Last Thursday, we saw some solid action between Purdue and Northwestern and some overtime fun between Tulane and Wake Forest. It was a great preview for what was going to come on the first full weekend of the college football.
Now that week one is officially in the books, we have plenty of time to preview week two, but before we take that next step, I want to review some of the players from last week. Each week of the season, I’ll focus on three draft prospects from each major conference as we look forward to the 2019 NFL Draft.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of players to talk about, and we’ll get to as many as possible. Despite there being hundreds of prospects to talk about, I want to put a focus on three players from each conference during each week of the season. Starting with week one, here are three players from the ACC that you need to know.
Gerald Willis III, DT from Miami (FL)
Throughout the summer I talked about the Miami (FL) Hurricanes and their defense. One player that I noticed but didn’t realize would make an immediate impact was Gerald Willis III. Through one week, Willis already has 8 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack.
Against the Tigers, he was all over the field. He dominated the line of scrimmage with twist line stunts and a club-swim technique. On the play above, you’ll see him twist inside and, as he fills the gap, the running back bounces to the outside. In the process, Willis bends and pursues to the ball carrier to help assist on the tackle. You can’t teach effort. Either a player wants it or he doesn’t. It’s clear that Willis has that desire.
Throughout the game, he flashed his high motor, quick hands, and ability to fight off multiple blocks. There were times that he was out of control and took a bad angle on a snap or two, but for the most part, he was dominant. There will be times that he gets overlooked for Jaquan Johnson, Joe Jackson, and Shaq Quarterman, but the dominant performance from Willis in week one can’t go unnoticed. Keep Gerald Willis III on your radar for the rest of the season and the 2019 NFL Draft.
Trevon Hill (EDGE #94) for Va Tech was outstanding last night. Love how explosive he is off the snap + speed rush – rip. Turns his feet to the pocket, flips his hips toward Francois, rips w/inside shoulder at the top of the arc and brings him down for the sack. This is fantastic. pic.twitter.com/Ob0BKzY5VB
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) September 5, 2018
Trevon Hill, EDGE from Virginia Tech
Shouldn’t we be talking about this entire Virginia Tech defense? My goodness were they impressive against Florida State. They made Willie Taggert’s debut for the Seminoles look abysmal, and despite losing a ton of talent on defense, the Hokies were a lot of fun to watch. Putting the whole defense aside, it all starts with one player for the Hokies.
That player is Trevon Hill, their talented EDGE rusher. Hill was all over the field against the Seminoles, and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be all over the field for the entire season. In week one, he had four tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. He made the Seminoles’ offensive line look atrocious, and there were times he was unstoppable.
Hill found ways to get into the backfield and disrupt plenty of plays. On the play above, you’ll get a great example of what the 6’3″ and 245-pound EDGE rusher brings to the table. I love how easily he flips his hips and bends to the quarterback for the sack. One of his best assets is his explosiveness off the snap, and it’s essential to the way he beats offensive linemen.
There were times in this game that he played high and could counter his way back inside, but he’s a high motor kid with tremendous upside. Right now, he doesn’t have a plethora of pass rush moves, but he trusts what he knows and if he can bring this type of effort on Sundays, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t start to develop some type of draft stock for the 2019 NFL Draft. Hill was fantastic in week one, and it should continue throughout the season, especially against some mediocre offensive lines from the ACC.
Staying up late to get caught up on all the throws from QB1 in week one of the season. Ryan Finley with a strike pic.twitter.com/9zT2hYlHvG
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) September 5, 2018
Ryan Finley, QB from North Carolina State
How can QB1 be on this list? Because he didn’t have a terrible game against James Madison and is actually getting media attention from other people other than just me. The bigger question here is this: what took everyone so long?
Ryan Finley has all the tools to be an NFL quarterback. Furthermore, he’s the most pro-ready signal caller the 2019 NFL Draft has to offer. Going into this season, I discussed this N.C. State offense and the direction they were headed in. They have one of the better wide receiver duos in the country with Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers. They’re so complete, they already remind me of the Detroit Lions’ duo of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.
As for week one, Finley connected with Meyers 14 times for 161 yards. He led the Wolfpack to a 24-13 victory over James Madison and was 29/43 for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Not every one of his throws was perfect, though. He missed on some throws deep downfield, specifically near the end zone when targeting Kelvin Harmon. However, Finley made some solid throws across the middle and was efficient when targeting the short-to-intermediate areas of the field.
When you watch Finley, you have to watch him progress in the pocket, and in the process, you’ll fall in love with his natural throwing motion and release. He does a good job with his pre-snap reads, and in week one he made plenty of adjustments at the line. As the season progresses, this offense will continue to grow, and there should be plenty of success from Finley. He’s already my top quarterback for the 2019 NFL Draft, and there’s no reason for me to change my stance on that. Just be sure you wipe your feet off at the door for the House of Finley that I built.