NFL Draft Prospects To Watch In CFB Bowl Games (Part 2)

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Photo Credit: College Football News

College Football Bowl season kicked into action last week, as did my look at NFL Draft prospects to watch in the 39 games that are crammed on to our screens and into our lives over a short number of weeks.

Without being disrespectful to the likes of Marshall, Central Michigan, and Georgia Southern, the quality of teams, games, and therefore players, improves as we get deeper in to bowl season. Over this coming weekend we have games that make up the College Football Playoff semi-final, and mouth-watering bowl games like in the Cotton Bowl.

So, let’s get into the players you should be watching out for in this weekend’s matchups:

Quincy Roche - EDGE - Temple

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Photo Credit: University Temple Athletics

The Temple Owls have a less than impressive recent history with the Military Bowl. After two defeats, to Wake Forest in 2016 and UCLA in 2009, they’ll be hoping the third time’s a charm.

If they are to stop the resurgent North Carolina, then a lot will depend on the play of junior defensive end, Quincy Roche.

Roche is on a hot streak as Temple head to Annapolis. In his last four games of the season, he powered his way to 10 sacks. His 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss led the AAC this season and saw him awarded the AAC Defensive Player of the Year Award for 2019.

He now has 5+ sacks in each of his three years as an Owl. His tough style earned him a single digit number for Temple, an honour bestowed on the team’s toughest players.

Roche has stated he isn’t considering the NFL Draft until after the Military Bowl. He’s fully focused and ready to wreak havoc.

Essang Bassey - CB - Wake Forest

Photo Credit: 247 Sports

Several high-profile Wake Forest draft eligible players have already stated their intention to return for the 2020 campaign. The likes of QB Jamie Newman and top defensive line prospect, Carlos Basham Jr, will be playing their ball in Winston-Salem again next year.

One player who will be heading to the 2020 NFL Draft is defensive back, Essang Bassey.

The diminutive corner has formed a formidable partnership in the Wake Forest secondary with Amari Henderson over the last three years.

This is the first season where Henderson has led the team in passes defended, but Bassey can still get in to double digits with a good performance in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Bassey has fantastic instincts for the ball, as evidenced by his 43 career passes defended and five interceptions. Picking off Brian Lewerke in Yankee Stadium would be a fitting end to his Wake Forest career.

Chuba Hubbard - RB - Oklahoma State

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Photo Credit: 247 Sports

Such is the quality in depth of the 2020 NFL Draft running back class, a team is likely going to be able to pick up Chuba Hubbard on Day 2. That’s if he actually makes the leap to the NFL. Although all indicators point to him declaring, he has stated that he won’t make any decision until after the game.

There’s no doubting the Canadian running back is a special talent. In 2019 he led the nation in rushing yards, rushing yards per game, 200 rushing yard games, and all-purpose yards per game. That came on the back of a four-game run as the main running back for Oklahoma State at the end of 2018, where he had three 100+ yard games and five touchdowns.

With Oklahoma State expected to rotate quarterback play against Texas A & M, Hubbard will be the focal point of the offense.

NFL defensive co-ordinators should take a good look at him now, and start figuring out how on earth they’re going to stop him, whether that is in 2020 or 2021.

Michael Pittman Jr - WR - USC

Photo Credit: USC Athletics

The Holiday Bowl is truly a gift for the festive period in terms of NFL Draft talent.

Both teams have multiple players who will be selected in April. Of the two, Iowa has the greater chance to see its players taken early, especially with the likes of Tristan Wirfs and A.J. Epenesa.

However, it’s the performance of a player who goes up against the Hawkeyes that I’m interested to see.

Michael Pittman Jr led the PAC-12 in receiving yards in 2019, with 1222 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s a top 10 wide receiver in the NCAA in terms of receiving yards, although you don’t hear him mentioned nearly enough in a deep wide receiver conversation. He makes wins against defenses with his physicality and strong hands.

Iowa are one of the top defenses in the country which makes for a fascinating matchup.

However, last time USC faced a stingy defense, against Utah, Pittman went off to the tune of 232 yards and a touchdown. He also comes into the game on the back of three 100+ yard games to end the season.

Anthony Gordon - QB - Washington State

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Photo Credit: Michael Wyke (AP)

Whilst Minshew Mania enveloped Jacksonville and the NFL, his replacement at Washington State University has quietly gone about replicating the production that saw Gardner Minshew taken by the Jaguars in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Anthony Gordon has been patiently waiting for his opportunity. The former junior college standout has been sat on the Washington State pine for three years. When the time came, he made the most of the opportunity, leading the nation in passing yards in Mike Leach’s air raid offense.

With a strong arm, and accuracy to match, Gordon still has the NCAA single season passing yards record within reach. It would, however, take a 600+ yard performance against Air Force to achieve it. Although it sounds ridiculous, it wouldn’t be the first time that Gordon hit that mark in 2019.

With a place in the Senior Bowl already confirmed, Gordon’s path to the NFL Draft starts in Phoenix, in a game that will see two very different approaches combine for one hell of a game.

Yetur Gross-Matos - EDGE - Penn State

Photo Credit: Penn State Athletics

On a Saturday that sees the College Football Playoff semi-finals, the Memphis-Penn State Cotton Bowl is a game that could get lost amongst the hype of the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. However, not only is this game set to be a classic, it features one of the more intriguing NFL Draft prospects this year.

Yetur Gross-Matos is a special player. Whether that is with his explosiveness at the line of scrimmage, his work rate at getting after the football, or using his lengthy frame to wrap up a tackle, he stands out on the field.

Off the field, Gross-Matos has a backstory that will tug at the heart strings throughout the NFL Draft process. This column is too short for the full story but believe me when I say you will need a fresh box of tissues for when this man’s name is called in April.

Memphis are one of the nation’s top offenses so Gross-Matos will need to perform on the big stage. Given he’s coming off of a 3.5 tackle for loss, two sack performance against Ohio State, the biggest game of Penn State’s season, its safe to say he’ll be up for the challenge.

Troy Pride Jr - CB - Notre Dame

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Photo Credit: Mike Miller

This time last year, Notre Dame were playing in the College Football Playoff semi-finals after an un-defeated regular season. 2019 hasn’t been as kind to the Fighting Irish and they travel to Orlando for the Camping World Bowl against Iowa State as four other teams battle it out for a place in the National Championship.

A lot can change in a year. Just ask Notre Dame cornerback, Troy Pride Jr. On the 2nd June this year, travelling back to South Bend with his family, Pride’s car was struck and flipped. It was a miracle that no-one was hurt. He could have played his last game for Notre Dame without knowing.

The Camping World Bowl will be Pride’s last game for the Irish. It won’t be his last game of football, however, as he has already accepted a Senior Bowl invite.

Saturday afternoons game gives Troy Pride Jr another opportunity to showcase the speed and hand skills that have put him on the radar of Senior Bowl staff, and NFL Draft analysts.

CeeDee Lamb - WR - Oklahoma

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Photo Credit: Sooner Sports

In a game that is crammed full of NFL level talent, including presumptive number one overall pick Joe Burrow, it’s extremely difficult to limit myself to just one player to highlight. There are players that will be day one prospects on both teams, on both sides of the ball.

However, has there been any player who has increased their NFL Draft stock more through 2019 than CeeDee Lamb?

There had been so much focus on the wide receiver position prior to this season, mainly due to Alabama’s quintet led by Jerry Jeudy. Lamb wasn’t even remotely discussed in those circles. Jeudy was the de facto WR1.

I’m not so sure that’s the case right now.

Lamb is 8th in the nation for receiving yards (1208), 11th for receiving yards per game, and 4th in receiving touchdowns (14). His production has increased every year of his college career and 2019 was his second straight season with 1000+ yards.

He has absolutely bullied defenders this year, highlighted by his three-touchdown performance in the Red River Rivalry. He isn’t shy on the big stage, and the game with LSU will be the biggest stage of his career.

Shaun Wade - CB - Ohio State

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

As was the case with the Peach Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl matchup between Ohio State and Clemson has so many potential NFL stars of the future that choosing one has been extremely difficult. The likes of Chase Young, Isaiah Simmons, and Jeffrey Okudah are all potential top 10 picks.

One man who is quietly making his way up NFL Draft boards and receiving serious first round consideration is Ohio State cornerback, Shaun Wade. He has a perfect shop window in this game, with Trevor Lawrence expected to be on imperious form and likely throwing his way.

That could be a mistake.

With Jeffrey Okudah garnering a lot of attention, it’s worth pointing out that Wade led Ohio State in interceptions as a freshman in 2018. This season, Wade, Okudah, and teammate Damon Arnette are all tied for passes defended. Where Wade has excelled is in his tackling ability, with four tackles for loss, two sacks, and two forced fumbles in 2019.

He has all the traits to succeed as a day one cornerback in the NFL, and has the perfect opportunity to show them off on in one of the most hotly anticipated games of the season.

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