It was an entertaining weekend of college football despite most of the power-house ranked teams having the week off. As I predicted in my preview article, SMU-Memphis was a highlight, with the Tigers able to upset the Mustangs in a 54-48 track meet. Meanwhile, Justin Herbert was able to prove why he’s such a highly thought-of prospect in Oregon’s 56-24 stomping of USC. And in the SEC, Georgia made just enough plays to upset a higher-ranked Florida team. Below are the prospects who stood out on a captivating week.
RB AJ Dillon (Boston College)
Boston College’s ground-based offense was just too much for the Syracuse defense, thanks to AJ Dillon’s physical running style. The 250-lb tailback’s refusal to be tackled by just one man—and ability to keep the chains moving—was perhaps the biggest factor in the Eagles being able to pile on points against the Orange. Questions remain about Dillon’s fit within today’s NFL, but production has never been a problem for the junior. With his 242 yards and three touchdowns against Syracuse, he’s close to eclipsing his personal season-best yardage and touchdown totals.
WR Juwan Johnson (Oregon)
The Penn State transfer, who’s struggled with a calf injury for much of the season, finally looked healthy against USC. In a match-up where most analysts were probably talking about the Trojans’ pair of wide receiver draft prospects, Johnson made them all look foolish with seven catches for 106 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson’s three touchdowns demonstrated how varied the senior’s skills are. His first score was on a nifty post route, where he was able to create quick separation and catch a dart thrown by Justin Herbert. On his second, he showed off his strength and ball-tracking ability on a corner fade. On the third, he showed off his open-field vision and nose for the end zone.
OT Andrew Thomas (Georgia)
Thomas had a dominant pass-protecting performance against a talented, albeit beat-up, Florida defensive line. Gators pass rushers Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga are some of the best in the business, but whenever the junior left tackle was lined up against them he made them look like scrubs. Thomas gave up exactly zero sacks, and there was only a single pressure when Greenard was able to beat Thomas on an inside move, forcing Jake Fromm to scramble. Other than that, it was a flawless day for the likely first tackle to be selected in the upcoming draft.
LB Shaquille Quarterman (Miami)
Nothing like going to your in-state rival’s house and coming away with a victory. As the Hurricanes’ defensive leader, Quarterman almost single-handedly shut down the Seminoles’ rushing attack, led by Cam Akers. The running back was coming off two of his biggest games of the year, where he averaged 150 yards, so holding him to 22 attempts for 66 yards is nothing to sneeze at. The question remains whether Quarterman can be more than a two-down defender in the NFL, but he’s still among the best in the nation against the run.
CB Jaylon Johnson (Utah)
The announcers during the game called Johnson “one of the best in the country” and, after seeing his pick-six to put Utah back in the game against Washington, most would be forced to agree. On the pick, Johnson read the quarterback’s eyes, sat on a short out route, stepped in front and was off to the races. That pick completely changed the momentum of the game, allowing Utah to come from behind in the second half. Almost as an afterthought, he also held Aaron Fuller to three catches for 24 yards.
DT Darrion Daniels (Nebraska)
Despite their size, 340-lb nose tackles rarely get noticed. Their main role on defense is to suck up blockers and set the table for their teammates. Daniels certainly did that against Purdue, who saw half their rushing yards come via quarterback scrambles. But the one time Daniels did get noticed he was able to snag an interception off a shovel pass, and the subsequent almost-big-man touchdown. On the play, Daniels showed off his quick thinking and deftly stepped in front of the running back and actually caught the ball with his surprisingly soft hands. It’s just a shame the big tackle couldn’t make it to the end zone.