The State of College Football: Sophomore Studs (2023 NFL Draft)

The Draft Scout is your year-round source for all things college football, NFL and NFL Draft. Don’t wait until February to learn which college players will become the next great prospects. Subscribe today!

It’s no secret that some of the best talent in college football is from the sophomore class. This week we’ll take a look at some of the super sophomores, where I was right/wrong, where the Georgia defense ranks among the legends and why I don’t hate LSU - just their coach. 

Top 25 Rankings
1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Iowa
4. Cincinnati
5. Penn State
6. Oklahoma
7. Michigan
8. Kentucky
9. Oregon
10. Ohio State
11. BYU
12. Coastal Carolina
13. Kentucky
14. Oklahoma State
15. Wake Forest
16. Arkansas
17. Texas
18. Notre Dame
19. Michigan State
20. SMU
21. Arizona State
22. NC State
23. Ole Miss
24. San Diego State
25. Wyoming

Weekly Awards
Offensive Player of the Week:
Bijan Robinson, Texas: 35 carries, 216 yards, 2 TDs
Defensive Player of the Week: Riley Moss, Iowa: 5 tackles, 1 INT
Coach of the Week:
Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

$100 Handshakes
Malik Willis, Liberty: 13/19 287 yards, 1 TD, 14 carries, 144 yards, 2 TDs
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA: 21/32, 235 yards, 1 TD, 19 carries, 96 rushing
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh: 23/36, 389 yards, 4 TDs

Running Back
Tyler Allgeier, BYU: 22 carries, 218 yards, 3 TDs
Brian Robinson Jr., Alabama: 36 carries, 171 yards, 4TDs
Kennth Walker, Michigan State: 24 carries, 126 yards, 3 TDs

Alec Pierce, Cincinnati: 6 catches, 144 yards
Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky: 17 catches, 186 yards, 1 TD
Kayshon Boutte, LSU: 6 catches, 127 yards, 1 TD

Tight End
Greg Dulcich, UCLA: 9 catches, 136 yards
Michael Mayer, Notre Dame: 8 catches, 93 yards
Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina: 5 catches, 95 yards, 2 TD

Offensive Line
Tennessee: 458 rushing yards, 5 TDs
Air Force: 408 yards rushing yards, 5 TDs
Nebraska: 427 rushing yards, 7 TDs

Defensive Line/EDGE
Will Anderson, Alabama: 9 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TFLs
Devonte Wyatt, Georgia: 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 TFLs
DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M: 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2.5 TFLs

Jacquez Jones, Kentucky: 9 tackles, 1 TFL, 
Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State: 11 tackles, 2 TFLs
DeMarvion Overshown, Texas: 10 tackles

Defensive Back
Joey Porter Jr., Penn State: 3 tackles, 1 INT
Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati: 2 tackles, 1 INT
Daxton Hill, Michigan: 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 INT

—Is Kentucky for real?
Not to be a total nerd but first we would have to define “real.” Does Kentucky look good? Yep! Can Kentucky beat LSU next week? Yep. With the way LSU has been playing it should be a competitive game at LSU. Can Kentucky win the SEC East? Nope. Not with Georgia playing the way they are. I hope that answers your question. Kentucky is playing very well, one of their best starts ever, but pump the breaks if you think they can win the division and drug test yourself if you think they can win the conference. BUT, Georgia could very possibly be the only loss this season. 

—Where does this Georgia defense rank for you historically? 
I don’t have a power ranking of all-time defenses (maybe I should) but there are a few that come to mind. 

2011 Alabama allowed just over 8 points per game and had three shutouts in a very talented SEC. That was the year they shutout LSU 21-0 in the National Championship. Actually, any Alabama team from 2009-2012 could make the list. 

2001 Miami was loaded with talent and many consider them the greatest team of all-time. Their defense was specifically special with 21 future NFL players. Led by guys like Vince Wilfork, Ed Reed, Jonathan Vilma, DJ Williams and Sean Taylor - Miami allowed less than 10 points per game. 

1997 Michigan had one of the greatest college football players ever in Charles Woodson and great talent surrounding him as well. Michigan shut offenses down and then Woodson would burn them on punt returns. I think Woodson can thank some of his defensive team mates for helping him win the Heisman Award. 

2021 Georgia is close to getting mentioned with those juggernauts. Georgia has allowed just 23 points through five games (4.6 per game) and shutout two SEC opponents - and one of them was a good Arkansas team. In the next three weeks we’ll find out a lot more about this defense as they take on Auburn, Kentucky and Florida. None of those offenses are great but the wear and tear of the SEC schedule can produce weird results. The strength of the Georgia defense isn’t really their stars, it’s their depth. Jordan Davis, Travon Walker, Devonte Walker and Jalen Carter can have their way against the run, producing pressure against the QB and rotate in and around the defensive line. Their outside linebackers Adam Anderson and Nolan Smith create outstanding pressure on the QB and their middle linebackers (Nakobe Dean, Quay Walker and Channing Tindall) can blitz, play the run and drop in coverage. In the secondary I count five players that I know will be drafted with a young group coming up behind them. 

Where I Was Right / Where I Was Wrong
Right: Cincinnati
I have been banging the drum for the Bearcats since the preseason and now they have finally proven they belong in the College Football Playoff discussion. Cincy handled their business on the road at Notre Dame this weekend and now find themselves No. 5 in the AP poll. The even better news for Cincinnati fans and stans - is that Iowa (3) and Penn State (4) will face each other Saturday while Cincy takes on Temple. Cincinnati should be a top four team the next time the AP poll is released - putting them in legitimate range for the College Football Playoff. 

Wrong: Georgia (kinda)
Last week a tweeted that the gap between Alabama and the rest of college football was bigger than ever. Which could still be accurate but I did want to give Georgia their credit. Georgia appears to be the only team that could even compete with Alabama right now if and if it were not for Georgia we would be crowning Alabama right now. But the Georgia defense is GOOD. They have playmakers at every level of their defense and depth as well. Specifically on their defensive line. The Georgia D-line has four or five draftable guys with Jordan Davis looking like a day one prospect and sophomore Jalen Carter starting to stand out too. Georgia is outsourcing their SEC opponents 99-0 - ZERO points allowed in two conference games. I can’t wait to see Georgia vs Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. 

Final Thoughts
—Sophomore Studs
While looking at guys for the 2022 NFL Draft it’s become pretty obvious that this is not a great draft class. Yes, there are stars like Kyle Hamilton, Evan Neal and a ton of talented pass rushers, but there isn’t star power at quarterback, running back or receiver. However, looking ahead to what the 2023 draft class could look like is special - or so it would seem. Players like Bryce Young, Bijan Robinson, Kayshon Boutte and Michael Mayer are so good that they could be the top guy at their position this year...if they were eligible. And that’s just on offense. The defensive side of the ball might be even better. Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy of Clemson have been one of the most dominant tandems since they stepped on campus - Bresee just tore his ACL - and Will Anderson at Alabama might be the best defender in the Nation. Like, the entire Nation. Including Thibs, Stingley and Hamilton. Anderson looks unstoppable. Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe could be highly drafted linebackers out of Oregon and Eli Ricks is continuing the trend of shutdown corner at LSU. People will tell you it’s way too early to look at the 2023 NFl Draft. And to that I say “F*ck off. We’ve got Madden draft classes to build.” Here are some standouts to add to your 2023 draft class:

QB: Bryce Young, Alabama
RB: Bijan Robinson, Texas; Tank Bigsby, Auburn
WR: Kayshon Boutte, LSU; Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State; Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Mayer, Notre Dame; Arik Gilbert, Georgia
DL: Bryan Bresee, Clemson; Jalen Carter, Georgia
EDGE: Will Anderson, Alabama; Myles Murphy
ILB: Noah Sewell & Justin Flowe, Oregon
DB: Eli Ricks, LSU; Malachi Moore, Alabama

—My love/hate relationship with LSU
A lot of people have taken note of my Ed Orgeron takes and have started to form the idea that I don’t like LSU. Those allegations against me are false. The allegations against Coach O are pending. LSU is a top college football program with good players, great facilities and a top notch tailgate scene. But they need a new head coach in Baton Rouge and they need it before they have to rebuild - don’t wait for a losing season. Coach O is 8-7 since Joe Brady and Joe Burrow won him a National Championship and LSU deserves a top tier head coach. Coach O is a great position coach and a very good recruiter but he is far from the best coach they could have. Call Joe Brady, Matt Campbell, Luke Fickell or any other coach because they should all want this job. I like LSU. I hate Coach O. 

Week 6 Games to Watch
Texas vs Oklahoma, 11:00 CT, ABC
Arkansas @ Ole Miss, 11:00 CT, ESPN
Georgia @ Auburn, 2:30 CT, CBS
Penn State @ Iowa, 3:00 CT, FOX
Alabama @ Texas A&M, 7:00 CT, CBS
Utah @ USC, 7:00 CT, FOX