By Tim Bullen
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Ashton Daniels, Stanford (32 comp / 48 att / 380 yds / 1 TD)
Ashton Daniels was a 3-star recruit from Buford, GA where he led Buford HS to three state titles and earned recognition as the GHSA 6A State Championship Game MVP on all three occasions. Daniels is now a sophomore quarterback for the Stanford Cardinals who at the age of 19 has shown upside as a passer through his patience in the pocket on longer developing windows, and with his confidence to throw over the middle on intermediate and deep targets. The velocity on his throws is nice and it does appear effortless for him to get the ball to an outbreaking route to the opposite side of the field. He plays a confident and efficient brand of quarterback where at this point in time it’s hard to envision passing titles, but his physical capabilities suggest an untapped ceiling if he can marry them to his already present confidence to hang in the pocket and remain focused on the game developing upfield with pressure around him. I look forward to watching him develop better anticipation and rapport with his receivers while settling into the role of being a leader for a program like Stanford.
Frank Gore Jr., Southern Miss (23 att / 252 yds / 2 TD)
Frank Gore Jr., a 3-star recruit from Miami, Florida, and the son of former NFL legend Frank Gore, has been a significant player for the Southern Miss Golden Eagles regardless of their 1-7 record. In 2022, during his sophomore season, he was named first-team all-Sun Belt at all-purpose back and second-team running back, earning accolades from various publications and pundits in the process while accumulating 1,382 rushing yards on 228 attempts with nine touchdowns. Notably, he set a school and NCAA bowl record by rushing for 329 yards against Rice in the LendingTree Bowl. His 2022 performance secured his place as the first Golden Eagle since 2017 to record 1,000 yards on the ground.
When watching him play, it stands out that he runs with excellent vision in the open field and while he doesn’t have blazing top speed or agility, he is a productive runner with a David Montgomery-like elusivity and nose for space when approaching the line or defender. In the open field, he doesn’t run blind and keeps his head on a swivel, modulating his pace to set up blocks and maneuver around situations for extra yardage. Again, he’s not lightning-fast but serves as a great example of how running back is much more than the discount labor of fast guys that much of the NFL’s behavior has conditioned many to think. He has the speed and all the smarts required to fit right in with many of the committee back profiles that we see in NFL backfields.
Rome Odunze, Washington (6 rec / 9 tgt / 89 yds / 1 TD)
Watching Odunze play is a lot like bearing witness to an uncle hold nothing back while dunking all over his nephews in a game of half-court. In 2023, Rome Odunze, the talented 4-star wide receiver from Las Vegas, NV, continues to impress and build off his resume. He has been named to the Midseason All-America First Team by the AP and earned a spot on the Midseason All-America Second Team according to The Athletic. His impressive performance in 2022 didn't go unnoticed as he found himself on several prestigious preseason watch lists, including the Walter Camp Award, Biletnikoff Award, and Maxwell Award. Rome's 2023 preseason accolades were extensive, with recognition on the Preseason All-America First Team by Athlon, Walter Camp, Phil Steele, and the Associated Press. Additionally, he secured his place on the Preseason All-Pac-12 First Team according to various sources, including Pac-12, Athlon, PFF, and Phil Steele. These honors all build upon his remarkable 2022 season where he earned All-American and All-Pac-12 recognitions.
He has put together his impressive resume with three obvious traits: hands, size, and speed. Sometimes he can require an extra step to pivot and reorient his body when at full speed moving in and out of cuts but I find for his size that he has the requisite speed and agility to battle with NFL corners and runs clean routes with good hip sink and body control. He has to work on getting better separation with his release as he shows that he has the right ideas but doesn’t consistently produce the kind of space that you’d like to see. For now, it’s working out because he knows how to win with his size without being a blunt instrument that flirts with generating OPI. He boxes out and leverages field position to give himself the best possible opportunity to make the catch. His hands are incredibly strong and consistent in a range of situations and he doesn’t rely on body catching which all factors into the buzz that he is generating for his draft stock.