Notes from Bowl Games – Part 1

It seems the growing trend is for players not to play in the Bowl games, particularly if they are lower tier ones.  I’m not going to mention those who elected not to play, so this will just be on those who suited up only.

I started off Bowl season with the Celebration Bowl and North Carolina A&T OT Brandon Parker.  Listed at 6’7″ 310 lbs, Parker is a big man, but it looks like he has the frame to carry a little more bulk.  I came away really impressed with his base in pass protection – it’s solid and balanced.  His hand placement is good and he’ll lock on to his man and that’s all she wrote.  His hands are heavy, getting a pancake in pass protection when the DE tried an inside move.  He got movement in the running game and also showed an ability to wash players out and up to leave a big hole.  I’m not 100% sure if he’s a pro LT candidate, his feet look a touch heavy – hopefully, I’ll find some Senior Bowl tape somewhere to give him a watch, but I do think he has talent and with a good post-season, he might push for day two.

I’ve mentioned Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson a few times before – and he showed why I liked him with a 10 catch, 221 yards and a TD day against Oregon.  Wilson was in and out of the game, limping at times, so he could have had a bigger day!  He caught the ball nicely, including on an underthrown pass, where he found the ball, adjusted back to it and made a low catch.  I always like players who shine on the big stage, and this kind of performance is the perfect springboard to the long pre-Draft process.

Oregon hadn’t made their way to UK TV this season, so it was my first chance to see them.  I watched OT Tyrell Crosby last season when there was some buzz about him, but didn’t think he was great.  There’s been buzz about him being better this season, and while true, I didn’t come away overly impressed unfortunately.  I thought his base was too narrow in pass protection – when stressed with speed, he ducked his head and turned into a waist bender.  On one play, the DE was able to spin inside him – and with his weight to the outside, he was unable to re-direct as he would if he sat his butt and mirrored – that resulted in a QB pressure.  He did have some good moments, showing he can move in space and he has some pop, but I think a veteran NFL pass rusher will give him problems.

A quick mentioned for Oregon CB Arrion Springs, who I thought looks draftable – and with a fast 40 time, who knows.  Even from one watch, it was obvious to see why he recorded his first INT of the season in this one – he doesn’t get his head around to locate the ball.  However, he looks like he can cover, so with a little trust in his athletic ability and positional play, an NFL team might find something in the mid/late rounds.

When I watched Arkansas State against Georgia Southern, OLB/DE JaVon Rolland-Jones didn’t play much.  He was in the game more in this one.  He needed one sack to get the record for career NCAA sacks – which he got…, except it was wiped out with a penalty.  He’s given license to pin his ears back and attach when rushing the passer, at times in a stance like a 100m sprinter.  He showed some speed to power, which is encouraging, but he needs to use his hands better.  He was a little mixed against the run, but did make a couple of nice plays on runs at him, again, which is encouraging.  I would imagine he’ll test well, and he could push into the middle rounds on the back of a good Combine/Pro Day.

I’ve just looked back at my notes on Colorado State WR Michael Gallup from earlier in the year and they reach the same conclusion I made from the Bowl game.  He’s fast, but his routes need refinement.  His cuts are a little rounded, and there’s some tightness in the hips.  Having said that, his speed is “plus”, so I would imagine he’ll run a fast 40 time – and that “upside” could propel him into day two.  I did like his hands, including a one handed catch and adjusting to a couple of poorly thrown balls – but I think he might need a little development time before he makes a huge contribution.

The Frisco Bowl was my first full game watch of SMU this season, so I’m clearly not a lucky mascot for them!  WR Courtland Sutton had 6 catches for 68 yards.  As he’s the highest ranked player I haven’t seen yet, I took the opportunity to watch as much as I could on YouTube and these are my thoughts.  He looks every bit an NFL WR – with a large catch radius and he catches the ball naturally away from his body. For a big man, he has quick feet in short areas and has some make you miss, which you wouldn’t expect to see.  I would say his long speed is high 4.4/low 4.5 – but he doesn’t have that extra gear to really pull away from people.  The area of his game I would say needs the most work are his routes.  His athletic ability is more evident after the catch than in route running – and he will drift at times.  However, the upside package because of the size and ability after the catch is exciting and I can see why he’s highly ranked.

The other SMU WR, Trey Quinn could also declare for the Draft.  He caught mostly swing passes, so it was hard to get a feel for him.  If he does declare, I’ll hit YouTube.

It was tough to gain much from the Temple game, which was an easy win (as many of the early games have been).  FS Sean Chandler was mostly playing a deep role, but he was used in man coverage.  On one such occasion, he got his hand in nicely to break up a pass.  If he can show solid man skills in the post season process, he’s likely to push for a day two slot.  He can get downhill from deep and he showed nice reactions on his INT which was on a tipped ball.  I’ll try to find some YouTube tape of him.

I’d done work on Wyoming QB Josh Allen on YouTube, but this was my first full game this season.  If I had more time and better availability of games here in the UK, I’d watch 100% full games – but I don’t.  Anyway, it was good to watch a game unfold.  The first thing to note is that he doesn’t look to the sideline to get the play call.  Generally, they huddle and then he’ll make the checks at the line without help from his coaching staff.  Don’t underestimate how important this experience is for NFL teams – it’s a big reason why guys take time, or never make it, despite having “plus” physical traits.  Talking of such traits, Allen is a “plus”.  He’s big, but he can move – showing he can extends plays, particularly rolling to his right.  He’s a good runner, but the league will want him to run to pass most of the time.  His footwork is a little messy at times, so he’ll need to clean that up and when he’s extending, the ball drops a little too low.  The main element he’ll need to improve is to speed up his eyes, particularly when he’s in the pocket.  However, the arm talent is A+ – and with the size, movement skills and experience at the line of scrimmage, I suspect he’ll be a top 10 pick, particularly if he’s as good of a person as the ESPN broadcasters were suggesting.

I had Wyoming safety Andrew Wingard on my list, so gave him a watch.  He’s a junior, so may return.  His role was varied – rotating to single high safety at times, man coverage over the slot WR and also in the box.  His best play was as a deep safety, reading a crossing route, breaking up and taking it away – the QB had to eat the ball.  He had an INT, but it was an air mail throw and an early Christmas present.  He flashed ability to get downhill and I liked his man coverage ability.  If he declares, I’ll watch more tape.

The other prospect in this game I watched was Central Michigan DE Joe Ostman, who was hurt when I watched CMU earlier in the season.  Ostman is listed at 6’3″, but looks shorter – with a squat frame.  He lacks elite physical traits, but his motor and hand use get him sacks and he had two in this one.  He reminds me of guys like Bruce Miller (ex-UCF – was converted to FB in the NFL) and Brock Hekking (ex-Nevada).  If FBs were common in the league, I’d say he’d be converted – but as they aren’t, he’ll have to try to crack a roster with his motor.

I still don’t think South Florida QB Quinton Flowers has pro QB tools – but I have to take my hat off to him for a couple of nice throws to help his team win the Texas Tech game.  Flowers is an elite athlete and should get a camp look at RB, WR or DB.

South Florida DT Deadrin Senat is listed at 6’1″ 314 lbs – but he’s not a typical two gap space eater. He uses power and flashes of hand use to win – and he had some nice moments in this one.  He can get a bit upright out of his stance and once a man gets into his chest, he struggles to counter – but he’s shown enough to think he has a shot to be drafted, although the height might be an issue for some teams who like length on the D-Line.

The other USF prospect is CB Deatrick Nichols, who played outside CB, slot CB and FS in this one.  In some cases when you watch a CB you don’t learn much – but Nichols was around the ball a lot.  He was in man coverage much of the night, but also some zone.  He seems most suited to off coverage – as when he pressed, he gave up the inside too easily.  He will have to be careful in the NFL as in off coverage, he does get a bit grabby when the receiver closed the cushion.  He had issues with a bigger WR outside – he didn’t back down, but he did give up a TD.  At FS, he showed he can get downhill – but as he’s not the biggest, I would expect him to be a pro nickel CB prospect.  He looks to have a closing/recovery burst, so we’ll see how fast he can run at the Combine, which will be a massive part of his Draft stock.

At times, it was a bit too easy for San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny.  He ran for 221 yards and 4 TDs on just 14 carries. Penny is patient, then a nice burst to get him through the line – and in this one that tended to mean a trip to the end zone.  He’s not just a one cut and go type, he has some wiggle and can make you miss.  When Army did put a hat on him, he showed he has power as well.  When Bowl season is done, I’m going to watch tape of prospects I haven’t seen enough – and as this was my first watch, I will watch as much of him as I can find because he looks to have top 100 talent.

The last game of a college career isn’t always a good ending.  That was the case for Toledo QB Logan Woodside, who threw 3 INT’s as his team were blown out by App State.  Lacking elite physical traits, when this type of QB’s surrounding talent doesn’t play well, you often see down games by the QB.  It’s not their fault, but they do need good people around them.  Woodside started out with a nice second read 13 yard out, but after that it went downhill – and he’ll need to play better in a camp to get a roster spot.

I was impressed with Houston WR Linell Bonner when I watched him before, but he struggled to get on track against Fresno State.  He caught 7 passes, but for only 39 yards as the defense keyed on him and prevented him from getting much after the catch.  He has a build a little like a RB, which probably won’t do much for him with scouts – but he does have ability and if he can run fast, might get drafted.

It was interesting watching junior Fresno State QB Marcus McMaryion – in an era where signal callers have slow eyes, watching him get through his progressions was refreshing.  I don’t know if he plans to return in 2018, if he does I would say adding bulk to his slight frame would be crucial for his stock – but there’s something there.  Also a junior for Fresno State, WR KeeSean Johnson looks to have talent.  There’s a smoothness to his play.  Again, I don’t know if he’s thinking about declaring, his 40 time might limit his stock, but we’ll see…

Updated: December 26, 2017 — 9:39 am

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