NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2021. This is the ninth in a series of scouting reports that will run throughout the offseason.
He might not yet be a household name around the country, but Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is generating a lot of buzz from NFL personnel executives heading into the 2021 college football season. The excitement about his potential has been building since Corral showed his promise orchestrating Lane Kiffin's offense last season, becoming just the fourth SEC player in history to lead the NCAA in total offense per game (384.9 yards). He ranked among the FBS' top 10 in passing yards per game (333.7), TD passes (29), completion percentage (70.9) and passing efficiency (177.6) in 2020. His eight completions of 40-plus yards led the SEC.
Now he enters his redshirt junior season receiving Heisman Trophy hype and the full attention of NFL scouts. After watching three of Corral's game tapes from the 2020 season, here is my initial scouting report on Ole Miss' star quarterback:
Height, weight: 6-foot-1, 205 pounds (school measurements).
2020 statistics: 231 of 326 (70.9%) for 3,337 yards, 29 TDs and 14 INTs; 112 carries for 506 yards (4.5 average), 4 TDs (10 games played).
Game tape watched: vs. Kentucky (Oct. 3, 2020), vs. Alabama (Oct. 10, 2020), vs. Arkansas (Oct. 17, 2020).
What I liked: Corral has a very intriguing skill set. He's an excellent athlete and a versatile thrower. He's capable of driving the ball into small windows, layering the ball over linebackers/under safeties and dropping the deep ball into the bucket. His overall touch is outstanding. He has tremendous quickness and awareness inside the pocket to avoid the free rusher. He is effective on designed QB runs because of his suddenness and ability to elude defenders. He is very competitive to fight for extra yards.
Where he needs to improve: Turnovers are the main problem and they came in bunches during the 2020 campaign. He threw 11 of his 14 interceptions in two games (vs. Arkansas and LSU). His primary issues were locking onto his initial read, failing to identify underneath defenders and forcing the ball into non-existent windows. I believe he can clean this up. I've seen him maneuver and manipulate safeties with his eyes in the games I studied. There's one more thing for him to work on: His eyes get ahead of his feet when scanning from one side of the field to the other on occasion. He doesn't let his feet catch up and he releases the ball with an unaligned base, which impacts his accuracy.
Biggest takeaway: I've been asked which college QB could emerge this fall, similar to the way Jets first-round pick Zach Wilson popped on the scene last year at BYU. Corral would be my answer. He doesn't quite have the same arm talent as Wilson, but he has similar instincts, creativity and playmaking ability. Wilson had ball security issues in 2019 and he cleaned them up in 2020. I'm hopeful Corral will have similar results in 2021.
He reminds me of: I just mentioned Wilson. Their situations are very similar. However, from a pure skill-set standpoint, I see Derek Carr as the better comparison for Corral. Carr is a little taller, but the operational quickness and athleticism between the two players is almost identical. Corral is more aggressive than Carr was during his college career at Fresno State, but both players could make every throw and also extend plays. Carr receives a lot of unwarranted criticism, but he's quietly emerged as one of the most consistent passers over the last several years. If Corral can improve his ball security, I could see a similar path for him.
I can't wait to watch him play: at Alabama on Oct. 2. Corral played very well against Nick Saban's defense last season (21-of-28 for 365 yards, 2 TDs; 13 carries for 40 yards). Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin will be fired up to light up the scoreboard against his former boss, and Corral should be even more comfortable with another year in Kiffin's system. He won't have Elijah Moore -- a second-round pick of the Jets out of Ole Miss this year -- to rely on but there are still plenty of attractive options for him to choose from in the team's group of skill-position players.