Friday, June 14, 2024
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2023 NFL Draft: Alabama’s Bryce Young, Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker deliver memorable weekend performances

There are two themes at play examining the quarterbacks in today’s stock watch. In one game, fans were treated to two quarterbacks laying it all on the line to be in arm’s reach of a potential playoff berth. In the case of the other three quarterbacks, talent evaluators were treated to size and natural talent. 

Here is how it all played out across an eventful weekend of college football:

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee: Stock Up

Stats (52-49 win vs. No. 3 Alabama): 21 of 30 passes completed, 385 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT; 14 carries, 56 yards

Hooker made more great throws than he missed on Saturday. The ball placement was exceptional as he rarely gave the defense an opportunity to make a play. His lone interception occurred late in the third quarter when the play forced him left and he elected to make an attempt despite a closing window. What happened after that moment said more about the player as a competitor than anything he had put on tape to that point in the game. 

Alabama had taken the lead on the prior offensive series and the interception had the Crimson Tide set up to potentially expand on that lead. Instead, the Volunteers defense forced a punt and Hooker led a scoring drive on the following series to re-take the lead. In the fourth quarter, there was a missed exchange between quarterback and running back that Alabama scooped and scored to take the lead. Hooker led the team on scoring drives each of the last two drives to win the game.

Will Levis, Kentucky: Stock Up

Stats (27-17 win vs. No. 16 Mississippi State): 17 of 23 passes completed, 230 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 4 carries, 7 yards

Levis has proven to be tough this season. He suffered an injury against Ole Miss and battled through it. After missing the following week, he returned to play Mississippi State. The Connecticut native took a big hit late in the first half, missed a series and then was re-inserted into the lineup in the second half. At the end of the first half, the two schools were in a 3-3 tie. Levis led the team on three scoring drives in the second half. Despite getting rocked, he stood tall in the pocket and delivered some completions.

There were throws that he missed but six incompletions tells the story of his accuracy. He was on target for the majority of his downfield throws. Kentucky’s offensive line still allowed quite a bit of pressure and the scheme had him getting the ball out quickly to the flat often. Eventually, Bulldogs cornerback Emmanuel Forbes read the formation, jumped a throw and returned it for an interception. 

Anthony Richardson, Florida: Stock Down

Stats (45-35 loss vs. LSU): 15 of 25 passes completed, 185 yards, 1 TD; 9 carries, 109 yards, 1 TD

The situation surrounding Richardson is rather clear. Talent evaluators want to see how he progresses from the beginning of the season to the end. His confidence has returned but there is still a lot for him to learn as a passer. The pass catchers could help him by creating separation and having better spacing as multiple route-runners were in the same area of the field on a few plays. 

Richardson is an effective runner. He has the burst to distance himself from defenders and the size to frustrate in space. On the play below, Richardson finds a seam, attacks it and several LSU defenders make poor attempts at a tackle.

His draft stock is the most difficult to evaluate right now. He has a lot of development left to reach the best version of himself but his size, traits and athleticism are substantial to the point that Day 2 is probably his floor right now. Is that enough? If he were not to show marked improvement over the rest of the season, then he could return to school in chase of becoming the No. 1 overall selection down the road.

DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson: Stock Up

Stats (34-28 win at Florida State): 15 of 23 passes completed, 203 yards, 3 TD; 14 carries, 26 yards, 1 TD

Clemson had an offensive strategy designed around the run game, which included Uiagalelei. He accounted for 14 of the team’s 44 carries. The California native is not an explosive runner but his pure size leads to business decisions made by defenders in the open field. 

Many talent evaluators were down on Uiagalelei after last season but his comfort and knowledge of the offense has been a promising development. Through seven games, he has thrown for 17 touchdowns and two interceptions. His decision-making has improved and he knows where to go with the football. When the defense takes something away, he has proven willing to take the check down. 

Bryce Young, Alabama: Stock Up

Stats (52-49 loss at Tennessee): 35 of 52 passes completed, 455 yards, 2 TD; 4 carries, -4 yards

Young was a point guard distributing the ball quickly and allowing his skill talent to make plays early in this game before dropping a dime to wide receiver Isaiah Bond down the right boundary. 

As the game progressed, more of his ability to improvise, extend plays and pick apart the defense began to shine. When pressured, he kept his eyes downfield and made some difficult throws off-platform. When a team is in a battle the way Alabama was, it is good to see the quarterback step up and almost will the team to victory. Young was doing some stuff of which other quarterbacks are incapable but it was not enough. He took some big shots, including what was thought to be a clear targeting violation by the letter of the law. Talent evaluators should walk away from that game with comfort in the smaller quarterback translating to the NFL

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