Bowl Watch II

Here's part II of Jim Wexell's three-part series masterfully titled Prospects to Watch for Steelers Fans:

In watching a tape of Rodney Hudson the other night against Virginia Tech, it hit me like a thunderbolt that the Steelers should draft an offensive guard in the first round come April. Offensive tackle is the bigger need, but tackles in the bottom of the first round historically bust out and I don't see why anything about that dynamic will change in this draft. It's a typical OT class and I expect the best to be gobbled up early, leaving a superb guard to fall to them in the bottom of the round. If not Hudson, then Mike Pouncey or Marcus Cannon might prove worthy of the pick. Anyway, for those unfamiliar with some of these players, the necessary information follows in the second of our three-part Bowl Watch for Steelers Fans:

Thursday, Dec. 30

Pinstripe Bowl, 3:20 p.m. – Kansas St. vs. Syracuse. The best prospect here is Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas (8), a terrific all-around back who runs a bit too tall for my taste. Syracuse RB Delone Carter (3) is a short 216-pounder for the later rounds.

Music City Bowl, 6:40 p.m. – North Carolina vs. Tennessee. Injuries and suspensions erased at least five premier North Carolina prospects, but there's some talent left. I still like ILB Quan Sturdivant (52). He strikes me as a young James Farrior with his size, quickness and intelligence. Kyle Jolly told me he was one of the smartest players at NC. Everyone loves FS Deunta Williams (27), and keep an eye on CB Kendric Burney (16). Tennessee has a hard-blocking, soft-handed, Round 3-type TE in Luke Stocker (88) and a late-round tweener OLB prospect in Chris Walker (84).

Holiday Bowl, 10 p.m. – Nebraska vs. Washington. Haven't these teams played already? (Give me a minute) Yes, and I'm pretty sure Nebraska smashed them. There's not much talent at Washington, except for QB Jake Locker (10), and he won't land in Pittsburgh. Nebraska has an elite CB in Prince Amukamara (21), a 3-4 DE prospect in junior Jared Crick (94), and a WR/RS who's had a crummy year in Niles Paul (24). But the two Cornhuskers who interest me most are RB Roy Helu (10) and PK Alex Henry (90). Problem with Henry is he's also an excellent punter, which would likely drive his value out of the Steelers' interest range. As for the super-tough Helu, here's to stealing him in the fifth round!

Friday, Dec. 31

Care Care Bowl, 12 p.m. – South Florida vs. Clemson. Don't waste time with South Florida. Clemson has all the talent, particularly on defense. Junior defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is ranked in many top 10s. He's a 4-3 pass-rusher. More to the Steelers' taste (and pocketbook) would be DT/NT Jarvis Jenkins (99) and LT Chris Hairston (61). I of course am still infatuated with SS DeAndre McDaniel (2), but his past has some dark moments. Clemson also has a physical, tall CB in Marcus Gilchrist (12), who doubles as a return man. I'll ask Crezdon Butler about his former teammate if Gilchrist plays well here. Junior running back Jamie Harper (8) has power and vision and can block and catch.

Sun Bowl, 2 p.m. – Notre Dame vs. Miami. A great matchup looms between Irish WR Michael Floyd (3) and Miami CB Brandon Harris (1). Harris is a sure-fire first-rounder and Floyd is a big, fast second-rounder. Both juniors are expected to come out. With first-round TE Kyle Rudolph (9) still out after hamstring surgery 10 weeks ago, there's not much else to watch at Notre Dame. Miami's list includes a couple of puzzlers in LT Orlando Franklin (74) and DE Allen Bailey (57). Both underachieved this season. WR Leonard Hankerson (85) looks like an upper mid-rounder and ILB Colin McCarthy (44) has a great motor. If the Steelers are still looking for a kicker, Miami's Matt Bosher (25) has had a solid career (in good weather).

Liberty Bowl, 3:30 p.m. – Georgia vs. Central Florida. This is where the guard prospects begin to appear. Georgia junior LG Cordy Glenn (71) is massive and strong, and a better prospect in my opinion than senior G/T Clint Boling (60). Junior WR A.J. Green (8) is a top 15 cinch.

Chick-fil-A Bowl, 7:30 p.m. – South Carolina vs. Florida State. FSU's LG, Rodney Hudson (62), isn't the biggest guard, but he just might be the James Harrison of the offensive-leverage world. (Or, once matched up against pro DTs, he could be another Kendall Simmons.) Hudson's fun to watch. And you can tell he loves the game and is a competitor. The guy next to him, junior LT Andrew Datko, is an interesting prospect as well. South Carolina has some outstanding underclassmen. My favorite WR in the country is redshirt sophomore Alshon Jeffery (1).

Saturday, Jan. 1

Outback Bowl, 1 p.m. – Florida vs. Penn State. Another guard, the one Steelers fans have been talking about all season, Mike Pouncey (55), currently plays center for Florida. He might not be as quick as his identical twin Maurkice, but he's talented, strong, and worked in great concert with Maurkice when the two played side-by-side in the 2008 national title game and then in every game the following season. Mike is probably a high second-round pick, but would mean more to the Steelers than to other teams. Penn State's Stefan Wisniewski (61) plays RG but appears better suited for his former position of center in the NFL.

Capital One Bowl, 1 p.m. – Alabama vs. Michigan State. Now if the Steelers take a top guard in the first, they could grab an OT such as Alabama's James Carpenter (77) in the second or third. Of course, I'd prefer DE Marcel Dareus (57) in the first, but the Alabama junior won't fall that far. There's a better chance the Steelers could land junior playmakers WR Julio Jones or junior RB Mark Ingram (22). Alabama has another outstanding junior at SS in Mark Barron (4), but I'm beginning to think the Steelers won't hit that position in the first four rounds. Michigan State has nothing that interests me, except maybe TE Charles Gantt (83).

Gator Bowl, 2 p.m. – Mississippi State vs. Michigan. State LT Derrek Sherrod (79) might be the first OT drafted, but he has some bust potential (like most OTs). Another Bulldog I really like is DE Perrell McPhee (90), who's tailed off after a fantastic start. Michigan LG Stephen Schilling (52) is one of many underrated LGs out there and an example of what will be available later if the Steelers don't take my first-round advice. Michigan also has a blocking TE, Martell Webb (80), who appears to have decent hands and speed.

Rose Bowl, 5 p.m. – Wisconsin vs. TCU. This one will take some time to get through on the DVR because of all the talent For TCU, RDE Wayne Daniels (96) is being vastly underrated by the experts. In two games I saw, he showed a better burst and motor than Jerry Hughes. I need to see it again, because I fear I'm missing something. Junior ILB Tank Carder (43) also has star written on him, in my opinion. Offensively, I wonder if massive LT Marcus Cannon (61) is a end-of-first-round guard. He just might be a fit for the Steelers, particularly since he's LT-capable. QB Andy Dalton (14) would be a late-round steal. For Wisconsin, LT Gabe Carimi (68) is massive in the Max Starks-swallow-you-whole mode. He and LG John Moffitt – average feet, great strength – have been the best left side in college football this year. Junior DE J.J. Watt has had an incredible year as a pass-rusher, but looks more like a 4-3 end to me. Would he succumb to John Mitchell's 3-4 servitude? TE Lance Kendricks (84) is more of a pass-catching playmaker, but at Wisconsin all TEs must block and Kendricks does a decent job of it. He'd be an exciting third-round addition.

Fiesta Bowl, 8:30 p.m. – UConn vs. Oklahoma. Think Oklahoma's going to take another longshot lightly after what happened to them against Boise State in this game four years ago? Not a chance. UConn junior Jordan Todman (23) rushed for 222 on Pitt, and if he can do it here I'll have more faith in the little guy. I keep waiting for Oklahoma DE/OLB Jeremy Beal (44) to make plays like the ones he must make whenever I don't watch. Everyone loves Beal, but I haven't seen it. ILB Travis Lewis (28) should stay in school. He's inconsistent. RB DeMarco Murray (7) has great hands but will take a pounding with his upright style. The Steelers likely won't draft WR Ryan Broyles (85), or any WR, in the first round. It's back to the line, where Oklahoma has an outstanding junior LG, Stephen Good (77). That's where it seems to begin and end this bowl season.

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