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Three-Point Stance: Backup QBs, First Quarter Awards, big games

Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with a few quarterbacks to watch as starters get nervous, some early awards for the ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12 and the scariest game looming for top 10 teams.


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Will Howard
Will Howard (USA Today Sports Images)

With so much erratic quarterback play and injuries it’s time to get to know a few backup names you might not be familiar with. Here’s some help.

Taisun Phommachanh, ClemsonD.J. Uiagalelei has struggled and the fan base is a bit spoiled at quarterback thanks to Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence so keep an eye on this backup who is no slouch.

Hunter Dekkers, Iowa StateBrock Purdy hasn’t been good and while it’s still his team, Dekkers looked solid in relief of him.

Dennis Grosel, Boston CollegePhil Jurkovec is gone with a wrist injury so Grosel steps in. He isn’t well known and the BC offense will change a bit.

Will Howard, Kansas State — Once again Skylar Thompson is injured but Howard could be a lower ranked steal from Pennsylvania in the 2020 class.

Kyle McCord, Ohio State CJ Stroud has not lit the world on fire as expected and McCord could either play shortly or jump in the transfer portal.

Casey Thompson, Texas — OK, this is cheating as Texas fans have seen some of what Thompson can do but the nation hasn’t and he might have taken the ball from Hudson Card and ran with it.

Zach Calzada, Texas A&MHaynes King won the job but with his injury the season rests on Calzada who has a good arm but will be challenged by every defense.

Jaxson Dart, USC Kedon Slovis is back but the way Dart looked in relief last weekend makes this a situation to watch.

Cam Rising, Utah Charlie Brewer is gone and this former Texas quarterback might be just what’s needed as he has a ton of potential.

Sam Huard, Washington — He might not even officially be the backup but, c’mon, let’s play the five-star as Dylan Morris has looked bad.



CJ Verdell
CJ Verdell (USA Today Sports Images)

We all know how much I love awards so why not break down the Power Five after every team has played at least three games? Today I take a look at the ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12. Here you go.


Offensive Player of the Year: QB Brennan Armstrong, Virginia

Armstrong leads the country in passing yards per game (432.7) and is fourth in efficiency rating (188.7) after some really big games. Preseason favorites Sam Howell and DJ Uiagelelei have both had some clunkers in their first few weeks, and Armstrong has yet to have a bad game. Will he keep it up?

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Calijah Kancey, Pitt

As much as I wanted to put DE Jermaine Johnson from Florida State here for leading the country in sacks, I can't give it to a player who plays for an 0-3 team. Kancey though has graded out as PFF's best defender in the conference and has anchored another very strong defensive line for Pitt.

Transfer of the Year: WR Charleston Rambo, Miami

Even with the Hurricanes off to a disappointing start, Rambo has been outstanding for them. The former Oklahoma Sooner has immediately stepped in as WR1 and leads the team in catches, yards and touchdowns.

Offensive Freshman of the Year: RB Will Shipley, Clemson

Shipley has assumed the top position in the Tigers' backfield and has been up to the task so far, showing off the versatility that we saw in him as a recruit. With Lyn-J Dixon announcing his transfer, expect the young tailback to get even more touches moving forward.

Defensive Freshman of the Year: DB Darian Chestnut, Syracuse

The true freshman cornerback has stepped in as an immediate starter and helped lead a Syracuse squad that ranks fourth in the country in total defense. He leads the Orange in both passes defended and interceptions, and looks like he could be an all-conference level player in the future.

Coach of the Year: Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

The guy who consistently does more with less, Clawson has Wake Forest as one of the few teams that hasn't disappointed so far this season, as it is off to a 3-0 start and positioned to make yet another run toward the top of the conference.

NFL Draft Stud: QB Sam Howell, North Carolina

I don’t care what people are saying after a bad game one against Virginia Tech, his stock is not dropping. Why? It’s how you bounce back that is key and Howell has shown how ticked off he was with that performance by dominating in the air and on the ground. He’s still very much in the running for QB1.

NFL Draft Stock Up: OL Ikem Ekwonu, NC State

Ekwonu plays tackle at the college level but may kick into guard at the next level. Either way, he's been dominant so far this season, grading out as the conference's top offensive lineman according to PFF allowing one pressure in 119 pass-blocking snaps. He came into college relatively raw but has gotten better and better every year, playing with outstanding strength and improving technique.

Biggest Disappointment: QB D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson

This hasn’t been a good start for the former five-star quarterback and the Clemson offense looks anemic. He needs to think less and just play his game.


Offensive Player of the Year: RB CJ Verdell, Oregon

Verdell was the biggest reason that the Ducks were able to pull off one of the biggest victories of the season at Ohio State, leading the team in rushing and total yards, and being generally unstoppable. With more performances like that in the Ducks' upcoming big games, he could be in line for a lot of awards.

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Mitchell Agude, UCLA

Even with the Bruins' disappointing loss to Fresno State, UCLA's defense is lightyears ahead of where it was over the past few seasons, and Agude is one of the biggest reasons. He's been disruptive off of the edge, leading the conference in QB pressures and receiving PFF's top defensive grade among all defenders.

Transfer of the Year: RB Zach Charbonnet, UCLA

Charbonnet has joined up with Brittain Brown in Westwood to create one of the best backfield tandems in the country. He's a big play waiting to happen, and sits third in the conference in rushing yards and second in touchdowns, while also grading out as PFF's top tailback in the Pac-12.

Offensive Freshman of the Year: QB Jaxson Dart, USC

Not a ton to choose from here, so let's go with the guy who stepped in last week and lit up Washington State. He looks like a vet out there and if Kedon Slovis struggles upon his return from injury, we might have a genuine QB controversy on our hands.

Defensive Freshman of the Year: CB Jimmy Wyrick, Stanford

Wyrick is already one of the top cover corners in the conference, allowing only a 40 percent completion rate for 6.8 yards per reception when he's thrown at.

Coach of the Year: Mario Cristobal, Oregon

While Oregon was the preseason favorite, through three weeks they're the only undefeated team in the conference and have arguably the biggest win of anyone on the season in their upset over Ohio State back in Week 2. We already knew that he was a great recruiter, but he's now showing that he's got the in-game chops to be considered among the best in the country.

NFL Draft Stud: DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

Yes, he got injured and hasn't played in two weeks, but that doesn't change the fact that he's going to undoubtedly be a top-five pick this spring. If you created a modern-day pass rusher in a lab, he looks and plays like Thibodeaux.

NFL Draft Stock Up: WR Drake London, USC

London came into the season with some Mike Evans comparisons and has lived up to that as he appears to be battling for WR1 right now with many others. His size and length are coveted.

Biggest Disappointment: QB Jayden Daniels, Arizona State

Daniels has more picks than touchdowns so far for the Sun Devils and has had some ups and downs. When he’s running well he’s struggling to throw it seems and he’s less efficient with the ball early.

BIG 12

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State

The diminutive tailback leads the Big 12 in both rushing yards and touchdowns and has been the key to a Wildcats offense that is yet again without the oft-injured Skylar Thompson. Vaughn makes this offense go and has Kansas State out to a 3-0 start with nice wins over Stanford and Nevada.

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma

With Oklahoma's offense not exactly in the same place that it has been over the past few seasons, Bonitto has stepped up and helped the defense keep Oklahoma in every game. He has three sacks already and leads the conference in QB hurries and PFF defensive grade.

Offensive Freshman of the Year: WR Mario Williams, Oklahoma

Williams leads the Sooners in touchdown catches and is third in yards behind Marvin Mims and Jadon Haselwood. He's already flashed potential as a future first-rounder, and has plenty of opportunities to shine in the Sooners' wide-open offense. He should only get better as the season goes along and he gets more comfortable with Spencer Rattler.

Defensive Freshman of the Year: DT Byron Murphy, Texas

Not a ton to choose from here, and for me, it comes down to Murphy and Ethan Downs at Oklahoma, but Downs has Bonitto taking up most of the attention of opposing offensive lines. Murphy has been an integral part of the defensive line rotation for the Longhorns, and has provided a much-needed pass rusher from the interior, as well as being disruptive against the run.

Transfer of the Year: RB Jaylen Warren, Oklahoma State

The former Utah State Aggie has done a great job of taking over for Chuba Hubbard, leading the Cowboys to a 3-0 start despite some struggles from Spencer Sanders.

Coach of the Year: Chris Kleiman, Kansas State

Despite yet another injury to Skylar Thompson, Kleiman has the Wildcats undefeated entering conference play and has done a fantastic job playing to his team's strengths. Yet again, the whole is better than the sum of the parts in Manhattan and they could make a run to the conference title game if everything breaks right for them.

NFL Draft Stud: QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

Despite a couple of early-season struggles, he's still my QB1 for this spring's draft based on arm talent and his ability to make all the throws and add an element of escapability with his legs. No need to overthink this one.

NFL Draft Stock Up: LB Demarvion Overshown, Texas

He’s not near a first-round grade yet but he’s climbing with some solid tackling and the ability to make plays in the opposing backfield.

Biggest Disappointment: QB Brock Purdy, Iowa State

Did anyone expect three touchdowns and three picks and being benched already this season from the veteran quarterback? I didn’t.



Nick Saban
Nick Saban (USA Today Sports Images)

Big games loom for all the top teams. Here are the ones I’m looking at for the current top 10.

1. Alabama — Oct 2 vs. Ole Miss: Appears to be the game that will make or break the SEC West even that early.

2. Georgia — Oct. 30 vs. Florida:Seems to be the battle for the SEC East.

3. Oregon — Oct. 23 at UCLA: Still the biggest game on the schedule left for the Ducks despite the Bruins' bad loss.

4. Oklahoma — Oct. 2 at Kansas State: A trap game if I’ve ever seen one for the Sooners.

5. Iowa — Oct. 30 at Wisconsin: Bigger than the Penn State matchup because it’s for the division more than likely.

6. Penn State — Oct. 30 at Ohio State: Likely to determine the Nittany Lions' playoff chances.

7. Texas A&M — Oct. 9 vs. Alabama: Massive if, and it’s a big if, the Aggies are still undefeated.

8. Cincinnati — Oct. 2 at Notre Dame. Best chance left to move up significantly in the rankings.

9. Clemson — Oct. 2 vs. Boston College. Could be the last test; that’s how easy the schedule appears.

10. Ohio State — Nov. 27 at Michigan. Looks like it could be more competitive than usual and as important as ever.