Rivalry week is as unique occurrence in the college football season and can produce a good amount of dud games but this year’s version featured several great games, including a USF-UCF barnburner that I was able to attend in person. Of course the big news was No. 6 Auburn’s upset of No. 1 Alabama. People will point to Jarrett Stidham’s steady play as the reason for the upset but I was more impressed with Kerryon Johnson’s all-around game. Below are the players that stood out to this writer during an exciting rivalry week.
Quinton Flowers, quarterback (USF)
USF ultimately fell to UCF in a thriller, but Quinton Flowers was the only reason South Florida was in the game at all. Flowers utilized his dual-threat skills to lead his team in passing (500 yards) and rushing (102 yards). Seeing the game unfold from the stands, you could see UCF had no answer for him all afternoon; if they blitzed Flowers would vacate the pocket and run, if they sat back and played zone he’d find the open receiver. Flowers has his work cut out for him in trying to impress NFL scouts but this game showed he has developmental potential.
Cedrick Wilson, wide receiver (Boise State)
On the first play of the game, Wilson caught a deep pass off a flea-flicker and that set the tone for the rest of his day. Fresno State’s off-man coverage was no match for the big bodied wide receiver and he was able to finish with 7 catches for 134 yards. While Wilson has had a very productive year, I’d still like to see Wilson improve on his catching technique before he decides to compete in an all-star game.
Kenny Young, linebacker (UCLA)
UCLA’s defense isn’t very good, which makes it hard to evaluate individual players but Young’s impact in the game against Cal was evident. Leading the team in tackles with 15 total and 12 solo, Young helped the UCLA defense hold on to eventually hold off Cal in a win that makes them bowl eligible. At his best when he’s able to shoot gaps in the run game, when forced to read and react he’s much less effective. Young has the look of a 4-3 middle linebacker at the next level.
Royce Freeman, running back (Oregon)
There are so many good running back prospects in this class that a productive and talented player like Freeman is liable to fall through the cracks. Freeman is a big, between-the-tackles runner who’s been Oregon’s bell-cow since his freshman season. He can carry the load, as evidenced in the game against Oregon State where the Ducks got up early on Oregon State and just road Freeman for the rest of the game. Any team that drafts Freeman isn’t getting the fastest tailback, instead they’re getting a steady all-around player.
Marcell Frazier, edge rusher (Missouri)
Missouri has a history of producing top edge rushers and just last year, Charles Harris was a first round pick for the Dolphins. Frazier was viewed as the next in line, but after an unproductive start to the year he dropped off the radar a bit. The senior has been on a tear though in the second half of the season and his game against Arkansas was his best of the year. He was pressuring quarterback Austin Allen almost all game, had a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. He also threw in 3 batted passes. Look for his name to come up as a riser at the position.
Connor Williams, left tackle (Texas)
Williams is one of the elite tackle prospects in the 2018 class but sustained a knee injury in the middle of the season and was forced to sit out several games. He has been dominant since he returned last week, barely letting up any pressures against West Virginia last week or Texas Tech this week. If Williams decides to come up this year, he should end up as a first round pick at the position.
Da'Shawn Hand, defensive tackle (Alabama)
It’s safe to say at this point that Hand has had a disappointing career at Alabama. A former #1 recruit, Hand was expected to takeover for Jonathen Allen after the latter left for the NFL. Unfortunately, Hand doesn’t have the quick-twitch athleticism that Allen does, so he’s been forced into a two-gap, run stopping role. Luckily he was able to have a productive day against Auburn by controlling his blocker with his long arms or by staying home on zone reads and using his length to corral runners.
Quin Blanding, safety (Virginia)
Virginia’s offense was shut out, but the defense held Virginia Tech to only 10 points thanks to Blanding and teammate Micah Kizer. Blanding excels at flying downhill against run and having the versatility to cover tight ends and receivers in the slot. Blanding’s 17 tackles against the Hokies, were a new career high for the senior safety and gave him the record for most career tackles for a defensive back in the ACC.