Let’s not mince words: Week 12 in the SEC was ugly. Eight blowouts against non-Power 5 opponents and two blowouts in conference play. The only close game was Ole Miss and Vandy, not exactly organizations of national prominence right now, and even that one was ruined by poor officiating.
Did we have fun regardless, though? We did. Scouting observations still popped up all over the place, although the majority should be taken with a grain of salt given the lopsided advantage of talent in most of these games.
Mississippi State defense not just top-heavy with talent
Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat were their typically dominant selves against Arkansas, but the spotlight finally shifted somewhat to their under-appreciated supporting cast. Nobody else on Mississippi State’s defense will pass up Simmons and Sweat’s draft stock, but several should get long looks as NFL prospects.
Safety Johnathan Abram is already in the midst of a breakout season that continued on Saturday, as he dominated around the line of scrimmage with 12 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks to go with two quarterback hurries. Abram has had too many issues in coverage for my liking, but his size, speed and aggression around the line of scrimmage is sure to boost his stock.
Linebacker Erroll Thompson is only a redshirt sophomore, and I would expect him to return to Mississippi State for at least next season if not two more years. His thumping style has some throwback to it, but he’s a functional athlete who has good instincts in coverage despite not being a great athlete.
Mark McLaurin and Jamal Peters are senior defensive backs with a shot to make a roster if they test well and perform on special teams, while Gerri Green could find a spot as a backup outside linebacker in a 3-4 front with his physicality, solid athleticism and ability to drop in coverage or rush the passer. Chauncey Rivers is only a redshirt junior, but the Last Chance U star’s explosive traits have been on display in a rotational role this year.
Absurd season for Josh Allen continues
It is extremely rare to see a senior make the kind of leap Kentucky edge defender Josh Allen has made this season, going from an afterthought as a prospect to a legitimate first round, potentially even top 15 type of player. But here we are.
Allen added two more sacks against Middle Tennessee State to his season totals, bringing his total to 13 with one regular season game and a bowl game left to play. Allen has four multi-sack games and seven multi-tackle-for-loss games and could be on his way to a 15-sack, 20-TFL season. In the SEC, playing the best talent almost every week. Hats off, and glad he’s already accepted his Senior Bowl invite. Hope he stays in the event over the next two months.
Mike Edwards hive exists here
Every time I watch Kentucky safety Mike Edwards, he moves up my board. He can play deep, in the slot or in the box, showing the balanced skill set to man a number of different roles at a high level. Edwards was a complete monster against MTSU, grabbing a pick-six, forcing a fumble and recording a pair of tackles-for-loss.
Edwards’ ball skills, physicality, non-stop motor and intangibles will make him a coveted mid-round prospect despite his lack of elite size and athleticism. I think he has the traits to start early in his career, even if his ceiling is never star material.
Don’t look now, but Drew Lock is improving slowly
I’m not going to make more of it than what it is, but the last couple weeks have been the best of Drew Lock that I’ve seen, although improved protection likely has a lot to do with that. Still, Lock has been more decisive and accurate from the pocket in Derek Dooley’s pro-style offense, throwing the ball with confidence to all levels of the field.
Lock’s best throw of the game against Tennessee was dropped by Emanuel Hall in the end zone (drink), but he responded with a couple more dimes as the game went on. He looked comfortable and poised, not dropping his eyes against oncoming pressure nearly as often as he did early in the year. Something to keep in mind next week against Arkansas and in the Tigers’ bowl game.
Will either Tennessee wideout declare?
Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway are not the type of wide receiver prospects who receive early-round buzz, but they do have a specific skill set that could fill a role on an NFL team. Both players are monsters at the catch point, making crazy plays all season long to adjust to balls outside their frame and finish through contact.
Jennings is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds while Callaway looks bigger than his listed 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. Neither are going to win many races or have the best separation quickness through the full route tree at their position, but their ball skills are outstanding. Both have a year of eligibility remaining, so it will be interesting to see if they opt for an early jump for the draft given the rebuilding mode of the Vols. I think they’ll ultimately return to school.
-Another sack for Jachai Polite brings his total to 8.5 for the season, and two more tackles-for-loss run his season tally to 14.5. Not bad for a part-time player who does most of his work on pass-obvious downs. Big decision coming up for Polite after Florida’s last two games.
-Not to throw another tight end at y’all, but Mississippi State senior Justin Johnson caught my eye for the first time on Saturday. Listed 6-foot-3, 247 pounds. Johnson looks like a big wide receiver and showed the ability to run after the catch and get vertical with some decent speed down the seam. He’s done very little in his career as a receiver, but I might have to take a closer look.
–Jared Pinkney stays balling! The Vandy tight end made a diving catch on a great throw from Kyle Shurmur on an over route, part of a 5-catch, 80-yard performance that included a couple tackle-breaking post-catch plays on top of his great hands grab. He would be wise to capitalize on his breakout season (40-653-6) and declare for the draft.
-I’m sure he’ll get an invite, and if he decides to attend, I think Damarkus Lodge will be the best wide receiver at the Senior Bowl outside of maybe Deebo Samuel. He was outstanding after the catch and in the air on Saturday, making this ridiculous one-handed, toe-tapping grab for a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. I can’t wait to see him up close in Mobile.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 18, 2018
-There are so many layers to the A.J. Brown evaluation, and with the junior playing more reps on the outside due to D.K. Metcalf’s injury, the layers are getting thicker. Brown doesn’t appear to have the speed or burst to win down the field against outside corners, or the ability to separate on routes that break back to the football.
His lack of leaping ability is a clear weakness in jump ball situations. Late in the game, Brown had the opportunity to elevate and win two important battles at the catch point and failed to do so either time. I don’t think he’s a better athlete than Lodge in any way.
There’s also the attention to details aspect of the position. Brown did catch what should have been the game-tying touchdown against Vanderbilt, but inexplicably let the ball away from his frame while going to the ground and allowed the defender to knock it loose. The reversal was a poor decision by officials, but Brown’s silly gaffe left the door open for doubt.
At the same time, Brown caught eight passes for 197 yards and a touchdown and remains terrific after the catch, so there are still things to like about his game. I think he’s going to have to test beyond what I believe he’s capable of at the Combine in order to go first round, but he’s still a good player.
-Gonna have to get eyes on Vandy’s Joejuan Williams, a 6-foot-3, 208-pound corner who intercepted his fourth pass of the season against Ole Miss, and broke up his seventh to win the game on fourth down in overtime. Just a junior, we’ll see if he declares.
SEC Power Rankings
5. Mississippi State
6. Texas A&M
10. South Carolina
12. Ole Miss