Tuesday (1/1) Noon EST on ESPNU
Purdue vs Oklahoma State, Heart of Dallas Bowl
A hot name entering the season along the defensive line was Purdue’s DT Kawann Short (#93/6’3/315). We think he is the same player as last year, although lining up at a slightly different spot. The flashes are there, where he knifes into the backfield to make a big play, but too often Short is held up at the line by a single block and negated without much attention. Could he have a great performance today and take that momentum into the Senior Bowl with a strong week of practice? Absolutely. He and junior DT Bruce Gaston (#90/6’2/305) will be facing the upright Cowboys’ offensive line led by G Lane Taylor (#68/6’3/328), with the main goal of limiting the running lanes for junior RB Joseph Randle (#1/6’1/200). Randle is the best back in the Big 12 and has added a power element top his game, becoming more than a speedy runner with size. It will be crucial for CBs Josh Johnson (#28/5’11/195) and junior CB Ricardo Allen (#21/5’9/175) to set the edge and keep it, since Randle can pop off a big play at any time. Both Purdue corners should draw the assignment of WR Tracy Moore (#87/6’2/215) at some point.
Purdue’s offense went through a long stretch of average play, but turned it on to finish their season finale. They have started to lean more and more on RB Akeem Shavers (#24/5’11/203), and it has helped. The Cowboys two best defenders are on the outside in junior CB Justin Gilbert (#4/6’0/194) and CB Broderick Brown (#19/5’8/185). At one point, Gilbert was considered one of the nation’s best at his position, but a quiet season from Oklahoma State hasn’t helped his cause.
Tuesday (1/1) Noon EST on ESPN2
Mississippi State vs Northwestern, Gator Bowl
In terms of NFL talent, the Bulldogs stomp Northwestern in terms of potential NFL talent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the scoreboard read the opposite. CB Johnthan Banks (#13/6’1/185) is the team’s best player and likely the top senior corner in the country. His long frame and ball skills are definitely traits NFL teams will covet, but be sure to watch his ability to mirror downfield and if the chances he takes undercutting routes pay off. His counterpart, CB Darius Slay (#9/6’1/190), will certainly get NFL looks as well. For Northwestern, junior QB/RB/WR Kain Colter is an interesting prospect that plays from a variety of spot. He will likely go through the full time conversion to receiver prior to the 2014 NFL Draft. Up front, DT Josh Boyd (#97/6’3/300) has lost the same impact he had alongside Fletcher Cox, but be sure to keep an eye on OLB Cameron Lawrence (#10/6’2/230). Wildcats junior RB Venric Mark has been a surprise this season, seemingly coming out of nowhere to produce like a feature back. He is strong at the second level and grinds down opposing defenses.
The Bulldogs also deploy some offensive talent, specifically up front in junior G Gabe Jackson (#61/6’4/320). Jackson is seriously considering April’s Draft, and could be a second day selection with power to move his opponent off the line. Behind him is the much improved junior QB Tyler Russell(#17/6’4/220). Russell has real flashes of draftable talent, but mistakes drag him back down. A nice performance could propel him into his final collegiate season.
More Prospects To Watch
CB Corey Broomfield (#25/5’10/180)
junior FS Nickoe Whitley (#5/6’1/205)
junior C Dillon Day (#63/6’4/300)
WR Chad Bumphis (#1/5’10/200)
junior OLB Deontae Skinner (#51/6’2/245)
Tuesday (1/1) 1:00 pm EST on ABC
Georgia vs Nebraska, Capital One Bowl
This game really comes down to if Nebraska can limit the big plays from Georgia’s offense while not getting destroyed in the field position battle due to the Bulldogs’ ultra talented defense. Junior QB Aaron Murray (#11/6’1/212) shows comfort in the pocket and at times was a very consistent signal caller, but in tight games the junior seems to panic a bit and force throws downfield that result in mistakes. WR Tavarres King (#12/6’1/200) has added some vertical ability this year, so S Daimion Stafford (#3/6’1/205), who is susceptible to biting on play fakes and allowing receivers to get past him, needs to stay home and play safe. Georgia’s offensive line and running backs are young but have produced more than needed this season, so veteran ILB Will Compton (#51/6’2/230) has to do a good job of getting everybody in place. DE Cameron Meredith (#34/6’4/260) can generate some pressure with persistance off the edge, and DT Baker Steinkuhler (#55/6’6/290) could get his hands up in passing lanes.
Georgia’s defense is one of the most talented units in all of college football, but they will be without NT Johnathan Jenkins (#6/6’3/358) due to academics. Junior NT Kwame Geathers (#99/6’6/350) likely moves over to anchor the interior, and DE Abry Jones (#93/6’3/308) will not play. Nebraska G Seung Hoon Choi (#77/6’2/295) is never discussed among draft prospects, but I think he should be given a shot in the seventh-round. Obviously junior OLB Jarvis Jones (#29/6’2/242) gets plenty of publicity and he can dominate stiff legged offensive tackles. Focus on how he handles blocks when his initial momentum is stopped. Junior ILB Alec Ogletree (#9/6’3/234) can make huge plays due to his range and explosiveness, but note if he attacks blocks at the second level or attempts to undercut them. This will all be in an effort to limit RB Rex Burkhead (#22/5’11/210), who dealt with a ton of injuries this season. Nebraska TE Ben Cotton (#81/6’6/255) and smaller, more agile TE Kyler Reed (#25/6’3/230) could both see targets, but the Bulldogs combat that with two second or early third day safeties in ballhawk S Bacarri Rambo (#18/6’0/210) and the more physical S Shawn Williams (#36/6’1/218).
More Prospects To Watch
WR Marlon Brown (#15/6’5/222) out
DE Cornelius Washington (#83/6’4/268)
junior OLB Chase Vasser (#33/6’3/237)
CB Sanders Cummings (#19/6’1/216)
CB Branden Smith (#1/5’11/176)
OLB Sean Fisher (#42/6’6/230)
Tuesday (1/1) 1:00 pm EST on ESPN
Michigan vs South Carolina, Outback Bowl
This Michigan offense is much improved with junior QB Devin Gardner (#12/6’4/203) at the helm. Gardner offers some of the same mobility but is a much better passer than Denard Robinson (#16/5’11/197). Robinson has seen practice snaps at quarterback, but expect most of his time to be spent at running back and receiver. He is very patient with the ball in his hands, and obviously we all know about his breakaway speed. It definitely helps to have projected first-round pick junior T Taylor Lewan (#77/6’7/310) on the blind side. It is difficult blocking for mobile quarterbacks at times, and Lewan is still growing in his technique, but the junior’s nasty side comes out often. His battle with sophomore DE Jadeveon Clowney (#7/6’6/256) is certainly a focus of all evaluators. DE Devin Taylor (#98/6’7/267) started the season as a big name, but we have always thought he was tight hipped, enough so that he may need to turn into a power rusher and bulk up. Actually, junior DE Chaz Sutton (#90/6’5/248) is a better player. Also, don’t sleep on S D.J. Swearinger (#36/5’11/210), a personal favorite. We wouldn't be surprised if he emerges as a top two or three safety in the senior class due to his proficiency in closing on everything in front and comfort when working back in coverage.
The Wolverines have at least two draftable players on defense, in veteran safety S Jordan Kovacs (#32/5’11/202) and strong side DE Craig Roh (#88/6’4/280). Kovacs always seem to be in the right place, and he needs to be due to reported limited athleticism. Roh has been forced to switch positions in each of the last three seasons and that has stunted his development this year.
More Prospects To Watch
junior T Michael Schofield (#75/6’6/300)
G Patrick Omameh (#65/6’4/305)
WR Roy Roundtree (#21/6’0/180)
DT William Campbell (#73/6’5/308)
LB Shaq Wilson (#54/5’11/225)
S/LB DeVonte Holloman (#21/6’2/241)
C T.J. Johnson (#55/6’5/318)
junior QB Connor Shaw (#14/6’1/205)
TE Justice Cunningham (#87/6’4/264)
Tuesday (1/1) 5:00 pm EST on ESPN
Stanford vs Wisconsin, Rose Bowl
Get excited for this game, since both teams are now for their physical play. For Stanford’s defense, ILB Shayne Skov (#11/6’3/244) has really shown well in the last few weeks after a so-so start. There have even been rumors Skov will try for an extra season of eligibility. Up front, NT Terrence Stephens (#99/6’2/295) will miss the game due to a suspension, which is good news for junior C Travis Frederick (#72/6’4/320), so Skov may have less room to run. The Cardinal is best on the edge, specifically with OLB Chase Thomas (#44/6’4/240). He is not the quickest off the corner, but Thomas uses excellent technique to extend and shed from a variety of spot. Don’t overlook his comrades in DE/OLB Trent Murphy (#93/6’6/261) and junior DE Ben Gardner (#49/6’4/252), the latter of which could gain more notoriety in 2013. LT Ricky Wagner (#58/6’6/320) should see snaps across from all three. We expect Wagner to switch to the right side in the NFL, but notice if he struggles to mirror or on quick outside to inside moves. Obviously the focus will be to shut down RB Montee Ball (#28/5’11/215), an old dog that has learned new tricks in 2012. He is playing behind worse blockers, but Ball has improved his vision and second level cutting ability. His backup, junior RB James White (#20/5’10/200), is no slouch either. Expect junior CB Terrence Brown (#6/6’1/178) to shadow junior WR Jared Abbrederis (#4/6’2/180) in coverage.
Stanford’s talent continues on the offensive side of the ball, specifically in RB Stepfan Taylor (#33/5’11/210). There’s a lot of buzz around Taylor, and it is not surprising due to his development this season. The senior has second-round tape, but some scouts believe a slower forty time could knock him down a few notches. Still, if he makes junior MLB Chris Borland (#44/5’11/245) miss in the open field, his long speed won't seem like an issue. Stanford is about to produce two more solid players to the NFL in junior TE Zach Ertz (#86/6’6/250) and Junior TE Levine Toilolo (#11/6’7/263). Ertz is the better receiving option and has actually improved his all around game. Despite some poorer performances, specifically blocking, we still really like the talent that Toilolo brings to the table.
More Prospects To Watch
C Sam Schwarzstein (#64/6’3/292)
junior FB Ryan Hewitt (#85/6’3/238)
G Kevin Danser (#76/6’6/298)
TE Jacob Pedersen (#48/6’4/245)
junior DE David Gilbert (#11/6’4/250)
DE Brendan Kelly (#97/6’6/255)
TE Brian Wozniak (#85/6’4/260) junior
DT Ethan Hemer (#87/6’6/305) junior
OLB Mike Taylor (#53/6’2/225)
CB Devin Smith (#10/5’11/190)
CB Marcus Cromartie (#14/6’1/190)
Tuesday (1/1) 8:30 pm EST on ESPN
Florida State vs Northern Illinois, Orange Bowl
Obviously the future NFL is weighted heavily to one team, but the Noles notoriously play down to their opponents. The determining factor will be if NIU can neutralize the size advantage FSU has up front, starting with junior DE Bjoern Werner (#95/6’4/255). Werner has a great first step and wins with extension to shed and strong hands. His running mates on the edge are out with major injuries, but the Noles have talent on the interior with DT Everett Dawkins (#93/6’2/301). However, DT Anthony McCloud (#92/6’2/322) can be pushed around quite often. NIU junior QB Jordan Lynch (#6/6’0/216) is a physical runner with persistence and patience. Still, the Noles should have more than enough speed to make tackles as long as they play gap sound. In terms of receivers, WR Martel Moore (#1/6’0/183) is Lynch’s top target, but FSU deploys junior CB Xavier Rhodes (#27/6’2/210) on the outside. Rhodes is a very physical player with size and could leave early for the NFL. S LaMarcus Joyner (#20/5’8/195) adds to that physical demeanor.
We aren’t sure what to think of Florida State offensively, with QB EJ Manuel (#3/6’5/240) retaining that project label. He reminds us a lot of Blaine Gabbert, which isn’t a terrible thing if drafted appropriately. He likes to hit lanky WR Rodney Smith (#84/6’6/219) downfield and sophomore TE Nick O’Leary (#35/6’3/238). In short yardage situations, look for RB Lonnie Pryor (#24/6’0/229) to push the pile. The Huskies top pass rusher is DE Sean Proger (#95/6’2/254) , and Manuel does panic under consistent pressure.
Other Prospects To Watch
DE Brandon Jenkins (#4/6’3/260) injured for season
DE Cornelius “Tank” Carradine (#91/6’5/265) injured for season
LB Christian Jones (#7/6’3/232) junior
LB Nick Moody (#10/6’2/237)
LB Vince Williams (#11/6’1/250)
K Dustin Hopkins (#18/6’2/190)
DL Alan Baxter (#90/6’0/240)