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2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 1 (DEC.15-DEC.22)

Another college football regular season is in the books giving way to bowl season and the next step in the draft process for eligible prospects.  For many prospects this could be their last chance until the NFL Scouting Combine to show off their talent to scouts and NFL front offices. The first set of bowl games doesn’t feature too many prospects, but there are a few notable players worth taking a look at like BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah, Desmond Trufant of Washington and Boise State’s Jamar Taylor.

GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL, DECEMBER 15/2012

Nevada Wolf Pack (7-5) vs. Arizona Wildcats (7-5)

An offensive explosion is expected in the first bowl game of the postseason between Nevada and Arizona, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that four of the top five prospects featured in this game are offensive players. The Wildcats are led by 2012 All-Pac-12 Second-Team QB Matt Scott (rSr), who really emerged as a legit talent this season under new Head Coach Rich Rodriguez putting up impressive stats with both his arm and his legs. Scott is an athletic quarterback with a live arm and excellent mobility that is at his best when rolling out and forcing defenses to account for his legs leaving receivers open downfield. Scott isn’t among the top ten quarterbacks in the draft class, but still could be a fourth or fifth-round pick.  One of Scott’s top targets, WR Dan Buckner (rSr) will also be in the 2013 NFL Draft. Buckner is a big wideout with good speed, but comes with off-the-field baggage that led to his transfer from Texas and wasn’t nearly as productive when he was on the field as expected for such a highly-touted former high school recruit. He’s a late-round project worth the risk.  Nevada has its own playmakers on offense led by RB Stefphon Jefferson (Jr) and TE Zach Sudfeld (rSr). While Jefferson rushed for an impressive 1703 yards (5.0 YPC) and 22 touchdowns this season, he finds himself currently ranked outside the top 15 running backs and with a year of eligibility left he will probably return to Nevada for another season. If he does enter the draft, look for him to be selected somewhere on Day 3. Sudfeld will also be a Day 3 selection. An impressive athlete at the tight end position, Sudfeld missed all of 2011 but returned to action this season as an impact player for the Wolf Pack. At 6’7”, 255lbs he will draw comparisons to New England’s Rob Gronkowski and could be a late-round steal.  On defense, Nevada is led by their top prospect SS Duke Williams (Sr). He certainly passes the eye test and could be a guy who lights it up at the Combine with his combination of size, strength and speed. On the field, he’s a big hitter with the versatility to line up anywhere in the back four. He will give the Wolf Pack another Day 3 selection to talk about.

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL, DECEMBER 15/2012

Toledo Rockets (9-3) vs. Utah State Aggies (10-2)

A battle between two of the better non-BCS teams in the nation in Toledo and Utah State will feature a trio of Day 3 prospects. Utah State CB Will Davis (Sr) is a talented corner that really came on late this season with an interception in each of his final five contests including taking one back for a touchdown in the season finale against Idaho. He’s a solid athlete with good size and possesses shut down ability, but has played against pretty weak competition in his collegiate career. He’s a fourth or fifth-round pick, although SI’s Tony Pauline has him rated as a potential first round selection. Aggies’ RB Kerwynn Williams (Sr) is a smaller, multi-purpose back that has the speed to get yards on the outside or catching passes out of the backfield. After contributing as a backup the last couple of seasons, Williams exploded this year after entering the starting lineup amassing 1277 yards rushing, 663 receiving yards and 17 total touchdowns. He projects as a third down back in the NFL and probably comes off the board in the fifth round.  Toledo’s top prospect is RB David Fluellen (Jr), a good-sized back with speed and quick feet that displays good vision. I expect him to be carrying the ball for the Rockets for another season as he appears to be way off the radar among scouts despite rushing for 1460 yards and 13 touchdowns. He could be a guy to watch in the 2014 draft otherwise he could be Day 3 selection in April. After Fluellen the only other prospect for Toledo is ILB Dan Molls (Sr), a likely undrafted free agent.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL, DECEMBER 20/2012

Brigham Young Cougars (7-5) vs. San Diego Aztecs (9-3)

The BYU/San Diego State game will be one of the better bowls to watch for prospects in the first week with a pair of draft eligible players on each team. Cougars’ DE Ezekiel Ansah (Sr) is not only the most impressive prospect to watch of the first week, but one of most in the entire draft. A raw, but incredible athlete, Ansah only began playing football just two years ago after coming to BYU from Ghana on a track and field scholarship. At 6’6”, 270lbs. and off-the-chains athleticism, the sky is the limit for Ansah, who has picked up the sport at an incredible pace in becoming one of the most talked about prospects and one of the most feared pass-rushers in the nation. He has the ability to line up and create a pass rush with either his hand on the ground or standing up and should be able to be used in any defensive scheme. Coaches and scouts will savor over the opportunity to add Ansah to their roster, but will have to make a move early as most expect him to be a mid-first round pick in April. Joining Ansah in the 2013 NFL Draft could be teammate WR Cody Hoffman (Jr), a big wide receiver with good hands and the ability to separate from defenders using his size and speed. He put together a very productive campaign with 1134 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s a bit low on draft boards as a fifth round pick and I expect he will choose to return to school for another year and try to improve his draft stock with another great season. Versatile shut down defender, LB Kyle Van Noy (Jr) is another noteworthy candidate on BYU to come out early for the draft and could be a mid-round pick, but like Hoffman should be back at BYU for another year. For San Diego State, CB Leon McFadden (Sr) and TE Gavin Escobar (rJr) could represent the Aztecs at the draft in April. McFadden will be there for sure and could be selected as high as the third round. He has good size and possesses the ball skills and cover ability to shut down opposing receivers. He’s a versatile player that can be used in man or zone and can contribute against the run as well. Escobar is a player that has scouts buzzing and as a result he’s risen up draft boards and could now decide to enter the draft early while his name is hot. He’s another great athlete with size and mobility at the tight end position with the ability to catch the football. He’s a decent blocker as well for a predominantly pass-catching tight end. He has the looks of a potential Day 2 selection. QB Ryan Katz (rSr) will probably go undrafted and look to catch on with a team’s practice squad following the draft.

BEEF ‘O’ BRADY’S BOWL ST. PETERSBURG, DECEMBER 21/2012

Ball State Cardinals (9-3) vs. Central Florida Knights (9-4)

No one really worth talking about in regards to the draft playing in this matchup. For the hardcores, Central Florida FS Kemal Ishmael (Sr) and OG Theo Goins (rSr) will most likely be undrafted free agents.

R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL, DECEMBER 22/2012

East Carolina Pirates (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4)

The Rajin’ Cajuns feature the only prospect of note in this one in CB Melvin White (rSr). He possesses fantastic size at 6’3”, 191lbs. and plays a tough, physical game. He’s all over draft boards right now ranging anywhere from a seventh round pick to as high as the third round.

MAACO BOWL LAS VEGAS, DECEMBER 22/2012

Washington Huskies (7-5) vs. Boise State Broncos (10-2)

The best game of the first week of bowls is between Washington and Boise State and it will showcase a pair of very good cornerbacks. Huskies’ CB Desmond Trufant (Sr) has been one of the Pac-12’s best cornerbacks since stepping on to the field and starting nine games as a freshman. He’s been a stalwart for Washington’s defense the past four seasons and has only gotten better every year. The younger brother of Marcus and Isaiah Trufant, the NFL has been in Desmond’s future for a long time. He’s a true shutdown corner with some of the best cover skills and instincts in the draft class and has #1 cornerback potential. He’ll be a second round pick in April. On the other sideline is an impressive shutdown corner in his own right in Boise State CB Jamar Taylor (rSr), who saw his talent really take off this year with a MWC Defensive Player of the Year-worthy season. He’s a hard-nosed player that doesn’t back down in coverage and is a willing tackler in run support. He’ll likely come off the board in the third round.  The Broncos also have a pair of prospects with late round potential in RB D.J. Harper (rSr) and CB Jerell Gavins (rSr).

Written By: Mark Scott

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