We got our first taste of Power Five football last week and it felt good. More first looks are coming this week with teams like Oklahoma State, NC State, Boston College and Cincinnati slated to kick off their seasons.
Here are some of the notables and takeaways from the depth chart releases early this week (and start getting excited for next week, in which we’ll have a loaded look at updated SEC depth charts).
That safety Kyle Hamilton was even on the Notre Dame depth chart is a big win for Irish fans and college football fans at large. Hamilton came up hobbled against Duke in what looked like a leg injury that could have been bad. Whether he’s back to full speed with a full workload this weekend against USF is beside the point. That he’s listed as a starter on the depth chart gives us an indication that he’ll be back to full speed sooner or later. Given that Notre Dame seemed to lack back end playmakers aside from Hamilton in the first game of the year, his presence is critical.
At wide receiver, Ben Skowronek was not listed in the two-deep after sustaining an injury of his own against Duke. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Braden Lenzy is now slated to start at wide receiver. While Notre Dame showed encouraging signs that the run game will be strong behind redshirt freshman Kyren Williams and true freshman Chris Tyree, there was much less pop to the pass game outside of tight end Michael Mayer. Lenzy provides some athleticism that Notre Dame seemed to be missing in the first week. Lenzy’s possible emergence and the potential for Kevin Austin to get back on the field after a preseason injury represent Notre Dame’s best shot at generating explosive plays on the perimeter.
If you’re fortunate enough to survive some of these early season games against non-conference opponents, your team may be entering the heart of the season with some major advantages. The time spent in the spring and summer together are often characterized by competition that helps iron out the depth chart. Now those depth chart moves are being determined in real time and live action. For Miami, it looks like the win over UAB necessitate some movement at safety and offensive guard.
According to PFF, Ousman Traore was the lowest graded offensive line starter for Miami that game. The Miami staff appears to agree as Jakai Clark is getting the nod as the starter at guard for the Canes. At safety, Bubba Bolden hasn’t taken over the starting job completely at safety but he has moved into a co-starter role with Gurvan Hall. Bolden, a former Top 100 prospect and transfer from USC, flashed on several occasions against UAB as a big-bodied athlete with range and physicality.
Maybe it’s a good thing, maybe it’s a bad thing, but of NC State’s 11 defensive linemen listed on its depth chart, six of them are first- or second-year players. At nose, Alim McNeill is backed up by redshirt freshman CJ Clark, true freshman Davin Vann and redshirt freshman Joshua Harris. Other youngsters featured prominently up front include co-starters Savion Jackson and Terrell Dawkins at opposite defensive end spots. The youth up front might be concerning if not for NC State’s strong recent run of recruiting talent along the line of scrimmage. In particular, 2019’s recruiting cycle was billed as one that should provide immediate defensive line returns. This is the year we should start to see that show up.
Also on defense, with the loss of projected starter and veteran linebacker Louis Acceus to injury, this year would be a good time for former blue chip recruit Payton Wilson to have his breakout campaign. Wilson led NC State in tackles last season but only started one game. He’s positioned to start this fall with an opportunity to build on his redshirt freshman season.
Finally at defensive back, it’s striking how big the Wolfpack is on the back end, particularly at cornerback. Among the five cornerbacks listed on the depth chart were Teshaun Smith (6-3, 186), freshman Shyheim Battle (6-2/182) and Malik Dunlap (6-4/220).
Upon review of the Boston College depth chart, one thing that immediately jumps out is the quality of player listed among the starting 11 on offense. David Bailey is the sixth leading rusher returning in the ACC after picking up over 800 yards as the second option behind AJ Dillon. The offensive line in front of him features Zion Johnson, a transfer up from Davidson that became one of the best tackles in the ACC last fall. Tyler Vrabel, Ben Petrula and Alec Lindstrom are all quality established starters on the offensive line with NFL potential across the board. Wide receiver Kobay White has NFL potential and so too does tight end Hunter Long. A new addition in Ohio State transfer Jaelen Gill adds more athleticism to the skill positions. It’s hard not to be excited about Boston College’s offensive potential.
That all brings us to the quarterback position. Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec is the assumed starter but he either hasn’t won the job outright or new head coach Jeff Hafley isn’t ready to tip his hand. Jurkovec is listed as a co-starter with Dennis Grosel, a career 48 percent passer to this point in his career at Boston College. Jurkovec is big and athletic but consistency as a passer started to show up even prior to his arrival in South Bend. If he can find his groove under center, Boston College could be a sleeper late in the season. If not, all of that quality offensive talent may not matter.
Hugh Freeze’s team kicks off this weekend against Western Kentucky and if you have the opportunity to watch, you may be familiar with the name of the quarterback. Malik Willis transferred over from Auburn and was at one point the perceived successor to Jarrett Stidham for Gus Malzahn. Bo Nix’s arrival disrupted those plans but Willis is a talented, athletic player that could find a lot of success in Freeze’s offense at Liberty. He’ll be facing off against Maryland transfer Tyrrell Pigrome on the Western Kentucky side.