Hello everybody and welcome to a new series we’re starting this season here at Pats Pulpit, “College Football Players to Watch For”, where we take a look at college football players you should keep an eye out for. It’s pretty self explanatory. In this series we will take a deep dive into the players and games you should keep an eye on as they may have some future prospects or ties in New England.
As a quick disclaimer, 54 of the 130 FBS teams will not play this season as of now, including two of the power five conferences, the Big Ten and Pac-12. On top of that there have been literally hundreds of players who have opted out of the upcoming season, including many of the top 2021 draft prospects. This narrows down our options quite a bit. Some teams and conferences, the Big Ten most importantly, are looking at a possible late start, so there is an opportunity that we see more teams than initially anticipated.
Despite all of the uncertainty, we will dive right into our first installment here in Week 2. “Why Week 2”, you ask? “No one wanted to watch Stephen F. Austin at UTEP in Week 1”, I answer. Let’s do the damn thing.
Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell, WR, Louisville
- Matchup: vs. Western Kentucky
- Gametime: 8:00pm
- Network: ACCN
Death, Taxes, and speedy wide receivers out of Dade County. The three things that are guaranteed in life. Tutu Atwell is the next in line of very good wide receivers to come out of Miami, a list that includes the likes of Antonio Brown, Amari Cooper, T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, and Patriot legend Kenbrell Thompkins.
The 5’9”, 165 lb (generous) wide receiver exploded onto the scene in 2019 with 70 catches, 1,276 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Leading the ACC in the latter two categories. Not only did he put up big numbers in his sophomore season, Atwell showed that he possesses the intangibles to be successful at the next level when he posted a 4.27 forty time last year. Gone are the days of lumbering 6’5”, 225 lb recievers, as there has been a receiver drafted in the first round under 5’10” each of the last 5 seasons, good news for Tutu.
In terms of his ties to New England, he could be a prime target in the upcoming draft. The Patriots receiving corps is in dire straits, and their top guy Julian Edelman will be 35 when training camp kicks off next year. The three second-year receivers on the roster are complete unknowns and Damiere Byrd is on a one-year contract. At this point you would have to think they’ll be looking at receivers come April.
The reason I want you to watch this week is because Atwell matchups up against Western Kentucky, who he had his best career game against last season, posting five catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns and frankly his stock could rise so far up draft boards he could end up being gone before the Patriots first pick. This game will be a great test to see where this season will take him.
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
- Matchup: vs. Georgia Tech
- Gametime: 3:30pm
- Network: ABC
Marvin Wilson is not only an impressive football player, but an impressive human being. Wilson has been at the forefront of college football players’ fight for social justice reform, appearing on College Gameday’s ‘Social Justice Roundtable’ last Saturday, and launching Marvin’s Movement in June, an effort to focus on helping his local community in a multitude of ways including financial literacy, health care and working with local schools, specifically elementary schools.
On the field, Wilson is an animal. Florida State’s 2019 defensive captain only played nine games but still led the team in sacks (5.0) and tackles for loss (8.5) while recording 44 tackles. Wilson has the ideal frame for a 3-technique/Nose tackle ( 6’5”, 305 lbs) and has played all over the interior of the defensive line at FSU. He has great mobility and a strong punch and swim moves as a pass rusher, with an incredible ability to split double teams. He cannot be moved off the spot in 1-on-1 situations and has the ideal playing style to clog gaps.
Wilson would be a great fit to take over the Vince Wilfork/Alan Branch/Danny Shelton role in the Patriots defense. Beau Allen signed a two-year deal in March but has yet to even practice with the team and is currently sitting on injured reserve.
This week, Wilson matches up against Georgia Tech who despite dropping the triple option last season still run the ball up the gut more than most. It should be a great opportunity to see Wilson work in a position that he will find himself playing at the next level.
Chazz Surratt, LB, UNC
- Matchup: vs. Syracuse
- Gametime: 12:00pm
- Network: ACCN
I love college football, and one of the main reasons is because they always come through with the weird stories. There’s perhaps no weirder on field story than Chazz Surratt’s, the man who led UNC in passing in 2017, and tackles in 2019.
Surratt (who’s brother Sage is a top wide receiver prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft) made the transition from UNC’s starting quarterback to linebacker in 2018, after a thumb injury ended his season. The switch went pretty well as he finished 2019 as the ACC’s runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year and led North Carolina’s defense with 115 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and 10 QB hurries. Not bad for a quarterback.
He very clearly has the athleticism to thrive at the next level as he was a dual threat quarterback with a 4.54 40-yard dash who won North Carolina’s Gatorade player of the year award as a high school senior. His frame is perfect for a linebacker as he is 6’5” and 230 lbs, with more than enough room to put some weight on. The jump he made in less than a year at the position shows that his potential is limitless.
As for a fit in New England, you can never have enough athletic, pass rushing, run stuffing linebackers can you? The two rookies this season, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings will have a lot asked of them which should tell everyone pretty early if they are ready for the NFL. Dont’a Hightower will be 31 to start the 2021 season and having those three guys, along with Ja’Whaun Bentley as a foundation for this developmental prospect is a beautiful marriage.
Surratt will face one of the toughest tests of his young linebacking career this week as he will go up against Syracuse and Dino Fabers’ high-tempo offense. He is now the bonafide leader of that UNC defense, this will be his first stab at trying to show he wasn’t a fluke.
That will do it for this week, the SEC kicks off their season next week so our prospect list opens up a little. Until then study up on these guys and tell your friends about them. See you in Week 3!