Offense: Juwan Johnson, WR, Oregon
It is critical to highlight the role that Juwan Johnson just played in the shellacking of the USC Trojans, 56-24. He almost outscored USC himself, reeling in all three of senior QB and honorable standout Justin Herbert's passing touchdowns on eight targets, seven catches, and 106 yards.
This was the single most dominant game of Johnson's career, which included over 30 games at Penn State before he grad transferred to Oregon this spring. Johnson's had to endure some calf issues across the beginning of the season, which drained the explosiveness out of a receiving corps that lost a huge volume target (75 receptions and 10 TDs) in current Minnesota Viking Dillon Mitchell. Tight end Jacob Breeland helped fill the void before he lost the season to injury, gadget weapon Jaylon Redd took on an increased role, and freshman wideout Mycah Pittman flashed -- but the receiving corps was thin at best, and a downright liability at worst.
Johnson began to flash last weekend against Washington State, as his penultimate catch and run set up the game-winning field goal over the feisty Cougars -- but this performance today truly illustrates what he can be as a primary receiving threat for a Ducks offense that desperately needs the receiving firepower. As he is a fifth-year senior, Johnson is on his way to the NFL, and must continue to string together performances such as these to get himself on the radar of a talented WR class. This game against the Trojans is the closest to tapping his potential's ceiling that he's ever been.
Defense: Amari Henderson, CB, Wake Forest
True, Amari Henderson is Joe Marino's dude -- and true, Joe wrote about him in this week's stock report. But I still needed to get a word in on the play of this, the other of Wake Forest's talented CB duo that we may have to begin calling the primary of the two.
Essang Bassey is a talented player for the Demon Deacons, but he likely projects to the nickel position best, and his disinterest in the more physical aspects of playing the position -- that's tackling and pressing within the contact window -- illustrate some concern in his stickiness in a starting role.
Henderson, on the other hand, has no such issues. A 6-foot-1 corner pushing 200 pounds, the fifth-year DB has the requisite length and strength to win through the contact window and into the catch point, as he's done often this season -- his 4 INTs lead the ACC right now, and his two picks against a first-time starter at QB for NC State now put him T-5th on the career ACC list for passes defensed. He and Pitt CB Dane Jackson are racing to the finish line with 37 apiece, while Bassey is 2nd all-time with 40, only just behind M.J. Stewart with 41. We could have multiple record-setters in this conference by the time it's all said and done.
But records aside, Henderson's on pace to have his most productive season after starting the last three years, so he'll end his career with NFL measurables, production, and almost 40 career starts. All it takes is the tape to match before we have a prospect worthy of a much earlier ranking than we're all considering for him.