Already feeling the college football withdrawal? Did the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl – a barnburner between Georgia Southern and Eastern Michigan – not cut it for you? Well, the games only get better from here on out. Enjoy them while they last, and do your best NFL scout impersonation so you know who to draft in your upcoming rookie or devy drafts.
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
Boston College Eagles vs. Boise State Broncos
1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Eagles finished their season with a 7-5 record, but started the season hot. They won seven of their first nine games, but then had a tough finishing schedule of Clemson, Florida State, and Syracuse. They had quality wins over Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Miami, while finishing fourth in the ACC. They will play the Broncos who finished 10-3 and finished first in the Mountain West conference. They had quality wins over BYU, Fresno State, and Utah State but lost the rematch in the conference championship to Fresno State in a snowy blizzard.
For Boston College, the most intriguing player on the field may be Zach Allen (For you IDP owners). Allen is listed at 6’5” 285 lbs, and he has all the intangibles you look for in an NFL edge rusher. He is not a Von Miller or Melvin Ingram type of body – Allen is a big dude. He is adept at stopping the run, has a good arsenal of moves, and can shed blocks well. I would expect Allen to be a top 15 pick in the 2019 NFL draft, and possibly a top-ten pick with a good performance at the Combine.
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Another defensive player to keep your eye on is safety Lukas Denis. He finished all-ACC second team as a junior, tied for second nationally with seven interceptions, had ten pass breakups, and can simply fly all over the field. He could be a top-five safety come draft time.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Eagles, the first guy to look at is tight end Tommy Sweeney. Sweeney was a first-team all-ACC pick this year and is projected to be a top-ten tight end. He has prototypical tight end size at 6’5” 260 lbs and has a solid all-around game. He is a route running technician, but won’t overwhelm you with his athleticism. He reminds me a bit of Jesse James – an all-around good tight end who can help in the passing game and can also block.
Running back AJ Dillon is a player to keep on eye on for devy purposes. He led the ACC in rushing as a freshman and broke the Boston College record with 1,589 yards and 14 TDs. In just ten games in 2018 (he had to sit out two due to injury) he has over 1,100 yards and ten TDs. He is a big bodied running back at about 245 lbs and I’m not sure he projects for more than a “bruiser” in the NFL. But he could be a good day-three selection for a team come 2020.
For the Broncos, it first starts with the most important position in the game, quarterback. The Broncos have a dandy in Brett Rypien. He could end up being drafted in the top 10-12 range for QBs, possible landing him in the fifth-seventh round of the NFL draft. He is very accurate and makes good decisions with the ball. He is strictly a pocket passer, and has great downfield vision and intermediate throws. Many consider him to be a sleeper for the 2019 NFL draft.
Running back Alex Mattison is a major part of the offensive engine for the Broncos. With solid size at 5’11” and 210 lbs, Mattison could be a solid mid round pick. He has college production to back it up, scoring 29 TDs over the past two seasons, and has averaged almost five yards per carry for his collegiate career. He could be drafted around the same area as fellow Bronco running backs Jay Ajayi and Jeremy McNichols, in the fifth round.
A.J. Richardson emerged as one of Rypien’s favorite targets. He is only a junior and I would not be surprised if he returned for his senior year, but he has good downfield speed, and finished the year catching 54 balls for 825 yards and eight TDs.
Quick Lane Bowl
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
If we are being completely honest, the Golden Gophers should not have made a bowl game, and anyone outside of Golden Gopher fans probably don’t care to watch them. But here we are, in the age of tons and tons of bowl games. The Gophers finished with a record of 6-6 and ended up being fifth in the Big Ten. They had a couple of good wins over Purdue and Wisconsin, but not much else to show on the resume as they went 3-6 in conference play. The Gophers will take on the Yellow Jackets who finished with a 7-5 record which was good enough to finish second in the ACC coastal division. They had quality wins over Virginia Tech, Miami (FL), and Virginia.
A player to keep an eye on for the Golden Gophers is Junior receiver Tyler Johnson. He took a big step forward this year after a good sophomore season. As a junior he caught 74 balls for 1,112 yards and 10 TDs. He already has NFL size, as he is listed as 6’2” and 200 lbs, and may return for his senior year where he can improve his skill set and build some more muscle.
Running back Rodney Smith was out for the season with a leg injury. As a sophomore, he ran for over 1,150 yards and 16 TDs. He then had a bit of a down year as a junior, rushing for 977 yards and three TDs. But was primed to bounce back. He totalled 174 total yards on 25 touches in the first game of his senior season, and then was injured in the second game against Fresno State. He will most likely be a day three pick if he recovery goes well, but has a solid, all-around skill-set that could benefit an NFL team.
Lastly, on the defensive side of the ball, it all starts with OLB Carter Coughlin. People may not know his name, but they should. He was quietly the most efficient pass rusher in the Big Ten in 2018. He finished the year with 46 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. He is technically a linebacker, but plays best as a stand up edge rusher. He has good OLB size at 6’4” 245 LBS and is still only a junior. He may stay for his senior year as well which could help increase his draft stock.
For the Yellow Jackets, much like Rodney Smith, the Jackets have an injured running back with NFL aspirations as well. KirVonte Benson had a good sophomore season in which he ran for 1,053 yards and six TDs while averaging over five YPC. He also got injured in the second game of the 2018 season. He is a bit undersized at 5’9” 208 lbs, but made an impact when he was on the field. He should be a day three pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Possibly the most intriguing player on the field for the Quick Lane Bowl will be QB/RB TaQuon Marshall. He is only 5’10” 185 lbs, and is not a true “NFL QB”. But his athleticism and dual threat capabilities make him an intriguing target. He is a bit smaller than Denard Robinson, but has a similar skill set which could intrigue an NFL team to create some packages involving him. He has over 2,000 career rushing yards and almost 30 rushing TDs, which simply tells you that the guy can make big plays.
California Golden Bears vs. TCU Horned Frogs
9 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Call Golden Bears finished the year with a 7-5 record, fifth place in the Pac-12 North. They had wins over BYU, USC, and a good Washington team but ended their season by losing to Stanford. The Golden Bears will take on the Horned Frogs of TCU who ended the year at 6-6, fifth in the Big 12. They had a rough stretch of games during the middle of the year, losing five of six games from weeks three through eight. But finished the season winning three out of the last four games with quality wins over Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Running back Patrick Laird has been a main component in the Cal Bears offense over the past two years. He had a very impressive junior season in which he ran for over 1,100 yards, eight TDs, and averaged almost six YPC. His senior season was a bit of a disappointment – he ran for 932 yards and five scores. Some of the struggles can be contributed to the lack of skill and consistency on the offensive line, and the offense as a group. He has great vision and can make guys miss in the open field.
Another player who helped the Golden Bears move the chains on offense was Vic Wharton III. Much like Patrick Laird, Wharton had a solid junior season in which he caught 67 balls for 871 yards and five TDS. But with the team regressing in 2018, his numbers dropped as well. He caught 50 balls for 502 yards and one score as a senior. If Wharton can carve out a role in the slot or as a utility guy similar to Ryan Switzer, he may end up making an NFL roster.
While the Bears struggled at times on the offensive side of the ball, the defense for the Bears had a really good year and Cal sports one of the best college tandems for linebackers in the country. Evan Weaver and Jordan Kunaszyk both play as inside linebackers, and they are quite the wrecking crew. Both rank inside the top six for tackles in the country and fly all over the field. Weaver, a junior, is 6’3”, 245 lbs, and the senior Kunaszyk is 6’3”, 236 lbs. Both have good NFL size and both will be drafted. Kunaszyk will declare for the draft this year and is expected to be a day three pick with possible day two upside, where as Weaver who can stay in school another year if he chooses, could be moving up draft boards because of the physical type of football he plays and his above-average tackling ability that clogs up the middle of the field.
For the Horned Frogs, there was one standout on offense this year and it was sophomore wide receiver Jalen Reagor. After a solid freshman season that ended with Reagor catching 33 passes for 576 yards and eight TDs, Reagor continued that success and built on it for a fantastic sophomore season. He caught 72 balls for 1,061 yards and 9 TDs and has shown to be a force in the red zone. If you combine his rushing stats as well, he had over 1,200 all purpose yards and 11 TDs. Reagor is on pace to be a solid pro prospect and could put up some impressive numbers next year as a junior. Keep him on your devy watch list.
Most of the pro prospects for the Horned Frogs comes on the defensive side of the ball. It all starts with Ben Banogu, the athletic edge rusher. Banogu originally played for Louisiana-Monroe, but transferred after the 2015 season and made an instant impact. In 2017, he totalled 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. Then in 2018, he posted similar numbers of 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He has prototypical NFL size for an edge rusher at 6-foot-4 and 250 LBS. Banogu is a freak athlete and his ability to dip and avoid blockers in the run game will have scouts salivating over his talent. He could be a top-ten edge rusher come April.
Lastly, keep an eye on the man in the middle of the defense for the Horned Frogs, Ty Summers. Summers’ physical attributes may not jump off the page, but you would be hard-pressed to find a more experienced player in leading a defense. He has 314 total tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and two interceptions in his TCU career. If that doesn’t scream experience, I don’t know what does. He is a run clogger and has decent middle linebacker size at 6’2” 235 lbs. He will most likely fall in the fifth-seventh round in the NFL draft and could be a very productive player for a team.
Enjoy the after Christmas bowl festivities, and keep your eye out for these potential future NFL stars!
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