Bowl Watch II

Here's Part II of Jim Wexell's three-part Bowl Watch for fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Wow, Part I sure was slow. And difficult. But things should heat up in Part II because there are many prospects this coming week who'll interest fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers. These are some of my favorites:

Saturday, Dec. 27

Sun Bowl, 2:05 p.m. - Duke vs. Arizona State. Interesting matchup in the pits when ASU's Marcus Hardison (1) goes up against Duke strong guard Laken Tomlinson (77). Hardison is a late bloomer who's raw and needs hard coaching but has size and quickness. Normally a DE in ASU's 4-3, try to imagine whether he can take John Mitchell's hard coaching and become one of his 3-4 field oxen. The real show here, though, is ASU WR Jaelen Strong (21), who's just eye candy for Steelers fans.

Independence Bowl, 3:35 p.m. - Miami vs. South Carolina. I watched Miami LT Ereck Flowers (74) tear apart an undersized Virginia Tech DL with a nasty attitude one night. The guy finished everything he touched. Yet, he's still considered a second-rounder, so I guess I need to see more of him. He injured his knee in that game and hopefully is 100 percent for this one. One of the few quality TE prospects, Clive Walford (46) won't play for Miami, but RB Duke Johnson (8) will. He's an all-around back in the Tiki Barber mold who'll be too rich for Steelers blood. On defense for Miami, Anthony Chickillo (71) has a great motor and could provide solid later-round value as a 3-4 DE. The CB to watch in this game is Miami mid-rounder Ladarius Gunter (37). South Carolina also has a running back in Mike Davis (28), but left guard A.J. Cann (50) is more fun to watch. He's only 6-3, so he's not an elite prospect, but he pulverizes people. And if you can take your eyes off Cann, do a quick check on 6-6 1/2, 344-pound LT Corey Robinson (53).

Pinstripe Bowl, 4:35 p.m. - Penn State vs. Boston College. I hate to say this to my fellow fans of Northeast college football, but, yuck. Not much here but a BC center and a Penn State safety, Adrian Amos (4). He's a mid-rounder who'll hit you.

Holiday Bowl, 8:05 p.m. - Nebraska vs. USC. Two draftnick favorites for the top of the defensive board will showcase their skills here, but I'm just not sold on Nebraska DE/OLB Randy Gregory (4). I watched him against Wisconsin, when Melvin Gordon went for 400+, and was thoroughly unimpressed. The experts say I don't know what I'm looking at, that even in that game Gregory showed special skills. Well, it's true. I don't know what I'm looking at, but I do know that a top-of-the-board pass-rusher needs to be more of a handful than Gregory was in that game. I'm certainly no scout, but I've watched 3-4 OLBs closely over the years and when I watched this guy I could only think of Jarvis Jones' rookie season. Gregory was not a handful. And he was consistently last off the ball. I asked Draft Twitter if the guy was hurt, as he was bounced around by pro-sized Wisconsin OTs, and the response was that I am an idiot. Well, that may be the case but Nebraska eventually had to help Gregory off the field after a couple of linemen sandwiched him, and in the following game against Northwestern Gregory was just as unimpressive before leaving again. So maybe he is/was hurt. I'll watch again, just in case I'm right and he falls to the 32nd pick and the Steelers rush to the podium in 1.9 seconds to take him. And while I'm on overrated prospects, don't waste your time with Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah (8). He's too small, can't block and fumbles. I wouldn't even put a draftable grade on him. On the USC side, DT/DE Leonard Williams (94) is too blue-chip for Steelers tastes but there are three Trojans I'll watch for the first time: RB Javorius Allen (37) is a late-rising power back who's contemplating an early departure; CB Josh Shaw (6) is a 6-footer who missed most of the season after lying to coaches and media about a preseason ankle injury; and OLB J.R. Tavai (58), who's been in and out with injuries.

Monday, Dec. 29

Liberty Bowl, 2:05 p.m. - West Virginia vs. Texas A&M. Forget about star WR Kevin White (11). Too good and the Steelers don't need WRs. The only WVU possibility in my mind is backup RB Dreamius Smith (2) after the draft. I'm not impressed with edge rusher Shaquille Riddick (4), but he did put up some numbers. As for A&M, OT Cedric Ogbuehi's move to LT this season was a failure, so he moved back over to the right side where he played so well last year. But unless he's a line-caving killer in the T.J. Clemmings mold, the Steelers have no need for a first-round RT. The CB to watch on White is A&M mid-rounder Deshazor Everett (29).

Citrus Bowl, 5:35 p.m. - Clemson vs. Oklahoma. Clemson has some interesting defensive talent, starting with 235-pound edge-rusher Vic Beasley (3), who for my money has the best first step in college football. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (50) doesn't seem to fit a Steelers niche with his body type, but I thought of Geno Atkins when I watched him earlier. Corey Crawford (93) is a 270-pound 4-3 end who could be a late-round 3-4 OLB possibility. For Oklahoma, watch their OTs. The LT, Tyrus Thompson (71), might have too much Phil Loadholt in him, so it'll be interesting to watch him block Beasley. Thompson's less-heralded bookend, RT Daryl Williams (79), is a powerful and nasty run blocker who could provide better value later in the draft.

Texas Bowl, 9:05 p.m. - Texas vs. Arkansas. Need to see Arkansas TE A.J. Derby (11), who came on late in the season. Also need to see DE/OLB Trey Flowers (86) again because he's rated so highly but I don't remember being impressed. Texas CB Quandre Diggs is only 5-9 but extremely tough and also returns punts. I could see the Steelers drafting him in the fourth or fifth round.

Tuesday, Dec. 30

Music City Bowl, 3:05 p.m. - Notre Dame vs. LSU. A battle of elite left tackles: from Notre Dame, Ronnie Stanley (78), and from LSU, La'el Collins (70). Again, I don't believe the Steelers need a first-round tackle, but there seem to be so many of them that value, for once, could be had at that position, and the Steelers -- while happy with Kelvin Beachum -- have only three tackles on their roster. As usual, Notre Dame has a TE prospect in Ben Koyack (18), and as usual, LSU has a couple of heralded underclassmen who could declare: 6-2 CB Jalen Collins (32) and 6-6 OLB Danielle Hunter (94).

Belk Bowl, 6:35 p.m. - Louisville vs. Georgia. Lorenzo Mauldin (94) is an interesting DE/OLB who could be available in the second round. I saw one series from him before he left a Louisville game with an injury, but he'll play here. He's been through 18 different foster/group homes but earned a college degree this year. Mike Tomlin likes guys with an edge who've been able to overcome impossible childhoods. I recommend against drafting Louisville FS Gerod Holliman (8). Yes, he leads the nation with 14 interceptions, but watch the guy tackle. Or not tackle. On the CB watch, here's a William Gay Special: Louisville CB Charles Gaines (3) is also a core special-teamer and could be there in the fifth round. Georgia has a slot CB/core special-teamer as well, Damian Swann (5), who's also a good blitzer. My favorite Georgia prospect is ILB Ramik Wilson (51). I know the Steelers don't need inside backers, but this guy could be another later-round value pick.

San Francisco Bowl, 10:05 p.m. - Maryland vs. Stanford. If you liked Josh Mauro as a 5-tech out of Stanford last year, you'll love the bigger, thicker Henry Anderson (91). They're saying he's a mid to late-rounder and, after watching the UCLA game, I say yes please. This game also includes another first-round LT in Andrus Peat (70), who's oft-criticized, but, to me, again, yes please. That's if he comes out as a junior. And I watched Stanford's junior CB Alex Carter (25) for the first time, and fell for him too. Can I just have Stanford in this draft? Give me their SS, Jordan Richards (8), and their stand-up edge rusher, James Vaughters (9), in the mid-rounds, too, along with Anderson. And the QB, Kevin Hogan (8), well, if he falls to the sixth, him too. The Steelers have a knack for grabbing guys who have fallen and were much better in their junior years, so maybe WR/RS Ty Montgomery (7) fits that bill as well. But if you only want to watch legitimate Steelers first-round possibilities, watch Carter, the junior CB and son of former pro CB Tom Carter.

Wednesday, Dec. 31

Peach Bowl, 12:35 p.m. - Ole Miss vs. TCU. My favorite free safety in college football is Ole Miss's Cody Prewitt (25). Not that I'm in agreement with most Steelers followers that the team will be looking at safeties. I believe Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell will both receive another full year to prove themselves. But Prewitt, to me, is an alert and heady ballhawk who can hit, and would be a home run in the third round. But the best ballhawk, or, more aptly, ball magnet, is Ole Miss CB Senquez Golson (21). He's intercepted nine passes this season but is only 5-9. He and Preweitt will be tested by TCU's big WRs, in particular Josh Doctson (9). The TCU player Steelers fans need to watch is CB Kevin White (25), a probable second-rounder.

Fiesta Bowl, 4:05 p.m. - Boise State vs. Arizona. Boise St. has one of the top runners in Jay Ajayi (27) but he'll likely be too rich for the Steelers' taste in the spring. For the sake of due diligence, watch Arizona OLB Scooby Wright (33) and S Jared Tevis (38).

Orange Bowl, 8:05 p.m. - Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State. Keep an eye on late-round safeties Isaiah Johnson (1) of Tech and Justin Cox (9) of State. Or just watch the pop stars rock in the New Year.


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