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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Albert Breer

Six From Saturday: Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. Top Non-QB Prospect

More MMQB: 42 Minutes of Frantic Finishes | Saints Can't Be Ignored | Week 1 Takeaways: Wentz, Saquon, Belichick

The last few years, my Six From Saturday notes have been included at the bottom of my MMQB column on Monday mornings. This year, they’ll be published as a separate post each week. Here are my thoughts on this weekend’s college action, geared mostly toward what should be of interest to NFL fans.

1) It didn’t wind up winning the game for Alabama, but the play Will Anderson Jr. made in the fourth quarter for the Crimson Tide did make the job of Texas kicker Bert Auburn (and what an amazing name for a guy who’s trying to beat Nick Saban) that much harder on Saturday—pushing his go-ahead field goal out to 49 yards. Auburn drilled it, forcing Bama to come back and answer with a game-winning field goal. But that shouldn’t prevent you from going back and looking at the play. And it wasn’t so much anything Anderson did. Because Saban’s defense stressed Texas’s protection with a corner blitz, no one picked up Anderson, so he had a free run at Hudson Card. Looking closer, though, you see the obscene closing speed where Card thought he’d have time to throw it away or escape, and Anderson changed that in the blink of an eye. And Anderson making that sort of impact wasn’t uncommon Saturday. In fact, Anderson was the one who chased QB Quinn Ewers into Dallas Turner’s arms in the play Ewers got hurt on. So yeah, that’s why, if a quarterback isn’t the first pick in April, Anderson probably will be.

If a QB doesn’t go No. 1, Anderson could be the guy.

Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

2) Speaking of Ewers, he flashed his potential before going down in that game and did it against a Saban defense. He’s absolutely effortless throwing the ball and looked poised in a very big spot for the Longhorns. And while it’s definitely too early to draw any conclusions about what he’ll be as a pro prospect, he’ll be draft-eligible in 2024. Ewers was seen, before transferring from Ohio State to Texas last December, as very raw but carrying tremendous tools with him to Austin. And it’d seem like, as was the case in Columbus (he left because he was stuck behind Heisman finalist C.J. Stroud), Ewers will get a good environment to develop in as a Longhorn, given Steve Sarkisian’s very recent record of molding first-rounders Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones as Bama’s offensive coordinator.

3) My good buddy Chris Gasper made this point to me and I think it’s a good one: The transfer portal may be closing the gap between the mid-majors and the big boys in college football, and maybe that was a part of what happened Saturday with Marshall, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern taking down Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Nebraska, respectively. I thought, when the transfer portal first got flooded that we might get the opposite effect, with players who pop early in Group of 5 conferences potentially moving up. Instead, you’re seeing the lower-level teams stocked with players who initially were at the bigger programs. App State QB Chase Brice came from Clemson, Marshall QB Henry Colombi came from Texas Tech, and there are a lot of other examples of players moving down to bolster mid-majors, rather than play out the string where they are. Which, ultimately, is good for college football.

4) The only thing surprising about Scott Frost’s firing is that it happened before his buyout drops from $15 million to $7.5 million—so unless that number was negotiated down, consider it a golden parachute for a guy who, despite the last four-plus seasons, remains a Nebraska legend. But if you had told me back in 2018 that it’d play out this way, I’d have been blown away. Frost went 16–31 and an unsightly 10–26 in the Big Ten, despite being in the much softer West division. Nebraska’s lack of natural recruiting footprint has, to be sure, hurt it in recent years. Still, it’s not like there aren’t resources or tradition there. And even if the Huskers can’t get back to what they were (it does seem unlikely) … they should be able to get past the Minnesotas and Northwesterns of the world on their side of the conference. That Frost, who took UCF from 0–12 to 13–0 in two years, couldn’t do at least that is, well, shocking. And Frost, for what it’s worth, had some NFL teams intrigued at one point.

5) While we’re there, it’s worth mentioning another college coach whose name was once hot. Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, won a pretty big rivalry game on Saturday, and Campbell’s become a good example of the need to strike while the iron’s hot. He was on the doorstep of the Lions’ job a year and a half ago before pulling his name out of the running, wanting to come back for a really great group of seniors. Now? There are fewer lines out there for him, in part because Matt Rhule struggled and Urban Meyer crashed coming from the college ranks. Which could leave him, interestingly enough, to replace Frost at Nebraska.

6) It was interesting to hear Jim Harbaugh buy the Colin Kaepernick comparison (referencing the 2012 switch from Alex Smith) the media made for him the other night after he announced that Michigan would go with true sophomore J.J. McCarthy from here on out.

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