College football finally arrived three weeks ago after a bizarre off-season. And though not every conference is participating this year, it is still an exciting time to be a football fan after not knowing whether or not for sure the NFL or NCAA would be playing at all.
Every week I will try to do an article like this where I give random notes about random prospects with no real set structure. Yesterday I watched three games, Tulane vs. Navy, Mid Tenn St vs. Troy, and Miami vs. Louisville, so all of the players talked about will be from those games.
First, we’ll start with Cameron Sample, an EDGE player for Tulane.
What a game Tulane versus Navy was Saturday morning. Tulane was up 24-0 going into half and Navy made the comeback for the win shutting Tulane out for the entire second half.
Neither Tulane or Navy are known for producing much NFL talent but one player that caught my eye was Cameron Sample. Sample is 6’3 and weighs 280 pounds, but moves well for a man that size. He isn’t a top-level athlete, but again, for that size you would think he is an inside player.
His size gives him scheme versatility. He can be kicked inside as an inside rusher and stand up off the edge and even drop back into coverage at times (he did many times Saturday though didn’t look very fluid in space.)
In week 2 versus South Alabama Sample had an outstanding day. He finished with 7 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, and two sacks. This performance earned him the 2nd highest grade among pass rushers for week two.
Sample had 5.5 sacks over his first three seasons and already has 3.5, so his pass rush is developing and has a lot of room to grow. Sample has a good first step, is strong, and uses his hands well.
As opossed to last week, Sample didn’t make as much of an impact against Navy. He was getting pressure but couldn’t finish off any of his rushes ending the game with 0.0 sacks. There was too many times where he was not able to hold the edge properly as well, which at 280 and with powerful upper-body strength, should be where he is strong.
He did make a lot of tackles finishing with 8, which shows he has a motor and doesn’t give up on plays when they go to the other side or get downfield.
Sample is a player to pay attention to just for his versatility and to see if his pass rush can develop enough to warrant a spot on an NFL roster.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, Reed Blankenship, safety for the Blue Raiders, is another player I want to highlight.
Blankenship didn’t have a great day Saturday, but the 6’1 196-pound safety is an underrated prospect who is on the Thorpe Award watch list.
In this game Blankenship missed too many tackles. He is known for his tackling ability, especially in the open-field but on too many occasions he went for the big hit leading with his shoulder instead of wrapping up.
You see in the play above from week 2 that he does have good form on his tackles when he does wrap up, so this was just a discipline and over-aggression problem on Saturday against Troy.
What impressed me most about Blankenship in this game was his motor. On almost every play he was right there near the ball. This isn’t just due to his motor and speed though, he also takes great angles when pursuing ball carriers. On top of that he played quarterback in high school and is the quarterback of the defense as well.
If he plays as good as he did his first three seasons, where he made at least one of the All-CUSA teams in each season, than he may have his name called in the later rounds of the 2021 NFL draft. Blankenship has the size, length, and overall athleticism you want in an NFL safety.
Now the biggest name of the three, Quincy Roche, one of the top EDGE prospects in the 2021 draft class at this point in time.
While Jaelan Philips may of been getting the majority of attention after his strong performance against Louisville, Roche was no slouch himself. He finished the day with 3 tackles and 2 tackles for a loss, but no sacks.
While he didn’t take the quarterback down, he was consistently getting pressure and able to turn the corner on the offensive tackles. Roche is clearly a technician. The way he was using his hands is superb and his slaps pack a punch.
His rush plans are usually solid, and it is clear when he makes plays like the one below that he has plus awareness and isn’t just a turn his ears back and go after the quarterback player.
The negative part of his play Saturday was when he was trying to hold the edge. On many plays his blocker would be stood up, but Roche wasn’t able to disengage and make a play on the ball carrier too often even on plays that the runner cut inside when he did set the edge properly.
It’s crazy to think about how scary the Miami defensive line would be had Gregory Rousseau elected to play this season. Even still, the duo of Roche and Phillips is beyond solid as well, and these both are players that are a fun watch.