logoby Greg Doyle

The college bowl season resumes on the day after Christmas and there are several very interesting games and many good NFL-caliber players to watch between now and Friday. Let’s take a look.

Thursday December 27, 2007

Holiday Bowl – Arizona State (10-2) vs. Texas (9-3) (ESPN 8:00 PM EST): The Holiday Bowl has traditionally turned out to be a very entertaining bowl game and this is one of the best matchups of the earlier bowls. Two very good and talented teams face off and offense should be in ample display.

Arizona State CB Justin Tryon (#4): A smallish cornerback with blazing speed. He was a JUCO player who transferred to Arizona State and started every game the last two years for the Sun Devils. Very dangerous with the ball, but also improved a lot in coverage as a corner this year. Picked off 3 passes and returned them for 122 yards, including one TD. Also defended 15 passes to lead the Sun Devils. Was a track star in high school and may be one of the fastest players in this year’s draft. Has the ability to return kicks and did that in junior college, but Arizona State hasn’t utilized him much that way.

Texas WR Nate Jones (#9): Came into the season low in the depth chart, but really developed as a senior when he got a chance (partly due to injuries). Caught a team leading 64 passes for 748 yards. Came into the season with only 29 career catches. Has nice size at 6’2″ 195 lbs. A smart player who was first team All-Academic Big 12.

Texas DT Frank Okam (#97): A huge defensive tackle at 6’5″ 320 lbs. who is adept at clogging the middle. Despite his size, does have some penetrating ability. At his size and athletic ability, he’d fit nicely into the Patriots 3-4 system. Could be a first round pick. Smart guy with good character. This is the type of player the Patriots look for, immensely talented but also versatile and smart.

Texas S Marcus Griffin (#26): Twin brother of Tennesse Titans first round choice Michael Griffin, who was selected in last year’s draft. Marcus Griffin is a three year starter who is rated by many as the top safety in this year’s draft. Known as a sure-handed tackler, but also has good range to play in coverage. Like his brother, an outstanding athlete who could play strong or free safety or even corner in a pinch, as well as being a fine special teams player. The Patriots reportedly had interest in Michael Griffin, they’ll undoubtedly look very closely at Marcus as well.

Friday December 28, 2007

Champs Sports Bowl – Boston College (10-3) vs. Michigan State (7-5) (ESPN 5:00 PM EST): Of local interest because of BC, there are many NFL caliber players playing in this game. Michigan State has lost several key players to ineligibility, as well as suspension, so it will be interesting to see how they handle that.

Boston College QB Matt Ryan (#12): If you follow football at all, you’ve heard about Ryan. It appears now most NFL draft observers have him rated as the first or second QB in next year’s draft. He could go as high as a top 5 pic, according to some. He is big and has a great arm and can even buy time in the pocket. Does a good job searching the field, but on occasion seems to lock on and miss the location of defenders, particularly on short middle routes. Does not get rattled by pressure but at times forces balls trying to do too much. Take the sack or throw it away Matt. Still, a very good prospect for the NFL.

Boston College T Gosder Cherilus (#77): Another possible first-rounder for BC, Cherilus is local to the Boston area and has had a fine career. Big, strong and athletic, he could play either left or right tackle. Has nice size and can use his arms to keep defenders at bay effectively. Dominated some good players at times. The Patriots would like a player like this because he is versatile, in that isn’t just one thing as a lineman he is good at. He has good strength, but also the ability to move and get out on screens and be athletic. That is what the Patriots look for in their lineman, not just the big guys who beat defenders up on running plays. They want some of both. Cherilus is that.

Michigan State TE Kellen Davis (#80): Big, tall tight end who has had some disciplinary problems. Had 28 catches for 475 yards, which computes to a nice 17 yard average. Was more heavily utilized in the new offense Michigan State ran this year. Kelly runs well and has good hands.

Michigan State LB Kaleb Thornhill (#41): A nice sized insider ‘backer that could play in a 3-4. Had a mildly disappointing season statistically, but is still a good prospect and has all the measureables. Could fit in the Patriots system. Will be interesting to see how he tests, but as of right now he appears to be a second day prospect. Reportedly runs a 4.6/40 so that is encouraging.

Other Games

Wednesday December 26, 2007 – Motor City Bowl, Central Michigan (8-5) vs. Purdue (7-5) (ESPN 7:30 PM): Played indoors in Detroit, this one could be a shoot out as well. Interesting to watch if the MAC team from Central Michigan can match up with the team from the stronger Big 10 Conference. Watch for Purdue CB Terrell Vinson (#34) who is a fast, but very small corner who had a top-notch year for the Boilermakers. Because of his size, may be a 3rd round slot corner type, but perhaps is talented enough to be more than that. Would be easy to envision the Patriots being interested in that kind of value, a good player with good tackling ability and lots of experience who may be undervalued because he is only 5’9″ 180. Picked off five passes and was Purdue’s leading tackler.

Friday December 28, 2007  – Texas Bowl, Houston (8-4) vs. TCU (7-5) (NFL Network 8:00 PM EST) The Texas Bowl features two Texas teams. In this one you’ll want to watch TCU DE Chase Ortiz (#93) who is a 3-4 outside linebacker type at 6’3″ 255 lbs. Been one of the best defenders in the Mountain West Conference for several years and had 8 sacks and 3 forced fumbles this years. Has played a bit in coverage so linebacker is not completely foreign to him.

Friday December 28, 2007 – Emerald Bowl, Maryland (6-6) vs. Oregon State (8-4) (ESPN 8:30 PM EST): Look for Maryland running backs Lance Ball (#44) and Keon Lattimore (#21) who split time and combined for about 1,500 yards. Ball appears a bit more talented, but both have good size and runs hard. Ball is a hard running 223 lbs. Both will get a shot in the NFL. Oregon State RB Yvenson Bernard also is a good, shifty runner who has had a good career, including being utilized in the passing game. Ran for over 3,500 yards in his career. Smallish, but runs hard and finds the holes. Was once drafted for baseball by the Minnesota Twins. Is probably a second day prospect, but his toughness and shifty running could make him a steal.