In a day that included several games with huge implications for the College Football Playoff race as well as the draft stock of some top prospects, I tuned in to the highly anticipated battle between Notre Dame and Arizona State. I wanted to see how Everett Golson, a leading Heisman candidate, responded on the road in a playoff-like atmosphere against a tough ASU team.
Here are my observations on Golson and some other top talents from the Sun Devils' victory over the Irish:
Golson's struggles cause for concern
It was a very rough day for Golson, who racked up 446 yards and two touchdowns but also threw four picks (including two that were returned for touchdowns) and lost a fumble. He was sacked seven times.
Now, the ball-security issues aren't new -- Golson has 17 turnovers in the past six games, including at least one pick in each. I've never believed that he was ready for the next level. He has plenty of developing to do. Saturday's game was another example of why he's still a raw project.
He showed his competitiveness in the second half, bringing the Irish within three of the Sun Devils after they trailed by 31. Golson, a senior, deserves credit for the plays he made, but overall, his pocket awareness and decision making were poor. The last pick-six he threw Saturday was not his fault, as the ball bounced off the receiver's chest. However, his ball-security issues remain a major concern.
Golson is at his best when he's on time -- when he can drop back, make a quick read and get the ball out of his hands, he looks more comfortable. But when he has to move around in the pocket, find throwing lanes and feel pressure, he's very much a work in progress.
How Strong compares to other top WRs
Jaelen Strong had an outstanding first half against Notre Dame -- his one-handed TD catch is a must-see play -- but was quieter in the second half. ASU didn't feed him the ball enough later in the game.
I think Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White are more explosive than Strong is, but Strong might have the most consistent hands of the group. The redshirt junior is a big target and a long strider with a big catching radius. I look forward to studying him more. He did a nice job working the middle of the field on slants vs. Notre Dame and could be a big-time red-zone threat at the next level.
ASU's Foster underrated
Sun Devils RB D.J. Foster is one of the most underrated players in the country, and he showed his value again on Saturday. Foster carried 21 times for 120 yards (5.7 average) and also had a catch for 10 yards in ASU's win. At 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, the junior plays bigger than his size. He's tough, runs hard and has good short-area quickness. He's a factor in the passing game, too.
QB Kelly shows well
ASU QB Taylor Kelly played an efficient game Saturday, completing 17-of-28 passes for 224 yards and three TDs (he did throw one bad pick). He doesn't have a big arm, but he's pretty accurate and tough. The senior QB could be a late-round pick in next year's draft.
Underclassman to watch
As just a true sophomore, Notre Dame WR William Fuller won't be eligible to declare for the draft until after next season, but every time I watch him, he's making plays. He made six catches for 95 yards and a TD Saturday. He shows some explosiveness and is a dynamic young player we'll be talking about a lot more down the line.