Category Archives: Team previews

2018 Preview: Wisconsin Badgers

Season outlook

Wisconsin was a touchdown away from representing the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff a season ago.  With sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor and junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook (6’4, 218) back in the fold, there’s reason for optimism in Madison.  With roster turnover and coaching changes in the conference, Wisconsin is a safe pick to win the Big Ten in 2018.  On defense, the Badgers have to replace seven starters from a season ago but will return linebacker T.J. Edwards (6’1, 244) for his senior season.  Edwards was a first- team All-American a season ago and recorded four interceptions.  On the back end, safety D’Cota Dixon (5’10, 198) has started 23 games and will be the elder statesman in a secondary which welcomes three new starters around him. If Wisconsin has a spot of concern it could be the inexperience at defensive back. However, the Badgers had the nation’s second-best total defense last season and with its offensive playmakers having another year of experience under their belts, look for Wisconsin to compete again for a College Football Playoff spot.

Troy’s player to watch

23 Jonathan Taylor 5’11 214 RB-Sophomore
 
Taylor, a former state champion in track and field with 10.49 100-meter speed, burst onto the college football scene last season, rushing for 1,997 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Wisconsin running back will enter 2018 as one of the best players in the nation and a Heisman candidate.  Head coach Paul Chryst has prided himself on running the football early and often.  He will once again rely on Taylor to shoulder the load.  Expect Taylor to get anywhere from 275- to-300 touches in 2018 and to lead the conference in rushing yards.

Game of the season

October 13th at Michigan
 
The Badgers will get their first test of the season when they go on the road to the Big House.  Wisconsin won’t have to play Michigan State and Ohio State until a potential conference championship game. The Badgers defeated the Wolverines last year, 24-10, in Madison.  It’s a good chance the only two ranked teams Wisconsin will face during the regular season are Michigan and Penn State, which means they could run the table to an undefeated season.

DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch

63 Michael Deiter 6’6 329 OC-Senior

Where will Deiter line up this fall?  After all, he’s earned starts at center, left guard and left tackle.  The position he may be best suited to play on a regular basis is left guard.  As a left tackle, there could be next level question marks regarding his foot speed.  While at that position, however, he takes the correct hinge steps on the backside and locks out his arms favorably in pass pro.  His tenacity as a run blocker is most evident on trap blocks.  In these instances, he has shown the ability to throw defensive linemen around (see Nebraska ’16).  Perhaps even more exciting for NFL scouts is the fact that he’s displayed an adequate ability to snap and pull from the center position.  Deiter’s value for the NFL-level is his positional flexibility.

Prediction:  11-1 overall

The Wisconsin Badgers will win the Big Ten West division but will not go undefeated. Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting a road loss in November to Penn State. 

2018 Preview: Boise State Broncos

Season outlook 

 

Over the course of his first four seasons, head coach Bryan Harsin has cemented Boise State as one of the premiere programs on the West Coast and in the nation. Last season, the Broncos finished 11-3 overall and 7-1 in the Mountain West. This season, the Broncos will be led by a senior quarterback on offense and a talented secondary and defensive line on the other side of the ball. Senior cornerback Tyler Horton (5’11, 190) and junior safety Kekoa Nawahine (6’2, 207) are the undisputed playmakers in the secondary.

Nawahine posted four double-digit tackle games for the Broncos in 2017.

Nawahine finished last season with three interceptions and six pass deflections while Horton had 11 pass deflections to go along with two picks. Both players have played more than 25 games apiece and bring a wealth of experience to the Broncos defense which projects to be one of -if not the best- in the Mountain West. Along the front seven, senior defensive tackle David Moa and sophomore Curtis Weaver (6’3, 256) combine to stop the run and get after the quarterback. Moa is the run-stuffer and Weaver, who finished with 11 sacks as a freshman, is the pass rusher. On offense, senior quarterback Brett Rypien (6’2, 202), the nephew of former Redskins Super Bowl-winning quarterback Mark Rypien, will be asked to continue his steady play.

Brett Rypien shared snaps in 2017 with former Broncos quarterback Montell Cozart.

Rypien, a three-year starter, has amassed 9,876 passing yards, 60 touchdowns and 22 interceptions while completing 62 percent of his passes. Harsin once again has a team capable of winning 10-plus games and can even dream of a darkhorse chance at the College Football Playoff if his team goes undefeated, thanks to a tough non-conference schedule.

Troy’s Player to watch

55 David Moa 6’3 275 DL-Senior
Moa is the prototypical run-stuffer and the anchor of the Broncos defense. The senior defensive tackle opens lanes for the other members of the front seven to make plays. Last season, Moa finished with two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss while being named a second-team All-Mountain West Conference selection. He hopes to return to his junior year form after an up-and-down junior campaign (https://www.idahostatesman.com/sports/college/mountain-west/boise-state-university/boise-state-football/article216096480.html).   In 2016, he recorded 8.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Look for Moa to continue making waves in the Mountain West and, with another strong season, he could get looks from the NFL.

Game of the season

September 29th vs. Wyoming
The  Broncos have a Week 3 matchup on the road against Oklahoma State, which figures to be their most challenging non- conference game. However, two weeks later against Wyoming in Laramie, they will play the Cowboys in a game that will have conference championship implications. Last season, the Broncos defeated Wyoming, 24-14. The Cowboys are projected to be the Broncos stiffest competition in the Mountain West mountain division. Wyoming lost star quarterback Josh Allen (2018 NFL Draft, 1st Round, 7th overall, Buffalo Bills) but return several defensive playmakers and will be poised to test Boise State at home. 

DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch

8 Jabril Frazier 6’4 243 OLB-Senior

Frazier heads into his senior year with 12.5 quarterback sacks and 15.5 tackles for losses.

Frazier often has been employed at the outside linebacker/STUD position for the Broncos.  He can put his hand in the dirt or rush from a two-point stance.  An athletic defender with range, he hasn’t yet established himself as a consistent force setting the edge versus offensive tackles. In addition, his pass rush variety when working from either position leaves room for improvement.  Aside from putting on added weight, he needs to finish on the quarterback with more regularity to truly get looks from NFL scouts as a potential 30-front Rush OLB prospect.

Prediction: 11-1

Boise State will handle road contests against Troy and Wyoming but  fall to Oklahoma State in Stillwater.  Other than a Week 3 loss against OSU,  Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting an 11-win season and a Mountain West Conference championship.

2018 Preview: Maryland Terrapins

Season outlook

The Maryland Terrapins enter the 2018 season looking to become bowl-eligible for the second time under third-year head coach D.J. Durkin.  Amid a controversial summer that included the sad circumstances and death of freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair, Durkin was placed on administrative leave. Highly-regarded assistant coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada will serve as the team’s interim head coach in Durkin’s absence.
After a disappointing 2017 season, Terrapins fans are hoping for a return to a bowl game in 2018.
Last season, the Terps finished 4-8 overall and 2-7 in the Big Ten. Maryland has been able to put points on the board under Durkin and with a strong offensive line led by center Brendan Moore (6’3, 302), that should remain the status quo in 2018. Last year, the Terps lost their two top quarterbacks: junior Tyrell Pigrome (5’11, 205) and sophomore Kasim Hill (6’2, 234), to season-ending injuries during the first two weeks of the season. Maryland will have to shore up the quarterback position during summer camp. On defense, Durkin has led top-level units at both Florida and Michigan, but that side of the ball hasn’t enjoyed the same success in Maryland. Senior defensive end Jesse Aniebonam (6’3, 260) suffered a fractured ankle during week one of last season but if he can return healthy in 2018, he could make life a lot easier on the Terps defense. 

Troy’s player to watch

6 Ty Johnson 5’10 212 RB-Senior
With D.J. Moore entering the NFL (2018 NFL Draft, 1st Round, 24th overall pick), Ty Johnson will take over as the featured weapon in Canada’s offense. Johnson finished last season with 875 rushing yards and six total touchdowns. The senior running back’s production is a good gauge for the Terrapins offense. In the Terrapins four wins last season, Johnson averaged 9.9 yards per carry. In its eight losses, he averaged just 4.5 yards per carry. Canada has had stops in Wisconsin, Pittsburgh and LSU over the last six years. All of those schools have hung their hats on running the ball, which could lead to increased production for Johnson. 

Game of the season

September 15th vs. Temple
Maryland has some marquee matchups on its schedule but the home opener against Temple will be a big one. The Terrapins have to play Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State in conference play, which means racking up wins in the non conference schedule will be key in order to qualify for a bowl game.

DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch

9 Byron Cowart 6’4 293 DL-Junior

In just a little over two seasons at Auburn, Cowart (No. 9 pictured) posted 15 tackles, one and a half tackles for losses and one forced fumble.

Cowart, a former five-star recruit who originally played at Auburn, enters the Terrapins program with a lot to prove.  He left the Tigers in the fall of 2017 and enrolled at Hillsborough Community College to ensure he wouldn’t lose a year.  The former Florida Class 6A Player of the Year dealt with injuries during his previous stint and never seemed to get into a flow.  Technically, he has to play more to his frame when fighting pressure from offensive linemen.  On the plus side, he demonstrated enough versatility to play both defensive end and defensive tackle in limited SEC action.  When motivated, he has the power and strength to be a block destructor.  After doing so, he can re-map his courses and close distances in short areas.  His speed/power ratio seems to be a fit for the Big Ten.  Will it translate?

Prediction: 4-8

Maryland will miss out on a bowl game for the second straight season, according to Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson. The Terps will fall to Texas in the season opener, Temple, Michigan State and Ohio State at home and on the road to Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and Penn State. 

2018 Preview: Kentucky Wildcats

Season outlook

Head coach Mark Stoops’ defense got a boost when it found out senior safety Mike Edwards and senior linebacker Josh Allen (6’5, 230) would forgo the NFL Draft and return for another season in Lexington.  The defense should be in solid hands behind the two stalwarts.  On offense, junior running back Benny Snell, Jr. (5’11, 223) was productive, finishing the 2017 campaign with 1,333 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. The key for the Wildcats will be who is under center.  Sophomores Gunnar Hoak (6’4, 206) and Terry Wilson (6’3, 205) will battle it out in camp to decide the starter.  No matter who wins, Stoops will look for ball security. The Wildcats enjoyed a bowl- eligible season behind Stephen Johnson, who completed 60 percent of his passes and threw just seven interceptions. If Kentucky can get the same type of smart quarterback play in 2018, look for them to compete in the SEC East.

Troy’s player to watch

7 Mike Edwards 6’0 201 S-Senior
Edwards has contributed 196 tackles, nine and a half tackles for losses, seven interceptions and 15 pass break-ups the last two seasons.

Edwards has led SEC defensive backs in tackles for consecutive seasons.  The senior safety likes to crowd the line of scrimmage and is a force in run support.  He also has a knack for picking off opposing quarterbacks.  Last season, Edwards had four interceptions. Look for the Cincinnati native to continue to fine tune his craft this season and make the jump to the NFL in the spring.

Game of the season

September 8th at Florida
Kentucky went toe-to-toe with Florida last season before ultimately falling 28-27.  This year, the Wildcats will have to travel to Gainesville during the second week of the season. Stoops’ team could establish themselves as a legitimate power in the SEC East if they can secure a statement win against the Gators.

DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch

8 Derrick Baity 6’3 186 CB-Senior

Kentucky senior cornerback Derrick Baity (No. 8 pictured) posted 11 passes defensed in 2017.

Although Baity has been beaten down the field on occasion (see Hall, Missouri ’17), he exhibits good feet in off-man for a taller cornerback.  In addition, he contains the necessary short memory to continue to battle after giving up plays.  While capable of reading the action instinctively to tackle on plays in front of him, there is some body-block tackling in his game.  The Wildcats have three pro prospects at the cornerback position (Chris Westry, Lonnie Johnson) entering 2018 and Baity is arguably the most fluid of the trio.  For him to carve out early-round consideration, he has to clean up the occasional concentration lapses that show up week-to-week.

Prediction: 7-5

According to DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson, Kentucky will fall to Florida and Tennessee on the road and Mississippi State, Georgia and South Carolina at home. The Wildcats will still win enough games to qualify for a third consecutive bowl game. 

2018 Season Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

Season outlook

As fall camp kicks off, Ohio State will have to navigate life without Urban Meyer, who is currently on administrative leave.  Not only will they have to make up for Meyer’s absence, but also the departures of numerous NFL draft picks.  However, if anyone is equipped to handle change it’s the Ohio State Buckeyes, who will have talent across the board.  Sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins (6’3, 220) was impressive in spot duty last year and will take over at quarterback for J.T. Barrett.  The sophomore quarterback completed six of his seven passes against Michigan and for the season threw four touchdowns against just one interception.  Haskins can rely on sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins (5’10, 214) and sophomore tight end Luke Farrell (6’6, 250) to take some of the pressure off of his shoulders.  On defense, the Buckeyes will control the trenches with junior defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Dre’mont Jones (6’3 286).  The Buckeyes have all the talent in the world and should once again be in the running for a College Football Playoff appearance.

Troy’s player to watch

97 Nick Bosa 6’4 263 DE-Junior
Bosa comes from NFL genes but he is an NFL-caliber player in his own right.  He was named the conference’s lineman of the year and led the Buckeyes with eight sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 2017. The junior defensive lineman has the tools to be a top five draft pick and if he turns in another stellar season, look for him to enter the NFL Draft after his junior season.

Game of the season

September 29th at Penn State
The Buckeyes squeaked past the Nittany Lions last year, 39-38, in Columbus. This year’s renewal of the rivalry could be just as close a contest.  The last two years the battle has had major conference and bowl game implications, and this year it has the makings to be the same.  Look for Ohio State to play one of their most competitive games of the season on September 29th in Happy Valley.

DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch

83 Terry McLaurin 6’1 205 WR-Senior
The last time a wide receiver stood out wearing No. 83 at Ohio State was the late Terry Glenn, one of the best players in school history.  Despite catching just 29 passes in 2017, McLaurin -a 4.4 speedster- put six of those receptions in the end zone.  Dating back to his freshman campaign, he has also shown up on special teams (7 tackles in 2015).  While his speed is a factor, he has to demonstrate more of an ability running the route tree to get looks from NFL scouts as an outside the numbers threat.  He’s actually shown an ability to work the sidelines and settle into soft zones versus zone coverage.  His strength and balance are perhaps his most impressive attributes.  McLaurin will test well for NFL scouts.

Prediction:  12-0

Even with some uncertainty at head coach, Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting an undefeated regular season and another appearance in the College Football Playoff for the Buckeyes. Contests against Penn State and Michigan State on the road could be problematic, but the Buckeyes have the personnel to beat everyone in the Big Ten. 

2018 Season Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

 Season outlook

Larry Fedora will have to make do without 13 suspended players to begin the season. Nine of the 13 players including sophomore quarterback Chazz Surratt will miss four games. Since multiple players share the same positions, Fedora will have the option of staggering the suspensions. However, even with a fully equipped roster, it will be an uphill climb for the Tar Heels, who finished 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the ACC. The Tar Heels will be able to hang their hat offensively on their skilled positions. The trio of sophomore running back Michael Carter (5’9, 195), junior tight end Carl Tucker (6’2, 255) and junior wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams (6’1, 205) will be the core of the offense. Defensively, the position most hurt by the suspensions will be defensive end. Sophomore Tomon Fox (6’3, 250) and senior Malik Carney (6’3, 245) will both miss four games apiece. Junior defensive back Myles Dorn (6’2, 210) is one player Fedora will be able to count on. Dorn finished last season with two interceptions and 71 tackles. Dorn has the skill to join fellow former defensive back M.J. Stewart in the NFL one day.

Troy’s player to watch

17 Anthony Ratliff-Williams 6’1 205 WR-Junior

“Do it all” is the best way to describe junior wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams. Ratliff-Williams, a former quarterback, has made the transition to wide receiver and kick returner over the past two seasons.  In 2017, Ratliff-Williams averaged 26 yards per kick return and returned two kicks for scores.  He added 35 receptions for 630 yards and six touchdowns.  Look for Ratliff-Williams to once again be featured early and often on special teams and as a receiver in 2018.

Game of the season 

October 20th at Syracuse

The Tar Heels won just one game last season in the ACC. Games against Virginia Tech and Miami could be tough, but North Carolina has to be able to win games against teams that finished with similar records as them last year. Syracuse finished with two wins in the conference a year ago. Both teams will need every victory to become bowl-eligible. Their midseason matchup could decide the postseason fate of both teams.

DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch

36 Cole Holcomb 6’1 215 LB-Senior

Holcomb, pictured, posted a career-high 115 tackles in 2016.

Holcomb has always impressed in the weight room and he can notably squat nearly 600 pounds.  He has decent foot speed and has even been used off the edge to rush the quarterback.  In 2017, he turned in his second-best season and that produced 93 tackles and 2.5 tackles for losses.  Equally adept in coverage, he has gotten his hands on a number of balls.  While only adequate taking on lead blockers, he still needs to add slightly more mass.  He injured his right shoulder in 2017.

 Prediction: 5-7

DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting a slim improvement over last season. Fedora’s team will win five games and narrowly miss out on bowl eligibility. The Tar Heels will fall to Miami, California, UCF, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Duke.

2018 Preview: USC Trojans

Season outlook

The USC Trojans will try and defend their Pac-12 Championship after losing quarterback Sam Darnold in the first round of the NFL Draft.  USC has three options currently battling it out in camp for the position: freshmen JT Daniels (6’2, 205) and Jack Sears (6’3, 205), as well as sophomore Matt Fink (6’3, 190).   No matter who wins the competition, the quarterback will have a strong running back and defense to depend on.  Sophomore running back Stephen Carr (6’0, 210), who suffered a back injury in 2017, ran for 363 yards in eight games last season and 119 of those came in Week 2 against Stanford.  On defense, the Trojans have a lot of talent at defensive back and linebacker.  Senior safety Marvell Tell and senior linebacker Cameron Smith (6’2, 250) are both All-American talents that should make their way to the NFL after the season.  If the Trojans can get production in the trenches and from their quarterback, look for them to win the Pac-12.

Troy’s player to watch

7 Marvell Tell III 6’2 195 FS-senior
Tell III (No. 7 pictured), a former high school wide receiver, has been solid in run support during his time as a Trojan.

Marvell Tell has the sideline-to-sideline range and ability to help in run support that NFL scouts covet.  Tell finished last season with 85 tackles and three interceptions. The senior safety earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2017 and projects as one of the best free safeties in college football.  If Tell can maintain his productivity, he could have a chance to be an early-round selection in next April’s NFL Draft

Game of the season

September 8th against Stanford
USC defeated Stanford twice last season and will be tested again during the second week of the season against the Cardinal.  In the Pac-12 championship last season, Stanford lost to the Trojans 31-28. This matchup will pit potentially the two best teams in the Pac-12.  Stanford is one of the favorites to win the North division alongside Washington and USC is the odds-on favorite to win the South division.  Look for David Shaw and the Cardinal to bring their best game to the Coliseum.

DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch

35 Cameron Smith 6’2 245 LB-Senior

Smith was a three-sport athlete at Granite Bay High School (California) in football, baseball and wrestling.

While Smith does some crossing over at times in the box, his instincts make up for it.  He routinely wins with his key-and-diagnose.  There is, however, some stiffness present in his game and he’ll have to prove to NFL scouts that he can cover over the course of the next year.  His ability to finish on the ball in zone coverage is an added bonus.  The four-year starter is not a smacker, but he is a sound tackler capable of lining up the defense from snap-to-snap.

Prediction:  10-2 overall

The Trojans will win one more regular season game than they did a year ago.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting two losses for the Trojans: one on the road against Stanford and another at home against Notre Dame.

2018 Season Preview: Northwestern Wildcats

Season outlook

Pat Fitzgerald’s team has won 27 games over the past three seasons but his Wildcats haven’t been able to make an appearance in the Big Ten Championship game.  Once again, division foes Iowa and Wisconsin will field strong teams and offer Northwestern tough competition.  Senior quarterback Clayton Thorson (6’4, 225) has started every game over the last three seasons and is on the watchlist for the Maxwell Award.  The biggest key for Thorson will be how he recovers from a serious injury suffered in the 2017 Music City Bowl.  With the departure of Justin Jackson,  sophomore running back Jeremy Larkin (5’10, 194) will take over the duties of carrying the rock.  On defense, the Wildcats have playmakers at every level.  Senior cornerback Montre Hartage leads the charge on the back end, junior defensive end Joe Gaziano (6’4, 280) sets the edge and sophomore linebacker Paddy Fisher (6’4, 245) mans the second level of the defense.

Troy’s player to watch

24 Montre Hartage 6’0 190 CB-Senior
 

Hartage has started 26 straight games at cornerback and has worked himself into somewhat of a shutdown corner. The senior has eight career interceptions and will enter 2018 as the best defensive back on the roster.  The Wildcats return three potential All-Conference players in its front seven, which should alleviate some of the responsibilities on the back end for Hartage. Look for the cornerback to have another strong season, if opposing quarterbacks choose to throw his way. 

Game of the season

October 6th at Michigan State
Northwestern has defeated the Spartans in consecutive years.  Last year’s contest was a game to remember,  as the Wildcats bested the Spartans in a triple overtime 39-31 thriller in Evanston.  This year, the Wildcats will have to travel to East Lansing to face a Michigan State team that returns a number of starters.  If the Wildcats want to put the Big Ten on notice as a contender in the West division, a win against the Spartans will go a long way.

DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch

32 Nate Hall 6’2 230 LB-Senior

Hall finished 2017 with 79 tackles, six quarterback sacks, 16.5 tackles for losses, two interceptions and six pass break-ups.

Hall throws his body around and reacts quickly versus blockers.  Perhaps more importantly, he can react instinctively versus the passing game.  The weakness for him revolves around his man-to-man coverage skill.  His pursuit angles can be hit-or-miss in pursuit.  With all of that said, his ability to rush the passer and make plays in zone coverage provides a unique combination for the Wildcats.  If he can drop his pad level with more consistency, look for Hall to take the next step as a prospect.

Prediction:  8-4

Northwestern will start the season 4-0 but will stumble across the finish line, according to Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson. The Wildcats will lose on the road against Michigan State and Iowa and at home against Wisconsin and Notre Dame. 

2018 Season Preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

 Season outlook 

Scott Frost will attempt to complete his second redemption story in as many seasons.  Last year, Frost led UCF to a 13-0 record and a bowl game victory against Auburn following a 6-7 season in 2016.  The former Cornhuskers quarterback will guide a Nebraska squad which finished 4-8 in 2017.  The Cornhuskers aren’t as talented as they were in the eighties, but they do have a few skill position players to rely on in Frost’s spread offense. Junior running back Tre Bryant (5’11, 201) and senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. (6’1, 201) will be counted on to serve as gamechangers.  Bryant returns to the Cornhuskers after missing 10 games last season with a knee injury.  However, in just two games of action, Bryant totaled 299 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Oregon and Arkansas State.  Defensively, sophomore defensive lineman Ben Stille (6’5, 290) will be counted on to stuff the run and rush the passer after making an impact in his freshman season. Stille finished with 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in 2017. Frost doesn’t have the talent that he had last year at UCF and the Cornhuskers face a tough schedule, but the new head coach does have enough pieces to lay the foundation for the future. 

Troy’s player to watch

8 Stanley Morgan, Jr.  6’1 200 WR-Senior
Morgan, Jr. enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, posting 986 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.  The senior wide receiver recorded 259 yards against Penn State and Iowa, two of the best pass defenses in the Big Ten, to end the season.  Morgan, Jr. is able to make catches in traffic, reminiscent of Odell Beckham Jr., another New Orleans native.  He has the size and speed that will make him a candidate to go in the first three rounds of the draft after the season.

Game of the season

September 15 against Troy
The Troy Trojans are coming off an 11-2 season and a 7-1 conference record in the Sun Belt. Scott Frost will have to navigate an early non-conference slip-up against the Trojans, who will be prepared for FBS competition. In Week 1, Troy will play Boise State.  Don’t expect the Trojans to come into Lincoln wide-eyed, and this Week 3 matchup should provide a close contest for the Cornhuskers.

DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch

24 Aaron Williams 5’11 195 DB-Senior

Williams has shown an ability to come under control to make inside-out sideline tackles.  He has also shown requisite skill when it comes

Williams has notched five interceptions and one touchdown during his three-year stint in Lincoln.

to filling on as an eighth man in the box.  His overall thump as a tackler is just adequate and some of this has to do with average size.  For him to get looks from NFL scouts next spring, he has to improve in coverage.  Quicker wide receivers have given him problems in man-to-man coverage.

Prediction: 4-8

Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson is projecting a tough season for Scott Frost in Year 1. The Cornhuskers may be improved on the field from last year but the schedule doesn’t do Nebraska any favors. Jefferson is predicting losses against Troy, Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa.

2018 Season Preview: Arkansas Razorbacks

Season outlook

Morris (pictured with Houston HC Major Applewhite before a 2017 contest) won eight conference games in three seasons at SMU.

Bret Bielema is gone and first-year head coach Chad Morris is now the head man in charge in Little Rock.  Morris spent three seasons at SMU, amassing a 14-22 overall record and an 8-16 record in the American Athletic Conference.  Things won’t get any easier in the SEC but Morris will have some pieces to work with.  Offensively, senior left guard Hjalte Froholdt (6’5, 315) and sophomore running back Chase Hayden (5’10, 200) will be tasked with making plays in the running game. Froholdt has started 25 straight games at guard after transitioning from the defensive line. Hayden finished the 2017 season with 326 yards and four touchdowns on 61 carries before suffering a leg fracture in October.  Defensively, the linebackers are the position group of strength. Junior linebacker De’Jon Harris and senior linebacker Dre Greenlaw (6’0, 227) have the talent to transition to new defensive coordinator John Chavis’ 4-3 defense after playing in the 3-4 in 2017.  Chavis comes from Texas A&M after spending five years at LSU. The new defensive coordinator is used to coaching in the SEC and his units consistently produce NFL draft picks. In a season which could include its bumps and bruises, expect the Razorbacks defense to adapt quicker than its offense. 

Troy’s player to watch

8 De’Jon Harris 6’0 244 LB-Junior
The junior linebacker did it all for the Razorbacks defense last season. He led the team in tackles (115), tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (3.5) in 2017.   Harris finished second in the conference in tackles and was named second-team All-SEC.  The list of NFL linebackers Arkansas has produced includes Matrell Spaight, Caleb Miller and Tony Bua.  Harris is an every-down linebacker who will be counted on to lead the Razorbacks through a rebuilding process.

Game of the season 

September 29th vs. Texas A&M
Arkansas won just one conference game last season but did take Texas A&M into overtime before ultimately falling.  The Razorbacks will get a chance to avenge their loss from a year ago in Arlington.  A win against the Aggies could drastically accelerate the rebuild in Little Rock.

Prediction: 6-6

Arkansas won just four games last season but DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting a two-game improvement in 2018.  The Razorbacks will suffer losses to North Texas, Auburn, Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State. The Razorbacks may become bowl-eligible, but still are a long way  from competing with the conference’s elite teams.