You can’t sit on your couch and watch one full football game without hearing one announcer bemoan the importance of third-down offense. The cliche is so overstated that when it’s hard nowadays, it generally goes in one ear and out the other.
However, it’s cliched for a reason, too. Scoring point is the name of the game, and the most explosive offenses know how important it is to control the ball and move the sticks.
There are currently 19 players in the ACC with at least five receptions on third down. Here’s the complete list — along with how many yards and first downs those players have accounted for.
- Ervin Phillips is absolute catch machine. In the loss to NC State, Phillips set a school and ACC record with 17 receptions — on a game-high 21 targets. Phillips caught three third down passes against the Pack; all three went for first downs.
- The least surprising discovery is Jaylen Samuels landing on this list. Samuels has done everything for NC State on offense, and was in rare form against the Orange. The senior collected 74 yards on the ground, along with a touchdown; he also caught 5-of-7 targets.
- On the season, Six of Samuels’ 10 third down catches have resulted in touchdown or a first down. Samuels commands serious gravity on offense — defenses must pay attention to him at all time. This has allowed coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz to cleverly utilize Samuels as a decoy, which can open stuff up for Nyheim Hines, who had a career day against Syracuse.
- Of the 19 players with at least five receptions, only one has turned every third down catch into a first down — Louisville’s Jaylen Smith. The 6-foot-4 Smith has five third down receptions for 70 yards and five first downs.
- In the ACC, there are four players with at four third down receptions of 15-plus yards, including one player not on this list: Steve Ishmael, Ervin Phillips, Dez Fitzpatrick and Traveon Samuels.
- Another name not on this list that’s worthy paying attention, too: Miami’s Ahmmon Richards. Richards was dynamic in his 2017 debut against Duke; as a freshman, though, he averaged a ridiculous 29.4 yards per catch on third down.
- I also find that lack of tight ends on this list. That depends how you define Jaylen Samuels, I suppose; however, if you don’t label JaySam a tight end, then North Carolina’s Brandon Fritts is the lone representative, so far. This differs from a season ago, when the ACC featured a handful of awesome tight ends, like Jordan Leggett and Cole Hikutini.