Sorry Les Miles, not even the great Leonard Fournette could buy you the rest of the 2016 season. Yes, not even arguably one of the most NFL-ready picks in the next NFL draft could save Miles’ job.
He isn’t Nick Saban or Urban Meyer, but for all his faults, Miles has buoyed LSU as the most consistent program in the SEC outside of the Alabama machine. Miles has recruited extremely well, coached in big games, and while Florida and Auburn reached similar heights during his tenure in the conference, LSU’s disappointing seasons were never near the lows of those other programs.
Still it is hard to argue with the lack of talent development throughout his time in Baton Rouge. Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Jeremy Hill, and Spencer Ware teamed up for an underwhelming collegiate offense before each going on to be focal points of their respective offensive schemes in the NFL. The current offense isn’t much different, with Fournette, Travin Dural, Malachi Dupre, and center Ethan Pocic all trying to position themselves as top-50 prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s hard to argue a midseason coaching change will make it anything but tougher for those four to showcase their talents, but it is probably just as hard to argue that the situation could get much worse.
While the LSU news is a big headline, it overshadowed a week of college football that was about a lot more than one very odd last-second loss.
Three big things
- Dalvin Cook finally goes big: On 28 carries, Cook racked up 267 yards and two touchdowns in Florida State’s victory over South Florida. Of the big four running backs — along with Fournette, Nick Chubb and Christian McCaffrey — Cook was the only one who hadn’t really put his stamp on the season. None of the four quite lived up to the ridiculous expectations set on a four-way Heisman race that Lamar Jackson has stolen anyway, but Cook had been falling behind the pack prior to this big game.
- Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd put Tennessee over Florida: After 11 years of losing this rivalry game, it is impossible to ignore what Tennessee was able to do in order to overcome a 21-point deficit to break the streak. I can’t argue with those who have closed the book on Dobbs as anything more than a late-round pick. Hurd was also unimpressive in the box score, gaining only 3.7 yards per carry and adding a touchdown reception. However, his 28-carry, 102-yard performance in a 28-27 loss against Florida last year was graded as one of the best running back performances of the season against a vaunted Gator defense selling out for the run, and Hurd gets bonus points for being part of an important win in his school’s history. Derek Barnett didn’t need the bonus points, but his two sacks remain a memorable defensive contribution, with Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cameron Sutton feeling the bump as well.
- North Carolina shootout puts Mitch Trubitzky and Ryan Switzer on the NFL Draft map: Trubitzky was a big question mark for a talented UNC offense led by Elijah Hood, but he showed off his arm when the Tar Heels abandoned the running game. Trubitzky completed 35-of-46 passes for 453 yards and five touchdowns in a 37-36 victory over Pittsburgh. With a weak class of senior quarterbacks, Trubitzky might be an interesting prospect despite his inexperience, especially if some or all of the premier underclassman — DeShone Kizer, Deshaun Watson, Brad Kaaya — decide to stay in school. Trubitzky couldn’t have done it without Switzer, who is an intriguing receiver prospect outside the top-10 at his position for most analysts. His 16-catch, 208 yard performance was an incredible effort for a player with potential to come off the board as high as late on day two of the draft.
Last week this space was reserved for a senior quarterback with a ton of question marks and his tall, reliable receiving threat. This week is more of the same, as Trevor Knight and Josh Reynolds put a hurting on the Arkansas defense. Knight was fine as a passer, completing 12-of-22 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, but showed off his legs with 10 carries and 157 yards on the ground, taking in two additional touchdowns himself. The relatively weak class of senior quarterbacks could help Knight, who is undersized but was highly recruited. Knight’s biggest weapon has been Reynolds, the 6-foot-4 senior who caught four passes for 141 yards this weekend, and has taken the mantle as my “Malcolm Mitchell” in this draft class. Reynolds seems to be overlooked with younger stars on his own team getting the attention, but always finds a way to impact the game.
After catching nine passes for 156 yards last week and not making it into this space, Ohio’s Sebastian Smith grabbed another six passes, went over 100 yards and scored twice in the victory. With JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jehu Chesson lacking production, how everyone feels about this wide receiver class at the top basically comes down to how everyone feels about Mike Williams. However, with the impressive group of small-school receivers, this has the chance to be a class that is loaded with draftable players and potentially productive starters littered in the middle rounds. With prototypical size and good speed, Smith could find himself in that mix.
Sneak peek: 2018
The turmoil in LSU might not have the positive effect on the offense that the boosters hope, but hopefully promoting defensive line coach Ed Orgeron doesn’t do anything to stop the Arden Key show. The sophomore is set to be a top draft pick in 2018. He managed 1.5 sacks against Auburn, bringing his four-game total to 6.5 this year, already more than the five he had as a true freshman last year. At 6-foot-6 and 238 pounds, Key is a nightmare on the edge, and with the body to add weight and remain as an explosive force, if he continues like this we may be talking about him next summer the way we hyped up Myles Garrett leading up to this season.
Week 5 matchup to watch
Last week we saw Dan Skipper not embarrass himself against Garrett, which is really the most we could have asked for — although Jarrad Davis didn’t do enough to hold up against the size of the Tennessee running game in the loss. This week, we have an interesting matchup on the outside. The Clemson-Louisville game will be all about the quarterbacks, but Lamar Jackson’s top receiver in James Quick may have a difficult time getting open against Cordrea Tankersley. The Clemson linebackers swarm as well as any in the nation, and Jackson relies on putting the defense into panic with his legs before taking shots downfield. If Tankersley doesn’t have to come up in run support, the Louisville passing game could be in trouble.
Additionally, Travis Rudolph of Florida State could have a tough day against the North Carolina corners, especially with Deondre Francois struggling after his hot start, and Corey Clement is trying to push himself up the running back rankings but Wisconsin will have a tough task against a strong Michigan defense.