Bowl Watch: Thursday

Tennessee safety Eric Berry and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy are potential top-five picks. Even with a subpar season, the Sooners are loaded with NFL talent, including standout offensive tackle Trent Williams. Five games are on the docket today.

Scout.com draft insider Chris Steuber is breaking down the top prospects in each of the bowl games. Five games include four players ranked among Steuber's top 50 senior prospects: Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (No. 4), Oklahoma offensive tackle Trent Williams (No. 9), Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams (No. 14), Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (No. 19). Three others in Steuber's Top 50 will not play because of injuries.

Armed Forces Bowl

TV: ESPN, noon (Eastern).

Senior prospects to watch: Houston — Brandon Binkley (6-0, 180; No. 23 cornerback). Air Force — None.

Noteworthy: Houston's redshirt junior quarterback, Case Keenum (6-2, 210), amassed incredible stats with 71.0 percent accuracy, 5,449 yards, 43 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He threw for more than 300 yards in 12 of 13 games. Houston won this bowl game against Air Force last year 34-28, and Air Force beat Houston 31-28 in September 2008.

Steuber's take: "The prospect to watch is Case Keenum. There's some mention that he may declare for the draft. He just posts video game-like numbers. Every time with Houston players, it's always the offense. He throws the ball like 50 or 60 times a game, so he's going to put up some numbers. He's very accurate. He has a pretty good arm, he has good awareness in the pocket, he can make all the throws. I just wonder if it's more the offense — which it probably is — than ability. Air Force has a guard, Nick Charles (6-4, 285), who is getting some mention around the league. Probably more of a late-round guy. He's more of a mauler on the interior. Teams like that he has nimble feet but he also has that massive frame."

Sun Bowl


Chris Brown
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
TV: 2 p.m., CBS (Eastern).

Senior prospects to watch: Oklahoma — Gerald McCoy (6-4, 289; Scout.com's No. 2 senior defensive tackle); Trent Williams (6-5, 290; No. 2 offensive tackle); Chris Brown (5-10, 190; No. 6 running back); Auston English (6-3, 257; No. 9 defensive end); DeMarcus Granger (6-3, 300; No. 12 defensive tackle); Brian Jackson (6-1, 190; No. 17 cornerback). Stanford — Toby Gerhart (6-1, 235; No. 4 running back).

Noteworthy: It's no wonder the Sooners were a popular pick to win the national championship, considering all of those senior prospects. And that's not mentioning two standouts who won't play today. Quarterback Sam Bradford needed season-ending shoulder surgery but still will battle Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen to be the top quarterback. Both are top-10 picks, assuming Bradford's shoulder checks out OK and he works out well for scouts. The Sooners also were without Jermaine Gresham (knee), who remains Steuber's top-ranked senior tight end. He caught 66 passes and scored 14 touchdowns last year. Another injured prospect is Stanford offensive tackle Matt Kopa (6-6, 305), who missed the season with a broken foot. He has applied to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. Stanford's Gerhart won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back after rushing for 1,736 yards and 26 touchdowns. He'll be tested by the nation's seventh-ranked run defense, which is led by McCoy and Granger.

Steuber's take: "Trent Williams is a guy you want to take a look at (if you need a left tackle). He's going to be a first-round pick, a top-10, top-15 selection. Auston English could play defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4. He's a good situational, rotation guy. He's a good pass rusher, high-motor kind of guy. Chris Brown hasn't had the season that a lot of people expected (from 1,220 yards and 20 TDs as a junior to 703 yards and 7 TDs as a senior). He doesn't have great speed but he has good vision and he's a strong runner. Gerald McCoy is an outstanding defensive tackle, probably a top-five selection. It will be either him or Suh. There are teams that like McCoy over Suh, which is hard to believe, and some say McCoy is the ‘1-A' to Suh being ‘1.' At corner, Brian Jackson is more of a fourth-, fifth-round guy. Stanford tackle Chris Marinelli is another mid-round guy; Matt Kopa, as well. They had two quality bookends heading into the season. Marinelli has really helped his status this season with Kopa out. Marinelli's more of a right tackle where Kopa's probably the left tackle. Gerhart is a physical runner who excels between the tackles. He has great vision, shows patience and is a strong runner in the open field. He has good, but not elite speed and fights hard for extra yards."

Texas Bowl

TV: ESPN, 3:30 p.m. (Eastern).


Sean Weatherspoon
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Senior prospects to watch: Missouri — Sean Weatherspoon (6-1, 245; Scout.com's No. 1 senior outside linebacker).

Noteworthy: It will be a game of contrasting styles with Missouri's high-flying passing offense against Navy's indomintable wishbone running game. Towering Missouri receiver Danario Alexander (6-5, 215) caught 107 passes for 1,644 yards and 13 touchdowns. He leads the nation in receiving yards. He was derailed by a bunch of injuries early in his career, so scouts are unsure what to think.

Steuber's take: "Weatherspoon is phenomenal. As far as an all-around linebacker, I would say he and (Florida's) Brandon Spikes are the best in the country. Weatherspoon is a borderline first-round pick. You're talking about a guy who had 104 tackles this year. He gets you sacks, he gets you interceptions, he plays sideline to sideline. He plays physical at the line of scrimmage. I can't say enough about the kid. I think if he's in the right system — he's more of a 4-3 backer — I think he can be really good. Alexander is an interesting playmaker. He's dealt with a lot of injuries during his career; he had a wrist injury and three knee surgeries. He has great hands and body control, and has the ability to stretch the field. He's not a burner, but he has the athleticism to compete for most balls thrown in the air. This offseason will be huge for Alexander, as NFL teams go over his medical records and test him out. He's had an outstanding season and could be an intriguing name to come off the board in the third or fourth round."

Insight Bowl

TV: NFLN, 6 p.m. (Eastern).

Senior prospects to watch: None.

Noteworthy: Minnesota's Eric Decker (6-3, 220), Scout.com's seventh-ranked senior receiver, is out with a foot injury. "I feel like he's college football's best receiver," his coach, Tim Brewster, said recently. Decker was drafted by the Minnesota Twins this year. Before the injury, he was second in the Big Ten with 758 receiving yards and the Gophers were averaging 27 points per game. Without him, they averaged just 14. Minnesota junior Adam Weber is a solid quarterback for the 2011 draft.

Steuber's take: "Eric Decker would be the top prospect in this game but he's not playing. He's legit. He can be a late first-/second-round selection."

Chick-fil-A Bowl

TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m. (Eastern).

Senior prospects to watch: Tennessee — Dan Williams (6-3, 305; Scout.com No. 3 senior defensive tackle); C Josh McNeil (6-4, 290; No. 5 center); Jonathan Crompton (6-4, 225; No. 11 quarterback); Montario Hardesty (6-0, 215; No. 10 running back). Virginia Tech — Sergio Render (6-3, 313; No. 3 guard); Kameron Chancellor (6-4, 226; No. 4 safety); Stephan Virgil (5-11, 165; No. 10 cornerback); Ed Wang (6-5, 309; No. 16 offensive tackle); Brent Bowden (6-2, 190; No. 3 punter).

Noteworthy: While junior safety Eric Berry will be the focal point for scouts, the Vols have a talented one-two punch on offense with Crompton (58.4 percent, 26 TDs, 12 INTs) and Hardestry (1,306 rushing yards, 12 TDs), who is a two-way threat with 21 receptions. Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams was named the ACC's freshman of the year after rushing for 1,538 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Steuber's take: "Eric Berry is the top player in this game, no doubt. He still hasn't made up his mind as far as whether he's going to come out in the draft. If he does, he's going to be a top-five selection. He could probably go as high as No. 2. He's outstanding. He has such great awareness. He does so many good things as far as his leadership, his ability to read and react. If you look at what he can do just as far as reaction and instincts, he covers a lot of ground for a safety. He could probably play cornerback if he really had to, but he's such a dynamic safety. He's the closest thing to me to Ed Reed. Tennessee's Rico McCoy, an outside linebacker, has hurt himself this year and has moved into the third or fourth round. If he had come out after last year, he'd probably have been a second-round pick. Dan Williams is moving up. He can play nose or end in a 4-3. He's a late first-rounder. Montario Hardesty, the running back, has helped himself in taking over for Arian Foster. He's ran really well; he's a tough runner. For Virginia Tech, their junior defensive end, Jason Worilds, is a big-time pass rusher. He can play defensive end in a 4-3 and outside linebacker in a 3-4. He's only a junior and I'm not sure if he's going to come out, but he's the big-time guy for them. Virgil is interesting. He's kind of like a Macho Harris a little bit in that he can play safety or corner. He's got playmaking ability."


To see Chris Steuber's draft rankings, click here.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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