Believe it or not, this upcoming week will be Week 10 of the 2016 college football season. With nearly every team in the country putting 7-9 games on their resume, it’s fair to say we have a strong grasp on who each team is in regard to their identity and also who the respective players are as prospects.
Throughout the fall, a handful of prospects have dominated the discussion with their performances on a week to week basis. However, drafts are not won on Thursday night. Drafts are won on Days 2 and 3; where investments are greeted with lower expectations but a greater potential for a high return on investment.
Names like Deshaun Watson, Jake Butt, Cam Robinson and Leonard Fournette rightfully find themselves as our “leading men”, but they are simply the tip of the iceberg. There are a number of quality players lurking in the background waiting to be “discovered.” Allow me to have the honor.
Running back T.J. Logan, North Carolina: Logan has grossly outperformed more well known teammate Elijah Hood (junior RB) on a per-touch basis. A sharp one-cut runner who can gear up to top speed rather rapidly in the open field, Logan possesses an impressive blend of balance and vision. He is able to cut with suddenness and create space. Logan is at his best pressing the line of scrimmage before steeply breaking against the defensive flow to gain ground. Although Logan is going to be hidden on the stat sheet due to his timeshare with Hood, make no mistake, he is an efficient and explosive runner who can also contribute in the passing game.
Running back Rushel Shell III, West Virginia: Shell was gaining momentum this time last week, after gaining 100+ rushing yards in consecutive weeks for the first time in his career. And then Shell got popped with leg cramps throughout West Virginia’s crushing defeat at the hands of Oklahoma State. Shell has been running with revived purpose this year; he’s very much the yin to Logan’s yang. Shell is a gap runner who hammers defenders with strong pad level and improved leg drive. When faced with traffic around his feet, Shell has shown pleasant growth. If you’re looking for a strong case for what Shell can do, watch his film vs. Missouri, Texas Christian and Texas Tech this year.
Wide Receiver prospects
Wide receiver Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M: Reynolds was one of my favorite prospects throughout the course of my summer work. So much so that I suggested he could be in line for a Josh Doctson-like rise this season. Reynolds has not disappointed. He’s currently on pace for 47 receptions, 920 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Those are not Doctson numbers, but Reynolds is also tasked with playing with a quarterback (Trevor Knight) who ranks 111th out of 123 eligible quarterbacks in completion percentage. Reynolds, when fed targets, has been an effective vertical receiver and has been wonderful at the catch point. Certainly a name to monitor.
Wide receiver Amara Darboh, Michigan: Darboh had himself a heck of a game against rival Michigan State this past weekend, showcasing a number of skills that should help him with a transition to the NFL. Darboh has already equaled his career high for touchdowns in a season and set a career mark with 165 receiving yards against the Spartans. How he got there is what really sets his performance apart: high point ability, strong play with his hands and burst/explosion off of the line enabled Darboh to abuse the Spartan secondary. This is becoming something of a trend, as Darboh has eclipsed teammate Jehu Chesson as the alpha receiver and go-to option in the passing game on the perimeter. Additional strong performances could culminate with Darboh being a hot name in the spring.
Line of scrimmage players
Tight end Scott Orndoff, Pittsburgh: Orndoff can play. You likely haven’t heard of the RS senior, but Orndoff was once a very highly coveted recruit — a top-20 prospect in the state of Pennsylvania by both Scout and Rivals). Orndoff started five games as a true freshman before a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of 2013. In the second half of 2015, Orndoff regained his footing as the starter and became a key part of the Panther passing offense since. Orndoff offers ability from an inline position, an increasingly rare trait for college prospects at TE. Orndoff is a nifty route runner and shows a strong knack for uncovering in the middle of the field. He has the athleticism to make defenses pay after the catch if given space.
Offensive guard Greg Pyke, Georgia: Pyke is currently being implemented as the Bulldogs’ starting right tackle, but make no mistake that this is a player best suited for the interior. Pyke flashed to me as far back as his efforts vs. Alabama in 2015. He is a heavy hitter on the interior capable of uprooting stout line of scrimmage defenders. Pyke’s lateral ability is also a plus trait, particularly on the inside. Pyke is a name to watch in a class that is hurting for quality offensive linemen, as he has the ability to be a strong contributor on a heavy power run/gap scheme.