Each week, the scouting department at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will provide insight into some of the top prospect performances from around the nation! Be sure to keep up with our latest game announcements on Twitter @NFLPABowl.
For the second consecutive week, Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener willed the Bulldogs to a 38-30 comeback victory over UNLV with four touchdown tosses in the second half, on his way to 455 passing yards on the day. The late-game heroics highlighted his pinpoint accurate and calm demeanor, as Haener has proved to be as cool as a cucumber. His ascension as one of the premier signal-callers in college football may be a bit of a surprise to the national media but not inside the Fresno locker room.
“You could see the talent Jake had a year ago but he hadn’t had enough time to work with the guys around him,” Fresno State head coach Kalen DeBoer explained. “We can probably find seven, eight throws from this weekend’s game that he physically could have made a year ago, but it wouldn’t have been successful because he just wouldn’t have been dialed in with his receivers.”
On the season, Haener leads the nation in passing yardage with 1,842, is second in the country with 18 touchdowns, and is completing an impressive 73.1% of his passes. While not heavily on the NFL radar when the season began, Haener is clearly a known commodity within the scouting community.
Jake Haener everybody: pic.twitter.com/ZjUJalQffT
— Barstool College Football Show (@BarstoolCFB) September 19, 2021
It was a coming-out party of sorts for Cory Durden and North Carolina State, as the Wolfpack pulled off one of the biggest wins in program history with an exhilarating double-overtime victory over Clemson. The senior defensive tackle was a disruptive force, showcasing his strength and speed while registering one and a half sacks.
“We know how good we are as a defense, that confidence level is there,” Durden stated after the game. “All week that’s what we’ve been preaching, we’re going to show people that we’re the best defense in the country. It was a great feeling to win the game on defense.”
A highly heralded recruit coming out of high school, Durden made an immediate impact during his time with Florida State, before transferring to NC State for 2021. His ability to provide an interior pass-rush presence and constantly place the quarterback under duress have followed him over from Tallahassee. Durden needs to refine some of the technical aspects of his overall game but his raw athleticism and get-off are unquestioned. His performance against Clemson is evidence.
Back-to-back sacks for DT Cory Durden in his first start for the Pack!
Carter-Finley Stadium is electric.
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/16D4IgNfAP
— NC State Football (@PackFootball) September 25, 2021
Few, if any players are performing at a higher level than Michigan pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson. The Wolverines senior team captain was back at it again this past week, racking up five tackles, including one sack and several quarterback pressures. While Hutchinson has had success in the past playing with his hand in the dirt, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald has utilized him more in a stand-up role this season. His versatility should entice every NFL team, as Hutchinson appears poised for the first round with his high level of play.
“Don’t get in his way. When you have great players, you try to put them in positions to succeed, and the expectation is that he plays at the level that he’s playing at,” Macdonald said. “We’ll have wrinkles, and we want to move him around, but we don’t want to overthink it either. We don’t want to get in the way of that, but Aidan’s doing a great job.” After an injury-riddled 2020 campaign, Hutchinson has come out of the gates like a barnstormer, as he now has four and a half sacks and 15 tackles through his first four games.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 25, 2021
The Oklahoma State defense has been stellar thus far this season, thanks largely in part to the consistent play of underappreciated safety Kolby Harvell-Peel, who shows up each week with his lunch bucket in hand. The imposing safety put in a full day of work again in week four, collecting a season-high eight tackles and making a momentum-changing interception before the end of the first half during an upset victory over Kansas State. It was his second big turnover in as many weeks.
“Nothing special that I’m seeing,” Harvell-Peel said after the game. “I’m just trying to do my job. I had a couple of chances where I felt I should have made plays. I’m just trying to capitalize on the chances I do get to get my hands on the ball.” While some wait for those chances, Harvell-Peel creates them with his great instincts and anticipation. Serving as the last line of defense for the Cowboys, there are plenty of more opportunities sure to come. Blessed with great range and size, Harvell-Peel offers NFL appeal due to his ability to cover plenty of ground in pass coverage, while also plugging holes against the run.
Kolby Harvell-Peel reveals what makes Israel Antwine so strong pic.twitter.com/XPVhMroyPv
— Gabriel Trevino (@GabeCTrevino) September 26, 2021
Bryant senior kicker Luke Samperi is one player to keep an eye on. The FCS standout kicker was flawless once again during the Bulldogs’ win over Marist, nailing two field goals, including a 41-yarder and converting all four of his extra point attempts. A former soccer player, Samperi switched over to football during his senior season of high school and continues to get better each year. In fact, he has hit multiple game-winning field goals during his time at Bryant. While Samperi experienced some struggles early on during his collegiate career, he has since strengthened his leg and improved his overall accuracy. In addition, Samperi has developed into a dependable touchback machine on kickoffs. It would not be surprising to see him compete for a spot at the next level with his newfound consistency and boot.
Kickoff Film! Been working to improve this area of my game, 4-4 this weekend and another Win! ⬇️⬇️ pic.twitter.com/NRta6xBXOT
— Luke Samperi (@LukeSamperi) March 25, 2021
*For more insight on the 2022 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl process, including players who have caught our attention, be sure to tune in to ‘The State of Football’ every Thursday at 9:00am eastern time, as executive director Dane Vandernat joins Ric Serritella on Sports Illustrated!