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Independence Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl, and Texas Bowl - Three games to watch Thursday

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Bowl season heats up with three games on Thursday

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we wanted to highlight the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl between Boston College and Boise State.

With prospects like Boise QB Brett Rypien and BC linemen Zach Allen (DE) and Chris Lindstrom (interior OL), it promised to be an interesting game from a New York Giants perspective. Unfortunately, the weather in Dallas Texas had other plans, and the game was cancelled due to severe storms in the area.

But while we didn’t get any football (boo!), we did get this amusing tweet out of it.

But now we have three new bowl games to talk about, and plenty of prospects to scout.

Independence Bowl - Duke vs. Temple

ESPN - 1:30 p.m.

This game could be the one the Giants are watching most closely, due to Duke quarterback Daniel Jones. In the aftermath of Justin Herbert’s decision to return to Oregon, Jones is one of the quarterbacks in contention to be the first off the board. Of course, he has to make his own decision regarding the draft. He still has a year of eligibility left, and he could decide to return to school as well.

Mark Schofield has written about Jones twice so far, first when assembling his early draft watch list back in October, and then again when looking at him as a potential Senior Bowl invitee earlier in December.

From October:

Jones has become a favorite in the NFL draft community, or at least on the behemoth known as #DraftTwitter. The Duke quarterback moves very well in the pocket, shows good velocity on his throws, and shows good processing speed even in the face of pressure. He is very clean and crisp mechanically with a solid throwing motion. Jones is also active in the pre-snap phase of the play, and for those of you who love a good hard count, he brings that to the table as well. His processing speed is best on West Coast passing concepts and he shows good anticipation on those route designs, making him a good fit for that type of offense.

As far as some weaknesses, his footwork is a bit sloppy and some of his drops into the pocket lack structure. He under throws some vertical routes, which might bring the scheme fit question into play. Like many young quarterbacks, he can be forced into mistakes, especially when confronted with blitzed from the slot or the outside. Those have baited him into errors and turnovers in the past. His accuracy is generally pretty good, but when forced to reset his feet in the pocket his ball placement does tend to suffer.

And from earlier in December:

Reading the tea leaves, it is likely that the final spot is waiting on the decision from Duke University quarterback Daniel Jones. He is a junior, who is set to graduate this month. If he decides to come out, he’ll likely draw some serious NFL interest given his skill-set as well as the fact he was playing under David Cutcliffe, known for his ability to coach quarterback (among them Peyton and Eli Manning, for example). Those factors would make him a player NFL teams are going to want to study down in Mobile.

On the other side of the ball, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few names from the Temple Owls (or Dan, a Temple alum, will mercilessly quote stats at me until my eyes bleed).

Defensive backs Delvon Randall (S) and Rock Ya-Sin (CB) are both worth watching, and could present solid values later in the draft. As well, defensive tackle Michael Dogbe is an undersized but athletic player who could emerge over the course of the draft process.

Pinstripe Bowl - Miami vs. Wisconsin

ESPN - 5:15 p.m.

This game is the highlight of the day for me. Not only are the Miami Hurricanes generally fun to watch (and have a number of interesting prospects), but as I have mentioned just about every time it comes up, the Wisconsin OL is always worth watching.

And given the Giants’ persistent need along the offensive front, that is where we’re going to start.

Wisconsin

Center Tyler Biadasz is the top draft-eligible prospect on the line and figures to be one of the top offensive linemen in the draft (and a potential first round draft pick) should he declare for April’s draft. However, that is anything but a sure thing, because despite his 26 consecutive starts, he is only a red-shirt sophomore. That being said, Biadasz is likely the top interior OL in the draft, with good feet, impressive natural power, a downright nasty demenor, already solid technique, and experience in Wisconsin’s run-first pro-style offense. He is the kind of center who can be the rock in the middle of your offensive line and would look damn good between Will Hernandez and Jamon Brown.

That brings us to right tackle David Edwards. Edwards is the better of Wisconsin’s offensive tackles, but he has only ever played right tackle, which could knock him down draft boards slightly. A former walk-on tight end, Edwards has all the size and power (at 6’7”, 320 pounds) necessary to play in a physical run-first offense while still having a TE’s movement skills. Like Biadasz, Edwards is a beast in the run game, but he still has to clean up his pass protection a bit, particularly on deeper dropbacks. However, he presents exceptional upside at a position of dire need for the Giants.

Elsewhere on the line, it will also be worth paying attention to Michael Deiter, who has played all over the Wisconsin line over the years. He has a tackle’s frame and the feet to play on the edge, but he also has experience inside. Guard Beau Benzschawl is a prototypical “Wisconsin” guard — a big, powerful mauler who specializes in blowing open holes in the run game. He has some issues with balance and lower-body tightness which limit him as a pass protector, but his ability in the run game and Wisconsin pedigree will likely earn a look from Dave Gettleman.

Miami

The Hurricanes faded from relevancy for a while, following the second wave of scandal which rocked the school a decade ago. But now The U is making a comeback and producing NFL talent at a more familiar rate. They have as many as five players who could wind up going in the top-100 if they all declare

Unfortunately, Miami’s top prospect, Gerald Willis III won’t be playing due to a hand injury. If he had, the battle with Wisconsin’s interior could have been truly epic, as Willis is one of the top defensive tackles in the nation.

Safety Jaquan Johnson and CB Michael Jackson could both be of interest to the Giants. Johnson is an aggressive, hard-hitting, down-hill safety who could draw the Giants’ eye if they let Landon Collins leave via free agency. He isn’t as good as Collins and might only be a sub-package player at the next level, but quantity has been the name of the game for the Giants in the secondary, and Johnson is has upside as a big nickel. Jackson fits the Giants’ mold for a big, long, athletic boundary corner at 6’1”, 200 pounds and with evident athleticism. He emerged as a playmaker in 2017 and has no issues coming downhill and tackling in run support. He is best in either press-man (where he can use his size to disrupt routes) or in zone coverage.

Finally, on the defensive side of the ball, we come to Joe Jackson, a long bendy EDGE with the kind of tools scouts love to see. He has plenty of burst and a verastile frame which will work as both a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 OLB. He needs coaching on some of the mental aspects of playing the position, but his physical tools suggest high upside.

On the offensive side of the ball, Giants fans may be reluctant to look at an offensive tackle from Miami, but left tackle Tyree St. Louis is an interesting prospect. He has played both left and right tackle and has the length and foot quickness to stay on the edge in the NFL. St. Louis also has a reputation as a steady and intelligent blocker with a solid understanding of blitzes and stunts, as well as the athleticism to get into position to blunt them. He has his warts, but he is worth watching for a team in need of both starters, developmental players, and depth along the offensive line.

Texas Bowl - Baylor vs. Vanderbilt

ESPN - 9 p.m.

This game features one of the most intriguing prospects for the Giants in the upcoming draft: Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur.

Vanderbilt

I don’t say that because Kyle is a potential top QB in the class, but because he is Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur’s son. So I fully expect the Giants to have an interest... But probably not a draft interest. The relationship between father and son probably wouldn’t mix well with the relationship between coach and quarterback. And even if both were able to separate the personal from the professional, even just the appearance of any kind of nepotism, favoritism, or the coach somehow going easy on his kid, could be toxic to a locker room. If Pat Shurmur remains the Giants’ coach for an extended time, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Kyle on the Giants’ masthead at some point, but only if he eventually decides to follow his father into coaching.

But, elsewhere on the Vanderbilt offense, TE Jared Pinkney could interest the Giants if they choose to move on from Rhett Ellison after the season. Because of the Shurmur connection, they would have unique insight in to him as a prospect, and the 6’4”, 255 pound player has upside as both a secondary receiving threat as well as a blocker — though he needs technique refinement in that area.

Baylor

Unfortunately, the most interesting prospect on the Baylor side of things won’t be playing. That is because Jalen Hurd had to miss the game following knee surgery. If that name sounds familiar, it is because two years ago, Hurd was one of the top running back prospects in the country when he was at Tennessee. However, he decided to transfer, paving the way for Alvin Kamara to emerge. Hurd not only transferred, he transitioned to wide receiver, to better make use of his soft hands and long speed. Even though he only played one season as a receiver at Baylor, he emerged as a big play threat, both on deep receptions and as a YAC machine due to his size (6’4”, 230 pounds) and experience at running back. He probably won’t be drafted highly, but his background and physical tools are certainly intriguing and he could be a legitimate value later in the draft.

Baylor has another big receiver worth watching, and Denzel Mims could figure as a top-100 prospect by the time all is said and done. As we have seen from Baylor receivers, Mims specializes in blowing the top off of defenses with exceptional speed and short area quickness. He combines that speed with a big frame (6’3”, 210 pounds) and good body control to make for a dangerous down-field threat. Unfortunately, as we have also seen from Baylor receivers, he has work to do on the technical aspects of the receiver position. If he can match his physical tools with technical precision, he could become a dangerous receiver down the field, in the red zone, or on third downs.