NFL draft prospects to watch in second week of college football bowls
To get you ready for all of college football's post-season action, and to help you prepare for the 2016 NFL Draft, we’re offering up one player to keep an eye on for each bowl team. Here’s who to watch during the games of Dec. 26-28:
St. Petersburg Bowl (Dec. 26)
Connecticut vs. Marshall
UConn: Andrew Adams, S. The Huskies are among a handful of teams in this block of games that will be hoping to have one player drafted. Adams led UConn with 89 tackles this season, and he finished second with 96 tackles in 2014. He added nine career interceptions, serving as a playmaker on a defense without all that many of them. The 6-foot, 198-pounder is an active defender.
Marshall: Davonte Allen, WR. Allen's teammate, running back Devon Johnson, is slated to play in the Shrine Game but he hasn't suited up since mid-October because of a back injury. Allen (6'2", 200) saw an uptick in catches and yards this season (56 and 696, respectively, compared to 22 and 544 last year), but his yards-per-catch was way down. At his best, he's a big-play receiver.
Sun Bowl (Dec. 26)
Miami vs. Washington State
Miami: Deon Bush, S. Another Shrine Game invitee, Bush (6'1", 205) makes for an intriguing prospect as more and more NFL teams seek out safeties capable of filling multiple roles. While Bush has had some injury issues, he does possess the size and athleticism to match up in coverage with a wide variety of pass-catchers. He has four career INTS but forced five fumbles in 2014 alone.
Washington State: Gabe Marks, WR. Odd college career for Marks, including a 2014 arrest on an assault charge and then an unexpected redshirt season. He does still have a year of eligibility, so we'll see what he decides to do. Marks (6'0", 190) did catch 99 balls with 14 touchdowns this season, showing a nice feel for finding gaps. A bad ankle injury in Washington State's regular-season finale put his bowl status in jeopardy, but he's supposed to play.
Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dec. 26)
Washington vs. Southern Miss
Washington: Travis Feeney, LB. The 6'4", 226-pound linebacker turned in some absolute gems this season against good opponents—a 2.5-sack, 3.5-tackle for loss showing vs. USC; 11 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks vs. Arizona. Feeney lived in opposing backfields at times, and his ability to get after the passer gives him even higher marks. He's scheduled to play in the Shrine Game.
Southern Miss: Kalan Reed, CB. An All-Conference USA first-team selection, Reed (5'11", 195) will be making his 35th career start in the Golden Eagles’ bowl game. His production alone warrants a look. Reed picked off four passes this season plus set the Southern Miss program record by breaking up 19 attempts.
Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 26)
Indiana vs. Duke
Indiana: Jason Spriggs, OT. A hot name in draft circles right now, Spriggs (6'7", 305) is a deserving Outland Award finalist and will be a prospect with a lot of eyes on him at next month's Senior Bowl. The Hoosiers’ left tackle protect QB Nate Sudfeld well in 2015. He excelled, though, as a run blocker, clearing space at the line and firing off to the second level. There is a ton to like here.
Duke: Matt Skura, C. A 6'4", 305-pound redshirt senior, the steady Skura has all the makings of a Day 3 pick who winds up sticking around the league for eight or 10 years. He has experience playing both guard and center for the Blue Devils, spending his final three seasons at the latter spot.
Independence Bowl (Dec. 26)
Tulsa vs. Virginia Tech
Tulsa: Keyarris Garrett, WR. Not much more Tulsa could have asked from Garrett this season: he hauled in 88 catches for 1,451 yards and seven touchdowns. At 6'4", 221 pounds, and with outstanding body control, Garrett is an obvious physical fit at the next level. This bowl game against Virginia Tech’s talented defense and the Shrine Game week give him a chance to boost his stock.
Virginia Tech: Ryan Malleck, TE. The Hokies’ real prospective draft star, Kendall Fuller, remains out because of a knee injury. Malleck falls a lot further down the board. Still, the 6'4", 250-pounder caught 20 balls this year (Bucky Hodges led the Hokies' TEs with 36 catches). He probably will have to play second or third fiddle in the NFL, as well, serving as an in-line blocker on a team with better receiving threats.
Foster Farms Bowl (Dec. 26)
UCLA vs. Nebraska
UCLA: Jordan Payton, WR. Really under the radar for a guy who averaged 71 receptions and 1,000 yards the past two seasons. Payton (6'1", 213) was Brett Hundley's favorite target, then maintained top billing after Hundley headed to the NFL. He could use a couple decent 40 times down the road, but he brings a lot to the table regardless. Payton is a sharp route-runner with good hands.
Nebraska: Alex Lewis, OT. Lewis (6'6", 290) had a run-in with the law that earned him 45 days in jail plus probation, so he’s carrying a major red flag into the draft process. He also runs lighter than most NFL offensive lineman, though his movement skills are the selling point. Lewis has been a two-year starter now for the Cornhuskers and finished second-team All-Big Ten this season.
Military Bowl (Dec. 28)
Pittsburgh vs. Navy
Pittsburgh: J.P. Holtz, TE. It would have been fun to see Holtz in a more wide-open offense, because the receiving abilities always have been there. In fact, he averaged 14.6 yards per catch this season, on 20 receptions. Holtz (6'4", 245) did fill a crucial role in Pittsburgh's run-heavy offense and his blocking talent will help come draft time. Obviously, Tyler Boyd is the headliner for Pittsburgh but he may not be the only Panther selected in April.
Navy: Chris Swain, FB. Joining the phenomenal Keenan Reynolds as a draft hopeful is Swain, who actually could have a better shot at sticking in the pros. Swain (6'1", 245) rushed for 909 yards and 10 touchdowns this season in Navy’s triple-option attack. That size cannot be overlooked, either, as he will serve as a Senior Bowl fullback. Can he block in a more traditional offensive set?
Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 28)
Minnesota vs. Central Michigan
Minnesota: De'Vondre Campbell, OLB. Too early to drop the “sleeper” tag on a prospect? Probably. But Campbell (6'5", 238) is a find waiting to happen behind the top linebacker options in the 2016 class. A one-time JuCo player, Campbell registered 75 tackles for Minnesota last season and has 89 this year headed into the bowl game. The build is no joke. He can match up with just about anything thrown at him by an offense.
Central Michigan: Nick Beamish, C. A 50-game starter for the Chippewas, Beamish (6'3", 310) earned a first-team All-MAC nod both this season and last. He's a heady anchor up front for the conference’s second-ranked passing attack (and the MAC's worst rushing offense). Intelligence and experience go a long way at center.