The second week of the college football season is right in our laps. There are plenty of matchups to watch for, and there are certainly plenty of prospects bound for the 2019 NFL Draft. We’re still in the early stages of everything, feeling out process, if you will.
Today, there will be games that feature the top offensive tackle, Jonah Williams from Alabama. We’ll also see my top-ranked quarterback, Ryan Finley, against Georgia State. Meanwhile, that talented Clemson defensive line takes on Texas A&M, and we get a great matchup between Deebo Samuel and Deandre Baker.
As fun as it is to talk about some of the top prospects in the country, it’s also fun to look at the “lesser-known” players. The names that we’re going to discuss for week two aren’t the biggest names in the country. They’re not the highest-ranked players for the 2019 NFL Draft, but these three players are underrated names to know.
Uncle Rico Dowdle with an impressive run. Little juke that freezes the defender and then some power. Solid blend of burst, power and elusiveness. pic.twitter.com/MdkcGF4WD0
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) September 6, 2018
Rico Dowdle, RB from South Carolina
You’re probably scratching your head and asking yourself, “who?” I said the same thing when watching South Carolina play Coastal Carolina. I watched this game to see how Deebo Samuel looked in his first game back, but Rico Dowdle really caught my eye. With just about every carry, I was surprised with the combination of talent and skills he has.
On the play above, you can see that I called him Uncle Rico. While I might be referring to Napoleon Dynamite, Dowdle has no resemblance to Dynamite’s Uncle Rico. As for the play, you can see Dowdle with a nice juke that freezes the defender, but then you see a blend of his burst and power. Again, you see a combination of his talent on every carry. Last week against Coastal Carolina, he finished with 15 carries, 105 yards, and a touchdown. He also took a 22-yard screen pass to the house.
After arriving in Columbia, South Carolina, Dowdle was fantastic as a freshman. He had 133 carries for 764 yards and seven touchdowns. Last season, there were high hopes for him, and the buzz around him would have been bigger, but he broke his leg midway through the season. He’s now one-hundred percent healthy, and after one week you need to circle his name. By the end of the season, he could be one of the most dynamic running backs in the SEC.
Tomorrow we're gonna watch Ed Oliver tackle J.J. Taylor. We're also going to see J.J. Taylor juke Ed Oliver (maybe?). I'm excited to watch Arizona and Houston tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/cEIFWxqtYx
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) September 8, 2018
J.J. Taylor, RB from Arizona
Earlier this summer, I highlighted the top-5 running backs in the Pac-12. Outside of Bryce Love, all four running backs made some type of impact in week one. That includes J.J. Taylor. He’s only listed at 5’6 and 180 pounds, and many evaluators will consider him “undersized”. Don’t tell head coach Kevin Sumlin that because Taylor had a solid first week for the 2018 campaign. Last week, Taylor had 18 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown, and keep in mind that he also serves a role out of the backfield to catch passes. He did so with four receptions for 27 yards.
Taylor is the type of back that can do a little bit of everything. He’s the Wildcats’ primary kick returner, and he returned three kickoffs for 71 yards. Throughout his career, he’s always split carries. As of now, that role looks to have faded, and Taylor will have an expanded role. Being the primary back will allow us to see everything he provides this offense, and as of right now, it’ll provide more consistency than quarterback Khalil Tate. During the first game, Tate missed a lot of throws. As a passer, he needs to find the consistency to keep his offense on the field. For now, though, Taylor will be the consistent piece out of the backfield.
Now that week one is in the rearview, Taylor will focus on Ed Oliver and the Houston Cougars’ defense. Running through him might not be possible, but running around him is. Oliver is freakishly athletic for a player of his size, and he’s the top player in the country. Taylor will need to display more than just his jump-cutting ability for this one. We’ll have to see a consistent mix of power, burst, and speed for the Wildcats to have a chance at running the football.
First things first: great cut by Myles Gaskin. Such an instinctive runner and has some unreal cut-and-go ability.
Secondly, Nick Harris (OC #56) for Washington does a great job on this run. Plays below pad level, waits for LG to chip & get to LB. Turns the NT but has all control. pic.twitter.com/sN2IKbPFyX
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) September 4, 2018
Nick Harris, C from Washington
Going back and watching the Auburn and Washington game, one player stood out specifically when watching the Huskies’ offense. Their starting center, Nick Harris, was dealt with a tough task, and for the most part, he succeeded. Having to block and prevent Derrick Brown and Dontavious Russell from making plays will be tough for any offensive lineman. Harris managed himself well and really shined with his aggression.
On the play above, you can see Harris playing well below pad level and has great initial contact. Once the LG chips, Harris slightly loses himself on the block, but he does a great job regaining himself. Despite his play looking wild and overly aggressive, he recovers and turns the defensive tackle and that creates an opening for the running back. This is something that Harris does consistently for the Huskies’ offense. His lower body strength shouldn’t be questioned or tested because there’s a legitimate chance that he puts you into the dirt.
At 6’1 and 300 pounds, Harris might get overlooked for an offensive lineman. In fact, he’ll get overlooked because of left tackle Trey Adams. Adams is considered a superior player, but he’s out with a significant back injury, so all eyes should be on Harris. Last season, he was All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention, and he has the versatility to play anywhere on the interior. He’s had starts at left guard, right guard, and center. For week two, be on the lookout for the center to compile plenty of highlight reel blocks against North Dakota.