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The final two BCS Bowl games before the National Championship will be played over the next two days and they shouldn’t disappoint for those watching for NFL prospects in this year’s upcoming draft. The Florida Gators lead the way with a very impressive group that could feature up to ten potential draft choices, while Oregon, Kansas State and Louisville will all have multiple entries into the 2013 NFL Draft.
ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL, JANUARY 2/2013
Florida Gators (11-1) vs. Louisville Cardinals (10-2)
The Gators and Cardinals will get the main stage to themselves in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night and there will be more than enough NFL prospects on display. Like fellow SEC powerhouses Alabama, Georgia and LSU, the Gators roster is jam-packed with draft-eligible players for the 2013 NFL Draft. The top of Florida’s draft class is headed by SS Matt Elam (Jr) and DT Sharrif Floyd (Jr). Elam is a powerful, hard-hitting safety that is a high impact player. He possesses the ability to change games whether it be with a ferocious hit that he often delivers multiple times a game or by using his ball skills and instincts to create a turnover and take it the other way. He contributes in a number of areas and has the versatility that NFL teams are demanding in today’s safeties. One of the most impressive things that Elam accomplished this season was his development as an elite leader. He stepped up in a big way and was a driving force in the Gators improvement from a 7-6 squad in 2011 to the no.3 ranked team in the country this season. Floyd is a dominating defensive lineman with the versatility to line up at multiple positions in the front four. He uses a great burst off the snap along with terrific hands and power to take out offensive linemen and get into the backfield. His best spot on the field is as a penetrating defensive tackle. Both Elam and Floyd are rising up prospect lists and expected to declare for this year’s draft where they are projected to be second round picks, but could definitely work their way into the first day of the draft. Florida has multiple potential mid-round selections in RB Mike Gillislee (Sr), TE Jordan Reed (rJr), DL Dominique Easley (Jr), ILB Jon Bostic (Sr) and OLB Jelani Jenkins (rJr). Gillislee had a career year this season and carried the Florida offense on his back from start to finish. He’s a three-down back with the ability to bang inside, take it for big yards on the outside or make plays with his hands as a receiver out of the backfield and is very similar to Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin. He has feature back potential. Jordan Reed has developed into a pretty nice pass-catching tight end in his time at Florida. He’s very similar to former Gator Aaron Hernandez as a faster, undersized tight end with the versatility to line up at multiple positions on offense, including quarterback where he took snaps as a freshman. He’s still in a bit of developmental stage and could opt to return to school for another season. Easley is a reliable defender that can be used at multiple spots on the defensive line. He’s best at shutting down the run, but does have a bit of pass-rushing ability that he shows on occasion. He should fit in nicely with a defensive line rotation at the next level. Athletic linebackers Bostic and Jenkins are a pair of talented, versatile defenders. Bostic is a steady presence in the middle against the run with the ability to provide a pass-rush and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He’s also an excellent leader that can be trusted with on-the-field play-calling duties. Jenkins is an extremely aggressive player that reads the action quickly and attacks the ball-carrier. His aggressive play isn’t all good as it has caused him to leave early and miss multiple games with injury. Both have NFL starting potential with the ability to contribute right away and could be steals. Late round prospects for the Gators include OLB/DE Lerentee McCray (rSr), OT Xavier Nixon (Sr), FS Josh Evans (Sr), K Caleb Sturgis (rSr) and DT Omar Hunter (rSr). Louisville has a pair of their own Day 3 prospects in CB Adrian Bushell (rSr) and C Mario Benavides (rSr). Bushell is a solid corner with decent all-around skills that excels on special teams, but has been around the block playing for multiple teams in high school and college and has various off-the-field red flags. Benavides is a tough, reliable interior lineman with good hands and ranks among the top five prospects at the center position.
TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL, JANUARY 3/2013
Oregon Ducks (11-1) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (11-1)
Oregon and Kansas State will do battle on Thursday night in what should be an offensive shootout. Both squads have multiple pro prospects with each team having a player or two that could be taken in the first three rounds. Oregon DE/OLB Dion Jordan (rSr) is a freak athlete blessed with outstanding physical attributes and incredible potential, but still has some raw aspects to his game after coming to Oregon as a tight end. He is quickly developing into a terrific pass-rusher and hybrid defender that can stay on the field for every down. His rare athleticism and various skills have scouts drooling and should result in a first round selection. OL Kyle Long (Sr) is the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and another Oregon player that made a position change during his college career that resulted in him becoming a top-100 prospect. He’s a very good athlete with natural talent and the ability to play offensive tackle or guard, but is still raw in his development as an offensive lineman due to a lack of game-time experience. He could come off the board in the third round. RB Kenjon Barner (rSr) is a gifted, speed back with incredible vision and homerun hitting ability. He dominated the college ranks with a monster year in 2012 racking up 1624 rushing yards for 21 touchdowns including a 321-yard, 5 touchdown performance against USC. He also possesses good hands out of the backfield as a receiver. Unfortunately he is an undersized ball-carrier like former teammate and current 49er LaMichael James and will probably only be viewed as a change of pace or third down back in the NFL. He’ll be selected somewhere in the mid-rounds. The Ducks also have a pair of possible late round prospects in ILB Kiko Alonso (rSr) and FS John Boyett (rSr). Talented P Jackson Rice (rSr) should catch on with a team as an undrafted free agent. Kansas State LB Arthur Brown (rSr) was an integral part of the Wildcats’ revival under Head Coach Bill Snyder the last few years. He’s been the leader on defense for the Wildcats since transferring from Miami-Florida and was so good this season he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a FWAA First-Team All-American. He’s slightly undersized, but makes up for it with fantastic speed, vision and awareness. He’s able to sniff out what the offense is doing and possesses the ability to defend both the run and pass. He has every down starting linebacker potential and could be a second round pick. Some scouts have compared him to future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. Potential late round prospects for the Wildcats include WR Chris Harper (rSr), OLB Meshak Williams (Sr), QB Collin Klein (rSr) and CB Nigel Malone (Sr).
Written By: Mark Scott