by Greg Doyle
The College Bowl season gets under this week and I could not be more excited. Scores of entertaining, fun games between generally good teams with many great players can be found from now up until through the first week of the New Year. So sit back, enjoy and take in some college football. Here at College Scout we’ll try to review each of the Bowl games and the plan is to do so in three parts. As always, we’ll do so in terms at looking at potential draft prospects and, on occasion, how they may or may not fit with the Patriots. Part One will look at the Bowl games from December 20th through December 23rd.
Thursday December 20, 2007
The Poinsettia Bowl – Navy (8-4) vs. Utah (8-4) (9:00 PM EST ESPN): Two good teams face off here in this annual Bowl held in San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium. Utah has a six game Bowl winning streak on the line. Navy coach Paul Johnson has taken the Georgia Tech job so will not coach this game. Ken Niumatalolo, who was offensive line coach and assistant head coach, takes over for Johnson. Because of service commitments, among other things, Navy is not traditionally a program that sends a lot of players to the NFL. But let’s take a look to see who they have who has a shot, as well as Utah.
Navy FB Adam Ballard (#22): Ballard is an option fullback like current Patriots fullback Kyle Eckel. He has good size at 6’1″ 223 and is a nice inside runner. Not just a blocker, he’s run for over 2,000 yards in his Navy career. Broke his leg in Navy’s bowl game last year and required surgery, but was back for spring practice. Shows good speed, but pass catching ability is questionable as he has only caught a handful of passes with Navy. Has not played in a pro-type offense. Has played special teams. Like Eckel, there is potential here but a long way to go. He has to learn a NFL offense and needs to bulk up because he lacks the pure size and strength of Eckel. Isn’t quite as good a runner as Eckel either. But he is a good athlete and is worth a look as a project.
Navy KR Reggie Campbell (#7): A pure burner who has played a little bit of everything for Navy, including running back and wide receiver. Is Navy’s leading receiver this year. But where he really excels is kick returns and that is where he has a chance in the NFL. Tiny player at 5’6″ 168, but has great speed and elusiveness. Explosive on returns and that may get him a look.
Utah S Steve Tate (#28): An under-the-radar player who deserves a look. Been extremely active for Utah and put up some really great numbers, including being their leading tackler. Comes up and stops the run, but also has been solid in coverage. Seems to make plays and is a smart player. Two issues are his age, he’ll be 25 at the time of the draft, and his size as he only checks in at 5’11″ 195. A late round pick at best, but he could stick with a good camp somewhere.
Utah DE Martail Burnett (#93): A big, fast defensive end at 6’3″ 262 and reportedly runs a 4.68/40 which is a great time for a guy his size. Shows pass rush ability and led Utah in sacks this year. Great athlete, he has a chance to be a high pick and may really move up at the combine. You could see the Patriots taking a stab at converting him to outside backer, but more likely he is a Robert Mathis-type defensive end.
Friday December 21, 2007
The New Orleans Bowl – Florida Atlantic (7-5) vs. Memphis (7-5): (ESPN2 8:00 PM EST): Florida Atlantic makes its first bowl appearance ever under head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who once won a National Championship as head coach at Miami. Memphis rebounded from a 2-10 season to make this bowl this season. Let’s take a look.
Florida Atlantic S Taheem Acevedo (#9): Their team leader on defense, he has perfect safety size at 6’1″ 220. Known to be a good tackler, has also made 9 career interceptions. His production and size will get him a look, but has a lot to prove coming from a low-profile school.
Memphis QB Martin Hankins (#13): Hankings is not going to be a high draft pick, but he’s worth a look and will be in somebody’s camp. Has had an excellent college career, including career 87-43 TD/INT ratio. Started at Southeastern Louisiana before transferring to Memphis, where he has been the starter for two years. Hankins is one of those guys who has had been very productive in college, seems to be smart, has a decent arm but doesn’t overwhelm you in any area. Has average size and needs to commit to bulking up if he is to make it in the NFL. May be able to stick on a practice squad and eventually make a team.
Saturday December 22, 2007
The Birmingham Bowl - Southern Mississippi (7-5) vs. Cincinnati (9-3): (ESPN2 1:00 PM EST): The always solid Southern Mississippi program takes on the Cincinnati Bearcats, who had an excellent season, including some big upsets, under first year head coach Brian Kelly.
Southern Mississippi LT Chris Clark (#75): A good All-Conference USA tackle who may attract the interest of the Patriots as a second day type as he is strong, a good worker and also a good enough athlete to get out in space as the Patriots insist upon from their linemen.
Southern Mississippi DT Martavius Prince (#97): A good college player with nice size who ould convert to a 3-4 end if the Patriots took him. Known as a very smart player who studies the game. A little bit undersized for tackle. Shown some special teams ability by blocking kicks at key times. Can pass rush and had 6.5 sacks this year. Good prospect the Patriots should consider.
Cincinnati RB Greg Moore (#48): Splits time with fellow senior Butler Benton, but Moore is the better pro prospect of the two. Has NFL size at 6’2″ 225. Rushed for over 1,500 yards in his career. Mediocre speed which could indicate he should bulk up a bit and be a fullback. Will have to prove himself as a blocker and on special teams to make it. Did okay as a pass catcher this year and shows some potential. Possible 7th round pick.
Cincinnati RB Butler Benton (#23): Splits time with Moore. Not as big as he is, but checks in at 210 lbs as well. Put up over 1,700 yards in career and isn’t completely lost in the passing game either. A bit faster than Moore, but not as powerful. Like Moore, may be picked at the end of the draft.
Cincinnati DE Anthony Hoke (#12): A quick pass rusher who disrupted opposing offenses all season long. Finished with 12 sacks and another 7 quarterback hurries. A 6’1″ 245 pass rushing end who could be perfect as a 3-4 outside linebacker for the Patriots. Also reportedly runs a 4.55/40, so if that is confirmed at the combine, Hoke could become a name that could start racing up the charts. In an interview, he once said the quarterback he most hopes to someday sack is Peyton Manning, so that should endear him to Patriots fans.
Cincinnati OLB Angelo Craig (#82): A sleeper who the Patriots should take a look at. A 6’5″ 245 lb. guy who has played both end and linebacker and had a pretty good year this year. Had only started 2 games prior, but showed talent this year and contributed 3 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries. Has played special teams. This is a guy who is a true sleeper and not likely to attract much attention, but would be a nice undrafted free agent to look at if he does well in workouts.
New Mexico Bowl - Nevada (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4) (4:30 PM EST ESPN): It would appear New Mexico would have the homefield advantage in this one that points a potent Nevada offense versus a good New Mexico Defense.
Nevada LB Ezra Butler (#56): An All-WAC linebacker, Butler has good NFL size at 6’2″ 248. Was on the pre-season Lombardi watch list for the nation’s best linebacker. He’ll get a shot in the NFL and is a good prospect for the Patriots inside if he can show he is intelligent and has good speed and strength when tested. If the 4.55/40 speed reports prove accurate he could be a first day pick.
New Mexico WR Marcus Smith (#4): Set the Midwest Conference on fire this season with 86 catches for 1,039 yards. Has excellent size at 6’2″ 212. Smart receiver with good hands. A mid-round talent with average speed, his size makes him a nice slot receiver possibility.
Las Vegas Bowl – BYU (10-2) vs. UCLA (6-6) (ESPN 8:00 PM EST): Just what the world needs, Mormons in Las Vegas. I hope Mandalay Bay and The Palms are busy locking up the milk in preparation for this one. In any event…..
BYU LB Kelly Poppinga (#46): The Cougars middle linebacker, he was their leading tackler this year. A full-time starter for the first time this year. Has two brothers who have played in the NFL. An athletic guy with a good motor and good strength and size, he deserves a look. Could be a good sleeper for the Patriots, especially since he has played in coverage.
UCLA DE Bruce Davis (#44): A really good defensive end who at 234 lbs will play outside linebacker in the NFL. Has racked up 29 sacks in his career including 12 this season. Made some All-American lists in his career. Father is Bruce Davis who was a tackle on two Raider championship teams in the 80′s. Extremely quick and has a lightning fast first step as a pass rusher.
UCLA CB Trey Brown (#23): Had a very good senior season with 5 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. A bit undersized, but good in coverage and sticks his nose in there in run help. Has a ton of experience in a good conference. Shows an ability to make plays. Could interest the Patriots in the later rounds.
Sunday December 23, 2007
The Hawaii Bowl – Boise State (10-2) vs. East Carolina (7-5) (ESPN 8:00 PM EST): An offensive shoot out in what should be perfect Hawaii weather conditions. This could be an entertaining game and we all saw how the Boise State coach isn’t afraid to pull out all the stops as he did last year in the bowl season.
Boise State OT Ryan Clady (#79): Only a junior, but a dominant left tackle who already projects as a first round choice, so he very likely will come out early for the 2008 draft. Has dominant strength and size, but combines it with amazing athletic ability. Could be a franchise left tackle for a decade or more. May interest the Patriots even though their line is pretty set. He is that good and could eventually move Pro Bowler Matt Light to right tackle if the Patriots looked in this direction.
East Carolina RB Chris Johnson (#5): A very productive runner who ran for 1,200 yards this season, averaging 5.8 per carry and scoring 16 touchdowns. Not terribly big, but gets it done and runs hard. Has excellent speed and was a sprinter in high school. Ran for over 2,700 yards in his career. Showed good ability to catch the ball with 34 receptions and did a lot with them, averaging 14.6 per catch. Returned kicks, which will help him, and brought one back for a touchdown. Could be a first day pick. Remains to be seen if he can take the pounding as a full-time back in the NFL or if he is more of a third down/kick returner/change of pace type.