NFL Draft 2014 Bowl Preview, Week 2
The college football bowl season is in full swing, which means we have one last chance to steal a look at some potential future NFL players. Here are some guys to keep an eye on during the second week of postseason games:
Hawaii Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon State (Dec. 24, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Boise State: Charles Leno, OT.
Leno probably falls into the third or fourth tier of tackles in this draft, meaning a Day 3 pick or so. He has started 38 straight games for the Broncos, so the experience is there. Oregon State generates a decent amount of pressure off the edge, which will make this matchup a nice test for Leno before he hits the draft cycle.
Oregon State: Rashaad Reynolds, CB.
Reynolds will play in the East-West Shrine Game after poaching six interceptions this season. That ball-hawking ability is his best quality … but will it mask other deficiencies he’s put on display, like the occasional trouble playing a physical game?
Little Caesars Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green (Dec. 26, 6:00 p.m. ET)
Pittsburgh: Tom Savage, QB.
Another probable participant in one of the postseason All-Star bowls, Savage could be a really interesting prospect for a team with a quarterback in place — sort of like Landry Jones to the Steelers last season. He threw for 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season, numbers that don’t really tell the whole Savage story. Pitt’s QB has the arm to make it in the pros.
Bowling Green: Alex Bayer, TE.
Bayer will join Reynolds in the Shrine Game. He had 34 receptions this season and 36 in 2012, which is production that he might be able to replicate in the right NFL system. Bayer brings more than adequate athleticism to the tight end position.
Poinsettia Bowl: Utah State vs. Northern Illinois (Dec. 26, 9:30 p.m. ET)
Utah State: Tyler Larsen, C.
Larsen, 6-foot-4 and about 310 pounds, was named a second-team All-America by USA Today, and he too will play in the Shrine Game. This is not quite a glamour position, especially in a bowl game, but Larsen figures to land on an NFL roster.
Northern Illinois: Jimmie Ward, S.
A first-teamer on SI’s All-America team: “The shutdown safety led the MAC with six interceptions and racked up a team-high 89 tackles.” He’ll participate in the Senior Bowl and was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented annually to college football’s best defensive back.
Military Bowl: Marshall vs. Maryland (Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m. ET)
Marshall: Gator Hoskins, FB/TE.
Hoskins caught 13 touchdown passes this season (and 10 last year). The 6-2, 244-pounder is cut from more of the Delanie Walker/H-back mold than that of a traditional tight end. A team willing to be creative with him might enjoy the benefits.
Maryland: Marcus Whitfield, OLB.
An honorable mention All-ACC performer, Whitfield led Maryland with nine sacks and 14.5 total tackles for loss. He’s put up those numbers as an outside rusher in the Terps’ 3-4 — that’s probably where he is headed if he gets an NFL opportunity.
Texas Bowl: Syracuse vs. Minnesota (Dec. 27, 6:00 p.m. ET)
Syracuse: Jerome Smith, RB.
Smith announced that he will enter the upcoming draft, skipping his final year of eligibility. He rushed for 840 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, mostly wrestling the No. 1 RB job away from Prince-Tyson Gulley. There’s not a lot of flash here, but Smith can slam north and south between the tackles.
Minnesota: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT.
Is Hageman destined to be a Round 1 pick in May? The scheme-versatile 6-6, 300-pound tackle will draw plenty of attention beforehand. He’s probably going to turn in some exceptional scores come Combine time, too.
Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers vs. Notre Dame (Dec. 28, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Rutgers: Brandon Coleman, WR.
Coleman, a redshirt junior, has declared for the 2014 draft. The 6-6 receiver was on a lot of radars heading into this season, only to disappoint to the tune of 32 receptions and three touchdowns (the latter number down from 10 last season). Will his natural gifts offset the lack of production in the NFL’s eyes?
Notre Dame: Prince Shembo, OLB.
The Irish’s senior linebacker will head to the Shrine Game next month, where he’ll work to show off his talents as a pass-rusher and drop-back linebacker. He struggled to put on much of a show until late in the regular season, but the potential is there.
Belk Bowl: Cincinnati vs. North Carolina (Dec. 28, 3:20 p.m. ET)
Cincinnati: Greg Blair, LB.
Blair stepped up as a productive linebacker last season, then followed it up with 96 tackles in 2013. He may not wow anyone with his measurables, so he’ll be asking NFL teams to rely on the tape to earn him a spot.
North Carolina: Tre Boston, S.
Boston will play in the Shrine Game, and he’s the type of athlete that should excel in that type of environment as well as the ones presented by pro days and the combine. In other words, he’s really athletic with great speed. Those attributes have translated relatively well at the college level, though there’s some question about which position he’s best suited for moving forward.
Russell Athletic Bowl: Miami vs. Louisville (Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m. ET)
Miami: Denzel Perryman, ILB.
Perryman has yet to declare his intentions for the 2014 draft — he’s a junior — but he might be the best inside linebacker available if he makes the jump. He was an honorable mention honoree on SI’s All-America team.
Louisville: Marcus Smith, DE.
Also garnering an SI honorable mention, Smith landed on the American Athletic Conference’s first-team after dominating the league with 10.5 sacks during Louisville’s AAC games. With those numbers, it goes without saying that the 6-3 Smith can get to the QB.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan vs. Kansas State (Dec. 28, 10:15 p.m. ET)
Michigan: Michael Schofield, OT.
The Wolverines’ other offensive tackle, Schofield has lived in Taylor Lewan’s shadow on the offensive line. The upside here is not nearly what it is with Lewan, but Schofield should get an NFL shot. ESPN’s Todd McShay recently pegged him as a possible Day 3 guy.
Kansas State: Ty Zimmerman, S.
Zimmerman will be back for this one after missing the Wildcats’ final two games due to an ankle injury. He’s not going to be an early-round pick, but Zimmerman has enough talent to warrant a selection somewhere. His best trait might be his motor — one that runs non-stop and can offset some of his physical limitations.
Armed Forces Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Navy (Dec. 30, 11:45 a.m. ET)
Middle Tennessee: Logan Kilgore, QB.
Almost certainly more of an undrafted prospect who gets a shot in an NFL camp, Kilgore is the Blue Raiders’ all-time leader in touchdown passes (currently at 53). Of course, he’s also thrown 34 career interceptions as a starter in three-plus years.
Navy: Cody Peterson, LB.
Spotlighted Peterson before the season in our team-by-team draft lookaheads, and he did not disappoint. A defensive captain for the Middies, Peterson chalked up 135 tackles in 2013. He’ll play in the Shrine Game, too, so folks have taken notice.
Music City Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech (Dec. 30, 3:15 p.m. ET)
Ole Miss: Donte Moncrief, WR.
Will he or won’t he? Before the 2013 season began, the working assumption was that Moncrief would enter the 2014 draft. However, his numbers slipped, from 66 receptions and 10 TDs last year to 53 and five this season, respectively. He has a ton of after-the-catch ability; it just was not on display as much as he would have liked in 2013.
Georgia Tech: Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB.
He’ll be at the Senior Bowl (with an SI All-America honorable mention in his back pocket). Georgia Tech mostly has turned him loose this season, stripping him of all responsibilities outside of getting into the backfield. It’s worked.
Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Texas (Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. ET)
Oregon: Josh Huff, WR.
Hard to get a real read on Huff: The production (57 catches for 1,036 yards and 11 touchdowns) highlights his ability, but he does not necessarily excel in any one area. That said, he’s almost a virtual lock to be drafted somewhere, so this stands as one more chance to impress.
Texas: Carrington Byndom, CB.
The 6-0 Byndom will not hit the draft with the momentum some expected he might a couple years ago. As a Day 2 or Day 3 corner, though, he should be able to provide some help to an NFL roster. He will be tested by the Ducks in this game.
Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech (Dec. 30, 10:15 p.m. ET)
Arizona State: Marion Grice, RB.
Grice’s status for the Holiday Bowl remains up in the air — he’s dealing with a leg injury. Football fans should hope he can go, because he might have a case as the best back in this year’s class. He’s extremely versatile (50 receptions this season) with a nose for the end zone (20 total touchdowns).
Texas Tech: Jace Amaro, TE.
The debate over the 2014 class’ top tight end is on: Amaro, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron and Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins (assuming he turns pro) all are in the mix. Amaro was the first-teamer on SI’s All-America team: “Despite Texas Tech’s late woes, the 6-5 threat notched 1,240 receiving yards and seven scores.” He can challenge defenses at all areas of the field.