Six things to note from the college football weekend and their significance to the pro game, as seen in this week’s MMQB column.
1. There’s perception that Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence has leveled off a little, and he threw two more picks Saturday against Louisville, giving him eight—or twice as many as all of last season. Dan Orlovsky called the game on ESPN, and since I respect his opinion immensely, I asked for his impression.
“So very impressive with a lot of things. Way better athlete than he gets credit for, and he can make a ton of throws from a lot of different arm angles and platforms. I do think he is in a place where he is so confident in his arm and talent that he thinks he can make any and every throw, and that’s forced some mistakes. Not a ‘dumb thing,’ but he needs to learn that it’s O.K. to hit some singles and not always want the home run. Teams are dropping some coverage of eight guys on him and he still wants to push the rock downfield. He needs to learn some plays he needs to be boring and take a dump off or check down. Great response and resolve to some mistakes and kept slinging it which was awesome to see. I do think some of their RPO game hurts him into some bad throws or tough situations. He’s a stud.”
2. Ohio State sophomore Justin Fields was neck-and-neck with Lawrence to be the top recruit in the 2018 high school class. Now he’s closing the gap on his fellow Georgia native from a 2021 draft perspective. I’ve seen both live now, and I’m honestly not sure that Lawrence’s cannon of an arm is any stronger than Fields’s. What was particularly impressive about both, to my amateur scouting eye, was the ease with which they hit sideline throws from the opposite hash.
3. Georgia’s Jake Fromm didn’t exactly bounce back from the South Carolina loss the way an NFL team would like, throwing for just 35 yards in rainy conditions as the Bulldogs scuffled through a 21–0 win over Kentucky. Through seven games, it’s easy to see why scouts are split on him—some think he’s a pedestrian prospect who should be a middle-round pick, others believe his makeup and football knowhow could make him a really good NFL starter.
4. Penn State redshirt sophomore KJ Hamler starred in the Nittany Lions’ 28–21 win over Michigan, going for 108 yards and the decisive touchdown on six catches. (He also had a long kickoff return touchdown called back.) Hamler’s absolute lightning as a player, and the comps I got for him from scouts last week indicate that. One was Tyreek Hill. The other was DeSean Jackson.
5. Yes, Tua Tagovailoa’s high ankle sprain was a stroke of bad luck. But it’s not irrelevant to his draft status. NFL evaluators already had questions about the Alabama junior’s durability, and this won’t help—especially on a day on which Justin Herbert, his competition to go first overall in April, went 24-of-38 for 280 yards and four scores in leading Oregon to a come-from-behind win over rival Washington.
6. Good to see Lovie Smith get his signature win, four years in at Illinois. Before Saturday’s nailbiter over previously unbeaten Wisconsin, he’d gone 5–26 in Big Ten play, and 11–31 overall in Champaign.
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