This week's scouting notebook examines the journey of two former teammates currently guiding their teams to the top, profiles a new Hollywood star born in Oklahoma, looks at one FCS standout hoping to follow in his family's bloodlines, plus the latest NFL Draft buzz ...
THE TALE OF TWO QBs: Ohio State's spring practice featured a spirited quarterback battle, with Dwayne Haskins (6-2, 214, 4.59, #7) and Joe Burrow (6-2, 215, 4.70, #10) fighting for the starting job. Burrow bided his time patiently behind JT Barrett the past two seasons after redshirting in his freshman year. With all signs pointing toward Haskins being the starter, Burrows elected to transfer to LSU during the summer.
Haskins has gotten the Buckeyes off to a 3-0 start, demonstrating a masterful command of the spread attack, while emerging as one of the top deep-ball passers in the nation. The redshirt sophomore kept his mojo going against TCU last week, picking apart the Horned Frogs defense on his way to a proficient 344-yard, three-touchdown performance, which included a handful of passes that he dropped right in the bucket.
His ability to thread a needle and squeeze the ball into tight windows, along with a laser arm, has NFL scouts buzzing. Back in 2002, then USC quarterback Carson Palmer was neither rated by BLESTO or NATIONAL, the two scouting services used by the NFL. Palmer came out of nowhere to win the Heisman Trophy that year and become the No. 1 overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft.
While it's too early to tell whether Haskins can achieve that type of success, he certainly has the traits and skill-set to achieve it.
Meanwhile, Burrow, a graduate transfer who was immediately eligible, has LSU strumming, with two victories over top 10 opponents after a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Auburn.
Cool as a cucumber, Burrow has demonstrated the type of smart decision-making and game management acumen that many NFL teams seek. While his accuracy was subpar at time versus Auburn, he saved his best for last, dissecting the Tigers defense, reading through his progressions and displaying the ability to make all the throws.
Known as a grinder and the son of a football coach (his dad Joe is entering his 14th season as the defensive coordinator at Ohio), the redshirt junior possesses all the intangibles such as leadership, poise in the pocket and a high football IQ. He's also very mobile, can bide time in the pocket and refuses to force throws -- he has 117 career pass attempts without an interception.
Burrow is viewed as an excellent game manager and has No. 6 LSU breathing down the neck of Haskins and the fourth-ranked Buckeyes. In a twist of two tales, these former teammates could ultimately wind up meeting in the College Football Playoff and, further down the road, on Sundays.
A HOLLYWODD STAR IS BORN IN NORMAN: Oklahoma junior wideout Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown (5-11, 162, 4.36, #5) is a big-time vertical threat who can blow the top off any defense and just might be the most explosive, exciting draft-eligible wide receiver prospect.
Brown has really elevated his game this season, showing to be a more polished receiver, expanding his route tree and becoming a more dangerous threat underneath in the passing attack, while showcasing his ability to make defenders miss in the open field.
The Florida native spent this past offseason working out with Antonio Brown and appears to have a much more chiseled frame, which bodes well for his draft stock due to his lack of size. It appears some of Antonio's greatness must have rubbed off on him as well.
"Hollywood" is averaging nearly 22 yards per catch in 2018, piling up 412 receiving yards and three touchdowns through three games. He's eerily similar to DeSean Jackson (Bucs) coming out of Cal and, with his type of speed, could be destined for round 1.
DORTCH THE TORCH: Do-it-all Wake Forest wideout Greg Dortch (5-9, 165, 4.44, #89) has proven to be a lethal weapon with his ability to take it to the house.
The electrifying speed-burner has accumulated quite an impressive resume through his first 11 games for the Demon Deacons, totaling 1,964 all-purpose yards (1,058 receiving) and scoring 12 touchdowns, dating to last year. He also had a pair of spectacular punt returns during Week 2 versus Towson and is averaging more than 27 yards per kick return on the season.
Dortch, a redshirt sophomore, projects as a top 100 overall selection if he comes out.
BANGING DOWN THE DRAFT DOOR: TCU defensive end Ben Banogu (6-3, 245, 4.79, #15) is a long, athletic pass-rusher commanding the attention of NFL scouts. The Texas native, who transferred from Louisiana-Monroe, possesses serious bend on the perimeter to pair with his impressive burst off the snap.
Banogu has also showed the speed necessary to drop back in coverage and keep up with backs and tight ends. Despite a relatively quiet line in the box score against Ohio State last week, we saw glimpses of all these attributes, as he managed to pressure the quarterback on several occasions.
The senior prospect is relentless in pursuit and his athleticism compares to Jason Pierre-Paul (Bucs). If Banogu keeps up his strong play, he could ascend into the first round, much like the way JPP did coming out of USF.
FUTURE WATCH: Boston College running back AJ Dillon (6-0, 240, 4.58, #2) is arguably the most underappreciated player in college football. The bruising back seems to be playing ping pong at times, the way he tosses defenders from his body.
Since being inserted as the Eagles starting running back halfway through the season last year, BC has earned an 8-2 mark and made its season debut inside the Top 25 this week thanks largely due to the efforts of Dillon. During that 10-game span, he has compiled an astonishing 1,688 rushing yards, while rumbling into the end zone 19 times for his career.
The sophomore looked to be physically ready to play in the NFL as a true freshman, showcasing a powerful stiff arm, the ability to push the pile and add on plenty of yards after contact. He'll have to wait at least another season before he can dip his toes into the NFL draft pool, but when he does, he'll be a hot commodity.
FCS WATCH: There are plenty of talented small-school wideout prospects worth monitoring, but keep an eye on Duquesne deep threat Nehari Crawford (5-10, 170, 4.48, #1), who flashes rare next level speed at the FCS level.
The tiny receiver has a knack for burning by defenders, often winding up behind the defense en route to a score; Crawford has 20 touchdowns in his past 15 games. He's considered to be a bit of a one-trick pony, but NFL teams will be quick to point out that you can't teach speed.
The Florida native added some significant muscle coming into the season, in hopes of physically preparing for the jump to NFL level of competition. Crawford has dedicated his senior season to his cousin Ryan Shazier (Steelers) and is out to prove that he possesses the same traits and bloodlines to play at the next level.
While he might have been overlooked as a high school recruit, Crawford has become more than a blip on the NFL Draft radar. Just don't blink or you might miss him.
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