Intro to Canadian Studies: Big play defensive backs highlight Week 13 in the NCAA

Photo courtesy: Ohio University Athletics | Midge Mazur

Forget what you’ve heard about unlucky number thirteen because Week 13 in the NCAA was as good as it gets for Canadians in the NCAA.

There wasn’t a stinker performance to be found amidst the Canucks that took the field and that made it particularly difficult when assembling the Top of the Class.

I finally settled on a tie for third place and still big outings from established stars like John Metchie III and Daniel Joseph couldn’t make the cut. Those struggles for me were pure value for the viewer on Saturday and should make this week’s lecture all the more interesting. Without further ado, take out your notebooks and let’s get started.

Top of the Class

1. DB Jett Elad, FR, Ohio Bobcats (Mississauga, Ont.)

As the game of football has evolved into a distinctly pass-first sport, the role of slot corners, rovers and nickelbacks has become one of the most important on the field. Old staple terminology like the 3-4 or 4-3 defence has been rendered almost meaningless as nearly every team rolls with five or more defensive backs as their base set. The second-highest Canadian Pro Football Focus grade of the 2020 season went to a slot corner.

Photo courtesy: Ohio University Athletics/ Midge Mazur

Ok, maybe it’s a little surprising.

Redshirt freshman Jett Elad has come into his own this year and was simply spectacular in 22 snaps of action Saturday, earning an elite 87.0 mark from PFF. The box score statistics were no less impressive either. Elad allowed just a single catch for two yards, made three tackles, broke up a pass and picked off another as his team routed Bowling Green. In just his third career game, it was an impressive harbinger of things to come.

Canadian defensive backs have been tragically devalued for decades now but the revolution is coming. Elad is just the latest homegrown DB to find NCAA success and teams may soon be forced to reconsider how they employ the ratio.

2. LT Alaric Jackson, SR, Iowa Hawkeyes (Windsor, Ont.)

It’s difficult to find a way to properly praise offensive linemen. It is so difficult to compare their successes to those players who are able to post recorded statistics. More often than not, they get left of the list. That isn’t the case for Alaric Jackson this week.

Posting an impressive PFF grade of 81.4 against Nebraska, Jackson simply did not have a weak part of his game and was Iowa’s best offensive player by a wide margin. Not only did he record an elite 85.0 grade as a pass blocker and didn’t allow a single pressure all game, but also made an impact in the run game with a very impressive grade of 76.0. Say what you want about Nebraska’s defensive line, that level of performance stands out against anybody and deserves to be on this week’s podium.

T-3. CB Deane Leonard, SR, Ole Miss Rebels (Calgary, Alb.)

It’s taken almost the whole season but the best cover man in the Canada West is proving himself to be just as good in the SEC.

Deane Leonard jumped into one of college football’s most heated rivalries and came out with more than the Egg Bowl victory. The University of Calgary Dinos transfer recorded a highlight reel 84-yard fumble recovery — the fourth longest in school history — but he was also Ole Miss’ highest-graded coverage player on the day, coming in with a 74.4 PFF grade. It was Leonard’s best game since jumping to the NCAA, recording two tackles and two pass breakups to go with his opportunistic romp.

Leonard and teammate Tavius Robinson have been a fantastic advertisement for the quality of U Sports football all year, and the corner has taken his marketing to one of the sport’s biggest stages. For those who watched him cover up the Canada West, it’s hard not to be filled with immense pride.

T-3. REC Samuel Emilus, JR, UMass Minutemen (Montreal, Que.)

Let’s get this out of the way first: UMass is terrible. They’ve played four games this season and have lost those contests by a total score of 161-12. The unfortunate result of that situation is that a handful of talented players toil in relative obscurity.

Samuel Emilus is one of those players. While he normally suffers from a distinct lack of a quarterback to throw to him, the Montrealer got a chance to show off on Friday.

As the Minutemen got manhandled by Liberty, Emilus led his team by hauling in four balls for 82 yards — more yards in one afternoon than any other player on his team has managed on the year so far. Emilus was able to successfully exploit the intermediate areas of the field, racking up chunk plays and making a couple of impressive adjustments to the football. The result was a PFF grade of 75.9, one of the highest by a UMass player all season.

Opportunities to praise Emilus have been few and far between this year, through no fault of his own. This week was an excellent example of how high his potential is if given the chance.

Notes on the Margins

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

Amen Ogbongbemiga gets undervalued. The pure volume of his snap count with the Oklahoma State defence week after week as they’ve struggled to compensate for a bogged down offence often deflates his grading average with PFF and his production has frequently been taken for granted. Sometimes, you just have to throw a dog a bone.

That’s what I’ll do with Ogbongbemiga this week after he notched an incredible 11 total tackles in a narrow victory over Texas Tech, while also recording one quarterback hit and one hurry. That was only good enough for a 65.0 grade according to PFF, but very few players anywhere in college football can match that production.

DE Mohamed Diallo, SR, Central Michigan Chippewas (Toronto, Ont.)

Mohamed Diallo is quickly turning into one of college football’s best-kept secrets, proving to be an absolute game-wrecker in the MAC. He showed it once again in a tight win against Eastern Michigan.

Slogging it out along the defensive line, Diallo racked up six tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a quarterback hurry in a well-rounded performance that earned a 70.6 mark from PFF. He was disruptive all game long, just as he’s been so far in 2020.

Chances are you’re not spending a lot of time watching Central Michigan, but you might want to start. Even though he tips the scales at over 300 pounds, generally a red flag for CFL defensive linemen, Diallo has all the movement skills to be a big time riser in a murky 2021 draft.

Re-Submit Assignment

RB Chuba Hubbard, JR, Oklahoma State Cowboys (Sherwood Park, Alb.)

The Canadian Cowboy was nursing a knee injury this week and didn’t play, but it is hard to imagine Week 13 going much worse for Chuba Hubbard. As he sat on the bench, Hubbard watched his third-string backup Dezmon Jackson go off for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Hubbard is a class act and was undoubtedly happy for his teammate, but the performance raised some troubling questions for the starter.

Hubbard’s struggles in 2020 have been largely blamed on the situation around him and many have simply absolved him of the lack of production in the follow-up to his historic 2019 run. How could he produce behind a struggling offensive line and without viable quarterbacking to take the defence’s focus away from him? It seems the man sitting behind him on the roster had none of those issues against Texas Tech.

Maybe this is simply a case of a poor run defence elevating the competition but at best Hubbard missed out on a chance for a breakout; at worst, he just saw all the questions around him become even more intense.

This isn’t Hubbard’s fault and the Canadian made the right decision to sit out Saturday and get his body healthy. He is now simply at the centre of a perfect storm that continues to impact his draft stock. It’s hard not to feel bad for such a talented player who has overcome so many hurdles to get where he is and I think I speak for all Canadians when I say my fingers are crossed that he can get his mojo back soon.

Class Attendance

C John Kourtis, SO, Liberty: 28 offensive snaps, zero pressures allowed

CB Patrice Rene, SR, North Carolina: Six defensive snaps

LG Sidy Sow, JR, Eastern Michigan: 69 offensive snaps, zero pressures allowed

P Jake Julien, SR, Eastern Michigan: Two punts, 94 yards, 47.0 average

OLB DK Bonhomme, SO, Indiana: 37 defensive snaps, four tackles, one tackle for loss

WLB Jesse Luketa, JR, Penn State: 45 defensive snaps, four tackles

FS Jonathan Sutherland, JR, Penn State: Seven defensive snaps, one tackle

TE Theo Johnson, FR, Penn State: 31 offensive snaps

QB Kurtis Rourke, FR, Ohio: 29 offensive snaps, 11 attempts, 10 completions, 63 yards, one touchdown, three carries, 43 yards, 95.5 quarterback rating

CB Peter Kemeni, FR, Ohio: Five defensive snaps

RT Daniel Johnson, SO, Kent State: Three offensive snaps, one sack allowed

REC Dominic Johnson, SR, Buffalo: 41 offensive snaps, three receptions, 27 yards

RG Gabe Wallace, SO, Buffalo: One offensive snap

TE Cole Burniston, SO, Buffalo: Eight offensive snaps

DE Daniel Joseph, SR, NC State: 51 defensive snaps, four tackles, three tackles for loss, three hurries, one sack

LT Matthew Bergeron, SO, Syracuse: 71 offensive snaps, two pressures allowed

REC Damian Alford, FR, Syracuse: 11 offensive snaps

DB Ben Labrosse, FR, Syracuse: 23 defensive snaps, one tackle

MLB Geoff Cantin-Arku, SO, Syracuse: 32 defensive snaps, five tackles, one hurry

WLB Enock Makonzo, JR, Coastal Carolina: 48 defensive snaps, four tackles, one hurry

NT Samuel Obiang, SO, Texas State: 20 defensive snaps, one hurry

REC John Metchie, SO, Alabama: 53 offensive snaps, six receptions, 55 yards, two touchdowns

REC Jared Wayne, SO, Pittsburgh: 38 offensive snaps, five receptions, 62 yards

REC Ajou Ajou, FR, Clemson: 17 offensive snaps

OLB Tavius Robinson, JR, Ole Miss: 39 defensive snaps, two hurries

LS Keegan Markgraf, SR, Utah: Special teams only

DE Paris Shand, FR, Arizona: Two defensive snaps

REC Nick Mardner, SO, Hawai’i: Six offensive snaps

Rostered but not dressed:  LB Tyris Lebeau, JR, UMass / DE Reignings Awah, FR, Kent State / OL Jack Taylor, FR, Western Michigan / OL Deondre Dorion, FR, Buffalo / FS Woodly Appolon, JR, Northern Illinois / DL Cade Cote, FR, Central Michigan / DE Geri Theodore, FR, Toledo / DE Daniel Okpoko, SO, San Diego State / REC Barron Miles Jr, FR, Nebraska / REC Malick Meiga, FR, Penn State / DE Luiji Vilain, SR, Michigan / LB Nick Wiebe, SO, Oregon / DT Lamar Goods, FR, Florida / OL Patrick Davis, SR, Syracuse / OLB Tyrell Richards, JR, Syracuse / DE Wilt Gabe II, SO, Coastal Carolina / OL Liam Dick, FR, Pittsburgh / REC Ezechiel Tieide, SO, Boston College / OL Leif Magnuson, FR, Arizona / QB Cameron Fietz, JR, Arizona / LB Kenny Mestidor, FR, UCLA

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.