Welcome back for Week 8 of the 2015 college football season. Through the first four weeks, we put together a good list of prospects to track, which you can look back on here. Since then, our game threads have included an early ranking of quarterbacks, a ranking of running backs, and a look at wide receivers.
This week, Jake has his top five tight ends. The San Francisco 49ers entered the season with some hope for their tight ends, but it has not been a particularly great group. Vernon Davis had a bounce-back game against the Seattle Seahawks, but is rumored to be on the trade block. Vance McDonald cannot catch passes with any consistency. Garrett Celek has been a decent option, but is an unrestricted free agent after this season. The team drafted Blake Bell and Busta Anderson this past May, but will likely be looking for more tight end options next spring.
Today's schedule features important Pac-12 action, and Jake has taken a look at two of the notable contests today.
Tight End rankings
1. Hunter Henry, Arkansas: Henry stands at 6-foot-5, 253-pounds, but he's faster than you would imagine. He has soft hands, a decent release off of the line, and contributes in run-blocking. On the season, Henry has 21 receptions, 286 yards, and one score.
2. Evan Engram, Ole Miss: Engram is one of the most play-making tight ends in the country. He has good hands that are reliable in must needed situations. Decent route runner, although most of his routes are up the seam. Engram has 161 yards on only 14 catches this year.
3. Jonnu Smith, Florida International: The Golden Panther's junior tight end, Jonnu Smtih, is one of the most unrecognized athletes in the country. Although he may be underrated, I think Smith will make a great NFL target. He has garnered 214 yards on 26 catches, along with two scores.
4. O.J. Howard, Alabama: Howard has 235 yards on 19 receptions thus far for the Crimson Tide. He has a great combination of size, hands, and especially, speed. The junior is 6-foot-6, 242-pounds.
5. Jake Butt, Michigan: Jake Butt sort of came out dark this year, and made a name for himself. Butt's 211 yards on 21 receptions and 2 touchdowns, are a big factor in the Michigan offensive success. He stands 6-foot-6, 248-pounds.
No. 3 Utah at USC
Time: 4:30 p.m. PT
The unranked Trojans lost another game at Notre Dame last weekend, when they got knocked off by a score of 41-31, bringing them to a record of 3-3. The USC team is sort of a mess right now. Steve Sarkisian was given the boot after another alcohol incident, and then AD Pat Haden apparently felt light headed, causing him to be hospitalized.
Nevertheless, the Trojans have a lot of talent on the field, and have shown flashes of being a team that can contend for a bowl game. Cody Kessler at quarterback is always a bonus, but his wide receivers, with out a doubt, are some of the best in the business. The always-dangerous Adoree Jackson is probably the most versatile athlete in college football, as he plays receiver, corner, and returns both kickoffs and punts. Oh yeah, he's also a track star at USC. Over the summer, he finished fifth in the long jump at the NCAA championship in Eugene, OR.
Kessler has another viable target in Juju Smith-Schuster, who has 39 receptions for 758 yards and seven scores. Despite having those numbers, Juju is one of the most unrecognized receivers in the country, not to mention he's only a sophomore.
As for the Travis Wilson led-Utes, well they weren't predicted to be in this position before the season started. Heck, they weren't even ranked prior to the season. Utah stepped on the gas pedal week 1, and has yet to let up, streaking off to a 6-0 mark. They have notable wins over; California, Michigan, and a route in Oregon (just saying that all these games were at home besides Oregon).
Devontae booker is continuing to get it done for the Utes. He has collected 783 yards on 161 carries, along with eight scores.
USC to upset Utah: 31-27
Washington at No. 10 Stanford
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
Freshman quarterback Jake Browning and the uprising Washington team travel south to take on the Stanford Cardinal today. It seems that David Shaw's no. 10 ranked football team in the country is improving every weekend, and there's no stopping them soon. Washington will have a crack at handing the Cardinal their second loss later tonight, but to do so, they will need to play their best ball of the year.
You might have not heard of Christian Mccaffrey before last weekend, but now I think most of the country is now familiar with the sophomore running back. McCaffrey had 369 total yards against a tough UCLA defense, the most by any FBS player this year. One of his 4 rushing scores included a 70-yard touchdown out of the wildcat. He had 243 yards on the ground, with an average of 9.3 per carry. In the mean time, he toppled SJSU's Tyler Ervin for the most all-purpose yards in FBS.
Although McCaffrey's production on the offensive side of the ball is one of the biggest factors in their success, the Stanford defense is holding their opponents to just enough for the offense to get rolling and come out with a win. Their only loss on the season was opening day to Northwestern, however they got back on the rails to come out victorious in five straight games.
Washington comes into this game sitting at 3-3, however they are a better team than their record shows. The huskies stout defense is highlighted by OLB Travis Feeney, no. 41. Feeney is a solid run defender, decent in coverage, and contributes in special teams.
The signal-caller for Washington is freshman Jake Browning, from Folsom, CA. The kid is still very young and makes rookie mistakes and decisions, but is looking to be a phenomenal QB going forward for the Huskies. Browning will need to be on the very top of his game to lead this team to a big upset. Myles Gaskin will also need to assist the young quarterback by getting the ground game flowing, therefore, opening up throwing lanes for Jake.
There's no doubt in my mind that Washington can pull one of the biggest upsets of the year today. The Huskies and Cardinal are both hot, and they face off in Palo Alto, tonight, at 10:30 ET.
Stanford barely gets past UW: 27-24