Florida vs. Penn State
1 pm EST on ABC
I only saw Penn State once this year at the beginning of the year. Probably the best prospect on the field for them is OC Stefen Wisniewski, who has good size and strength in the middle. He should be able to test his skills against the Florida defensive tackles. RB Evan Royster has had a disappointing senior year, and was considered a potential 1st round pick a few years back, but now unless he has a great game against Florida's front, he'll be lucky to be a middle round pick. Moving up the boards and I want to see him going against the big Florida linemen is DT Ollie Ogbu.
Florida is loaded with prospects but for seemingly the first time in a while lacks any top seniors. Their top senior is probably SS Ahmad Black, who isn't very big (5-10/190) and will likely move to FS at the next level. But he's an active player in run support and can contribute in coverage to think he has a nice chance to be a starter at the next level. OC Mike Pouncey has struggled at center this year, and will likely move back to guard in the pros. He seemed like a good candidate to be a No. 1 pick going into the season, but probably has played his way to the 2nd/3rd round range. Also on the O-line for Florida is LT Marcus Gilbert and OG Carl Johnson. Both are big blockers. Gilbert has just enough athleticism that he might be able to stick on the outside at RT. Johnson is massive (6-6/350), but probably too limited to merit being drafted. Also on offense is QB John Brantley and RB Jeff Demps, both juniors. Brantley has flashed passing skills, but this might be his last game for the Gators because he's contemplating transferrng. Demps is an explosive option in their spread attack, but probably is a tweener as far as being a third down back vs. slot receiver.
Two other juniors that everybody expects to go pro and probably Florida's only guys that can be 1st round picks are FS Will Hill and CB Janoris Jenkins. Hill has already declared and has the speed and range to be a ballhawk in coverage. Jenkins isn't super big, but is tough and competitive and is battle-tested going against elite SEC receivers. DT Jaye Howard is another junior that is a similar prospect as Carlos Dunlap. He probably fits best as a 3-4 defensive end. Also on the radar are senior DTs Lawrence Marsh and Terron Sanders. Marsh is also probably a better fit as reserve in the 3-4, and Sanders can help out a rotation in a 4-3 scheme. LBs A.J. Jones and Brandon Hicks are decent backup-level prospects. P Chas Henry is one of the better punter prospects in the league because of his booming leg.
Capital One Bowl[b]
Alabama vs. Michigan State
1 pm EST on ESPN
This game will feature a bunch of 1st round talent for Alabama. [b]RB Mark Ingram, WR Julio Jones, and DT Marcell Dareus are three juniors likely playing in their final games at Alabama, and all will likely be 1st round picks. QB Greg McElroy needs to finish his senior season strong. McElroy is a QB prospect that could go in the 2nd/3rd round range. He doesn't wow you with anything, but just gets the job done. Besides him, LT James Carpenter and TE Preston Dial are their lone seniors that will likely get a good chance to be drafted. Carpenter is an undersized OT, but is a strong run blocker that is a good fit in a zone blocking scheme. Dial plays H-back and is a capable receiver and blocker, but doesn't wow you in either area.
Up front, OC Willam Vlachos and OG Barrett Jones are arguably the best players at their position and both are juniors. They will have their hands full going against Michigan State sophomore DT Jerel Worthy, who is still raw with his technique, but quick and explosive. Also on offense, WR Marquis Maze according to a few reports will also be playing his last game for the Crimson Tide. He's overshadowed by Jones, but is a good WR prospect himself.
On defense, a few more underclassmen have 2nd round potential in S Mark Barron, LB Don'ta Hightower, and LB Courtney Upshaw. Where they stand on their pro prospects I'm not sure. Barron is a nice run-defending safety, but just seems to lack the playmaking instincts in coverage despite having the skills. Hightower is a sophomore and enforcer in the middle that enjoys causing concussions. He's not as good as Rolando McClain was a year ago, but similar since he's a nice run defender that is limited by his lack of ideal speed and range. Upshaw is a nice pass rusher that can project well to a 3-4 scheme at the next level.
RB Trent Richardson is a true sophomore, so you don't have to worry about him until next year.
For Michigan State, their top prospect is ILB Greg Jones. Jones is a talented player, but in previous performances this year seemed to be going through the motions. He needs a strong performance in this bowl trying to stop Ingram and Richardson, to solidify him as a 1st rounder IMO. QB Kirk Cousins (junior) probably isn't a candidate to go pro this year, but he has an inside track at being one of the better QB prospects next year and a good bowl performance should help improve his stock as a potential 1st rounder in 2012. TE Charlie Gantt is a solid senior TE that is a good blocker and solid receiver. He doesn't have the athleticism to be a top pick, but as a 3rd/4th round guy can be a valuable addition to a team. WR Mark Dell is another solid receiver that probably is a nice sleeper option as a slot receiver. Also on defense are LB Eric Gordon and CB Chris L. Rucker, both seniors. Gordon is a nice complementary guy that plays with a high motor beside Jones, but probably doesn't have the size or speed to be more than a backup at the next level. Rucker spent some time this year in jail and the character issues will kill his draft stock, but a strong performance vs. Jones and Maze in this game could do enough to guarantee he gets at least late round consideration.
Progressive Gator Bowl
Mississippi State vs. Michigan
1:30 pm EST on ESPN
This might be RichRod's last game at U of M, so he needs a win badly and that might not even save his job. QB Denard Robinson is their highest profile prospect, but at his size (5-11/190) he's really just only going to be a WR at the next level. But he's only a true sophomore, so you don't have to worry about him yet. Outside Robinson, their best prospect is OLB Jonas Mouton is fast and active and has the potential to be a 3rd/4th round pick. On offense OG Stephen Schilling is a strong run blocker that is a throwback to the linemen that Michigan was used to pushing out every year in the past. TE Martell Webb is a decent H-back prospect that is probably not going to get drafted. Junior D-linemen DE Ryan Van Bergen and DT Mike Martin are a nice pair of 3-4 prospects. Martin is not very big as a nose tackle, but is a high motor player that probably could be a similar pro to Mike Wright in New England.
Mississippi State is featuring one of the better OTs in this class with Derek Sherrod. His stock probably won't hinge too much on this game, as his stock is likely to rise or fall based on his combine and off-season workouts. But he's a polished blocker with his technique and good feet, but is probably not the caliber run blocker that will make it hard to be a Top 15 pick.
On defense, DE Pernell McPhee plays a hybrid DE/LB role for them. He has good athleticism and speed for his size (6-3/275) and probably projects well as a situational pass rusher in the pros. Two linebackers in K.J. Wright and Chris White are active players that probably can both play in a 3-4 or 4-3. White is the better of the two as he's active and gets a ton of tackles. Junior SS Charles Mitchell is a solid run defender despite not being very big (5-11/205). Not sure whether or not he has the tools in coverage to shine there.
Wisconsin vs. TCU
5 pm EST on ESPN
Wisconsin is loaded with pro prospects on their offense, but DE J.J. Watt (junior) could be the first Badger off the board if he comes out. He's big and productive and probably fits best in a 3-4 scheme. Next will likely be LT Gabe Carimi. He's a big, physical run blocker that has questions whether he has the athleticism to stay at LT in the pros. He'll get tested a bit by TCU pass rusher Wayne Daniels, who isn't quite as good a prospect as Jerry Hughes, but he's a nice pass rusher and probably will move to OLB in the pros.
Beside Carimi is OG John Moffitt, who I think is an underrated prospect. He doesn't wow you with his athleticism, but he's a very good run blocker and should be a solid starter at the next level. QB Scott Tolzien does a good job managing the WIsconsin offense, but what limits his stock is the lack of great size or a big arm. But a good game against TCU's defense should give him enough of a boost to be a potential 6th/7th rounder.
RB John Clay is probably playing his last game at Wisconsin. He's a solid power runner, but is probably too heavy to think he can shine at the next level as a feature back. He battled some injuries late in the season and he needs a strong performance to get his stock back up. Right now he's probably 3rd/4th round prospect. WR Nick Toon is the son of Al Toon and a junior. He's a good go-to receiver for their offense, and he can make a nice complementary option in the pros despite not having great speed.
WR David Gilreath is an explosive slot receiver/kick returner. TE Lance Kendricks is an undersized TE, but he's a good blocker for his size and could really shine as an H-back in the pros in the same mold as a Dallas Clark. SS Jay Valai has the same size as Bob Sanders, but he's not anywhere near him in terms of ability because Valai struggles in run support despite spending a ton of time in the box. Also on defense is ILB Culmer St. Jean, who is an undersized, but physical interior run defender that could be a very poor man's London Fletcher.
For TCU, OT Marcus Cannon will likely get some opportunities to face Watt. But Cannon is probably a better fit to move inside to guard because despite having great athleticism for his size (6-5/355), his technique and footwork are pretty raw. C Jake Kirkpatrick will also help out TCU's front, as he's a nice developmental center that could sneak into the late rounds with a good performance.
QB Andy Dalton projects well as a backup and should have a nice long NFL career. Good athlete with a good arm that makes good decisions. His favorite target is WR Jeremy Kerley who is an explosive slot receiver and return specialist. Sophomore RB Ed Wesley leads a solid trio of young RBs that will be key to their success attacking the Wisconsin defense.
As usual, TCU has several good prospects on defense, but nobody really stands out as a potential high pick. FS Tejay Johnson and junior ILB Tank Carder are their best prospects but look to be middle round guys. Carder is very active, but questions whether he has the top speed and range to play outside the 3-4 remain. Johnson has decent size (6-0/205) and has good speed, range, and impacts in the run game. CB Jason Teague is probably not good enough to be more than a nickel corner at the next level, but he is a good zone corner that can make plays.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Connecticut vs. Oklahoma
8:30 pm EST on ESPN
Nobody is really given UConn a chance in this game, and that's mainly because outside RB Jordan Todman they don't have a ton of talent. Todman, a junior, is expected to go pro, and a good bowl game will likely cement that. He is a quick runner that is productive just like Donald Brown was, but should be a nice complementary runner in the pros.
FB Anthony Sherman is a good lead blocker that helps clear the way. RG Zach Hurd is a guy I like a lot because of his size (6-7/325) and mean streak. Reminds me of a Harvey Dahl type that can be a backup for a couple of years and then be a solid starter down the road. On defense, LB Lawrence Wilson is undersized (6-1/230) but has good speed and range to fit as as WILL in a 4-3 scheme. OLB Scott Lutrus fits well in their scheme as a SAM linebacker, but lacks the speed, range, and size to think he's more than a special teams guy at the next level. But sophomore LB Sio Moore is the guy that will stand out because of his ability to make plays all over the field.
Whether UConn can win this game will depend on QB Zach Frazer's play. Frazer is just an undrafted prospect because he doesn't have the arm strength and experience. But he's been through quite a bit at UConn, being benched multiple times.
Oklahoma is loaded with NFL talent. Sophomore QB Landry Jones has flashed top-level tools, but has also had boughts of inconsistency. But he does have 1st round potential a few years from now. RB DeMarco Murray has had struggles with durability over the years, but he's an explosive speed back that offers similar tools as a Reggie Bush because of his ability in the passing game. WR Ryan Broyles is a junior that most expect to come out. He is an explosive slot option and return threat, but doesn't seem to have the size to project well beyond being a No. 3 guy. But he has the potential to be one of the better slot options in the pros.
On defense, DE/OLB Jeremy Beal is likely their first player off the board. Beal is a good player that is productive, but I've never been wowed by his pass rushing potential which makes me think he's more of a 3rd round pick, but he'll likely get drafted in the 2nd round. Also up front is DE Frank Alexander (junior) who has enough tools to think he can develop down the road as a situational pass rusher, but he's still raw. Along with OLB Travis Lewis and ILB Austin Box, they'll be tasked with slowing Todman. Both LBs are underclassmen. Lewis is contemplating his NFL future and reminds me of a Keith Brooking type. The player that stands out more than often on Oklahoma's defense is DE/OLB Ronnell Lewis, who is a true sophomore. He has the potential to be a 1st round pick next year and a strong bowl game should solidify his preseason stock.
In the secondary, FS QUinton Carter is a big hitter, but he's undersized (6-1/195) and not as consistent as you want vs. the run and pass to give him more than a 3rd/4th round grade. FS Jonathan Nelson is a former corner that flashes enough tools to think he has a shot as sticking as a reserve in the pros.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.