Towing the Line: Khari Demos Talks College Football Weeks 2&3

Khari Demos joins Matt Waldman’s RSP site this season to profile college football’s trenches while keeping an eye on standout offensive skill players. This week, Demos dives into the games of Texas right tackle Christian Jones and Ole Miss DE Isaac Okwu and puts us on notice with FSU’s receiving tandem of Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson. Plus, the Trench Matchup of the Week. 

Two full weeks into college football season and it looks like we could be in for treats all fall. From matchups like Ole Miss-Tulane to Texas-Alabama, we got plenty of action that kept us on the edge of our seats all weekend here in Week 2. Let’s just hope Week 3 can match that energy and keep pace. This week, we’ll chat a little bit about some of the stars in the trenches in those games above, as well as other standouts from the weekend, and my trench matchup of the week. Let’s get back to it.

Towing the Line: Christian Jones, #70 RT, Texas

In what may have been the biggest story of Week 2, the Longhorns came out on top in their visit to Tuscaloosa. Jones was vital in that success, as he helped Texas rack up 454 yards of total offense, and withheld the Crimson Tide from recording a sack on star QB Quinn Ewers. At 6-foot-6, 321 pounds, the sixth-year senior was able to make his presence known with some booming plays in the run game and strong play in pass protection as well.

Jones definitely has the strength to piledriver defenders at the point of attack. That was on display at several points for the Cypress, TX native, like these two plays from the first and third quarters.

He often covers guys up, cuts them off, and simply dominates defenders when he leans on them enough.

Jones was able to show his mettle in pass pro throughout too. A rep like this shows me just how easy it can be for him to engulf defenders on the edge.

There are times when he can drop his head a little bit as he engages with defenders. But it doesn’t matter at times — he is so big and so strong he can even work through that glitch in his technique.

The biggest thing is that he gets his feet moving, squares defenders off to help create a clean pocket for Ewers, and then he locks in from there.

He is a little raw in his technique even as a sixth-year player, but he can be a brick wall that is an impenetrable force at times. Just look how difficult it can be to get by him on this 3rd-down conversion.

One thing I’d like to see him improve is I think he can get a little lost at times when he’s working up to the second level. Here are two plays, a screen and a jets sweep, that illustrate the confusion.

Jones is too smart of a player to have moments like these — he’s a three-time All-Academic selection during his tenure in Austin. If he can gain more consistency in this area, the Longhorns could see Jones becoming a player staking his claim for a future in pro football.

The Jones buzz is definitely percolating, with one of college football’s biggest names — Jim Nagy of the Reese’s Senior Bowl —  shouting him out from the sidelines. To go along with his brute strength, Jones’ remarkably quick feet can be attributed to his background as a soccer player. Don’t look now, but he is making it very clear that he will be a name to watch for once the draft process comes along.

Towing the Line: Isaac Ukwu, DE #99, Ole Miss

The Rebels are blazing hot coming off their win in a ranked battle against Tulane, and the James Madison transfer had his fingerprints all over it. Ukwu was able to pop on film, as he finished Week 2 with six total tackles (four solo), two tackles for loss, and a sack. He is a force in the trenches with a unique set of skills in his repertoire.

In addition to having the ability to rush the passer, the Upper Marlboro, MD native’s play against the run is encouraging.

I think a part of that is his aggressive demeanor and strong first step off the ball.

Another encouraging note for Ukwu is he seems fairly comfortable in space when in pass coverage.

Even with missing out on this sack and coming away with a pressure, Ukwu makes his presence felt when gunning for Kai Horton on this 3rd-down play.

What this play also shows is Ukwu’s versatility to win as a standup rusher, even being lined up inside the A gap. Ukwu’s sack was also just as heady of a play as it was about his skills; rather than sticking with the RB on the play-action fake, he remains locked into Horton and records his first sack of 2023.

Heads-up plays seem to be the norm for Ukwu, as he can diagnose offensive plays consistently, and chase down the ball from there.

One other thing that’s for sure is the 2022 Honorable Mention All-American’s motor is top-notch.

Are you telling me o-linemen are having to block a guy that big and athletic and brings that dawg mentality? Good luck.

The tough thing about a player as athletic as Ekwu is they can overrun plays at times when they are shot out of a cannon.

Even with that rep or moments of getting rooted out a bit by o-linemen who can lean on the 6-foot3, 260-pound edge rusher, you have to like the play he’s bringing to the Rebels defense.

The 2022 First-Team All-Sun Belt selection could be one of the breakout stars we watch rise up the draft boards before the season’s end.

Keep An Eye On FSU WRs Keon Coleman & Johnny Wilson

Florida State got a slight rest week by playing Southern Miss. after opening the season in a top-10 battle with LSU. The No. 3 Seminoles will open up ACC play this weekend against Boston College, and will surely be looking to their dynamic duo out wide to set the tone.

Coleman was the bigger surprise of the two after transferring over from Michigan State following a solid 2022 season with the Spartans. What he showed in the Week 1 win over the Tigers, though, is that he is a player we will need to monitor throughout the season in anticipation of the 2024 NFL Draft. The Opelousas, LA native has prototypical size at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, but he also matches that with elite speed, which he showcased on his first TD of the year.

You know when they say “50-50 balls are really 70-30 balls with this guy,”? Coleman fits that description perfectly. He had a few highlight jumpballs in the Week 1 victory like this TD grab to end the first half and on his third score of the night.

Coleman is an elite athlete with elite hops — did you see what he did to these poor Southern Miss. defenders in Week 2?

Crazy stuff for the junior wideout.

Coleman may not be the most crisp of route runners just yet, but he can definitely grow in that area with the right coaching. But you shouldn’t sweat that; this guy does the difficult things very easily.

It reminds me a lot of what some saw as deficiencies in DK Metcalf’s game once he made his way to Seattle from Ole Miss. How’s that worked out for the Seahawks? Not too bad, as the All-Pro receiver looks primed for another strong season here in Year Five in the NFL.

Coleman is the slasher in this dynamic duo. But his running mate Wilson will not be outdone either, as the Pacoima, CA native may be the most intriguing receiver in all of college football. At 6-foot-7 and 237 pounds, Wilson is an alien at the receiver position. He could be the second-tallest wideout in NFL history if he were to be in the pros today, but he matches that with a smooth, athletic skillset. It’s hard to call a player with that type of frame an underneath target, but he is a real security blanket as a possession receiver.

Wilson just takes up space and can win with his route tree, and is much more nimble than players with that stature. I think Wilson is similar to Mike Evans in frame and game, but the former has the future hall-of-fame receiver beat by two inches in height.

He also showed he can get after it in the running game, which should be a plus in the eyes of any offensive coordinator that he plays under in the future.

Wilson does need to make sure he is concentrating, though, as he’s already struggled with drops this season. It has drawn the ire of many keeping an eye on him despite the immense talent he possesses.

But I’m not ready to give up on him. You really can’t discredit his effort, talent, and feel for getting open when an offense needs it.

I think Wilson has a lot more to put on display after ending the 2022 campaign with 202 yards and eight receptions in a Cheez-It Bowl win over Oklahoma. He caught a lot of eyes with this catch late in the fourth quarter that helped the ‘Noles come out on top in the matchup.

Man, it’s going to be fun watching these two terrorize defenses all season long.

Week 3 Matchup to watch: Olumuyiwa Fashanu, LT #74 (Penn State) vs. Joe Evans, DE #13 (Iowa)

There’s no question that the Nittany Lions OT is the headliner in this matchup, as the Waldorf, MD native is projected by most to be the first lineman off the board in the 2024 NFL Draft. Even with the likes of Caleb Williams and Marvin Harrison Jr. being potential members of the class, Fashanu is also getting buzz to potentially be the top pick come April.

His size sticks out almost immediately on film (6-foot-8, 319 pounds), but he can move fairly well at that size. He carries his weight well and it shows in his pass pro and ability to mirror defenders there.

One thing I love about his play in the passing game is that he really takes defenders wherever he wants them to go. There are times when linemen can be a bit antsy and want to attack defenders with jump sets, but that’s not Fashanu. He does not overexert himself, however, he does not get blown back either. He locks in and helps craft out a pocket for his QB.

It can be hard to find a flaw for a player of this stature, but one thing I’d like to see from him is being a little more physical in the running game. Whether it was this instance below or the next play in the goal-to-go scenario, he is too talented to put back-to-back plays like that on tape.

I’m not saying he needs to be the best run-blocking tackle ever, especially considering his gifts as a pass-blocker.

But more consistent plays like this are all we’re asking for.

If he’s able to show that, he will most certainly be a top-10 pick in 2024.

Across the way from Fashanu this weekend will be Evans after he tied a career-high five tackles in the Hawkeyes’ win over instate rival Iowa State. The Ames, IA native is a bulldog who isn’t afraid to scrap it up and do the dirty work, like this play he made in the run game despite being tackled.

One other thing you’ve got to love about the former walk-on is his relentless motor, which he put on display with this pressure on the Cyclones’ opening drive.

Now I will say that Evans is not a blazer necessarily as an athlete, which can get him caught up against an elite talent like Fashanu.

It should be an interesting battle, though, and despite that lack of pure athleticism, Evans still knows how to win and be disruptive, whether it’s against the pass or run.

I think it’s always an intriguing battle when you’ve got a blue-chip talent like Fashnu facing off with a true grinder like Evans. The Hawkeyes’ DE is a candidate for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given to the nation’s top former walk-on. And Fashanu brings all the big accolades after being a Second-Team All-American in his sophomore campaign.

If Evans is to win the Burlsworth Trophy, a strong showing in this matchup will go a long way toward that. But if Fashanu is the prospect we expect him to be, he should dominate the 6-foot-2, 252-pound edge.

All I’m saying is we should be in for a good one here. Everybody loves a good David vs. Goliath matchup.

And of course, if you want to know about the rookies from this draft class, you will find the most in-depth analysis of offensive skill players available (QB, RB, WR, and TE), with the 2023 Rookie Scouting Portfolio for $21.95. 

Matt’s new RSP Dynasty Rankings and Two-Year Projections Package is available for $24.95

If you’re a fantasy owner and interested in purchasing past publications for $9.95 each, the 2012-2022 RSPs also have a Post-Draft Add-on that’s included at no additional charge.  

If you’re a fantasy owner and interested in purchasing past publications for $9.95 each, the 2012-2022 RSPs also have a Post-Draft Add-on that’s included at no additional charge.  

Best yet, proceeds from sales are set aside for a year-end donation to Darkness to Light to combat the sexual abuse of children. 

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