Kenneth Harrison

Prowling Panthers

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott is entering his fifth season.

He has led the Panthers to a winning season and bowl appearance in three of his four seasons.

Last season GSU was 6 – 4 and appeared in the Lending Tree Bowl against Western Kentucky. They won the game 39 – 21. Three of the four games they lost were decided by one score.

They have found their quarterback for the next few years, Cornelious Brown IV. Last season as a freshman he passed for 2,278 yards, 17 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and completed 59% of his attempts.

He also rushed for 317 yards and 7 TD’s. The offense averaged 33.3 points per game, which was 32nd out of the 128 FBS teams.

Junior running back Destin Coates led the team in rushing with 769 yards, 7 scores and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. He also had 12 catches for 65 yards.

Tucker Gregg, another junior RB rushed for 468 yards, 6 touchdowns and he averaged 5.2 ypc. The Panthers have a strong ground game.

Wide receiver Sam Pinckney led the team in receiving in 2020 with 47 catches, 815 yards and 7 TD’s. He will probably have better numbers this season since his quarterback has gained experience. They should also play more games as long as they don’t get cancelled.

The defense gave up 31.7 ppg, which was 79th in the nation. Junior linebacker Blake Carroll led the team with 73 tackles, 51 solo and 4.5 for loss. Junior LB Jordan Strachan led the team in sacks with 9.5.

The 2021 non-conference schedule is brutal. The Sun Belt is also a solid conference so they will have some problems.

The season kicks off September 4th at home against Army. The Black Knights are tough to stop because of the triple option.

The next week is at North Carolina. The Tar Heels have an advantage across the board.

Week 3 is on the road against the Charlotte 49ers. They were scheduled to play last season, but the game was cancelled. Charlotte was 2 – 4 in 2020 so they aren’t very good. This will be Georgia State’s first win of the season.

The next game is at Auburn. It looks like the athletic department needed a couple of big pay days to start the season. The Tigers will win by 50 points. If you’re keeping track the Panthers have 3 guaranteed losses in their first 4 games.

The month of October kicks off conference play with a home game against Appalachian State. GSU lost last year’s game 17 – 13. I think this season’s game is a toss-up. App State has been a good program for almost two decades, so I give them the edge.

The Panthers travel to Monroe, LA to face University of Louisiana at Monroe. They beat the Warhawks 52 -34 last season. I expect a similar result in 2021.

After a bye week Texas State comes to town. I believe GSU wins by double digits.

On October 30th they travel to Statesboro, GA for a rivalry game with Georgia Southern. The Panthers beat the Eagles 30 – 24 last year. I think this game will be close but Georgia Southern wins.

The last four games of the season are against UL-Lafayette, Coastal Carolina, Arkansas State and Troy. The only guaranteed loss is against Coastal Carolina. The Panthers have a shot to win the other three games.

I think the Panthers will win 4-5 games in 2021.

Returning Sting?

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Georgia Tech kicks off the college football season September 4th at home against Northern Illinois.

Geoff Collins is entering his third season as the head coach in Atlanta. His record is 6 – 16 and he won three games in each of his first two seasons. The question is ‘can the Yellow Jackets finally turn the corner this season?’

Last season true freshman quarterback Jeff Sims started. As expected, he went through growing pains learning and gaining experience. He passed for 1,881 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also led the team in rushing with 492 yards and 6 TD’s. I think he will be drastically better as a sophomore.

True freshman running back Jahmyr Gibbs was a four-star recruit coming out of high school. He missed several games in 2020 due to injury. He rushed for 460 yards, 4 touchdowns and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. He was also second on the team in receptions with 24 catches, 303 yards and 3 scores. If he can stay healthy, he should run for a thousand yards.

Junior running back Jordan Mason can run effectively when he plays. In 2020, he rushed for 352 yards, 2 TD’s and averaged 4.3 YPC.

They did lose the leading receiver last season, Jalen Camp. He graduated and was drafted in the 6th round by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Left tackle Devin Cochran is a grad-transfer from Vanderbilt. He’s 6’7, 320-pounds and should immediately improve the offensive line.

Tackle Kenneth Kirby is also a grad-transfer from Norfolk State. He was a three-year starter and two-time All-MEAC selection.

You may be noticing a theme so far with the grad-transfer players. Linebacker Ayinde Eley joined the team in January after transferring from Maryland. He was voted a team captain for the spring game and has been a leader since showing up on campus.

Georgia Tech needs to improve in every aspect because they have not done anything well in the Geoff Collins era. We have seen they can win three games but they will need to double that to become bowl eligible. One thing that was promising is that all of the wins last season were against ACC teams. T

hey are starting to level the playing field and they now need to win one more conference game and two non-conference games to get to six wins.

I believe Tech will win the season opener against Norther Illinois.

The following week, September 11th is also at Bobby Dodd Stadium against Kennesaw State. The Owls are an FCS team but they are tough. I think this will be a close game but I give the advantage to Tech.

Week 3 is the first away game against Clemson. We all know that GT will be slaughtered. Last season they were embarrassed 73 -7. I think this game will be closer but that would still be a forty-point loss.

The fourth game is against North Carolina at Mercedes-Benz stadium. The Tar Heels are a better team. Collins needs to start winning games like this if he plans to turn the program around. I give the advantage to UNC.

The next two games before the bye week are Pitt and at Duke. I think Tech can beat Duke.

After the bye, the next four games are at Virginia, Virginia Tech, at Miami and Boston College. BC and UVA are the games they have a chance in.

The final two games are at Notre Dame and home versus Georgia. These will be blow out loses.

I think GT will improve and win 5 games but they will not become bowl eligible.

 

Wolf Pack

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Buford Wolves are a powerhouse program in the state of Georgia since the new millennium started. The Wolves have won 13 state championships with only one coming before the year 2000 (1978).

After a drought of not winning a state championship since 2014, they won the 5A state title in 2019, finishing 14-1.

In 2020, Buford moved up to 6A and beat Lee County in the state title game. The Wolves (13-1) only lost the season opener to North Cobb, a 7A team.

Buford became the first team in GHSA history to win a state football championship in six different classifications. Buford has won titles at Class A, AA, AAA, AAAA, AAAAA and AAAAAA.

2019 was the first season for head coach Bryant Appling and he clearly knows how to win. They have the most talented team in the state, at any level. Buford has the most players ranked in the Georgia top 120 Class of 2022 recruits.

Isaiah ‘007’ Bond (5’10, 175 lbs.) is the highest ranked on the team as the No. 23 recruit in the state. He is a four-star wide receiver/corner back. He’s also an All-American in football and track. Bond is currently committed to Florida.

Safety Jake Pope (6’1, 190) is also a four-star recruit for the class of 2022 and ranked right behind Bond, No. 24. Some of the schools recruiting him are Alabama, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Ohio State and Arizona State.

Corner back Rylan Gandy (6’0, 170) is a three-star recruit and he’s committed to Pitt. This is a very talented secondary opposing teams have to deal with.

Linebacker VJ Payne (6’2, 180) is committed to South Carolina. There are more three-star recruits on the roster.

Safety Malik Spencer (6’2, 193) has committed to Michigan State.

Running back Victor Venn (5’9, 175) is committed to Colorado.

CJ Clinkscales is listed as an athlete but he plays running back and corner. He’s committed to Boston College.

Quarterback Ashton Daniels (6’3, 200) is a Stanford commit.

The season kicks off August 20th at North Cobb. The 7A Warriors won the game last year 28-14. I think this will be a close game but I give the advantage to North Cobb since they are from a higher classification.

Week 2 is against former region foe, Clarke Central (Athens) on the road. The Gladiators were 8-3 last season but lost the Buford matchup 47-0. Expect a similar result in 2021.

After an early bye week, Buford plays their first home game against Myers Park (Charlotte, NC). They advanced to the 4A state semifinals in 2020 but I don’t believe they can compete with Buford.

Chaminade-Madonna (Hollywood, FL) comes to town Week 4. They are a 3A team and were 8-2 last season. This might be a close game because Florida has very talented players. The rest of the season is region games after this.

The remaining region 8-AAAAAA opponents are Central Gwinnett, Habersham Central, Shiloh, Lanier, Winder-Barrow and Dacula.

In 2020, they beat their region opponents by a combined score of 257-24. They are far superior to the other teams in the region and they will easily repeat as region champs.

I expect Buford to go into the playoffs with a 9-1 record and repeat as state champions.

 

Ramming Through

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Last season Grayson won the 7A Georgia state championship in dominating fashion.

The Rams finished 14 – 0 and only had one game decided by single digits.

That was their third championship, all of them have come since 2011. They are one of the newer powerhouse programs.

Grayson ended 2020 ranked second nationally. They will go into the 2021 season ranked 8th in the nation.

Head coach Adam Carter is entering his third season as head coach. He has a 25 – 2 record since taking over as the head ball coach in Loganville.

The Rams were at the center of some controversy last season. They had four-star quarterback Jake Garcia from California. He transferred to Valdosta over the summer for his senior year and played one game for the Wildcats. Then he transferred to Grayson. Garcia committed to Miami.

Last season senior running back Phil Mafah committed to Clemson. He suffered a season ending injury late in the season and his replacements filled in nicely.

In the state championship game against Collins Hill, sophomore Joseph Taylor (15 carries, 121 yards and junior Sean Downer (16, 92) played well.

Freshman Joseph Stone also played. The Rams will probably use the committee approach again this season.

They do not have as much talent as they had last season. The highest ranked recruit on the team is three-star safety Mumu Bin-Wahad. He’s ranked as the 90th best prospect in the state for the Class of 2022 and he’s expected to commit to West Virginia.

Senior guard Griffin Scroggs is 6’5, 295 pounds and he committed to Georgia Tech. Defensive backs Michael Daugherty and A.J. Lopez are currently uncommitted, but both should attend Power 5 schools.

The season kicks off August 20th against Creekside. Creekside is a 5A school, so this is a game against an opponent from a lower classification. The Indians were 7 – 3 in 2020 and won a region title but they cannot compete with an elite 7A team.

Week 2 is on the road at McEachern. They are normally one of the best programs in the state, but the Indians were 4 – 8 last season. This game may be close early, but Grayson will win by double digits.

After a bye week the first game in September is home against Archer. The teams played in 2020 and Grayson won, 26-7. The Tigers won a playoff game last year, so they have some talent. I think they can hang around for three quarters before the score gets out of hand.

The Rams travel to Kennesaw to face Harrison 9/17. This is Justin Fields alma mater. Harrison is a very good program. They were undefeated and won the 6A state championship in 2019. 2020 was the first season in 7A for the Hoyas and it was tough. They finished 4 – 8, including a 30-6 loss to Grayson in the playoffs. This will be an easy win.

The next week is the beginning of region play, at Mill Creek. The Hawks were the only team to challenge Grayson last year, losing 20-13 in double overtime. I think they will get the W in 2021.

October 1st is home against South Gwinnett, an easy win.

After another bye week the Rams travel to Parkview. The Panthers have returned to be a contender over the last couple of years. They lost some talented seniors though.

The final two games are home versus Brookwood and at Newton. Brookwood might be a tough win, but Newton doesn’t stand a chance.

Grayson should return to the state title game in 2021.

Eagles To Fly In 2021

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Collins Hill (Suwanee, GA) is not one of the top high school football programs in the state of Georgia.

They have always struggled with being a consistent contender. Typically, every 3-4 years they have a class that can make the playoffs and win a game or two.

The 2020 season was very successful, they finished 12–3. The Eagles made it to the 7A state championship game and lost to Grayson for the second time.

They beat some very good teams in route to the state final game like Alpharetta, Parkview and Lowndes. Grayson was stacked with talent so there was no shame in losing to them.

Going into the 2021 season Collins Hill is returning some great talent. They have the top-rated recruit in the class of 2022, five-star corner back Travis Hunter. He is rated as the third overall recruit nationally and he committed to Florida State.

Hunter is 6’1, 165 pounds with great speed. He also returns kicks and punts for the Eagles. I would suggest looking up some of his highlights when you get a chance because he seems like a young Deion Sanders.

Quarterback Sam Horn is a four-star player and he’s rated as the 6th best player in Georgia for the class of 2022. Horn has prototypical size for the position, standing 6’4 and 190 pounds. In 2020, he passed for over 3,900 yards, 41 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Horn has committed to Mizzou. I expect him to have another big year as a senior and cut down on his interceptions.

His top target is senior wide receiver Cam Pedro. Pedro recently committed to Marshall.

I have seen some publications rank Collins Hill in the national preseason top 25. The highest I have seen them ranked is No. 11. Even though that is high, Grayson is ranked higher.

It’s an understatement to say expectations are high and they are expected to compete for the 7A state championship. They are also in one of the toughest regions, 8-AAAAAAA.

The season kicks off August 22nd against Brookwood. The Broncos are a very good program and they are coming off an 8-3 season. They have the No. 13 prospect in the state, corner back Marquis Groves-Killbrew. This will be a tough game. I give the edge to the Eagles.

Week 2 is against Sprayberry. This should be an easy win for Collins Hill.

September begins with a game versus Greenville Christian (Greenville, MS). They were 11–1 last year and won the state championship. The Saints will be a solid opponent.

Week 4 is on the road against Rome. The Wolves are very good, but they are in a smaller classification, 6A. The teams played last year, and Collins Hill won 28–14. I expect a similar result in 2021.

The next game is against Alpharetta. These teams played twice in 2020 and Collins Hill won both times. I expect the Eagles to beat Alpharetta again.

East Coweta comes to town September 24th. The Indians were 10–2 in 2020 and won region 2-AAAAAAA. This will be a close win for the Eagles.

Region play begins October 1st against archrival Peachtree Ridge. The Lions will get blown out similar to last season’s 42–7 score.

After a bye week Collins Hill travels to North Gwinnett. The Bulldogs are a very good team and I think they will win.

The last two games are against Mountain View and Mill Creek which will be convincing victories.

Going into the playoffs I expect the Eagles to be 9-1.

Hawks Flying To NBA Finals?

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Hawks are making an improbable playoff run.

They just beat the No.1 seed in the East, Philadelphia, in Game 7 of the East Semifinals to advance to the Conference Finals.

They overcame a subpar performance from the team’s star, Trae Young. He was 5 for 23 from the floor. Young did finish with 21 points and 10 assists.

“I knew I had to find a way,” Young said. “My shot was off. My right hand and shoulder were giving out. But my teammates showed up and made plays. I wanted to come through in the end and help them out.”

Shooting guard Kevin Huerter led the team with 27 points, making 10 of 18 shots (55%).

Danilo Gallinari had 17 points off the bench. John Collins had 14 points and 16 rebounds.

“This team is special, man,” Huerter said. “Everybody has counted us out all year. For us to make it this far and win in this building in Game 7, it’s huge for us.”

Lloyd Pierce was fired as the head coach and Nate McMillan was named interim head coach on March 1, 2021. The Hawks went 27 – 11 and won the Southeast division.

“I felt like they were built for this moment tonight to win this game,” Coach Nate McMillan said.

MVP runner up Joel Embiid had 31 points, 11 rebounds and 8 turnovers playing with a meniscus tear in his right knee.

The other star for the Sixers, Ben Simmons played poorly. He only had 5 points in the game and routinely passed up open shots. In the series he shot 33% from the free throw line, which is clearly terrible.

Atlanta had been 0-9 in Games 7s on the road. Now they are advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2015.

This marked only the second year since 1973 — when the NBA began seeding for the playoffs by conference — when neither No. 1 seed will make the conference finals. The Clippers eliminated West No. 1 seed Utah.

“We gave them life from Game 1,” 76ers forward Tobias Harris said. “It’s a young, hungry team.”

The next test waiting for Atlanta are the Milwaukee Bucks, the No. 3 seed in the East. The Bucks are led by superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, AKA the Greek Freak.

This season he averaged 28.1 ppg, 11 rpg and 5.9 apg. He makes 56.9% of his field goals but he plays close to the basket. He only shoots 30.3% from the three-point line. In Game 7 against the No. 2 seed Brooklyn Nets, he had 40 points and 13 rebounds.

The deciding factor in the series will come from the rest of the team. Giannis will play well, but he needs help from his teammates.

Small forward Kris Middleton averaged 20.4 ppg and 6 rpg this season. If he plays well consistently Milwaukee will be tough to beat.

Game 1 is Wednesday, 8:30 pm in Milwaukee. We will see if the Hawks can continue to be road warriors and steal the opening game.

I think the playoff run comes to an end for Atlanta. I expect the Bucks to win in 6 games.

The New Titan

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Prior to the NFL Draft in late April, Atlanta Falcons first year general manager Terry Fontenot talked about trading Julio Jones.

Since then, I’ve been waiting to see where he would end up. We don’t have to wait any longer because he was traded to the Tennessee Titans.

Atlanta will receive a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick for sending Jones and a 2023 sixth-round pick to Tennessee. I think the Titans won this trade. Julio is a seven-time Pro Bowler and a top three wide receiver in the league at least. I think Atlanta should have received a first-round pick for him.

The Titans are already a good team, finishing 11 – 5 last season and winning the AFC South. The year before that they advanced to the AFC Championship game.

Tennessee has great skill players already. Derrick Henry led the league in rushing with 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was 15th in the league in pass yards with 3,819. He is tied for 7th in passing TD’s with Deshaun Watson, throwing 33 of them with only 7 interceptions.

Wide receiver A.J. Brown had 70 receptions for 1,075 yards and 11 scores. Corey Davis had 65 catches for 984 yards and 5 touchdowns. He signed with the New York Jets in the offseason, so Julio is essentially replacing him.

The Titans have not had two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season since 2004. That should change in 2021. The biggest winner in the trade is Brown.

“It takes some of the tension off of me and with Derrick (Henry) and Ryan (Tannehill) with Anthony (Fisker),” Brown told ESPN on Sunday. “Having another dominant guy on the other side, everybody has to be honest. Now, you don’t know who’s going to hold who. I may get CB1 or Julio may get CB1. But whoever gets CB2, [that cornerback] is going to be in trouble. It’s going to be fun.”

Tennessee obviously likes to run the ball a lot with Henry and throw play action passes off of that. Defenses would normally have to put eight men in the box to try to slow him down.

They faced eight defenders in the box on 23.1% of their snaps last season, more than any other team in the NFL. Adding Julio makes it difficult to do that now. At this point they basically have to pick their poison.

Their former offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith left to take over as head coach in Atlanta after the 2020 season. Todd Downing is entering his first season as OC in Nashville.

“We’ll look for ways to get him singled up, ways to help him with different coverage indicators and things like that,” Downing said of Brown. “See where we can move him around, expand his route tree a little bit and watch him have success as we expand it.”

The Titans ranked 28th in total defense last year, giving up 398.3 yards per game and 27.4 points per game. They only had 19 sacks in 2020 which is ranked 30th.

They did try to address that in free agency, signing corner back Janoris Jenkins, linebackers Bud Dupree and Jayon Brown.

They also signed defensive tackles Trevon Coley and Denico Autry. They drafted Virginia Tech corner Caleb Farley in the first round.

If Julio stays healthy, I think they will win the division again. The only AFC teams that are better on paper are Kansas City and Buffalo.

I’m looking forward to see how this season plays out and who Atlanta will draft with the picks they acquired.

Increasing Buzz

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Georgia Tech head football coach Geoff Collins is going into his third season in Atlanta.

He currently has a record of 6 – 16. So far, he has recruited better than his predecessor Paul Johnson but it has not translated on the field.

Tech’s spring season included 15 practices over a 24-day span that began March 30th. The Spring game was at Bobby Dodd Stadium on a Friday night, April 23rd. Fans were able to attend.

Left tackle Devin Cochran is a grad transfer from Vanderbilt, and he looks like he will make a big contribution next season. He’s 6’7, 320-pounds and he can stop a pass rusher in his tracks.

Quarterback Jeff Sims has shown what he can do with some time to pass the ball so the offense can be explosive.

Another grad transfer tackle, Kenneth Kirby will come to campus in May when he graduates from Norfolk State. He was a three-year starter and two-time All-MEAC selection.

Sims accounted for 173 yards of total offense and 3 touchdowns. He ran for a 48-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the game and completed 9-of-10 passes for 125 yards and two scores in front of a large crowd of season-ticket holders and students.

Coach Collins reset the score occasionally to make it more entertaining. He did this in the waning minutes to set up an exciting finish.

First, an 11-yard touchdown run by true freshman quarterback Chayden Peery and subsequent two-point conversion by Ryan Lantz gave the “White” team a 25-24 lead with exactly two minutes to go in the third and final period of the game.

On the following series Sims led the “Gold” team on a four-play, 65-yard drive. He threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to grad transfer Kyric McGowan to win the game.

The Yellow Jackets signal callers played well in the game. Playing in his first game in nearly 18 months due to the cancellation of his senior season of high school football in his native California, Peery completed 7-of-10 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown and ran four times for 26 yards and another score.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Yates connected on 6-of-10 passes for 99 yards and a score.

The defense forced two turnovers. There was a fumble recovery by senior defensive lineman Antonneous Clayton and an interception by senior Tariq Carpenter.

Carpenter’s INT came on a defense called by Georgia Tech men’s basketball head coach and honorary spring game defensive coach Josh Pastner.

The offensive line played well. They were not called for any false starts, which was a big problem in 2020.

Center Mikey Minihan accurately delivered snaps to the Sims, blocked effectively and had a handle on the defense’s pre-snap movements. Last season was his first-time playing center and he struggled at times.

Before the game team captains for offense and defense met at midfield. Three of the four were unsurprising selections – Sims and right guard Ryan Johnson (who was voted a permanent captain for the 2020 team at the end of the season) and safety Juanyeh Thomas. The fourth was grad-transfer linebacker Ayinde Eley, who joined the team in January from Maryland. They were voted by their teammates earlier in the week.

In his brief time at Tech, Eley “has made a tremendous impact to our program,” Collins said. “He is a great leader; he is a great teammate. He is a great worker within our program.”

Tech’s first game is September 4th at home against Northern Illinois. Hopefully this is the season where they can get back to a bowl game.

Flying Class

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2021 NFL draft is in the books. We saw what each team did to address their needs. Let’s take a look to see how the Atlanta Falcons did. This was the first draft for General Manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith.

I’m trying to not get too excited, but I have seen several different publications give the Falcons an A+ draft grade.

They selected Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the 4th pick. Pitts is the highest rated tight end prospect ever. He’s projected to have an impact like Travis Kelce and that should really help in the red zone. Atlanta should have an explosive top five offense in 2021.

In the second round with the 40th pick Atlanta selected UCF safety Richie Grant. He was first-team All-American Athletic Conference in 2019 and 2020.

Last season he led UCF with 72 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 6 pass deflections, 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in 9 games. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back.

Michigan guard Jalen Mayfield was taken with the 68th pick. The Falcons needed help on the offensive line, so they addressed a need.

Mayfield is only a redshirt sophomore, so he does not have much experience. In 2019 he played 13 games at right tackle and was honorable mention All-Big Ten. He played two games in 2020 before a high ankle sprain ended his season.

San Diego State corner back Darren Hall was the 108th selection. In 2019 he tied for the FBS lead in pass breakups with 16.

In 2020 he was first-team All-MWC and led the Aztecs with 3 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, 38 tackles with 2 for loss in 8 games.

Stanford center Drew Dalman was the 114th pick. He’s the son of former 49ers offensive lineman Chris Dalman and he was a top 10 center nationally coming out of high school. He was first-team All-Pac-12 in 2020 and started all 6 of their games.

The 148th pick was Texas defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham. He was a top-150 recruit nationally coming out of high school.

Graham started every game the past two seasons and was named honorable mention all-conference as a senior in 2020. He had 23 tackles, 7 for loss and 2 sacks.

Notre Dame defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji (pronounced ah-DAY-tok-uhn-bo oh-gun-day-gee) was 17 when he enrolled in college. It took him a while to work his way into the rotation because of that.

He started 12 games as a senior and was a team captain. He was honorable mention All-ACC and had 23 tackles and a team high 7 sacks.

Boise State corner back Avery Williams was the second to last pick (No. 183) for the Falcons.

He was All- Mountain West Conference in all four seasons and he’s a good kick returner as well.

He was a third team All-American as an all-purpose player because he led the FBS in combined return yardage (19-533-28.1 kick returns, 15-229-15.3 punt returns), topped the country with two punt return touchdowns and tied for the national lead with two kick return touchdowns. He also tied for fifth in the FBS with two blocked kicks.

The final player drafted was Arizona State wide receiver Frank Darby (No. 187). ASU only played four games in 2020 and he played in three as a team captain. He received limited touches after suffering a rib injury in the season opener.

Time will tell if these players develop the way the franchise hopes but Atlanta did a good job addressing team needs.

AFC South Draft Preview

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2021 NFL Draft is later this week. Let’s take a look around the AFC South to see who will be drafted in the first round.

Jacksonville: The Jaguars (1-15) earned the top pick but they also have the 25th pick.

With a record that bad they clearly need help at several positions. Legendary college coach Urban Meyer came out of retirement and was hired as head coach.

We know Clemson Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is going to be the first pick in the draft. He has all of the measurables, standing 6’6 and 220 pounds. He has high football IQ and a strong arm. He has basically every accolade you can get as a college player except for the Heisman Trophy.

He’s a national champion and led his team to the College Football Playoff in the three seasons he played. The last quarterback prospect I can think of that was clearly the top prospect like this was Andrew Luck. I expect him to be very successful in the NFL.

With the 25th pick. I think a difference maker at wide receiver is what they will get to pair with Lawrence.

Purdue receiver Rondale Moore fits that mold. Purdue only played four games last season and Moore played three of them.

He had 35 catches and 270 yards.

His best statistical season was as a freshman in 2018. He had 114 catches, 1,258 yards and 12 TD’s.

He ran a 4.33 40 at his pro day so he’s very fast.

Florida receiver Kadarius Toney is also another possible selection. In 11 games he had 70 receptions, 984 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Indianapolis: The Colts (11-5) are a very solid team. Philip Rivers played his only season in Indy last year and led the team to the playoffs before he retired.

Now they have Carson Wentz as the signal caller. The Colts have the 21st pick so they can go in several directions depending on the players still available.

Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore would be a good pick. In 8 games last season he had 86 receptions, 1,193 yards and 8 touchdowns. He ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro day. He reminds me of Tyreek Hill and Indy could use a playmaker at wide receiver.

Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips might be another possibility. He’s 6’5, 266 pounds so he has ideal size for the position. In 2020 he had 45 total tackles and 8 sacks.

Tennessee: The Titans (11-5) won the division last season. They advanced to the AFC Championship game in 2019. I think this team is a serious championship contender.

Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins would be a good pick to strengthen the offensive line. We know Tennessee loves to run the ball with Derrick Henry, so this makes sense. He was First Team All-Big 12 in 2020.

At 6’6 and 320 pounds he looks the part. He’s very physical and aggressive.

Virginia Tech corner back Caleb Farley might also be a possibility. He opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns. He recently had back surgery, which is something to consider. In 2019 he had 20 tackles, 12 pass deflections and 4 interceptions.

The Houston Texans (4-12) do not have a first-round pick. I’m looking forward to the draft to see how teams will address their needs.