To the bowl games and more potential Steelers:
Today, 11 a.m., Outback Bowl (Wisconsin-Tennessee) – I hope I won't have to spell Jack Ikegwuonu (#6, Jr.) again, but the stocky Wisconsin CB could draw consideration from Mike Tomlin if the old secondary coach decides that what he has can't cover New England. Wisky TE Travis Beckum (#9, Jr.) has many fans, but the Steelers need a blocker at the position not a converted WR. The most interesting Tennessee player is ILB Jarod Mayo (#7, Jr.), an instinctive run-stopper. Can he cover? OG Anthony Parker (#75, Jr.) is a mauler with decent feet.
Today, 11:30 a.m., Cotton Bowl (Arkansas-Missouri) – Missouri WR William Franklin (#2) is a smooth deep threat and probably a third-rounder, pre-combine. TE Martin Rucker (#82) is a pricey playmaker who doesn't block in-line. The Arkansas O-line is the attraction for Steelers fans. C Jonathan Luigs (#63, Jr.) and G/T Robert Felton (#61) will be on the screen at all times. The Arkansas running backs are phenomenal, but out of Steelers range. The FB, highly regarded Peyton Hillis, isn't much of a blocker.
Today, 1 p.m., Capital One Bowl (Michigan-Florida) – The next Antonio Gates is Florida TE Cornelius Ingram (#7, Jr.), a sure first-rounder who's rarely asked to block in-line. DE Derrick Harvey (#91, Jr.) was the defensive force in last year's national title game, but has the look of a straight 4-3 end. From Michigan: LT Jake Long is well out of reach; tough three-down RB Mike Hart (#20) is a mid-rounder; and QB Chad Henne (#7) might tempt the Steelers in the sixth round. Another Michigan possibility is 3-4 OLB Shawn Crable (#2), a second-rounder at this point.
Today, 1 p.m., Gator Bowl (Texas Tech-Virginia) – Howie Long's son, DE Chris Long (#91), is my No. 1 pick in the draft. Like his dad, he's a pass-rushing threat on every down. Virginia has another prospect in 6-foot-7 OL Branden Albert (#71).
Today, 5 p.m., Rose Bowl (Illinois-USC) – Illinois has two prospects: Butkus-like MLB J. Leman (#47), who's probably a two-down player, and three-down RB Rashard Mendenhall (#5, Jr.). Where to begin for USC? Well, LT Sam Baker (#79) might slip to the Steelers. He's a seasoned big-game vet. All three USC linebackers are interesting. MLB Rey Maualuga (#58, Jr.) is coming off an inconsistent season but has Junior Seau written all over him. I watched ORG Chilo Rachal (#66, Jr.) dominate Arizona State, so I'll watch him again. TE Fred Davis (#83) might be the next Keith Jackson. He blocks in-line, catches, and runs people over after the catch. But the first round is probably too rich for the Steelers.
Today, 8:30 p.m., Sugar Bowl (Hawaii-Georgia) – The only prospect worth watching here is Georgia C Fernando Velasco (#75). He's raw after being moved to the position this year, but unlike the technicians at the top of the centers list, Velasco is a big man built for the prototypical NFL nose tackle. Velasco's mobile enough to get out in front of screens. He's certainly no Jeff Hartings in that area but it might be time for a change.
Wednesday, 8 p.m., Fiesta Bowl (West Virginia-Oklahoma) – The best Mountaineers are also a couple of questions marks: Where to play QB Pat White (#5, Jr.) in the pros? Can RB Steve Slaton (#10, Jr.) take the pounding of a three-down back? Both should return to school, otherwise they're second- or third-rounders. FB Owen Schmitt (#35) could fit the Steelers as a FB/TE and save a roster spot. Let's put him in the fifth-round for now. WR/RS Darius Reynaud (#2) fits a mid- to late-round need. Oklahoma is loaded with outstanding juniors, the most impressive might be the two behemoths on the left side of the O-line: LT Phil Loadholt (#79, Jr.) and LG Duke Robinson (#72, Jr.). Loadholt is a load and Robinson is a Smokey Robinson -- his grand nephew. Two Oklahoma playmakers to know are WR Malcolm Kelly (#4, Jr.) and RB Allen Patrick (#23).
Thursday, 8 p.m., Orange Bowl (Kansas-Virginia Tech) – Kansas' prospects are CB/RS Aqib Talib (#3, Jr.) – a small but coveted cover corner – and LT Anthony Collins (#78, Jr.). Virginia Tech has four senior WR prospects and two small-but-quick linebackers. The most interesting Hokie is CB Brandon Flowers (#18, Jr.), a big and physical corner with cover skills. DE/OLB Chris Ellis (#49) deserves a look, as does Hokie LT Duane Brown (#76).
Monday, 8 p.m., BCS Championship (Ohio State-LSU) – Ohio State DE/OLB Vernon Gholston (#50, Jr.) probably won't slip far enough down the first round, but it's fun to dream. The Buckeye tackles – LT Alex Boone (#75, Jr.) and RT Kirk Barton (#74) – are worth watching. LSU has some interesting mid-round cornerbacks, and my favorite Tiger is RB Jacob Hester (#18). Old-timers say he's Jimmy Taylor. Young old-timers say he's Ed Podolak. Hester's a fourth-rounder.