GREAT BLUE NORTH DRAFT REPORT
NEWS AND INFORMATION ON THE NFL DRAFT
Who to watch in college football bowl action
Monday, January 7; 8:30 PM ET; Miami; ESPN
ALABAMA (12-1) versus NOTRE DAME (12-0)
The BCS doesn't get many things
right - and to date this year's bowl season has ranged from depressing
to ugly - but if you're going to have a one-game national championship
playoff it can't get much better than a match-up between the game's
unquestioned best team over the past few years nation's and arguably
college football's most popular team. And that's what we'll get when
unbeaten #1 Notre Dame meets defending national champion Alabama for
the national championship later tonight in the Orange Bowl in
Miami. May the best team win!
Tonight's national championship
game will also be a bonanza for pro scouts as there will a passel of
top prospects for the 2013 draft in uniform. Indeed, Alabama looks like
it could be one of the dominant teams at the upcoming draft with as
many as a half dozen first-round prospects. For the Tide, it starts up
front on offense where veteran OG Chance Warmack (#65, 6-3, 320), one
of fastest risers in the 2013 draft class, has emerged as a legitimate
top 10 prospect, while C
Barrett Jones (#75, 6-5, 305) and massive junior RT D.J. Fluker (#76,
6-5, 335) are later opening round candidates. Incredibly, though, in
the end, the Tide's best OL prospect may be sophomore LT Cyrus
Kouandijo (#71, 6-5, 325) who could be a top 10 prospect in 2014. Mor
incredibly, Alabama is actually even stronger on defense where junior
Milliner (#28, 6-0, 200), the top cover corner in this year's draft,
and rugged NT Jesse Williams (#54, 6-3, 320), another Tide player on
the rise, are both mid-first round prosepcts. So would junior MLB C.J.
Mosley (#32, 6-2, 235), but he has alraedy indicated he will be
returning to school next fall. Same story for steady junior QB A.J.
McCarron (#10, 6-3, 210) who will also be back in Tuscallosa next year.
Meanwhile, junior RB
Eddie Lacey (#42, 5-11, 220), FS Robert Lester (#37, 6-1, 210),
TE Michael Williams (#89, 6-5, 270) and LB Nico Johnson (#35, 6-2,
245) are middle round prospects, while DEs Damion Square (#92,
6-2, 290) and Quinton Dial (#90, 6-5, 305) are solid 5-tech 3-4 DEs.
For good measure, Alabama also has one of college football's most
consistent kickers in veteran PK Jeremy Shelley (#90, 5-10, 165) is one
of the most consistent
kickers around. And just for fun - and future reference - freshman RB
Yeldon (#4, 6-1, 215) is one of the most dynamic runners in the
country, but won't be draft-eligible until 2015.
For its part, Notre Dame isn't quite as quite as talented as Alabama, however, the Irish's draft prospects are definitely on the rise. Indeed, after having a couple of players selected in last year's opening round for the first time in almost two decades, Notre Dame has another top prospect in MLB Manti Te'o (#5, 6-1, 255), the NCAA defensive player of the year who finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. In fact, if Te'o impresses during off-season workouts, he has a chance to be the first Notre Dame player selected with a top 10 pick since 1994. Te'o could be joined in this year's opening round by junior TE Tyler Eifert (#80, 6-5, 255) who is considered to be the top prospect at the position for the upcoming draft, while a trio of other juniors including LT Zach Martin (#70, 6-4, 305), RB Cierre Wood (#20, 5-11, 215) and DT Louis Nix (#9, 6-2, 330) have second day talent if they opt to enter this year’s draft. At the same time, veteran C Braxston Cave (#52, 6-2, 305), DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (#89, 6-3, 305), safeties Jamoris Slaughter (#26, 5-11, 200) and Zeke Motta (#17, 6-1, 215), and WR/RB Theo Riddick (#6, 5-10,200) have later round or free agent potential.
Friday; January 4
OKLAHOMA (10-2) versus TEXAS A&M (10-2); 8:30 PM ET;
If the Cotton Bowl wanted to
audition for inclusion in the BCS they have our vote. If nothing else,
the match-up between old Big XII rivals Texas A&M, now of the SEC,
and Oklahoma may just have the best crop of potential prospects for the
2013 draft of any bowl game this year including the national
championship dual between Alabama and Notre Dame. Texas A&M, for
example, may have a s many as three top10 prospects for the upcoming
draft including junior LT Luke Joeckel (#76, 6-5, 310) who appears to
be the consensus #1 prospect overall. Joeckel combines with fellow
junior Jake Matthews (#75, 6-5, 305), a top 10 prospect in his own
right, to give the Aggies the best set of bookend OTs in the country.
For good measure, explosive junior DE Damontre Moore (#94, 6-3, 250),
who had 12.5 sacks and 20 total tackles for loss this season, gives the
Aggies a second possible top 5 selection this coming April. For the
record, Moore has already announced that he will be entering the draft,
while both Joeckel and Matthews have deferred their decisions until
after the bowl. Meanwhile, Texas A&M has a trio of veterans with at
least second-day potenial in OLB Sean Porter (#10, 6-1, 230), WR Ryan
Swope (#25, 5-11, 210) and RB Christine Michael (#33, 5-10, 220), while
WR Uzoma Nwachukwu (#7, 5-11, 195), C Patrick Lewis (#61, 6-2, 315), DE
Spencer Nealy (#99, 6-4, 275), MLB Jon Stewart (#11, 6-3, 245), and P
Ryan Epperson (#48, 6-2, 195) are later round or free agent types. Of
course, the Aggies also feature this year's Heisman Trophy winner in
redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel (#15, 6-1, 200), although 'Johnny
Football' won't be draft eligible until at least 2014, although he is
not necessarily a true pro prospect at the position.
While pro scouts will be focused in on A&M's stars in the Cotton Bowl, no player in the game will get more scrutiny than Oklahoma QB Landry Jones (#12, 6-3, 220). At one time, Jones was considered to be a future top 5 pick, but his stock has continued to slip after a late-season slump last year took much of the air out of his draft grade. Jones certainly has the tools to be an elite prospect, but wasn't really able to stop the bleeding this fall as his mechanics just weren't very consistent and he kept making the same mistakes. As a result, Landry des not appear to be much more than a mid-to-late second day prospect for the upcoming draft. In fact, the top Sooners' prospects may be emerging LT Lane Johnson (#69, 6-6, 310) and junior FS Tony Jefferson (#1, 5-11, 215), both of whom are legitimate second round candidates. Meanwhile, junior WR Kenny Stills (#4, 6-0, 190) and CBs Demontre Hurst (#6, 5-9, 185) and junior Aaron Colvin (#14, 5-11, 185)are solid mid-round types, while junior FB Trey Millard (#33, 6-1, 255) is arguably the top prospect at the position in the country. The Sooners also have a handful of solid veteran defensive linemen including DTs Jamarkus McFarland (#97, 6-1, 290), Stacy McGee (#92, 6-3, 300) and Casey Walker (#53, 6-2, 310) and DE David King (#90, 6-4, 290) who should be in an NFL training camp next summer, although none is more than a later-round or free-agent prospect. Same story for RB SS Javon Harris (#30, 5-10, 205) and P Tress Way (#36, 6-1, 215).
Thursday; January 3
OREGON (11-1) versus KANSAS STATE (11-1); 8:30 PM ET;
NFL teams will be trooping to Tempe
to check out the Ducks and Wildcats in a match-up that many expected to
be for the national championship before both Oregon and Kansas State
were upset late in the season. Ironically, though, the guy the NFL
really wants to see is Oregon head coach Chip Kelly who reportedly has
interviewed with at least Cleveland, Philadelphia and Buffalo about
their respective coaching vacancies. More irony: the coach on the other
sideline - K-State's Bill Snyder - was actually the D1A coach of the
year this year.
And for the NFL's other 29 teams,
there will be several interesting prospects for the upcoming draft in
uniform for both teams. K-State QB Collin Klein (#7, 6-5, 230), for
example, was a Heisman finalist this year after he ran for 890 yards
and 22 TDs this fall while passing for another 2,500 yards and another
15 scores. Because he doesn't have the touch or arm strength of a
prototype pocket passer, Klein is at best considered to be a late-round
prospect for the upcoming draft. In fact, the Wildcats best prospect
this year is athletic MLB Arthur Brown (#4, 6-0, 230), who isn't all
than big, but he flies to the ball and explodes into tackles when he
gets there. Meanwhile, WR Chris Harper (#3, 6-0, 230), DE Meshak
Williams (#42, 6-3, 245), CB Nigel Malone (#24, 5-9, 175) and FB Braden
Wilson (#48, 6-3, 255) are mid-to-late round candidates. At the same
time, CB Allen Chapman (#3, 5-10, 180), DE Adam Davis (#55, 6-0, 260),
TE Travis Tannahill (#80, 6-2, 255), and PK Anthony Cantele (#10, 5-10,
180) are likely free agent targets.
If the Fiesta Bowl has a 2013 first
rounder - and the odds are much better than even that it does - it will
almost certainly be rangy Oregon DE Dion Jordan (#96, 6-6, 245) who has
the length to play as a 4-3 DE at the next level as well as the
athleticism to get some looks as a 3-4 rush LB, although pro scouts
would have liked to see a little more productivity this year as Jordan
had only 5 sacks. In fact, Jordan didn't even lead the Ducks in sacks
as junior DE Taylor Hart (#66, 6-5, 290) had twice as many. Meanwhile,
explosive RB Kenjon Barner (#24, 5-10, 195), who ran for over 1,600
yards this fall, MLB Kiko Alonso (#47, 6-3, 250), and emerging LT Kyle
Long (#74, 6-6, 310), the son of former NFL great Howie Long and the
brother of St. Louis DE Chris Long, are middle round types.
Wednesday; January 2
Florida (11-1) versus Louisville (10-2); 8:30 PM ET;
Not quite the match-up that the Sugar Bowl folks envisioned as the season was coming to an end, but the Big East champion had to go somewhere, particularly once MAC champion Northern Illinois qualified for a BCS game. However, when life deals you lemons, make lemonade! And what could be fascinating about this game will be watching star Louisville sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater (#5, 6-3, 220), arguably the best young QB in the country, try and attack the very quick Florida defense. However, other than Bridgewater, who won't be draft eligible until 2014, the Cardinals don't have a lot of emerging elite talent. Certainly, its unlikely that Louisville will have much of an impact at the upcoming draft, although veteran C Mario Benavides (#55, 6-3, 300) should get some late-round consderation, while CB Adrian Bushell (#21, 5-10, 185) is a potential free agent target.
In contrast, Florida could be a busy bunch this coming draft year, although the Gators don't have anyone who is a lock to be an opening round pick this April. However, Florida has a trio of juniors including FS Matt Elam (#22, 5-10, 210) and 5T DEs Sharrif Floyd (#73, 6-2, 305) and Dominique Easley (#2, 6-2, 290) each of whom has some first-round potential while OT Xavier Nixon (#73, 6-5, 310), MLB Jon Bostic (#1, 6-0, 245) and possibly junior TE Jordan Reed (#11, 6-3, 240) are second-day candidates. Florida also has good veteran depth including RB Mike Gillislee (#23, 5-10, 205), OG James Wilson (#66, 6-3, 335), NT Omar Hunter (#99, 6-1, 315), OLB Lerentee McCray (#34, 6-2, 250), and safety Josh Evans (#9, 6-0, 200), while PK Caleb Sturgis (#19, 5-11, 190) is one of the top kickers in the country.
Tuesday; January 1
Mississippi State (8-4) versus Northwestern (9-3); Noon ET;
Interesting game to kick-off the New Year's schedule between a couple of pretty good SEC and Big Ten teams that kind of flew under the radar this past season. That was too bad especially for Mississippi State because the Bulldogs have a couple of very intriguing prospects in senior CB Johnthan Banks (#13, 6-1, 185) and junior OG Gabe Jackson (#61, 6-4, 320). Banks, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as college football's top DB this past season, in particular, is a top 15-20 prospect for the upcoming draft, while Jackson will be a late second-day candidate if he opts to leave school this winter. Mississppi State also has several solid late round prospects in veteran MLB Cam Lawrence (#10, 6-2, 230), an underrated tackling machine who had 224 total stops over thye past couple of seasons, DT Josh Boyd (#97, 6-2, 300), and CB Darius Slay (#47, 6-0, 190) who held up reasonably well this season, despite the fact that just about everybody threw his way with Banks manning the opposite side of the field. Meanwhile, CB Corey Broomfield (#25, 5-9, 180), WR Chad Bumphis (#1, 5-10, 200) and OG Tobias Smith (#67, 6-2, 305) are likely free agent targets.
No team gets more out of its talent year in and year out than Northwestern which won 9 games this fall despite having few players who are household names even in their own homes. It is unlikely, for example, that Northwestern will have anyone selected at the 2013 draft, but have several guys who should get some free agent consideration including veteran OGs Brian Mulroe (#72, 6-3, 310) and Neal Dieters (#79, 6-7, 315), OT Patrick Ward (#70, 6-6, 310), MLB David Nwabuisi (#33, 6-0, 240), DE Quentin Williams (#88, 6-3, 260) and DT Brian Arnfelt (#91, 6-4, 290).
HEART of DALLAS
Purdue (6-6) versus Oklahoma State (7-5); Noon ET;
This is not a misprint. There is indeed a January 1 bowl with two teams with a combined record of 13-11 as 6-6 Purdue meets 7-5 Oklahoma State in Dallas. In fact, factor out their wins against lower level schools and these two schools were barely 11-11 against D1A opponents, plus they were just 8-11 against BCS conference schools. Not exactly traditioal New Year's Day fare. If there any redeeming value in having these two teams play anywhere anytime is that there will be several quality prospects on the field. Purdue DT Kawann Short (#93, 6-3, 310), who has top 15 physical tools, but scouts would like to see his motor run all the time; still, Short had 6 sacks in each of the past three seasons and isn't likely to drop much farther than the middle of the second round. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has one of the top RB prospects for the upcoming draft in junior Joseph Randle (#6-0, 195), a second-day candidate who ran for 1,350 yards and 14 TDs this fall, while junior CB Justin Gilbert (#4, 5-11, 195) is a middle round prospect. At the same time, Purdue CB Josh Johnson (#28, 5-10, 195), along with Oklahoma State CB Brodrick Brown (#19, 5-8, 185) and OG Lane Taylor (#68, 6-3, 330) are later round or free agent types.
Georgia (11-2) versus Nebraska (10-3); 1 PM ET; ABC
Could also be called the Consolation Bowl with the losers of the SEC and Big Ten conference title games in Orlando. Georgia, in particular, probably isn't feeling all that consoled after Florida, which finished behind UGA in the SEC East, got the conference's second BCS bid after the Bulldogs lost in the conference championship game. However, Georgia may get some consolaton at the 2013 draft where the program figures to be a major player. Junior OLB Jarvis Jones (#29, 6-2, 245), a dynamic edge rusher with 10.5 sacks this fall despite missing time with an ankle in jury, for example, is expected to be a 5-10 pick, while massive DT John Jenkins (#6, 6-3, 355) appears to have a mid-first round potential. Jenkins anchors a huge UGA defensive line which also includes junior DT Kwame Geathers (#99, 6-5, 350) and DE Cornelius Washington (#83, 6-3, 260) and is backed up by LB Alec Ogletree (#9, 6-2, 235), another junior with opening round potential, and veteran Christian Robinson (#45, 6-1, 230). The secondary is also strong with safeties Shawn Williams (#36, 6-0, 220) and Bacarri Rambo (#18, 6-0, 220) and CBs Branden Smith (#1, 5-10, 175) and Sanders Commings (#19, 6-1, 215), although each has some kind of issue. Georgia's recent run of success has been keyed by more consistent play from junior QB Aaron Murray #11, 6-1, 215), who dropped off the draft radar after a dreadful game against South Carolina, but still reminds a lot of scouts of the Saints’ Drew Brees with his ability to spread the ball and could opt to enter this year's draft given the relatively weak outlook for the position this spring. Murray has a couple of solid receivers in Tavares King (#12, 6-0, 195) and Marlon Brown (#15, 6-4, 225). The guys who make the UGA offense go, though, are true freshman RBs Todd Gurley (#3, 6-0, 220) and Keith Marshall (#4, 5-10, 215), both of whom averaged over 6 yards per carry during the season.
Nebraska also enters the Cap One Bowl with a burr under their collective saddle after getting blasted by underdog Wisconsin in the Big Ten conference final. However, Nebraska doesn't have the anywhere near the same talent level for the upcoming draft as Georgia. Nebraska does have a dependable senior RB who can dominate a game in Rex Burkhead (#22, 5-10, 210), a plugger who was limited by injuries this fall, but averaged 7.5 yards a carry when he did play. The Huskers also have a couple of solid TE prospects in Kyler Reed (#25, 6-2, 230), the receiving specialist, and all-arounder Ben Cotton (#81, 6-5, 265), while junior QB Taylor Martinez (#3, 6-0, 200), junior RB/KR Ameer Abdullah (#8, 5-9, 185) and sophomore WR Kenny Bell (#80, 6-0, 185) provide the big plays. The Huskers also feature a number of mid-to-late round prospects on defense including LBs Will Compton (#51, 6-1, 230), Sean Fisher (#42, 6-5, 235) and Alonzo Whaley (#45, 6-0, 230), along with safeties Damion Stafford (#3, 6-0, 205) and P.J. Smith (#13, 6-1, 210) and DE Cameron Meredith (#34, 6-3, 265). The Black Shirts top prospect, though, may ultimately be emerging tweener DE Eric Martin (#46, 6-2, 255) who has 9 sacks this fall.OUTBACK BOWL: South Carolina (10-2) versus Michigan (8-4); 1 PM ET; ESPN
No this game is not being played in Australia. Its in Tampa. And no it is not a coincidence that SEC teams seem to keep playing teams from the Big Ten in what feels like the majority of January 1st bowl games. If you can keep a secret the system is rigged! That said, this year's game features perhaps the best head-to-head match-up of the January 1 bowls - and just maybe of all the bowls period - when Michigan junior LT Taylor Lewan (#77, 6-7, 305) takes on USC DEs Jadeveon Clowney (#7, 6-6, 255), already the presumptive #1 pick at the 2014 draft, and Devin Taylor (#6-7, 270), a second-day prospect in his own right. It will also be interesting to see where Michigan QB Denard Robinson (#16, 5-11, 195) lines up for the Wolverines as he has been playing some RB and even WR in recent weeks and has pro scouts wondering if he could actually corner at the next level. The Wolverines also have a goodly number of mid-to-late round type prospects including DE Carig Roh (#88, 6-4, 270), DT Will Campbell (#73, 6-4, 325), CB J.T. Floyd (#8, 5-11, 185), MLB Kenny Demens (#25, 6-0, 250) and WR Roy Roundtree (#21, 5-11, 180). Meanwhile, other South Carolina players to watch include OLBs Shaq Wilson (#54, 5-11, 225) and DeVonte Holloman (#21, 6-1, 245), MLB Reggie Bowens (#32, 6-2, 255), FS D.J. Swearinger (#36, 6-0, 210), DE Aldrick Fordham (#57, 6-3, 270), TE Justice Cunningham (#87, 6-4, 265) and C T.J. Johnson (#55, 6-5, 320).
ROSE BOWL: Stanford (11-2) versus Wisconsin (8-5); 5 PM ET; ESPN
Despite the fact Wisconsin's invitaition
to a BCS bowl - the Badgers had only the
6th best record in the Big Ten this fall and actually finished third in
their division and only advanced to the league final because both Ohio
and Penn State were ineligible for the post-season - was just the
latest indictment of the BCS system, this could end up being a classic
match-up of teams that play football the old-fashioned way. Wisconsin,
for example, can pound the ball with anyone with star RB Montee Ball
(#28, 5-10, 215) back in form after getting
off to a
slow start as a result of a concussion suffered in an off-field
incident prior to the
start of the season. Indeed, Ball ran for over 1,700
yards and scored 21 TDs which gave him the NCAA
mark for scores. Pro scouts will also be focused on the Wisconsin
line led by LT Ricky
Wagner (#58, 6-5, 320) and junior G/C Travis Fredrick (#72, 6-3, 330),
both of whom have top 100 physical tools, but have generally
underachived this year. Meanwhile, LBs Mike Taylor (#53, 6-1, 225) and
junior Chris Borland (#44, 5-11, 245) are both tackling machines who
can find the ball, while CB Devin Smith (#10, 5-10, 185) heads an
experienced secondary that also includes CB Marcus Cromartie (#14, 6-0,
185) and FS Shelton Johnson (#24, 5-11, 190).
part, Stanford wrote one of the better stories in the NCAA this fall
earning a spot in the Rose Bowl after QB Andrew Luck was the first
player selected at the 2012 draft. No one from Stanford is going
to be taken anywhere near that early this coming April, but Stanford
does have a number of prospects with at least
second-day potential including LBs Chase Thomas (#44, 6-3,
Shayne Skov (#11, 6-2, 245), RB Stepfan Taylor (#33, 5-10,
210), and junior TEs Zach Ertz (88, 6-5, 245) and Levine
Northern Illinois (12-1) versus Florida State (11-2); 8:30 PM ET;
Let the debate begin: Should Northern Illinois, which lost just once this year - a one-point loss to 4-8 Iowa - but had no real signature win outside the MAC - be in a BCS bowl at all. Given that the Huskies are despite a less than impressive resume will have people tuning in to see whether NIU can hang with a traditional national power like Florida State. Truth is that folks should be tuning in to see NIU junior QB QB Jordan Lynch (#6, 6-0, 216), whom the school is touting as a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate next season after he ran in which he ran for almost 1,800 yards and 19 scores this fall, while throwing for another 2,900 yards plus and 25 TDs against just 5 picks. At the same time, though, NIU likely won't have anyone drafted this coming April, although veteran DE Sean Progar (#95, 6-2, 255) and productive possession WR Martel Moore (#1, 5-11, 185) could get some free-agent interest.
other hand, Florida
State should be a
major force at the upcoming draft. Junior DE Bjoern Werner
(#95, 6-3, 275), who didn’t play
football until his junior in high school when he took up the game as an
exchange student from Germany, for example, appears to have moved into
10, while junior
(#27, 6-1, 210), a full-sized cover corner with excellent ball-skills,
has late opening round potential. Meanwhile, veteran QB E. J.
Manuel (#3, 6-5, 240) has seen his stock drop in recent weeks, but
still figures to get some second-day looks this coming April. At
the same time, DT
Everett Dawkins (#93, 6-2,
305) and PK Dustin Hopkins (#18,
6-2, 190) are later-round types, while DT Anthony McCloud (#92, 6-2,
305), rangy WR Rodney Smith (#84, 6-5, 220), OLB Nick Moody (#10, 6-1,
240), MLB Vince Williams (#11, 6-0, 250), and FB Lonnie Pryor (#24,
5-11, 230) are potential fee agents. Pro
scouts will also be watching several FSU juniors for future reference
including FS Lamarcus Joyner (#20, 5-7, 190), RT Menelik Watson (#71,
6-5, 320), C/T Brian Stork (#52, 6-4, 315) and RB James Wilder (#32,
North Carolina State (7-5) versus Vanderbilt (8-4); Noon ET;
Interesting potential QB dual to start the New Year's Eve bowl action with Mike Glennon of North Caolina State leading his Wolfpack against Jordan Rodgers of hometown Vanderbilt. In fact, NC State's Glennon (#8, 6-5, 235) is aguably the hottest QB prospect in the 2013 draft class as he has gone from a mid-to-late round candidate to a legitmate possible first rounder. Glennon is a prototype pocket passer with good size and the arm strength to make all the passes, although pro scouts would like to see improved accuracy and a little better decision making when pressured. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt's Rodgers (#11, 6-0, 205), the younger brother of Packer' star QB Aaron Rodgers, also lacks prototype measurables, but like his older brother is a very mobile QB who always seem to be able to find the open receiver. This game could also feature an intriguing individual match-up between Vanderbilit WR Jordan Matthews (#87, 6-2, 205) and NC State CB David Amerson (#1, 6-2, 195). Both are juniors who would likely figure in the second round of this year's draft if they opt to turn pro this winter. In fact, there were reports early in December that Amerson was on his way to the draft, but that has never been confirmed. Amerson actually had been considered to be a potential top 10 pick this year after he picked off a remarkable 13 passes in 2011, but struggled at times this year, although he still had 5 more picks, while breaking up another 11 pass attempts. Meanwhile, Matthews had 87 receptions this fall for over 1,200 yards.
North Carolina State also has a couple of late-round prospects in safeties Earl Wolff (#27, 6-0, 205) and Brandon Bishop (#30, 6-1, 210), while OT R.J. Mattes (#79, 6-5, 315), OG Andrew Wallace (#64, 6-4, 305), C Cam Wentz (#53, 6-2, 305), TE Mario Carter (#87, 6-4, 265), WR Tobias Palmer (#4, 5-10, 175), and DE Brian Slay (#55, 6-2, 290) are free agent possibilities. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has a useful back in Zac Stacy (#2, 5-9, 210) who should get some late-round consideration, while DT Rob Lohr (#84, 6-3, 290), CB Trey Wilson (#8, 5-10, 190), and LB Archie Barnes (#15, -3, 235) are more free agent types.
Southern California (7-5) versus Georgia Tech (6-7); 2 PM ET;
Hard to imagine that either USC or Georgia Tech are feeling particualrly sunny about being in the Sun Bowl. With QB Matt Barkley returning for his senior season, Southern Cal, for example, figured to be a national champonship contender, but stumbled to a 7-5 record, while Georgia Tech is the only team in the bowls with a sub-.500 record and needed a special waiver to be eligible for the post-season. To make matters worse for USC, Barkley injured a shoulder in their late-season loss to cross-town rivals UCLA and will not be in uniform later this afternoon. The Trojans may also be without star sophomore WR Marqise Lee (#9, 6-0, 190), a potential top 5 pick in 2014, who was dinged in practice late last week. However, USC will have junior WR Robert Woods (#2, 6-0, 185), a late opening round prospect who is expected to annonce his plans for next year immediately after the game, in uniform, along with fellow juniors Nickell Robey (#21, 5-8, 165), a pesky cover corner, and DE Morgan Breslin (#92, 6-2, 255), both of whom are considered to be second-day prospects. Same for veteran safety T.J. McDonald (#7, 6-1, 210), while DE Wes Horton (#96, 6-4, 260) and C Khaled Holmes (#78, 6-3, 300) look like mid-to-late rounders.
it was for USC this fall, it was downright ugly for the Yellow Jackets
won only one game against
an opponent with a winning record this fall and lost home games to BYU
24 points and by 21 to Middle Tennessee State of the Sun Belt, yet in
the wondeful world of the bowl-system still got an invite to the
post-season. Georgia Tech also doesn't have much in the way of
prospects for the
upcoming draft although rugged OG Omoregie Uzzi (#77, 6-2, 305) could
get some late second-day consideration. Same for junior OLB Jeremiah
Attachaochu (#45, 6-2, 240) an aggressive edge-rusher who has 8 sacks
on the year, while CB Rod Sweeting (#6, 5-11, 190), massive DT
T.J. Barnes (#90, 6-6, 345), DE Izaan Cross (#94, 6-3, 300), and RB
Orwin Smith (#17, 5-11, 205), could attract some free agent
This is one of those bowl games that only an a diehard fan could get excited about and even then they'd probably have to really work at it. This is also one of the weakest games left on the bowl schedule in terms of prospects for the upcoming draft, although each team has at least one solid defender in Iowa State LB A.J. Klein (#47, 6-1, 245) and Tulsa safety Dexter McCoil (#26, 6-3, 222), although neither is more than a late round prospect. Klein is a tackling machine with over 300 career tackles including 98 this season, although he lacks elite speed and quickness. Meanwhile, McCoil is a LB-sized safety who recorded 170 tackles and 10 interceptions over the past couple of seasons. Tulsa also has a very disruptive buck LB in DeAundre Brown (#2, 5-10, 220), but he is very undersized for a legit prospect.
LSU (10-2) versus Clemson (10-2); 7:30 PM ET;
In a perfect world, what could be called the 'Tiger Bowl' would actually be a BCS Bowl game. It certainly is one of the top non-BCS bowls in terms of prospects for the upcoming draft. LSU, in particular, has a chance to be one of the dominant teams at the 2013 draft. Indeed, LSU has a couple of top 15-20 prospects in junior DEs Barkevious Mingo (#49, 6-5, 240) and Sam Montgomery (#99, 6-4, 245), although neither had an especially strong season this year. Meanwhile, junior FS Eric Reid (#1, 6-1, 210), arguably the top safety candidate this year, is also an opening round prospect. However, LSU's prospects for 2013 did take some hits this season. It started when star junior CB Tyrann ‘Honey Bear’ Mathieu, arguably the most dynamic defensive playmaker in college football last fall, was booted from the team reportedly for failing multiple drug tests. Then the Tigers lost star LT Chris Faulk for the year with a knee injury, while RT Alex Hurst (#72, 6-5, 340) remains MIA while he reportedly deals with some undisclosed off-field 'personal issues.' However, the Tigers do have some experience left upfront in G/T Josh Dworaczyk (#68, 6-5, 305) and feisty C P.J. Lonregan (#64, 6-3, 305). They also have a deep stable of RBs including junior Spencer Ware (#11, 5-10, 225), who may ultimately decide that he'll get more touches in the NFL than at LSU next fall and leave early for the pros, although he is only a mid-round candidate at best. Other Tigers to watch include DTs Josh Downs (#77, 6-1, 290) and junior Bennie Logan (#93, 6-2, 290), TE Chase Clement (#88, 6-4, 255), DE Lavar Edwards (#9, 6-4, 265), while PK Drew Alleman (#3, 5-11, 185) is one of the better kickers in the country. The big story in LSU, though, is which inconsistent junior QB Zach Mettenberger (#8, 6-5, 225) shows up this evening.
For its part, Clemson has as many potential game breakers as any program in the country including junior QB Tajh Boyd (#10, 6-0, 225), RB Andre Ellington (23, 6-9, 190) and WRs DeAndre Hopkins (#6, 6-0, 200) and Sammy Watkins (#2, 6-0, 200). Ellington is considered to be a top 100 candidate for the 2013 draft, while junior WR Hopkins could also figure in the second-day mix if he were to opt to enter the NFL this winter. The Tigers’ best prospect, though, is Watkins who had 82 receptions last year for over 1,200 and 12 TDs as a true freshman meaning he won’t be draft eligible until 2014. Hopefully, that will give Watkins a little more time to mature as he’s had his share of off-field troubles and was suspended the first 2 games of the year as a result of an off-season drug arrest. Clemson also has an experienced offensive lineman in C Dalton Freeman (#55, 6-4, 290); he’s a solid later round prospect as is DE Malliciah Goodman (#97, 6-3, 270), along with a trio of veteran safeties in Jon Meeks (#5, 6-0, 210), Xavier Brewer (#9, 5-10, 190) and Rashard Hall (#31, 6-0, 210), while P Spencer Benton (#13, 6-2, 195) has one of the strongest legs in the country.
Saturday; December 29
Rice (6-6) versus Air Force (6-6); 11:45 AM ET;
One of the busiest days on the bowl schedule gets underway early with Rice and - appropriately - Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth. No one will forgive pro scouts if they sleep in a tad as there won't be much talent for the 2013 draft on display. Of course, as one of the academies, Air Force rarely has anyone drafted - or even signed - and this year will not be an exception. For its part, Rice fields a very young team, but does several quality receivers in TEs in Vance McDonald (#88, 6-5, 260), a quality receiver who figures to be a late-round selection, and Canadian Luke Willson who was taken in last year's CFL draft by Toronto, along with veteran possession WR Sam McDuffie (#2, 5-10, 200).
Syracuse (7-5) versus West Virginia (7-5); 3:15 PM ET;
Also known as the Big East Reunion Bowl, the Pinstripe match-up between Big East originals West Virginia, which bolted the conference for the Big XII this year, and Syracuse which is headed to the ACC next year, offers an intriguing head-to-head confrontation between two of the most intriguing QB prospects for the 2013 draft. West Virginia's Geno Smith (#12, 6-3, 215), for example, is still generally considered to be a top 10 prospect for the upcoming draft, despite the fact that the team cooled off in the latter part of the season after a blazing start. To be fair, though, Smith was hardly the problem as the Mountaineers' defense gave up points by the bushel full. In fact, Smith completed 71% of his pass attempts this fall as he threw for just over 4,000 yards and 40 scores against just 6 picks. Pro scouts, though, would still like to see Smith be more disciplined when pressured. Smith works with a couple of talented receivers in Tavon Austin (#1, 5-9, 175) and junior Stedman Bailey (#3, 5-9, 195), both of whom had over 100 receptions this fall for a combined 2,700 yards and 35 TDs. As a result, the speedy Austin, who also doubles as a top return man while also rushing for 600 yards, is starting to get some late first-round interest, while the wily Bailey, who has already announced he'll be entering the upcoming draft, is a mid-second day candidate. The Mountaineers also have a solid offensive line anchored by veteran OGs Jeff Braun (#57, 6-3, 325) and John Jenkins (#77, 6-3, 295), although both are more late round or free agent prospects as are OLB Terry Garvin (#28, 6-2, 225) and CB Pat Miller (#6, 5-9, 190) who lead the defense.
For its part, Syracuse is led by QB Ryan Nassib (#12, 6-2, 230) one of the fastest risers in the 2013 draft class. Indeed, Nassib, a classic pocket passer with a thick lower body and strong arm, has gone from a draft afterthought at the start of the season to a legitimate second-day prospect heading into the bowls as he completed 64% of his pass attempts this fall for over 3,400 yards and 23 TDs against 9 picks this fall. And Syracuse could have a second second-day pick if athletic junior LT Justin Pugh (#67, 6-5, 295) opts to enter this year's draft. Meanwhile, SS Shamarko Thomas (#21, 5-10, 210), along with underrated WRs Alec Lemon (#15, 6-1, 205) and Marcus Sales (#5, 6-0, 18), and tweener DE Brandon Sharpe (#91, 6-1, 245) are later round or free agent prospects.
Navy (8-4) versus Arizona State (7-5); 4 PM ET;
If there is a reason to watch to watch this game from a draft perspective it would Arizona State's underclasmen. Indeed, the Sun Devils best prospect by far is junior DT Will Sutton (#90, 6-2, 270), an undersized, but super quick interior defender who had 10.5 sacks this fall despite missing three games with an injury. Sutton is just part of an explosive ASU defensive front which also includes tweener DEs Carl Bradford (#52, 6-0, 240), a sophomore who also had 10.5 sacks this fall, and junior Junior Onyeali (#5, 5-11, 233), another odd-sized guy who has struggled with injuries and some off-field stuff, but is a terrifc player when healthy. Meanwhile, other ASU underclassmen to watch include sophomore TE/HB Chris Coyle (#87, 6-2, 230), junior LT Evan Finkenberg (#62, 6-5, 300), junior DB Alden Darby (#4, 5-10, 190) and sophomore QB Taylor Kelly (#10, 6-1, 205). Arizona State, though, also has several solid laer round or free agent prospects including WLB Brandon Magee (#8, 5-10, 235), WRs Jamal Miles (#32, 5-9, 180) and Rashad Ross (#15, 5-11, 175), RB Cam Marshall (#26, 5-10, 215), FS Keelan Johnson (#10, 5-11, 205), OT Brice Schwab (#71, 6-6, 305) and OG Andrew Sampson (#72, 6-3, 305). For its part, Navy isn't going to have anyone drafted, but is fun to watch their option running atatck.
Texas (8-4) versus Oregon State (9-3); 6:45 PM ET;
What had the makings of a pretty good game between a solid Big XII team and a solid Pac-12 squad, kind of got turned on its head when Texas was rocked by news that a couple of players have been sent home from San Antonio amid rumors of an investigation involving allegations of a sexual assault. However, Texas will have a couple of players in uniform with at least some first-round potential for the 2013 draft in DE Alex Okafor (#80, 6-4, 260) and FS Kenny Vaccaro (#4, 6-0, 215). Okafor lacks the quick-twitch explosion of some top DE prospects, but is solid all-around defender with a relentless motor, while Vaccaro is a big hitter with good range in coverage. Meanwhile, junior CB Carrington Byndom (#23, 5-11, 180) could get some late second-day consideration if he opts to enter the upcoming draft, although after a somewhat inconsistent season is expected to return for his senior year. The Longhorns also have arguably the fastest player in the country in WR Marquise Goodwin (#84, 5-9, 175), a long jumper who competed for the US at the London Olympics, although he is more of a free agent type.
Oregon State was one of the surprise teams in the country this past season as the Beavers went 9-3 games after going 3-9 in 2011. Oregon State should also have an impact at the upcoming draft as the Beavers have a couple of prospects with solid second-day credentials in CB Jordan Poyer (#14, 5-11, 190) and WR Markus Wheaton (#2, 5-11, 180). Poyer is a ball-hawking corner with good length and exceptional ball skills who had 7 interceptions this past season, while Wheaton is a sneaky quik wideout who has over 200 career receptions including 88 this year. And while Oregon State is relatively young, the Beavers do have a number of second-tier prospects to watch including DTs Andrew Seumalo (#49, 6-2, 290) and Castro Masaniai (#98, 6-3, 350), LB Feti Unga (#41, 6-0, 240), G/T Colin Kelly (#64, 6-4, 300) and TE Colby Prince (#82, 6-4, 265). Other than Poyer and Wheaton, though, the Beavers most interesting prospects may be sophomores Sean Mannion (#4, 6-5, 215), a strong-armed passer, and DE Scott Crichton (#95, 6-3, 265) who had 9 sacks and 8 other tackles for loss this season.
Texas Christian (7-5) versus Michigan State (6-6); 10:15 PM ET;
One would think that just maybe a bowl called the Buffalo Wild Wings would be played in Buffalo. One would be wrong! The game is actually played in Tempe between a couple of pretty good programs coming off disappointing seasons. At least Michigan State could get some consolation at the upcoming draft. Then again, maybe they wouldn't as the Spartans best prospects are all juniors including RB Le'Veon Bell (#24, 6-2, 240), DE William Gholston (#2, 6-6, 275), TE Dion Sims (#80, 6-5, 280) and MLB Max Bullough (#40, 6-2, 255). Bell, who ran for 1,650 yards this season, along with Gholston and Sims figure to be second-day prospects if they enter the upcoming draft, while Bullough will be a mid-to-late rounder. Michigan State also has a number of solid second-tier senior possibilities for the upcoming draft including CB Johnny Adams (#5, 5-10, 175), NT Anthony Rashad White (#98, 6-2, 320), OG Chris McDonald (#62, 6-4, 300), LB Chris Norman (#10, 6-0, 230), CB/WR Mitchell White (#32, 5-11, 185), DT Tyler Hoover (#91, 6-6, 310), and PK Dan Conroy (#4, 5-10, 195).
Texas Christian finally found a home in a BCS conference this fall, but unfortunately it was a down year talent wise for the Horned Frogs who likely won't have any selected at the 2013 draft. TCU. though, does have several seniors who will at least get some free agent consideration including WR Skye Dawson (#11, 5-9, 185), RB Matthew Tucker (#29, 6-0, 225), OG Blaize Foltz (#66, 6-3, 310), TE Corey Fuller (#86, 6-5, 255), and OLB Kenny Cain (#51, 6-0, 220). TCU also has a couple of outstanding underclassmen worth checking out including junior CB Jason Verrett (#2, 5-10, 180), a ball-hawker who picked off 6 passes this fall while breaking up 13 others, and freshman DE Devonte Fields (#95, 6-3, 240), an emerging edge-rusher who had 9 sacks this fall despite the fact he didn't start until well into the season.
Friday; December 28
Ohio (8-4) versus Louisiana-Monroe (8-4); 2 PM ET;
Today's triple header starts with a pretty good game between a couple of 8-4 non-BCS schools that could just as well be called the Giant-Killer Bowl as both teams opened the season with major upset wins. Ohio, for example, won at Penn State back in early September, while ULM ruined Arkansas' season before it got started. However, neither team figures to make much of an impact at the 2013 draft, although Ohio at least has several later round or free agent prospects in DT Neal Huynh (#93, 6-2, 305), OG Eric Herman (#77, 6-3, 320), C Skyler Allen (#65, 6-2, 290) and PK Matt Weller (#49, 6-0, 205). The Bobcats also feature one of the more productive backs in the country in junior RB Beau Blankenship (#22, 5-10, 205) who ran for over 1,500 yards this year. For its part, ULM is a very young team who won't have anyone selected at the upcoming draft, although productive possession WR Brent Leonard (#18, 6-1, 185), blocking TE Keavon Martin (#80, 6-3, 290) and stumpy LB R.J. Young (#51, 5-10, 240) could conceivably get some free agent interest.
Rutgers (9-3) versus Virginia Tech (6-6); 5:30 PM ET;
Hard not to imagine that either Rutgers or Virginia Tech are particulary happy about playing in Orlando on December 28th as both teams had much higher hopes not that long ago. All Rutgers had to do to make a BCS bowl, for example, was win one of its final two games, but lost both to drop into a 4-way tie for the Big East title to end up in this game. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech entered the season with national aspirations, but barely managed just to qualify for any bowl. That's the bad news from Orlando. The good is that, disappointment aside, this is actually one of the better non-BCS games at least from a draft persperctive. Rutgers, for one, has a couple of talented second-day prospects in LB Khaseem Greene (#20, 6-1, 230), a former safety who can really run for a LB, and junior CB Logan Ryan (#11, 5-11, 190). The Scarlet Knights also have a passel of solid later round prospects including MLB Steve Beauharnais (#42, 6-1, 235), WRs Mark Harrison (#81, 6-2, 235) and Tim Wright (#5, 6-3, 220), TE D.C. Jefferson (#1, 6-5, 260), OT R.J. Dill (#76, 6-5, 315), DE Scott Vallone (#94, 6-3, 275), and FS Duron Harmon (#32, 6-0, 200).
What is hard to imagine is how a talented team like Virginia Tech only managed to break even in what is generally considered to be a down year for the ACC. Junior QB Logan Thomas (#3, 6-5, 245), for example, was considered to be a possible top 10 pick this comin year, but struggled with accuracy all season long. Thomas still hasn't ruled out entering the 2013 draft, but clearly isn't going to go anywhere near that high, but still could get a second-day call as he has the tools including imposing size and arm strength, as well as special athleticism. In fact, the Hokies best prospects for the upcoming draft are primarily juniors such as CBs Antone Exum (#1, 5-10, 220) and Kyle Fuller (#17, 5-11, 180), and DE James Gayle (#99, 6-3, 250). For good measure, Virginia Tech also has some solid veteran depth including big-play WRs Marcus Davis (#7, 6-3, 235) and Dyrell Roberts (#11, 6-1, 215), OTs Nick Becton (#54, 6-5, 310) and Vinston Painter (#71, 6-5, 320), and MLB Bruce Taylor (#51, 6-2, 255) each of whom figures to be a later round or free agent candidate.
MEINEKE CAR CARE
Minnesota (6-6) versus Texas Tech (7-5); 9 PM ET;
Unfortunately, there's not much to get excited about in Friday's nightcap between Minnesota and Texas Tech. Indeed, the odds are pretty good that neither team will have any player selected at the upcoming draft. Howeve, Texas Tech is a relatively veteran team with a number of potential free agent targets including FS Cody Davis (#16, 6-1, 205), OT LaAdrian Waddle (#65, 6-5, 322), QB Seth Doege (#7, 6-1, 205), WRs Alex Torres (#86, 6-0, 200) and Darrin Moore (#14, 6-3, 220), and SS D.J. Johnson (#12, 6-0, 200). The most interesting guy in this game, though, may be Minnesota QB MarQueis Gray (#5, 6-3, 245), who isn't accurate enough to rate as a legitimate NFL QB prospect, but is a very good athlete who could find a niche at another position. The Gophers also have a couple of solid veteran corners in Troy Stoudermire (#11, 5-9, 200) and Michael Carter (#23, 5-10, 185) although neither appears to be more than a free agent candidate; same for DE D.J. Wilhite (#95, 6-3, 250).
THURSDAY; December 27
San Jose State (10-2) versus Bowling Green (8-4); 3 PM ET;
A pretty good game to start today's triple header with 10-2 San Jose State battling 8-win Bowling Green, although neither team is exactly loaded with potential prospects for the upcoming draft. San Jose State, though, does have a trio of solid later round candidates in TE Ryan Otten (#82, 6-5, 245), LT David Quessenberry (#76, 6-5, 295) and tweener DE Travis Johnson (#43, 6-2, 245), while RB De'Leon Eskridge (#2, 5-10, 215) should get some free agent consideration. On the other hand, BGSU isn't likely to have anyone drafted at all this spring, but has at least a couple of very productive veteran defenders in DT Chris Jones (#91, 6-1, 295) and MLB Dwayne Woods (#5, 5-10, 230), although both are somewhat undersized.
Cincinnati (9-3) versus Duke (6-6); 6:30 PM ET;
On paper, the Belk (someone help us here - what exactly is a belk?) Bowl looks like a mismatch with Big East co-champion Cincinnati playing 6-6 Duke which earned its way into the bowl lineup by losing their final 4 games of the season. Ironically, though, its the Blue Devils which has the more interesting prospects in rangy QB Sean Renfree (#19, 6-5, 230), a three-year starter with over 9,000 career passing yards, and possession WR-deluxe Connor Vernon (#2, 6-0, 195) who enters the game with 273 career catches. Both are solid middle round prospects, while physical SS Walt Canty (#4, 6-0, 220) is a free agent possibility. Cincinnati also has a mid-round prospect in TE Travis Kelce (#18, 6-5, 255), while SS Drew Frey (#26, 6-2, 210), MLB Greg Blair (#51, 6-1, 255), RB George Winn (#32, 5-10, 205), CB Cam Cheatham (#21, 5-9, 195), OLB Maalik Bomar (#4, 6-1, 225) and DE Dan Giordano (#99, 6-3, 260) are later round or free agent possibilities.
Baylor (7-5) versus UCLA (9-4); 9:45 PM ET;
While neither of today's first two games offer much in the way of top-flight talent for the upcoming draft, the nightcap is one of the better pre-New Year's bowls, at least in terms of prospects for 2013. Baylor WR Terrance Williams (#2, 6-2, 205), one of college football's most dangerous big-play receivers, for example, is a legitimate first-round prospect after hauling in 95 passes this season for almost 1,800 yards and 12 TDs. At the same time, wide-body junior G/T Cyril Richardson (#68, 6-4, 335) should get some serious second day interest if he enters the upcoming draft. Meanwhile QB Nick Florence (#11, 6-0, 210) lacks prototype measurables, but was very efficient this season as he threw for over 4,000 yards and 31 TDs after replacing NFL Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin. Florence, though, is still more of a late round prospect as are WR Lanear Sampson (#3, 5-10, 200), OG Cam Kaufhold (#71, 6-3, 300) and safety Mike Hicks (#17, 5-10, 195). Pro scouts will also be keeping an eye for future reference on BU sophomore RB Lache Seastrunk (#25, 5-10, 205), the one-time superstar recruit at Oregon who announced earlier in the week that he plans to make a run at next year's Heisman Trophy after averaging 7.6 yards per carry this season.
UCLA has an emerging prospect of its own in junior OLB Anthony Barr (#11, 6-5, 240), who was a back-up FB at this last year, but ended up leading the nation in sacks with 13.5 after switching to defense this fall. Meanwhile, RB Johnathan Franklin (#23, 5-10, 195), who had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage this season including 1,700 rushing yards, DEs Datone Jones (#56, 6-3, 275) and junior Cassius Marsh (#99, 6-4, 295), TE Joseph Fauria (#8, 6-6, 255) are second-day prospects, while CBs Sheldon Price (#22, 6-1, 180) and Aaron Hester (#21, 6-0, 205), OLB Damien Holmes (#43, 6-2, 250), OG Jeff Baca (#60, 6-3, 295) and K Jeff Locke (#18, 6-1, 210) are later round or free agent candidates.
Wednesday, December 26
BOWL: Central Michigan (6-6) versus Western Kentucky (7-5); 7:30 PM ET;
When the bowl schedule was originally
announced this relatively obscure game between two non-BCS schools with
a combined record of 13-11 hardly looked like a grabber. However, first
looks can be deceiving and this game actually offered potentially one
of the better individuals match-ups, at least from a draft perspective,
of all the bowls with WKU DE Quanterus Smith (#93, 6-4, 255) going
against CMU All-America LT Eric Fisher (#79, 6-7, 305). Unfortunately,
though, Smith, who led the nation in sacks per game this past season,
will not play because of a knee injury. Fisher, one of the rising stars
in the 2013 draft class, though, will be in uniform. For the record,
the rangy Fisher, a converted TE with long arms and very light feet,
appears to have moved in to the late first-round range on most teams
boards around the league and has the tools to move up with a solid
performance in an all-star game and at the combine. However, Fisher is
the only CMU player certain to be drafted, although active SS Jahleel
Addae (#4, 5-10, 200) could get some late roind interest, while veteran
possession WR Cody Wilson (#11, 5-10, 195) is a possible free agent
target. Pro scouts will also be taking a peek at junior RB Zurlon
Tipton (#34, 6-0, 220) who blasted his way for 1,600 yards and 19
scores this fall.
Meanwhile, other than Smith, Western
Kentucky's best prospect are MLB Andrew Jackson (#4, 6-0, 265) and RB
Antonio Andrews (#5, 5-11, 215), a pair of very productive juniors.
Jackson, for example, is a classic run-stufer who 116 tackles this past
season including 17.5 for loss, while Andrews ran for over 1,600 yards
and 11 TDs. WKU also has a solid receiving TE in Jake Doyle (#82, 6-5,
255), while wide-body OG Adam Smith (#76, 6-4, 325) is also a solid
Monday, December 24
Fresno State (9-3) versus Southern Methodist (6-6); 8 PM ET; ESPN
With no Monday nighter in the NFL because
of the holidays, football fans still get a bit of an early Christmas
present with a bowl match-up between Mountain West co-champion Fresno
State and Southern Methodist in a game featuring several intriguing
prospects for the 2013 draft. Fresno State FS Phillip Thomas (#16, 6-0,
215), for example, still isn't a household name among draft watchers,
but is one of the rising stars of this year's draft class who has gone
from a likely free agent prospect to a potential mid-second-day pick.
Thomas bounced back after missing the entire 2011 season with a leg
injury to earn Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors as he
led the country with 8 interceptions, while also leading the team with
84 tackles including 4 sacks and four forced fumbles. At the same time,
scatback Robby Rouse (#8, 5-7, 190) and OLB Travis Brown (#9, 6-1, 236)
are later round candidates. Rouse, in particular, isn't all that big,
but has still been one of the most productive backs in college football
the past couple of seasons during which he has run for over 3,000 yards
and caught a bunch of passes. Meanwhile, junior QB Derek Carr (#4, 6-2,
210), the brother of Giants QB David Carr, the first player selected
overall at the 2002 draft, has already indicated he will be returning
to school for his senior season, although he too likely would hae
gotten some second-day interest from NFL teams had he opted to leave
school this winter. In fact, Carr was the conference's Offensive Player
of the Year after throwing for over 3,700 yards and 36 scores, against
just 5 picks, this season.
In contrast to Fresno State, Southern
Methodist just squeaked into the bowl with a 6-6 record, but have their
own share of draft prospects. If nothing else, DE Margus Hunt (#92,
6-7, 275) should be one of the draft's better stories as he is one of
several foreign-born DEs who only recently came to football, but have
been able to translate uncommon athletic ability to the gridiron. Hunt,
for example, is a Latvian national who originally came to SMU as a
track shot putter, but has evolved into a physical 3-4 DE who had 6
sacks this fall and has 17 career blocked kicks. However, Hunt didn't
have the breakout year pro scouts were looking for this fall and
appears to be stuck in the middle rounds at this time, although he's
one of those guys with the athletic abiltiy to blow up the combine.
Meanwhile, RB Zach Line (#48, 6-0, 230), a physical back who can move
the pile, along with active LBs Ja'red Davis (#51, 6-1, 235) and Taylor
Reed (#44, 6-0, 240) are solid later round prospects, while G/T Brian
Collins (#67, 6-3, 315), OG Jordan Free (#78, 6-2, 310), and WR Darius
Johnson (#3, 5-9, 175) should get some free agent consideration.
Saturday, December 22
ORLEANS BOWL: East Carolina ((8-4) versus Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4);
Nice to see Louisiana-Lafayette in a bowl
for no oter reason than the Ragin' Cajuns is one of the best nicknames
in the college football. For good measure, ULL also has at least one
decent late round prospect in rangy CB Mel White (#22, 6-2, 195), while
fellow CB Jermarlous Moten (#2, 5-10, 175), WRs Javone Lawson (#4, 6-0,
185) and Harry Peoples (#9, 5-9, 180), LT Leonardo Bates (#72, 6-4,
300), DE Emeka Onyenekwu (#45, 6-2, 250) and PK Brett Baer (#40, 5-11,
185) should get some free agent consideration. Same for East Carolina
DT Michael Brooks (#92, 6-2, 315) although for the most part the
Pirates are one the youngest teams in the country with few veteran
starters. Indeed, ECU's best player is sophomore WR Justin Hardy (#2,
LAS VEGAS BOWL:
Washington (7-5) versus Boise State (10-2); 3:30 PM; ESPN
If its bowl season figure that
Boise State has probably gotten the shaft again. And you'd be dead
right. The Broncos lost just twice this past fall - a veritable slump
for Boise State given their recent history - and finished the year
ranked 19th, just three spots out of a guaranteed spot in a BCS bowl,
however the best the bowls could do for the winningest program in the
country this century coming off a ten-win season is an invitation to
the lowly Las Vegas Bowl. At least the Broncos get to go home for
Christmas! In fact, it was something of a rebuilding year for Boise
State after having 6 players selected at the 2012 draft including a
couple of first rounders. Certainly, no one from BSU is going to go
anywhere near that early this coming April, although the Broncos do
have a couple of potential mid-round prospects in CB Jamar Taylor (#5,
5-10, 200) and RB D.J. Harper (#7, 5-9, 205), while fellow CB Jerrell
Gavins (#4, 5-9, 170) and FB Dan Paul (#47, 6-0, 265) could be premium
In fact, the best prospect for the
upcoming draft in either of Saturday's game is Washington CB Desmond
Trufant (#6, 6-0, 185), the opportunistic younger brother of Seattle CB
Marcus Trufant who should get some late second-day interest this coming
April. Trufant, though, is the Huskies only legitimate draft
prospect, although veteran C Drew Shaefer (#73, 6-4, 290), wide-body DT
Semisi Tokolahi (#98, 6-2, 340) and safety Justin Glenn (#5-11, 210)
could get free agent looks. Meanwhile, for future reference, pro scouts
will also be keeping an eye on sophomore Austin Seferian-Jenkins (#88,
6-5, 260), aruably the best young receiving TE in the country, while
sophomore RB Bishop Sankey (#25, 5-10, 200) is also an emerging star
who ran for over 1,200 yards this fall and caught 27 passes.
Friday, December 21
BOWL: Ball State (9-3) versus
Central Florida (9-4); 7:30 PM ET; ESPN
Nobody is listing the Beef
O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg as one of the can’t miss games on this
year’s bowl schedule. However, the game itself between a couple of
solid 9-win non-BCS schools in Ball State and Central Florida should be
pretty competitive. And while neither team has anyone who is a lock to
be selected at the upcoming draft, there are several players with at
least some late-round or free agent potential with pro scouts most
interested in a couple of guys from UCF in FS Kemal Ishmael (#18, 5-10,
205) and RB Latavius Murray (#28, 6-2, 222). Ishamel, for example, was
the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year after he racked up 116 tackles,
while picking off three passes and breaking up a couple of others.
Meanwhile, Murray is tallish back with some power who ran for over
1,000 yards this fall while averaging 5.8 yards per carry and scoring
14 rushing TDs. For good measure, Murray also chipped in 21 pass
receptions. Meanwhile, other UCF players who NFL teams will be watching
include WR Quincy McDuffie (#14, 5-9, 180), DE Troy Davis (#58, 6-2,
250), OLB Ray Shipman (#46, 6-4, 245), CB A.J. Bouye (#21, 5-11, 190)
and OG Theo Goins (#68, 6-3, 320).
Thursday, December 20
San Diego State (9-3) versus BYU (7-5); San Diego; 8 PM ET; ESPN
With the NFL’s Thursday night games
over for the season, tonight’s Poinsettia Bowl offers a nice
alternative football fix with an unusual numbers of intriguing
prospects for the upcoming draft. Indeed, BYU DE Ezekial ‘Ziggy’ Ansah
(#47, 6-5, 270) may ultimately end up being one of the most intriguing
prospects of the entire upcoming draft. If nothing else, its almost a
certainly that Ansah will be one of, if not, the most interesting
storyline of the upcoming draft season. Ansah originally came to BYU
from Ghana as a track athlete and never played any football at all
until 2010. However, he’s an outstanding athlete with a rare
combination of size, strength and explosion and blossomed this year
into a disruptive edge rusher who had 4 sacks and 12 total tackles for
loss this fall playing a combination DE/OLB position. While still
incredibly raw, a case could be made that Ansah has as much upside as
any senior in this year’s draft class and is already being talked about
as a potential late first round pick this coming April with the
athletic tools to go considerably higher.
NEW MEXICO BOWL;
Nevada (7-5) versus Arizona (7-5); 1 PM ET; ESPN
The bowl schedule kicks off with a
doubleheader Saturday afternoon starting with Nevada against Arizona in
the New Mexico Bowl in a game that features two of the most productive
young RBs in the country. Indeed, both Nevada junior Stefphon Jefferson
210) and Arizona true sophomore Ka'Deem Carey (#25, 5-9, 200) ran for
1,700 yards and 20 TDs this past season. Meanwhie, Arizona has a
couple of solid veterans who should at least get some late round
consideration this coming April in QB Matt Scott (#10, 6-2, 200) and WR
Dan Buckner (#4,
6-3, 215). Somewhat surprisingly, Nevada actually has a deeper
potential 2013 draft class than Arizona with SS Duke Williams (#5, 6-0,
200), TE Zach Studfield (#44, 6-6, 255), OT Jeff Nady (#78, 6-6, 305),
CB Kahlid Wooten (#2, 5-11, 200), LB Albert Rosette (#51, 6-1, 240), OG
Chris Barker (#75, 6-3, 305) and WR Brandon Wimberly (#4, 6-2, 215)
expected to figure in the later rounds or as premium free agents.
POTATO BOWL; Toledo (9-3) versus Utah State (10-2); 4:30 PM ET; ESPN
Like the earlier New Mexico Bowl, the Potato Bowl should feature an interesting dual between a couple of very good RBs in Kerwynn Williams (#25, 5-9, 195) of Utah State and Toledo junior David Fluellen (#22, 5-11, 215). Williams, for example, had almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage this fall including 1,300 rushing yards and another 600-plus on 43 receptions, while Fluellen had just under 1,500 yards rushing and 13 scores. In fact, Toledo has an intriguing set of skill position juniors with QB Terrance Miller (#2, 6-3, 195) and WR Bernard Reedy (#1, 5-9, 175), who had 82 receptions this season while returning three kicks for TDs, joining Fluellen in the Rockets' backfield. The best pro prospects for 2013 in this game, though, play on the other side of the ball in USU CB Will Davis (#17, 5-11, 195) and Toledo MLB Dan Molls (#32, 6-0, 230). Davis, in particular, is a ball-hawker who made severl All-America teams this past fall after he picked off 5 passes and broke up 11 others over the course of the season. Meanwhile, Molls piled up a remarkable 166 tackles this fall including 3 sacks as well as 3 pass interceptions. Utah State also has a solid veteran possession receiver in WR Matt Austin (#4, 6-2, 200). .
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly … There are unconfirmed reports that the good folks that run the BCS are still dancing in the aisles with a dream BCS title game between Alabama, the best team in college football over the past 3-4 years, and Notre Dame, the most popular program in the country. And while neither the Tide nor the Irish are necessarily great teams this year, both are certainly worthy of being in the national championship game, not to mention a ratings bonanza in the making. The Fiesta Bowl also has an intriguing match-up between Oregon and Kansas State, both of which appeared to be on track to make it to the national title game themselves before they were each derailed by upset losses late last month to Stanford and Baylor respectively. Still, with Heisman finalist Collin Klein leading K-State and the Oregon track squad featuring RB Kenjon Banner, sophomore RB/WR/KR De’Anthony Thomas and red shirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota this would at least have been a worthy national semi-final were this 2014.
Unfortunately, the rest of the BCS lineup is a kind of a mess. The Rose Bowl gets Wisconsin, which made a statement with a 70-31 win over Nebraska in the conference championship game, but in truth has no business being anywhere close to a BCS bowl. The Badgers, whose lone signature win this year prior to the conference title game came over Utah State, are a 5-loss team that finished 3rd in its division and 6th overall in the conference and only backed into the Big Ten championship game because both Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible for the post-season. Bottom line is that New Rule #1 for college football should be that a) if a divisional winner is ineligible for the post-season then a conference should be able to send its next best team to its championship game regardless of division and b) if a conference insists on allowing 2nd and 3rd place teams into its championship game and that team goes on to win the title then tied in bowls get to pick another team. Of course, just to make the Wisconsin to the BCS business all that more embarrassing for everyone concerned, Badgers’ head coach Bret Bielema jumped ship and signed with Arkansas.
Meanwhile, investors in both the Sugar and Orange Bowls have to be thinking about asking for a recount. The Sugar Bowl thought, for example, that it would be getting Florida versus Oklahoma and while neither played at quite a championship level this season, both are traditional national programs that were close this fall. Instead, it will be the Gators in the Sugar Bowl against Louisville, one of four co-champions from the Incredible Shrinking Conference, a.k.a. the Big East (and for those that missed the news the basketball-only schools including Georgetown and St. Johns bolted on Friday). And while Louisville did pull off a dramatic win over Rutgers in the final game of the season, the Cardinals actually lost two of its last three games including defeats to 7-5 Syracuse and to 5-7 UConn at home. Of course, Louisville had already announced that it will be moving to the ACC to make the inclusion of the Big Least champ in the BCS all that more embarrassing.
The Sugar Bowl got stuck with Louisville because MAC champion Northern Illinois were able to squeak in under the BCS threshold for entry to a top bowl for schools from a ‘non-qualifying’ conference. And NIU is indeed a nice story, especially given that the Huskies are led by star junior QB Jordan Lynch is one of the most exciting dual-threat players in the country. But BCS bowl worthy. Not even close! The Huskies did run the table within the MAC, a conference that did have several signature wins over BCS schools this fall, but was still only a collective 8-21 against BCS conference schools this year. And NIU itself only played two BCS schools, losing to Iowa, which finished in a tie for 9th in the Big Ten, while beating 1-11 Kansas by a TD. The Huskies also gave up 40 points to 2-10 Army in a one-point win. Hardly the resume of a true BCS buster. In fact, it would be hard not to make the case that had NIU would have struggled to finish above.500 had they played in a conference like the Big Ten or Big XII. Its also not that hard to imagine that the Orange Bowl might have trouble just giving away tickets for the Northern Illinois-Florida State match-up. Heck, one would even have to be a true-diehard even for Seminoles’ fans to want to take this one in. It was certainly a hard sell for NIU head coach Dave Doernen who, after guiding the Huskies to their historic goal, immediately cashed and signed on as the new coach at North Carolina State and won't be in Miami.
The truth of the matter, though, is that unfortunately other than the national championship game, the other 34 bowls are nothing more than glorified exhibition games. However, if one is going to go to the trouble to schedule glorified exhibition games, then why not make them the best possible games. So just for fun, this would be the BCS bowl line-up if we were the kings of college football:
BCS Bowl: Notre Dame versus Alabama … Fact is we don’t have much problem with this one. See above
Rose Bowl: Stanford versus Ohio State … Oregon is probably the Pac-12’s best team, but Stanford earned the conference bid with wins over the Ducks and UCLA in back-to-back games to finish the season. Meanwhile, in our college football realm, teams don’t get banned from bowls ever, and especially not stemming from a deal in which players traded old game jerseys for tattoos. It sounds too much like shooting yourself in the foot to show people you are serious about the matter!. If a school really does cross the line, then dock their share of the conference’s bowl money, but don’t punish kids who may not even have been in school when the transgression took place. So the unbeaten Buckeyes deserve to be somewhere on January 1st and probably could even make a case they should have a shot at the national title.
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon versus Florida … No question that Florida deserves a BCS bowl bid, but a team finishing 2nd in a division and 3rd in a conference shouldn’t get a bid ahead of the division-winner because the latter lost the conference championship game. Indeed new rule #2: Final BCS rankings should exclude results from conference title games since obviously all teams don’t play in them. As an added bonus in this one, the Ducks and Gators will hold a track meet as part of the halftime festivities.
Sugar Bowl: LSU versus Kansas State … LSU, which lost only to #2 Alabama and #3 Florida on the year, is the best two-loss team in the country and watching the Tigers aggressive defense featuring DEs Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, LB Kevin Minter and FS Eric Reid try to figure out Heisman finalist Collin Klien and the K-State offense would figure to be a compelling dual.
Orange Bowl: Georgia versus Texas A&M … Yeah, they’re both from the same conference, but they didn’t play each other this fall and A&M still feels like a SWC/Big XII team anyway. Plus, this game would have possibility the best pre-draft match-up with Aggies’ OTs Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews facing UGA DE Jarvis Jones. Then of course there is A&M QB Johnny Manziel, the first freshman ever to win the Heisman going against UGA QB Aaron Murray.
And as an added thought, if we were the kings of football we’d have the Cotton Bowl back in the BCS mix especially now that it has a great venue in Dallas. And this year, we’d be scheduling South Carolina against Oklahoma. Stoops against Spurrier, not to mention Landry Jones against Jadevon Clowney.
Of course, if we were the king of college football, there would be no BCS bowls per se, but a true national championship 16-team playoff (plus two qualifying games) including the respective conference champions and worthy wildcards. And while it won’t happen this year, here is what the first round of our playoff this weekend would look like.
#1 Notre Dame versus winner of Northern Illinois/Utah State
#2 Alabama versus winner of Boise State/Arkansas State
#3 Ohio State versus #14 Louisville
#4 Georgia versus #13 Oklahoma
#5 Oregon versus #12 Florida State
#6 Florida versus #11 South Carolina
#7 Kansas State versus #10 Texas A&M
#8 LSU versus #9 Stanford
Back to reality the top 5 real 2012 bowls from a draft perspective:
1. BCS Bowl: Alabama versus Notre Dame; January 7; 8:30 PM ET; ESPN … The national game should double as a festival for pro scouts as the two times could have as many as one out of four players selected in this year’s opening round including Alabama OL Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and junior OT D.J. Fluker, junior CB Dee Milliner, junior LB C.J. Mosley, and DT Jesse Williams, along with Notre Dame MLB Manti Te’o and TE Tyler Eifert.
2. Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma versus Texas A&M; January 4th; 8 PM ET; ESPN … Wherever Texas A&M played this bowl season pro scouts were sure to follow as the Aggies have three top ten prospects in junior OTs Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews and junior DE Damontre Moore. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has several top 100 prospects including veteran QB Landry Jones, OT Lane Johnson, and junior FS Tony Jefferson.
3. Chick-Fil-A Bowl; Clemson versus LSU; December 31; 7:30 PM ET; ESPN … Worst named bowl of them all could just as well be called the Fowl Bowl, or at least for this year the Tiger Bowl, although pro scouts aren’t complaining as the LSU Tigers have a bevy of top prospects including junior DEs Sam Montgomery and Kiki Mingo, along junior FS Eric Reid and junior MLB Kevin Minter. Meanwhile, the Clemson Tigers have some of the best skill talent in the country in junior QB Tajh Boyd, RB Andre Ellington and WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins, although the latter won’t be draft-eligible until next year.
4. Capitol One Bowl; Georgia versus Nebraska; January 1st; 1 PM ET; ESPN … Along with SEC rivals Alabama and Texas A&M, Georgia may have as many top prospects per capita including junior OLB Jarvis Jones, a legit top candidate this year, along with junior QB Aaron Murray, DT John Jenkins, safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams and CBs Braden Smith and junior Sanders Commings. Nebraska isn’t as talented, but does have several solid mid-round types including rugged RB Rex Burkhead, LBs Will Compton and Sean Fisher, DEs Eric Martin and Cameron Meredith and TEs Kyle Reed and Ben Cotton.
5. Rose Bowl; Stanford versus Wisconsin; January 1; 5 PM ET; ESPN … Even though the only way they should have made it to the Rose Bowl was to buy a ticket, Wisconsin still has a decent solid draft class including star RB Montee Ball, along with veteran RT Ricky Wagner and junior C/G Travis Frederick along with LBs Mike Taylor and junior Chris Borland and CB Devin Smith. Same story for Stanford whose lineup includes several second-day type prospects including RB Stepfan Taylor, LBs Chase Thomas and Shane Skov and junior TEs Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo.
In addition to those games there are several other really compelling individual match-ups worth the price of admission including the Outback Bowl on January 1st when Michigan LT Lewan Taylor faces South Carolina DEs Jadevon Clowney and Devin Taylor. Same story in the Little Caesars Bowl on Boxing Day which should feature Central Michigan LT Eric Fisher against Western Kentucky DE Quanterus Smith who led the NCAA in sacks this past season. Meanwhile, two original Big East teams will renew acquaintances in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York on December 29th when Syracuse plays West Virginia in what figures to be a shoot-out between a pair of prolific offenses led by WVU’s Geno Smith and SU’s Ryan Nassib, two of the more intriguing prospects at the position for the upcoming draft.
If you have comments or suggestions, e-mail the Editor, Great Blue North Draft Report. The GBN can also be reached by phone at (613) 692-1088; or regular mail at 320 Shadehill Crescent, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2J 0L6.
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