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2023 Star Search: Week 7 College Football Standouts

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QB Standout

Graham Mertz, Florida (30 comp / 49 att / 423 yds / 3 TD)

Graham Mertz, the former Wisconsin Badger, has been playing a statistically good season of football as a transfer for the Florida Gators. While the Gators haven’t put together the record that they would have liked, Mertz is getting the opportunity to show at Florida - which immediately lends him more credibility via the schedule alone - that he’s a very patient and polished in-structure player who can dink and dunk the field as an accurate member of the rhythm section.

Florida’s offense is built around testing the defense with its playmakers out on the perimeter versus defensive backs, with a power run or bootleg as its counter punch. It’s not the most inspiring offensive football to watch sometimes, but Mertz has had moments that have challenged my impression of him. He has shown that he has more athleticism and athletic creativity than I had previously thought, and the quality of his deep ball is one that I have highlighted for future film watching. It's a well-timed spiral with a picturesque mortar-like trajectory that is highly catchable for the wide receiver in terms of tracking and catching - as is evident with the game winning drive to beat South Carolina.

Mertz has been putting together a quality year and his draft stock should get a bump compared to had he came out from Wisconsin. I’m looking for him to be more consistent when the pressure and blitz get to him in addition to looking for more reps and throws to grade over the middle.

RB Standout

Ashton Jeanty, Boise State (30 att / 212 yds / 3 TD)

Boise State's Ashton Jeanty is a young, promising talent. He doesn't put defenders in extreme bouts of emotional conflict, but he knows how to effectively utilize the athleticism he's been gifted with, reminiscent of Eric Gray during his time at Oklahoma - a player I was high on. Jeanty's running style is straightforward and efficient. He presses the line, knows where the defense is likely to react, and has a nice pressure step to make his quick cutback or slide for positive yardage.

He's working behind a solid offensive line, excelling in both zone and power run calls. While he hasn't shown the top gear for hitting home runs or outmaneuvering pursuing defenders, he compensates with his deceiving quickness around the edge, coupled with good contact balance and a low center of gravity. This allows him to work through tackles and churn out valuable yards consistently.

WR Standout

Isiah Williams, Illinois (4 rec / 11 tgt / 43 yds / 1 TD)

In 2023 he's a team captain, leads the Big Ten in receptions, and ranks second in receiving yards. He's also achieved notable consistency with a lengthy active streak of catching at least one pass in 32 consecutive games, the longest in the Big Ten. Williams is also making history, standing at No. 2 in Illinois history for career receptions and No. 10 for career receiving yards. He's a semifinalist for the Jason Witten Man of the Year and Campbell Trophy and has received recognition on preseason All-Big Ten teams.

As a smaller receiver he does face challenges when the game gets physical for him, and so growing into the most consistent and effective slot option a team could employ will be what his development is all about. If he can get a consistent release against tighter coverage, the sky is the limit for him within the context of a slot wide receiver as his route running and field awareness after the snap are on display in nearly every game.


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