Category Archives: NCAA FB

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.

2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo Gallery/Practice Notes: National Team, Day 2

We look at Nebraska’s Brenden Jaimes’ technique, as well as many of the National team’s offensive linemen on Day 2 of the 2021 Senior Bowl. A Big Ten linebacker began to stand out with his positional versatility and a Pac-12 linebacker wasn’t too far behind.

2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo gallery/Practice Notes: National Team, Day 1

The National team had several high profile players on its roster, including Alabama Crimson Tide Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. On Day 1, however, we spotlight disruptive defensive tackles, an FCS slot wideout and a flexible Fighting Irish defender in our Photo Gallery recap.

2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo Gallery/Practice Notes: American Team, Day 2

We spotlight a hard-charging safety, two hybrid defensive line prospects, an underrated SEC wideout and a couple of intriguing tight ends in our breakdown of the American team’s Day 2 practice at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo Gallery/Practice Notes: American Team, Day 1

There were several players who stood out during Day 1 of the American team practices at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. We go inside a few plays and give some of the notes from our film review in our photo gallery breakdown.

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.

2021 Capital One Orange Bowl Photo Gallery

The Texas A&M Aggies finished off a 9-1 campaign with a fourth quarter flurry of scores versus a game North Carolina Tar Heels team that played without a plethora of its offensive firepower. We go inside the action with a photo gallery that describes some of the best action in the Aggies 41-27 victory over the Tar Heels. The game’s ebbs and flows were befitting of a New Year’s Six bowl.

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