Jordan Travis - QB - Florida State
Heading into 2020 the Florida State QB situation was one of the more unsettled groups in the country. With new HC Mike Norvell and his hand-picked staff now in place, all past promises are rendered moot. 2019 starter James Blackman competed with Travis as well as incoming freshmen signal callers Tate Rodamaker and Chubba Purdy for the right to lead the FSU offense.
The incumbent Blackman held off his young challengers in fall camp to draw the opening week start against rebuilding former option team, Georgia Tech. However Blackman failed to consistently move the offense down the field, averaging a paltry 4.4 YPA on 45 pass attempts while leading the Noles to a deflating 16-13 opening week loss to the Yellow Jackets. He didn’t display the ability to evade pressure or present a credible running threat on RPO plays.
The following week in a 52-10 evisceration at the hands of ACC rival Miami Hurricanes, Blackman again appeared to be overwhelmed, completing 16-of-26 passes for 120 yards and a 1-1 ratio while rushing for negative 15 yards. HC Norvell had seen enough, opening up the starting job to competition again.
After a heated batch of mid-week practices, former three-star dual-threat QB Jordan Travis got the starting nod against Jacksonville State. He performed well against the FCS opponent, completing 12-of-17 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown while also rushing 11 times for 48 yards and a rushing TD. His ability to execute RPO’s and create yardage off of broken plays added a dynamic to the offense that deposed starter Blackman simply did not possess.
Travis’ athleticism was on full display in a 42-26 loss to fourth ranked Notre Dame, as the Seminoles scored as many points against P5 bully ND as they did in their first two games of the year against GT and Miami. Travis completed 13-of-24 passes for 204 yards and a 1-1 ratio while also racking up 96 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. For the first time this season, FSU appeared to be making demonstrable advances offensively.
This week against fifth ranked North Carolina, the glimpses of progress Florida State foreshadowed finally meshed together in a 31-28 upset victory over the Tar Heels. Travis led a reborn FSU rushing attack that gained a season-high 241 yards with a rock-solid 6.7 YPC. While the offensive performance wasn’t as efficient as you’d like to see, Travis was able to evade the UNC pass rush and make plays that helped FSU jump out to a 31-7 lead.
He made a brilliant play after being flushed out of the pocket, darting between would-be tacklers for a 23-yard touchdown rush to open UNC’s scoring on the day. He followed that play up by rolling right and unleashing a 12-yard touchdown strike right before stepping out of bounds with only :17 left in the first half. Travis finished with 191 yards passing and a touchdown along with 107 yards rushing and two more touchdowns on the ground. He should have another productive game next Saturday when FSU travels to Louisville.
Cornelious Brown IV - QB - Georgia State
As a college fantasy enthusiast, I have a special place in my heart for shamefully bad defenses since teams that allow a boat load of points put pressure on their offense to keep pace. The FBS poster-child for this dichotomy has to be Georgia State, who has allowed 34, 29 and 59 points in each of their three games this season, while scoring 31,49 and 52 points respectively.
Enter GSU QB Cornelious Brown IV, who has been a revelation for the Panthers by consistently moving the offense down the field and scoring. Accordingly, GSU currently ranks 12th in the country by averaging 496 YPG of total offense and is scoring a gaudy 44 points per game. Their rushing attack has mauled opponents to the tune of 246 YPG, good for seventh best in the nation. This offensive explosion comes in the wake of losing two very good 2019 skill players, QB Dan Ellington and RB Tre Barnett. Despite the key losses the GSU offensive line returns four starters and 87 career starts as they pave the way for the Panthers offense to crank out 5.4 YPC thus far.
Making only the third start of his fledgling career, redshirt freshman Brown IV truly announced his arrival as an offensive force to be reckoned with in the SBC. in a 59-52 shootout against Arkansas State, Brown IV threw for 314 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions while rushing 13 times for 83 yards and another two rushing TDs. It was a virtuoso performance from the promising young QB who is just scratching the surface of his potential. Georgia State have themselves their starting quarterback for the next 3 years. If they can just field a credible defense, the Panthers could possibly challenge for a SBC title.
Shedro Louis - RB - Liberty
Last year Liberty relied upon Buckshot Calvert and Antonio Gandy-Golden to throw their way down the field while using their ground game as a way to keep defenses honest to balance their relentless aerial assault.
This year both skill players depart as Liberty’s all-time leaders in passing and receiving yardage. Often you see OC’s who subscribe to rigid offensive ideologies and build their roster in their preferred visage. Liberty HC Hugh Freeze and his co-OC’s Kent Austin and Maurice Harris are not cut from that cloth, as they recruited former Auburn recruit Malik Willis to run the Liberty offense despite a skill-set that is completely divergent from previous QB Calvert’s.
As a result, Liberty went from averaging 150 YPG rushing last year to averaging 268 YPG, good for fifth in the nation. While Willis has been a major catalyst for the offensive shift, a deep and talented group of running backs have helped facilitate the transition as well. Starting RB Joshua Mack has rushed for 359 yards, a 6.1 YPC and one TD, including three, 100-yard rushing performances. All was going smoothly until Mack got injured last week against ULM, leaving Liberty searching for a way to replace his production. The task fell upon thunder and lightning RB tandem Peytton Pickett and Shedro Louis to pick up the slack in Mack’s absence. The dynamic duo proved up to the task, as Liberty gashed a beat up Syracuse front-seven to the tune of 338 yards and a dominant 7.0 YPC.
For his part, Louis provided the fireworks by breaking touchdown runs of 75 and 52 yards as Syracuse had no answer for Shedro’s shiftiness and explosion. Though diminutive at 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, Louis had no trouble picking his way through the front line and setting up his cuts on the second level to break off big gains. One could even say, he took Syracuse’s defense behind the “wood-Shedro” with his performance.
Though the senior upperclassman Mack may return soon, the succession plan is in place for Louis to slide into Mack’s starting spot next season.
Jaylon Robinson - WR - UCF
Heading into 2020, Robinson was expected to serve as a slot receiver in three wide sets while standout WR’s Tre Nixon and Marlon Williams would draw most of the outside work where Dillon Gabriel likes to challenge opposing cornerbacks in 1-on-1 situations down the sidelines.
However after a standout first half from Tre Nixon in UCF’s opening game against Georgia Tech, Nixon fractured his clavicle and has not played since. With an unexpected opportunity presenting itself, Robinson seized the starting opportunity and then some as he has recorded four consecutive games of 100+ yards to begin the 2020 season.
The prolific deep threat specialist has served as UCF’s speed-merchant opposite the physically dominant Marlon Williams (6’0/222). So far in 2020, Robinson has caught at least one deep ball in every game with the longest receptions of each game going for gains of 48, 64, 53 and 43 thus far. Robinson isn’t merely a deep threat however as he has seen a steady diet of targets in each contest, averaging over 10 targets per game this year.
On the season, Robinson has caught 28-of-41 targets for 539 yards, a 19.3 YPC and four touchdowns in only four games. It begs the question what Tre Nixon’s role will be when he finally does return, as Robinson has excelled in his starting role thus far.
Calvin Austin - WR - Memphis
It’s been quite a tumultuous year for Memphis, as star RB Kenneth Gainwell opted-out before the season and multiple games had to be rescheduled due to pandemic related issues. The Tigers started out 1-1, beating Arkansas State but losing a nail-biter against AAC rival SMU by a score of 30-27.
Memphis received more bad news this week where rumors of WR1 Damonte Coxie potentially opting-out for the remainder of the season surfaced. Sure enough, Coxie was not present for their pivotal matchup against fellow AAC front-runner UCF. Without their back-to-back 1,100 yard receiver, Memphis was forced to augment their gameplan to account for the unexpected absence.
Heading into Saturday’s game, Calvin Austin had only caught 9 passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns in Memphis’ first two games. He would end up surpassing those totals and then some, as Austin stunned onlookers by receiving a game-high 17 targets, reeling in nine receptions for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the dramatic 50-49 victory over the Golden Knights.
Austin was instrumental in keeping the chains moving as eight of his receptions went for first-downs. He ran a full complement of routes, but excelled when working the sidelines as he deftly maneuvered his way around UCF’s befuddled secondary. With his stone cold performance in Memphis’ huge victory over AAC foe UCF, Austin has solidified himself as the new WR1 for all-AAC QB Brady White.