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Tracking the 2023 NFL Draft: Breaking down C.J. Stroud’s uneven performance

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The response was exactly what you’re on the lookout for. The situations preceding Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud’s terrific near a 54-10 romp over Iowa, nevertheless, are exactly what NFL decision-makers can be dissecting for the subsequent several months.

Stroud, the No. 1-ranked QB for 2023 on Dane Brugler’s preseason top 50, finished 20-of-30 for 286 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception Saturday. All 4 of those touchdowns got here after halftime. In the primary half and early into the third quarter, the Buckeyes’ junior looked tight for long stretches.

Stroud entered the weekend with electric numbers through six games: 113-of-160 passing with 24 touchdowns, three interceptions and 10.9 yards per attempt (up from 10.1 last season). This, after ending last season as a Heisman finalist with 4,435 yards, 44 TDs and 6 INTs. While those totals are impressive regardless of who they arrive against, it could be value noting that Ohio State’s earlier 2022 dates against Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Michigan State weren’t as difficult as preseason expectations can have suggested.

Iowa’s defense, especially from a coverage standpoint, was the perfect group Stroud had seen thus far in 2022. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s secondary is annually certainly one of the best-coached outfits in America and headed into Columbus as Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked unit by way of coverage efficiency. The Hawkeyes don’t miss tackles, play with great leverage and technique, and are generally tough to crack.

The Hawkeyes are a nightmare on offense, which is why they’re 3-4. But, defensively, this was a pleasant test for Ohio State. So, while there’s a ton to love about where Stroud is immediately, there are also critical questions he’ll must proceed answering through the Buckeyes’ 2022 stretch drive (primarily, at Penn State next week and against Michigan on Nov. 26).

Most would agree Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young are the closest we’ve seen to a clear-cut QB1 for this upcoming draft. Each players have elite traits, but they’re really not very much alike. In truth, a few of Young’s primary strengths are Stroud’s areas most in need of labor, and vice versa.

For Stroud, handling pressure continues to be a thorn. He got hit with an early sack-fumble Saturday that resulted in an Iowa touchdown, though it wasn’t really his fault — the Hawkeyes’ pass rush was in his face almost immediately. There have been other moments on this game, though, when pressure impacted him.

Stroud pushed throws while backpedaling with pressure in his face. He struggled to maneuver the pocket, reset each his feet and eyes, after which deliver the ball downfield. And, normally, Stroud isn’t much of a willing scrambler. That last critique has been there for Stroud before, as he’ll wait far too long within the pocket for something to open up perfectly and leave yards on the table consequently.

Having the ability to improvise off-platform is something Stroud needs to maintain working on — not only moving the pocket and ensuring his feet are square before he throws again, but in addition resetting his eyes and never forcing the throw he wanted before he had to maneuver.

It’s necessary to do not forget that Stroud remains to be young. He turned 21 earlier this month and is a real junior. After all, that’s also true of Young (a real junior who turned 21 in July). So, while it’s fair to expect Stroud’s pocket feel to enhance as he ages, the QB1 draft discussion makes it hard to disregard that Young is essentially the identical age and already significantly better there.

The response to all these hiccups, though, is just as necessary because the mistakes. Perhaps more so. Stroud, like many young players, might be streaky. He pushed a throw to Marvin Harrison Jr. that ought to’ve been a touchdown early and compelled one other on the interception early within the third. A part of the explanation things don’t are inclined to snowball on Stroud is that he has elite talent surrounding him, but that also can create loads of pressure on the quarterback to deliver.

The response Saturday — 4 touchdown passes after halftime against probably the most efficient secondary within the Big Ten — had as much to do with Stroud’s arm because it did with Ohio State’s skill level.

Stroud could make throws with an especially high degree of difficultly look easy, but he also can make easy throws look far too complicated. The win over Iowa provided data points on each. Ultimately, nevertheless, it showed a powerful finish by the quarterback who could be the primary player drafted in 2023.

Oh, speaking of the Buckeyes’ talent, we’re at all times looking ahead …

Marvin Harrison Jr. today: 7 catches, 184 yards, 3 TDs

Can be WR1 on this draft class if eligible. https://t.co/cVMDXbuQmL

— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 10, 2022

One other Ohio State standout who’s eligible for the 2023 draft, senior edge Zach Harrison, was far and wide against the Hawkeyes (a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a rush). The 6-foot-6, 272-pounder has been far more lively as a prospect because the start of Big Ten play.

Oregon’s OL dominates

To open the 12 months, Oregon went through the identical thing most everybody not named Alabama goes through against Georgia. Dan Lanning’s Geese had talent then, nevertheless, they usually still do. The most recent evidence: No. 10 Oregon ran throughout No. 9 UCLA in Eugene during a 45-30 win.

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How Oregon knocked off UCLA

The Geese jumped out to an enormous lead in the primary half and Oregon’s offensive line put UCLA in a shoebox the remainder of the way in which. It was simply a dominant performance from senior center Alex Forsyth (6-4, 312), senior OT/OG T.J. Bass (6-4, 325), true sophomore Jackson Powers-Johnson (6-3, 319) and the remainder of that front. The Geese have rushed for no less than 260 yards in three straight games.

Forsyth has been one of the crucial consistent centers within the country this season. He entered the UCLA game with only one pressure allowed in greater than 400 offensive snaps this season. Bass, an All-Pac-12 performer last season, was certainly one of Brugler’s top 20 interior offensive linemen to observe entering the season.

The last 4 seasons have been a journey for LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, but the previous top-100 prospect is here to inform you that journey isn’t over yet. Daniels was sparkling Saturday afternoon during LSU’s 45-20 upset of No. 7 Ole Miss, going 21-of-28 for 248 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for one more 121 yards and three scores. During the last two weeks, in wins over Florida and Ole Miss, Daniels has 11 total touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

Look At That Smile. Touchdown. 5. @JayD__5

📺CBS pic.twitter.com/66xL6Oic6G

— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) October 22, 2022

The 6-3, 200-pounder, who began his profession with Herm Edwards and Arizona State before transferring out of a rough situation ahead of the 2022 season, has accomplished 70 percent of his throws this season for Brian Kelly and LSU.

Counting Saturday, Daniels has accounted for 21 TDs (12 passing, nine rushing) with only one interception. This remains to be the identical guy who had 17 TD passes to 2 picks during a really impressive true freshman 12 months at Arizona State back in 2019. That pairing didn’t work out, but Daniels has settled in at LSU and appears to be improving weekly.

He’s a QB to observe the remainder of this season and, possibly, heading into the 2024 draft cycle if he chooses to stay at LSU.

Notre Dame has been up and down during Marcus Freeman’s debut season, but star tight end Michael Mayer has been as advertised. As disjointed because the Irish’s offense has been at times this 12 months, it’s a wonder where that now 4-3 team could be without its 6-4, 265-pound playmaker.

Mayer had six catches for 115 yards and a TD in Notre Dame’s 44-21 win over UNLV on Saturday. It’s the third 100-yard day of the 12 months for Mayer and his fifth during the last two seasons. He entered Saturday because the most-targeted tight end in America, per PFF (56 targets). On those targets, he’s been credited with only one drop. When you’ve watched Notre Dame’s QB play this season, you understand how impressive that’s.

Completely absurd from Michael Mayer. https://t.co/TAn5NjnPSR

— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) October 22, 2022

One other Irish draft name to observe (not for this cycle, but the subsequent one) is left tackle Joe Alt. A 6-7, 318-pound sophomore, Alt is the son of former NFL Pro Bowl tackle John Alt (a member of the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame) and has had dominant run-blocking stretches already this season. The Notre Dame tackle, who also has a brother (Mark) within the NHL, is just going to recover.

It’s been a wierd run for DJ Uiagalelei at Clemson. After briefly exploding onto the scene as a real freshman in 2020, the 6-4, 235-pounder was everywhere in the map in a disappointing sophomore season, only to open up 2022 with 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions over his first seven games.

Then, Saturday against Syracuse, the mistakes Uiagalelei had avoided for many of this season returned . It was a nightmare of a day: two interceptions, a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and, normally, some really poor decisions with the ball. Eventually, Clemson benched Uiagalelei for heralded freshman Cade Klubnik. The highest-rated quarterback within the 2022 recruiting class and a five-star talent, Klubnik attempted a mere 4 passes (two completions for 19 yards), but he also rushed for 15 yards, drew a critical personal foul flag on Syracuse and helped settle Clemson’s offense.

In consequence, the Tigers scored 17 unanswered points within the fourth quarter to flee with a 27-21 win.

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Dabo Swinney sticking with DJ Uiagalelei is the precise call for Clemson — for now

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said afterward that Uiagalelei remains to be Clemson’s starter, indicating the Tigers’ move wasn’t a everlasting one. Nonetheless, this is clearly a situation to observe, each for this school football season and Uiagalelei’s NFL hopes. On the latter, Uiagalelei doesn’t need to turn pro after this season, but he also has time to complete strong in 2022. How much will Klubnik’s presence ultimately influence Uiagalelei’s stay-or-go decision?

As for a few of Clemson’s other draft hopefuls, all of the heavy hitters got into the motion defensively: K.J. Henry, Tyler Davis, Trenton Simpson, Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee all had no less than half a sack in a grinder of a win.

(Photo: Joseph Maiorana / USA Today)

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