|Rick Bowmer/Associated Press|
With college football's Week 9 in the books, here's a look at who's on the rise and who's in decline based on the weekend's action.
Joe Williams, RB, Utah: With an average of 151.6 rushing yards per game, Williams would rank third in the country in the category -- if he had enough appearances to qualify. The senior decided to retire from football after the second game of the year, but he returned to the team earlier this month after the Utes lost three running backs to injury. He's been a beast since returning, toting the mail 98 times in three games for 683 yards and six scores -- including 332 yards against UCLA. Williams ran 35 times for 172 yards and a TD on Saturday against a tough Washington defense. He ran angry this weekend, running behind his pads between the tackles and bringing the heat to defenders whenever possible. A north-south runner, Williams lacks elite agility and struggles to keep his shoulders square to cut quickly once he tries to bounce runs outside. But if scouts believe he's all-in on a career in the NFL and are looking for a guy to pound the ball in a power-running scheme, they'll be very interested in Williams.
Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan: Darboh proved to NFL scouts in the Wolverines' win over rival Michigan State that the WR talent well hasn't run dry in Ann Arbor. The Iowa native made a couple of spectacular one-handed catches, one on a high pass to the sideline and another while heading down the left sideline with a cornerback in his hip pocket. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Darboh has the size and speed to be effective on short, intermediate, and deep throws, making him a potential WR2 at the next level.
Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia: Kiser looked like a prototypical starting 3-4 inside linebacker against Louisville's high-powered offense on Saturday. He handled coverage duties over the middle, attacked lanes vs. the run, and brought down agile quarterback Lamar Jackson twice on A-gap blitzes. Jackson is very athletic, yet Kiser was able to change direction quickly enough within the pocket to drag the Heisman favorite down twice. Kiser, the Cavs' leading tackler, racked up 14 tackles, consistently getting to the ball whether he was in the box or chasing to the sideline. Scouts won't overlook his performance in a losing effort.
Jon Toth, C, Kentucky: For the first time in a while, Kentucky is relevant in the SEC East, partially due to Toth. He's tall for his position at 6-5, 310 pounds in the pivot, but Toth usually won the leverage battle against Missouri's shorter, strong defensive tackles on Saturday, though he'll need to play with knee bend more consistently to anchor against NFL-caliber players. He was impressive in his ability to stay with his block through the whistle and keep his feet alive and hands engaged. Toth also moved well to linebackers, keeping his balance on the move while not overreaching. A technically sound, intelligent leader, I expect Toth to be an NFL starter one day.
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: Harris went off against Georgia in the third week of the season, recording three sacks among four tackles for loss. In the other seven games of the year, the junior has managed only one assisted sack. Harris is a good player who can affect a game in other ways besides tackling the quarterback. He was a willing run defender against Kentucky on Saturday, trying his best to get off blocks outside and crash inside to prevent long gains. But any pass rusher who wants to be graded as an elite prospect by NFL scouts must prove he has the quickness and bend to reach the quarterback consistently against college tackles.
James Quick, WR, Louisville: Quick's drops didn't help Heisman favorite Lamar Jackson get into a rhythm against Virginia on Saturday, and eventually the quarterback didn't even look his way. Quick started off hot this year, connecting with Jackson regularly, but had just 79 yards on nine catches in the previous two games vs. Duke and North Carolina State before failing to catch a pass against the Cavaliers. The senior needs to return to his early season form.
Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.