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Leighton McCarthy OLB-FAU: Nocturnal

McCarthy, a four-year contributor for the Owls, feasted on opposing quarterbacks throughout his career. As a pass rusher, he demonstrated the ability to work around C-USA’s best offensive tackles with regularity in 2020. It was a season befitting of his overall consistency.

McCarthy finished 2020 with 10 quarterback sacks for an Owls defense that finished in the nation’s Top 5 in points allowed.

Former FAU defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin said back in 2017 of McCarthy, “He allows us to be multiple.” Even in that year as a 210-to-215-pound outside linebacker, the former Owl played bigger than his size. He ran the hoop to post a strip-sack versus North Texas and finished off Western Kentucky with a fourth quarter take down of quarterback Mike White. But it was his ability to play defensive end, outside linebacker and drop into coverage that Kiffin was referring to in describing McCarthy.

McCarthy finished his career with 158 tackles, 18.5 quarterback sacks, 34 tackles for losses, an interception and two forced fumbles.

For much of the 2020 season, the FAU defense (led by defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt) was the engine behind the Owls’ path through C-USA opposition. Although the team finished the season 24th in total defense nationally, they ranked ninth in scoring defense (17.4 PPG). McCarthy’s workmanlike approach caught the eyes of Florida Atlantic first-year head coach Willie Taggart.

“He’s serious about his business when here,” Taggart said prior to a scheduled game against MTSU in late November 2020.

The second-team All-C-USA performer has not always been efficient holding the edge at the point of attack (see Southern Miss ’20), but his versatility and width (78 5/8″ wingspan) give him a chance to make it as an off the ball linebacker. McCarthy (6’2, 223) has shown some aptitude in man-to-man coverage. He can drop into zone coverage and exhibit fluidity versus bootlegs when aligned on the edge. In addition, he has lined up as a hold-up guy on the punt return unit and at the left wing on the punt team. Perhaps more importantly, the team referenced that he did not miss a practice all year.

The former Owl contains many of the bird’s characteristics. He hunts his prey in a stealth manner, often surprising opponents with his quick burst to close. McCarthy has flown silently under the radar for most outside of Conference USA, but his upside could be unearthed by NFL teams operating in a nocturnal manner.

Ja’Marr… Chase Me To The End Zone

Not many players in this draft can track the ball down the field as well as LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase. Of his 84 receptions in 2019, 24 of them went for 20-plus yards, a nation’s best. He has an ability to carry his pads well despite his running back-esque frame (6’0 227).

Ja’Marr Chase, the 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner, (pictured) hauls in the football.

LSU is known as DBU (Defensive Back University), but lately, with receivers like Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Justin Jefferson, the Tigers have become a home for top receiving talent. Chase looks to be another strong prospect from Baton Rouge. In 2019, he posted 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Can Chase be dynamic after the catch like the aforementioned receivers from Louisiana State? Time will tell. One thing is for sure, don’t expect too much time to pass before a team “chases” the card to the commissioner to draft the LSU product.

Shai Werts QB-Louisville (2021), Georgia Southern: Scouting Snapshot

The decision by the NCAA to give everyone an extra year of eligibility gave Werts a new lease on life as a college football player. It is not like he hasn’t produced at Georgia Southern. In fact, prior to announcing on Twitter that he had entered the transfer portal (eventually committed to Louisville), the now former Eagle finished off his career with an MVP performance in the 2020 New Orleans Bowl. In that contest, he sliced up the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs with a 65-yard touchdown strike that traveled 52 yards in the air. He finished with 126 yards passing and one touchdown, while rushing for 71 yards and three more scores.

Due to the Eagles spread option attack, some felt Werts would look to throw the ball more at another school. However, he has been working at the wide receiver spot in possible hopes of a transition to that spot potentially in the ACC. In four seasons as the team’s starting quarterback, Werts finished with 3,778 yards passing (57%), 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Perhaps just as impressively, he rushed for 3,072 yards (4.4 YPC) and 34 more scores.

Werts has a bevy of highlights, but his two-point conversion spin cycle throw to put the Eagles up by one point against Louisiana in 2020 serves as a true gauge of his multi-purpose capability.

D’Ante Smith OL-ECU, Scouting Snapshot

What makes this player NASTY…(Strengths): Starts have come at both OG and OT. Has taken his work seriously since bouncing back from injury. Lost 41 pounds…(for the rest of the Strengths, please reference NOTE at bottom)

Weaknesses: Sudden movement throws him off-kilter (Cincinnati ’19). Susceptible to snatch-and-pulls (QB sack allowed, Ankrah, James Madison ’16). He has a…(for the rest of the Weaknesses, please reference NOTE at bottom)

Other Notes: Attended Grovetown HS (Ga.) and was named a three-star recruit by Scout.com • Lettered in wrestling ….(for the rest of the Other Notes, please reference NOTE at bottom).

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Despite transforming his body, Smith dealt with a back injury that ended his season in November 2020. The ECU lineman does provide some positional versatility, having seen action at both left guard and left tackle in school. If his 2019 performance against Old Dominion is any indication, scouts will be impressed with his ability to keep his lower body and arms in concert when pass blocking. Keep in mind, that Old Dominion defensive front featured a number of pro prospects the last few seasons. The Georgia native performed at least adequately during the week of the 2021 Senior Bowl practices, as he showed an ability to create some movement inside at guard. Look for teams that emphasize positional versatility to draft and groom Smith this spring.

Note: For the full scouting report on Smith (including Strengths, Weaknesses and Other Notes), please check back for Corey Chavous’ 2021 NFL Draft Guide/Free Agency Review, Volume 18.

Cade Johnson WR/KR-South Dakota State

Johnson will get an opportunity to show what everyone has seen from him in the FCS over the last few years in the 2021 Senior Bowl later this month. The 2019 AP first-team All-American is used on fly sweeps, speed shovels, speed outs, box fades (No.2 slot), slants and even one-step screens from the No. 3 position in bunch formations (back in 2018).

Johnson (No. 15 pictured vs. Kennesaw State in the 2018 FCS quarterfinals) has been an elite kickoff returner since stepping on campus. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns back in 2018.

He demonstrates savvy working against off-man coverage in the slot or on the outside. His biggest impact may come in the return game, where he has very good peripheral vision and balance. We had the opportunity to watch him perform in the 2018 FCS playoffs versus Kennesaw State and his hand-eye coordination impressed in that contest.

Other Notes: Attended Bellevue West HS (Neb.) and earned all-state honors after catching 16 TDs and recording 4 INTs • Was a member of a state championship team in basketball • 2017 (1,166 all-purpose yards): 23 receptions for 318 yards (13.8 YPR) and 3 TDs; 28 yds/KR and 2 TDs • 2017: 32 tackles, TFL, 5 PBUs • 2018 (AP All-American): 67 receptions for 1,332 yards and 17 TDs; 27.2 yds/KR • 2019 (AP 1st Team All-American): 72 receptions for 1,222 yards (17 YPR) and 8 TDs; 8 carries for 149 yards; 21.7 yds/KR • Career Stats: 40 games, 162 receptions for 2,872 yards (17.7 YPR) and 28 TDs; 12 carries for 182 yards (15.2 YPC); 26.7 yds/KR and 2 TDs

2020 Boca Raton Bowl, UCF vs. BYU, in-game report: STOCK WATCH

2021 NFL Draft prospect Zach Wilson’s 425-yard, five-touchdown performance (3 PASS, 2 RUSH) led the day -and rightfully so- and now we take a look at some of the other pro prospects from BYU’s 49-23 victory over the UCF Knights in the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl.

STOCK UP:

95 Khyris Tonga
6’4 321 DT-Senior
BYU

Tonga’s stat line will never jump off the screen. In today’s NFL, the splash interior defensive line prospects typically are able to work to half a man for quick penetration. This is not Tonga’s game. Where he does flash in the passing game revolves around his timing to cloud passing lanes.

He posted a pass breakup in this contest and recorded three in the team’s final four games of 2020. He finished his career with 12 pass deflections. The former rugby star is strong, runs well in a straight line and projects as a zero-technique in three-man fronts.

STEADY:

5 Dax Milne
6’0 189 WR-Junior
BYU

Milne has been a model of consistency all season for the Cougars and this game was no different. There were several games this season where he flashed down the field capability in terms of high-pointing the football (see Houston ’20). The former walk-on uses deception and a quick-footed style to fool defensive backs. It is a big reason he was the team’s second-leading receiver on third downs. One of his better patterns is the stutter-and-go comeback route (see Western Kentucky ’20), but there have been occasions where he’s made deft one-hand grabs from his quarterback down the field in contested situations (TD vs. Sails, USF ’19). Milne recently declared for the 2021 NFL Draft and he could be the program’s first receiver picked since Austin Collie in 2008 (Indianapolis Colts, 4th Round, 127th overall).

67 Brady Christensen
6’6 300 LT-Junior
BYU

For the most part, Christensen has been steady. There are some occasions where players get the best of him due to a questionable anchor (see Boyles, USF ’19; Wiley, UTSA ’20). In those instances, he has even been knocked to the ground. Mobility and foot quickness, however, make him a viable option to hear his name called this spring after recently declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft. In this contest, he was adept at baiting the opponent up the field, particularly on QB Zach Wilson’s quarterback draw for a touchdown in the first quarter. Christiensen is also agile as a pulling option on the perimeter (1st QTR/0:25, Boca Raton ’20). Can he long-arm the opponent when quick-setting (2nd QTR/5:11, Boca Raton ’20)?

2 Otis Anderson
5’11 174 RB-Ret-Senior
UCF

After not playing against USF, Anderson was solid in what may have been his last collegiate game (16 carries, 73 yards). He does have the option of returning for one more season. The former wide receiver finishes with over 90 career receptions and a healthy six yards per carry average.

Anderson (pictured in the slot in the 2017 AAC Championship game) has rushed for 2,187 yards (6.1 YPC), caught 91 passes for another 1,025 yards and averaged 12.3 yards per punt return. Along the way he has crossed the paint for 27 total touchdowns in four seasons.

An adept punt returner who could carve out a niche in that role, he has more than one tool in his skill-set. His foot speed will likely determine whether he can sneak into an NFL training camp.

FUTURE WATCH:

83 Isaac Rex
6’6 247 TE-Redshirt Freshman
BYU

As the season has gone on, Rex continued to work the seams both in the field and the Red Zone. He scored two or more touchdowns in five of the team’s final seven contests. The team will line him up one-on-one for back-shoulder fades (Western Kentucky ’20, 2nd QTR/0:21). And just think what this offense would have looked like had NFL prospect Matt Bushman been available all season. Versus UCF, Rex led the team with five receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns. One of his touchdowns came on a flea-flicker where he was left wide open down the right sidelines.

The former San Clemente High School (Calif.) product was a basketball recruit and part of the 2017 recruiting class. He has already served a mission in Samoa for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Is the future now?

Keegan Cryder C/G-Wyoming, Snapshot

Keegan Cryder

6’4 309 C/G-Junior

Wyoming

Strengths: Held his own against Missouri’s Jordan Elliott (2020 Cleveland Browns 3rd round pick) especially when he lined up in the one-technique DT (Missouri ‘19). Light on his feet. Can seal the backside on outside runs (Tulsa ‘19). Versatile. Has taken game reps at both guard positions as well as his natural center position. Shows the ability to chip- and-climb; and runs his feet once connected (Colorado State ’20). Led Wyoming with over 100 knockdown blocks, per the team’s statistics. 

Weaknesses: Not a naturally big guy, came to school at 240 pounds and was thought to be a tackle (https://gowyo.com/news/2020/11/25/football-kevins-commentary-keegan-cryder.aspx). Is he strong enough to block stronger interior lineman at the next level? Loses wrestling matches and can be thrown to the ground (1st QTR/4:40, Boise State ’20). Will have to win with leverage and technique. Not a natural mauler. Can be tricked on games run by the opposing defensive line (Hawaii ‘20). 

Other notes: Attended Dakota Ridge (Colo.) and played both offensive tackle and defensive end Civil engineering major 2019 Second Team-All Mountain West2017: Redshirted  2018 (12 games, MWC All-Academic): Started all 12 games (3 at left guard, 1 at right guard, 8 at center) 2019 (13 games): Played over 800 total snaps 2020: Earned first-team All-MWC honors at center

Summary: Wyoming has had its fair share of NFL offensive linemen, including former Cowboys center Chase Roullier (Washington Football Team), who recently signed a four-extension. Cryder carries some similarities to Roullier, but lacks the same consistent hip roll to stick on defenders. He flashes upside against better athletes and has enough quick strike ability to make up for his lack of mass. 

2020 MAC Football: Final Exams

As the 2020 MAC football regular season comes to a close this weekend, we give one player from each team our analysis prior to their final exams.


Western Michigan 

76 Jaylon Moore 6’5 315 LT-Senior

Moore has started 31 straight games at the left tackle position (entering 12/9/20).

Moore’s consistency dates back nearly three full seasons. A smooth mover with enough power, he simply needs more consistency with hand placement. He bears a strong resemblance to former Western Michigan tackles Taylor Moton (Carolina Panthers) and Chukwuma Okorafor (Pittsburgh Steelers). Both are former Broncos currently starting at the right tackle position in the NFL.

Ball State

2 Caleb Huntley 6’2 226 RB-Senior

Scouts are impressed that the 225-plus pound barreling ram has continued to improve his footwork in 2020. A recent rib injury has robbed him of the last two games, but his presence provides balance for quarterback Drew Plitt and the Cardinals (4-1). Prior to the injury, Huntley had posted three 100-yard games in 2020.

Central Michigan

8 Troy Brown 6’2 204 LB-Junior

A heat-seeking missile at just 204 pounds, the former safety turned linebacker sifted his way to 16.5 tackles for loss in 2019 (led the MAC). Along the way there was the occasional hiccup (targeting ejection, MAC Championship ’19) but it has not deterred him from continuing to lay the lumber in 2020. He busted loose versus Ball State last weekend (12/5/20) with 12 tackles, 2.5 quarterback sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses.

Toledo Rockets

0 Samuel Womack 5’10 187

Womack (No. 19 pictured, now wears No. 0) led the MAC as a junior with 17 passes defended and ranks second with seven in 2020.

One of the most competitive defenders in the conference, Womack overcomes ordinary size with pristine footwork and a glass half empty, glass half full approach. His gambles are often calculated and timely.  After defending 17 passes in 2019 (2 INTs, 15 PBUs), he has broken up seven passes so far in 2020. The key for him moving forward comes down to timing his opens to run out of his backpedal or in press-man coverage.

 Northern Illinois

3 Tyrice Richie 6’0 193 WR-Senior

The former JUCO product impresses in the intermediate passing game alongside fellow transfer quarterback Ross Bowers. Richie scored a receiving touchdown last weekend against Toledo, but it was not against the aforementioned Womack. Richie has four 100-yard receiving games in five contests, but may not even reach his listed measurements.

Eastern Michigan

99 Turan Rush 6’2 246 OLB-Senior

The 249-pound Rush posted two sacks against Ball State and his pass rush variety is improving. He has been more steady holding the edge in 2020 as opposed a season ago; particularly versus tight ends. The Charleston, West Virginia native has 11.5 quarterback sacks in his career and would benefit from taking advantage of an extra year if allowed to return to school, as he has slowed down in recent weeks.  

Buffalo

49 Taylor Riggins 6’2 255 DE-Senior

Buffalo’s Taylor Riggins, pictured, was supposed to form one of the better edge rushing duos in the MAC this season, but he has not appeared in any games due to an undisclosed ailment.

While teammate Malcolm Koonce get most of the ink, Riggins’ productivity has arguably been just as noteworthy (13.5 sacks over the 2018-19 campaigns). He has, however, been invisible in all of the Bulls contests in 2020 due to an undisclosed ailment. The former UMass transfer may decide to come back in 2021 to finish on a stronger standing.

Kent State

7 Dustin Crum 6’3 207 QB-Senior

Crum (No. 14 pictured in 2019 handing the ball off) understands the value of efficiency. Through four games, the senior signal-caller ranks sixth nationally in QB rating (192.7).

His ball placement continues to shine, particularly on routes that require touch and arc within three yards of the sideline on nine routes or fades down the field. A deft zone read specialist, Crum leads the nation’s second-ranked offense in scoring, No. 1 offense in yards per game and the second-ranked offense  in third down conversion percentage.

Editor’s Note: Crum now wears No. 7 for the Golden Flashes

Miami (Ohio)

51 Danny Godlevske 6’3 300 OC-Senior

While not a dominator, Godlevske gets to most of his spots and has even shown the ability to get out in space when the team uses the screen game. Improvement in his pass pro versus stronger defensive linemen should be his focus down the stretch.  Godlevske opted for the NFL Draft early before the MAC proceeded with its season this fall. He is not as strong of a prospect as fellow senior offensive line mate, left tackle Tommy Doyle, but he could at the least get into an NFL training camp.

Ohio 

47 Austin Conrad 6’2 245 OLB/DE-Senior

Conrad finished with at least six tackles for loss in 2018 and 2019.

His energy never wavers despite a relative lack of size. He fights relentlessly down-to-down. Coaches also lauded his first step. He’s the personal protector on the punt team, competitive versus the run and has even lined up as the three-technique defensive tackle in some of their packages. The Bobcats have only played three games as of press time (12-9-20), so Conrad’s numbers won’t jump off the page.

Akron

Bubba Arslanian 5’9 205 LB-Senior

Arslanian has reigned terror on Bowlling Green the last two seasons, recording 35 tackles, 2 QB sack, 4 TFLs and two forced fumbles. Can he cover well enough to play man-to-man versus bigger tight ends?

There are not a lot of 205-pound linebackers that play as if they’re carrying a boulder on their back. Arslanian averaged over 10 tackles a game in 2019 but has picked up the pace, averaging slightly over 11 in 2020. Most impressively, he’s been able to stay injury-free.

Bowling Green

Quintin Morris 6’4 251 TE-Senior

The former big wide receiver has transitioned positively to the tight end/H-back position after the staff convinced him of the move. He did so while adding weight. The 2019 second-team All-MAC pick brings flex capabilities to the table, with intriguing run after the catch skills.  After a slow start to the season, Morris has posted three consecutive 60-plus yard receiving games.

Miller Forristall TE- Senior Alabama, 2021 NFL Draft Preview

2021 NFL Draft Preview: Miller Forristall 6’5 244 TE- Senior Alabama 

What makes this player NASTY…(Strengths): One of the better Wham blockers in college football. Shows the ability to come in motion and stonewall bigger defensive lineman and linebackers (UGA ‘20). While he doesn’t look as filled out as other tight ends, the willingness and technique is solid as a blocker. In his few targets, Forristal exhibits the skill to make acrobatic grabs. Large catch radius. Efficiency as a blocker allows him to lull defenders to sleep and then get behind linebackers (TD, Citrus Bowl ‘19).

Weaknesses: The plethora of injuries are a major concern. Two seasons were cut short by knee injuries. (https://www.si.com/college/alabama/bamacentral/coming-off-knee-injury-tight-end-miller-forristall-happy-to-take-a-hit-again-TwwQEARd5U-0q2ppi46O-Q). He also has dealt with throat, ankle, shoulder and groin injuries in consecutive seasons. 14 combined games played in his first four seasons. Lack of production (31 total receptions as of midway through the 2020 campaign). 

Forristall is averaging 14.1 yards per reception through six SEC games in 2020.

Other Notes:  Attended Cartersville High School (GA) and played alongside Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence • Forristall played QB during his junior season and was rated the No. 11 tight end nationally by Scout.com • Suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2017 and in 2018 • 2016 (3 games): 5 receptions, 73 yards • 2017 (1 game): 1 reception, 7 yards • 2019 (8 games): 15 receptions, 167 yards, 4 TDs• 2020 (6 games): 10 receptions, 141 yards, 1 TD

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Alabama has been an NFL factory and they’ve been able to get a number of late round picks onto professional rosters despite a lack of college production. Wide receiver Cam Sims (Washington Football Team) and tight end Hale Hentges (Indianapolis Colts) are some recent names that come to mind. Forristall has the blocking chops to join fellow Crimson Tide tight ends Irv Smith Jr. and O.J. Howard in the NFL. His Wham blocking skills reminds us of former Washington Redskins tight end Don Warren, who was used primarily as a blocker in Joe Gibbs’ offensive schemes, but did end his career with 244 receptions (seven TDs). Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor comes from the Joe Gibbs coaching tree and his single back offense would be attractive for a player with Forristall’s skill-set. 

Austin Trammell WR-Ret Rice, 2021 NFL Draft

DN SNAPSHOT

Trammell has averaged 28.5 yds/KR through two games for the Owls in 2020 to go along with five receiving touchdowns. In 2018, he posted a 27.4 yd/avg on kickoff returns and posted a 9.3 yd/avg on punt returns in 2019. In addition, he has posted back-to-back 60-catch seasons for the team (2018-19).

Rice wide receiver/returner Austin Trammell may rank as quicker than fast, but he is efficient and strong with the ball in his hands. The former Klein High School (TX.) product broke his shin as a senior at the prep level, but his durability concerns have not shown up at the collegiate level. In fact, he has yet to miss a game for the Owls. Versus Middle Tennessee in 2020, he had a rare muffed punt near the end of the third quarter (1:53 mark).

This belies his down-to-down consistency in the return aspect of his game. Trammell catches kickoffs coming forward, which often allows him to get on top of kick coverage units when the team uses double teams. His shiftiness nearly allowed him to score on a 34-yard punt return versus Wake Forest in 2019.

As a receiver, he is capable of executing on the post-corner-post pattern and is fluid on stop routes outside the numbers. His footwork allows him to be effective on option routes in the slot. He understands how to work the leverage points of defensive backs. Last season, Trammell averaged 13.2 yards per reception on third downs. In the Wake Forest contest (2019) referenced earlier, he did drop an out route from the No. 2 slot position. There is also some slight stiffness in the lower half.

Trammell is known for his backflips around the Rice program (https://twitter.com/RiceFootball/status/1324833265702871042) but his coaches agree that his overall impact has moved the team forward.

While at Klein HS (Tex.), Trammell set the school record for stolen bases as a member of the team’s baseball squad. He has been both a three-time C-USA Honor Roll member and All-C-USA performer.

“He is a role model for everything we want our program to be,” said former UNC-Central head coach and current Rice offensive coordinator Jerry Mack back in 2019.

We feel his playing style carries similarities to former New York Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet, who entered the NFL as a lightly-regarded undrafted prospect out of the now-defunct Hofstra football program. Chrebet finished his Jets career with 580 receptions for 7,365 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Through just two games in 2020, Trammell has already set a career-high in touchdown receptions (5) and is currently averaging 21.9 yards per reception.