For the second year, our Reese’s Senior Bowl scouting team will be on 10-plus college campuses around the country every week during the 2023 college football season. This year’s scouting team includes 10 former NFL scouts with more than 200 years of league experience. The Senior Bowl has had 100-plus players drafted, accounting for more than 40 percent of the past three NFL draft classes.
Follow @JimNagy_SB on Twitter on Saturday to see up-close, field-level videos on the following players:
Scouting College Football Week 4
Wisconsin at Purdue — 7 p.m. ET, FS1
Wisconsin OL Tanor Bortolini (6-foot-3 7/8, 306 pounds, 31 5/8-inch arms) and Jack Nelson (6-foot-6 3/4, 311 pounds, 33 3/4-inch arms) — Wisconsin historically has been one of the top-producing programs when it comes to NFL offensive line talent, and the Badgers have two more likely early-round picks this year in C/G Tanor Bortolini and OT Jack Nelson.
The Senior Bowl posted something on social media about these two back in June, and within an hour, I had a handful of NFL scouts texting me saying that the versatile Bortolini, who has started games at center, guard and tight end, was one of their favorite sleepers in this year’s class. Nelson is more of a good football player than a wow-you athlete; our Senior Bowl staff thinks some team will draft him to start as a rookie.
Both players are adjusting to new OC Phil Longo’s scheme, so we expect them to play progressively better as the Badgers work into the meat of their Big Ten schedule.
Florida State at Clemson — Noon ET, ABC
Florida State RB Trey Benson (6-foot 1/4, 219 pounds, 9 1/8-inch hand) — Seminoles RB Trey Benson was one of the most fun prospects we watched at any position this offseason, but he’s yet to get rolling these first three weeks of the season. Benson is averaging a little less than 55 yards per game so far and 1.4 yards less per carry than he did a year ago, but he looked close to popping some big runs last week against Boston College.
Benson is one of the most explosive and best after-contact runners in this year’s running back class, and we feel like it’s only a matter of time before breaks out. When, not if, Benson gets back to being the dynamic playmaker we all saw last season, this Florida State offense is going to be next to impossible to stop.
One area where Benson could really help himself in front of NFL decision-makers at the Senior Bowl is in the passing game. Up to this point, he has only 16 career receptions. In today’s NFL where the running back position is being devalued, it’s almost imperative that running backs have true third-down value, and that’s something Benson still has to prove.
Western Kentucky at Troy — Noon ET, ESPNU
Western Kentucky WR Malachi Corley (5-foot-10 5/8, 211 pounds, 9 1/8-inch hand) — We’ve been big fans of Malachi Corley for a couple years now, ever since we watched him do his thing with Senior Bowl alum and current New England Patriots QB Bailey Zappe. We spoke to a bunch of SEC personnel last spring twhohat were ready to go hard after Corley if he entered the transfer portal, but we’re glad he decided to stay at WKU and finish out his career with underrated QB Austin Reed.
The Reed-to-Corley combination is arguably the best Group of Five duo in the country, and we’re excited to see both of them this weekend in Troy, Alabama. Our staff thinks Corley is the most physical wideout in the 2024 draft, and he’ll be tested this week against Troy’s talented and aggressive corner, Reddy Steward.
Colorado at Oregon — 3:30 pm ET, ABC
Oregon QB Bo Nix (6-foot-1 7/8, 225 pounds, 10-inch hand) — What Bo Nix did last season in his first year in Eugene, Oregon, was more impressive than he’s given credit for. Nix developed many bad habits tied to his fundamentals and decision-making playing behind a frequently porous offensive line his first three years at Auburn. He quickly cleaned all that up last year under former offensive coordinator (and current Arizona State coach) Kenny Dillingham.
We’ve been watching Nix since his high school days in Birmingham, Alabama, and his ability to extend plays and make things happen off-script have always been there. The biggest area of growth we’ve seen from Nix is his patience in the pocket and ability to play more on-schedule.
We spoke with an opposing head coach last week who’s already faced Nix this year, and he said Nix’s timing and accuracy on in-cutting and middle-of-field throws is what gave them the most problems. Nix entered this season as the top-graded quarterback on our Senior Bowl board as the lone second-rounder.
Ole Miss at Alabama—3:30 pm ET, CBS
Alabama WR Jermaine Burton (6-foot 3/8, 192 pounds, 10-inch hand) — Alabama staffers told us this offseason that they wanted to see more overall consistency and attention to detail from Jermaine Burton as a senior, and he’s been the Crimson Tide’s most dependable player in the passing game so far this year.
The transfer from Georgia has an NFL game when it comes to his release package and top-of-route work. Most wideouts struggle making the transition to the NFL because they can’t get off press coverage or create space at the breakpoint, but those won’t be issues for Burton.
Perhaps what stood out most to us in our first live look of the 2023 season two weeks ago against Texas were his overall catching skills. We stood and watched Burton reel in balls with one hand while warming up during a long toss session before playing the Longhorns, and it was super impressive.
Minnesota at Northwestern — 7:30 pm ET, BTN
Minnesota TE Brevyn Spann-Ford (6-foot-7, 263 pounds, 33 1/2-inch arm) — There were a handful of players who received Senior Bowl invites last year but opted to return to school. Minnesota’s smooth and savvy sixth-year tight end was one of them. Brevyn Spann-Ford only has nine catches for 56 yards in the Gophers’ first three games, but he’s a matchup problem with his huge frame and deceptive buildup speed to get down the seam.
What we haven’t seen so far this season are the run-after-catch skills that made Spann-Ford a true play maker a year ago. As a blocker, he’s gotten more consistently physical over the past two years of tape study, and he led all Power Five tight ends last year with an 82.5 run blocking grade. The Senior Bowl sees Spann-Ford as a potential fringe Top 100 player in this year’s draft.
USC at Arizona State—10:30 pm ET, FOX
USC Edge Solomon Byrd (no verified measurables, school lists at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds) — One player out West who has made a big jump on tape already this fall is USC’s Solomon Byrd. The transfer from Wyoming had surgery and missed a lot of time this past offseason, but he’s come back and taken his game to another level these first three games.
Byrd has been a disruptive force so far vs. the run and the pass, and the tape is even better than what it looks like on paper (4.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks). Byrd is playing with a violence and an awareness that we haven’t seen from him over the past two years of tape study. He looks like he’s a man on a mission as the Trojans head into Pac-12 conference play.
Before taking over as executive director of the Reese's Senior Bowl in 2018, Jim Nagy was an NFL scout for nearly two decades, having worked for five teams that won a combined four Super Bowls. Follow him on Twitter @JimNagy_SB.