The last week of regular season NCAA football is in the books and it came with some headline-grabbing news, as Canadian superstar Chuba Hubbard has opted out of the rest of the schedule and will enter the 2021 NFL Draft.
It was a bittersweet announcement. I have both praised and criticized Hubbard over the course of this year, but it’s no secret that his 2020 season was well below expectations. Still, I want to open the class by saying that at every turn, Hubbard made me proud to be Canadian, proud to be born in Edmonton and proud to have come from Sherwood Park.
When he was playing at his best, he dazzled unlike any Canadian in the history of NCAA football. When he was struggling, he still showed incredible toughness to battle through injury and was an impactful leader off the field. While his draft stock may have suffered from 2020, his stock as a person remains untouched. On behalf of all Canadians, I say thank you Chuba. I can’t wait to see you at the next level.
While we didn’t get to see Hubbard in action this week, plenty of other Canadians took the opportunity to pay homage with strong performances. As we all get excited for Conference Championships next week, let’s pull out our note books and go through the best and brightest of Week 15.
Top of the Class
1. OLB Isaiah Bagnah, FR, Boise State Broncos (Lethbridge, Alb.)
They say if you have the talent, teams will find you. Isaiah Bagnah really tested that theory by playing high school football in Lethbridge, but he followed the “Jon Gott pathway” from Lethbridge Collegiate to Boise State and is making a big-time impact for the Group of 5 powerhouse as a redshirt freshman.
In just his second career start against Wyoming, Bagnah saw the snow coming down and decided to make himself right at home in the Cowboys’ backfield. Firing off the edge like a man possessed, the Canadian recorded his first two career sacks and two hurries to go along with four tackles in a break out performance.
It was a Canadian snow day to remember and resulted in a new career high Pro Football Focus grade of 71.9, a mark Bagnah will no doubt quickly shatter.
It’s easy to root for those small town Canadian kids that ignore the lure of U.S. prep schools and make their impact in big time college football anyway. Bagnah doesn’t have the name cache of Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool or Sherwood Park’s Chuba Hubbard yet, but you better believe that people in Lethbridge were just as ecstatic for their native son as if he did.
2. REC John Metchie III, SO, Alabama Crimson Tide (Brampton, Ont.)
It’s been a minute since John Metchie III has made this podium, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been productive. While DeVonta Smith has worked his way into the Heisman conversation as Alabama’s number one receiver, Metchie III has plodded along in his shadow and was the leading pass catcher for the Tide last week.
Even though players like Jared Wayne, Chase Brown and Josh Palmer posted similar production in Week 15, this seemed like the appropriate moment to put Metchie III back on the podium.
As Alabama rolled Arkansas by a whopping 49 points, Metchie III made five catches for 72 yards and a 70.0 PFF grade, proving he’ll be the top target next year. Among the catches was a pirouetting toe-tapper down near the goal line, where Metchie absorbed a hellacious shot while going out of bounds and somehow still hung on to the football. It was an NFL calibre catch, which is exactly where Metchie III will be going as soon as he’s eligible after next year.
His touchdown production has been somewhat overshadowed by how easy Alabama has been winning football games, but Metchie III is still a staple contender for this list. With the Crimson Tide almost certainly college football playoff bound, this won’t be the last time you hear from him either.
3. LG Sidy Sow, JR, Eastern Michigan Eagles (Bromont, Que.)
Throughout the season, I’ve made an effort to highlight the accomplishments of Canadian offensive linemen. More often than not, that praise or criticism has fallen on an impressive contingent of Canadian tackles. While those players have had stunning peaks and some low valleys, they’ve drawn attention away from Canada’s most consistent blocker: Bromont’s Sidy Sow.
A variety of Canadians have made my weekly podium on flash performances that can’t be ignored and are difficult to replicate. That’s fantastic, but almost weekly it has made me sadly push Sidy Sow to the side as he logs yet another 70-plus PFF Grade at the left guard position. I’m ashamed to say I’ve often leaned towards the sexy stat line.
This week, the majority of Canadians hovered around that same mark and I’m able to give Sow the credit he deserves for a 72.3 PFF grade against Northern Illinois that was among the best of the week.
It wasn’t Sow’s best grade of the year and he did allow a hurry, just his fifth pressure on the year, but let’s consider this a reward for a solid year that has thus far gone unnoticed. It won’t be missed by CFL scouts however, so don’t be shocked when you find the Quebecer near the top of the 2022 Draft rankings.
Notes on the Margins
LS Keegan Markgraf, SR, Utah Utes (Hamilton, Ont.)
It’s tough to give long-snappers the credit they deserve, you don’t notice them until they mess up, but one of the best in college football hails from Hamilton, Ontario.
Keegan Markgraf opened the week by being named one of ten semi-finalists for the Patrick Mannelly Award for the best senior long-snapper. He finished it by nailing all 11 of his snaps in his busiest outing of the season against Colorado. For a player who works in the shadows, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Markgraf is draft eligible this year and he won’t get a ton of hype, that’s the nature of his position. But when it comes to which Canadian in the 2021 draft class plays the longest, look for the Hamiltonian to have a long career.
RT Gabe Wallace, SO, Buffalo Bulls (Salmon Arm, B.C.)
While the players honoured above were truly spectacular in Week 15, the highest graded player according to PFF seemingly comes out of nowhere. Buffalo sophomore Gabe Wallace was the stunner, notching an exceptional 84.8 grade as the undefeated Bulls thumped a dreadful Akron squad. It came on just 15 snaps of action, 13 of which in the run blocking department, so it wasn’t worthy of a podium spot, but it was an enticing indication of what is to come from the Salmon Arm native.
Buffalo has one of the best offensive lines in college football year after year but three of their 2020 starters are headed to graduation. This was Wallace’s biggest audition to be a core member of next year’s group and he dominated snap after snap on the ground. That should cement him into the 2021 lineup and if Saturday was any preview, the future for the Bulls is very bright.
CB Patrice Rene, SR, North Carolina Tarheels (Ottawa, Ont.)
Injuries continue to be the mortal enemy of Patrice Rene and it is hard not to feel bad for the Canadian talent.
After he lost 2019 to a torn ACL, Rene struggled early in 2020 as he tried to catch back up to speed. He finally rounded into form midway through the campaign but once again injuries have limited him in what was supposed to be his showcase campaign. Sunday at Miami, he was a game-time decision and only saw three snaps of action.
It was the second time in three weeks that he’s played less than ten snaps, the other being against Notre Dame in Week 13. Those are two big time Top 25 match-ups that Rene couldn’t put on tape and unfortunately the game in the middle was a fairly lacklustre outing against small school Western Carolina. All in all, the last few weeks have been devastating for Rene’s struggling NFL stock.
None of this is any fault of Rene and if the middle of this season is any indication, he still has the high end talent to shine at the professional level. Unfortunately, what once looked like a gamble in the CFL draft is appearing more and more like a certainty due to health issues.
REC Jared Wayne, SO, Pittsburgh: 58 offensive snaps, five receptions, 60 yards
DE Paris Shand, FR, Arizona: 14 defensive snaps
RB Chase Brown, SO, Illinois: 35 offensive snaps, 14 carries, 70 yards
CB Benjamin St-Juste, JR, Minnesota: 67 defensive snaps, three tackles
TE Theo Johnson, FR, Penn State: 33 offensive snaps, one tackle
WLB Jesse Luketa, JR, Penn State: 53 defensive snaps, seven tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, one pass deflection, one hurry
SS Jonathan Sutherland, JR, Penn State: 14 defensive snaps, three tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss
P Jake Julien, SR, Eastern Michigan: Two punts, 93 yards, 46.5 yard average, one inside the twenty
TE Cole Burniston, SO, Buffalo: 18 offensive snaps
REC Dominic Johnson, SR, Buffalo: 20 offensive snaps
WLB Enock Makonzo, JR, Coastal Carolina: 77 defensive snaps, seven tackles, one hurry
LT Alaric Jackson, SR, Iowa: 59 offensive snaps, one pressure allowed
MLB Amen Ogbongbemiga, SR, Oklahoma State: 50 defensive snaps, two tackles
NT Olivier Charles-Pierre, SR, Houston: Eight defensive snaps
REC Josh Palmer, SR, Tennessee: 37 offensive snaps, four receptions, 53 yards
PK Gabe Siemieniec, SR, Louisiana Tech: One kickoff, 65 yards, one touchback
REC Terrell Jana, SR, Virginia: 42 offensive snaps, three receptions, 24 yards
DT Alex Dumais, SO, Fresno State: 56 defensive snaps, two tackles, two hurries
REC Nick Mardner, SO, Hawai’i: 18 offensive snaps, two receptions, 15 yards
Rostered but not dressed: RB Chuba Hubbard, JR, Oklahoma State / OL Liam Dick, FR, Pittsburgh / OL Jack Taylor, FR, Western Michigan / FS Woodly Appolon, JR, Northern Illinois / DE Mohamed Diallo, SR, Central Michigan / DL Cade Cote, FR, Central Michigan / DE Geri Theodore, FR, Toledo / REC Barron Miles Jr, FR, Nebraska / REC Malick Meiga, FR, Penn State / DT Lamar Goods, FR, Florida / DE Wilt Gabe II, SO, Coastal Carolina / OL Leif Magnuson, FR, Arizona / QB Cameron Fietz, JR, Arizona / LT Dontae Bull, JR, Fresno State / LB Kenny Mestidor, FR, UCLA / SS Sydney Brown, JR, Illinois / DL Wesley Bailey, FR, Rutgers / DL Rene Konga, FR, Rutgers / OL Tyrell Lawrence, FR, Minnesota / OL Deondre Doiron, FR, Buffalo / DT Daniel Okpoko, SO, San Diego State