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Bowl Game Previews 12/30-12/31

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The college football bowl season is a crucial time for players who plan to enter the NFL draft. For a large majority of the prospects, they will compete against some of the best competition they’ve faced all year, while being under immense pressure to finish the year strong. For a lot of them this will be the last football they play before becoming a professional, so they want to leave on a good note.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at which players you should look for while watching this week’s slate of bowl games.

Notre Dame vs. LSU | Tuesday 3:00 P.M. ET

Ronnie Stanley| Notre Dame

One of the best offensive line prospects in college football is Notre Dame’s junior left tackle Ronnie Stanley. On a team that has underachieved during the last half of the season, Stanley has been one of the only bright spots on the team. He has great size (6-foot-5 and 315 pounds) for the position to go with plus athletic traits. He combines fluid footwork with great hand placement and excellent strength to dominate opposing defenders. He does a great job of mirroring opposing defensive ends, while displaying a good punch which is amplified by his long arms. He will be taking on LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter in a matchup against two juniors who will likely go relatively high in the draft when they declare. If Stanley continues his stellar play, he should solidify himself as one of the top tackle prospects in the draft, if he chose to declare this year.

Preliminary Projection: Round 1

La’el Collins| LSU

The best senior offensive tackle in college football is LSU’s La’el Collins. In a conference that boasts a wide variety of great pass-rushers, Collins has thoroughly shut down most of them. Collins combines incredible size (6-foot-5 and 321 pounds) and length with immense strength and a finishing attitude, as he is one of the most dominant run-blockers in college football. He creates movement in the run game that is unrivaled, while displaying enough lateral agility to get to the second level. He has a vastly improved kick slide where he remains balanced with good knee bend. The one bad habit he has is that he tends to over extend at times, which causes him to get off balanced, but that should be fixable at the next level. Collins’ ceiling is a Pro-Bowl caliber tackle, but his floor is a very good guard at the next level.

Preliminary Projection: Round 1

Danielle Hunter| LSU

One of the least talked about edge-rusher prospects in college football is junior defensive end Danielle Hunter. In another case against box-score scouting, Danielle Hunter has been extremely effective and productive despite only registering 1.5 sacks this year. Hunter generates a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks with his explosive athletic ability. He needs to work on his finishing techniques when rushing the passer, but he has the frame (6-foot-6 and 240 pounds) and athletic ability you want at defensive end. He is great against the run as he can knife into the backfield and hold up at the point of attack when setting the edge. If Hunter can have a big game against a player as great as Ronnie Stanley, then he could shoot into the first round if he decided to declare.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-3

Ben Koyack| Notre Dame

In a year where the tight end draft class is extremely thin, Notre Dame’s Ben Koyack is one the better players at the position. Koyack has good size and athleticism for a tight end, while displaying good blocking ability. Koyack is one of the more well-rounded tight ends in the draft as he combines the ability to catch the ball with his ability to block in the run and pass games. He displays adequate route-running abilities as he finds the weaknesses in zone coverage routinely. While he has great attributes and traits, he hasn’t put it all together as he has below-average production for the position. Koyack needs to put up a big game to help boost his stock entering the draft season.

Preliminary Projection: Round 3-4

Maryland vs. Stanford | Tuesday 10 P.M. ET

Henry Anderson | Stanford

An underrated defensive line prospect, Henry Anderson has done a great job wrecking games for opposing offenses throughout this season. Anderson has great size (6-foot-6) with good length, which allows him to stack and shed opposing offensive lineman regularly. Anderson plays with a great deal of power as he is able to anchor versus double teams and puncture the pocket with power-rush moves. Anderson looks like a great 5-technique defensive end prospect where he could use his strength and hands to stack and shed opposing lineman at the point of attack. Anderson will likely be a late riser and a big game against Stanford could speed up that process.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-4

Ty Montgomery | Stanford

Stanford senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery has high expectations entering this year, but he has failed to live up to them for the most part. Montgomery struggles to get open as he doesn’t run great routes. He has incredible straight-line speed, but he struggles anytime he has to change direction, whether it be in his routes or with the ball in his hands. Montgomery’s biggest allure is as an explosive return man as he runs with power and speed. Montgomery has great size (6-foot-2 and 215 pounds) that makes him a great developmental wide receiver prospect.

Preliminary Projection: Round 3-5

Darius Kilgo | Maryland

Maryland’s premier draft prospect is senior defensive lineman Darius Kilgo. In the NFL, Kilgo has the size (6-foot-2 and 310 pounds) and athletic ability to be a very good rotational 1- or 3-technique defensive tackle. He utilizes his length extremely well to stack and shed opposing lineman at the point of attack, while also showing the quickness to shoot his gap and make plays in the backfield. He struggles against double teams, which would eliminate him as a possibility as a 3-4 nose tackle. Kilgo has had some of his best games against good competition and if he can continue that against Stanford, he can work himself into early day-three consideration.

Preliminary Projection: Round 4-5

Ole Miss vs. TCU | Wednesday 12:30 P.M ET

Cody Prewitt | Ole Miss

The safety class is extremely thin this year, but Cody Prewitt may emerge to be one of the better ones. Prewitt has great size (6-foot-2 217 pounds) for the position to go along with good coverage ability. Prewitt is one of the better coverage safeties in the class as he has above-average instincts to go with fluid hips and good feet. He’s not great in run support, but he gets the job done, as he is a solid tackler who takes good angles. He’s not a player who you can matchup in man against tight ends or wide receivers because of his average athleticism. Prewitt will get tested a lot against TCU and he could improve his draft stock greatly with a solid showing.

Preliminary Projection: Round 3-4

Senquez Golson | Ole Miss

Ole Miss’ Senquez Golson doesn’t have the size (5-foot-9 and 176 pounds) that you want in a cornerback, but he has everything else. Golson is the epitome of a playmaker at the cornerback position as he has recorded nine interceptions this year. Golson has nearly impeccable technique with his back pedal and ability to turn and run with opposing wide receivers. He plays extremely physical for a guy his size and does a good job of making plays in run support. His best trait is his incredible instincts that allow him to break on passes and get in position to intercept or deflect any throws that come his way. Golson is an incredible player; his stock will come down to how much opposing teams are affected by his small stature.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-3

Chucky Hunter | TCU

A player who will rise as this draft process plays out is TCU defensive lineman Chucky Hunter, who looks to best fit as a 3-technique defensive tackle in the NFL. Hunter has great initial quickness and fast hands that can knock opposing offensive lineman back. He is very strong at the point of attack and does lose much ground at the point of attack. He can penetrate his gap or stay square and two-gap at the line of scrimmage. He needs to work on using his length to stack and shed opposing lineman in the run game.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-3

Paul Dawson | TCU

Everyone’s sleeper linebacker prospect is TCU’s Paul Dawson. His size (6-foot-2 and 230 pounds) will likely relegate him to the “Will” linebacker position at the next level. Dawson has great instincts and speed that allow him to knife into the backfield and stop opposing ball carriers. He utilizes sounds tackling technique, which causes him to not miss many tackles. He’s not a big hitter, but he wraps up and makes sound plays on a regular basis. Dawson struggles when he has to turn and run as he does a better job of covering zones in front of him. Dawson also has a tendency to jump around opposing blockers, as he doesn’t have the size or strength to hold up at the point of attack. Dawson will be tested a lot against Ole Miss and a big game may put him into early day two consideration.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-3

Boise State vs. Arizona | Wednesday 4:00 P.M. ET

Austin Hill | Arizona

In a normal receiving class, Arizona’s Austin Hill could be a top-75 player; however, with the depth of this class it is going to take a lot for Hill to not fall past round four. He has adequate size (6-foot-2 and 190 pounds) to go with above-average athletic ability. He does most of his damage from the slot where he utilizes his crisp routes and superior size against smaller nickel cornerbacks. He doesn’t have great speed or quickness, but he is a smooth athlete that runs a variety of routes. He is a solid and well-rounded player who could develop into a solid No. 2 wide receiver.

Preliminary Projection: Round 3-5

Jay Ajayi | Boise State

Boise State running back Jay Ajayi is one of the most productive running backs in the nation who will likely be a steal come draft day. He has great size (6-foot-0 and 216 pounds) for the position to go along with fantastic athletic ability. He has some of the best lower-body flexibility in the draft class as make some incredible moves to avoid defenders. He showcases good vision and a great ability to run between the tackles. He makes a great deal of NFL-caliber runs along with being a decent threat out of the backfield. He has the acceleration to get to the second level quickly and the long speed to get those home run plays.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-3

Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech | Wednesday 8:00 P.M. ET

Benardrick McKinney | Mississippi State

One of the most polarizing prospects in Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney. While he is billed as a freak athlete, McKinney struggles mightily in space and frequently gets lost in coverage. He doesn’t flip his hips well and struggles to get the right depth in zone coverage. McKinney thrives when he is coming downhill against the running game. He can get to his run fits extremely quickly, while also showing the ability to knife into the backfield. He struggles when moving laterally against zone runs because of his lack of lateral agility. Overall, McKinney is a player who some will love and some will hate, it will be interesting to see which camp is right.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-3

Preston Smith | Mississippi State

In a draft class that boasts a ton of undersized defensive ends, Preston Smith stands out with his prototypical size (6-foot-6 and 270 pounds) for the position. He is an extremely disciplined player who thrives against the run. He does a great job of occupying multiple blockers, while also showing the ability to stack and shed offensive lineman. He has the ability to slide inside where he can utilize his quickness to quickly beating interior offensive lineman. He isn’t a dynamic pass rusher, but he has decent power-rush moves, which allow him to generate somewhat consistent pressure on the quarterback. Smith is one of the forgotten men in this draft class, but he may be one of the most pro ready defensive linemen in the draft.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-3

Shaquille Mason | Georgia Tech

One of the few draft prospects on Georgia Tech’s roster in offensive guard Shaquille Mason. Georgia Tech’s offense doesn’t breed many players for the NFL, but Mason has shown a great deal of NFL qualities. He has below-average size (6-foot-1 and 300 pounds) to go with very good athletic ability for the position. He shows great movement skills to pull and get around the corner or get to the second level. He can create movement at the line of scrimmage with his footwork, but struggles to win in any man-blocking situations. He fits in with a team that employs a zone-blocking scheme where they can utilize his athleticism and ability to block in space.

Preliminary Projection: Round 4-5

 


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com