Intro to Canadian Studies: Big SEC performance tops Week 4 NCAA honours

Photo courtesy: Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

The SEC came roaring back into play this week and the previously cancelled Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC are all on the horizon.

NCAA college football is in full swing with everyone wanting to make sure their Canuck stars are eligible to be featured in Intro to Canadian Studies.

There was a myriad of excellent performances to choose from this week and a few real disappointments as well. Like any good football team, this class will be making a few adjustments going forward, but we’ll still be breaking down all the best Canadians in action. Take out your notebooks and let’s get started.

Top of the Class

1. REC Josh Palmer, SR, Tennessee Volunteers (Brampton, Ont.)

It was opening week for the SEC, so it’s fitting that this week’s top Canadian comes from the Southeastern Conference. Palmer had been the Volunteers’ third receiver for the last two years and was expected to ascend to the starring role with Jajuan Jennings and Marquez Callaway now in the NFL.

The kid who calls himself Flower City’s own did not disappoint, showing why he was one of just two Canadian’s named to the Senior Bowl watch list prior to the season.

With six catches for 85 yards and a score, Palmer led the way for Tennessee and excelled throughout. He finished the day with an impressive Pro Football Focus grade of 79.3 for his 50 offensive snaps, the second best on his team.

Photo courtesy: Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Most importantly, he streaked down the right sideline and got a step on his defender to haul in the 32-yard, game-winning touchdown. Expect it to be the first of many excellent performances from Palmer in 2020.

2. MLB Amen Ogbongbemiga, SR, Oklahoma State Cowboys (Calgary, Alb.)

After a mediocre debut a week ago, the physical Ogbongbemiga got plenty of work in a win over West Virginia and bounced back in a big way.

The stud out of Calgary racked up an eye-popping 13 tackles and a sack, adding one other hit on the quarterback. While he struggled to a middling 50.5 PFF grade against Tulsa, he showed far better against the Mountaineers and finished with a much improved 75.3.

Often overshadowed by his ball-carrying Canadian counterpart, Chuba Hubbard, it was Ogbongbemiga who showed week-to-week improvement and most importantly, contributed to a tough win.

3. DB Alonzo Addae, SR, West Virginia Mountaineers (Pickering, Ont.)

It wasn’t the highlight reel FBS debut he had two weeks ago, but Addae continued to be productive for the Mountaineers in his second game.

West Virginia’s secondary held true freshman Shane Illingworth to just 139 yards passing and Addae was busy on the back end, making nine tackles and assisting on one for a loss. The result was a respectable PFF grade of 62.1, weakened by the Cowboys’ late-game success on the ground.

Notes on the Margins

This is a new segment I’m debuting this week, replacing my Frosh of the Week segment. Instead of featuring a freshman, I’ll highlight two Canadians who made underrated contributions that exceeded their average statistics.

OLB Tavius Robinson, JR, Ole Miss Rebels (Guelph, Ont.)

If U Sports fans were hoping for validation of their favourite brand of football, Tavius Robinson certainly gave it to them Saturday. The Guelph transfer, who headed south after the Canadian season was cancelled, was named a starter in his first career SEC game and showed well.

Against No. 5 Florida (now No. 3), Robinson made three tackles and twice hurried Kyle Trask. While a 63.6 PFF grade isn’t spectacular, it is a very promising start for a player who was harassing the OUA just last year.

REC John Metchie III, SO, Alabama Crimson Tide (Brampton, Ont.)

Here’s a trivia question for you: who was the highest-graded run blocker for powerhouse Alabama in their season opener? You’d be forgiven for thinking it was one of their star offensive linemen — perhaps projected NFL first-round draft pick Alex Leatherwood?

That answer would be wrong. It was the Canadian receiver Metchie III with a grade of 85.0, almost 15 points higher than Leatherwood.

Run blocking was an admittedly small part of Metchie’s game, but he showed a ton of promise in 49 reps as the Crimson Tide’s third receiver. Metchie looked explosive with two catches for 42 yards and will be a big factor when Alabama opens up their aerial attack.

Re-submit Assignment

CB Deane Leonard, SR, Ole Miss Rebels (Calgary, Alb.)

There were a few Canadians who could have earned this dubious honour. After being at the top of the class a week ago, Jared Wayne was held off the stat sheet. Vancouver’s Terrell Jana underwhelmed for Virginia. Despite one hundred yards and a late touchdown, Chuba Hubbard could have gone back-to-back after posting the worst PFF grade of his entire career.

Instead, it’s a rude awakening for Leonard that makes the cut.

Widely regarded as the best cornerback in U Sports, Leonard departed Calgary for Ole Miss but had a considerably less smooth transition than his new teammate Tavius Robinson. It started off the field, where his NCAA approval came just a week ago and approval to play from the SEC came down right before game-time.

Perhaps that mental uncertainty was why he struggled mightily in his debut. In 24 snaps as a rotational corner, Leonard had his receiver targeted six times and gave up four catches for 51 yards and his first touchdown allowed as a Rebel. In a game where the coverage got torched, Leonard gave up the third-most yards in limited snaps and had an awful PFF grade of 48.0.

Head coach Lane Kiffin is very high on Leonard, stating he has NFL potential, but this first game served as a cruel wake-up call to the types of athletes he’ll be facing. The former Dinos star will need to buckle down and adapt quickly if he wants to take full advantage of his year in the south.

Class Attendance

REC Jared Wayne, SO, Pittsburgh: 39 offensive snaps, no catches

RT Matthew Bergeron, SO, Syracuse: 61 offensive snaps, one sack allowed, one pressure allowed

MLB Geoff Cantin-Arku, SO, Syracuse: 69 defensive snaps, seven tackles, one QB hit, two hurries

OLB Tyrell Richards, JR, Syracuse: seven defensive snaps, three tackles, one QB hit, one field goal block

RG John Kourtis, SO, Liberty: eight offensive snaps

TE Bruno Labelle, SR, Cincinnati: 49 offensive snaps, one reception, two yards

RB Chuba Hubbard, JR, Oklahoma State: 39 offensive snaps, 22 carries, 101 yards, one touchdown

DT Akheem Mesidor, FR, West Virginia: 21 offensive snaps, three tackles

REC Terrell Jana, SR, Virginia: 62 offensive snaps, four receptions, 29 yards, one tackle

NT Samuel Obiang, SO, Texas State: 34 defensive snaps, one tackle for loss, one QB hit

DE Daniel Joseph, SR, NC State: 35 defensive snaps, one hurry

PK Gabe Siemieniec, SR, Louisiana Tech: 11 kickoffs, 604 yards, four touchbacks, 54.9 average

Rostered but not dressed: REC Damien Alford, FR, Syracuse / OG Patrick Davis, SR, Syracuse / DB Ben Labrosse, FR, Syracuse / OL Liam Dick, FR, Pittsburgh / REC Ezechiel Tieide, SO, Boston College / DT Lamar Goods, FR, Florida / OL Edouard Paradis, JR, Houston Baptist

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.