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Three defenders shine in college football Week 8

Two edge rushers and corner stood out this weekend

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

The slate of college football games in Week 8 was a bit more disappointing on paper than Week 7 heading into the weekend, and that was proven to be mostly true throughout Saturday afternoon. There were a few competitive ranked matchups on the day, including a scare in Clemson we will get to discussing. In our game of the week, No. 9 UCLA traveled to Eugene to face the No. 10 Oregon Ducks. The Ducks got out to an early two-score lead in the second quarter, and the game never got back to one score. Oregon won 45-30 in a forgettable performance for the Bruins’ defense.

Fifth-ranked Clemson had to come from behind to beat No. 14 Syracuse, 27-21, due to four total turnovers—three from quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who was benched in the second half. Freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik completed the comeback over the Orange.

Sixth-ranked Alabama dusted No. 24 Mississippi State 30-6, while No. 20 Texas blew a two-touchdown first-half lead to No. 11 Oklahoma State. TCU’s defense tightened up in the second half to blank Kansas State in the final two quarters; the Horned Frogs scored 28 unanswered to win 38-28.

There were a multitude of strong performances from defensive prospects this week. Noteworthy to me, were two pass rushers and a cornerback who all caught my attention in Week 8.

EDGE Isaiah Foskey (Notre Dame) continues to deliver, week after week

We’ve talked about Foskey before in these weekly reports, and he just keeps putting up insane numbers on a disappointing Notre Dame team. The 6’5”, 265-pound fourth-year standout recorded three sacks and two (!!!) blocked punts against UNLV this weekend. Foskey is now up to six sacks in seven games in 2022. His athleticism to rush through the middle against the Runnin’ Rebels to block back-to-back punts was impressive. Foskey is firmly in the first-round discussion, and team decision-makers will love how he performed on special teams in Week 8.

CB Eli Ricks (Alabama) gets his opportunity and dominates

Ricks was one of the most-touted transfer portal entries of the offseason after entering at the end of the 2021 season—ending his time with LSU. Ricks looked like the best freshman in college football in 2020 with four interceptions and two pick-sixes for the Bayou Bengals. An injury-riddled 2021 season led to him playing just six games.

In 2022, Ricks was surprisingly unable to crack the starting lineup for the Crimson Tide as a starting outside corner. In fact, he had only played one game in the team’s first seven games, which led to many questioning just what was happening with the former five-star recruit.

Ricks got his chance when Alabama head coach Nick Saban inserted Ricks into the starting lineup against Mississippi State. He was ready for that moment, breaking up four passes and allowing just one reception the entire game. Ricks seized the moment, and isn’t likely to let it go down the home stretch of the season. He showed his fluidity and elite measurables throughout the game this past weekend. If Ricks dominates the last four games and in postseason play, he could be in line for first-round selection status.

EDGE Yasir Abdullah (Louisville) does it all for the Cardinals

Abdullah isn’t a super familiar name in draft circles, but he was making a whole lot of noise Saturday night against Pitt. Abdullah is undersized, listed at just 6’1” and 242 pounds, but his athleticism really pops. He had a red zone interception where he ran step-for-step with Pitt’s top receiver and corralled the ball on a shot to the end zone. Abdullah also had a strip sack, two tackles for a loss, three hurries, and another pass defended in the game. It’s hard to say what Abdullah can be at the next level given his size, but he possesses some very impressive athleticism and pass-rush ability as a prerequisite. Abdullah plays “dog” linebacker for the Cardinals, where he primarily aligns as a stand-up pass rusher. Abdullah is one to watch as the season moves forward.