College Football
Another Colorado breakout star? Here's who could dazzle NFL scouts in Week 2
College Football

Another Colorado breakout star? Here's who could dazzle NFL scouts in Week 2

Published Sep. 6, 2023 4:04 p.m. ET

Watch Week 2 of the college football season like a professional scout with this handy viewing guide.

For decades, the only two "R" words that mattered in college football were recruiting and rivalries.

Like it or not, realignment is now the operative word in college football, though the other terms remain relevant in an important Week 2 that pits archenemies (traditional and non) bolstered by recent transfers.

With so much shuffling of conferences, coaches and players, even the most dedicated pro scouts are being forced to keep their rosters and notes constantly updated. Fans, of course, must do the same.


This is why each week we put together a list of the top prospects to watch, leading off with a couple of the most storied rivalries in the sport.

Nebraska at No. 22 Colorado (Noon ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app)

Longtime combatants in the Big 12, the Colorado-Nebraska rivalry dates back to 1898, with the Cornhuskers holding a 49-20-2 advantage. Colorado has won each of the meetings with Nebraska since the latter joined the Big Ten conference, and if new Cornhuskers coach Matt Rhule is to have any better luck than his predecessor Scott Frost, he will have to devise a way to slow down a Buffaloes offense that stampeded TCU with 45 points in Week 1's biggest upset.

COLORADO IS IN! Reaction to the Week 2 AP Top 25

Rhule is good, but frankly, he may need some of the defenders he coached with the Carolina Panthers to have a real shot at disrupting Colorado's Heisman-worthy duo of quarterback Shedeur Sanders and wide receiver/cornerback Travis Hunter.

As noted prior to Deion Sanders' splashy debut as head coach at the FBS level, his son is a legitimate NFL prospect at quarterback. The poise and accuracy Shedeur Sanders demonstrated in setting school records with an 80.9% completion rate and 510 passing yards justifiably earned him Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. And, after watching (and re-watching) Hunter's performance against TCU, I firmly believe the dual-threat dynamo is an even better prospect than his quarterback, though as a true sophomore, Hunter isn't eligible for the NFL until at least 2025.

Rhule and his defensive coordinator Tony White are savvy enough to learn from the aggressive man-to-man schemes that Sanders and Hunter torched last weekend in Fort Worth. And they recognize that their own transfer quarterback — Jeff Sims — is currently more effective as a runner than as a passer. 

The Huskers' secondary is loaded with experience and steady tacklers. Upperclassmen Isaac Gifford and Quinton Newsome are currently viewed as possible Day 3 draft picks next spring. No one in Nebraska's secondary can run stride for stride with Hunter, however, which means that the Huskers are likely to lean heavily on zone coverage.

Regardless of the coverage employed, I fully expect Hunter to score against Nebraska. As Coach Prime said, Hunter is "him." Further, no one should be surprised if freshman running back Dylan Edwards continues to show his nose for the end zone. He scored four times vs. TCU, after all. But if Nebraska brackets Hunter, it could be shifty slot receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. who is left running free through the "cornfields" in Colorado on Saturday.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Horn tied Hunter with a game-high 11 receptions against TCU, including a 26-yard touchdown. Don't be surprised if Horn puts up similar numbers against Nebraska, as the one-time South Florida receiver and returner extraordinaire possesses the savvy and quickness to eat up zone coverage with the vision and burst to break through traffic and into the open field.

Iowa at Iowa State (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app)

Though their rivalry began in 1894, a 43-year layoff that ended in 1977 means that the annual clash between Iowa and Iowa State has actually resulted in fewer games than the aforementioned Colorado-Nebraska fight. That certainly does not lessen the hostility each fan base feels for the other in a game that determines which team leaves with the "CyHawk" Trophy named after the participants' mascots.

This year's game boasts some of my favorite defensive backs in the entire country. I recently profiled Iowa's Cooper DeJean, and the Cyclones' T.J. Tampa was among my top breakout candidates. Meanwhile, it was his partner in crime and reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Jeremiah Cooper, who starred in a Week 1 victory over Northern Iowa, abruptly ending UNI's first drive of the season with an interception and 58-yard return for a touchdown, and adding another a second pick just before halftime. 

Iowa State's tandem at cornerback could allow the Cyclones to shift their defense to the middle, where the Hawkeyes have traditionally feasted. In what seems like an annual tradition, Iowa once again boasts draft-worthy tight ends. Luke Lachey led Iowa with seven receptions in the Week 1 win over Utah State and Michigan transfer Erick All finished second on the team with three grabs, including a touchdown. 

While All, a senior, already has a built-in rapport with quarterback Cade McNamara (a fellow Michigan transfer), it is the junior Lachey who currently ranks higher on my draft board. 

The 6-foot-6, 253-pounder is an above-average athlete for the position with tissue-soft hands. Whether standing up or starting from the three-point stance, Lachey is as smooth as his name (pronounced Luh-shay), gliding into his route with just enough snap to get himself free. He suffered an uncharacteristic drop in the Week 1 win (he had only one a year ago, according to Pro Football Focus) but typically shows excellent hand-eye coordination to pluck outside his frame and quickly secure, projecting as a likely middle-round pick.

Iowa's Cade McNamara finds Erick All for a TD

No. 23 Texas A&M at Miami (3:30 p.m. ET)

If history is any indication, there will not be many points scored in the Iowa-Iowa State clash listed above, and the same could occur in Miami, where a fierce Aggies defensive line will prove a much greater challenge to Tyler Van Dyke and the ‘Canes than Miami of Ohio did a week ago. 

In the 38-3 win over the Redhawks, Van Dyke flashed the form that has the Miami faithful hoping their long drought at quarterback is finally over. This is a program that has five national titles, and which has also fielded one of the greatest rosters in college football history. Yet the Canes have not had a quarterback picked in the top 100 of the NFL draft since 1992!

The prototypically-built 6-foot-4, 230-pound Van Dyke has the ability to end this dubious streak. And he seems to be over the nagging shoulder sprain that plagued him last year, throwing a touchdown on his very first pass last week and completing 77.3% of his passes. He is a classic pocket passer with the velocity and touch to attack down the seam and deep, projecting quite well to the next level if he builds upon this momentum. 

That may be a lot easier said than done against A&M, which boasts one of the nation's best defensive lines. I highlighted edge rusher Fadil Diggs as one of my favorite breakout candidates prior to the season, but burly 6-foot-2, 325-pound nose tackle McKinnley Jackson is also worth noting. With just 4.5 career sacks, Jackson is hardly going to remind anyone of Aaron Donald as an interior pass rusher, but his ability to collapse the pocket could flush Van Dyke into the waiting arms of other Aggie defenders.

No. 13 Oregon at Texas Tech (7 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App)

In the spirit of rivalries, we have to mention former Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough, who threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns (with one interception) for Texas Tech in a tough double-overtime road loss at Wyoming last week. Exacting a bit of revenge on Oregon — which replaced him with Anthony Brown and Bo Nix since — might be the perfect salve.

At 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Shough boasts the size and arm the NFL prefers, but his big body makes it difficult for him to move in and around the pocket as quickly as they'd like. Further, he has shown a tendency to stare down his target, giving defenders another advantage. He possesses the arm strength and accuracy to make every NFL throw, but needs time to resettle once he moves his feet. Teams looking for a traditional drop-back passer will still find Shough intriguing, but an increasing number of clubs expect their quarterback to offer mobility and improvisational skills, which is where the evaluation of current Oregon quarterback Bo Nix gets interesting.

Nix began his college career as a much-ballyhooed recruit at Auburn, starting three years there prior to transferring to Oregon as a graduate. He threw for 7,251 yards and 39 touchdowns against 16 interceptions for the Tigers, with another 869 yards and 18 touchdowns as a runner. He then exploded for career-highs in every imaginable category in his first year at Oregon, ranking fifth in the FBS with 44 total touchdowns and a career-high 71.9% completion percentage.

He started this season even better than last year for the Ducks, completing 23 of 27 passes for 287 yards and three scores without an interception before being lifted early in the third quarter of Oregon's eye-popping 81-7 victory over Portland State.

It is easy for scouts to get enamored with Nix's skill set. He has a compact, athletic frame and an easy throwing motion with plus velocity and accuracy to all levels of the field. He is an especially talented deep ball thrower with very good touch. His decision-making and technique wane more than one might expect for a quarterback of his experience, however. Last year there were still too many throws based on pre-snap reads where he was tricked into passing into double coverage. Further, like all quarterbacks, Nix's accuracy fluctuates when he doesn't reset his feet — which occurs regularly because coaches wisely want to take full advantage of his ability as a runner.

No. 11 Texas at No. 3 Alabama (7 p.m. ET)

If Steve Sarkisian and his Longhorns are to have any chance at upsetting the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, they will likely need an inspired performance from quarterback Quinn Ewers

Fortunately for the Longhorns, Ewers provided flashes of precisely that type of grit and talent a year ago against the Tide. Though he was ultimately knocked out of the game with a sprained clavicle, it was Ewers, not 2023 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, who starred early on in that contest. Ewers, in fact, threw for a gaudy 134 yards in just the first quarter of a game, though Young responded late, guiding the Tide to a stirring 20-19 win.

Like Young, at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Ewers does not possess an ideal frame for the NFL. He does offer impressive anticipation and accuracy, however — arguably the two most important traits when projecting college quarterbacks to the next level.

Quinn Ewers connects with Ja'Tavion Sanders for 44-yard TD

Bigger, more athletic and possessing a stronger arm, Alabama's Jalen Milroe could not be much different than Ewers.

Saturday night's game will be just the third start of Milroe's career, and the Texas native may be fighting just as many nerves as his counterpart for the Longhorns. While both quarterbacks are listed at 6-foot-2, Milroe weighs 220 pounds and sports a rocked-up physique usually more associated with running backs or linebackers.

This isn't to suggest that he isn't also a talented passer. He tossed three touchdowns in his only start a year ago (against Texas A&M while Young was sidelined with injury) and three more last week in a 56-7 tune-up against Middle Tennessee State. Milroe's first touchdown toss of the 2023 season was a perfectly thrown 47-yard bomb while taking a massive hit from an MTSU defender.

But what makes Milroe special is his ability to run, as well as pass. 

Similar to one-time Alabama (and now Philadelphia Eagles) star Jalen Hurts, Milroe offers a rare combination of size, strength and speed for the position. He's more explosive than agile, almost inviting contact rather than shying away from it.

While different in many ways, the quarterbacks share the element of youth. Both are just redshirt sophomores — technically eligible for the 2024 NFL draft. A splashy performance Saturday night could be the spark that leads to a dramatic rise up NFL draft boards.

Rob Rang is an NFL Draft analyst for FOX Sports. He has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated,, USA Today, Yahoo, and, among others. He also works as a scout with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. Follow him on Twitter @RobRang.


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