Year: Redshirt Junior
Hometown: Chula Vista, CA
Accolades: PAC-12 Championship MVP, All PAC-12 2nd team, Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week (Week 9)
Athletic Ability: Good athlete with impressive contact balance and change of direction ability, with good body control to pick his way through traffic and good home run speed when he gets out in the open field. Can struggle a bit with lateral agility in pass pro.
Vision / Mental: A patient runner, he has good front side vision with a solid understanding of OL leverage to pick his way through traffic and presses the hole well especially on inside zone to manipulate the LB. He also shows solid awareness in pass protection to identify blitzes or where help is needed. Where he struggles is identifying cutback lanes, as he can develop tunnel vision to the front side, and he can be reluctant to take inside lanes on outside zone even when they prevent themselves, with a tendency to bounce runs to the outside unnecessarily.
Burst / YAC: He shows good burst when a hole opens up, using his powerful lower body to hit the hole hard and using his good contact balance to break tackles by churning his legs through contact or spinning off defenders and consistently falls forward after contact with a good second effort. He is not afraid to put his head down and gain additional yardage when the hole closes and has solid toughness to extend in clutch situations.
Passing game: Though he wasn’t utilized much as a pass catcher, he displays solid receiving ability, with an understanding of zone coverage, solid transition from receiver to runner, and good burst after the catch. This is an area where he still needs to prove himself if he wants to develop into a three-down back. Though he shows sufficient willingness as a blocker, should not be asked to pass block at the next level, as he lacks the play strength and anchor ability to block LBs and lacks the lateral agility to block DBs.
Overall: Verdell projects as a change of pace RB who could develop into a starting level player. He fits best in a zone scheme, where he can use his good front side vision, burst, and contact balance to be successful. Has the ability to be a home run threat, but his abilities in the passing game may hold him back. He should not be asked to pass block, and still needs to prove his receiving skills out of the backfield.
What to look for in 2020: How will he fair as a runner without the passing threat of Justin Herbert? With a new QB stepping into the starting role, look for Verdell to shoulder more of the load on offense. Can he improve in the passing game? If his impact as a pass catcher can expand next season, he may be rising up the draft boards in April.
Way too early prediction: His speed and contact balance make him an intriguing prospect, but his passing game shortfalls may ultimately limit his value. Look for Verdell to be taken in the mid to late 2nd round.