In the Spotlight
Curtis Samuel vs Christian McCaffrey
The day after McCaffrey was held to just 49 rushing yards - his lowest output in nearly two years - Samuel rushed nine times for 68 yards, caught seven passes for 86 yards and a score, and maintained a pace that could make him the first player in FBS history to gain 1000 yards each on the ground and through the air. While McCaffrey is the returning Heisman runner-up, Samuel appears to be emerging as the better, or at least more efficient, all-purpose NFL prospect.
From scrimmage this season:— Justin Higdon (@afc2nfc) October 5, 2016
64 touches 673 YDS 10.5 AVG 5 TD
108 touches 634 YDS 5.9 AVG 4 TD
Heading into the season, McCaffrey was a record-breaking star, and Samuel was a player who’d accumulated 899 yards from scrimmage in 28 career games while playing second, third or fourth fiddle in Ohio State’s offense. This season however, Samuel, in his first year in the role, has become Urban Meyer’s best hybrid back since Percy Harvin.
I’ve been asked if Samuel projects as a running back or a receiver, and I think it would be a disservice to pigeonhole him as one or the other. He’s shown the ability to be an effective deep back, slot receiver, wideout, and wild cat. On the other hand, I’ve always thought of McCaffrey as a running back and return man, and while he holds a statistical edge over Samuel in the return game, the Ohio State junior has experience on kickoffs as well.
Athletically, Samuel is going to come out ahead of McCaffrey. Both players are listed at around 200 pounds, but if Samuel’s Nike testing numbers are any indication, he is going to run in the low 4.4-second range with an eye-popping vertical jump.
In case you're wondering about Curtis Samuel's athleticism, ESPN has him down for a 4.36 40, 4.07 short shuttle, 40.7"VJ, 126.78 SPARQ pic.twitter.com/SoDrMieSr3— Justin Higdon (@afc2nfc) October 5, 2016
McCaffrey, a fine athlete in his own right, is expected to test closer to 4.5 seconds. Not a huge difference on paper, but speed is critical to NFL scouts when evaluating playmakers. If McCaffrey has one advantage in this head-to-head it’s that he’s shown the ability to shoulder the workload at Stanford. Samuel played behind Zeke Elliott and Braxton Miller, and now he has J.T. Barrett and freshman running back Mike Weber to help open things up. He’s Ohio State’s best offensive player, but he’s never had to be the guy.
Still, if these two players declare for the 2017 NFL Draft, I expect Samuel to be the first of the two drafted. If he runs between a 4.35 and 4.45, he’s probably going in the latter third of the first round, with McCaffrey going 20-30 picks later.
Box Score of the Week
Allenzae Staggers WR Southern Miss
6 REC 292 YDS 3 TD
The Netflix documentary series Last Chance U has brought East Mississippi Community College into the national consciousness. With NFL alumni like LeGarrette Blount, Denico Autry, and Jarran Reed, in addition to well-known Ole Miss quarterbacks Bo Wallace and Chad Kelly, the school has become a better vehicle for potential professional success than some FBS programs.
Despite the attention thrust on EMCC in recent months, Staggers remained a relative unknown. Two seasons removed from three-sport success in high school, he left EMCC as just a two-star recruit, and signed on with Southern Miss. With Mike Thomas having graduated to the NFL, the Eagles had an opening for go-to receiver, and in the last three games, Staggers has staked his claim with 14 catches for 416 yards (29.7 AVG) and four touchdowns.
Last week, Staggers scored on passes of 75, 81 and 93 yards, and finished the game averaging nearly 50 yards per catch, and having taken ownership of USM’s single-game receiving yardage record.
Staggers isn’t a big guy at 6’1” 190, but he torched the Rice defense with straight-line speed. It’s a stretch right now to think he will go from lightly recruited Juco player to one-and-done early-entrant into the NFL Draft, but he certainly has to be on scouting radars moving forward.
Hot Take of the Week
I couldn’t resist this dig at Bleacher Report “BR 1000” quarterback scout, Cian Fahey, who in April ranked Vernon Adams as his top QB, and ninth overall player (out of 75 that he watched). Adams went undrafted in the NFL, and after a couple of tryouts, took his talents up north to Canada. In 10 games for the Montreal Alouettes, Adams is 4 for 9 passing for 35 yards, and has rushed 15 times for 30 yards and a TD.
Texas vs Oklahoma (in Dallas, TX) Saturday Noon ET
The Red River Rivalry features three of the top running back prospects in the Big 12 in Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, and Longhorns junior D’Onta Foreman.
Tennessee at Texas A&M Saturday 3:30 PM ET
If Myles Garrett is able to shake off an ankle injury that kept him on the sidelines last weekend, this game will feature two of the top pass rushers in the SEC. Tennessee’s Derek Barnett has 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and a forced fumble in five games this season.
Virginia Tech at North Carolina Saturday 3:30 PM ET
UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky is 108/134 (81%) passing, with three 400-yard games, 13 touchdown passes, three rushing TDs, and zero interceptions during the Tarheels current four-game winning streak.
Alabama at Arkansas Saturday 7 PM ET
Center Frank Ragnow and left tackle Dan Skipper lead the Razorbacks offensive line into battle against Jonathan Allen and the Tide’s imposing front seven.
Florida State at Miami Saturday 8 PM ET
Hurricane Matthew is not expected to stop Miami’s ‘Canes from facing off against the Seminoles in prime time Saturday. Apparently, some NFL teams consider Miami junior quarterback Brad Kaaya a better prospect than Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.