WE MEET AGAIN…
The “Next-Up” series rolls on, recapping the performances of true and redshirt freshmen thus far. I’ll begin by providing brief updates on the players mentioned in Vol. 1, and then introduce a few more budding stars as we have now moved past the month of October.
UPDATES ON VOL. 1 PLAYERS:
At the time of Vol. 1, Spencer Rattler was coming off two straight losses to Kansas State and Iowa State. While he was putting up numbers, he was struggling with turnovers and was win-less in the Big 12. Since then, however, Rattler has rattled off (that was bad, I know) four straight conference wins, starting with a 4OT win over Texas, who was ranked 22nd in the nation at the time.
In those four games, Rattler has improved with his decision making and has only thrown two interceptions. His season stats so far are now 141 for 208 for 2,018 yards, 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions through the air, while adding 101 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground on 50 carries.
Since we last had a look, Jeff Sims and Georgia Tech beat Louisville — and then lost three straight games, including blowout losses to Notre Dame and Clemson, but also a blowout loss to Boston College. It couldn’t get much worse than the Clemson loss though, where Sims went only 6 for 13 for 81 yards with a touchdown, an interception, and negative 23 rushing yards in a 73-7 slaughter. Sims has been pedestrian at best, but still has upside.
Grayson McCall has quickly become one of “my guys”; he is the real deal. Coastal Carolina is ranked in the top-15, sitting at 7-0, and most of their recent games haven’t really been close (which is what you want to see in lower levels of competition). McCall has since missed one game, but has 1,393 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only 1 interception on the year. He’s also accrued 271 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground on 56 carries.
He ranks in the top-15 in the country in both passing touchdowns (16) and QBR (85.8), and he’s starting to garner more and more attention. Get on the GMC Train while you can before it’s too late!
ULYSSES BENTLEY IV,
Seth McGowan’s carries have declined each of the last four games since Vol. 1 dropped due to the return of senior back Rhamondre Stevenson, coupled with some huge games from junior TJ Pledger. McGowan has 297 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 57 carries while adding 131 yards and a touchdown in the passing game on 10 catches.
McGowan still has boom potential in Campus-to-Canton (C2C) leagues this year, but his floor is so low that it makes him a non-starter. Despite his decline in opportunity, I’m a believer in McGowan’s talent moving forward and would be holding him in C2C and deep devy leagues.
Deuce Vaughn is having an up-and-down season.
He’s shown major flashes in the receiving game, catching a 45-yard pass against Texas Christian and racking up 81 receiving yards on Kansas, but has seen a decline in efficiency the past two weeks in losses to Oklahoma State and West Virginia. In those two games combined, he had 62 rushing yards on 26 carries and 6 receiving yards on 3 catches, but I’m not worried about him or his production.
The entire Kansas State offense, led by backup freshman quarterback Will Howard, was stifled in those games and he didn’t have much to work with, considering he still leads the Wildcats in both rushing and receiving. Vaughn will be entering next year as a weapon in all phases of the offense, though the quarterback situation is still unclear given that starter Skylar Thompson is out for the season and has not decided if he is returning in 2021.
Ulysses Bentley has continued to be the workhorse for Southern Methodist, but there is cause for concern as he’s put up duds against the two ranked teams they have played (Memphis, Cincinnati). Overall, though, he’s top-5 in the country in rushing, with 774 yards and 10 touchdowns on 132 carries, adding 128 yards receiving on 16 catches. He needs to prove that he can play better against tougher competition. Once he does that, I’m all in.
ARIK GILBERT (TE),
My bold take in Vol. 1 was listing Jordan Addison as my number one-ranked wide receiver in the 2023 class.
He’s lived up to expectations since then, logging his first two games with 100+ receiving yards. He had 8 catches for 147 yards on the road against then-13th ranked Miami (catching passes from backup quarterback Joey Yellen), and 11 catches for 127 yards in a blowout victory at Florida State. Through 8 games, Addison has 52 catches for 611 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving, 7 rush attempts for 53 yards, 2 punt returns for 15 yards, and 4 kick returns for 39 yards. He is still locked-in as my WR1 in 2023 and I don’t see that changing any time soon given his recent production to go along with his athleticism and versatility.
Moving forward, we are going to want to roster Rattler’s top target in both C2C and devy, and so far, that’s been Marvin Mims. He leads the Sooners in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, and is tied for second on the team in catches. Mims had a monster game against Texas Christian, catching 4 passes for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns, and I expect to see many more of these performances over the next couple years.
While Taylor Morin got off to a quick start, he’s vanished for the most part since then, with more than two catches in only one game since the beginning of October. The craziest part is that after starting 0-2, Wake Forest went on a four-game winning streak and is undefeated since their loss at North Carolina State on September 19th. Morin may have a role in the future, but he can be ignored in most, if not all, leagues for now.
Arik Gilbert could have zero receiving yards on the season, and I wouldn’t care.
He’s a true freshman tight end, and while he is the highest ranked recruit of all-time at his position, they typically take a while to develop. Also, college production is near-meaningless when it comes to predicting NFL success at the tight end spot. The number one predictor of future success at TE is athleticism and you guys, does Gilbert have some of that.
Although it isn’t very predictive, it’s still extremely impressive that Gilbert has 22 catches for 259 yards and 2 touchdowns in 5 games for LSU as an 18-year-old, which is good for 13th in the nation among the position, despite being tied for the lowest number of games played out of those 13 players. Gilbert is a monster, and I can’t wait to see him on Sundays.
VOL. 2 ADDITIONS: The New Guys
DJ UIAGALELEI, CLEMSON
This may be cheating just a bit, since I had Uiagalelei listed on the honorable mentions list on Vol. 1, but we’ll consider him a new addition since I didn’t provide detail on him last time:
Trevor Lawrence has missed the last two games with COVID-19, and Uiagalelei has filled his shoes in a major way. In his first start, he led Clemson to a comeback victory over Boston College. Clemson was down 28-13 at half and snuck by with a 34-28 win. Uiagalelei went 30 for 41 through the air (73.2% completion percentage) for 342 yards and 2 touchdowns, adding 25 yards and a rushing touchdown on 6 carries. He didn’t throw any interceptions.
After his impressive debut, Uiagalelei then led Clemson into South Bend where they lost a double-overtime thriller to Notre Dame (ranked 4th in the nation at the time). Uiagalelei showed poise and resilience, throwing for 439 yards and 2 touchdowns and adding another touchdown on the ground. Although the Tigers didn’t pull off the win, Uiagalelei showed why he was a 5-star recruit with a 247 Composite rating of 0.9949 and the QB2 in his class.
So far this year, Uiagalelei has 71 completions on 104 attempts for 883 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, with no interceptions. He also has 59 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Uiagalelei is going to be a beast for the next 2-3 years at Clemson after Lawrence departs for the league. Uiagalelei’s upside in all formats is obvious — even at these early stages.
GRAHAM MERTZ, WISCONSIN
Graham Mertz, a 6-3, 215-pound redshirt freshman at Wisconsin, was a 4-star recruit with a 0.9689 composite rating from 247Sports. In his first start, he led the Badgers to a blowout win over Illinois, throwing only ONE (1) INCOMPLETION. Bonkers stat.
He completed 20 of his 21 passes for 248 yards and 5 touchdowns with zero interceptions in the 45-7 victory. This is the only game Wisconsin has played so far this season, as they had to cancel their games taht followed against both Nebraska and Purdue due to a COVID-19 outbreak within their program. They are expected to play this coming weekend at Michigan and have four remaining regular season games after that against 23rd ranked Northwestern, Minnesota, 10th ranked Indiana, and Iowa. I’m excited to see how Mertz does against some tougher competition. He’s already a riser in the devy ranks and could be an even bigger riser if he proves himself more in the coming weeks.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: GRANT WELLS (MARSHALL), TJ FINLEY (LOUISIANA STATE)
JAHMYR GIBBS, GEORGIA TECH
Another honorable mention from Vol. 1, true freshman Georgia Tech running back Jahmyr Gibbs has continued to perform at a high-level and deserves the spotlight here.
Coming out of high school, he was a 4-star recruit with a 0.9652 composite rating from 247Sports. Gibbs is a true weapon in the passing game for the Yellow Jackets and can carry a solid workload at 5-11, 200. Through six games, he’s carried the ball 83 times for 369 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground while catching 20 passes for 255 yards and 3 more touchdowns. He has surpassed 100 scrimmage yards against five of his six opponents including then-14th ranked Central Florida, then-1st ranked Clemson, and then-4th ranked Notre Dame. The only game where he failed to reach 100-scrimmage yards was a blowout loss to Boston College where he only received 12 total touches (8 carries, 4 catches), his lowest touch total of the season.
The more I watch and research Gibbs, the more I like his play-style and prospect profile. He’s a top-3 back in 2023 for me, and has the potential to move higher. If you can buy him in your C2C league or snag him in devy, do it as soon as possible.
TANK BIGSBY, AUBURN
The only reason Tank Bigsby didn’t make it onto Vol. 1 is because he only played two games at that point and performed below-average on the ground in both of them.
Since then, he rattled off three straight games with 100+ rushing yards, followed by a 71-yard and 2 touchdown performance in a 37-point victory over Louisiana State. Bigsby, a true freshman, stands at exactly 6-0 and is listed at 204-pounds, so he has feature back size. He was also a heralded recruit coming out of high school, listed as a 4-star prospect with a 0.9814 composite rating by 247Sports. On the season, he has 89 carries for 503 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing while adding 84 yards in the receiving game on 11 catches. He has size, athleticism, production, and he’s a heralded recruit out of high school. On the field, he has all of the tools necessary for success in the NFL and is my number one (RB1) running back in the 2023 class.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: DEAMONTE TRAYANUM (ARIZONA STATE), SEAN TUCKER (SYRACUSE)
PASS CATCHERS (WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS)
RAKIM JARRETT, MARYLAND
Rakim Jarrett is a 5-star true freshman with a 247Sports composite rating of 0.9868. He has good size for a receiver at 6-0, 200. Given all of this, you would think Jarrett smashed from day one. That would be incorrect, as Maryland got destroyed by Northwestern 43-3 and Jarrett had one reception for one single yard.
As his quarterback, Taulia Tagovailoa, became more accustomed to the offense, Jarrett improved in each of his next two games: In an overtime win over Minnesota, he had 6 catches for 68 yards and truly broke out in a 35-19 win over Pennsylvania State, where he recorded 5 catches for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. If he can continue to produce, especially this year and next year, Jarrett will be right up near the top of my 2023 wide receiver rankings.
BRU MCCOY, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
The Trojan’s wide receiver room is stacked:
Right now, though, we’re going to focus on redshirt freshman Bru McCoy. McCoy is 6-2, 205 and was a 5-star recruit with a 0.9944 composite rating from 247Sports. He was considered an ATH (athlete) during the recruiting process, as he was recruited as both a wide receiver and outside linebacker. He’s an extremely talented and athletic football player and showed that in his only game so far, catching 5 passes for 51 yards and a touchdown in a thrilling comeback win over Arizona State. McCoy is definitely a guy to keep an eye on for dynasty and devy purposes, and is a great own in C2C leagues as well.