Defenses have the ability to change the tide of games and there are a number of linemen that consistently make big plays for their teams. These are just four of the guys that are going to lead their squads:
Phidarian Mathis – Alabama – DT
When it comes to stuffing the run, few defensive linemen are as impactful as Crimson Tide DT/NT Phidarian Mathis. With exceptional size at 6-4, 320 pounds and length with his 34 1/2” arms, the Louisiana native routinely displays elite ability to stack offensive linemen, create separation to key & diagnose, and then shed to make the tackle. But Mathis is more than just a cog in the middle of the LOS – with rare speed and range for his size, the redshirt senior regularly demonstrates great effort pursuing ball carriers out of the stack, and flashes the ability to be an upfield penetrator with his initial quickness and getoff. Unsuspecting quarterbacks also fall prey to his long wingspan’s ability to affect passes at the LOS — something he successfully accomplished three times in 2020.
Chauncey Manac — Louisiana – DE
In the NFL, versatility is key, and Ragin’ Cajun Chauncey Manac has demonstrated for multiple years now his ability to perform a number of roles defensively. After beginning his collegiate career at Georgia, the 6-3, 251-pounder found a home at Louisiana where he has wreaked havoc on Sun Belt opponents while aligning at outside linebacker, defensive end, and even as a stand-up rusher over the guards in sub-packages. One of the best assets of this slippery defender is his ability to play with his near 34” arm length, keeping blockers from getting latched onto his body and providing separation as a rusher to execute a rush move. Coupled with his strength to hold up against the run and it’s no wonder why Manac is squarely in the sites of NFL talent evaluators.
Zach VanValkenburg – Iowa – DE
As a first-year transfer in 2019, Zach VanValkenburg flashed for the Hawkeyes some of the ability that got him named 2018 Defensive Lineman of the Year in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. But in 2020 the former Hillsdale College star really ascended while starting every game for Iowa and showcasing his rare motor and stamina. What sets VanValkenburg apart from some other defensive ends is his rush plan along with counter moves primed in the event his initial move is stymied. His variety of moves was on full display against a good Minnesota OL last year when the super senior practically lived in the offensive backfield while recording three sacks, numerous pressures and factoring against the run. And he hardly left the field that day, a testament to his endurance and training, and a nightmare for the Gophers.
Jordan Jackson – Air Force – DL
Jordan Jackson is fun to watch. The Jacksonville, Florida native is a versatile defensive lineman with excellent size and length who goes 100 mph every snap. Prior to sitting out the 2020 season, Jackson recorded a whopping 17 career tackles for loss and eight sacks – a testament to his initial quickness, instincts, physicality, and non-stop motor. In the Falcons’ rivalry games versus fellow service academies in 2019, Jackson was at his best while recording a season-high eight tackles against Navy and then besting that feat with a nine-tackle performance versus Army, adding a sack in both games.
Just a few more days to go until the release of the full Big Board!
A strong offensive line is the heart of any winning team, and there are a number of players we expect to contribute to the strength of their respective offenses this season. These are four of the guys that we suggest you keep an eye out for:
Myron Cunningham – Arkansas
On an offensive line unit that returns five starters, super senior Myron Cunningham is the leader of the unit, something echoed by the entire Razorbacks coaching staff. Long-limbed and athletic, Cunningham looks the part of an NFL left tackle. He can mirror with the best of them, maintaining proper positioning against even the quickest of edge rushers. Cunningham possesses the size, athleticism and pass blocking ability sure to grab the attention of NFL scouts. After stops at Western Illinois and Central Community College, Cunningham will be coming to a city near you on Sundays soon.
Vederian Lowe – Illinois
With 34 consecutive starts at left tackle under his belt, Vederian Lowe has become one of the most decorated offensive linemen in Illini history. A staple of consistency and durability, he does an exceptional job protecting the edge, utilizing his strength while creating leverage and is capable in motion. Off the field, Lowe has had to grow up very fast, as he lost his mom, became a dad and assumed legal guardianship of his younger brother Vydalis during the past year—he is mature beyond his age. On the field, Lowe possesses a frame for the next level, brings a strong understanding of schemes and understands angles on how to seal defenders off from the ball carrier.
Zion Johnson – Boston College
Big, strong, and physical, Boston College senior Zion Johnson is a transfer from Davidson where he spent two seasons playing in a triple-option offense. It didn’t take Johnson long to acclimate himself to his new surroundings on Chestnut Hill, however, proving to be a menacing blocker in the run game while also improving vastly in pass protection. He has played in a power-run scheme offense under previous head coach Steve Addazio and in an up-tempo spread attack with current coach Jeff Hafley. His versatility, athleticism, strength, and tenacity provide ultimate value.
Matt Allen — Michigan State
A four-year starter and team captain, Matt Allen is relied upon as a coach on the field with his experience and high football intelligence. He possesses excellent posture, knee bend, plus a sound base, which gives him a solid foundation to build upon as he continues to develop. The Illinois native demonstrates solid core strength and the ability to keep his head on a swivel, constantly looking for work in pass protection. A three-time all-state selection in wrestling during his high school days, Allen shows great grappling ability and well-coached hand usage. There is no doubt that pedigree is on his side, having two brothers who have played in the NFL. He appears set to achieve the trifecta with another solid season in East Lansing.
We’re just five days away from the release of the full Big Board, so make sure you keep checking back as it fills out.
Every year, college football fans can count on pass catchers to make memorable contributions to the highlight reel. Here are a number of the guys we anticipate making big plays:
Charleston Rambo – Miami – WR
As a three-year producer for the Oklahoma Sooners, new Hurricane wide receiver Charleston Rambo brings a ton of experience playing in big-time games along with a very well-rounded skill set. Boasting a tall, athletic frame and the speed to take the ball to the house, the Cedar Hill, Texas product has proven to be dangerous at all three levels of the field and even factors into the run game with his block effort. With impressive ability to track and adjust to the flight of the ball, Rambo catches the ball easily while providing quarterback D’Eriq King and co. another explosive weapon for NFL evaluators to keep track of.
Austin Williams – Mississippi State – WR
After two seasons as a part-time offensive contributor, Austin Williams exploded in 2020 under new head coach Mike Leach’s tutelage, starting nine games and quadrupling his reception total from the preceding year. In this Mississippi State system, the redshirt senior Williams typically aligns in the Slot while playing a hybrid WR/TE position that takes advantage of his 6-3, 200-pound frame and his willingness to do the dirty work as a blocker. In the pass game, the Ocean Springs, Mississippi native provides reliable hands, has a knack for finding the open spots in zone, and threatens defenses vertically with his size.
Cade Otton – Washington – TE
With a very competent ability to block inline, align across the formation, catch the ball outside of his frame, and drive a defender into the dirt, Cade Otton is the modern tight end. With 63 receptions and eight touchdowns in his career entering his senior season, the 2020 John Mackey Award Semifinalist is very productive in the pass game where his advanced understanding of route running and subtle moves enable him to regularly separate from defenders. And at 6-5, 250 pounds, Otton possesses the frame to align at either ‘Y’ or ‘F’ in the NFL with the demeanor and quickness to latch and win as a blocker.
Daniel Bellinger – San Diego State – TE
For the second consecutive year, San Diego State’s Daniel Bellinger was named to the John Mackey Award Watch List, which annually recognizes the nation’s most outstanding tight end. Also for the second consecutive year, Collegiate Bowl scouts are anxious to evaluate the 6-6, 255 pounder after the Las Vegas native stood out with his impressive blend of blocking and receiving production. In the mold of a traditional “Y” tight end who typically aligns inline and is asked to block defensive linemen, Bellinger is an excellent blocker who the Aztecs enjoy running behind due to his ability to latch onto targets and sustain his blocks with his proficient footwork and bend. No slouch in the receiving game, the 24-consecutive game starter provides a very reliable target for the quarterback due to his soft hands and then knows how to pick up extra yardage after the catch with his athleticism and physical playstyle.
The Big Board is filling up every day! Make sure you keep checking our website and social channels to see more featured players before the full release on August 27th.
Where would football be without the explosive running backs that we have grown to love throughout the years? Read on to see who we expect to have breakout seasons this year:
Shaun Shivers — Auburn
As a true senior, Shaun Shivers has been an offensive and special teams contributor all three years at Auburn. While playing running back in the vaunted Southeastern Conference is no easy task, the shorter-statured and nimble-footed rusher from Fort Lauderdale utilizes his lack of size as an asset, escaping both defenders’ vision and grasp. With natural hands to catch the ball away from his frame and the willingness to face-up blitzers in pass protection, Shivers projects as a third-down back at the next level, and his added value as a kickoff returner won’t be overlooked by NFL talent evaluators.
Stephen Carr — Indiana
After earning his degree and participating for four seasons with USC, Stephen Carr took the COVID exemption and transferred to Indiana for his final season of college eligibility. Transferring with him to the Hoosiers is a well-rounded skillset that saw the now graduate student rush for over 1300 yards and catch 57 passes during his time with the Trojans. With a patient running style, Carr runs with very good vision to find open rushing lanes, maintains great body-lean to keep his pads low, and finishes his runs physically, typically by lowering his shoulder on a defender while churning his legs. With production as a rusher, pass catcher, pass protector, and kickoff returner, the Gardena, California product is a true three-down prospect who NFL clubs will be sure to pay attention to this Fall.
Hassan Haskins — Michigan
With rare size and excellent strength for the position, Hassan Haskins is a load to bring down. The 6-1, 223-pound bruiser from St. Louis played in three games as a freshman but truly burst onto the scene as a sophomore when he averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. During the shortened 2020 season and while splitting time in the deep Wolverine backfield, Haskins displayed his foot quickness and ability to break tackles to the tune of 6.1 yards per carry and a team-leading six rushing touchdowns. While NFL scouts would like to see him more involved in the passing game in 2021, Haskins’ eagerness to play on special teams the past couple of years speaks to his toughness and unselfish nature – two aspects NFL teams covet from the running back position.
Pierre Strong — South Dakota State
The play of Pierre Strong Jr. is a big reason for South Dakota State’s success over the past three seasons and a catalyst for their 2020-21 trip to the FCS national championship game. At 5-11, 204 pounds, the 2020 FCS first-team All-American is a great combination of size and speed, and routinely exploits creases with his vision, balance and foot quickness. What’s more, the Little Rock, Arkansas product demonstrates his football intelligence by flanking out wide to factor in the passing game – one of the many reasons why Strong has caught the attention of NFL evaluators.
That’s just the beginning! Keep checking back all week to see more of our Big Board featured players, leading up to the full release on Friday, August 27th.
College football is back, and that means it’s time for the rollout of our 2022 Big Board! Starting at the quarterback position, here are a few of the guys we’re excited to watch this season:
Clayton Tune – Houston
Given the keys to the Cougars’ franchise after the departure of D’Eriq King in 2019, Clayton Tune is an excellent combination of pocket passer and scrambler who orchestrates this high-flying, Dana Holgorsen offense. While showcasing great poise and toughness from the pocket, Tune routinely spreads the ball around to his many different pass catchers, displaying his quick release and decisiveness once he sees his receiver coming open. What you like about the Carrollton, Texas native is his readiness to take vertical shots to make the defense defend the whole field, and he’s a deceptively fast athlete who’s very capable of both extending plays with his legs and racking up yardage when the defense isn’t looking.
Sean Clifford – Penn State
At 23 years old and with 20 career starts already under his belt, Sean Clifford is one of the more seasoned senior quarterbacks in this year’s class. Showing command at the line of scrimmage, changing plays based on the defensive formation, and ensuring he gets his offense’s best player (WR Jahan Dotson) the ball regularly are all aspects of Clifford’s game that demonstrate his maturity and degree of preparedness for the next level. In addition to his smooth set-up, delivery and ability to scan the field, the redshirt senior from Cincinnati is a capable runner who’s already third all-time among PSU quarterbacks in rushing yards. After a disappointing 2020 campaign that saw the Nittany Lions fall under .500, NFL teams are eager to see if Clifford’s experience will elevate his performance against a tough Big Ten schedule, beginning September 4 at Wisconsin.
Anthony Brown – Oregon
After starting for 2.5 years at Boston College, Anthony Brown transferred to Oregon in 2020 where he played in the Ducks’ final two games of the season, entrenching himself as the team’s signal-caller going forward. With a tall, athletic frame, the 6-foot-3, 226-pound New Jersey native is the next dangerous dual-threat quarterback for the notoriously high-powered Oregon offense. With the build and speed of a wide receiver, Brown displayed in last year’s bowl game vs. a stout Iowa State defense the ability to move the ball efficiently with both his arm and his legs. NFL talent evaluators want to see Brown remain healthy for a full starting season – something he’s done only once to date – but a projected 3.5+ years of starting experience at the collegiate level will certainly bode well for his NFL chances.
Holton Ahlers – East Carolina
Standing at 6-3, 231 pounds, Holton Ahlers is no small man. The soon-to-be four-year starter possesses good NFL size for the position and frustrates many would-be sackers with his strength to break tackles. What’s impressive about the southpaw (and hometown hero for ECU) is that he looks to throw the ball downfield rather than run, and he isn’t afraid to thread the needle with his pass while putting trust in his receivers to make a play. NFL evaluators appreciate his ability to come off his primary read to find secondary targets, and he displays his veteran savvy by looking off safeties prior to throwing over the middle of the field.
Check back throughout the coming days to see the Big Board fill out at the other positions!