Playtime is over in college football. Week 3 is in the books, and it signals an end to the non-conference schedule for most programs. Now comes the grind. Teams are going to have to survive and thrive while getting beat up by their league mates. This is where the cream rises to the top, both in the rankings and on NFL Draft boards. Prospects have one last opportunity to dunk on their conference mates and stake their claim as top dog in the conference.
The NCAA said goodbye to non-conference play in spectacular fashion this year. If you didn’t catch the Pac 12 After Dark thriller between UCLA and Fresno State, you missed some of the most incredible football you’ll ever see. On the other side of the nation, Matt Corral put on a show for the ages against Tulane and only needed three quarters to do so! Whether it was gritty or spectacular, the football this week was *chef’s kiss*
So, without further ado, let’s dive into which players put in a performance worthy of climbing NFL Draft boards this week!
Matt Corral - QB, Ole Miss
It’s still early in the season, but I think it’s safe to say we have an early Heisman front-runner after the last two weeks. We also have our first repeat name of the year with Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. We said last week that if he continued his trajectory, he would be climbing up draft boards. Well, he continued that trajectory in a BIG way this week.
Matt Corral and the Rebels crushed Tulane on Saturday. Corral had well over 300 yards through the air on nearly 75% completion percentage and three touchdowns. But that wasn’t enough for the rising star. With his legs, Corral added another 68 yards and another four touchdowns. All of this in just three quarters of play.
Not only is Corral an early Heisman front-runner, but he may also be the most improved player in college football this season. Corral is putting any pre-season fears about his ability to read through progressions, accuracy, and any other claims to rest. It’s clear Corral knew what he needed to improve upon and put in the work to do so. NFL scouts are going to love that!
Some people are going to say, “Oh, but it was just against Tulane. How impressive is that?” Remember, this Tulane team nearly pulled off Spencer Rattler and the Oklahoma Sooners the week prior. Tulane isn’t a slouch, and Corral putting up the numbers he did in the amount of time he did, is impressive.
Qwynnterrio Cole - Defensive Back, Louisville
If Qwynnterrio Cole is a name that isn’t familiar to you, you better get familiar with it now. Cole is a graduate transfer from the HBCU ranks, where he was a two-time All-American with Alcorn State. Now he’s taken his talents to Louisville with the hopes of increasing his NFL Draft stock, and through three games, he’s come through in a major way.
Cole put on an awe-inspiring performance last week in the Cardinals’ thrilling game against the UCF Knights. Cole displayed everything that makes him an intriguing prospect at the next level. At 6’3” and 190 pounds, some may label Cole as a “tweener”: Not a safety, not a cornerback. However, his tape shows that he possesses the best of both worlds and is more a chess piece than a player without a position. An ability he displayed in spades on Saturday.
Cole was flying all over the field, making plays for the Cardinals. He showed his impressive range and playmaking ability with an impressive pass breakup. He was a force in the run game, recording two stuffs against the shifty UCF backs. He can play up near the line of scrimmage and has the coverage acumen to be trusted as a defensive back. He can play everywhere, and that versatility is coveted at the next level.
In a year, Cole may not figure into the first-round conversation with a ton of great talent at defensive back, but the NFL Draft is about much more than just one round. Finding gems on days 2 and 3 is of paramount importance if you want to build -- and sustain -- a winning team. Cole can be one of those gems if his development with the Cardinals continues.
Kenneth Walker III - RB, Michigan State
The final of our three rising prospects from Week 3 in college football comes to us from the Big 10. By and large, when you watch B1G football, you know what you’re going to get: hard-fought, smash-mouth football. It’s not high-flying. It isn’t flashy. You don’t have teams throwing the ball all over the field and putting up 40-50 points per game.
Instead, you have offenses that will line up and try to cram the ball down your throat. Few running backs have been more successful at that through three weeks of the season than Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III.
Walker, a transfer from Wake Forest, burst onto the scene with the Spartans from the jump. In Michigan State’s opener against Northwestern, Walker carried the ball 23 times for more than 250 yards and four touchdowns. Walker was held in check -- relatively speaking -- in Sparty’s next game against Youngstown State with only 57 yards and a touchdown but still came away with an average of over 8 yards per carry.
In the team’s latest effort, Walker again could not be contained. Walker demolished the Miami Hurricanes to the tune of 172 yards on the ground and an average of 6.4 yards per carry. Walker also added three catches for 17 yards and a touchdown.
Walker has displayed tremendous vision in his three games this season, finding the holes and squirting through for big gain after big gain. Perhaps more impressive, however, is the contact balance he’s been able to show. Walker does not go down on the first contact, and that’s a trait a running back must have to succeed in an offense like the ones you find in this conference.
If Walker is going to continue climbing up draft boards, he’s going to have to continue showing he can be trusted in the passing game. The three receptions against Miami tie the most he had for Wake Forest in an entire season. Being used in the passing game isn’t something Walker has shown to this point, but if last week is any indication, it’s a skill he may be actively developing, which is an exciting development.
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