Monday (12/31) 7:30 pm EST on ESPN
Clemson vs LSU, Peach Bowl
This should be a really, really fun game. I truly believe junior QB Tajh Boyd (#10/6’1/225) is the most improved player at his position compared to 2011’s film. Last year, Boyd would fall off of his throws and panic in the pocket, resulting in sacks that he caused. This season, Boyd is moving to evade and finding downfield targets with much improved accuracy. The Clemson offensive line consistently gives up pressure, but C Dalton Freeman (#55/6’4/286) tries to keep the group together. He’ll face upfield penetrators in DT Josh Downs (#77/6’1/287) and junior DT Bennie Logan (#18/6’3/295), the latter of which has flown somewhat under the radar despite reports stating he will declare for April’s Draft. Junior T Brandon Thomas (#63/6’3/300) could have trouble with the speed of starting junior DE Barkevious Mingo (#49/6’4/240), whose frame is still developing but he already shows nice strength to shed and close quickly. He and junior DE Sam Montgomery(#99/6’5/260) rotate sides often, depending on the strength of the formation. Be sure to notice if Mingo and Montgomery are asked to hesitate on their rush lines in order to contain Boyd inside the pocket, or if they are allowed to aggressively rush the junior. He does not start, but DE LaVar Edwards (#89/6’5/264) would see far more steps at nearly any other program. Edwards has turned into a real gem this season, offering more power to push than his counterparts and should be a mid-round selection in April.
Clemson RB Andre Ellington (#23/5’9/192) is one of our favorites, specifically if he is drafted into a slant blocking or zone running team. Ellington is lean, but he has surprising balance to stick close to blockers and burst past the second level. Waiting for him will be junior ILB Kevin Minter (#46/6’1/245), and although he has been productive, Minter continues to seemingly fly below NFL Draft radars. He is absolutely one of the best players at his position in the country. Sophomore WR Sammy Watkins (#2/6’1/200) is obviously a big play threat on the outside, but there were multiple games where junior WR DeAndre Hopkins (#6/6’1/200) looked like the better prospect. If Boyd departs, expect Hopkins to follow suit, and his downfield ability is something close to special. Junior FS Eric Reid (#1/6’2/212) would be wise not to make his usual mistake in coverage, but there is no question Reid is an athlete.
Junior QB Zach Mettenberger (#8/6’5/230) has made major strides before our eyes this season. He can still look robotic, but Mettenberger is less mechanical. The junior has plenty of velocity and has shown more balance and accuracy, especially outside of the numbers. DE Malliciah Goodman (#97/6’4/280) uses power on the edge, but too often the senior has stretches of quiet play. Junior RBs Spencer Ware (#11/5’11/225) and Michael Ford (#42/5’10/215) offer some powerful running, but LB Jonathan Willard (#46/6’1/223) will get some looks in the NFL.
More Prospects To Watch
LT Josh Dworaczyk (#68/6’6/301)
Junior RB Alfred Blue (#4/6’1/220) out
WR Russell Shepard (#10/6’0/195)
LB Corico Hawkins (#42/5’11/230)
TE Brandon Ford (#80/6’4/235)
S Jonathan Meeks (#5/6’1/210)
LB Quandon Christian (#34/6’2/224)
Monday (12/31) Noon EST on ESPN
NC State vs Vanderbilt, Music City Bowl
This is a bit early to let the cat out of the bag, but I think Vanderbilt RB Zac Stacy (#2/5’9/210) is going to be an awesome day three selection. I don’t have a problem if he is drafted earlier than the fourth-round, but he screams productive mid- to late-rounder early in his career for whatever team chooses him. I may not have said that prior to the 2012 season, but Stacy is far more decisive this year with burst to find slanting lanes and the thickness to break tackles. QB Jordan Rodgers (#11/6’1/212), brother of Aaron, has had an up and down final season, but finished the year on some sort of a roll. Rodgers’ best asset is his ability to buy time in the pocket and hit junior WR Jordan Matthews (#87/6’3/205) on broken plays. Matthews is an underrated vertical target and consistently gets open. NC State has two safeties that may earn draftable grades in S Brandon Bishop (#30/6’2/205) and S Earl Wolff (#27/6’0/207), but both need to be aware of receivers breaking behind them. We’d guess that junior CB David Amerson (#1/6’3/194) draws Matthews in coverage, but Amerson has struggled this season to flip his hips and run with receivers.
Wolfpack QB Mike Glennon (#8/6’6/232) has consistently generated buzz all season. We like him in an up-tempo, quick paced offense where Glennon is able to make quick reads and show off his velocity on decisive throws. The senior struggles most when pressured from the interior, especially when forced to leave the pocket. Former tackle, LG R.J. Mattes (#79/6’6/313) will surely battle DT Rob Lohr (#84/6’4/290) on the inside, but the Wolfpack’s best offensive lineman is junior T Rob Crisp (#78/6’7/312), who missed time earlier in the season.
Other Prospects To Watch
CB Trey Wilson (#8/5’11/192)
Monday (12/31) 2:00 pm EST on CBS
Georgia Tech vs USC, Sun Bowl
USC is in the Sun Bowl. We all know QB Matt Barkley (#7/6’2/218) is not playing, so freshman Max Wittek will start in his place. Wittek possesses a much stronger arm, so expect more vertical shots. Many of those may go to stud sophomore Marqise Lee, although junior WR Robert Woods (#2/6’1/184) does his best work on intermediate routes. It will be interesting to see which receiver CB Rod Sweeting (#6/6’0/187) is called to cover. Sweeting flashes some ability, but he is beat downfield far too often. C Khaled Holmes (#78/6’3/310) projects to a zone blocking scheme and could be a top-64 selection for a team in desperate need of immediate help at the position. He’ll square off against the monstrous DT TJ Barnes (#90/6’7/345) while trying to open holes for RB Curtis McNeal (#22/5’7/182) and the fumble pronejunior RB Silas Redd (#25/5’10/209). Junior T Kevin Graf (#77/6’6/300) is expected to line up as the starter on the right side, and he’ll square off against thumping junior OLB Jeremiah Attaochu (#45/6’3/245). The Yellow Jacket brings it on contact, but he takes himself out of plays too often with misreads.
Georgia Tech runs the triple option, so it will be interesting to see how USC’s defense will handle the misdirection and second level blocks. The Trojans defense has transformed in recent years, deploying more speed, especially at the linebacker position. DE Wes Horton (#96/6’5/265) is athletic, but he is inconsistent in terms of holding the edge and keeping his responsibility. Junior DE Morgan Breslin (#91/6’2/250) may be the Trojans best defensive player and broke through the wall, in terms of production, during the latter parts of the season. G Omoregie Uzzi (#77/6’3/300) may be drafted in April, but it is tough to tell how he fares in pass protection. Perhaps most importantly, the Trojans defensive backs will need to keep their responsibility and make sure tackles on tight angles. S T.J. McDonald (#7/6’2/205) will be a big part of that, and although he is a big hitter, the senior has mental lapses far too often. This may be junior CB Nickell Robey’s (#21/5’8/172) final game with USC, and he is clearly their best man in coverage.
Other Prospects To Watch
WR Orwin Smith (#17/6’0/205)
S Jawanza Starling (#29/6’1/195)
S Drew McAllister (#19/6’1/205)
junior G John Martinez (#59/6’2/302)
Monday (12/31) 3:30 pm EST on ESPN
Iowa State vs Tulsa, Liberty Bowl
After Iowa State’s defensive leader, LB Jake Knott (#20/6’3/252), was sidelined for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury, LB A.J. Klein (#47/6’2/248) took over on the weakside, which is where the Cyclones try to funnel their defense. Tulsa’s most intriguing draft-eligible offensive player is H-Back Willie Carter (#34/6’2/231). He frequently lines up broken off the end of the formation and is sent in to motion quite often. After the catch, carter has a bigger back’s mentality, breaking tackles to pick up yards. If he shows off a willingness to block and soft hands in space, Carter could have a future as a fullback.
Other Prospects To Watch
C Trent Dupy injured (#53/6’2/285)
S Dexter McCoil (#26/6’3/222)