More College football notes for 9/8/21
Bo Nix's NFL odds, Bailey Zappe makes my watch list, Kenneth Murray's Heisman chances, and the player who added 50 lbs and moved to linebacker
College football thoughts
Bo Nix: QB coach Jordan Palmer (we all know him and the other things he’s notable for, but really above all else he’s a QB coach) is high on Bo Nix:
“I’ve been around Bo a lot the last couple offseasons,” Palmer said on The JBoy Show. "Coming out of high school, Bo was among the best dual-threat quarterbacks. He lost at The Elite 11 Finals to Spencer Rattler. He was right there as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. I don’t think what people recognize is that his freshman year, his strength coach told me he was the top-5 fastest guys on the team in a 10-yard split. So what we haven’t seen from Bo Nix yet is just how electric he is as a runner.
“It’s because I think in that previous offense and system with Gus Malzahn — and they’ve had a lot of success there — I don’t think Bo was able to establish himself as a “pass first and then run” which is when the opportunities can present themselves and you can get in the open space. Designed runs can work but you’re also funneling the defense toward the run. It’s when everyone else is going vertical and the quarterback decides to take off that you see big runs. I think you’ll see more of those from Bo and see how athletic he is.”
This is such a crazy new world …
Though he went 20-of-22 for 275 yards and 3 TD against Akron in Week 1, and kind of shoots bullets out of his hand, this is not the type of game that I think Nix would want to show NFL scouts. Many of the yards came after the catch, Nix is only throwing out of gun, in spread, not playing in an NFL-style offense. I think the new coach will help Nix become a better college quarterback, but I don’t necessarily see an “NFL” quarterback in his first game of this season. He will probably need to return to school next year unless something significant changes.
This is pretty random but I felt like it would be fun to share. It’s a local news story for South Alabama quarterback Jake Bentley, a former starter at South Carolina and Utah who is on his third team in three years. This story was from five months ago, but in Week 1, Bentley went 17-of-22 for 269 yards, 2 TD, and one rushing TD against Southern Mississippi. Highlights of that were harder to find than this news story.
One reason for Bentley’s succeed is wideout Jalen Tolbert, who opted to return to South Alabama over the NFL draft, which was a realistic possibility. Tolbert had five catches for 168 yards in the game. With a strong season, Senior Bowl, and combine, Tolbert could be one of the top receivers drafted.
Buffalo is excited about quarterback Kyle Vantrease. The fifth-year senior went 15-of-19 against Wagner (I almost wrote down “Murphy” for some reason and while that isn’t a college, it’s as much of a college to me as the word “Wagner”) for 231 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. Ventrease ended up working as a QUARTERBACK/PUNTER for Buffalo in 2019 when the team’s punter went down. Yes, the year is 1940. Yes, you did leave the tea kettle on. (Ventrease averaged 34.6 yards per punt, which is not many yards per punt and ranked last in the MAC.)
How did Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe end up throwing seven touchdowns in his FCS debut as a 22-year-old senior? By making history at the FBS level. In 2020, Zappe averaged 458.3 passing yards per game for Houston Baptist, throwing 15 touchdowns and one interception over four contests in a truncated season. In a game against Texas Tech last year, Zappe threw for 567 yards and four touchdowns and fell a two-point conversion shy of tying Tech in the final moments. Said Zappe after the game (in which he threw for 567 YARDS AGAINST A DIVISON-1 TEAM!) that “It’s not on anybody but me.”
Zappe threw for 3,811 yards on 560 attempts with 35 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2019. He plays in an air raid offense, obviously. And not against great competition. But he did stand against Texas Tech and his first game with Western Kentucky did result in seven touchdowns. Here are his highlights against Wagner. (I’m the first viewer of the video lol)
Does he actually look better than Bo Nix? There doesn’t seem to be much doubt about his arm, at least. Bailey Zappe…you just made the Seaside Joe watchlist.
UCLA RB Zach Charbonnet has 17 carries for 223 yards and four touchdowns over two games, the last one of which came against LSU. Not having to sit out a year by transferring because of a new rule, Charbonnet came to UCLA this year after two seasons at Michigan. He was a four-star prospect in 2019 and at 6’1, 220 lbs, would be an intriguing draft prospect next year if he stays healthy and productive.
Tyler Badie didn’t get much work during his first three years at Mizzou, but he had 25 carries for 203 yards against Central Michigan in Week 1. Fans say that they’ve always seen potential in Badie and this was the first clear sign of it paying off.
RB Mataeo Durant had 26 scholarship offers when coming out of McCormick High School in 2018, but as a three-star prospect, was not among the elites of his class. He chose Duke over Georgia Tech and after two quiet seasons, emerged in 2020 with 163 yards vs Syracuse, 132 yards vs UNC, and 127 yards on only 13 carries against Florida State. In Week 1 of this season against Charlotte, Durant had 29 carries for 255 yards and three touchdowns, with 37 receiving yards. The Plum Beach, NC native (he wants you to know that he’s from Plum Beach, not McCormick) dreamt of being able to play college football since going to a game in middle school and told the Greenville News:
“I’m very fortunate to be where I am,” Mataeo said. “And turning my dreams into reality.”
Speaking of three-star running back recruits, Kenneth Walker was the 143rd-ranked back in the 2019 class and chose to go to Wake Forest. After being shut down against Clemson in 2020, Walker had 113 carries for 563 yards and 13 touchdowns over the next six games. He transferred to Michigan State and had 23 carries for 264 yards and four touchdowns in his Spartans debut. So three years after being a so-so recruit, and only one year after averaging 4.9 yards per carry with Wake Forest, Walker is being touted as a Heisman candidate. Could it be true? Anything is possible, but Walker only caught six passes over his two seasons with Wake Forest and it’s difficult to imagine Michigan State being good enough.
Two years ago, Blaze Alldredge had 102 tackles, 21.5 TFL, and four sacks in 12 games for Rice. He transferred to Missouri in 2021 and had 10 tackles, six TFL, and 3.5 sacks against Central Michigan. Not only is his name Blaze Judgedredd, but he looks like this:
And he plays like this:
Mizzou lists Alldredge at 6’2, 220 lbs. He replaced Nick Bolton (a second round pick of the KC Chiefs) on the defense, and he might be a surprisingly early draft pick in 2022.
Fresno State LB Arron Mosby has a sack in each of his first two games, and had 3.5 TFL against Oregon in his second week. Mosby was a two-star WR recruit in 2017 who weighed 196 lbs, but he went to Fresno State as a safety, and most recently he has been a 247 lb edge player. Yes, that’s 50 pounds of added weight. You can’t blame me if I’m wrong, I’m going off of reported weights at both times, from multiple sources (though they could be getting their numbers from each other).
There were high expectations for Rutgers linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi going into the season, and in his first game against Temple, Fatukasi had 4 TFL and 2 sacks. Greg Schiano says Fatukasi will be “a really, really fine professional football player because he loves it, he studies it, he lives the game, and takes care of himself the way that a pro football player takes care of himself.” (The evil writer would just write: “Greg Schiano says Fatukasi is a “really, really fine” football player.)
Another productive pass rusher has been Amaré Barno of Virginia Tech. Barno was considered a strong football prospect coming out of high school in 2017, but poor grades led to him going to Butler Community College before he could work his way into a transfer opportunity. Barno started as a linebacker in high school, moved to safety as a senior, then moved back to linebacker when he went to BCC. At 6’6, 220 lbs, Barno was lanky for a safety or linebacker, but he is apparently up to 245 and after hesitation to transitioning to another position, is thriving at defensive end. Barno had 16 TFL and 6.5 sacks in 11 games last year, and had 3.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks in Week 1 against UNC and Sam Howell.
San Diego State junior Cameron Thomas has been an exceptional destructor over his first two seasons and he had career-high 3.5 TFL against New Mexico State to open the year. His brother is the starting right tackle for San Diego State.
“That’s a bold strategy, Cotton” is a reference to a movie that is 17 years old. We used to satirize the guy who didn’t have original jokes. We called him “Michael Scott” and laughed at him. Now this behavior is praised — or at least, allowed to exist without ridicule — on social media. I can’t allow that.
“Siri” jokes started in 2011.
This tweet makes me think of something else…
You want to know the reason that “Jump Around is back”? Have you noticed how popular “things from your childhood” have become in the last couple of years? It’s not the normal amount of nostalgia that we used to see with one-hour programming on VH1. It’s because the amount that any one artist can become famous has shrunken tremendously in the last 10 years and now House of Pain’s “Jump Around” is actually a more relevant and popular song today than anything that’s been released in the last couple of years. That’s why I think you are going to see a mass resurgence of artists and songs who were popular prior to the big online content explosion of the 2010s, and why I don’t think this “love” for “Jump Around” by Fox is unplanned or that the popularity of the tweet is coincidental. More people know about “Jump Around” than any song of 2021.
Yeah, I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help but find corniness endlessly annoying and often beyond disingenuous via excessive force.
I will even things out by saying that Thumpasaurus made me laugh. “Maybe if Northwestern’s tuition wasn’t so famously low they could afford to manage one of the smallest crowds in the Big Ten.”
Alabama linebacker Henry To’o To’o transferred from Tennessee to Alabama and recorded seven tackles as the play-calling MIKE linebacker on the Crimson Tide defense. That’s a notable responsibility for a junior in his first season under Nick Saban.
Kentucky LT Dare Rosenthal is 6’7, 327 lbs, and he’s in his first year with the Wildcats after transferring from LSU. Coach Mark Stoops was happy with his Week 1 performance. He was also happy with QB Will Levis and WR Wan’Dale Robinson, two other transfers this year.
Quavaris Crouch is an interesting player, and a rarity in that I’ve known about him since before this year. That’s because a few years ago I started to theorize that younger football players would choose to forego opportunities at running back — once a popular position for your best athletes — for a chance to play anything else. Running back is a brutal, unforgiving, and unfair position in the NFL these days. I think that we’re already seeing the outcome of that reality in the form of smaller, faster, more talented wide receivers than ever before. Players like DeVonta Smith, Dee Eskridge, Tutu Atwell, and Rondale Moore in the 2021 draft are perfect examples of this, but there are plenty in the recent past and near future. Sure enough, I found an example in Crouch, a top-ranked high school running back recruit who opted to risk a position change at linebacker because he feared the potential career ramifications of playing running back. Crouch also went to Tennessee, and also transferred this year, beginning play with Michigan State in 2021. Crouch had seven tackles and one sack in his Spartans debut.
He isn’t eligible for the 2022 draft, but keep an eye on Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer for 2023. In fact, he might end up being so good this year that he opts out of 2022. That’s another trend I envision potentially happening in the near future, now that we’ve seen it do no harm to several players who opted out in 2020. Mayer was an elite tight end recruit in 2020, had 42 catches for 450 yards as a true freshman, and had nine catches for 120 yards in Week 1.