Tony Pauline: Prospects to watch in college's bowl games: Week 1 - Sports Illustrated

Prospects to watch in college's bowl games: Week 1

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The college bowl season kicks off Saturday, culminating in the National Championship Game on Jan. 9. The first week of bowl season features seven games and a few players who will show up on the NFL Draft radar. Below, a breakdown of the players to watch this week, as well as a projection as to where they'll be drafted. (*denotes underclassmen)

A full schedule of the 2011-12 bowl season can be found here.

Saturday, Dec. 17


Tashaun Gipson, DB (No. 4) -- Gipson is a nice-sized cornerback who has been a mainstay in the Cowboys' starting lineup since his freshman season. He flashes the ability to shut down opponents and makes some very athletic plays. Gipson also has the ability to line up at cornerback or safety. He offers potential as a dimeback/special teams player at the next level. 7th Round

Luke Ruff, S (No. 29)* -- The hard-hitting safety turned in a breakout campaign, and has surfaced on a number of scouting lists. Ruff does not possess great size, but plays big on the field. He led Wyoming with 97 tackles last season and was omnipresent all year. Ruff will be a nice addition for a zone defense and will add value as a special teamer in the NFL. 7th Round


Bernard Pierce, RB (No. 30)* -- The junior running back has been the workhorse ball carrier at Temple the past three seasons. Pierce has a terrific combination of vision, instincts and strength. He lacks classic foot speed, but has all the tools necessary to be a featured runner in the NFL. 2nd Round

Derek Dennis, G (No. 63) -- Dennis is a large-bodied blocker who easily moves about the field, annihilating everything in his path. He's quick, explosive and is getting long looks from predominantly zone blocking offenses in the NFL. 5th Round

Utah State

Robert Turbin, RB (No. 6)* -- Turbin sat on the sidelines with injury last season, but returned with a vengeance this year. The big-bodied running back is a powerful ball carrier who over-powers opponents and is rarely tackled by a single defender. Scouts project Turbin as a top-50 pick and feel he possesses the physical skills necessary to be a featured runner at the next level. 2nd Round

Bobby Wagner, LB (No. 9) -- Wagner has been steadily marching up draft boards and NFL scouts are excited about his all-around skills. The senior posted a team-leading 140 tackles, and he constantly penetrates the line of scrimmage to harass the opposition. Wagner will be an asset on the inside of any linebacker unit in the NFL. 3rd/4th Round


LaVon Brazill, WR-RS (No. 7) -- Brazill returned to the field after sitting on the sidelines in 2010 with injury and posted career numbers as a senior. He's a sure-handed wideout with the ability to pick up a lot of yardage running after the catch. Brazill has also been a game-impacting return specialist during his Bobcat career. He'll be a nice addition as a fifth receiver/return specialist for any NFL team. 6th/7th Round

Eric Herman, G (No. 77)* -- The All-Conference junior is a strong interior blocker who dominates the opposition on running downs while also displaying pass-protecting skills. He possesses next-level size as an underclassman on the NFL radar. 7th Round


Ladarius Green, TE-WR (No. 89) -- Green is a massive tight end who is projected to play wide receiver by a number of NFL scouts. He's a sure-handed pass catcher who offers the signal caller an awesome target. Green needs to add bulk to his frame, but should be very good in the NFL. 6th Round

Javone Lawson, WR (No. 4)* -- The junior quickly returned to form after missing half of the 2010 campaign with injury. He's a well-sized wideout who is also a downfield threat. Lawson is averaging 16.6 yards on 54 receptions, including six scores. 7th Round

San Diego State

Ryan Lindley, QB (No. 14) -- Lindley comes off a disappointing senior campaign, as he took a step back in almost every passing category this year compared to his junior season. Despite this, he still possesses the physical skills and mental make-up for starting duty in the NFL. 5th Round

Miles Burris, LB (No. 9) -- The hard-charging linebacker is an intense defender who consistently penetrates the line of scrimmage. Burris has combined for 38 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks the past two seasons as well as leading the Aztecs in tackles during both campaigns. Burris is a nasty defender who can line up at inside or outside linebacker and should be a demon on special teams in the NFL. 7th Round

Tuesday, Dec. 20

Florida International

T.Y. Hilton, WR (No. 4) -- Hilton is one of the best kept secrets in college football, and a triple threat skill player for the NFL. He's the dominant "go-to" receiver on the Panthers offense and cannot be stopped. Hilton is also a game-breaking return specialist who quickly alters the momentum of games. If he clears medical hurdles at the combine, Hilton will be drafted much earlier than many predict. 3rd/4th Round

Winston Fraser, OLB (No. 34)* -- The Panthers' top tackler, Fraser is a fierce linebacker who aggressively attacks assignments. He's an explosive player who can also defend the pass and sells out on the blitz. The junior projects as a weakside linebacker at the next level. 7th Round


Vinny Curry, DE-OLB (No. 99) -- Curry has been one of the most prolific pass-rushers in the nation, accumulating 22 sacks the past two seasons. He's an explosive defender who does more than just pin his ears back and attack the quarterback. Curry displays the movement skills and wherewithal to pursue the action from the backside and run down ball-handlers. He projects as either a rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or one-gap defensive end in a conventional alignment. 1st/2nd

Ryan Tillman, G (No. 73) -- Tillman is a college left tackle who displays strength at the point of attack, good movement skills and the ability to block in motion. He lacks classic tackle size and will be pushed inside to guard, where he'll get looks from zone blocking teams. 7th Round

Wednesday, Dec. 21


Josh Boyce, WR (No. 82)* -- Boyce, a red-shirt sophomore, had a knockout campaign after moving into the starting lineup, and has scouts excited about his future. He's a big-play receiver with a nose for the end zone and a productive prospect who has potential as a slot wideout in the NFL. 4th/5th Round

Tank Carder, LB (No. 43) -- Carder has been a force on the TCU defense since his sophomore season. He's an intense run defender who sells out on the blitz. Carder is limited in his pass coverage skills, but has potential as a back-up linebacker and special teams player on an NFL roster. 6th Round

Louisiana Tech

Quinton Patton, WR (No. 4) -- Patton showed awesome pass-catching skills during his first year with the Bulldogs. The junior college transfer is Louisiana Tech's go-to receiver with big-play skills. He needs to round out his game, but Patton has made his mark on NFL scouts this season. 5th/6th Round

Lennon Creer, RB (No. 5) -- Creer is an instinctive ball carrier with terrific vision and the ability to produce as a receiver out of the backfield. He's coming off a slightly disappointing senior campaign, but projects as a situational back. 7th Round

Thursday, Dec. 22

Boise State

Billy Winn, DL (No. 90) -- Winn has been highly thought of by NFL scouts since his sophomore season. His play has been in a holding pattern since then, as the senior has not come close to matching his 2009 performance. NFL decision-makers attribute this in part to Winn being used out of position while others think he plays at half speed. Winn has the physical skills to start in the NFL, and it's just a matter of applying those skills on an every-down basis. 2nd Round

Doug Martin, RB (No. 22) -- Martin has been a great asset for one of the nation's most prolific offenses, and has improved his game every season. He's a creative ball carrier who can turn the corner and runs hard on the inside. Martin is also a terrific receiver out of the backfield. Many question whether he has the makings of a true feature runner, but no one doubts Martin will produce in the right system. 2nd Round

Arizona State

Vontaze Burfict, LB (No. 7)* -- Burfict is a mean, nasty defender with all the physical skills necessary to be an early pick in the draft and a dominant defender in the NFL. The only thing standing in the way is Burfict himself. He's displayed a streak of immaturity, which has adversely effected his play on the field, and scouts are concerned. 1st Round

Brock Osweiler, QB (No. 17)* -- The 6-foot-8 junior stepped into the starting lineup this season and literally carried the Sun Devils offense on his large shoulders. Osweiler is a physically gifted passer with the ability to make all the throws. His game needs a lot of polish, but the arrow is pointing north. 2nd Round

Saturday, Dec. 24

Southern Mississippi

Jamie Collins, OLB (No. 8)* -- Collins has taken his game to another level since moving from the secondary to outside linebacker and now has scouts buzzing. He's a terrific athlete who plays a fierce brand of football. His 94 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks only tell a fraction of the story, as Collins also has 9 pass defenses to his credit this season. He's a dynamic prospect who comes with large upside. 3rd Round

Cordarro Law, DE-OLB (No. 49) -- Law lacks classic NFL size, measuring under 6-2 and 245 pounds, but the senior has shown the ability to consistently make plays behind the line of scrimmage and disrupt the action. His stats the past two seasons include a combined 29 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Law won't be a high draft pick, but could make a defensive coordinator in the NFL look like a genius with his pass-rushing skills. 7th Round


James-Michael Johnson, ILB (No. 52) -- Johnson is a fluid pursuit linebacker who makes plays sideline to sideline. He has the size and skill to stuff the run on the inside as well as the speed necessary to cover backs or tight ends on passing downs. Johnson offers upside and is a terrific developmental prospect for the next level. 5th/6th Round

Brett Roy, DL (No. 47) -- Roy is a fearless defender who plays hard until the whistle blows. He gets the most from his 6-3, 265-pound frame and is constantly harassing opposing passers. Roy has 10 sacks to his credit this season along with 18.5 tackles for loss and 6 pass defenses. He'll be a pass-rush specialist in the NFL who will also be effective in a zone blitz defense. 7th Round