Things went as planned during college football’s championship weekend. Clemson, Alabama, Washington, Oklahoma, and Ohio State were all favored to win their respective conference championship games and all five did. While the Big-12, SEC and Pac-12 games were worth the excitement, the Big Ten and ACC turned out to be duds. Here are the prospects that stood out in college football’s final week, leading up to bowl week and the college football championship therein.
OT Max Scharping (Northern Illinois)
Scharping was untouchable in pass protection all day for NIU, which was a big factor in their comeback win against UB. Despite having a solid stable of pass rushers, the Bulls weren’t able to even fluster the senior. Then, being down 29-10 in the second half, the NIU coaches decided they’d be better off running to Scharping’s side, which jump-started their rushing attack. Having a dominant game in front of a national audience will help Scharping earn either a Senior Bowl or Shrine Game invite, where he’ll have a chance to raise his draft stock even further.
WR Parris Campbell Jr. (Ohio State)
His 89 receiving yards didn’t lead his team, but Campbell was a general menace against Northwestern. The Buckeyes continued to use him on underneath crosses and screens, as they have all season. On those plays, Campbell’s speed proved too much for the much-ballyhooed Northwestern linebackers to deal with. The senior also showed off some much-improved hands, which has been a criticism of his game throughout his college career.
LB Gary Johnson (Texas)
Johnson kept Texas alive in their game against Oklahoma thanks to a couple key plays. Defending a third-and-goal in the first quarter, Johnson got some easy penetration through the offensive line and brought down Trey Sermon for a loss, forcing a field goal. Then, in the fourth quarter, Johnson pulled a Don Beebe, running half the length of the field to force a fumble. Beyond that, Johnson was second on his team with 11 tackles and had 1.5 tackles-for-loss. But it’s that excellent display of hustle that will impress scouts when they turn on the game tape.
ER D’Andre Walker (Georgia)
Walker is more of an edge setter than a pass rusher, but his nifty hand-usage and his bull-rush led him to five total tackles, two tackles-for-loss, a sack, a forced fumble, a pass break up, and a quarterback hurry. That’s an impressive output, considering he was going against all-world left tackle Jonah Williams. Outside of a 59-yard scamper by running back Josh Jacobs, Walker helped shut down the powerful Alabama rushing attack, which forced them into some difficult passing situations and more than likely was the cause of Tua Tagovailoa’s indecisiveness throughout the game.
RB Reggie Gallaspy II (N.C. State)
On a team that can claim to be ‘pass-first’ it’s been their bruising running back who has carried the offense through the last couple weeks. Against East Carolina, Gallaspy would take a single cut, and bowl into the first defender unlucky enough to meet him in the hole. He was dragging East Carolina defenders on his back a couple times. It was bloody entertaining. The senior also displayed good effort in pass protection—something that few college running backs specialize in anymore.
DT Dexter Lawrence (Clemson)
As was expected, Clemson’s defensive line was too much for the Pitt offensive line to handle. Lawrence was the most noticeable, as the big man used his strength to just toss guards to the side and make tackles on the various running backs unlucky enough to cross his path. Despite being frequently taken off the field on third downs, Lawrence still ended up with a sack and 2.5 tackles-for-loss on the night. His five tackles were third-most on the team.