When former Georgia Tech wide receiver Darren Waller came out of school in an option-based offense back in 2014, he was largely an afterthought for many NFL teams. This despite standing 6-foot-6, weighing 238 pounds and running in the 4.4-range. After all, he started just 12 games over his last two seasons for the Yellow Jackets. His first few seasons in the NFL as a Baltimore Raven were largely unproductive, but Waller has become one of the NFL’s most versatile tight ends. We revisit our report on Waller from DraftNasty’s 2015 NFL Draft Manual.
Two run heavy offenses squared off in Detroit in the Quick Lane Bowl. However, Minnesota was able to make more plays in the passing game, en route to a 34-10 victory over Georgia Tech. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:
62 Jared Weyler (6’4 300) Minnesota OC/OG- Senior
Weyler has missed time over his career in Minnesota with a torn tricep and a torn ACL but when he is on the field, he provides toughness and leads the heavy run Gophers offense. The senior can play both guard and center. He is not the most athletic prospect and looks a little stiff when forced to block on screens. Against Georgia Tech, he did show the ability to call out blocking formations and provide a clean lane for his runners. Weyler, a captain for the Golden Gophers, projects best at the next level as a center.
24 Mohamed Ibrahim (5’10 205) Minnesota RB-Freshman
Ibrahim is only a freshman but he impressed all season long with his ability to serve as a workhorse running back. Despite his 31 touches in the Quick Lane Bowl, Ibrahim never looked tired or worn down. He is also a willing blocker in passing formations. For the season, Ibrahim finished with 1,160 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 202 carries. The running back from Olney, Maryland, didn’t get a chance to show his ability to catch very much this year (four receptions for 26 yards). In a few years, look for Ibrahim’s name to come up as a potential NFL prospect.
6 Tyler Johnson (6’2 200) Minnesota WR-Junior
Johnson is the best receiving weapon for the Golden Gophers. His explosiveness off the line of scrimmage is lethal. He was able to sell a move to the inside in order to get a clean release on the outside for a touchdown in the first quarter. Against Georgia Tech, Johnson hauled in two touchdowns on four receptions for 57 yards. For the season, Johnson had 78 catches for 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns. Johnson projects best as an X-receiver, who has the skills off the line to scare cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage.
Look here at how Johnson uses explosiveness in his routes, high- points the football and makes a play:
3 Tre Swilling (6’0 195) Georgia Tech CB-Freshman
The son of former Saints Pro Bowler Pat Swilling, the younger version stood out in the Quick Lane Bowl because of his clean hips and ability to mirror receivers. Swilling didn’t see much action to his side against Minnesota and at times it looked as if the Golden Gophers offense was intentionally avoiding him. For the season, Swilling had one forced fumble, an interception and six pass deflections. Swilling has the skills and bloodlines to be a next level talent. As the years go on, his progress will be worth monitoring.
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 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.
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.
In many ways, Chevez “Chevy” Clarke headed into the summer just like most people his age. He graduated from high school and
began readying himself for an impending college career.
But being 18-years-old is probably the link that most aligns this young man with his peers. Some graduates get summer jobs, some get extended vacations, and others start working diligently on getting accepted into the most coveted academic programs in their
On May 22nd, he graduated with his Marietta High School senior class in greater Atlanta. Less than half a month later, Clarke’s life
changed indefinitely, before most of his classmates had likely packed away their caps and gowns. On June 7th, he was selected in the
Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Angels, and thus, shaped his future in a way that most high school
graduates can’t fathom.
For a moment, it was even difficult for Clarke to digest.
“The first thing I did when I heard my name called was hug my mother and she cried on my shoulder,” the center fielder recalled. “At
that moment, it just felt real.”
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound switch hitter’s reality looked promising even prior to the draft though. Clarke was prepared to attend
Georgia Technology Institute this fall on scholarship, and admitted that he was pleased with both the academic climate and athletic
program at the Atlantic Coast Conference affiliate. And as he sat in his residence with a small contingent of family and friends
watching the Draft, he was content with that future.
“I was really and truly prepared to go to Georgia Tech,” he noted. “As I was watching the Draft, really, all that was going through my
mind was that everything was going to be okay no matter what. I had a clear mind. I was just trying to relax. I expected the worst
situation, and for me that would be not going on the first day. If that situation would have occurred, I was prepared to deal with that
Fortunately for Clarke, he didn’t have to cross that bridge. In the first round with the 30th pick, the Angels took the former Blue Devil
All-American. Interestingly, he was the third player selected by Los Angeles in the opening round. The first two picks, Kaleb Cowart
and Cameron Bedrosian, were both prep standouts from the state of Georgia as well.
The athletic outfielder’s selection was little surprise to anyone who has followed baseball’s top prospects in the past year. Clarke spent
just one year at Marietta but left an indelible mark on the program. He batted .403 last season for the Blue Devils, with five home runs,
14 RBI, and 17 stolen bases.
Therefore, it was especially not news to Marietta head baseball coach Chris Stafford when Clarke was drafted. “Clarke is the most
talented kid that I’ve had the chance to coach,” he told the Marietta Daily Journal. “It’s been exciting all year… (The Angels) said that
if (Clarke) was still available that they would take him at the 30th pick.”
Stafford claimed to jump in elation when he heard Clarke’s name before quickly driving over to his house to congratulate his former
player. But once the celebration had exhausted itself, Clarke wasted little time basking in the euphoria.
“I’m just ready to play baseball,” he professed. “Really, all this is great, but I’m eager to get on the field.”
The Angels organization obviously held the same sentiments. A month after drafting Clarke, Los Angeles signed him to a $1.089
million contract. A few days later the leadoff batter was assigned to the Arizona Rookie League and debuted on July 9th with an
impressive performance against the Athletics, going 2-for-3 in the Angels’ 14-4 victory.
Clarke knows that performances like these will help spiral his path toward the Majors. Like millions, he witnessed the highly publicized
debut of Washington Capitals pitcher Stephen Strasburg earlier this season. Even more thrilling was that Strasburg sailed beyond the
lofty expectations, wowing even the casual baseball fan into a frenzy.
Clarke watched but when asked if he has envisioned his own Major League debut, he digressed.
“It was exciting seeing what he did,” Clarke stated. “But I’m not even concerned with that right now. I haven’t set any goals yet as far
as that. We’re working on a plan now. All I want to do is stay focused on the present and in the future if my situation turns out like
(Strasburg’s) that will be great.”
As prosperous as the 18-year-old’s future appears to be, it’s only possible because of his past. Yes, Clarke’s youth can be misleading.
While most onlookers marvel at the prospect’s potential, he reflects on a career that began in his back yard when he was just
“I had the dinosaur bat and everything,” he joked, referring to the memory of when his parents first introduced him to the game. “It
grew from there. I started playing organized ball when I was five and haven’t stopped.”
When Clarke tosses out the word “focus” he doesn’t do so recklessly. His athletic career is provocative proof. He played football one
season, at the age of 10. Outside of that brief distraction, his complete athletic attention has been devoted to the diamond. According to Clarke, his faithfulness to the game has been the product of something beyond his own will. The former Yellow Jacket commit credits his parents with more than just introducing him to the game. Overwhelmingly, he cites them, Kenneth and Cortina Clarke, for a bulk of his recent success.
“They’ve supported me through the whole process,” he acknowledged. “Man, my parents have been with me every step of the way. They’ve been to every game, put a lot of time and work in for me. It’s amazing. They invested a great deal in me and into this game. I really dedicate a lot to my parents.”
The swift base runner who goes by the nickname “Chevy” to those who know him, has the motor to capitalize on what he and his
parents began playfully doing 16 years ago. He plays nine months of the year, measures his diet closely, and sticks to a strict work out
regiment. He realizes that professional baseball players endure long seasons and contends to be ready for the grind.
“My passion keeps me going,” he exclaimed. “It’s hard for me to have a day when I don’t want to play baseball or be bothered with it.
My love for the game makes me work harder and push that much more to improve. Everyone gets tired but you try to do the things thatkeep you fit. It’s not all physical. Mentally, I try to stay sharp. I read a lot.”
Clarke just recently finished reading the Mental Game of Baseball, and says he is continuously picking up books that inspire him.
Assuredly, he is absolutely still a student, in every facet of his life. In the offseason, for instance, he plans to begin taking college
courses. On the field, he’s studied the work ethic of players like Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins, picking up on things that can’t
be taught or coached.
So in a way, Clarke is more like his former classmates than first advertised. He got the summer job he wanted. In fact, getting paid to
play a sport that he would do for free is as close to an extended vacation as one could envision. And every night he performs in the
Rookie League and subsequent assignments, he is essentially applying for a chance to enter the premiere program in his field, Major League Baseball.
– Patrick Green, DraftNasty.com staff writer, has been writing professionally for more than a decade. He is the author of two
novels, Josie’s Missing Syllabus and Son Down; and while both works deal with topics beyond the athletic landscape, each exposes a
social scope involving sports as an underlying theme. Green has covered high school, college, amateur, and professional football
during his career, having written for newspapers in Augusta, Ga., and Charleston, South Carolina. To learn more about Patrick Green,