The college football Week 12 slate is upon us, and the team of draft evaluators and CFB analysts at Pro Football Network are here with instant takeaways from the weekend slate.
Find our immediate reactions to all the action from start to finish in college football’s Week 12 Saturday games.
Taking into account all of the weekend’s slate of action, our CFB/Draft department will all be on hand for their instant reactions as they come in.
For clarity’s sake, each takeaway, reaction, and result will be culminated by the initials of the analyst responsible: TP for Tony Pauline, IC for Ian Cummings, and CM for Cam Mellor.
Dontay Demus Jr. reminding onlookers who he is
5:15PM- Dontay Demus Jr.’s production has taken a dip in 2022, after the Maryland WR worked to return from a major leg injury. But today against Ohio State, Demus — in what’s looking like a legitimate potential upset — is playing a big role, and reminding evaluators what kind of prospect he can be in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Demus is Maryland’s leading receiver heading into the half, with two catches for 43 yards. Both catches were high-difficulty receptions, on which Demus used his 6’4″, 215-pound size and high-end catching instincts to convert at the point.
Demus has enough burst to threaten vertically, and he’s exceptional at boxing cornerbacks out and extending beyond his frame. That ability to work through contested situations has been very beneficial today, and it’s what should earn some interest for Demus as a late-round prospect or a PFA. IC
Carrington Valentine enforces downhill before the half
5:05PM- One cornerback who may not declare, but needs to be on the NFL Draft radar regardless, is Kentucky’s Carrington Valentine. He’s a long 6’0″, 200-pound coverage defender with a pick and nine deflections this year. He can make plays at the catch point, but his best play today came in support.
Just before the half, Georgia was driving to try and score more points. It came to third down, and the Bulldogs ran a concept that saw Brock Bowers flow to the right on a quick out. The pass was completed, but Bowers was drilled as soon as he caught it by Valentine, who knocked Bowers out of bounds, prevented the first, and helped hold Georgia to a field goal.
Valentine dropped back in zone off the snap, but was able to quickly recognize the out, sink and flip his hips with efficiency, and explode into Bowers at contact. It was an impressive play, peeling out of coverage and enforcing downhill. And it’s a reminder that Valentine is a sleeper to keep an eye on. IC
Bijan Robinson again distinguishing himself as RB1
4:50PM- Bijan Robinson came into the 2022 campaign as the near-consensus RB1 in the 2023 NFL Draft, and he’s only solidified his standing through 11 games. Nearly halfway through Texas’ game against Kansas, Robinson continues to run strong. The Longhorns are up 24-0, and Robinson — with 13 carries for 120 yards and two scores — is a key reason why.
Some big plays look far too easy for Robinson. It’s a product of an uncommonly complete pallet of traits, molded together by hyper-elite creative instincts in short spaces. Robinson has the agility and high-level processing at 6’0″, 220 pounds to maximize any quantity of field he can get his hands on. That special ability makes him a first-round caliber RB. IC
Will Levis riding the waves early on versus Georgia
4:25PM- As has become the case with his 2023 NFL Draft evaluation as a whole, Will Levis has been a mixed bag against Georgia in the early stages. There are positives to take away. His deep back-shoulder throw early on to Barion Brown was excellent — well mixed with velocity and touch. And already, he’s shown he toughness, running for a couple first downs and charging for a tackle after an interception.
Therein lies the negatives, however. Levis is still showing volatility as a passer. His interception was on an ill-advised throw bred by arm arrogance, trying and failing to fit a pass to a vertical receiver over 6’2″ Kelee Ringo.
Levis still relies on his tools to a fault, and will try to force the issue when things aren’t clicking. That’s something he’ll have to kick if he wants to keep his team in this game. IC
Myles Murphy continues to wreak havoc with rare power element
4:20PM- The Clemson Tigers are cleaning up early on against Miami. A lot of the credit thus far goes to what remains a stalwart defensive unit. Clemson shut out Miami through the first quarter, and generated constant pressure — courtesy of first-round edge rusher Myles Murphy.
Murphy hasn’t always been the one sacking the QB, but his ability to collapse the pocket and create lanes for other rushers is invaluable. This was especially evident on a sack by linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. Trotter got the sack by looping around the left as a delayed blitzer, but it was Murphy who paved open the path with a brutal long-arm.
Murphy can single-handedly bull-doze tackles with his power. Not only is he long and well-leveraged, but he can also load up power through his base, and recoil into contact with devastating explosive twitch. It’s a blue-chip combination that shows up every week. IC
C.J. Stroud showing off his arm strength against Maryland
4:05PM- C.J. Stroud is a supremely poised, accurate passer with great processing ability. He’s considered the high-floor QB of the 2023 NFL Draft class, but sometimes, his physical tools go overlooked. He’s not the elite creator Bryce Young is, and he doesn’t quite have the rocket arm that Anthony Richardson boasts — but his arm is very strong in its own right.
It’s a quality of Stroud’s that doesn’t always get enough press. His arm strength is a definite plus, and today against Maryland, it’s been on display with Stroud’s willingness to test tight windows in the deep range. He hasn’t connected on all of them, but they’ve all reached their mark because of Stroud’s ability to generate velocity and push the ball past tight coverage.
You love to see a QB willing to take risks and use their tools, and that’s what Stroud has been doing today. Sooner or later, as long as he stays on target, they’re going to connect more often. IC
Deonte Banks being tested early against Ohio State
3:50PM- Playing against Ohio State is a gauntlet for any defensive back, but Maryland CB Deonte Banks has been tested with particular prejudice today. On the first drive, he was lined up against Marvin Harrison Jr. early, and found himself against Emeka Egbuka as well.
Banks let a big play by, but all things considered, he showed good things on the drive. At 6’1″, 200 pounds, he has the size to contest with Harrison, and his first rep — which drew an iffy pass interference call — featured solid technique and physicality. It ultimately came down to Harrison making a phenomenal play. Against Egbuka, Banks was able to use that physicality to force an incompletion.
Banks has a pick and six deflections this year, and has the tools to generate interest at the next level. This game is far from over, and while it may be up-and-down, a few more respectable reps could help him turn more heads. IC
Devon Witherspoon makes a case to rise — with a few lumps
3:35PM- Devon Witherspoon has been one of the most productive, most impactful defensive backs in the nation — let alone the Big Ten — this season. Today’s game against Michigan was largely a strong showing for him, although there is a caveat.
Witherspoon provided sticky coverage for most of the day, and shot out of a cannon in run support more than once. He’s an athletic, tenacious, and physical defender with ball skills and a competitive edge. But his own physicality came back to bite him late, when a pass interference penalty put Michigan in field goal range for a crucial score.
At times, Witherspoon will need to learn when to dial it back and not grab too much. That’s bitten him a few times this year. At the same time, however, his combination of natural coverage ability, playmaking, and physicality has to be enticing at the next level. IC
Richardson proving he’s not ready for prime time
3:10PM- The Florida Gators are about to lose to the Vanderbilt Commodores, as the clock winds down with UF short by 14 points. It was another game which proved Gator quarterback Anthony Richardson is not ready for the NFL. His numbers were not atrocious as he completed 18 of 29 passes for 283 yards with 2 TD’s and 1 INT. The problem for Richardson is he struggles making easy passes and misses a lot of opportunities. Such was the case on the last Gator drive when Richardson had Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman wide open on a 4th and 12 but missed the target. Just a few weeks ago I reported sources in Gainesville were telling me they expect Richardson to enter the draft. Yet everyone believes the athletic quarterback is not ready for the next level and must return to UF and hone his skills. TP
Some bright spots in a terrible ASU campaign
3PM- Arizona State is another school who cut loose their head coach early in the season and has played terribly in 2022. Despite this a few next level prospects have played well. Several weeks ago I mentioned running back Xazavian Valladay, who’s having a terrific campaign, and will get a lot of looks in the lead up to the draft. The other Sun Devil playing well is linebacker Kyle Soelle, who leads the PAC 12 in tackles with 98 coming into today’s contest against Oregon State. The senior has nice size (6-feet-3.5 and 230 pounds) as well as speed (low 4.7’s in the forty). I gave Soelle a 6th round grade entering the season and he’s playing above expectations. He offers potential at both middle and inside linebacker and shows enough upside to develop into a three down defender. TP
Ika looking dominant against TCU
2:40PM- While TCU was getting the better of Siaki Ika early in the game, the massive defensive tackle from Baylor has acquitted himself well and his team is holding on to a 1-point lead. Ika does a great job occupying blockers which allows his teammates to make plays on the ball. He has a solid closing burst and though not a great pass rusher, Ika ably get pressure up the field. His intensity and leadership is infectious. Ika is a natural zero technique/nose tackle that won’t be a fit for every defense yet the senior has starting potential on Sunday. TP
Fighting Illini defense holding firm
2:15PM- The Illinois defense has held tough against Michigan after the Wolverines drove the length of the field and put the ball in the end zone on their first drive. The third rated Wolverines are up just 10-3 in the third quarter but Illinois is moving the ball through Michigan territory. Junior defensive linemen Keith Randolph Jr. and Jer’Zahn Newton are having strong games. Both presently grade as middle round picks on my board and scouts love the upside Randolph brings. He has day two potential but would be best served returning to Illinois for another season. TP
Nelson looks every bit the next dominant Badger lineman
2PM- It’s been a bad season for Wisconsin, another program who fired their head coach in the middle of the campaign. Yet the Badgers possess several dominant next level offensive linemen and Jack Nelson has been impressive today. The redshirt sophomore is a large and relatively athletic left tackle that’s been dominant run blocking. His strength at the point is impressive and Nelson also shows a lot of ability in pass protection. He presently grades as a third round prospect on my board. TP
Palmer keeping things interesting at Nebraska
1:10PM- Receiver Trey Palmer of Nebraska just caught his sixth TD of the season as the Cornhuskers move ahead of Wisconsin by a score of 7-0. It’s been a dreary season for Nebraska, who fired head coach Scot Frost in the middle of September after a terrible loss to Georgia Southern. Palmer has been one of the few bright spots. The transfer from LSU has turned into a big play wide out at Nebraska with a nose for the end zone. Entering today’s game Palmer had 831 receiving yards on 58 receptions and has shown a lot of development in his game. He projects as a day three prospect but comes with an upside. More than a month ago people in his camp asked me about his next level potential so it’s safe to say Palmer, who’s a junior, is at least thinking about the NFL. TP
Barker’s game has leveled off
12:55PM- After losing four of five games in the middle of the season, Michigan State rebounded nicely and are poised to become bowl eligible with a win over Indiana today. One of the bigger disappointments for the Spartans this season has been tight end Daniel Barker, the transfer from Illinois. Despite being a potential late round prospect for the 2022 draft, Barker surprised many by spurning the NFL and transferring to MSU. It’s not worked out as Barker has 18 receptions for 209 yards this season, numbers which are almost identical to the prior three seasons. Barker has the size, speed and pass catching ability to be used in a variety of schemes as well as the talent to be a number two tight end on a Sunday depth chart. Yet the inability to improve at any point the past four years is a red flag. TP
Ika vs Avila= the definition of big against big
12:30PM- There’s a lot on the line today for undefeated TCU, who is presently down to Baylor by a score of 7-0. The best match-up in this game has 355-pound Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika going up against 334-pounds TCU offensive guard Steve Avila. While TCU did not score on the opening drive the early advantage in this contest goes to Avila. Both grade as day two prospects. TP
Olusegun Oluwatimi: Super-sleeper at the center spot
12:20PM- I continue to be impressed with Wolverine center Olusegun Oluwatimi, the transfer from Virginia. He’s a tough, slug it out blocker on the pivot who gets the most from his ability. Oluwatimi was ignored by scouts entering the season and I doubt he gets selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. Yet he’s one of those prospects who signs as a UDFA then turns heads in camp and makes an NFL roster as a back=up interior offensive lineman. TP
OU using NIL to bring back star players?
While there are few games of national importance this weekend, several noon kick-offs offer solid next-level matchups.
After a terrific start to the season, the Illinois Fighting Illini find themselves amid a two-game losing streak and they play Michigan today. Their defense has almost a half dozen next-level prospects we’ll be watching.
The PAC 12 gives us an early start to rivalry weekend as USC takes on UCLA and Stanford meets Cal in the Big Game. People out west tell me the feeling is USC receiver Jordan Addison and Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell are likely headed into the 2023 NFL Draft. I must stress there has been no final decision, and I expect both programs to use the power of the NIL to lure these players back
Another big rivalry game occurs today as Oklahoma State and Oklahoma face off this evening. The Sooners must win to have a chance of finishing above .500, and several of their underclassmen have decisions to make, including left tackle Anton Harrison. The junior is the highest-rated Sooner on my big board and presently holds a second-round grade. So will Harrison enter the draft?
Not if Oklahoma has its way, as I’m told the program has offered Harrison a huge NIL package to bypass the draft and return to Norman for another season.
Week 11 riser Tyjae Spears of Tulane turned in another massive performance on Thursday night. Against SMU, the redshirt sophomore running back totaled 121 rushing yards on 13 carries with 2 touchdowns. He is developing into an outstanding third-down back/rotational ball carrier for the next level. TP