The week three slate was a bit limited in terms of quality match ups, so I went for the game with the highest rated players I haven’t seen yet, which were Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and nickel/safety Antonio Johnson of Texas A&M. I’ll give my thoughts on those two below, as well as a few others who took my eye, in what turned out to be quite a defensive battle in the end.
The quarterback play over the first two games of the season wasn’t good enough for the Aggies, so Jimbo Fisher pulled the plug on Haynes King and gave the reins of the offense to LSU transfer Max Johnson.
Johnson didn’t set the world alight here, but the offense looked much better than it did the previous week in their surprise loss to Appalachian State. Johnson looked composed in the pocket and showed off some wheels too on a few designed runs, and although his stat line isn’t great (10/20 for 140 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions), he looks like he has done enough to keep the job going forward.
I was pretty high on running back Devon Achane in the summer, so I was eager to see him here against a good defense. Achane isn’t going to be an every down back in the NFL, he just doesn’t have the size to handle that kind of workload at 5’9 185. What Achane does have though is speed, and not just good speed, no, we are talking sub 10.20, 100 meter speed, which is flat out flying.
Miami held him in check pretty well, but he still carried the threat to break one on every play. It’s not just in the run game, as he has very natural hands too in the passing game, and is a danger in open space when they flare it out to him. The speed alone will make him a top 100 player, but a big season could push him into the top 64 for a team who values speed over power.
The Aggies were without their two five-star freshman receivers for this game, as they were both suspended for breaking a curfew, so picking up the slack was the very versatile Ainias Smith. Smith only had 4 catches, but he made the most of them, stretching Miami for 74 yards and looked a threat with his limited touches. What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is Smith’s blocking downfield ability. He isn’t the biggest at 5’10 190lbs, but he will mix it up with anyone, and was very effective in this game at springing blocks and getting extra yards for his teammates. Smith has spent time in the backfield during his career but now lives mostly in the slot, and that’s where he’ll make his money in the NFL. I seem to be higher on him then most, but I think there’s a day two player here, if some off-field concerns are cleared up by draft time.
Defensively the Aggies were excellent in this game, particularly in the secondary, and we’ll start our notes on that side of the ball with the star attraction, nickel/safety Antonio Johnson.
Johnson is mostly lined up as a slot corner and is matched up against speedy slot receivers or hulking tight ends on virtually every play. He has the size (6’3 200lbs) to be physical with the tight ends and the speed (estimated 4.4, 40 yard dash) to keep up with the receivers. He was great here against Miami, especially when lined up against tight end Will Mallory. He is also a force in the run game, willinging throwing himself into blockers and blowing up run plays. He is a versatile defensive chess piece and will almost certainly be a first round pick in the draft.
Someone who caught my eye for the first time was cornerback Tyreek Chappell, who is a true sophomore, so not draft eligible yet. He has a very physical style of play and was sticking to the Hurricanes receivers like glue. He was smooth in phase and very competitive at the catch point, which was impressive as he isn’t the biggest. He had two pass break ups in this game, one a contested catch on a slant in man coverage, and the other was a beautiful play, coming off of his man to make a play on the ball on a different receiver down the sideline. I like the way he plays and I’ll be keeping an eye on him in the future.
Someone who seems to have been around forever is safety Demani Richardson, who has been on my safety list for the last couple of years and I’m still quite high on. Although he only played the first quarter here, after getting ejected (questionably) for targeting, he was having a very influential game leading the back line of the defense. He is a very aggressive downhill thumping safety but can play in reverse too and cover backs and tight ends well, so he isn’t a one dimensional guy. Straight line speed may be a concern, so his 40 time will play a big part in where he ends up getting drafted.
My eyes were on star quarterback Tyler Van Dyke for the Hurricanes, who had risen up draft boards over the summer and was firmly in the mix to be QB3 on most people’s lists. Now he never made it that high on mine, but he did have a very good end to last season and you could see why he was getting plenty of summer buzz. Unfortunately, this season hasn’t started well for him and he looked out of sorts in this game too against an aggressive Aggies defense. Mechanically there’s a lot to like, he has a smooth set up and a good arm with some nice zip, but there are accuracy and decision making questions, and it’s topped off with some general inconsistencies from play to play as well, so there’s a lot of work for him to do to rescue this season. The good news is though that it’s just week three and there’s plenty of time to rebound, and if he doesn’t, he can always go back next year and try and get back up those rankings.
There really weren’t many positives for Miami offensively, but one young offensive lineman stood up well to the Aggie onslaught, while the others crumbled. Redshirt freshman guard Jalen Rivers has nice size at 6’5 325lbs and played like a veteran, rather than someone making just their sixth career start. He has strong hands and grip control to ride defenders away and looks pretty agile on the move. The size and athletic profile indicates a potential move to tackle in the future, where he could excel.
I’ve never been high on tackle Zion Nelson, but there were still plenty of people thinking he had first round ability entering this year, but I can slam that door shut for them now. He hasn’t started the last two games and when he was on the field the same old problems were there. If you haven’t figured it out after 2452 career snaps, my guess is you never will. Not draftable in my opinion, but no doubt someone will take a chance on him at some point believing they can light his fire.
The Hurricanes did a nice job defensively in this game and their whole secondary really caught my eye. They have an impressive young safety pairing of James Williams and Kamren Kinchens, both true sophomores who look like stars in the making. Williams is massive (6’4 224lbs) but moves around effortlessly in space, whilst Kinchens has that true headhunter mentality and physical style of play that I love in a safety.
They are for the future, but for right now, Miami has a couple of very intriguing cornerbacks in D.J Ivey and Tyrique Stevenson. Both have excellent size and length and they gave up nothing to the Texas A&M wide receivers in this game. Ivey was targeted three times but gave up zero catches and was all over receivers for the entire game. I’ve seen plenty of him over his five years at Miami, and he’s never graded overly well for me in the past, but if this game is any indication of his level of play now, then he’ll be moving up boards in no time at all.
Stevenson is a Georgia transfer who looked good in a limited role for the Bulldogs but struggled for me last season in his first year in Miami. He was only targeted once in this game and like Ivey gave up zero catches. He has a great athletic profile and is someone who is still highly regarded, and more performances like this will justify the hype he is currently getting.
By Keith Lucken. Follow Keith on twitter – @lordlucken