Marvin Harrison Jr. to Devin Leary: Philly-area college football stars who stood out in Week 1
Here’s a roundup of some of the best performances by players from the region.
From Thursday to Sunday night, there was wall-to-wall action from coast to coast in the first official week of college football.
Locally, Temple and Villanova played their season openers on Friday evening, resulting in an Owls shutout loss and a Wildcats blowout win, but Saturday, in particular, saw former Philadelphia-area high school standouts take the field, most notably in Saturday’s Notre Dame-Ohio State clash.
In other games, a handful of players saw action with their newest teams, like former Neumann Goretti standout Eric Gentry, who transferred from Arizona State to Southern Cal this offseason, while former Imhotep Charter standout Isheem Young suited up for Ole Miss after spending his first two seasons with Iowa State.
Each week, we’ll round up which Philly-area athletes produced signature games. This week, transfers Gentry, Young, and a former St. Joe’s Prep standout and four-star recruit top the list.
Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
Opponent: No. 5 Notre Dame
Stat line: Five receptions, 56 yards
Game recap: Starting off against Notre Dame, behind first-year head coach Marcus Freeman, is a tall task for any team. The Buckeyes grinded out a 21-10 win in Columbus, and while Harrison did not have a marquee night on the stat sheet, he made some important plays, especially in the second half to help the Buckeyes secure the win.
The former St. Joseph’s Prep star showcased his route-running ability, using an altered tempo to create space for himself against the physical, quick-twitch Irish defensive backs. Early in the game, Harrison Jr. missed an opportunity to reel in an over-the-shoulder touchdown reception, but he made up for it later in the game, making some tough, contested catches. The Buckeyes will face Arkansas State next, and he could put up some big numbers against an inferior opponent.
Eric Gentry, LB, USC
Stat line: Seven tackles, 0.5 sack
Game recap: Named to the Maxwell Club’s freshman All-America team after finishing with 45 tackles (five for losses) and one sack at Arizona State, Gentry, a 6-foot-6 linebacker, decided to take his talents to Los Angeles and join the USC Trojans under new head coach Lincoln Riley.
It didn’t take long for Gentry to make an impact. He finished with seven tackles, which included a stop in the backfield on an early-down run, and in addition to forcing a pick-six, he utilized his unique size to force an errant throw on a Rice fourth-down attempt. USC won the game easily, 66-14, and Gentry was part of a defense that forced four turnovers, returning three of them for touchdowns.
USC’s next opponent, Pac-12 rival Stanford, will physically challenge Gentry and his front-seven teammates . The Neumann Goretti alum will have to be stronger attacking downhill in the run game against an old-school Cardinal offensive attack and keep tabs on tight end Benjamin Yurosek.
Isheem Young, Safety, Ole Miss
Stat line: Five tackles, one fumble recovered
Game recap: Making his first start with his new team, Young made an immediate impact on the Rebels’ defense in a 28-10 victory. In Ole Miss’ unique defensive structure that sometimes deploys six defensive backs, the former Imhotep star attacked downhill with the same ferocity in the run game that he showed at Iowa State.
He also recovered a fumble early in the fourth quarter, returning it for 13 yards while Troy’s offense was nearing the red zone. His presence on the back end, alongside a talented secondary that features Tysheem Johnson, another Philadelphia native, should be fun to watch this season. The Rebels take on FCS opponent Central Arkansas this week.
Tysheem Johnson, DB, Ole Miss
Stat line: 12 tackles (one for loss)
Game recap: Same game but another Philadelphia native making plays for the Rebels defense. Johnson, an Ole Miss sophomore defensive back, was a four-star recruit at Neumann Goretti. After being named to the freshman All-SEC team last season when he finished with 47 tackles (four for losses) and one interception, Johnson showed off his ability to attack from his slot position, especially in the running game.
He was active all game long, and could be the key to how successful the Rebels defense will be once conference play begins in arguably the toughest division in all of college football, the SEC West.
Devin Leary, QB, N.C. State
Opponent: East Carolina
Stat line: 17 of 33 passing, 233 yards, 1 TD, 1 int.
Game recap: The highly touted Wolfpack were penned as a potential national title contender in the preseason, returning outstanding quarterback and Timber Creek alum Devin Leary plus 16 other starters. However, this game didn’t quite unfold that way, as East Carolina gave Leary and his team all they could handle. The Wolfpack escaped with a 21-20 win.
Early on, especially in the second quarter, Leary showed zip on his passes, more so than last season, but forced some passes into too many tight windows against tight coverage, leading to some inaccuracies and an interception. It was not Leary’s best performance by far, but the Wolfpack will shake off some rust and head into this week’s game against Charleston Southern with an ability to get on the same page offensively.
If the Wolfpack are to compete with the elite of the ACC, Leary will have to play much better.