The bowl season started off with a few alumni from the state of Tennessee representing the Volunteer state in a big way. The combination of outside linebacker Harrison Smith, from Knoxville-Catholic and wide receiver Golden Tate, from Hendersonville-John Paul II proved to be way too much for Hawaii in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The two combined to play solid all season, but for Tate this game may have helped him stand out enough to make some early pre-season All American teams.
On defense for the Irish, Smith has had a very good season. He recorded 52 tackles in the regular season in addition to 3.5 sacks on the season. Smith, who played the entire season out of his normal safety position, made a living at the outside linebacker spot in the Irish's 3-4 scheme. The early speculation shows Smith returning to safety as the starter in 2009, but don't be surprised if he steps up at outside linebacker again next season.
Could Tate be the most dynamic wide receiver in South Bend since Raghib Ismail? The stats seem comparable considering Ismail caught 27 passes for 535 yards as a sophomore in 1989. For Tate the 2008 season saw him haul in 1080 yards and ten touchdowns including a monster game against Hawaii. The Warriors could not even hope to contain Tate as he ran wild with six receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns in the Irish win 49-21 over the Warriors of Hawaii.
The Hurricanes from Miami had a solid performance in a losing effort from Tennessee alum and running back Graig Cooper. The 2008 season was a solid year for Cooper, who put up 63 yards on 12 carries in the Emerald Bowl.
The Liberty Bowl will prove to provide two former Tennessee high school players with a chance to show their skill. Not only are these two former Tennessee high school players, but they are former high school teammates. When Kentucky squares off against East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl they will look for a strong effort from quarterback Randall Cobb from Alcoa (Tenn.) The 2008 season Cobb has shown he is a jack of all trades. He has thrown for 542 yards, rushed for 316 yards, and hauled in 197 yards receiving. His overall athleticism makes him a dynamic weapon for Coach Joker Phillips and his offensive strike.
On the receiving end of some of those Cobb passes is former high school teammate Kyrus Lanxter also from Alcoa (Tenn.) Look for Lanxter to expand his game this week as he hopes to improve on his sophomore season. So far in 2008 Lanxter has hauled in 18 receptions for 149 yards.