, LB (Redshirt Senior): Before “West Virginia twitter” gets in my mentions about how Benton had a 38-yard interception in the second half, I would like to explain to you all why I believe Benton carries a lot of the blame for Kansas’ big day on the ground. Whether it was missing tackles, slow reads or struggling to get off blocks, Al-Rasheed Benton was off in this game. There was one particular play in the first half where Benton overpursued his run lane badly and Khalil Herbert took advantage for a long touchdown run. I’m struggling to figure out where he fits at the next level as well. He does not have any of the requisite traits to play inside, which means he is going to have to make his living as a weak-side backer and special teams player. However, I’m not sure he has the lane discipline or athleticism to really excel in either role. Stock: Down

Kyzir White, SS (Senior): White is really asserting himself as one of the top defensive players in the conference with his performance so far in 2017. Not only is he all over the field, but he is consistently making plays on the football at all three levels. In the first half, he made a string of near-TFLs with his excellent downhill closing speed to halt the Jayhawks’ drives. He then got hurt in a nasty helmet-to-helmet collision in the second quarter, but came back and got two more tackles behind the line of scrimmage. I would like to see him tested more in coverage, but he has shown the physicality and ball skills to translate as a next-level box safety. Stock: Up

Dravon Askew-Henry, FS (Redshirt Junior): Askew-Henry got off to a rough start Saturday when Kansas just punted the rock down the field with Khalil Herbert. Taking bad angles and missing tackles can put any defensive player in the doghouse, but Askew-Henry picked it back up after the first couple of drives, showing good anticipation underneath and outstanding range over the top as a deep safety. He almost had a pick six late in the first half, but he failed to haul in the football. His athleticism and talent is there for scouts to see, but they would like to see more ball production from someone who projects as a deep-middle player at the next level. Stock: Same

Kansas Jayhawks

Steven Sims Jr, WR (Junior): As the Jayhawks’ version of DeSean Jackson, it was expected that West Virginia would try to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible. In fact, all five of their punts were kicked out of bounds. Steven Sims did get behind the defense for a 64-yard touchdown, showcasing his deep speed and one-play-bomb potential. He is a junior on a team going nowhere, but I don’t see why he should be looked at differently than Phillip Dorsett coming out of Miami.  Stock: Same

Dorance Armstrong Jr, EDGE (Junior): I do not have a problem saying Dorance Armstrong Jr has been one of the most disappointing players in college football this season. Projected as high as a potential top-10 selection in the 2018 NFL draft, many experts believed his 2016 tape showed the explosion of a dynamic pass rusher at the next level. So far in 2017, however, he has yet to record a single sack. To me, he just does not seem like the same player in terms of competitive toughness and effort. He did come into this game a little banged up, but other than a pass deflection in the second half, Armstrong was completely nonexistent, both in the run game and as a pass rusher. There is still plenty of time for him to turn this around, but if he continues on this path of mediocrity, he is not going to be drafted as anything more than a situational pass rusher. Stock: Down

Other Players that Flashed

KU’s Khalil Herbert, RB (Sophomore)If sophomore superstar running back Khalil Herbert was not on your radar before this game, he definitely is now. With 291 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries, Herbert torched the Mountaineers all day long, almost bringing the Jayhawks back single-handedly. His ability to create on his own with a decisive and explosive running style made West Virginia’s defense look like an FCS team. Kansas may have lost the game, but Herbert was the best player on the field Saturday.

West Virginia’s Kennedy McKoy, RB (Sophomore): All of the talk for West Virginia is going to surround the performances of both Will Grier and Justin Crawford because of their name value in Morgantown, but the real X-factor in this game was backup running back Kennedy McKoy. He accumulated 105 yards and two touchdowns on the ground with only 12 carries.

West Virginia’s David Sills V, WR (Junior): Talk about a safety blanket for Will Grier! With 130 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions, Sills went silly against the Jayhawk secondary. He doesn’t have the athleticism that pops like his teammate Marcus Simms, but his strong hands and precise routes make him a consistently reliable target.

West Virginia’s Mike Daniels, CB (Senior): Call it a lucky play, but Mike Daniels took a tipped pass to the house for a pick six right before halftime on an abysmal bubble screen attempt. Putting that play aside, Daniels still did excellent work on the boundary for the Mountaineers. His physicality and strength outmatched the smaller, quicker Kansas wide receivers at the LOS all game long.

Best Players on the Field

West Virginia’s Will Grier, QB (Redshirt Junior)

West Virginia’s Justin Crawford, RB (Senior)

West Virginia’s Kyzir White, SS (Senior)

KU’s Khalil Herbert, RB (Sophomore)

Forgettable Performances

KU’s Peyton Bender, QB (Junior)

KU’s Dorance Armstrong Jr, EDGE (Junior)

West Virginia’s Al-Rasheed Benton, LB (Redshirt Senior)

The overall run defense in this game

Jonah Tuls

Tuls is one of the lead NFL Draft analysts for Draftbreakdown.com and has been a key contributor to several other NFL Draft sites in recent years. At Draftbreakdown, Tuls provides macro-oriented NFL Draft coverage, including comprehensive player rankings, mock drafts and big boards for the site. Tuls has worked with some of the NDT Scouting staff previously before; he worked with National Scout Jon Ledyard to form the core of USA Today’s Draft Wire site for the 2016 NFL Draft season. His work there was centered around draft reports, with additional analysis and breaking news efforts as well.

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