The bowl season has finally picked up regarding NFL Draft talent the week after Christmas. Five soon to be Senior Bowl participants are featured in the four games featured below with others having accepted invites to other college football all-star games. North Carolina junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky is most likely playing in his final collegiate game versus a stingy Stanford defense and Tennessee defensive end prospect Derek Barnett looks to solidify his top 15 draft status.
By: Christian Page
With possibly the last look at these prospects in a collegiate game, here are the top draft-eligible prospects from every game played on Dec. 30 excluding the Orange Bowl showdown between No. 6 Michigan and No. 10 Florida State.
AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL – GEORGIA vs. TCU (Noon EST // ESPN)
Georgia (7-5, 4-4)
Tyler Catalina, LT, 6’6, 315, #72
Overall the Bulldog offensive line struggled in both facets of the game. Catalina displayed inconsistencies in pass protection as he struggled to catch up with the quickness of SEC pass rushers. He continued to show more promise as a run defender throughout the season. Look for Catalina to be valued as a guard prospect entering the draft.
Brandon Kublanow, C, 6’3, 293, #54
The senior had an average season anchoring the Bulldog front. Kublanow is not a mauler by any means but shows to be a technician stalemating his matchups with proper hand placement and average upper body strength. I have noticed Kublanow does give up pressure up the middle sometimes being forced on skates causing for a congested pocket for the freshman quarterback.
Greg Pyke, RT, 6’6, 325, #73
It’s obvious that Pyke will be evaluated as a tackle in the NFL as he struggles with catching speed on the outside from his right tackle position. Pyke can be quick on his feet, though, he peels off the corner with a head of steam being a threat in the second level of the defense. The big offensive lineman shows his intelligence on the field picking up multiple packages and stunts the defensive line throws at the offense. Pyke wins with his initial punch and ability to get up the field guiding the running back.
Maurice Smith, CB/SAF, 6’0, 195, #2
The Alabama graduate transfer came on strong for the Bulldogs this season as Smith showed promise as both a cornerback and a safety. Smith possesses adequate ball skills and nice range as a safety. I enjoy watching his feistiness at cornerback followed with his stinginess man coverage. A versatile defender in the secondary, Smith definitely rejuvenated his college career when moving out of Tuscaloosa.
Other Bulldogs to Watch:
-John Atkins, DT, 6’4, 315, #97 (Jr.)
-Nick Chubb, RB, 5’10, 228, #27 (Jr.)*
-Quincy Mauger, CB, 6’0, 206, #20
-Sony Michel, RB, 5’10, 222, #1 (Jr.)*
-Dominick Sanders, SAF, 6’0, 193, #24 (Jr.)
*will return to school for senior year (reported)
TCU (6-6, 4-5)
Josh Carraway, DE, 6’4, 250, #94
Leading the team in tackles for loss (11) and in sacks (8), Carraway wins most of his battles with his flexibility accompanied by his length and quickness. He still shows rawness as a pass rusher not having many moves in his toolkit, but he has a knack of getting into the backfield. The senior possesses just average power (maybe being too nice here) but does show the aggression to consistently fight for the edge in both the run and pass game.
James McFarland, DE, 6’2, 250, #40
McFarland shares the sack title for the Horned Frogs this season with Carraway as both made for one of the nation’s most feared pass rushing duos. Out of a series of weird stances before the snap, McFarland struggles with power. He has to win with quickness as he is normally stalemated when the matchup calls for one on one power battles. Seeing how McFarland matches up with the strength of Pyke at right tackle will be a good measuring stick for the senior pass rusher.
Other Horned Frogs to Watch:
–Aviante Collins, RT, 6’6, 305, #69
-Aaron Curry, DT, 6’2, 270, #95
-Denzel Johnson, SAF, 6’2, 210, #30
SUN BOWL – No. 18 STANFORD vs. NORTH CAROLINA (2 p.m. EST // CBS)
Stanford (9-3, 6-3)
Johnny Caspers, OG, 6’4, 300, #57
Along with a few other top guards in the 2017 projected class (Quenton Nelson, Dan Feeney, Nico Siragusa), Caspers showcases solid movement skills to be consistently effective. The senior guard anchors well with a wide base and controlled footwork to embrace contact. Caspers isn’t all that keen when matching up with quicker defensive tackles as his extension is not all that impressive.
Solomon Thomas, DT, 6’3, 273, #90 (RS Soph.)
Thomas has become one of the biggest threats off the edge in college football after playing a big chunk of the 2015 season inside. As a 5-tech pass rusher, Thomas shows rapid violent hands pushing away anything the offensive tackle throws at him. Thomas boasts a plethora of pass rush moves including an attractive swim move involving quickness and power. Thomas wins as either a 3-tech tackle or a 5-tech end.
Dallas Lloyd, SS, 6’3, 213, #29
Sporting a nice frame at strong safety, Lloyd can lay the wood coming from the secondary. A textbook tackler in the open field, Lloyd has 55 tackles on the season and leads the team in interceptions with three. Lloyd shows nice range in coverage and can be effective in the run game when stepping up close to the line of scrimmage. North Carolina’s passing attack and spread offense will supply for a better assessment of Lloyd after the game.
Other Players to Watch:
-Joey Alfieri, OLB, 6’3, 240, #32 (Jr.)
-David Bright, RT, 6’5, 295, #64
-Harrison Phillips, DT, 6’4, 285, #66 (Jr.)
-Michael Rector, WR, 6’1, 190, #3
North Carolina (8-4, 5-3)
Mitch Trubisky, QB, 6’3, 220, #10 (Jr.)
Just recently receiving a first-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee, Dec. 30 will most likely be the last time Trubisky plays in a Carolina Blue uniform. The hot junior prospect boasts great footwork, poise and accuracy but his one year of experience has some concerned. Trubisky goes up against an up and down Stanford secondary and looks to exploit some NFL talent on the opposite side.
Bug Howard, WR, 6’5, 210, #84
A long and thick wide receiver, Howard embodied the No. 2 role when fellow Tar Heel receiver Mack Hollins went down with a season-ending injury. He hasn’t been as potent as expected as of late, but look for a heavy helping of Howard and Ryan Switzer in this matchup. Howard shows controlled movements with reliable hands while attacking defenses with his physical demeanor.
Ryan Switzer, WR, 5’10, 185, #3
Already eclipsing the school reception record, Switzer is just 23 yards away from becoming North Carolina’s all-time leading receiver in yards. Switzer boasts incredible elusiveness in the open field on offense and as a punt returner. The Senior Bowl invite does struggle with concentration drops and could show more as a route runner. Switzer has the ability to take over a game and he has created a beautiful rapport with Trubisky.
Nazair Jones, DT, 6’5, 295, #90 (Jr.)
A powerful specimen at defensive tackle, Jones has already declared for the draft in 2017. Jones is a consistent havoc maker in the interior of the defensive line winning with power and showing off his above average upper body strength. He uses his length well keeping blockers off his body being able to violently disrupt the pocket on a consistent basis. Jones also shows a theme of stepping into passing lanes knocking down passes and preventing positive gains.
Other Tar Heels to Watch:
-Jon Heck, OT, 6’7, 300, #71
-Des Lawrence, CB, 6’1, 185, #2
-MJ Stewart, DB, 5’11, 200, #6
MUSIC CITY BOWL – NEBRASKA vs. No. 21 TENNESSEE (3:30 p.m. EST // ESPN)
Nebraska (9-3, 6-3)
Terrell Newby, RB, 5’10, 200, #34
Newby had to really work for his yardage this season with just an average front for the Huskers. Even with defenders in his face shortly after the handoff, Newby got more opportunities to show his impressive cut back. Immediately when Newby gets the ball, he shows the appropriate vision in a man-blocking scheme to get skinny through the line and create his own. Many times blocking traits go unnoticed for running backs and Newby shows grit in that category. Newby’s adequate speed and pass-catching ability may get him a shot at being selected in the draft.
Ross Dzuris, DE, 6’3, 255, #88
Dzuris burst on the scene in 2016 leading the Huskers in tackles for loss (9.0) and sacks (5.5). Dzuris consistently sets the edge keeping the backfield condensed not letting the play develop to the outside. I would like to see more consistent disengagement from opposing tackles as he struggles with block shedding on a regular basis.
Nate Gerry, SAF, 6’2, 220, #25
Overall, Gerry finalized a productive regular season with 79 total tackles, seven pass breakups, four interceptions and a sack. Gerry (pronounced like Gary) diagnoses well being able to quickly determine where the play is developing. His pass coverage is average as he is not fluid when turning and running and not as smooth in man pass coverage as most safeties in this class. I noticed a theme of lackadaisical play for Gerry when watching a couple of Nebraska games this season leaving me questioning his aggression. Gerry will be in Mobile for the Senior Bowl in January.
Other Cornhuskers to Watch:
-Josh Banderas, ILB, 6’2, 240, #52
-Cethan Carter, TE, 6’4, 240, #11
-Kevin Maurice, DT, 6’3, 300, #55
-Jordan Westerkamp, WR, 6’0, 195, #1 (will not play – knee injury)
Tennessee (8-4, 4-4)
Joshua Dobbs, QB, 6’3, 210, #11
With an up and down senior season, Dobbs looks to leave college football on a good note in the Music City Bowl and then the Senior Bowl in late January. Dobbs has shown above average arm strength, ball placement and velocity control throughout his career in Knoxville. The biggest concern with his game is consistency. Dobbs can wow with his abilities as he shows he can make every throw on the field while also being a dynamic player outside the pocket. His sporadic decision making and accuracy make his draft stock plummet.
Alvin Kamara, RB, 5’10, 215, #6 (Jr.)
Kamara proved he was the best runner for the Vols this season as he led all running backs in rushing with 565 yards and tied for first on the team with nine scores. Kamara packs a punch running strong behind his pads showcasing his powerful running style. The junior shows great vision and balance as a runner with the ability to get skinny and turn dead plays into positive gains. A full load in the bowl game should give us a good indication of what Kamara is fully capable of.
Derek Barnett, DE, 6’3, 265, #9 (Jr.)
Winning from multiple alignments across the defensive line, Barnett is quietly sneaking into potentially a top 10 selection. Barnett’s flexibility is his most attractive trait. Watching the heralded junior convert power to speed is a thing of beauty. Barnett is an impressive closer as he continually reminds us he has the clutch factor. The first round prospect leads the team in both sacks (12) and tackles for loss (18).
Cameron Sutton, CB, 5’11, 185, #23
An injury-riddled season, Sutton has yet to show his full capabilities in 2016. The senior accounted for only 22 tackles, four pass breakups and one interception. Sutton is fluid in transitioning in his turn and run and looks most comfortable in a press-man scheme. Sutton needs to show more consistency and aggression in the run game as that is a glaring weakness of his game heading into the Music City Bowl.
Other Volunteers to Watch:
-Josh Malone, WR, 6’3, 200, #3 (Jr.)
-Corey Vereen, DE, 6’2, 250, #50
-Dylan Wiesman, RG, 6’4, 310, #71
ARIZONA BOWL – AIR FORCE vs. SOUTH ALABAMA (5:50 p.m. EST // Campus Insiders)
Air Force (9-3, 5-3)
Jalen Robinette, WR, 6’4, 215, #9
A tall slender receiver, Robinette placed on the all-conference second team with 33 receptions, 835 yards, five touchdowns and a 25.3 yards per catch average (led college football). Robinette doesn’t get a heavy helping of targets in the option-heavy Falcon offense, but he does his best for what is given to him. The 6-foot-4 senior receiver shows off adequate vertical speed boasting great ball tracking skills downfield. He also uses his bigger frame to shake off tacklers while showing great body control to continue to finish the play.
Weston Steelhammer, SAF, 6’2, 200, #8
Outside of boasting the best name in football, Steelhammer displays great recognition skills and range in the passing game. He diagnoses run plays quickly, but I have yet to see him show consistency in shaking off one on one blockers. Steelhammer is a surefire tackler in space. I look forward to watching him cover Gerald Everett at tight end for South Alabama.
Other Falcons to Watch:
-Haji Dunn, LB, 6’3, 240, #34
-Brodie Hicks, FS, 6’2, 200, #18
-Jacobi Owens, RB, 6’0, 202, #28
-Ryan Watson, DE/LB, 6’3, 230, #40
South Alabama (6-6, 2-6)
Josh Magee, WR, 5’10, 175, #1
Magee gets most of his reps in the slot but that doesn’t limit his route tree. The senior wideout uses his quickness off the line to rapidly gain separation over the middle of the field. Having a small build, Magee’s physicality and vertical come by surprise winning many contested battles. Magee leads all wide receivers for the Jags in receptions with 44.
Gerald Everett, TE, 6’4, 240, #12
Labeled as an oversized receiver, Everett is an athletic freak at tight end displaying elite body control and acceleration. A skilled route runner, Everett gains separation in coverage after the catch showing his above average acceleration and physicality. The Senior Bowl invite has been a trendy pick as a top three tight end in a strong position group.
Randy Allen, DE, 6’2, 245, #20
A disrupter on the outside, Allen showcases his speed accompanied by athleticism en route to the quarterback. Allen isn’t overly powerful as he doesn’t sport the average build for the prototypical defensive end, but his nimble feet and burst off the edge is an attractive pair to supply for a pass rush specialist. Allen is a First Team All-Sun Belt selection as he finished second in the league in tackles for loss (18.5) and third in sacks (11.5).
Roman Buchanan, LB, 6’2, 220, #5
The second leading tackler (80) on the team, Buchanan looks like a bullet shot out of a gun when closing on ball carriers. He shows the ability to react quickly to the play while showing enough speed to make plays from either side of the sideline from his middle linebacker position. Buchanan isn’t a polished pass defender in coverage as he looks to lack discipline in his assignment especially when picking up receivers out of the backfield. Buchanan is a Sun Belt Honorable Mention selection.
Other Jags to Watch:
-Steven Foster, OG, 6’4, 315, #74
-Devon Earl, SAF, 5’10, 190, #7
-Kevin Kutchera, WR, 6’3, 205, #80