You know the drill. Tuesday morning means one thing, and one thing only…it’s time for the fifth edition of Draft Class Heroes!
Today we focus on Monday night’s matchup between Florida State and Virginia Tech, a couple wide receivers that stood out on Saturday and the miserable early returns of a Seminoles offense that was supposed to be turning over a new leaf under Willie Taggart.
Draft Class Superhero of the Week: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
Not much went Florida State’s way on Monday night, but junior edge rusher Brian Burns was as advertised. Because of the Hokies quick-hitting passing attack, Burns didn’t have a lot of opportunities to tee off the line of scrimmage, but he was outstanding versus the run all night. He consistently broke down in the backfield, made plays outside his frame and hustled to get in on stops away from his gap.
Brian Burns spin move for the sack! pic.twitter.com/TEGi6sb73q
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) September 4, 2018
Of course, everyone is going to talk about his big-time spin move for a sack to get the Seminoles defense off the field on third down, but I had seen Burns do those things before. What really excited me was his ability to consistently work from a three-point stance and hold the point of attack as a lankier edge defender. Burns’ all-around game is growing, and the NFL is going to take notice – if they haven’t already.
1. Trevon Hill, EDGE, Virginia Tech
Hill was a pleasant surprise in a pretty ugly game between Florida State and Virginia Tech, showing the ability to consistently win with speed and bend as a pass rusher. He gave the Seminoles left tackle fits all night long, boasting traits that could cause his stock to skyrocket this season.
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) September 4, 2018
I need to get a full eval of Hill, but I’ve seen enough to know he can corner. Can he add variety to his rush game and counter when his first move gets locked up? I have some concerns there, but those things can typically be taught. You can’t teach the natural traits that Hill possesses, which has me very intrigued coming out of Week 1.
2. N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
Let’s start with this: against UTSA, Harry should light up the box score. And he did. That part wasn’t a surprise.
But this? This was a surprise. Against anyone.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) September 3, 2018
Sure, UTSA ain’t winning any tackling awards, but Harry’s ability to create with the ball in his hands was a story all night long. I didn’t get the feeling I was watching a great athlete when I studied his 2017 tape, but Harry does have uncanny elusiveness in space, as well as the vision to work free from difficult situations.
This N’Keal Harry TD is just gross
— TheHerdNow (@TheHerdNow) September 3, 2018
I don’t know how fast he is, and his route tree is definitely going to need some work. But we are going to enjoy plenty of highlight moments from Harry this season, especially considering some of the Pac-12 secondaries he’ll face. I fully expect him to be one of the more polarizing prospects in the class over the next eight months.
3. T.J. Vasher, WR, Texas Tech
This dude can go up and get it! Brad Kelly tried telling me about Vasher, but I didn’t have time to get to his tape in-depth this summer. I may have to now.
T.J. Vasher* with the incredible catch for Texas Tech pic.twitter.com/Wy9ulaICXx
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 1, 2018
Most of you have probably seen Vasher’s insane one-handed catch down the sideline by now, but he made another great adjustment on a vertical ball later in the game too. He has crazy hops, a ridiculous catch radius and terrific body control. Tight coverage doesn’t bother Vasher, as he plays through contact well to reel in contested grabs.
He needs a lot of polish and work, but at 6-foot-6, Vasher has a ton of traits the NFL will really covet if he declares next spring as a redshirt sophomore.
Villain of the Week: Florida State’s offense
Let’s pretend for a second that we were just considering underachieving college football offenses for this category. The choices would be plentiful right? Washington, Michigan, Miami…plenty of deserving options. But despite the myriad of choices, Florida State still managed to make those guys look like NFL teams.
This was an inept offensive performance of epic proportions, from the coaching to the offensive line to the quarterback. We’ll start with Willie Taggart, he of the 47-50 (now 51) win-loss record as a head coach. His schemes were predictable, he got cute in key situations and he continued to take the ball out of Deiondre Francois’ hands at the most important moments of the game.
It’s hard to completely blame him however, as Florida State’s offensive line led the floodgates descend on Francois after a strong first quarter. Plagued by inept coaching on their offensive line for years, the Seminoles’ picked up where they left off last season, exhibiting poor pass sets and strike timing, as well as a lack of pre-snap recognition of pressure.
That doesn’t absolve Francois of blame either. The quarterback was not given much help most of the night, especially in the first quarter when he started out 8-10, with one of his two incompletions coming on a dropped touchdown. But as the game went on, Francois held the ball too long, was inefficient with his pocket movement and made two costly throws into coverage that resulted in interceptions (he had three picks total, but one was a tip at line of scrimmage).
Almost every aspect of Florida State’s offense was unwatchable, but Taggart should shoulder most of the blame. The play-calling was head-scratching all night, with no gaffes bigger than those that came in the red zone. His offense looks strikingly similar to what he has run in the past, with very little variety or adaptations visible in this game. Virginia Tech was teeing off on several of his concepts, and when Florida State did earn something offensively, it was almost always due to a great individual effort to break a few tackles.
The Seminoles looked out of sync, clueless on defense in the first half and a sloppy mess on offense for all four quarters. Five turnovers and going 0-4 in the red zone against a defense with nine new starters is a brutal way to begin your season. The Taggart era was supposed to represent hope at Florida State, and maybe someday it will. For now, the questions the Seminoles faced after last season seem to have followed them into 2018.
In the lair this week…
- Today I’ll be dropping the five rookie storylines I’m most excited to follow this NFL season
- You can expect scouting reports to drop on Notre Dame linebackers Drue Tranquill and Asmar Bilal, as well as safety Alohi Gilman, defensive end Khalid Kareem and tight end Alize Mack. Also need to get eyes on Mississippi State cornerback Jamal Peters, who Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller called a potential first round talent this past week on Twitter.
- I’ll be hosting a Periscope on Twitter each Saturday night following most of the college football games, offering my thoughts on the top performances of the day and who jumped out at me from a scouting perspective.
- The rest of my written content will be at the mercy of what happens during the football games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Yeah, you read that right. Five days of football in a row starts in two days. What a wonderful time of the year.