Two-point conversions — failed and successful alike — missed chip shots, and a safety. An almost 30-point comeback. A zoomed-out game-winning field goal. Complete misappropriation of credit by graphics, color commentators, and box scores alike.
Welcome to Week 0: the understandably zany dress rehearsal of America’s most unpredictable sport.
I had a blast watching Colorado State and Hawai’i duke it out in a nailbiter; little less fun watching Wyoming trounce New Mexico State. But it was still a hoot, because college football is back, and it iss as wacky as ever.
It was a better day for pro prospects than you might believe, reading the four schools listed. I came in with five or six preseason names starred and left with impression on a few more. Let’s run it through.
Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors 43, Colorado State Rams 34
The bigger name coming into the battle was Colorado State’s K.J. Carta-Samuels. A graduate transfer from Washington, his eventual landing spot was a matter of big summer interest in on the west coast. UCLA was vying for his services, but the Rams snagged him after the departure of their prolific passer, Nick Stevens, through the NFL Draft.
In his first game, K.J. showed why he was so sought after. He broke a 30-year standing record for single-season passing yards with 537.
That is a lot.
College football just started and records are already being broken
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) August 26, 2018
The most interesting traits KJCS put on display were a decent deep ball, the willingness to take those shots, and the mobility to extend plays to get deep. In the first half, Carta-Samuels was more so limited to the pocket and regimented, timing-oriented throws. The Rams’ offense sputtered to seven points before the half, so they opened up the offense and let Carta-Samuels play some backyard ball — it was to their benefit.
KJCS’s accuracy remains spotty enough, especially to the intermediate levels of the field, that I don’t imagine he’ll be as desirable in the NFL Draft as he was in college free agency. That said, continue putting up 500-burgers, and we’ll be forced to give you more attention.
On the other side of the ball, Rainbow Warriors QB Cole McDonald came in as an unknown quantity. He had only nine career passes to his name, with a potential 2QB situation awaiting him if he struggled.
INCREDIBLE start to the real football season: Cole McDonald, a dual threat QB making his first start, has all five Hawaii touchdowns. Averaging 11.3 YPA w 3 passing TDs, 9.3 YPC w 2 rushing TDs. Here are all 5 TDs. pic.twitter.com/2oh2dBjrD7
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) August 26, 2018
He didn’t struggle.
The redshirt sophomore showed better traits than KJCS, to be frank. He has better size and mobility for sure, and I preferred his ability to work the intermediate levels and move defenders with his eyes. He laced a few tight window throws — he’s got a hose — that made my eyebrows jump. He checks all the traitsy boxes.
McDonald is still young, and made some poor decisions — and that release is super-duper unconventional, which leads to some easy misses. But I’ll be paying attention to his next few games for sure.
And the receivers who benefitted
Both teams fielded two receivers apiece who stood out. Colorado State, by far the better recruiter, had the more notable names. It starts with Preston Williams
A 5-star who originally committed and played in Tennessee, I was excited to see what Williams would offer, but my expectations were low. He hadn’t played ball since 2016, and never broke the rotation for the Volunteers. His stats did little to inspire confidence, and I had no film on his freshman and sophomore years.
WR Preston Williams
Career stats at Tennessee (2 seasons): 16 catches, 247 yards, 2 TDs
Career stats at Colorado State (1 game): 9 receptions, 188 yards, 2 TDs
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) August 26, 2018
This is also a lot.
Colorado State straight fed the man all night long — I don’t have target stats unfortunately, but of KJCS’s 50 attempts, I’d wager 18 went Williams’ way. The first two touches for the Rams offense were designed plays in his direction. He returned kicks. I don’t think they had a red zone trip on which he went without a target. This is excellent news for a talented player looking for a career resurgence.
Williams is listed at 6-foot-3, but I asked Kyle Crabbs how tall he’d guess Williams was, and he said 6-foot-6 — I’m inclined to agree. He has a great catch radius and can make grabs elevated/through contact, which is fantastic news, because he’s not a great separator. He did run some clean routes to creating throwing windows, and it was nice to see him vibe a bit with Carta-Samuels (though they also had some miscommunications).
Introducing, Preston Williams.
It's going to be fun to watch him all year long. pic.twitter.com/Dk5DwbftF8
— Colorado State Football (@CSUFootball) August 26, 2018
Opposite Preston ran Olabisi Johnson, a four-year player for the Rams nicknamed “The Standard.” They really like his work ethic and leadership — but the on-field product ain’t nothing to sneeze at, either. Johnson put up a 6-157-2 line (that’s 26.2 yards/catch, kids!) and couldn’t connect on a couple more deep balls that could have even further inflated his stat sheet.
Johnson profiles more as a slot receiver (5-foot-11 195) at the next level, especially given his downfield inconsistencies. He needs to work on winning with leverage and physicality deep to protect the catch point — as it stands, he often lets defensive backs get back into the play after he beats them. Hit him in stride, however…
Not over yet!
KJ ➡️➡️➡️ Bisi pic.twitter.com/1zNJOi6g2y
— Colorado State Football (@CSUFootball) August 26, 2018
Bisi has great releases and good burst to stack, and should be a nice three-level threat and compliment to Williams’ downfield game. Watch out for the Colorado State passing attack in 2018, folks.
On the Hawai’i side of things, two jitterbug slot types separated themselves, hauling in 18 of the 26 completed passes from McDonald: Cedric Byrd and John Ursua. Their size will present issues in terms of pro translation (Byrd: 5-foot-9 170; Ursua: 5-foot-10 175), but in the Run ‘n Shoot circus Hawai’i deploys, it’s no sweat.
Both excel as separators with good agility and burst alike — Ursua particularly impresses with his ability to explode through his breaks to work into space. The Rainbow Warriors’ coaching staff used him heavily in the red zone, given his sharp footwork and good hands when going to the ground, and he rewarded their faith with two touchdown snags.
Cole McDonald to John Ursua for a Touchdown 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/9ekcuC13On
— CFB 24/7 (@NCAAFBNation247) August 26, 2018
I see a better NFL future for Ursua, though Byrd will interest as a punt-returning option given his space ability. Ursua was the clear WR1 in Honolulu before going down with an ACL tear in the middle of the 2017 season — tonight was a good step in proving he’s returned fully to form.
- Colorado State LB Josh Watson (RS Senior, 6-foot-1 240) interests some people. I don’t think he looked very good. Athletically limited in a big way.
- One of the biggest names coming in was Jahlani Tavai, senior ‘backer out of Hawai’i. He violated team rules and was suspended. Sad face.
- Hawai’i has a running back named Dayton Furuta. He is listed at 250 pounds. He might be heavier than that. I want him on my football team.
Wyoming Cowboys 29, New Mexico State Aggies 7
Fewer notes for this one. (New Mexico State: not great!)
New Wyoming stud(s)
The nice thing about having an NFL-draft worthy quarterback as a small school? It brings scouts, who inevitably notice your other players, when they play well. Accordingly, even coming into the season, we knew S Andrew Wingard and DE Carl Granderson alike had garnered some NFL heat for Wyoming, never a school known for having multiple prospects.
Both strike me as Day 3 types. Wingard gets a lot of public run because he’s a tackling machine — three straight seasons of 110+ tackles is, um, good. But I worry a lot about his athleticism at the next level. I don’t think he has the speed to play even as a split-safety deep. His excellent recognition could do well as a robber/box guy in Cover 3, but his change-of-direction issues would still flare up in man coverage reps. Either way, he showcased his characteristic instincts and aggressive downhill play last night.
Granderson looks more promising, but right now there’s still a lot to prove. He’s a RB convert — many were struck by the graphic offered by the broadcast, highlighting his physical transformation:
Picture 1: Carl Granderson entering his freshman year at 6'5, 185 pounds
Picture 2: Carl Granderson at media day in July, standing 6'5 and 261 pounds pic.twitter.com/crOtUKNRaS
— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) August 25, 2018
But the technical transformation requires more time. Granderson has yet to develop a go-to rush move — though he hit a nice long-arm last night, which I find very encouraging — and accordingly doesn’t generate a consistent rush. He did notch a safety last night with a quick inside slant and rip through the offensive tackle.
Many of his best plays come when he cuts inside into that B-gap, and he does well to clear his shoulder and wriggle through that narrow space. However, I remain unconvinced that his flexibility is where it needs to be to be a true “cornering” guy yet. As such, I need to see more explosiveness and hand usage to feel good about his pro projection.
So who’s the stud? That’s Youhanna Ghaifan, the defensive tackle. He has the advantage of playing at a lighter weight (290 pounds), but boy he seems quick out there. He excels at winning with length and hands early to control reps, and his motor runs hot for every single rep. I think his eyes improve with every game I watch, and more and more experience will help him diagnose even faster. As it stands, he has the profile of a pass-rushing 3-tech — and those matter in the NFL.
- New Mexico State LB Terrill Hanks (Senior, 6-foot-2 225) came in with some buzz. He racks up tackles and lines up everywhere for the defense, but man — he plays without the requisite control to rely upon as a defensive coordinator. So many missed opportunities
- Wyoming RB Nico Evans (RS Senior, 5-foot-9 211) rumbled through the Aggies defense for 190 yards. A good showing undoubtedly — but call me when he plays some tougher front sevens.
- I found DT Roy Lopez (Junior, 6-foot-2 310) the most interesting Aggie. He can penetrate quite well, especially when you consider the mass he’s lugging around. Undisciplined player, though — and not a pass-rusher at all.