4 under-the-radar players deserving attention
With every single player in the FBS getting the same treatment from PFF, it’s always nice to uncover the hidden gems around the country. Whether it’s an offensive lineman whose work simply goes unnoticed, or a defensive lineman who may not light up the boxscore, but is creating disruption, PFF is here to find them.
We have five weeks of action in the books, so let’s take a look at some of the names you may not know, but should certainly take note of due to their strong early-season play.
Jerell Adams | TE, senior, South Carolina
The blocking tight end is nearing extinction, but Adams is a throwback in that department. His +13.0 run blocking grade leads the nation, and he’s doing it the old-school way: in-line against top edge rushers. He’s had some back-and-forth battles with Georgia’s Jordan Jenkins and Missouri’s Charles Harris in recent weeks, coming out on top more often than not. While he hasn’t had many chances in the passing game (12 catches for 164 yards), he’s flashed big-play ability, whether catching a post route for a touchdown against Kentucky, or running through Georgia defenders to pick up a first down in Week 3.
Joe Schobert | 3-4 OLB, senior, Wisconsin
An under-the-radar edge rusher, Schobert has had an outstanding start to the season with nine sacks, five hits, and eight hurries on only 71 pass rushes. His fourth quarter against Iowa in Week 5 was as good as you’ll see, as he picked up two sacks, including a strip sack, while forcing another fumble in the run game. Despite the loss for Wisconsin, he did everything he could to keep them in it. Schobert is another player we had high hopes for coming into the season, after he graded at +30.1 a year ago, including +19.8 as a pass rusher.
Cory Johnson | DT, senior, Kentucky
Johnson was on our radar as a player who looked ready to break out coming into 2015. Last season, he was incredibly productive in his limited time, posting a +14.2 pass rushing grade on only 126 snaps. He’s continued his strong play in an expanded role for the Wildcats this season, grading at +20.0 with an impressive +13.3 grade against the run. He’s also picked up three sacks, a hit, and five hurries on his 126 rushes for a strong +5.1 pass rush grade, so keep an eye on Johnson as the SEC schedule heats up for Kentucky.
Quenton Nelson | G, redshirt freshman, Notre Dame
After ranking as the No. 5 offensive tackle in the 247 Sports composite rankings in 2014, Nelson is living up to that hype in the early going of his “redshirt freshman” season (he’s a sophomore in Notre Dame’s world). Nelson is playing left guard for the Fighting Irish, and leading all guards from that recruiting class with a +11.8 overall grade, including a +8.1 mark in the run game. That’s the part that’s been most impressive about Nelson: the power he’s brought to the Irish line, but also his ability to make blocks in space at 6-foot-4-inches, 325 pounds. He’s also been sound in pass protection, surrendering only two hurries on 143 attempts, both of which came back in Week 1 against Texas.