With Week 3 of the college football season in the books, here's a look at who's on the rise and who's in decline based on the weekend's action.
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU: Whenever a running back draws comparisons to Herschel Walker and Adrian Peterson, scouts will pay close attention to his every move to see if the talent matches the hype. After watching Fournette rush for 228 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries against Auburn, there is no disputing the sensational sophomore's talent and playmaking ability as a workhorse runner. He's a big-bodied back with exceptional strength and power as well as a dynamic runner with tremendous balance, body control and wiggle. With Les Miles intent on feeding his young star against Auburn, the football world is beginning to appreciate his spectacular game.
TE Austin Hooper, Stanford: The 6-foot-4, 248-pound junior could be the next Cardinal tight end to make his mark as a dominant playmaker at the position. Hooper quietly keyed the Cardinal passing attack as the designated weapon over the middle of the field against USC. He repeatedly found open voids between the hashes, exhibiting strong hands and superb route-running skills. Hooper repeatedly separated from USC defenders by using subtle dekes and head fakes at the top of his routes. Most impressively, he used his superior size to overwhelm defenders in the red zone, resulting in two touchdowns on the day. Given the prominent roles tight ends are playing as pass-catchers at the next level, scouts are paying close attention to Hooper's work on "The Farm".
QB Greyson Lambert, Georgia: Scouts are always partial to efficient quarterbacks capable of thriving in a pro-style system. Thus, there will be plenty of evaluators inquiring about Lambert after watching him complete 24 of 25 passes for 330 yards and three scores against South Carolina. The pinpoint passer distributed the ball to nine different receivers, but repeatedly connected with Malcolm Mitchell (8 receptions for 122 yards and a score) on an assortment of intermediate routes all over the field. Lambert's accuracy, precision and poise during the game reminded me of a savvy NFL veteran playing the position. Plenty of scouts will tune in to see Lambert's future games to find out if he is a "one-hit wonder" or a legitimate playmaker at the position.
LB Anthony Walker, Northwestern: There is nothing like watching a tackling machine dominate a game from sideline to sideline. That's why Walker has scouts buzzing after his 19-tackle effort against Duke that showcased his instincts, awareness and toughness. The sophomore linebacker repeatedly gobbled up running backs in the hole and played a major role in containing the Blue Devils' formidable offensive attack. With the Wildcats looking like a legitimate contender in the Big Ten, scouts will have more chances to take a look at the feisty linebacker this season.
QB Jerrod Heard, Texas: The recent trend of athletic quarterbacks making their mark in the NFL has made scouts pay closer attention to electric dual-threat playmakers at the position. Thus, evaluators are certain to keep tabs on Heard's development over the next few seasons after watching the youngster rack up 527 yards of total offense against Cal. Heard not only notched a 300-yard passing game, but he showcased electric running skills that reminded me of Vince Young during his days with the Longhorns. He easily maneuvered through traffic on impromptu scrambles and displayed the kind of sneaky athleticism that is coveted in today's game. If he continues to improve as a pocket passer, Heard could be one to watch going forward.
QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State: When Jones bypassed the NFL draft to return to Ohio State to work on his game, scouts were curious to see how he would handle defenses adjusting to his game. Through the first three games of the season, it is easy to surmise that Jones remains a work in progress at the position. He struggled mightily against Northern Illinois (completed 4 of 9 passes for 36 yards with two interceptions) and didn't exhibit the poise or judgment that evaluators expect from an elite prospect. With Urban Meyer benching the strong-armed passer in favor of J.T. Barrett during the game, it is possible that Jones' disappointing play against the Huskies will raise serious concerns about his ability to play the game at a high level as a pro.
QB Jeremy Johnson, Auburn: If the Tigers are going to contend in the SEC West, they must get better play from Johnson. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior was off his game against Louisville and Jacksonville State; he continued to struggle against LSU. He completed just 11 of 18 passes for 100 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Despite finishing the game with decent numbers, Johnson's erratic ball placement and judgment in the first half prevented the Tigers' offense from finding or sustaining a rhythm. With the Tigers' playoff hopes flickering after a disappointing loss, the onus is on Johnson to right the ship with better play from the pocket.