- Plus, Clemson’s freshman QB continues to impress, Chip Kelly turns things around at UCLA, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly could be back on the NFL radar, and a Michigan linebacker solidifies his place as a first-round prospect.
The college football weekend, through NFL eyes:
1. Houston DT Ed Oliver’s run-in with coach Major Applewhite wouldn’t be a big deal if Oliver didn’t already carry a bit of rep in this regard. According to scouts, Oliver has been widely seen as high-maintenance, and as a guy who’s gotten things his way a lot (his high school defensive coordinator, A.J. Blum, was hired as his position coach two years ago) since arriving on campus as the first five-star recruit in program history. Bottom line: We’ll be talking about this very public run-in again in a few months.
2. West Virginia QB Will Grier didn’t win on Saturday, but he showed his competitiveness in carrying his team back and giving them a shot at the end against Oklahoma State. NFL types love that about him. The question is, and has been, where his ceiling is. Some believe he’s a backup in the pros; others think he’s more. “The offense is funky, but he has arm talent,” says one NFC exec. “I’d like him on my team.”
3. Every week I’ve watched Clemson true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, he’s made a handful throws that have NFL written all over them. You don’t want to anoint someone too early in their college career—see: Hackenberg, Christian—but this kid’s tools aren’t hard to see.
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4. It’s fair to think ex-Eagles and Niners coach Chip Kelly is making progress at UCLA. After an 0-5 start, the Bruins have split their last six. And Kelly and company beat rival USC with just 57 scholarship players available on Saturday, which is 28 fewer than the NCAA limit. His team isn’t there yet, but it scraps and fights.
5. Speaking of Kelly, after he initially said no to the Eagles in 2013, Philly called Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. And other teams had previously expressed interest. The Irish coach’s star fell when the program slumped, and NFL people have always wondered if he was a little too tough, in a Nick Saban-type way, for today’s pro athlete. But now that Notre Dame has rebounded? It’s not impossible NFL teams start sniffing around again.
6. On a weekend scheduled to be full of mismatches—ahead of rivalry weekend—one name that stood out from a prospect-watching perspective was Michigan junior linebacker Devin Bush. There are concerns about his size, but he’s super instinctive and, against Indiana, had 11 tackles, snuffed out a fake punt, and made a great play on a ball in coverage. I asked a scout there if he’s a first-rounder right now, and “likely” is the answer I got back.
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