Happy Friday, everyone!
2016 has almost come to an end, but before you start pre-gaming for New Year’s Eve, we have some bowl games today. We’ll have to wait until 8:00 p.m. ET for the marquee matchup of the day (and one of the best this bowl season), but that shouldn’t stop you from watching the other games.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Noon, ESPN)
Georgia and TCU have a solid reputation for producing NFL talent, but this year they don’t have many headliners playing. By far the best player is Georgia running back Nick Chubb, however he announced earlier this month that he would be returning to school for the 2017 season. A bad knee injury cost him most of his 2015 season and his 2016 season hasn’t lived up to the expectations his play before the-foot-10, 230-pound running back is as talented as Georgia’s previous running back, Todd Gurley.
The top prospect on the field for this years draft will likely be TCU edge rusher Josh Carraway. Carraway projects best as a speed rushing outside linebacker at 6-4, 240 pounds, and has been productive for the Horned Frogs with 47 tackles, 11 for a loss, and 8 sacks this year.
Hyundai Sun Bowl (2 p.m., CBS)
The best prospect on either squad is running back Christian McCaffrey, but he has decided to forego his final bowl game, opting to prepare for the draft instead.
Solomon Thomas (DL) - Playing on the west coast, Thomas doesn’t get much publicity in the national media, but he is quietly generating a buzz as a potential first round pick. He has a reputation as a “freaky” athlete, but his 6-2, 275-pound frame might not be suited for playing on the edge in the NFL. However, he will find a home at the next level.
Mitch Trubisky (QB) - Quickly rising up draft boards this year, Trubisky has become the No.1 quarterback prospect for many scouts and draft observers. Strong armed with a surprising amount of athleticism, the Tar Heels’ QB has been efficient this year, completing 69% of his passes for 28 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. He could be the first quarterback off the board come April.
Ryan Switzer (WR) - It’s an idea that has met resistance in the NFL, but players like Steve Smith Sr., Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, Tyler Lockett, Brandon Cooks, and Sterling Shepard have all shown that small players can make big plays. At 5-10, 185 pounds, Switzer certainly fits that category, but the lightning quick slot receiver is also a playmaker. His size will knock him down draft boards but he has been Trubisky’s best receiver and one of UNC’s most dynamic weapons.
Music City Bowl (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Derek Barnett (DE) - The best prospect in this game is easily Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett. The 6-3, 265-pound junior has been an incredibly consistent disruptive force for the Vols, having three straight years of at least 10 sacks. At first appearing to be a strong, high-motor defensive end, he also has a surprising athleticism to his game, showing unexpected bend and agility for a player with his stout build.
Cameron Sutton (CB) - Once again, size might knock a player down draft boards, but the talent is evident on tape. At 5-11, 186 pounds, Sutton doesn’t have the long frame that scouts covet in corners nowadays, but his easy athleticism, experience, intelligence, and confident play show up on tape. Sutton might get tagged as a slot corner at the next level, but he is solid in man coverage and can compensate for his frame on the outside.
Unfortunately, two of Tennessee’s more intriguing prospects won’t be playing in this game. Running back Jalen Hurd has left the Vols’ football program, is transferring and changing position. Also, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin had his season ended by a shoulder injury that required surgery.
Orange Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN)
Note: These two teams are incredibly talented. This game probably deserves a post all its own, so I will simply list prospects worth keeping an eye on to keep this from getting excessively long. Don’t worry though, there will be plenty of scouting reports to go around once the deadline for underclassmen to declare has past.
- Jabrill Peppers (S)
- Jourdon Lewis (CB)
- Taco Charlton (DE)
- Chris Wormley (DT)
- Ryan Glasgow (DT)
- Erik Magnusson (OT)
- Jake Butt (TE)
- Amara Darboh (WR)
- Jehu Chisson (WR)
- De’Veon Smith (RB)
- Dalvin Cook (RB)
- Roderick Johnson (OT)
- Travis Rudolph (WR)
- DeMarcus Walker (DE)
- Derrick Nnadi (DE)
- Marquez White (CB)