It is time for another exciting weekend of college football! Today we have eighteen of the top twenty five teams in action. There is an intriguing matchup consisting of two SEC teams (#2 Georgia at #13 LSU) as well as a PAC 12 showdown between #7 Washington visiting #17 Oregon. Both matchups could have major college football playoff implications. As of last weekend the San Francisco 49ers have one of the best odds of landing the number one overall pick. It remains to be seen where there 49ers will be selecting in April, however it is safe to assume that pass rusher is the top priority. Almost two months in, and this college football season is showing us that this pass rushing class could be a special one. That is great news for John Lynch and the scouting department. For now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the college football festivities...and of course…as always…may the force be with our 49ers!
For this week, Josh, Alex, and Greg each picked two players to talk about. All prospects highlighted are featured today; nonetheless, feel free to drop in the prospects you are watching. All game times listed are PT.
Byron Murphy, CB, No. 1 - Washington Height: 5’11” | Weight: 180 lbs. | Projected 40 Time: 4.41 #7 Washington at #17 Oregon | 12:30 p.m. (PT) Saturday, October 13th (ABC/WatchESPN)
Aside from the play of Richard Sherman, the secondary of the 49ers this season has - at best - been shoddy. There is a lack of awareness, discipline, and (at times) ball skills. Enter Huskies cornerback Byron Murphy. Murphy lacks the size that would boost his ability to provide support against the run but makes up for it with his undeniable knack for being a ball hawk.
Through 6 games the redshirt sophomore has broken up nine passes and, more impressively, four times over the past two years, he’s had three breakups in a single game. He’s young and still growing into his body as he currently stands at 5’11” and 180 lbs but the Huskies have still been able to rely on his production on the defensive side of the ball as they’ve climbed their way up to #7 in the country. They’ll look to continue their PAC-12 dominance against an Oregon team coming off an impressive win against California.
Damien Harris, RB, No. 34 - Alabama Height: 5’11” Weight: 215 lbs. | Projected 40 Time: 4.48 Missouri at #1 Alabama | 4:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday, October 13th (ESPN/WatchESPN)
Matt Breida is becoming a solidified cog in the Kyle Shanahan offense but the jury’s still out on whether or not Jerick McKinnon can even stay healthy enough to be counted on for an entire season. Why not add some depth to a position of dire importance? Damien Harris is one of those runners who is able to gain yards at will - the same kind of runner who, given some improvement in the passing game - would thrive in this offense.
Harris is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons and has accumulated a total of 361 yards on 51 carries (7.1 ypc) and 3 touchdowns so far in 2018. The Crimson Tide suddenly have an elite passing game which has led to them relying less on running the ball - and maybe the best thing about Harris is his modest workload, meaning there’s plenty of tread on the tires. He’s never carried it more than 146 times in a season and he’s averaging fewer than 10 carries this year.
Kendall Sheffield, CB, No. 8 - Ohio State
Height: 5’11” | Weight: 194 lbs. | Projected 40 Time: 4.32
Minnesota at #3 Ohio State | 9:00 a.m. (PT) Saturday, October 13th | FS1
This season Kendal has recored 12 tackles, 6 passes defended, and 1 interception. Sheffield is one of the fastest players in the nation and should be a candidate in the 40 yard dash at next year’s NFL Combine. Sheffield runs smoothly and fluidly through his hips, and picks up momentum and speed while defending deeper routes. He is a lock-down cornerback who plays physical in coverage. Last season he recored 40 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 9 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. Has a well-round skillset for the position and possess good instincts and ball awareness.
Along with his speed, Sheffield has demonstrated his ability on tape to cut receivers off on their route, while breaking up their momentum and even eliminating them from the play altogether. I do have some concerns about his size, and it seems that scouts and evaluators would like to see him bulk up and add some weight before transitioning to the next level. As for the 49ers, there are question marks in the secondary, particularly at the cornerback position. Richard Sherman is not going to be around long-term and the jury still seems to be out on Ahkello Witherspoon. Sheffield isn’t going to be among the first handful of corners drafted, but he has the skillset that should transition smoothly at the pro level. A third round pick would bring great value to perhaps the fastest player in college football.
David Montgomery, RB, No. 32 - Iowa State
Height: 5’11” | Weight: 216 | Projected 40 Time: 4.54
#6 West Virginia at Iowa State | 4:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday, October 13th | FS1
Last season David Montgomery recored 1,146 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns, as well as 36 receptions for 296 yards receiving. Montgomery is an elusive back, with the ability to make quick cuts to evade oncoming defenders. Will break defenders ankles, and has demonstrated the ability to change directions on a dime. Has balanced, body control, with a good blend of upper and lower body strength. Has good vision and run instincts and will follow his lineman, looking for the open holes and lanes when carrying the ball. He trusts his feet, and has a strong initial burst up the middle.
Will challenge opponents on contact and will often fight for additional yardage. Can be dangerous in the open field. On tape, he made opponents miss on multiple occasions with his quick cuts and change of direction. There are some concerns on tape about his pass blocking. Montgomery will look to improve in this area, particularly with his hands and how he positions himself in the backfield during passing plays. Overall, there is a lot to like about Montgomery, who at the moment is a day two selection in next year’s draft should the true junior declare. The San Francisco 49ers will have question marks at the running back position next year. With Jerick McKinnon recovering from an ACL injury the 49ers might be wise to select another back in next year’s draft.
Landis Durham, DE, No. 46 - Texas A&M
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 255
No. 22 Texas A&M vs. South Carolina | 12:30 p.m. (PT) Saturday, October 13 | SEC Network
Another week, another edge defender highlighted - wonder what theme I am trying to convey. Nonetheless, Landis Durham is another speedy quick-twitch edge defender that displays great skills in rushing the passer. A converted linebacker, Durham has shown the capacity to improve and is continuing his impressive play from the year prior. He explodes off the edge blowing past defenders with speed, quickness, great balance, body control, and change of direction skills. Durham is a slippery player penetrating through gaps and stunts with great closing speed playing with bad intentions, and jets off the edge with athleticism, speed, and bend. A pass rush specialist, Durham will need to gain functional strength at the next level as he struggles to shed stronger defenders and is easily moved by power.
KeeSean Johnson, WR, No. 3 - Fresno State
Height: 6’2” | Weight: 202
Wyoming vs. Fresno State | 7:30 p.m. (PT) Saturday, October 13 | ESPNU
KeeSean Johnson is not a freakishly athletic wide receiver with explosive game breaking speed. He is, however, a good-sized dependable chain-moving receiver with consistent high production and a strong work ethic showcasing his capacity to improve each year. Johnson is a fluid route runner with a smoothness and sound technique to his game. He showcases great explosion off the line and displays nice bend on breaks coming out quickly with great suddenness and decent burst. He flashes strong reliable hands and is a natural pass catcher with excellent ball skills. Johnson wins in intermediate routes and although he does not possess elite speed, he does win deep match-ups with technique, length, body control, superb ball skills, and high pointing the catch with great athleticism. Johnson is the type of prospect one can find deep in the draft adding tremendous value at the next level.