Tony Pauline: Prospects to watch in college's bowl games: Week 2 - Sports Illustrated

Prospects to watch in college's bowl games: Week 2

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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.

Monday, Dec. 26

North Carolina

Quinton Coples, DL (No. 90) -- Coples entered the season ranked by NFL scouts as one of the top seniors in the nation. His performance this year has been disappointing, and many scouts claimed Coples was playing not to get injured. He has the potential to be a dynamic defender, but Coples' senior season has raised a lot of questions. 1st Round

Zach Brown, LB (No. 47) -- Brown has impressed NFL decision-makers with his play this season, and continues to move up draft boards. He's a three-down linebacker who flies around the field in pursuit of the action. Brown will quickly break into a starting line-up at weakside linebacker soon after he's drafted. 1st Round


Michael Egnew, TE (No. 82) -- Scouts love the athleticism Egnew possesses, and compare his physical skills to many of the top deep threats at the tight end position from recent drafts. He's a dependable pass-catcher who also gives effort blocking. Egnew projects as a move tight end in the NFL and has starting potential. 2nd Round

T.J. Moe, WR (No. 28)* -- Moe is a feisty and aggressive receiver who battles for each reception and every yard after the catch. The ability to separate from defenders and return punts makes Moe a potential third receiver at the next level. 4th Round

Tuesday, Dec. 27

Western Michigan

Jordan White, WR (No. 83) -- White is a sturdy, reliable wideout and Western Michigan's best receiving prospect since Greg Jennings. He constantly creeps into the soft spot of the defense to offer his quarterback an unimpeded target. White also physically defeats defenders to come away with the football. He lacks the foot speed to be a vertical threat yet has the makings of a third/fourth receiver at the next level. 4th/5th Round

Freddie Bishop, DE-OLB (No. 97) -- Bishop is an explosive defensive end who's likely to make the move to outside linebacker at the next level. Fast up the field, he can also get out to the flanks in pursuit of the action. 6th Round


Kawann Short, DT (No. 93)* -- Short has been one of the most productive defensive tackles in the nation this season. He led the Boilermakers with 17 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, also posting 53 tackles on the year. The junior is athletic, explosive and impossible to stop when on his game. Short presently ranks as a top-45 choice, but many scouts have stamped him with a first-round grade. 1st/2nd Round

Dennis Kelly, T (No. 68) -- Kelly is a gigantic tackle who blocks with solid fundamentals and toughness. He displays good footwork for a large lineman as well as the ability to block in motion. Kelly has flown under the radar, but comes with a lot of upside for the future. 6th Round

North Carolina State

Terrell Manning, OLB (No. 35)* -- The junior is slightly undersized, but an explosive linebacker who makes plays all over the field. Manning is outstanding in pursuit, shows skill in coverage and makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. He'll be a good fit for any NFL defense that employs one-gap linebackers. 3rd Round

Audie Cole, LB (No. 42) -- The all-ACC linebacker has been a leader on the Wolfpack defense since his sophomore season. He's an instinctive defender with a great head for the game. Cole times poorly in the 40, but plays fast and offers a special teams mentality. 6th Round


Mario Benavides, C (No. 55)* -- Benavides struggled with assorted leg injuries this year, but eventually returned for his third successful starting season. The junior is quick, athletic and moves well on his feet. He's a terrific future prospect whose playing style is similar to Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold of the New York Jets. 3rd Round

Dexter Heyman, LB (No. 46) -- Heyman was not considered free agent worthy prior to the season, but put together a sensational senior campaign and will now get late-round consideration. He showed resiliency stopping the run with a team-leading 83 tackles as well as playmaking skills, with 19.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He also added 3 interceptions. Heyman will be a solid back-up linebacker at the next level and should add value on special teams. 7th Round

Wednesday, Dec. 28


Eric Page, WR (No. 12)* -- Page is a dynamic playmaker who strikes fear into opponents. He's a complete receiver with a nose for the end zone, reliably making the reception in underneath coverage or beating opponents down the sidelines. Page is also a threat to break games open returning punts or kicks. The junior will be a terrific third receiver/return specialist in the NFL. 3rd Round

Desmond Marrow, S (No. 3) -- The Toledo captain has quietly been one of the most effective safety prospects from the senior class. He combines the size needed to be a solid run -tuffer and the ball skills necessary to play over the slot receiver. Marrow will not wow anyone with his 40 time, but will be an asset for a zone defense in the NFL. 6th Round

Mike VanDerMeulen, OL (No. 74) -- The Rockets' starting left tackle since his freshman season, VanDerMeulen is a big-bodied blocker best in confined quarters. He has the size, strength and style to move to right tackle or even slide into guard. 7th Round

Air Force

Jon Davis, S (No. 6) -- Davis is a tough safety with a well-rounded game. He leads Air Force with 4 interceptions and 3 more passes broken up. Davis is also one of the leading tacklers on the Falcons defense. He's not fleet of foot, but a smart defensive back who always positions himself to make a play on the ball. 7th Round


Keenan Robinson, OLB (No. 1) -- Robinson is one of the most complete linebackers from the senior class. He's a three-down defender who makes plays sideline-to-sideline, displaying tenacity stopping the run and the athleticism necessary to stay with tight ends or running backs in coverage. Pre-daft workouts will dictate his final grade, but Robinson offers starting potential at the next level. 3rd Round

Kheeston Randall, DT (No. 91) -- Coming into the season Randall was considered a late-round choice by NFL scouts, but he's played much better than anticipated. The 300-pound lineman is a strong defender who commands the attention of opponents and occupies blockers. He's not much of a playmaker, rather a defender who takes up space and allows teammates to make plays on the ball. Randall would be a good fit in a variety of defensive schemes. 3rd/4th Round


Trevor Guyton, DL (No. 92) -- Guyton is a versatile prospect with the ability to play several spots on the defensive line. He's effective stopping the run as well as rushing the passer and will be an invaluable rotational lineman in the NFL. 4th/5th Round

Marvin Jones, WR (No. 1) -- Jones lacks classic size and speed for an NFL wideout, but is a reliable pass-catcher who always comes through in the clutch. He's a tough receiver and fights to make the reception in a crowd, but also reads the defense and finds the soft spot on the field. Jones has the tools to be a reliable fourth wideout at the next level. 4th/5th Round

Thursday, Dec. 29

Florida State

Brandon Jenkins, DE-OLB (No. 49)* -- Jenkins has been a relentless pass-rusher for the Seminoles, leading the team in sacks (7) and tackles for loss (11) this season. The junior lacks the size to hold down the defensive end position he now plays at Florida State, and a move to outside linebacker is imminent. Jenkins will need to round out his game before scouts will stamp him with a high draft grade. 3rd/4th Round

Zebrie Sanders, OT (No. 77) -- Sanders is a solid run-blocking tackle who's watched his game improve the past two seasons. He offers NFL size and should only get stronger as he physically matures. Sanders is projected as a developmental right tackle prospect. 4th Round

Notre Dame

Michael Floyd, WR (No. 3) -- Floyd returned to Notre Dame for his senior season after experiencing several off-field issues, and it turned out to be the right choice. He's a tall, strong receiver who plays big. Floyd wins out in battles, catching the ball in a crowd, and is very effective blocking downfield. He possesses the size and substance to be a No. 1 wideout in the NFL. 1st Round

Manti Te'o, ILB (No. 5)* -- Te'o is a terrific run-defending linebacker who is a physical force. He displays outstanding instincts as well as the size to start at middle linebacker or on the inside of a 3-4 alignment. The junior has made known his intentions to return for his senior campaign and will be highly rated entering the 2012 season. 1st Round


Alameda Ta'amu, DL (No. 74) -- Ta'amu has shown flashes of brilliance since his sophomore season. He's an athletic 335-pound lineman who easily moves about the field with the ability to overpower opponents. Scouts are concerned Ta'amu does not always play up to his level of ability, but his physical skills almost assure he'll be a second-day pick. 2nd Round

Chris Polk, RB (No. 1) -- The junior is a strong-bodied grinder who pounds opponents on the inside. Polk also displays a terrific burst of speed in his game and is rarely brought down by the first defender. He needs to polish his game, but has starting potential at the next level. 3rd Round


Robert Griffin III, QB (No. 10)* -- The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner has been skyrocketing up draft boards with good reason. Griffin is a dynamite athlete who's grown into a complete quarterback. His mental wherewithal, intangibles and leadership skills are on par with his physical ability. Griffin has shown steady progress the past four seasons and he'll be a productive starter once he enters the NFL. 1st Round

Kendall Wright, WR (No. 1) -- Griffin's favorite target, Wright is another Baylor prospect who's elevated his draft stock. He's a quick receiver with a nose for the end zone and a penchant for the big play. Wright has the tools necessary to line up as a second or third receiver for an NFL team. 3rd Round

Friday, Dec. 30


Dexter McCoil, S (No. 26) -- McCoil is a king-sized safety with a big game. He's a fierce run defender who totaled 74 tackles this season. The junior also displayed solid ball skills, posting 4 interceptions and 10 total pass defenses. He's on his way up draft boards and is a prospect with a high upside. 5th Round

Milton Howell, DB (No. 19) -- Scouts knew little of Howell, a junior college transfer who moved from quarterback to the secondary in 2010. The senior made people take notice this season with 4 interceptions and another 6 passes broken up. He projects as a dimeback/special teams player at the next level. 7th Round


Hebron Fangupo, DT (No. 91) -- The USC transfer took his game to another level last season, and scouts have taken notice. Fangupo is a large lineman who tips the scales at 330 pounds but easily moves about the field. He's still rough around the edges, but Fangupo offers a lot of upside and the ability to line up at several positions on the defensive line. 4th Round

Matt Reynolds, T (No. 70) -- Reynolds gave serious consideration to entering the 2011 draft but opted to return for another year of college ball. He may end up regretting that choice, as Reynolds' play was disappointing this season. His draft stock has dropped two rounds, but Reynolds still possesses the underlying skills to play on the NFL level should he get his game back on track. 5th Round

Iowa State

Kelechi Osemele, OL (No. 72) -- Osemele has been a dominant force on the Cyclones' offensive line since his freshman season. He's a wide-bodied blocker who annihilates defenders at the point of attack. He moves well for a 335-pound lineman and has impressed scouts at the all-important left tackle position. Regardless of whether Osemele stays at blindside tackle in the NFL or moves inside to guard, most agree he offers big-time potential. 3rd Round

Leonard Johnson, CB (No. 23) -- Johnson entered the season highly rated by NFL scouts, and he's living up to expectations. He's a feisty cornerback who's totaled 68 tackles this season in addition to defending 8 passes. Johnson offers a complete game, and will see action early in his NFL career during nickel and dime packages. 3rd/4th Round


Mohamed Sanu, WR (No. 6)* -- Sanu has been the go-to receiver for Rutgers the past two seasons. He's a big-bodied possession wideout who makes the difficult catch over the middle. Sanu also offers potential as a red-zone threat. He's expected to enter the draft, and workouts prior to April will be critical. 2nd Round

Steve Beauharnais, LB (No. 42)* -- Beauharnais has been a complete linebacker for Rutgers since becoming a full-time starter as a sophomore. He's tough against the run (71 tackles), makes a lot of plays behinds the line of scrimmage (20 tackles for loss/sacks) and shows skill in coverage (2 interceptions). He projects as a starting middle linebacker for the next level. 3rd Round

Wake Forest

Chris Givens, WR (No. 2)* -- The ultra-productive junior was the go-to receiver for Wake Forest the past two seasons and has shown a nose for the end zone since his freshman campaign. Givens has totaled 21 touchdown receptions the past three seasons and has lent a hand as a return specialist. He has the size and style to produce as a third receiver/special teams player at the next level. 3rd Round

Joe Looney, G (No. 78) -- Looney has been a durable and productive lineman for Wake Forest since breaking into the lineup as a sophomore. He's a hard-working guard with the size, movement skills and football intelligence to start at the next level. 4th Round

Mississippi State

Fletcher Cox, DT (No. 94)* -- Cox turned in a career campaign this season and has scouts buzzing. He was a constant menace for opponents and effective in all facets of the game. The athletic junior is expected to enter the draft, and he's getting consideration at a number of spots on the defensive line. 2nd Round

Johnathan Banks, CB (No. 13)* -- Banks is another MSU junior on the verge of entering the draft. He possesses all the skills necessary to be a starting cornerback at the next level, including NFL size and the ball skills to match. If he opts for the draft, 40 times at the combine will dictate how early Banks will be selected. 2nd/3rd Round

Friday, Dec. 30


Landry Jones, QB (No. 12)* -- Opinions on Jones' next-level potential are all over the map. His performance during the Sooners' final three games have many in the scouting community believing Jones is better off staying in college one more season. He flashes great skill on occasion, but his game lacks overall consistency and polish. 2nd Round

Ronnell Lewis, OLB (No. 56)* -- Lewis is one of the best athletes on the Sooner defense and a prospect developing a complete game. He has the speed to chase ball-handlers sideline-to-sideline and forcefully makes plays behind the line of scrimmage. Lewis has size limitations, but projects as a potential weakside linebacker at the next level. 3rd Round


Riley Reiff, T (No. 77)* -- Reiff is set to be the next big-time offensive tackle prospect from the Iowa program. His pass protection skills are outstanding and the junior's run blocking is much improved. Playing the all-important left tackle position, Reiff will be an early pick in April's draft and an immediate starter at the next level. 1st Round

Marvin McNutt, WR (No. 7) -- The big senior wideout has displayed steady improvement in his game the past three seasons. He's a possession receiver who makes the difficult catch over the middle of the field or beats down defenders to come away with the ball. McNutt must improve the details of his position, but should quickly produce for the team that selects him. 3rd Round

Saturday, Dec. 31

Texas A&M

Jeff Fuller, WR (No. 8) -- Fuller is a large physical specimen who beats down defenders and consistently comes away with the difficult reception. He's a prototypical possession receiver who could develop into a second wideout on an NFL roster. Fuller comes off a disappointing senior season, and pre-draft workouts will be critical for him. 2nd Round

Ryan Tannehill, QB (No. 17) -- Scouts love Tannehill, and the senior signal caller is quickly rising up draft boards. He's an athletic quarterback with the ability to beat opponents with his arm and legs. Tannehill needs to hone his throwing mechanics and improve his accuracy, but he has built a lot of momentum for himself in the scouting community. 2nd Round


Jordan Mabin, CB (No. 26) -- Mabin was ranked as a free agent prospect entering the season, but has showed the ability to shut down the opponent's top receiver all year. He projects as a dimeback at the next level and offers special teams skill. 6th Round

Brian Peters, S (No. 10) -- Peters stepped up his game as a senior and improved in almost every area. He possesses terrific size and has always been a solid run defender. Peter will be a good fit at the next level as a traditional strong safety. 7th Round


Star Lotulelei, DT (No. 92) -- The junior took his game to another level this season and several scouts have stamped him as a top-15 pick. Lotulelei is big, powerful and moves well on his feet. His ability to control the line of scrimmage or make plays in the backfield is intriguing. Despite receiving a first-round grade, word is Lotulelei is surprisingly leaning towards remaining at Utah another season. 1st Round

John Cullen, T (No. 75) -- Cullen moved into the Utah starting lineup the moment he arrived from Fullerton College in 2010. He's a solid pass-protector on the left side and a college tackle that will likely move to guard at the next level. 6th Round

Georgia Tech

Omoregie Uzzi, G (No. 77)* -- Uzzi is a physically gifted blocker who improved every aspect of his game this year. He's athletic, moves well on his feet and showed the ability to finish blocks as a junior. Uzzi is developing into a top zone-blocking prospect. 4th/5th Round

Rod Sweeting, CB (No. 6)* -- Sweeting moved into the starting lineup this season and turned into the Jackets' best defensive back. His 12 pass defenses, which included 3 interceptions, led the Georgia Tech defense. Sweeting also ranked third on the unit with 55 tackles. He possesses next-level size and has the ball skills necessary to play in the NFL. 4th Round


Isaiah Pead, RB (No. 23) -- Pead has been a very productive ball-carrier for the Bearcats, totaling just under 3,000 yards rushing the past three seasons. He's a tough interior runner who does not go down without a fight. Pead is also effective catching the ball out of the backfield. He'll do well as a rotational back in the NFL. 3rd Round

Derek Wolfe, DT (No. 95) -- Wolfe really stepped up his game this season and impressed scouts every week. He's a tough, slug-it-out lineman who makes a lot of plays on the ball-handler. Wolfe entered the season with free agent grades, but has moved into the middle rounds. 4th Round


Sean Richardson, S (No. 21) -- Richardson is a large, explosive safety who plays to his size. He's a dominant run defender and an intimidating force in the middle of the field. Richardson also displays adequate ball skills and projects to the next level as a traditional strong safety or a defensive back in a zone system. 6th Round

Casey Hayward, CB (No. 19) -- Hayward is another Commodore defensive back with an aggressive streak. He voluntarily defends the run and, at the same time, displays top-notch ball skills in coverage. The senior led Vanderbilt with 5 interceptions and 14 pass defenses this season. Hayward will be a solid nickel/dimeback at the next level. 7th Round


Nelson Rosario, WR (No. 83) -- Rosario put up career numbers this season and is reaping the rewards in scouting circles. He's a big-bodied possession receiver best running underneath routes. He'll compete for the fifth receiver spot on an NFL roster. 7th Round

Jonathan Franklin, RB (No. 23)* -- Franklin is an elusive ball-carrier who consistently picks up big chunks of yardage from the line of scrimmage. He makes defender miss and displays the ability to create yardage when seemingly nothing is available. Franklin lacks starting size for an NFL ball-carrier, but should be a productive situational back at the next level. 7th Round


Whitney Mercilus, DE (No. 85)* -- Mercilus moved into the starting lineup on a full-time basis in 2011 and had a season to remember. The junior led the nation with 14.5 sacks and 9 forced fumbles this season and was a consistent presence behind the line of scrimmage. Mercilus has the ability to catch ball-handlers in backside pursuit. He's a natural fit as a pass-rushing defensive end in the NFL. 1st Round

Akeem Spence, DT (No. 94)* -- Spence is often overlooked with the star power that lines up alongside him, but scouts have been aware of his potential for two seasons. He's an athletic big man who beats opponents off the snap or overpowers them at the point. His size and style are similar to former Illinois first-rounder Corey Liuget. 2nd Round


Chase Minnifield, CB (No. 13) -- Minnifield's interception totals were cut in half this season, from 6 to 3, as opposing passers chose not to challenge him. The senior is a solid cover corner who also produces as a return specialist. He has the skills necessary to develop into a second cornerback at the NFL level. 2nd Round

Oday Aboushi, T (No. 72)* -- Aboushi is a two-year starter and all-Conference player destined to be the next top tackle prospect from the Virginia program. He's sized well and moves easily about the field. Aboushi will only improve his draft stock as he physically matures and receives more playing time. 2nd/3rd Round


Brandon Mosley, T (No. 75) -- Mosely was highly regarded by scouts entering the season and did nothing to disappoint during his senior campaign. He's not the greatest athlete, but is a solid football player who gets the most from his ability. Mosley is a developmental right tackle for the next level. 4th Round

Neiko Thorpe, DB (No. 15) -- Thorpe stepped up his game in 2011 and went from free-agent status to late-round possibility. He offers the size and style to line up at safety, while his improved cover skills may dictate the senior stays at cornerback in the NFL. 7th Round