In a Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, we'll have the privilege of watching two of the better offenses in the country, one lead by June Jones (former Hawaii coach) and one by Derek Carr (brother of David Carr). Both offenses can score lots of points, and can do it on the ground and through the air.
Couple that with two likely Top 64 picks defensively for both teams and 10 possible draft picks in this game, and it may be wise to make some time before Santa comes to watch this match-up.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State, #4, 6’3”, 215 (JR)
Carr is the brother of former #1 draft pick David Carr and possesses that same attributes. Carr has cannon for an arm and is able to make all the throws. Carr shows great touch on the deep ball and intermediate passes. Carr has good footwork in the pocket and displays great awareness to his surroundings around him. Carr’s football IQ is very good and can be seen when he is going through his progressions.
Robbie Rouse,RB, Fresno State, #8, 5’7” 190
Rouse is a well-built running back that has produced since being handed the keys to the Bulldogs running game and finding his way to the Bulldogs all-time leading rusher. Rouse runs low to the ground with good speed and power. He is able to make good cuts and accelerate after the cut. I like how hard Rouse hits the hole and is a north-south type runner that always ends up going forward after contact not losing yards on the tackle.
Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist - #92, 6’8, 280
Entering the season with a great deal of preseason hype as a potential riser among 2013 draft eligible prospects, Margus Hunt disappointed many draft analysts and scouts with what could be characterized as lethargic and inconsistent play. Still, a physical marvel at 6’8, 290 pounds, Hunt possessed rare physical talent and potential that kept evaluators watching his every move. Eventually finding his groove and improving hand usage off the snap, Hunt made notable strides as a pass rusher, leading the team with six sacks. An older prospect with little football experience and polish, Hunt’s physical ability will intrigue just about every NFL team in this upcoming draft. Likely a day two draft selection after the senior bowl and combine, Hunt needs a strong bowl performance to jump-start a crucially important predraft season.
Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State, #16, 6’1”, 215
Thomas has exceptional ball skills and awareness. Thomas an above average tackler when coming down into the box to help on running plays. In the secondary, Thomas is able to cover from sideline to sideline and reads the quarterback very well in pass plays. Thomas is coming off of an injury that sidelined him in 2011 and has proven that he is a top safety in this draft class.
Travis Brown, OLB, Fresno State, #9, 6’1”, 236
Brown is an ideal edge setter. He’s a player that will not stand out on film or in games but does his job which is to turn the play inside or stretch it outside. He does a great job of doing this. He has great strength and plays with great leverage.
Zach Line, RB, Southern Methodist - #48, 6’1, 230
Earning a third consecutive first team All-C-USA selection in a highly productive senior season that resulted in a Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year award, Zach Line is wrapping quite a storied and successful collegiate career. As an NFL prospect, Line provides excellent pass blocking skills out of the backfield and may be viewed by some as a potential fullback conversion, considering his body type and size. Provides just enough wiggle and elusiveness to avoid a direct hit to and through the hole, and impresses at times with a light footed, jump cut running style not seen often by 230+ lbs. tailbacks. Patient and balanced in his approach, Line does a nice job of allowing blocks to develop before hitting the hole, reading and reacting to the flow of the defense. Leg drive through initial contact can take defenders by size, but a bad habit of cutting off his inside foot leads to slippage on cutbacks from time to time. Line isn’t an elite level athlete with tremendous speed or even much power, but his production and pass blocking skills could earn a late round draft selection. Having accepted an invite already to the East West Shrine game in Orlando, Florida, it will be interesting to see if coaches give him running back snaps, fullback snaps, or a combination of the two.
Darius Johnson, WR, Southern Methodist - #3, 5’10, 175
More of a priority free agent than teammate Zach Line, Darius Johnson holds a well-built frame at the slot receiver position and could earn a draft selection with a strong series of predraft season workouts and all-star game practices. Getting in and out of cuts with a slight burst, accelerating out of route breaks to attack the football, Johnson maintains ideal route balance down the field and tracks the ball with ease. Dealing with a new quarterback in Garrett Gilbert, chemistry slowly developed as the season moved forward but production dropped noticeably for third year starter. Awarded MVP awards in back-to-back bowl games for SMU, expect Johnson to once again factor heavily into this contest.
Jordan Free, OG, Southern Methodist - #78, 6’2, 311
Following the footsteps SMU offensive linemen Josh LeRibeus and Kelvin Beachum, Jordan Free has emerged as a draftable guard prospect. Thick and possessing a low to the grounded build, Free surprises with agile feet and above average on the move blocking skills. Free’s footwork on power-o runs, tosses and traps should be very appealing to teams in need of depth at the guard position, as this Mustang could start in a pinch as a rookie and develop into a solid starter down the line. Not a devastating drive blocker by any means, Free wins his battles with leverage, and aggressive, sustained hand punches to his opponent’s chestplate. Currently grading out as one of the better day three values, I expect Free will be drafted in the 6th round range.
Taylor Reed, ILB, Southern Methodist - #44, 6’0, 240
Lacking the physical tools required to be a high round draft choice, Taylor Reed certainly has a chance to stick on an NFL roster thanks to field awareness, play recognition and overall instincts as an inside linebacker. Operating in a quick, sudden and efficient manner with his read steps, Reed does an excellent job of keeping his shoulders squared to the line of scrimmage while creeping downhill into his proper fit. Utilizes ideal block shed technique to throw aside lead blockers with explosive hands and hips, but can be swallowed up by bigger, uncovered guards. Reed also is able to shoot open gaps with enough acceleration to meet to back in the backfield, leading SMU in tackles for loss. Test numbers will ultimately decide this prospect’s fate as a draftable prospect, and a priority free agent grade seems to be the billing here.
Ja’Gared Davis, OLB, Southern Methodist - #56, 6’1, 235
Another disruptive player on this defense, Ja’Gared Davis has filled out his frame with a surprising amount of muscle and girth to his lower half. Strong enough to set the edge and play the run, while quick off his first step and aggressive with his hands to combat opposing tackles as a pass rusher, Davis is an everydown player for this defense; an all around impact that can be seen by a unique stat line, Davis has nine tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, five pass deflections, five hurries, two fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and one blocked kick. A priority free agent prospect in the same range as fellow linebacker Reed, Davis also needs a strong predraft season to work his way into the latter portion of the NFL Draft.