2020 PJP Preseason Player Ranking #30-21

Courtesy The Daily Hoosier

We’re back with the third installment of IU’s 50 most important players for 2020. The theme of this group is guys who’ve had a taste of game experience in the past and are likely to see an expanded role in 2020.

As mentioned before, for the experienced players on this list, each will be evaluated in three categories: “Has,” “Shows,” and “Needs.” “Has” refers to a skillset that the player consistently demonstrates. “Shows” refers to a skillset that the player flashes from time to time, but has not firmly established. “Needs” is a skill or trait that the player still needs to develop to meet his potential.

In case you missed the first two installments: Preseason Player Ranking #50-41Preseason Player Ranking #40-31.

No. 30 – Charles Campbell, K, R-So

Has: A big leg. Based on pedigree, practice reports, and a brief video from a scrimmage this fall, there’s no question Chuck can connect on kicks from 50+. Also, maybe I’m late to the party on this, but I’m very excited that we get to call Charles Campbell “Chuck.” I’m way more confident in a Chuck Campbell’s ability to hit an important, late-game kick than a Charles.

Shows: Stones. Speaking of an important, late-game kick, Campbell hit one of those against Purdue. With Logan Justus struggling, Tom Allen called on Chuck, and he delivered, hitting a 41-yarder through the rain on a muddy field. Without that kick, the Bucket likely remains in West Lafayette. Time will tell if Campbell can consistently perform in the clutch, but he’s off to a good start.

Needs: Experience. That field goal against Purdue is Campbell’s only non-garbage time attempt. As the clear No. 1 kicker heading into 2020, the experience issue will correct itself quickly.

No. 29 – Miles Marshall, WR, R-So

Has: Ability to make tough catches. He only caught 16 balls in 2019 and his catch rate of 53% doesn’t jump off the page, but during the back half of last season – particularly in the Maryland, Nebraska, and Purdue games – Marshall made several high-degree-of-difficulty catches on Peyton Ramsey passes.

Shows: Vertical threat. The catches described above were more in the intermediate range, but Marshall flashed an ability to get open down the field as well. With frequent downfield targets Nick Westbrook and Donovan Hale gone, Marshall should be the recipient of more downfield targets.

Needs: Anything after the catch. As an outside receiver, if Marshall can get open and make contested and difficult catches, that’s sufficient. Anything he can add in terms of after-the-catch running ability is icing on the cake. To date, he hasn’t really had a chance to show his ability in this area. Again, he should get a chance this season.

No. 28 – Sio Nofoagatoto’a, NT, So

Has: Ideal size for a nose tackle, at a young age. He’s 6’4, 315. He could not add another pound in his time at IU, and he’d be plenty big enough to start at nose.

Shows: Ability to eat up blocks against the run. With that size, Sio certainly held his own as a regular member of the DL rotation once Juan Harris left the program in late September. While he wasn’t racking up havoc plays (foreshadowing!), he generally wasn’t getting blown off the ball either, and that’s actually an accomplishment for a true freshman interior lineman. That said, he wasn’t exactly commanding double-teams either. There’s certainly room for improvement.

Needs: To create some havoc! Sio recorded just one non-garbage time havoc play in 2019, a pressure against Maryland. He didn’t record a single tackle for loss – although he did stuff a Tennessee back for no gain in the bowl game. I strongly suspect this aspect of his game will come around.

No. 27 – Jack Tuttle, QB, R-So

Has: B1G Starting QB caliber arm. Does Tuttle have a Penix-like combination of arm and quick release? Probably not. Can he make every throw OC Nick Sheridan might ask him to make? By all accounts, yes. And that’s not something that should be taken lightly. If/when something happens to Penix, adjustments to the gameplan should be minor, rather than wholesale.

Shows: Mobility/running ability. Tuttle, like Penix, is a pocket passer who can move, rather than a runner who can throw, but even average mobility can really open up an offense. If called upon, Tuttle should provide that.

Needs: An opportunity…and if Mike Penix’s injury issues continue, he’ll get it. Once he gets that opportunity, we’ll really have a chance to evaluate Tuttle. Is he accurate? How is his decision-making under pressure? At this moment, we don’t know enough to pinpoint any one need.

No. 26 – Mackenzie Nworah, G, R-Sr

Has: Experience. Over three seasons, Nworah has played in 19 games and started 9. He’s been the first guard off the bench for a while now. Whether he continues in that role, or holds of Michael Katic and starts at right guard, that experience should serve him well.

Shows: Run blocking prowess. Like most guards, Nworah is at his best when he’s firing off the ball in the run game. He has plenty of strength. In 2020, the question is whether that run blocking can show up against IU’s Big 4 opponents – Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.

Needs: Improved athleticism/agility. This may be too much to ask at this stage in Mackenzie’s career, but for him to take the next step and become a bona fide B1G starting guard, his agility and athleticism needs to improve. Against UT in the bowl game, blitzers took advantage of Nworah’s lack of agility to get free runs at Peyton Ramsey (part of that was lack of recognition as well). Some better footwork would help on Nworah’s pulls in the run game too. Even a marginal improvement by Mackenzie in this area would help IU’s offensive line as a whole.

No. 25 – Juwan Burgess, S, R-Jr

Has: Reliable tackling. In the last two seasons, Burgess has made 52 tackles and missed just 5, good for 91%. For a safety tasked with bringing down ballcarriers in space, that’s a very strong tackling percentage. Burgess is not a thumper in run support, but he’s regularly there to clean up when a runner makes it through the front 7.

Shows: A nose for the ball. Last season, Burgess forced two fumbles and recovered two, including a game-clinching force and recovery against Maryland. For a group of safeties that struggled to make plays in 2019, Burgess’ ball-hawking was a rare bright spot. The question is whether Juwan can bring that skill on a more consistent basis, and whether it can show up a little more against the pass.

Needs: Improvement against the pass. Take a look at Juwan’s coverage stats over the past two seasons:

Not. The. Best. In fairness, his 2019 numbers showed some improvement. More is needed in 2020. On the bright side, it’s not really an issue of athleticism. The big plays that created the ugly chart above have generally come from Juwan biting on the first move by a receiver or having his eyes in the backfield.

No. 24 – Jaylin Williams, CB, Jr

Has: Coverage skills. Call him the Anti-Burgess:

Remarkable consistency, even when facing twice as many targets in 2019. Allowing 6 yards-per-target and just 1 TD in two seasons is quite good. It speaks to the strength of IU’s corners – man that’s wild to say – that someone with those numbers isn’t a no-doubt starter.

Shows: Ball skills. Williams has a INT in each of his first two seasons. This is not a secondary that racks up picks, so 2 INTs in 2 years qualifies as flashing ball skills.

Needs: Increased physicality in run support. If there’s one area where Williams trails Tiawan Mullen and Reese Taylor, it’s the ability to come up and make a play against the run. This isn’t really about Williams being subpar against the run – it’s more about Taylor and Mullen being really good. If Williams wants to keep up, he needs to improve.

No. 23 – Sampson James, RB, So

Has: Strength and power. As he showed against Purdue, he can move a pile with the best of them. Even with Stevie Scott’s powerful running style, the coaching staff has to think about getting Sampson goalline carries.

Shows: Honestly, James hasn’t really “flashed” anything else. In about 2 games’ worth of non-garbage time action, Sampson firmly established that he’s a powerful north-south runner, and…that’s really it.

Needs: To the previous point, he needs to show that he can do all the other things that make a running back valuable. Can he turn a 15-yard run into 40? What can he do outside the tackles? Can he catch the ball out of the backfield? Can he pass block? Because of how the Purdue and Tennessee games were called, we really don’t have firm answers to those questions.

No. 22 – David Ellis, RB, So

Has: VERSITILITY. Last year he played slot WR and returned kicks. This year, it sounds like he’ll be in the running back rotation – I expect him to be the regular 3rd down back – and I’m sure he’ll catch his share of passes. And he’ll probably return kicks again. And he’s a true sophomore. Ellis is a mature football player who certainly seems like he can handle everything the coaching staff throws at him. If he’s used correctly, he could be incredibly valuable in 2020.

Shows: Elusiveness. On offense, Ellis broke just two tackles in 2019, both on a single WR screen against Penn State. He showed some wiggle returning kicks as well. I will be surprised if we don’t see an uptick in Ellis’ missed tackles forced in 2020.

Needs: To show that he can handle running back. Can he run between the tackles? If necessary, can he pass block, given his small frame? I think Nick Sheridan & Co. feel fairly strongly about the answers to those questions or they wouldn’t have moved him, but he still needs to show it in games.

No. 21 – Devon Matthews, S, Jr

Has: Competence against the pass. In the post-Jonathan Crawford world, Devon Matthews is clearly IU’s best safety against the pass, as shown by his coverage numbers over the past two seasons:

Shows: Playmaking. After going 12 games without a pass defended (or any other havoc play), Matthews was all over Tennessee’s passing lanes in the Gator Bowl. He ended up with three passes defended on the night, and a couple of them could have been interceptions. Matthews also picked off a pass against Ohio State as a true freshman. So the potential for playmaking is clearly there…

Needs: …but he needs to be more consistent. Defensive Coordinator Kane Wommack mentioned this week that Matthews was indecisive at times in 2019. That certainly tracks what I saw for most of 2019. He was anything but indecisive against UT, and if the reports from Fall Camp are any indication, he may have put that indecisiveness in the rear view mirror. If Matthews can consistently provide Gator Bowl-level performance, he should be IU’s best safety.