Towing the Line: Khari Demos Talks College Football Weeks 9 & 10

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, Oregon State’s potential first-round tackle Taliese Fuaga, Oklahoma State’s LeVeon Bell-esque RB Ollie Gordon, and don’t sleep on Tulane QB Michael Pratt.

Taliese Fuaga, RT #75, Oregon State

The Tacoma, WA. native is a DUDE and I think he could creep his way into the first round of next year’s NFL draft. Combining elite size (6-foot-6, 334 pounds) and a nasty attitude to his game, Fuaga was one of my absolute favorite watches at the right tackle position thus far this season. The Beavers may not have come out on top in this one, but the 2022 PFF All-America Honorable Mention selection showed why he may be the most underrated OT in college football.

Let’s start here; Fuaga’s feet are pretty shifty for a man of his size. I like the use of hands here too.

Rather than stabbing and slowing down the defender with his inside hand, he wards him off initially with his outside hand. Not every OT can use this technique but when you can use it, it can be effective.

It’s something he did later on in the matchup as well, like here on this play.

Fuaga is calm in his pass sets and doesn’t seem to get flustered. That patience allows him to key in on pass rushers without getting himself in trouble by oversetting. Even on a set like this below, what I like about Fuaga is that he does not panic even amid the bull rush, holding off the rusher to allow DJ Uiagalelei to find Jack Velling for the game’s opening score.

One thing I loved seeing with Fuaga was this pull and block on the second level in this pin-and-pull concept. Dalton Johnson stood no chance against the RT and he got exposed on the runway to open up a lane for Deshaun Fenwick’s first-down tote.

His play in the run game is devastating, but that’s also why his selling so hard on this play-action movement allows DJ to set up and find Velling for a first-down completion.

Fuaga does bring a lot of power and torque to the run game, but one thing that stood out to me about his game is that he understands angles and simply being able to build a wall against defenders. To me, that is more times than not how you’re going to block guys.

Yes, pancakes will happen, but more times than not, you’re going to just have to find a way to cut a guy off. Like even on this run here, it was all about understanding he had the leverage and angle to get in Jacob Manu’s way to open up this Damien Martinez run. Fuaga gets that but also combines that with the ability to punish defenders in the run.

I think Fuaga is a smooth pass protector and has a natural feel for cutting defenders and setting the edge of the pocket.  These three clips below are strong examples.


He’s skilled at widening the edge in the run game.

He also has incredible play strength, literally lifting guys at points. Yet, it also feels like he is never necessarily overexerting himself, though, which should be commended. I’ll be interested to see his bench press numbers are at the combine and his pro day.

Even on a rep here that may be considered a negative, I think he shows great technique in recovering when protecting the inside.

But aside from giving up the inside at the end of the play, I like just about all of his technique and approach here. I’d note that he lost this rep early on too, but what he showed frequently in this game was his ability to recover and anchor down.

That’s not the case with every NFL OT, let alone some of the players in this upcoming draft class. Again, another one of his weaker reps here, but I like that he held off Tiaoalii Savea for most of the play and was able to widen the pocket enough to allow DJU to only have to shift over to his left to get this red-zone throw off.

I also believe he has a knack for having a key block that sets up his runners for big-play opportunities. Even if this was a zone-read pull by DJ Uiagalelei, Fuaga’s backside block gave the transfer QB the runway to be able to get out in space.

He consistently showed the force he is in run blocking, which arguably is the “weaker” of his two traits between run and pass blocking. But there’s nothing weak about the way he roadgrades.

One other area of Fuaga’s game I’d like to laud him for is showing many instances of being a very heady player, making very subtle plays that make the biggest differences. While dropping back in his pass set, he was able to send that punch on the shoulder of the inside rush to help out guard Grant Starck. That little detail helped Uiagalelei find Jimmy Valsin III to pick up the first down.

I think Fuaga is the total package and he may challenge Alabama’s JC Latham for the best RT prospect coming out in this year’s class. The beautiful thing too is Fuaga’s tape matches up with some other analytics as well. He is PFF’s top-graded run blocker through nine weeks, and what may be the most astounding stat I’ve seen is that he’s yet to give up a sack in his 35-game college career. What else is astounding is that Oregon State has never had an offensive lineman selected in the first round. I’d bet my bottom dollar that that’s not the case after 2024.

Ollie Gordon, RB #0, Oklahoma State

Going to the other black and orange O-State University, this Fort Worth, TX native has been guns blazing for the Cowboys. In the last five games, he’s averaging 195.6 rushing yards per game and has scored 9 touchdowns in that span. But the last three games have produced comical stat lines. Against Kansas, Gordon finished with 284 yards from scrimmage (168 rushing, 116 receiving) with two total scores. He then torched West Virginia to the tune of a career-high 282 rushing yards and 4 TDs, following that up with 292 yards from scrimmage (271 rushing, 21 receiving) and 2 TDs on the ground against Cincinnati. That right there is what we call a problem, as Gordon leads the nation in rushing yards (1,087) and in yards per carry for any player to record 100 or more carries this season (7.7).

Gordon’s first play here, to me, is significant because I think it illustrates that he’s more than just a player who can use his speed to get to the edge.

To be able to put his head down and bounce off of defenders, that’s a true skill he showed off, and it’s just one of the many impressive things about Gordon’s game. He runs a little high through the hole here, but at 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, it’s hard not to expect him to run tall through the hole.

Regardless, he’s able to trudge through and pick up the OSU first down. I love Gordon’s vision as a runner, as he set up this run by cutting inside Joe Michalski on this outside zone run, to then cut back outside to pick up the first down.

One other encouraging sign that Gordon showed is understanding who to pick up in pass protection, which he then gets in the way of the Bearcats blitzer with the cut block. Later on, he showed that he can get it done when asked to be a lead blocker too.

The next step of Gordon’s game is in the receiving game. A simple 5-yard check-down to some, Gordon was able to gain positive yardage on this set.

I think what’s evident in him is his ability to move forward, even if a play seems like it’s going nowhere, gaining anything is better than a tackle for loss. He racks up so many yards due to various factors, one of which is how he knows how to evade so well as a ball carrier. So whether it’s the run game or the passing game, as No. 0 has the pill, the Pokes will be just fine with the results that come of that.

I think if there is any “knock” on Gordon’s game it’s that he’s not a true blazer in the open field.

Don’t get me wrong, though, he has more than enough speed to be a home-run hitter. But that’s not what his game is predicated on.

And that’s okay with a physically dominant back like him. He has all the makings of a three-down back and he’s now becoming a proven workhorse who has delivered 20-plus carries in each of the last four games for an average of 26 totes in those matchups. That’s not to mention 11 receptions, 137 receiving yards, and a score through the air in that span.

He reminds me a lot of former three-time All-Pro RB Le’Veon Bell. While both were weapons with the ball in space, neither was setting 40-yard dash records either. I think Gordon has good quicks and movement skills, but at the end of the day, however, you get yards, everything else can be figured out from there. And as long as he continues to showcase the ability to break tackles or weave through traffic  as seen below, he’ll have NFL teams waiting for the opportunity to bring him in.

The craziest thing about that is he’s a true sophomore, so the college football world will have the pleasure of seeing him at least one more season in 2024 before he’s draft-eligible in 2025.

Like I said before, Gordon’s ability to break tackles is profound. It’s been fun seeing this run he’s on and he’ll look to extend it against in-state rival Oklahoma in what may be the last of the Bedlam Series for some time with OU heading to the SEC in 2024. What’s to come for the OSU back? We can only hope he keeps this hot streak then. But regardless of where it goes from here, we all should be monitoring what this superstar is up to next.

Michael Pratt, QB #7, Tulane

There’s a lot of smoke out there about whether or not Pratt will return to the Green Wave locker room in 2024. He’s even tried to quell these rumors himself with a response on Twitter/X. Wherever the Boca Raton, FL. native is lining up under center next fall, he will be a name of note to keep an eye out for in the college game.

I reviewed Pratt’s tape against North Texas, and what stood out to me right away about the junior signal-caller is he’s extremely toolsy. He’s a pretty good athlete with pretty good arm strength, and the size to match prototypes that NFL scouts love (6-foot-3, 220 pounds). I love how he layers the ball, his ability to throw on the run, and the smarts he has to tuck and run when needed.

That was evident in his Week 1 showing against South Alabama, which earned him AAC Player of the Week honors. Some of the deep shots he had to Jha’Quan Jackson and Lawrence Keys III were beauties, showing how natural of a passer Pratt is.

One of my favorite attributes of Pratt, which he shows off at the 1:30 mark of the Twitter video, is his ability to evade rushers and get out of the pocket. That showed up several times in his tape against North Texas as well, which continued the drumbeat of how talented Pratt is as a prospect.

Pratt’s athleticism isn’t Michael Vick’s or Kyler Murray’s, but he sure can dance out there and he’s not afraid to rely on those legs, leading to rushing scores in four of his last five outings.

But you can see on this Twitter video here too that Pratt is more than just an athlete playing QB. I find his ability to read the field and move defenders as needed is a plus.

He combines that with the ability to withhold from forcing the ball in turnover-worthy situations too, which may be the most important skill a QB can have. Speaking of that, that’s a big improvement from last year, as he had a tough interception show up on tape against Southern Mississippi that cost them the game there. When he can avoid staring down a receiver like he did here, he puts the Green Wave offense in a better position to win.

Pratt also shared after the Week 1 win that what’s helped him for the 2023 season is the continuity of having Slade Nagel back as his offensive coordinator and QB coach. That’s allowed him to flourish this season with a 14-3 TD-to-INT ratio, to go along with a career-best 71% completion rate after an average of 58.3% in his first three seasons.

He’s the AAC’s top-rated passer and looks to be every bit on his way to getting the Green Wave back in the conference title game, and possibly another New Year’s bowl game, after shocking the world by upsetting USC and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams in last season’s Cotton Bowl Classic.

Whether Pratt stays at Tulane another year, transfers out, or goes to the NFL Draft, he’s got a lot of eyes on him to see what he’ll do next. The record-breaking QB may be underrated in terms of the Williams’, Michael Penix Jr.’s, and Drake Maye’s of the world. But don’t sleep on him; he’ll end up waking you up before you know it.

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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