Houston-FSU grades: Demarcus Ayers shines in Cougars' Peach Bowl win
The top takeaways and highest-graded players from Houston’s 38-24 win over Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
— The Cougars’ top wide receiver Demarcus Ayers concluded an excellent season with the win against Florida State. He’s graded negatively just three times in 15 games and finished the year with a +24.9 grade which was ninth amongst FBS wide receivers. Ayers caught 11 of 14 targets for 90 yards against FSU which culminated in a +2.2 grade. The junior wide receiver looks a real prospect and is likely to be amongst the top players at his position next year, if he returns for his senior season.
— Houston’s defense has some talented players, highlighted by senior cornerback William Jackson III (+4.8). He shut down an admittedly underperforming FSU WR corps, allowing 7 of 11 targets to be caught for 90 yards, 2 INTs and 2 PDs. Jackson’s excellent bowl game performance elevated him to sixth overall amongst CBs (+17.8) and fourth in coverage grade alone (+15.4). Overall this season he’s allowed 45 of 96 targets for 635 yards, 2 TD, 5 picks and 12 PDs (QB rating of 53.9). Jackson isn’t afraid to stick his nose in against the ground game either. He recorded four stops against the Seminoles and finished with a +1.1 run defense grade.
— LB Steven Taylor (+6.1) saved his best performance of the season till last, dominating against the run in particular. He recorded a +5.7 grade in that facet of play, finishing with four stops against the run. Although he struggled a little in coverage missing a pair of tackles, he still managed to contribute as a pass rusher. A sack, hit and three hurries is a good return from just 18 rushes, highlighting the versatility of the Cougar’s linebacker. Taylor’s made major strides as a junior, grading amongst the top ten at his position, and will be hoping to take that next step forward as a senior.
ROLB Steven Taylor +6.1
FS Trevon Stewart +4.9
LCB William Jackson III +4.8
RT Alex Cooper +3.6
RWR Demarcus Ayers +2.2
Florida State Seminoles
— LT Roderick Johnson (+6.5) has had an inconsistent year as a first-time starter but his potential is off the charts. He finished the season with an overall negative grade in pass protection (-1.0) but had his best game in that department against Houston. Johnson was perfect on 51 dropbacks, only the fourth time he’s achieved that feat this season. He also recorded his second highest run blocking grade of the year with a team-high +3.0 mark.
— There’s no doubting the fact that HB Dalvin Cook is amongst the most elusive backs in the nation. If he is to be an elite running back at the next level though, he needs to improve in pass protection and with his ball security. Cook allowed a hit and pair of hurries in his 17 snaps in protection (-0.5) and had his third fumble of the year. He’s now put the ball on the deck eight times in the past two years. Aside from his fumble, he carried 18 times for 33 yards, one TD and one broken tackle; his least productive performance of the season.
— It would be a surprise at this point if CB/S Jalen Ramsey fell outside the top of half of the first round. He’s had a good junior season after moving out to corner but is most effective in the box or in the slot where he’s able to use his aggression to make plays. FSU had some success when they started blitzing him off the edge enabling him to make plays against the run. Ramsey finished with a +1.1 run defense grade with five defensive stops and allowed just three of seven targets for 21 yards (+1.2 grade) in coverage. Overall he finished the year as our fourth overall corner with the second best run defense grade (+9.7).
LT Roderick Johnson +6.5
SS Derwin James +4.1
RG Wilson Bell +3.3
DLE DeMarcus Walker +3.0
LCB Jalen Ramsey +2.6