Nothing boosts the Christmas spirit quite like a wonderful slate of bowl games. There are plenty of young devy and draft prospects playing today. Make sure to take the time to enjoy the games while we have them, because the off-season is right around the corner and before we know it, we will be begging to watch some football.
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
Temple Owls vs. Duke Blue Devils
ESPN 1:30 pm EST
The Temple Owls come flying into their bowl game against the Duke Blue Devils with an overall record of 8-4 (7-1) having won five of their last six games, two of which came against the Houston Cougars and the Cincinnati Bearcats.
On the other hand, the Duke Blue Devils 7-5 (3-5) come into the matchup having lost four of their last six, with only 13 total points scored in their last two games.
Senior Bryant Ventell led the Temple Owls in receptions and receiving yardage in 2018. He should make a case to be a late-round pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. In his career at Temple, Ventell has caught 170 passes for over 2,300 yards and ten touchdowns. With a strong showing against the suspect Blue Devil defense, the senior could catch the eyes of some NFL scouts and land himself in a position battle come training camp in the fall.
From a devy perspective, keep an eye on redshirt sophomore receiver Branden Mack who at 6’5”, 215 pounds leads the Owls in touchdowns (five) while averaging over 13 yards per reception. This bowl game could hold the potential for Mack to break into a terrific junior season in 2019 and boost his draft stock moving forward. Look for Mack to have another strong off-season and emerge as the Owls primary receiver.
On the other side of the field, the Blue Devils feature a prolific offense, which has struggled to execute and score points in their final two games of the season. Junior quarterback Daniel Jones has drawn interest from NFL scouts this season and could forgo his senior season to enter the draft in 2019 with the huge need for quarterbacks currently in the NFL.
He has dealt with injuries this season, but has still thrown for over 2,200 yards in each of his three seasons, finding the end zone no less than 14 times in each of those years as well. At 6’5”, 220 pounds, Jones has not only great size, but also a tremendous ability to run the football and use his mobility in the pocket. He rushed 98 times for 325 yards this season. While those numbers don’t boast the talent of Lamar Jackson, it will prove to scouts how comfortable he is moving and eluding defenders in the pocket.
He currently ranks sixth at quarterback in DLF’s 2019 devy rankings, and many predict him to be a first-round selection if he declares for the 2019 draft. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him land with a team like the Jaguars or Giants, looking to quickly develop a young quarterback.
Sophomore running back Deon Jackson should be a name you familiarize yourself with in regards to the highly talented running back class of 2020. This season, Jackson increased his carries by more than five times, while also proving he can be an every-down back with over 20 receptions out of the backfield. At 6’0”, Jackson may appear to be undersized at first glance, but his 220-pound frame gives him more than enough power in the trenches.
The Blue Devils also feature two speedy senior wide receivers in T.J. Rahming and Jonathan Lloyd, but it would appear that each does not possess the size or skills to make an impact at the professional level.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Miami Hurricanes
ESPN 5:15 pm EST
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Both the Wisconsin Badgers and the Miami Hurricanes are coming off severely disappointing seasons, and will face off in a rematch of last year’s Orange Bowl where the Badgers came away with a 34-24 victory.
The Hurricanes finished in the middle of the pack in the ACC this season. They had a record of 7-5 (4-4) and lost four of their last six.
It was a very similar story for the Badgers who started the season ranked #4 in the nation, but wound up at 7-5 (5-4) for a second place finish in the Big Ten West division.
Redshirt freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry earned his way onto the field in 2018, and looked to be building himself a promising role as the Hurricanes starter the final three games of the season. It now appears that Perry could be suspended for this bowl game, making Hurricane fans wait once again for a consistent starting quarterback. In the ten games that Perry appeared, he threw 13 touchdowns, five interceptions and surpassed 1,000 yards through the air. Devy scouts, keep an eye on Perry the next two years, as the raw quarterback could emerge into a consistent dual-threat starter.
Look out for sophomore wide receiver Jeff Thomas, who currently ranks 11th on DLF’s 2020 wide receiver devy rankings. After a very strong freshman year, Thomas has nearly doubled every statistical category in 2018, and will definitely be on the list for breakout player of the year in 2019.
The Hurricanes feature two outstanding running backs in junior Travis Homer and sophomore running back Deejay Dallas. The two have combined for over 1,500 yards on the ground while accounting for ten Hurricane rushing touchdowns. Homer will likely make his decision to either enter the NFL Draft or return for his senior season sometime after the bowl game, which will greatly influence the role Dallas will play in 2019. Dallas is a future prospect you will want to keep tabs on. If he is given the starting role next season, he could end up being a top-ten running back in the 2020 draft class.
On the Badgers’ side of the football, there will be three key prospects to keep an eye on. The first is sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor. He ranks third among running backs in DLF’s devy rankings and will most likely find himself drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft given he repeats his stats from this season. Taylor rushed for over 1,950 yards this season, scoring 15 touchdowns on the ground, and again was the driving force of the Wisconsin offense. Just a three-star recruit coming out of high school, Taylor has blossomed in the Badger offense and appears to be yet another future NFL tailback to come out of this program.
Remember this name: Jake Ferguson. If you have a spot to pick up a devy tight end, pick him up and watch the dividends payout in the next several years. As a true freshman, Ferguson caught 34 passes for over 400 yards while scoring four touchdowns. At 6’5”, 240 pounds he will continue to grow in strength and speed over the next two to three years and could be yet another great Wisconsin tight end to enter the NFL.
Sophomore receiver Danny Davis has proven he has sure hands and can go up and make the big catch. At 6’0” and under 200 pounds, he is still developing in size. Give him another year or two and he could be a late-round flier in dynasty drafts. Despite missing two games this season for an off-the-field incident, Davis still led the Badgers in receptions with 40, and scored five touchdowns in the process. Be on the watch for Davis to make at least one highlight-reel catch in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Baylor Bears
ESPN 9:00 pm EST
The Baylor Bears finished the season with a 6-6 (4-5) record, having won only two of their last six games. Much improved coming off a 1-11 season, the Bears will look to take claim of this bowl game over the Commodores to boost them into the 2019 season.
The Vanderbilt Commodores had a successful season in the SEC, finishing with an overall record of 6-6 (3-5) finishing .500 in their final six games, with many close matchups that could have fallen in their favor.
For the Commodores, senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur showed great improvement off a terrific season in 2017. This year he completed over 63% of his passes, throwing for over 2,800 yards including 23 touchdowns and only six interceptions. A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Shurmur has now proven over the last two seasons that he has what it takes to compete and succeed in the SEC and possibly even further into the NFL. He is a true pocket-passing quarterback and will display a great ability to make quick reads and work through his progressions as the pocket collapses. Shurmur could find himself selected in the second half of this year’s NFL Draft and should be acquired in deep superflex leagues.
Junior receiver Kalija Lipscombwill be a huge factor in the bowl game. Coming off an 81-reception season, Lipscomb surpassed 850 yards and caught nine touchdowns. He shows great quickness and versatility out of his breaks, and could rise this summer among the ranks of NFL eligible receivers. He currently ranks just 31st on DLF’s 2019 wide receiver devy rankings, so it could be argued that waiting to declare until after his senior season could boost his draft stock.
Tight end Jared Pinkney currently ranks seventh on DLF’s devy tight end rankings, and given the dire need for tight ends in the NFL right now, I would expect to see Pinkney forego his senior season and declare after this bowl game. He caught 45 passes this season for almost 700 yards and seven touchdowns but will have much to improve on in the off-season in the blocking department if he wants to be an every-down tight end in the NFL.
Junior transfer running back, Ke’Shawn Vaughn has also made an interesting case at his position. He was named the SEC newcomer of the year, and also awarded to the second-team SEC list with an impressive 7.0 yards per carry on over 140 attempts. Vaughn surpassed 1,000 yards on the season, added ten touchdowns on the ground and also caught 13 passes and scored twice through the air. He is a dynamic back who should return to the Commodores in 2020 and be a draftable option next year.
For the Bears, sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer is the playmaker on the offensive end for this team. He ranks as the eighth best available devy quarterback of the 2020 class and should have a strong upcoming junior season. After an impressive showing at quarterback as a true freshman, Brewer responded to an even higher standard, throwing 17 touchdowns, to only eight interceptions and surpassing 2,600 yards through the air. He displays a good awareness in the pocket, with an ability to escape on his feet and use his legs to pick up yardage.
With star senior receiver Jalen Hurd out, the Bears will look to Denzel Mims to make big plays down the field. Mims has faltered this season. After posting 61 receptions for over 1,000 yards last season, he only caught 49 passes for 700 yards this season. With the emergence of young talent beneath him, Mims found his target share decreasing in 2018.
Mims ranks 20th on DLF’s devy rankings for the 2019 receiving class, due in large part to his great 6’3” size and terrific speed. He has caught 16 touchdown passes over the last two seasons, and should he have a big game against Vanderbilt I could potentially see him declaring for the draft.
Trestan Ebner is a running back to keep your eye on in this game. Just a sophomore, Ebner has proven to be a great every-down running back for Baylor, despite being in a crowded backfield. He carried the ball 58 times for over 300 yards this season, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. What is more impressive however, is Ebner’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He caught 26 passes, averaging 9.0 yards per catch and proved to the Baylor coaching staff that he can be trusted in pass protection. Keep an eye on this talented back.
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