Happy New Year to everybody! The NFL playoffs get going in just a few short days, but in the meantime, it's the biggest day of the year for college football. The national championship will be decided next week, but in the meantime, January 1 is filled with bowl games. The schedule provides for four morning games, and then two BCS bowl games in the afternoon. We'll have a pair of open threads. This first one will include the four games at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. The second one will cover the 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. games.
These notes come courtesy of Nick Chiamardas (@BigSwinginNick) and Trevor Woods (@Woods49ers). Nick handled the first two games, while Trevor grabbed the second pair of games.
Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Northwestern - 9:00 a.m. ESPN2
Even the Mississippi State's of the world are churning out NFL talent. A product no doubt of playing in the almighty SEC. All American Johnthan Banks is the drafts top CB prospect and projects to be a mid to late first round pick and someone the 49ers could target. As mentioned above, Tarell Brown's contract situation is still unknown and Carlos Rogers, while having a solid season, isn't getting any younger. As the saying goes, you can never have too much depth at corner in the NFL. At 6-1, 185lbs Banks, who also won the Jim Thorpe Award going to the nation's top defensive back, has the size NFL scouts covet. He is aggressive with his hands and has the fluidity to stay with receivers in and out of their cuts. It's doubtful Banks drops to the tail end of the first round but if he does don't be surprised if the Niners pounce.
Last year MSU's DT Fletcher Cox grabbed headlines and became the 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft. This year, Josh Boyd a 6-3 300lbs DT is climbing draft boards. While he doesn't project to go as high or even in the first few rounds, Boyd flashes talent to make an impact at the next level. His lack of lateral quickness hurts his ability to pass rush but if playing the DE/DT position in a 3-4 his ability to clog holes and take on multiple run blockers becomes invaluable.
Banks' counterpart, CB Corey Broomfield could work his way into the late rounds of the draft with a good showing in the bowl game and post season workouts. He has average size but was able to hold his own against many top SEC receivers. He earned Freshman All-American accolades in 2009 but battled injuries throughout 2011. Broomfield is instinctive, physical, and versatile as he also played safety for the Bulldogs.
Junior OG Gabe Jackson would provide some much needed depth on the line and could be a mid round pick should he decide to forgo his senior campaign at MSU. Jackson is a naturally large man at 6-4 320lbs. He was highly recruited out of high school and has started the last three seasons at left guard. While he possesses obvious athleticism for a big man, stronger defensive lineman often overpower Jackson. He'll need to work on his strength and ability to move defenders at the next level and could probably benefit from another year in college.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Purdue vs. Oklahoma State - 9:00 a.m. ESPNU
Anyone else still get filled with hate and anger when seeing (or writing) the city Dallas? Yeah, I thought so.
I'm not what sure to make of this game. OSU will probably win and win big. The defenses are fairly evenly matched but OSU has a high-powered Big 12 offense that figures to overwhelm Purdue. So let's start there...
Oklahoma St. has a pair of prospects the Niners may be watching. Junior RB Joseph Randle (yet to declare) is big back projected to go between the 2nd and 3rd rounds. At 6-1 200lbs Randle has a rare combination of size and speed that back big backs in the NFL dangerous. While is 200lb frame is a little small for his height, Randle figures to add weight at the next level to take advantage of his ability to break tackles on first contact. He also has excellent vision and wastes little time getting through the whole. Randle ran for nearly 1,400 yards and 14 TDs during his junior season and earned first team All Big12 honors. While the cupboard certainly isn't bare in the 49er backfield, the impending doom of Brandon Jacobs could cause Harbaugh to look for a bigger, short yardage back in the upcoming draft. Randle could fit that bill nicely.
Randle's teammate, Lane Taylor has some astonishing numbers for an offensive lineman. The senior started every game but one at RG over the last two years and did not allow a sack in over 850 snaps this season. And that's on a team that throws the ball...a lot! Taylor is 6-3 330lbs but has not garnered much attention from scouts and figures to be a late round pick. After working to add over 30lbs to his frame since is freshman year, Taylor has proven he has the right work ethic to be successful. We'll see how it translates as surely some team will take a chance on him.
The Purdue Boilermakers are not known as factory for NFL talent (excluding Drew Brees). This year, DT Kawann Short hopes to help change that notion. Short is a giant of a man coming in at 6-3 315lbs. Even more impressive is his wingspan that has allowed him deflect a JJ Watt like 15 passes over his career AND block six field goal attempts. Short likely projects as a DT in a 4-3 front but in the right situation could excel in role where he can take on multiple blockers. He'll likely be drafted in the late first or second round.
Purdue's CB tandem of Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen could also be drafted late on day three. Both lack prototypical size (Johnson at 5-10 and Allen at 5-9) but both are aggressive and physical. Both earned Big10 honorable mentions this season and excel in press coverage.
Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan - 10:00 a.m. ESPN
The once starting quarterback, who is now being used as the back up and at running back, Denard Robinson has been one of the most talked about players since he took the field at the big house. The question is, what will NFL teams look for him to be? Robinson won't be a quarterback in the NFL, he is highly inaccurate and a bad decision maker, he also has had a problem fumbling the ball away. Teams will view him as a kick and punt returner, and possibly even a running back or wide receiver, or even a cornerback, this is a classic example of someone being more of an athlete than a football, Robinson has skills, they just need to be utilized correctly.
Robinson on his good days is a big playmaker and that is what a team will be drafting, big play potential. He is one of the fastest players in college football, and speed always kills in the draft, Robinson has been clocked at 4.35 in the 40 yard dash. With Ted Ginn on his way out, Kyle Williams injury, the 49ers will be looking to add a return man next year to go along with Lamichael James, and Jim Harbaugh has shown he is willing to put players at different positions than they have been in the past, it doesn't hurt Harbaugh and Robinson are both "Michigan men" also.
Some are projecting Robinson to go in the 1st round, but if he plummets downward then I could see a landing in San Francisco. Robinson could make a lot of sense as a low risk, high reward option in the draft. Denard has three seasons of 1,000 or more rushing yards as a quarterback, the guy has moves, whether he can be durable in the NFL taking hit after hit is to be seen, the upside of drafting him is clear though.
Be sure to check out Michigan DT William Campbell, while he isn't exactly a big name prospect, Campbell has had a good senior campaign and a lot of scouts will be watching to see how he does in this bowl, as well as the East-West Shrine game in a couple weeks. Campbell has a couple opportunities to show he is NFL worthy, and the 49ers could be looking for depth at nose tackle in the mid to late rounds of the draft. His best game this season came against their hated rival, Ohio State, in which Campbell had a career high 10 tackles.
South Carolina has a good prospect in safety DJ Swearinger, Swearinger is a big part of the Gamecocks 10-2 record this season, he has had four games in which he has had 10 or more tackles. He's one of the better FS available in the draft and will be on a lot of draft boards. His coverage has been sound this year and has shown that he is good all around and can make a defense better. Swearinger is a good run defender as well, he's one of those safeties who comes at you with a full head of steam. He's a very strong 5-11 at 210 pounds and I believe the 49ers will be interested in him if Goldson isn't retained. What a team will be get is a player with good fundamentals, who can hit hard, very hard.
Capitol One Bowl: Georgia Vs. Nebraska - 10:00 a.m. ABC
This game features a few players that will be going in the first two round of the draft after stellar season, they are linebackers though, a position the 49ers won't be drafting at early on. I don't see a whole lot in this game to look at from a 49ers draft stand point, this is one to enjoy at home after a night of celebrating what is now 2013, you can't go wrong with football being played on a Tuesday!
Linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree from Georgia are a great tandem and won't have to wait very long for their names to be called when the draft starts, both will be drafted in the 1st round or early 2nd. Ogletree has the ability to cover as well as stop the run, he's shown that he can fly up and down the field and from sideline to sideline. Jones is a big time pass rusher who has 12.5 sacks on the season and an interception, Jarvis could end up being the #1 pick come April. He's already strong, but if adds a little more weight and muscle, he'll become even more dangerous, look for him to do something to excite us all today.
Nebraska doesn't have a lot of prospects to look for in this game as far as this years draft goes, but they have some players worth taking note of.
6-6 TE Ben Cotton has great size for the position, but he hasn't been able to do anything in the passing game this season, he's a good blocking tight end that needs to work on is route running and gaining separation, he isn't fast so he needs to look at some film of how Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez are always able to get open.
S Daimion Stafford for Nebraska is another top safety in this class, he had 89 tackles to go along with a team high 4 interceptions. He has been exposed when facing good competition however, and couldn't cover or tackle a running back in the Big Ten Championship game in which the Nebraska defense gave up 70 points to Wisconsin. I feel that anyone who takes Stafford are making a risky pick.