The college football season is only three weeks old, but scouts are already completing their first round of school visits this fall. While most evaluators are simply compiling background information by meeting with trainers, coaches and academic advisors, the savviest scouts are digging into the 2014 tape to see if prospects have continued to improve from the previous season.
When I worked for the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers, I was required to watch four games from the current season before filing a full report, but I would take copious notes on the performances of top prospects during the early part of the year and compare those assessments with observations from later in the season. Ideally, I wanted to see a prospect play his best football down the stretch because it led me to believe his game was still on the rise.
From a background standpoint, it is important to gather as much information as possible about a prospect to determine how well he will fit into the culture of the locker room. In addition, I want to pay close attention to any injuries and how they might affect a player's performance down the stretch.
That's why I paid close attention to the UCLA-Texas game to see how Brent Hundley reacted after his elbow injury during the game. The junior standout showed tremendous character and leadership skills by staying engaged with his teammates on the sideline. He frequently checked in with his backup (Jerry Neuheisel) to help him manage the game and keep the Bruins' offense on schedule. Most importantly, Hundley was into the game and showed the kind of moxie that scouts covet in franchise quarterbacks.
Now, I must admit that I'm a little concerned about Hundley's elbow injury. Although it is his non-throwing arm and he could come back to play in a pivotal matchup against Arizona State in less than two weeks, I'm worried that the injury could affect how he performs from the pocket due to discomfort. In addition, I'm curious to see how he well he performs when he isn't fully healthy because franchise quarterbacks are expected to be in the lineup each week while dealing with bumps, bruises, aches and pains. If Hundley can continue to perform at a high level despite battling through an injury, I will feel better about his chances as a big-time prospect.
College Football Playoff final four
1. Oregon: The Ducks have been the most impressive team in college football following a spectacular win over Michigan State and a pair of wins over inferior opponents. Led by QB Marcus Mariota, the Ducks have a dynamic offense that creates headaches for defenses all over the field.
2. Oklahoma: Bob Stoops has the Sooners looking like a legitimate contender behind an ultra-athletic defense that wreaks havoc on opponents with its collective speed and quickness.
3. Florida State: Jimbo Fisher's troops haven't played at a high level this season, but the Seminoles remain the most talented team in college football. When Jameis Winston and Co. flip the switch, they can run roughshod over opponents on either side of the ball.
4. Texas A&M: The Aggies are running through the cupcake section of their schedule, but their dominant win over South Carolina to open the season suggests they are worthy of inclusion as a top contender. With Kenny "Trill" Hill setting the pace with his electric playmaking skills, it is possible the Aggies could head into their Oct. 18 showdown against Alabama with an unblemished mark.
Heisman Trophy Watch
1. QB Kenny Hill, Texas A&M: Since bursting onto the scene with a scintillating performance against South Carolina in his debut, Hill has continued to dazzle with his pinpoint passing from the pocket. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound sophomore has an unbelievable 11:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio in three games, which is impressive efficiency for a young passer. With the Aggies lighting up scoreboards, Hill is in line to make a run at the college football's top individual honor.
2. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon: The argument could be waged that Mariota deserves the top spot on the list based on his production and growing reputation as one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in college football. Mariota has scored 11 total touchdowns (eight passing TDs; three rushing scores) and shown impressive skills as a run-pass threat on the perimeter. Given the Ducks' dominance through the first quarter of the season, Mariota's chances of wrestling the award away from Jameis Winston at season's end are on the upswing.
3. QB Everett Golson, Notre Dame: It's impossible to ignore the impact Golson has had on the Fighting Irish offense since returning to starting lineup following a season-long suspension due to academic misconduct. The 6-0, 200-pound senior has been magnificent directing the offense, exhibiting outstanding accuracy, touch and judgment as a pocket passer. Golson has tallied 11 total touchdowns (seven TD passes; four rushing scores) in three games and developed into a multi-dimensional threat capable of delivering game-changing plays in a variety of ways. If he can remain a highly productive player despite facing a tough schedule down the stretch, the drumbeat will grow louder for Golson to move up the charts based on the Fighting Irish emerging as a dark-horse contender.