It was a pretty tame slate of games in college football for Week 8, but it ended up doing the job for most fans. The major 24-23 upset by Illinois over #6 Wisconsin had the streets of Champaign popping bottles and Lovie Smith becoming everybody’s favorite grandfather. In terms of big prospect games, #12 Oregon’s 35-31 win against #25 Washington was big for the QB conversation. Both Justin Herbert and Jacob Eason put up numbers, but both of them showed clear flaws. Then of course there was the hard to watch primetime win by #7 Penn State over #16 Michigan. College football is like an addictive drug that no matter how bad it gets we just want more and we’ll be getting a lot more in Week 9. For now, though, with the season over the halfway mark it’s now or never for 2020 NFL Draft prospects to make their names known.

Tweet of the Week

The sophomore slump of Trevor Lawrence continued in Week 8 with a turnover heavy game in the 45-10 win over Louisville. Lawrence has had major struggles this season and it’s led to major criticisms especially towards those who crowned him the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after just one season. There’s no denying he’s struggling, but that doesn’t take away the magical season he put together as a freshman. The man won the National Championship with ease and put together arguably the greatest freshman season in college football history. Obviously throwing 8 interceptions in 7 games so far this season is concerning, he only threw 4 in 15 games last season, but that doesn’t mean he’s no longer the top dog in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Lawrence has struggled to read defenses post-snap this season and many of his interceptions have come from the safety reading his eyes and baiting him on seam routes. At the same time the Clemson offense doesn’t seem to be doing him any favors. It doesn’t appear overly creative in the passing game and tends to be a lot of throw it up and let Tee Higgins or Justyn Ross make a play and then sprinkle in some screens to Amari Rodgers. Was everybody too hastily crowning him the next Peyton Manning? Of course, but now many are acting like he’s a bum and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We are over 500 days away from the 2021 NFL Draft, so everybody just calm down and enjoy the process of a young QB with all the tools in the world growing under the spotlight.

In the News

The NFL season is a rollercoaster. One second a team could be riding a wave of momentum and the next they could lose a few games, miss the playoffs, and be looking for a new head coach. There are very few coaches with unlimited job security, heck nowadays coaches can be fired after just one season, just ask Steve Wilks. With Jay Gruden already out in Washington and a definite handful of other NFL head coaches surely to follow, who could be their replacements in 2020? Recently there have been many young offensive minds hired to get the job done, but with mixed results it could be a different approach this offseason. Will anybody be able to pry Lincoln Riley or Matt Campbell away from Norman and Ames? Likely not, but there are a few coaches seen as sure-fire options that will be interviewed around the league.

Eric Bienemy, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs

The new craze may be hiring someone who works near or around Sean McVay, but really when in doubt just hire an Andy Reid assistant. The current NFL head coaches that are former Reid assistants are John Harbaugh, Doug Pederson, Ron Rivera, Sean McDermott, Matt Nagy, and Pat Shurmur. Not too shabby. With the recent immediate success of Pederson and Nagy, both former Reid offensive coordinators, it would be shocking if Eric Bienemy isn’t one of the first new head coaches of 2020. He has been instrumental in the development and success of reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and that alone will have teams calling.

Bieniemy has been with Reid since 2013 serving as running backs coach prior to taking over as OC in 2018 for Nagy. After just one season as Chiefs OC he was interviewing for head coaching jobs last year, but smartly he’s played it slow waiting for the right opportunity. If a team with a franchise QB already in place just looking for an offensive mind to spark the team that feels like the perfect situation. Bieniemy is a player’s coach, but he’s also a creative offensive mind who’s learned from Reid for years. He’ll also likely be able to poach a few Reid assistants for his own staff. This is the first guy most teams in need of a head coach should be calling.

Potential landing spot: Atlanta Falcons 

Robert Saleh, defensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers

It’s been three years for the current San Francisco 49ers staff, but all that potential is finally beginning to click. They look like a legitimate contender under Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh deserves a chunk of the credit. The 49ers defense currently sits second in DVOA with one of the most devastating pass defenses in the league. Saleh is one of the most high-energy coaches in the league with a degree from the Pete Carroll school of defense. He worked for Carroll in Seattle before following Gus Bradley to Jacksonville. With the way his defense is playing and his personality fitting that of a true football guy, a team is going to be all in on him.

The best situation for a guy like Saleh as a head coach would be somewhere with plenty of talent and youth in the front seven. If he can go in right away and know he’s got the ability to put together a major pass rush then it’s going to make his life much easier. The other quietly huge bonus of hiring Saleh as a head coach is the options he’ll have for offensive coordinator. He’ll likely be able to take either Mike McDaniel or Mike LaFleur from Shanahan’s staff to be his OC. Adding Saleh with a bright young offensive mind is mouth-watering.

Potential landing spot: Washington Redskins

Kris Richard, defensive passing game coordinator, Dallas Cowboys

There’s been murmurs of Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett being on the hot seat, but if the team makes the playoffs it’s hard to see them moving on. Jerry Jones loves having full control of Garrett too much to fire him and promote Kris Richard. If Garrett is retained, then Richard is a hot name to leave town for a head coaching gig. He’s one of the most respected defensive coaches in the league and has done a great job developing the Cowboys young talent with Rod Marinelli. Richard, like Saleh, comes from the Pete Carroll school of defense having played and coached for him at USC before following him to the Seahawks for eight years. Marinelli, one of the most seasoned defensive coordinators in football, has praised Richard for his work in Dallas and even allows him to call the plays.

Richard brings a combo of X’s and O’s knowledge and energy with him and can help push a talented defense over the edge. For NFL teams in need of both discipline and a defensive boost Richard makes a lot of sense. He’s young, but he’s been around the league for years learning from top defensive minds and working for one of the best head coaches of the decade. He’s a player’s coach that is beloved, but knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl. There’s also a chance he would be able to steal OC Kellen Moore from the Cowboys to bring to his next landing spot.

Potential landing spot: Cleveland Browns

Matt Rhule, head coach, Baylor Bears

If any head coach is going to leave the college level, this offseason for an NFL head coaching job it seems more than likely that it will be Baylor’s Matt Rhule. Rhule has been rumoured as a potential NFL head coach for a few years and has previously interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets head jobs. There are few college coaches more respect than Rhule, especially after the job he’s done rebuilding the Baylor program from scratch. Prior to Baylor he had huge success at Temple, turning them into one of the best Group of 5 schools’ and producing numerous NFL players. Rhule also has the plus of coaching experience on both sides of the football, giving him versatility and a major understanding of the game in its entirety.

Knowing that Rhule has past on the NFL before, it feels like he’s willing to take his time on making the jump and will only do it in the right situation. Rumour has it he didn’t take the Jets job because coordinators were going to be forced on him. He wants full control of his staff if he’s moving to the NFL. One job stands out for Rhule above the rest, the New York Giants. Not only did Rhule work for the Giants in his loan season in the NFL, but he’s from New York City. He fits the mold of football guy that GM Dave Gettleman and owners John Mara and Steve Tisch will want running the show in the Big Apple.

Potential landing spot: New York Giants

Other coaches to watch:

Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma Sooners, head coach

Matt Campbell, Iowa State Cyclones, head coach

Matt Eberflus, Indianapolis Colts, defensive coordinator

Greg Roman, Baltimore Ravens, offensive coordinator

Dave Toub, Kansas City Chiefs, special teams coordinator

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Wolverines, head coach

Prospect Spotlight

Star: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

There’s some thought that the linebacker position is going the way of the running back, not extinct, but devalued. With today’s pass happy NFL there’s very little room for the old school thumpers of the world, Brandon Spikes was the last of his kind. Is the linebacker devalued? In can be, but the right ones can still be complete game changers. Look at what Leighton Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys last season as a rookie. When a freak athlete plays the position it can transform a defense. Isaiah Simmons falls into the category of freak athlete and has the skill set to be a complete weapon in the NFL.

Simmons is so athletic he actually started out as a safety for Clemson, starting their as redshirt freshman before shifting to a more hybrid role as a sophomore. He’s in his third-year as a starter for Clemson and is the key to the entire defense. Technically he’s a linebacker, but they’ll line him up anywhere and he spends a lot of time in an overhang role to combat spread offenses. He’s a mismatch defender with his length/size (6-4, 225), explosiveness (reportedly sub 4.5 speed), and sheer physicality. Simmons blows up everything he sees while also having the range to make plays sideline-to-sideline. He’s essentially the create-a-player type of linebacker every NFL team is looking for today.

If Simmons tests as well at the NFL Combine as everybody expects, it won’t be a question of will he go in the first-round, but how high? If the electric linebacker continues to be the star of Clemson and carries their defense to the College Football Playoff, then top 15 seems quite reasonable. He’s got everything needed to be an instant impact defensive star in any front seven.

Sleeper: Myles Bryant, DB, Washington

Two things are extremely important for DBs in today’s NFL, versatility and physicality. Myles Bryant possesses both, even if he has a blatant lack of size (5-9, 185). Bryant, a former walk-on, is the leader of the Washington defense and is in-line to be the next Huskies DB taken in the NFL Draft. His versatility to play both safety and nickel are going to get him NFL interest, but his physicality as a run defender and blitzer out of the slot are going to be what makes scouts love him. Bryant puts his body on the line and fits the mold of the weapon most NFL teams lack at nickel.

Bryant is a third-year starter who has consistently played all over the secondary for Washington. In the NFL he’ll likely find his home at nickel. In the right defense his skill set will allow him to play a defensive chess piece type of role that allows him to take advantage of his physicality vs. the run, his ability to blitz, and his instincts to make plays. A lot of what he does now for Washington is what current Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker did when he played for the Huskies. He lines up everywhere from outside corner to nickel to single-high to in the box. His consistency as a tackler and willingness to throw his body around is infectious and a large part of why he’s such a beloved leader. Bryant will play anywhere he’s asked and do anything to win.

For him to ultimately end up a top 100 pick he’ll need to show his size isn’t going to stop him from success in the NFL. The Senior Bowl is a great platform to see how he matches up with bigger receivers. On top of that he’ll need to show he has the fluidity, range, and explosion at the NFL Combine needed to be a playmaker at nickel in the NFL.

Overrated: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan

For the millionth time this wide receiver class is both incredibly talented at the top and as deep as In Utero. It going to cause some talented wide receivers to fall down the board. One of those receivers is Donovan Peoples-Jones. DPJ has been hyped since the day he committed to Michigan, but he’s never put it all together for the Wolverines. In the two and half season’s he’s played for Michigan he’s never topped 100 yards receiving in a game. Now, it’s not all his fault, he’s dealt with some awfully inconsistent QB play. His lack of production will still create questions surrounding his overall NFL readiness.

DPJ has all the physical tools NFL teams want in a WR. He’s got size (6-2, 208), impressive explosiveness, YAC ability that he’s showcased as a return man, and comes from an offense that asks him to run almost the full route tree. It still comes back to his lack of production though and him never reaching the expectations most have had for him. Something that is quite worrisome regarding DPJ is drops. In big moments he has struggled with drops and is inconsistent at making plays through traffic. Pairing questionable hands with a lack of production creates a lot of projection for DPJ in the NFL.

Overall, there’s no denying DPJ has NFL tools, but the first-round hype some have tagged to him just isn’t there. He’s a high upside Day 3 WR in this class right now and would be better off returning to Michigan for his senior year. That way he can show his growth as a receiver and prove he’s ready to take over games.

Risers and Sliders

Risers-

  1. Javon Kinlaw, IDL, South Carolina

  • The 2020 NFL Draft wont be as loaded as 2019 with interior defensive linemen, but the class is no joke. Most people know about SEC studs Derrick Brown and Raekwon Davis, but Javon Kinlaw should be mentioned with them and Marvin Wilson at the top. Kinlaw has been one of the best defensive players in the country this season and despite what the numbers say, he was a force vs. Florida. Kinlaw was unblockable consistently getting into the backfield and setting up teammates to make plays. He’s got the perfect length, power, and explosiveness to be a disruptive 3-Tech immediately in the NFL. At this point it would be a surprise if he wasn’t a first-round pick come April.

  1. KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State

  • As we’ve seen in recent NFL Draft’s there’s been somewhat of a shift in the type of wide receivers the NFL values. Not to say that they devalue bigger pass catchers, but right now the speedsters with route running ability are king. Hollywood Brown was the first WR off the board last year for a reason. One of those undersized burners who is picking up big hype is KJ Hamler. Hamler has been the biggest playmaker for undefeated Penn State this season and makes splash plays every week. In the Nittany Lions big win over Michigan, Hamler put up 6 receptions for 108 yards and 2 TDs. His speed was a complete mismatch out of the slot for the Wolverines safeties and he burned them all day. Day 2 of the draft is looking like where Hamler will end up.

  1. Cam Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State

  • Even though Mississippi State fell 36-13 to LSU, cornerback Cam Dantzler confirmed he’s a name worth remembering for the 2020 NFL Draft. Dantzler was impressive in his matchups with the LSU trio of star receivers and gave up next to nothing. His length and physicality were showcased with the way he handled press coverage, came up against the run, and even blitzed from the outside. Dantzler had a major impact on partially slowing down the LSU passing attack and his ball skills were on display when targeted. Athletic testing will be huge for his stock, but a press-man defense that loves physical corners will be vastly interested in his skill set.
  1. Jacob Eason, QB, Washington

  • In a duel with Oregon QB Justin Herbert, Jacob Eason may have lost 35-31, but he was the better passer on the day. While he wasn’t perfect and still has many questions to answer, he made the big time NFL throws everybody wanted to see. On multiple occasions Eason showed off the cannon arm he’s known for but more importantly showed his improved ball placement. He helped carry the offense against a tough Ducks defense and made some jaw-dropping tight window throws. Teams are going to love his arm talent, but seeing this type of poise and accuracy is huge for his evaluation. If Eason does declare he should be Senior Bowl eligible and that could be the place he really builds his draft buzz.

  1. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

  • It’s been a quieter year for Clemson. They’ve struggled a little more than expected, but remain undefeated. Despite the lack of Tigers talk, Travis Etienne continues to show he’s NFL ready. He torched the Louisville defense in their 45-10 win with 237 total yards and a score on 18 touches. His burst is rare and when paired with his contact balance it leads to constant home run plays. Is he going to go in the first-round? It’s hard to say with a lack of value at the running back position, but he’s going to be an instant contributor in the NFL, especially if he continues to show improvements as a pass catcher.

Sliders-

  1. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

  • At this point when it comes to Justin Herbert your opinion probably hasn’t changed. If you were a fan before the season, you still are and if you weren’t, you still aren’t. Herbert is consistently inconsistent and plays in an offense with personnel that doesn’t allow him to take over games. Against Washington he put up nice numbers, but it was much of the same. A handful of wow plays, a couple misses, and some mistakes under pressure. There’s no denying he has the physical tools to be a franchise QB in the NFL, but he has never put it together at Oregon. Herbert seems like the type of QB that teams will be all over the place on. Some could have him as QB1 while others have him as QB5. Either way, the Senior Bowl is going to be huge for securing himself as a top 10 pick.

  1. Khaleke Hudson, LB/S, Michigan

  • Being a tweener in football can either be seen as a great thing or a terrible thing. It’s all depend on skill set and where you can play the next-level. Khaleke Hudson is going to face similar questions to that of Giants safety Jabrill Peppers. Hudson, like Peppers, plays the Viper in Don Brown’s defense. It’s basically a linebacker spot for an oversized and physical safety. Unlike Peppers though, Hudson isn’t going to test like the same elite athlete. This season has been tough for him and it continued against Penn State. Multiple times his lack of size was picked on down the seam when matched up with tight ends. In the run game he struggled to get off blocks and was swallowed up. In the NFL Hudson’s best bet might be as a special teams weapon.
  1. Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

  • It’s a deep and talented WR class and some will get lost in the shuffle as the NFL Draft approaches. One guy who’s got tons of ability but has struggled with consistency is Denzel Mims. Mims can make some insane circus catches and then he’ll disappear for major stretches or battle with drops. Even in Baylor’s 45-27 road win over Oklahoma State, Mims had very little impact. He had just 1 reception for 16 yards on the day. With his inconsistencies but overall skill set being impressive, the Senior Bowl is going to be huge for him. For now, he looks like a Day 3 developmental talent.
  1. Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

  • As previously mentioned, the NFL loves the deep threat who run crisp routes despite a lack of size, right now. Jalen Reagor falls into that category and prior to the season was viewed as a potential first-round pick. Both TCU and Reagor have struggled this season. He’s been inconsistently involved and has had issues with fumbles and drops throughout the year. Reagor has the perfect NFL skill set for what they want, but he can’t get out of his own way. Finishing the season strong and putting on a show at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis will do wonders and could keep him a top 60 selection in an impressive WR class.
  1. Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

  • In Troy Dye’s defense, he toughed it out in the win over Washington playing through a broken thumb. At the same time the Huskies were able to expose some of his weaknesses, particularly against the run. Dye is an ultra athletic linebacker, but he lacks size and that can lead to him struggling to stack and shed or finish tackles. Washington ran down the Ducks throat for much of the game and Dye was doing little damage to stop it. In the NFL his athleticism and lack of size will fit much better at Will than Mike, but there’s going to be ongoing questions about whether he can hold up between the tackles.

Top 10 LB Rankings

Rank LB School
1 Isaiah Simmons Clemson
2 Dylan Moses Alabama
3 Markus Bailey Purdue
4 Kenneth Murray Oklahoma
5 Jacob Phillips LSU
6 Paddy Fisher Northwestern
7 Troy Dye Oregon
8 Mohamed Barry Nebraska
9 Monty Rice Georgia
10 Joe Bachie Michigan State

Game of the Week

#13 Wisconsin @ #3 Ohio State

Is Week 9 full of bangers? Of course not, but there’s an interesting game in every major time slot. It all kicks off at noon with Wisconsin heading to the Horseshoe to take on Ohio State. This game is the Buckeyes first real test of the season, but it would have been a whole lot more interesting if the Badgers didn’t let Lovie Smith and Illinois pull the upset in Week 8. In the 3:30pm slot there’s a big SEC tiger battle between #9 Auburn and #2 LSU. LSU should handle business, but it’s another good test for Joe Burrow. Come night fall the game to watch is #8 Notre Dame @ #19 Michigan. It’s basically the two most hated teams in college football and two QBs in Ian Book and Shea Patterson that might be the same person. Here’s to another boring Michigan primetime loss.

The reason Wisconsin @ Ohio State should be the one everybody tunes into is because the Buckeyes haven’t face any adversity yet and this could be their biggest moment to prove it. On top of that, seeing Chase Young take on a Wisconsin O-line and try to slow Jonathan Taylor is exciting. Young has been a dominant force all year and is currently the consensus top player in the 2020 NFL Draft. More prospects to watch are the Buckeyes LBs and DBs and seeing how they face up against a power run team. This is also a huge game for Badgers center Tyler Biadasz to remind the country why he was considered the top interior offensive line prospect in the summer.

#13 Wisconsin #3 Ohio State
Tyler Biadasz, C Chase Young, EDGE
Jonathan Taylor, RB Jeffrey Okudah, CB
Zack Baun, LB Shaun Wade, CB
Cole Van Lanen, OT KJ Hill, WR
Chris Orr, LB Damon Arnette, CB
Quintez Cephus, WR JK Dobbins, RB
Jake Ferguson, TE Davon Hamilton, IDL
AJ Taylor, WR Thayer Munford, OT
Isaiahh Loudermilk, IDL Robert Landers, IDL
Malik Harrison, LB
Tuf Borland, LB
Baron Browning, LB
Jordan Fuller, S
Jonathan Cooper, EDGE
Jonah Jackson, OG
Binjimen Victor, WR
Austin Mack, WR

Underclassmen on the Radar

Freaky Frosh: Mycah Pittman, WR, Oregon

  • Some weeks it’s hard to find a new freshman who made a major impact to talk about, not that many of them are given big opportunities early on. So, Mycah Pittman might not be the obvious choice, but Oregon needed his playmaking ability vs. Washington and they’re going to need him to continue to step up down the stretch. Against the Huskies, Pittman had 2 receptions for 48 yards, but one of them was a 36-yard screen he took to the house. He showed his explosive after the catch ability and overall athleticism, something the Ducks lack on the outside. With a poor group of pass catchers, Pittman is going to need to make plays like every week as he sees more playing time. He’s also got bloodlines, he’s the son of former NFL RB Michael Pittman and brother of current USC WR Michael Pittman Jr.

Super Sophomore: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

  • There’s been buzz around Micah Parsons name ever since he committed to Penn State. The former five-star recruit was moved from defensive end to off-ball linebacker almost immediately upon arriving at State College. Now a sophomore, he’s already one of the best linebackers in the country and certainly the most physical. Every week there’s a highlight hit from Parsons and it was much of the same in Penn State’s 28-21 win over Michigan. He was all over the field, making 14 tackles and keeping the Nittany Lions energy high. Parsons already looks like a potential first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. His combo of aggressiveness, explosiveness, and size are exactly what NFL teams want at Mike in todays game.

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Author Details
Vice President of Media | The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
I’m Canadian as can be, other than the fact that I don’t care about hockey. I love football. The NFL is my life. I consider myself a football guy and I’d rather watch tape than anything else. I’m the Armchair NFL Draft analyst here. You can read my Armchair Scout columns and call me out for my draft misses. I’m also part of two podcasts at Armchair. Our NFL Draft podcast, 7 Rounds in Heaven, and the main NFL pod, Resting the Starters. I cheer for the Steelers, Raptors, Blue Jays, Oregon, and I guess the Leafs.
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Vice President of Media | The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
I’m Canadian as can be, other than the fact that I don’t care about hockey. I love football. The NFL is my life. I consider myself a football guy and I’d rather watch tape than anything else. I’m the Armchair NFL Draft analyst here. You can read my Armchair Scout columns and call me out for my draft misses. I’m also part of two podcasts at Armchair. Our NFL Draft podcast, 7 Rounds in Heaven, and the main NFL pod, Resting the Starters. I cheer for the Steelers, Raptors, Blue Jays, Oregon, and I guess the Leafs.

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