Bowl Game Previews: December 22nd and 23rd

Russell Clay


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Bowl games start today and for many college players it will be their last competitive football game. I almost can’t fathom how quickly this college football season has flown by but it brings closer my favorite time of the year, draft season. The good news is we will get one more opportunity to be both the judge and jury of prospects. As you watch the bowl games, keep an eye on these skill position players for both your rookie and devy drafts.

Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs Memphis
ESPN 2:00 p.m. EST

At first look this matchup isn’t appealing in terms of potential pro prospects, and in general, that’s true. But, there are a few guys that I’ll be keeping a close eye on.


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Mitch Mathews would be the main player I’m looking at when watching BYU on offense. The 6’6”, 215 pound junior is a very large receiver. He led the Cougars in receptions (64), yards( 840) and touchdowns (eight), and is the main source of offense. He reminds me of a less bulky Coby Fleener.

Jordan Leslie is probably not an NFL caliber receiver, but he’s the second best player on this offense and I’ll be interested to see what he can do in the spotlight.


I’d consider Brandon Hayes the best player on the Memphis offense. The 5’8”, 200 pound running back led the team in rushing touchdowns with five and tied for the lead with three receiving touchdowns. Hayes ran for a respectable 900 yards on 174 carries, good for 5.2 per carry this season, but the second half of the year is when he really began to take off. In the last six games of the season, Hayes has averaged 21 carries per game and in two of those games he had 180 rushing yards or more.

December 23rd Bowls

Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs Northern Illinois
ESPN 6:00 p.m. EST


Rakeem Cato has thrown for 37 or more passing touchdowns in each of his last three seasons at Marshall, highly impressive. Cato has a very thin frame, which worries me heading to the next level, as you’d like to see him add at least 15-20 pounds, which is a lot. Playing quarterback in the NFL at his current weight of 180 pounds doesn’t seem like a reasonable proposition. For perspective, one of the thinnest quarterbacks in the NFL is Robert Griffin, who weighs 30-35 pounds more than Cato (although he is two inches taller), and we’ve seen how the NFL has treated Griffin. It’s not all doom and gloom for Cato, I do think he has the talent be drafted, although it may be late.

Devon Johnson has had a pretty ridiculous season statistically. It’s pretty rare when a running back basically runs for a first down every time he touches the ball, but that’s what Johnson has done, 8.6 yards per carry is incredible. I’ve seen a few Marshall games and based on that, I see Johnson translating to the NFL game as much more of an athlete/fullback who sometimes gets carries than an a pure running back. At 6’1”, 240 pounds, he has the size and power to make the jump, but the speed is a big question mark. Johnson has missed time recently with a shoulder injury, but should be ready to go for the final game of the season.

Junior Davonte Allen and freshman Angelo Jean-Louis are fun small sample size receivers.  With senior receiver Tommy Shuler leaving, there’s plenty of targets and opportunity to be had in the future. Both Allen and Louis average over 24 yards per catch this year, so keep a close eye on them to see who will emerge as the top dog in 2015.

Northern Illinois

Da’ron Brown has an interesting profile. At 6’0”, 200 pounds, he had almost half of NIU’s receiving yards on the season and had the highest yards per catch (15.7) by a solid margin.

Juwan Brescacin is enormous. The 6’4”, 224 pound receiver was the clear second receiver this year and is in line to have the offense to himself in 2015. Obviously having a big body is worth nothing without having skill to go with it, but Brescacin has time to develop.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs San Diego State
9:30 P.M. EST

If you’re in a dynasty league, take this game with a grain of salt. I don’t see any players from Navy who have NFL potential, and I only see one San Diego State player. Let’s stay optimistic though, and focus on him.

Donnel Pumphrey Is the straw the stirs the SDSU offense, and he’s been extremely impressive all season. What’s funny is he’s basically the anti-Devon Johnson. He has the speed, elusiveness, quickness and basically everything you look for in a running back, except for size. I won’t say a 170-180lb running back can’t exist in the NFL, because they do (I think?) But they do not exist in feature or even back up roles at that weight, Pumphrey will find himself returning kicks and getting spot touches on offense here and there. I suppose you can look to guys like Dri Archer and Tavon Austin when thinking about his body type. I’d say Archer without the elite speed would be my comparable. He also has a little Garrett Wolfe in him, but Wolfe was much thicker. The NFL is an ever-changing ameba offensively so if he can add bulk and fall to the right coach/team, you never know.