Skip to main content
2023 Senior Bowl Accepted Invites

NEWS

On the Road Again: Week 3

 

On the Road Again: Scouting College Football Week 3

 

Jim Nagy

September 15, 2022 9 min read

 

 

The Reese’s Senior Bowl scouting team hit 27 games during the first two weeks of the CFB season, and they’ll be at 10 more game sites on Saturday. Here are thoughts from our Senior Bowl scouts on some of the players they’ll be looking at in each game (all times ET):

 

Saturday

Georgia at South Carolina | Noon | ESPN

 

Georgia DS Chris Smith: We spent a good amount of time watching Smith last year, as he was part of UGA’s historic defense that featured nine NFL draft picks, including five first-rounders. At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, Smith is more of a nickel player but the staffers love his football intelligence and he always seems to be in the right spot when you put on the tape.  

 

Our staff had a later Day 3 grade on Smith last fall with instincts and awareness being his best attributes, however, he’s shown better closing burst and overall range in the first two games of this season against Oregon and Samford. Sources tell us Smith had his most healthy offseason in years, and the work he put into training is translating onto the field. 

 

South Carolina CB Darius Rush: NFL teams that put a premium on length at the cornerback position are going to be keeping close tabs on Rush this fall. Rush, who came to the Gamecocks as a wide receiver, measured just under 6-2 for scouts last spring and he has the wingspan of someone close to 6-8.  

 

South Carolina CB Darius Rush | Scouting Tape

The leggy second-year starter has given up a couple of plays in the first two games, but he’s also made a few as well. He shows competitive, long makeup speed on tape and coaches tell us he will test well next spring. 

 

Oklahoma at Nebraska | Noon | FOX

 

Oklahoma RB Eric Gray: Running back tends to be a position that’s more difficult than others for the Senior Bowl to find high-end talent since so many talented runners leave early as juniors.  Our staff identified a few backs during the summer who have a chance at going late Day 2 or early Day 3, and Gray is one of them.  

 

Oklahoma RB Eric Gray | Scouting Tape

The Tennessee transfer is an elusive back with the type of explosive lateral cutting ability that makes you rewind the tape. While he doesn’t have a true breakaway gear, Gray can hard-plant cut to make second-level defenders miss, and he has plenty of burst to pile up chunk runs.  We like him because runs hard, bounces off a lot of contact and catches the ball naturally out of the backfield. 

 

Nebraska EDGE Ochaun Mathis: Not much has gone right for the Huskers so far this season, but Mathis’ play has been a bright spot. After watching his TCU tape from 2021 during the summer, we felt like Mathis would be one of the best transfer additions in CFB this season and he hasn’t disappointed.  

 

To that point, his overall PFF grade jumped from 61.7 last year to 84.2 in the first three games of 2022.  Mathis is a long and athletic player with legitimate NFL rush talent. The thing that stood out the most off 2021 tape was his physical finishing ability when he gets to the QB. Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel will want to get the ball out his hand fast if he sees Mathis getting close. 

 

So. Illinois at Northwestern | Noon | BTN

 

Southern Illinois FB Javon Williams Jr.: One of our best Senior Bowl success stories during the past few years is former SIU safety Jeremy Chinn, who parlayed a great week in Mobile to being a second-round pick by the Carolina Panthers.  

 

On Saturday in Evanston, we’ll be focused on Chinn’s former teammate, Williams, who most NFL teams are projecting to fullback. Williams was used extensively as a wildcat QB on junior tape, and he can be a load to bring down at 250 pounds once he gets rolling.  He has seven catches in the Salukis’ first two games, and we will try to gauge his hands and overall catching skills in his live exposure. 

 

Northwestern EDGE Adetomiwa Adebawore: There are plenty of prospects who test great but can’t play once you put on the tape, but that’s not the case with Adebawore.  The 6-foot-2- inch, 280-pounder was No. 30 on Bruce Feldman’s famous “Freaks List” during the summer. 

 

He will no doubt crush the Combine (30 bench reps, 6.90 three-cone, 10-5 broad jump, 37.5 vertical) but, most importantly, that high-end twitchiness translates onto the field. Adebawore’s combination of initial quickness and short-stroke power will make him a difficult assignment for FCS level SIU this week.

 

California (Pa.) at Shepherd | Noon

 

Shepherd QB Tyson Bagent: If you want to know how NFL teams feel about Bagent, we had four different scouts immediately text us this summer after we Tweeted about him in one of our “Small-School Saturday” posts.  The 6-3, 220-pounder could have easily transferred from the D-II level to a P5 program this offseason, but he opted to finish at Shepherd with the teammates he’s been with the past five years.  

 

We spent a couple of days this summer at the Manning Camp with Bagent, who won the Harlon Hill Award last fall as the top D-II player in the nation, and he has the tools to play at the next level. Some scouts we’ve spoken with feel like Bagent could be this year’s Bailey Zappe, who parlayed a big Senior Bowl week into being a fourth-round pick of the New England Patriots.  Saturday will be our staff’s first live game exposure on Bagent.

 

Penn State at Auburn | 3:30 p.m. | CBS

 

Penn State QB Sean Clifford: If it seems like Clifford has been at Penn State forever it’s because the sixth-year quarterback will be making his 36th career start on Saturday in Evanston.  Some might joke about his “super senior” status but getting as much game experience as possible before entering the NFL was a smart move by Clifford.  

 

He threw the ball noticeably better at the Manning Passing Camp in June than he did the previous summer. We liked how he overcame some early adversity to pull out a big road win at Purdue in Week 1. This is a wide-open year at the QB position. Clifford could help himself with another strong outing in what promises to be a hostile environment at Jordan-Hare.

 

Auburn CB Nehemiah Pritchett: We had a Senior Bowl scout at last week’s Auburn game against San Jose State, and he came away impressed with Pritchett’s size and movement skills.  Pritchett is 6-feet tall with almost 33-inch arms. He has an NFL corner body, and he’s an easy mover for his size.  

 

We’ll be keying in on Pritchett’s route awareness and overall instincts on Saturday when he goes up against crafty Penn State WR Mitchell Tinsley — that’s a matchup to watch!

 

Ole Miss at Georgia Tech | 3:30 p.m. | ABC

 

Ole Miss OG Nick Broeker: We joked with Broeker, who played in 38 straight games at LT the past three years, at SEC Media Days that he better get ready to move inside when he gets to Mobile. But, the joke was on us…Broeker told us he’d already been moved to guard by Lane Kiffin this offseason. 

 

Our scouts felt Broeker made a nice jump at left tackle from 2020 to 2021 tape, but he doesn’t have the ideal arm length (32 ¼ inches) that scouts look for on the edge. Kicking inside to guard as a senior will ultimately help his NFL projection. Right now, we have a higher grade on Broeker than we did on former teammate and current Green Bay Packers starter, Royce Newman, at the same time his senior year. Newman parlayed a strong week in Mobile into being a fourth-round draft pick two years ago. We see Broeker as an NFL starter and don’t see him slipping out of Day 2 come April.

 

Georgia Tech DE Keion White: White first got our attention way back in 2019 while watching tape of his former Old Dominion teammate Oshane Ximines, who now starts for the New York Giants. White, who started at TE as a redshirt freshman in 2018 at ODU, registered 19 TFLs in 2019, his first season at DE, so he’s clearly instinctive on the defensive side of the ball. 

 

You simply don’t run into that many plays without having a sense of where the ball is going.  Fast-forward a couple of years, and White is jumping off tape again for the Yellowjackets. He moves all across the front, and his position versatility will make him a viable option for all 32 NFL teams. You might not be hearing much draft buzz about White right now, but we predict that will change during the course of the fall.  White is the type of highly athletic pass rusher who could make a lot of money in 1-on-1 drills in Mobile.

 

Pitt at W. Michigan | 7:30 p.m. | ESPNU

 

Pittsburgh LT Carter Warren: There were a handful of players who accepted Senior Bowl invites last year and later decided to return to school using the extra COVID-19 year of eligibility, and Warren was one of them. 

 

Our scouting staff had a mid-round grade on Warren last year, which put him right above the cut line for the game, and we expect the 6-5 ½, 315-pounder (with 84 3/8 wingspan) to improve his stock with another year at a premium position.  

 

Pitt’s offensive line struggled to protect USC transfer QB Kedon Slovis last week against Tennessee and Warren’s position group needs a bounce-back effort on Saturday in Kalamazoo.  Our scouts will be focused primarily on Warren’s feet in this live exposure. The big question NFL scouts have is whether Warren can play left tackle in the pros or if he fits better as a right tackle or guard. 

 

Western Michigan LB Zaire Barnes: Barnes played RB and DS in high school, and he’s developed into a productive LB over his time in Kalamazoo, earning second-team All-MAC honors as a junior.  

 

Barnes had perhaps his best game last season against Pitt, registering a career-high 10 tackles with 2 TFL and 2 fumble recoveries, and he’ll need a similar performance on Saturday night for Western to have a chance at an upset.

 

SMU at Maryland | 7:30 p.m. | FS1

 

SMU EDGE Devere Levelston: We’ve had a bunch of SMU offensive skill players in our game throughout the past four years (WRs James Proche and Danny Gray, and TEs Kylen Granson and Grant Calcaterra). However, this might be the year a prospect from the Mustangs’ defense ends up in Mobile.  

 

Levelston immediately gets your attention with his motor. He’s a long-bodied guy, who can pressure from multiple alignments, and he made a bunch of impressive chase plays on junior tape. Maryland left tackle Jaelyn Duncan is the most talented player he’ll go up against this year. This will be the first tape every NFL team will watch in draft meetings will be Saturday’s game against the Terps.

 

Maryland CB Jakorian Bennett: Last year, we had Bennett’s high school teammate, Dallas Cowboys’ third-rounder WR Jalen Tolbert, in the Senior Bowl, and it would be a cool story for the Mobile native to return home for this year’s game. 

One thing we love about Bennett is he gets his hands on the ball. He finished sixth in FBS last year with 16 PBUs, and he had 5 passes defended in the 2022 opener two weeks ago versus Buffalo. Our scouts (and NFL scouts) will be watching closely whenever Bennett is matched against explosive SMU WR Rashee Rice, who’s currently one of the highest graded wideouts on the Senior Bowl board.

 

Miami at Texas A&M | 9 p.m. | ESPN

 

Miami OT Zion Nelson: Hurricanes coach Mario Cristobal announced this week that his true senior left tackle Nelson is cleared to play after missing the opener against Bethune-Cookman and playing only sparingly last week against Southern Miss.  

 

Nelson is still raw for a player with so much game experience (32 career starts), and we hope to see improved technique in Saturday’s game in College Station. NFL scouts got crazy measurements on Nelson last spring (35-inch arms, 84 1/8 wingspan), but he didn’t use his hands effectively enough to take advantage of his reach on junior tape.  

 

Cristobal is one of the best OL developers in college football, so there’s a good chance he cleaned up some of Nelson’s issues this offseason.

 

Texas A&M WR Ainias Smith: Every NFL team is looking for the “next Deebo” and, while Smith isn’t at the same talent level as the 2019 Senior Bowler turned 49ers Pro Bowler, he does offer similar WR/RB (wide back) position versatility.  

Smith’s best season came in 2020 when he carried the ball 49 times and caught it 43 times. He also has a respectable 9.2 career punt return average on 59 attempts, so he does bring proven return value.  

 

The first two games of this season have been night/day different production-wise. Smith opened the season with 164 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns versus Sam Houston State, but then finished with only 4 catches for 21 yards in last week’s disappointing loss to App State. The Aggies will need Smith to be a playmaker for them on Saturday to avoid a second straight upset.

 

N.D. State at Arizona | 11 p.m. | FS1

 

NDSU FB Hunter Luepke: The Bison have a number of prospects we’ll be watching on Saturday night in the desert, including our top-graded sub-FBS player, left tackle Cody Mauch. But, when we have the chance to watch a draftable fullback we’re going to focus on them.  

 

Luepke stood out on tape last fall when we were watching Green Bay Packers second-round WR Christian Watson, whose stock took off in Mobile. We’re excited to get an up-close look at Luepke.  

 

Luepke weighed 235 pounds when combine scouts weighed him in the spring, and we want to see his body type to gauge how big he could ultimately get. He’s one of the few college FB prospects with enough athleticism to contribute on special teams at the next level, which is what ultimately determines if fullbacks make it in the league.

 

Arizona CB Christian Roland-Wallace: Coaches hit us up last spring about Roland-Wallace, and we’re excited to see him this weekend in Tucson. We like Roland-Wallace because he’s a physical and confident man-cover player with disproportionately long arms (32 5/8 inches) for his 5-11 ½-inch frame.  

 

He gave up some plays last week against Mississippi State, but we liked how he continued to compete. He won’t get tested as much in coverage against the reigning FCS champions. But, he’ll need to be a big factor in run support against NDSU’s ground-heavy attack.