Bowl Week Preview 12/23-12/28


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.

Fresno State vs. Rice | Wednesday 8:00 P.M. ET

Derron Smith | Fresno State

Smith is a redshirt senior safety for the Bulldogs and is listed at 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds and he has experience at both the free and strong safety positions. He has great playmaking ability as evidenced by his 15 career interceptions. His production has dipped some this year as he only has one interception, while giving up a few big plays while playing the deep middle. He is a willing tackler who has the ability to play in the box and help in run support. He needs to finish the year strong as his 2014 tape has been underwhelming.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-3

Tyeler Davison | Fresno State

Davison is another Bulldog who has underwhelmed this year as a redshirt senior defensive tackle. He has good size at 6-foot-2 and 309 pounds to go along with adequate athletic traits. He does a good job of beating opposing blockers initial punch, but he struggles to disengage off blockers at the point of attack. He is a pure 0- or 1-technique player in the NFL as he doesn’t bring much in the way of a pass rush. If Davison holds up at the point of attack and clogs running lanes throughout the game, he can give his draft stock a little boost.

Preliminary Projection: Round 4-5

Josh Harper | Fresno State

Harper is another redshirt senior for the Bulldogs, but he has excelled where some of his teammates have disappointed. He is one of the most underrated wide receivers in the nation who will likely be a late riser in the draft process. He is an explosive playmaker for Fresno state to go along with sure hands. He doesn’t shy away from contact as most players with his size (6-foot-1 185 pounds) would. He needs to improve his route running and ability to track the ball in the air, but he is a very enticing player who can help boost his stock with a big game Wednesday night.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-4

Zach Patt | Rice

Patt is a redshirt senior defensive end who has come on extremely strong this season for the Owls. Prior to this season, Patt had little production and wasn’t on the radar of many entering the season. However, big games against Notre Dame and Florida International have put him on the radar of many. Patt doesn’t have great size (6-foot-2 and 240 pounds) and will likely have to play as an outside linebacker in the NFL. He is an athletic player who has some traits that make you want to try and see if he can develop into a real contributor in the NFL. This is another opportunity for Patt to rise up teams’ boards across the league.

Preliminary Projection: Round 6-7, UDFA

Jordan Taylor | Rice

Taylor is an intriguing redshirt senior wide receiver for the Owls. He has incredible size (6-foot-5 and 210 pounds) to go along with adequate athleticism. Taylor isn’t going to blow away anyone with his speed, but he does a great job of boxing out defenders and using his big body to get in between the defender and the ball. He has strong hands and is tough to tackle for the cornerbacks he has faced. Taylor may be a great late round target for teams looking for a possession receiver who is a mismatch in the red zone.

Preliminary Projection: Round 4-6


NC State vs. UCF | Friday 8:00 P.M. ET

Thomas Teal | NC State

Teal is a redshirt senior defensive tackle who is one of the few players on the Wolfpack with a draftable grade. Teal is a short and stocky defender who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 309 pounds. He doesn’t have great burst, but he does a good job of hand fighting and shedding blocks. He is stout in the run game and has surprising production as a pass-rusher for someone of his athletic profile. Teal could rise into the middle round with a big game against UCF.

Preliminary Projection: Round 5-7

Clayton Geathers | UCF

Geathers is a redshirt senior safety who is the premier pro prospect in this matchup. Geathers has ideal size for a strong safety as he is listed at 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds. He is a sure tackler who fills in run support well while taking proper angles of pursuit. He has a lot of experience in coverage with adequate results. He doesn’t have the best awareness in space and he likely will be a box safety at the next level. With a big game against NC State, he could rise into the top-five safeties in the draft.

Preliminary Projection: Round 3-4

Torrian Wilson | UCF

Wilson is redshirt senior offensive tackle for the knights, but he projects better to guard at the next level. He doesn’t appear to have the length to be an offensive tackle, but his size (6-foot-3 and 305 pounds) fits the bill of a guard. He has sloppy feet on the edge at times as his base gets too narrow and he doesn’t get into his kick slide fast enough. He has good hand placement and he deals with inside rushes well. Wilson needs to have a solid game to solidify himself as a mid-to-late round target as a reserve guard with some position flexibility.

Preliminary Projection: Round 5-7

Arizona State vs. Duke | Saturday 2:00 P.M. ET

Laken Tomlinson | Duke

Tomlinson is a redshirt senior guard for the Duke Blue Devils with great size (6-foot-3 and 320 pounds) and ability. Tomlinson may be the most physically dominant guard in this draft class as he creates a ton of movement off the line of scrimmage. He drives his feet through contact and uses his considerable size and strength to bully opposing defender. Tomlinson has some deficiencies in pass protection (pad level), but his grip strength and anchor allow him to handle most defensive linemen with ease. Tomlinson will be engaged in one of the most anticipated matchups of the week against Arizona State’s Marcus Hardison, could lead to him rising significantly with a great performance.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2

Jamison Crowder | Duke

Crowder is a senior wide receiver for the Blue Devils who is one of the biggest playmakers in the country. Crowder is a small (5-foot-9 and 175 pounds) and speedy receiver who can make big plays in a variety of ways. He is one of the most prolific return men in the country, which only adds to his value in the eyes of NFL teams. On offense, he uses his considerable speed and explosiveness to blow by opposing secondaries. He is still developing as a route-runner, but he has shown considerable development in that area over the last couple of years. Crowder is a player who may be knocked for his size, but whoever drafts him is going to get a real playmaker for years to come.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-4

Marcus Hardison | Arizona State

Arizona State has been a hotbed of defensive linemen prospects as of late and senior defensive lineman Hardison is the next one in line. Hardison has exploded onto the scene this year as he has recorded 10 sacks for the Sun Devils this season. He has the size (6-foot-4 and 300 pounds) to be a force as a 5-technique defensive end or 3-technique defensive tackle at the next level. He does a great job of hand fighting and disengaging off blocks, while showing considerable burst for a man his size. Hardison has slowly been rising up the rankings this season, but he could become one of the fastest risers in the country with a great performance against one of the best guards in the nation in Laken Tomlinson.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2

Jaelen Strong | Arizona State

The most highly-touted player on the Sun Devils’ roster is redshirt junior wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who recently stated that he intended to enter the draft his year. Strong is a massive receiver (6-foot-3 and 215 pounds) who is at his best making plays at the catch point. Strong is great at making incredible catches in the air regardless of who is covering him. He is not the best route runner or very fast, so he doesn’t create a lot of separation in his routes; however, his size and leaping ability allow him to make plays most receivers can’t.

Preliminary Projection: Late Round 1-Early Round 2

Damarious Randall | Arizona State

One of the biggest sleepers in the country is redshirt senior safety Damarious Randall on Arizona State. He is an ultra-aggressive defensive back who is not afraid to take chances and jump route. He doesn’t have great size at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, but is great athleticism allow him to make plays and play with great range. He is a special teams ace who will have special teams coordinators falling in love with across the NFL. Randall is a mid-to-late round prospect who could rise with a good game against Duke’s passing attack.

Preliminary Projection: Round 3-5

Miami vs. South Carolina | Saturday 3:30 P.M ET

Duke Johnson | Miami

Johnson is an explosive junior running back for the Hurricanes. Despite his small stature (5-foot-9 and 206 pounds), Johnson has no problem running between the tackles. Johnson has some of the best lateral agility and short-area quickness in the nation as he cuts on a dime and explodes through holes on a regular basis. He does a great job as a receiver out of the backfield and he is underrated in pass protection as well. Johnson is one of the best running backs in the nation who deserves to be mentioned with the top running backs in the class.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-3

Denzel Perryman | Miami

One of the most polarizing prospects in this class is senior linebacker Denzel Perryman. He is a little on the short side at 5-foot-11 and 240 pounds, but he makes up for it with a thick lower body and strong upper body. Perryman is a thumper in the run game who lays some of the nastiest hits in the country. However, Perryman has been late diagnosing plays and he has trouble shedding blocks. He does a better job when he is responsible for one gap instead of reading and reacting to plays. Perryman is a player who will be graded all over the spectrum as we go through the draft process.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-5

Mike Davis| South Carolina

Davis is a junior running back for the Gamecocks, who has been one of the most productive running backs in the nations over the last couple of seasons. He does a great job of driving his feet through contact, which allows him to break a considerable amount of tackles. He has good vision as he sees cutback lanes well and knows how to scheme open his creases. He isn’t the most agile player, but he gets north-south well and knows how to finish. Davis is one of the most well rounded running backs in this deep running back class and he should be one of the first off the board.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-4

A.J. Cann | South Carolina

One of the premier guard prospects in the country is senior offensive guard A.J. Cann. He is an extremely strong player who anchors well in pass protections and generates movement at the line of scrimmage in the run game. He lacks the foot speed to do well in space and he has a bad habit of overextending to make blocks. However, once he gets his hands on you, it is usually over as he utilizes his great size (6-foot-3 and 311 pounds) and strong grip to latch on to defenders and engulf them.

Preliminary Projection: Round 2-3

Others to Watch

Corey Robinson-OT- South Carolina Preliminary Projection: Round 3-5

Clive Warford-TE- Miami Preliminary Projection: Round 2-4

Ereck Flowers-OT- Miami Preliminary Projection: Round 2-4

Phillip Dorsett- WR- Miami Preliminary Projection: Round 3-5

Ladarius Gunter-DB- Miami Preliminary Projection: Round 3-5

J.T. Surratt- DT- South Carolina Preliminary Projection: Round 4-6

Nebraska vs. USC | Saturday 8:00 P.M. ET

Randy Gregory | Nebraska

One of the top prospects in the country is junior defensive end Randy Gregory. He has great size (6-foot-6 and 240 pounds), length and athleticism to go along with top-notch production for the Cornhuskers. He has a great upfield burst to go along with great lower body flexibility to bend around the edge. He has developed significantly as a run-defender as he does a great job of using his length to stack-and-shed defenders on a regular basis. Gregory is still a little raw as he has a lot of wasted motion in his movement. However, that rawness should be intriguing to teams who can mold him to fit their scheme.

Preliminary Projection: Top-10

Leonard Williams | USC

The top pro prospect in the nation may very well be junior defensive tackle Leonard Williams. He has the size (6-foot-5 and 298 pounds) and athleticism to play as a defensive end or defensive tackle regardless of the scheme. He uses his hands extremely well as he can occupy multiple blocks and the speed to penetrate his gap against the run. As a pass rusher, Williams uses his immense power to push the pocket and get pressure in the quarterback’s face. Williams has nothing else to prove this year and anything he does against Nebraska will just be icing on the cake.

Preliminary Projection: Top-5

Ameer Abdullah| Nebraska

Abdullah is an intriguing senior running back for the Cornhuskers. He doesn’t have great size at 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, but he does a great job of creating big plays with his speed and short-area explosiveness. He is a great receiver out of the backfield as he has made numerous plays as a receiver this year. He needs to improve in pass protection and he needs to do a better job of taking what the defense is giving him as he is always looking to create.

Preliminary Projection: Round 3-4

Others to Watch

Nelson Agholar-USC-WR Preliminary Projection: Round 2-4

Hayes Pullard-USC-LB Preliminary Projection: Round 2-4

Javorius Allen-USC-RB Preliminary Projection: Round 3-5

Kenny Bell-Nebraska-WR Preliminary Projection: Round 3-5

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