Season's Greetings 49er Faithful! We continue our college football bowl coverage breakdown highlighting and profiling a few notable draft-eligible prospects you should pay attention to. This will help people build a list of names to know when we get into the offseason. For today's bowl action we take a look at USF vs. South Carolina match-up, Arkansas vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech match-up, and No. 12 Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Colorado match-up. Before we get things started, I have listed the top five draft-eligible players both on the offensive and the defensive sides of the ball playing in today's match-ups. So, sit back, put your scouting hat on, and let's get things started with today's action.
**UPDATE: Oklahoma State’s QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington are returning for their senior year.
Top 5 Players on Offense
*TE Bucky Hodges, No. 7, 6'7" - 245 lbs., 4.78 40 - (1st-2nd) - Virginia Tech
*WR Isaiah Ford, No. 1, 6'2" - 195 lbs., 4.49 40 - (2nd) - Virginia Tech
TE Jeremy Sprinkle, No. 83, 6'6" - 255 lbs., 4.76 40 - (2nd) - Arkansas
*QB Mason Rudolph, No. 2, 6'5" - 235 lbs., 4.77 40 - (2nd-3rd) - Oklahoma State
*WR James Washington, No. 28, 6'0" - 205 lbs., 4.56 40 - (3rd-4th) - Oklahoma State
Top 5 Players on Defense
*CB Brandon Facyson, No. 31, 6'2" - 197 lbs., 4.52 40 - (3rd) - Virginia Tech
CB Chidobe Awuzie, No. 4, 6'0" - 205 lbs., 4.56 40 - (3rd) - Colorado
CB Ashton Lampkin, No. 6, 6'0" - 190 lbs., 4.49 40 - (4th) - Oklahoma State
SS Tedric Thompson, No. 9, 6'0" - 205 lbs., 4.56 40 - (5th) - Colorado
DT Josh Tupou, No. 58, 6'3" - 325 lbs., 5.22 40 - (5th) - Colorado
* = indicates junior status
USF Bulls vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Conference Affiliations: American Athletic vs. SEC
Location: Birmingham, AL | Legion Field
Game time: 11:00 AM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Gift suite; ESPN beanie, power charger and USB adapter; souvenir football.
USF's draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on:
WR Rodney Adams, No. 87, 6'1" - 190 lbs., 4.50 40 - (UDFA)
WR Rodney Adams is a lanky speedy explosive wide receiver that is a playmaker in open space and a constant threat to take the top off coverages. Adams has the straight-line speed to separate from defenders, does a good job tracking the ball over the shoulder with good ball skills and decent hands. Displays the athletic ability and explosion to take a short pass and run after the catch with a big gain utilizing excellent speed and vision (can fly sweep like the best of them). Shows good effort blocking, but needs to bulk up for the next level. Durability is a concern with a rail-thin frame. Brings value in the return game.
With Torrey Smith's lack of production in comparison to his contract numbers and trade rumors surrounding him during the trade deadline, there is a possibility the 49ers may be without a speedy deep threat going into 2017. Adams is the type of wide receiver (takes top off coverages) that could fill the void if Torrey Smith is no longer a 49er. Adams is likely a practice squad prospect with the potential to be a 4th-5th wide receiver as well as bringing value as a kick returner.
Other Bulls to keep an eye on: OLB Nigel Harris, No. 57 - (UDFA).
South Carolina's draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on:
OLB/ILB T.J. Holloman, No. 11, 6'2" - 230 lbs., 4.78 40 - (6th)
OLB/ILB T.J. Holloman is a physical line backer with decent range and athleticism. Displays enough bulk ability to take on the run at the point of attack (would like to see him stay low and roll his hips on contact), but is inconsistent at shedding blocks and lacks the ideal athleticism to side step and maneuver to avoid blocks. Has solid instincts (good read and react skills) reading run keys and fair play speed to track down the football and does a good job tackling with explosion. Shows decent coverage skills, but lacks fluidity and suddenness in space (a bit stiff in the hips).
With the 49ers scraping the bottom of the barrel to field inside linebackers, Holloman provides much needed tackling skills and depth at the position to be a box linebacker in the 49ers 3-4 scheme. Plus, there's always that South Carolina pipeline connection.
Other Gamecocks to keep an eye on: OT Mason Zandi, No. 74 - (7th-UDFA); DE Darius English, No. 5 - (7th); and DE Marquavius Lewis, No. 8 - (7th-UDFA).
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies
Conference Affiliations: SEC vs. ACC
Location: Charlotte, NC | Bank of America Stadium
Game time: 2:30 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Shopping trip to Belk department store; Fossil watch.
Arkansas' draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on:
TE Jeremy Sprinkle, No. 83, 6'6" - 255 lbs., 4.76 40 - (2nd)
TE Jeremy Sprinkle possesses an excellent combination of size, length, strength, speed, and athleticism. The former high school basketball and baseball athlete displays an impressive suddenness to his game with the ability to separate and get away from man coverage with deceptive speed. Tremendous length and a very large catching radius, Sprinkle extends his hands away from his body and makes the grab with reliable hands. An excellent run and pass blocker, Sprinkle shows a great ability to block end of line at the point of attack in a three-point stance, the agility to reach the next level and block in space with a sound base, platform, and the ability to swing his hips blocking in space whether end of line or detached. In pass protection, Sprinkle's base, platform, and hand positioning is sound, as well as displaying the ability to slide laterally with good balance.
With the tight end position being a big focal point in Chip Kelly's system, adding an addition dynamic threat would definitely be advantageous. When healthy, Vance McDonald has finally shown the skills to be a home run threat with his power and speed, but the injury issues at the position is concerning. Sprinkle provides tremendous value as a reliable receiver as well as a great blocker giving him the advantage to succeed in multiple formations.
Other Razorbacks to keep an eye on: OT Dan Skipper, No. 70 - (3rd); DE Jeremiah Ledbetter, No. 55 - (6th); ILB Brook Ellis, No. 51 - (6th); WR Keon Hatcher, No. 4 - (7th); WR Drew Morgan, No. 80 - (7th-UDFA); CB Jared Collins, No. 29 - (7th-UDFA); and P Toby Baker, No. 37 - (7th-UDFA).
Virginia Tech's draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on:
*TE Bucky Hodges, No. 7, 6'7" - 245 lbs., 4.50 40 - (1st-2nd)
*TE Bucky Hodges is a tremendous size (6'7"), speed, and strength prospect with excellent athleticism and is essentially a large playmaking wide receiver on the field. Hodges is a nightmare match-up in the middle of the field taking advantage of his strength, agility, speed, and athleticism, and on the perimeter out jumping corners with his amazing size (huge catching radius) and physicality. A work in progress as a route runner (still raw), Hodges shows great burst off the line of scrimmage, nice speed, explosion, and the suddenness to separate from defenders. Utilizing his great catching radius, Hodges attacks the football with excellent leaping ability (an ideal Redzone target) elevating to make the tough catch. Has build-up speed that can pose a vertical threat in the middle of the field. More adept in playing in the middle than on the outside, but shows the ability to win with great body control, ball skills, and strong hands (extends arms to make the catch). A fluid athlete, Hodges displays inconsistency in the blocking game with fair blocking skills (inline), but shows solid effort. He also showcases the athletic ability to flip his hips blocking in space and staying in front of defenders when detached. Will need to continue to improve blocking skills for the next level.
With the tight end position being a big focal point in Chip Kelly's system, adding an addition dynamic threat would definitely be advantageous. When healthy, Vance McDonald has finally shown the skills to be a home run threat with his power and speed, but the injury issues at the position is concerning. Hodges is a mismatch nightmare and dynamic playmaker that would explode in a Kelly offense with blazing speed (4.50 40), athleticism, and big strong reliable hands.
Other Hokies to keep an eye on: *WR Isaiah Ford, No. 1 - (2nd); *CB Brandon Facyson, No. 31 - (3rd); OT Jonathan McLaughlin, No. 71 - (6th); FS Chuck Clark, No. 19 - (6th); FB Sam Rogers, No. 45 - (7th); DE Ken Ekanem, No. 4 - (7th); OG Augie Conte, No. 72 - (7th-UDFA); DT Woody Baron, No. 60 - (7th-UDFA); and DT Nigel Williams, No. 8 - (7th-UDFA).
Valero Alamo Bowl
No. 12 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. No. 10 Colorado Buffaloes
Conference Affiliations: Big 12 vs. Pac-12
Location: San Antonio, TX | Alamodome
Game time: 6:00 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Apple Watch Nike+; $110 Best Buy gift card; myCharge HubPlus portable charger; team panoramic photo; mini-helmet.
Oklahoma State's draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on:
*QB Mason Rudolph, No. 2, 6'5" - 235 lbs., 4.77 40 - (2nd-3rd)
*QB Mason Rudolph possesses the ideal size for the quarterback position as a pocket passer with a large frame and a big-arm easily capable of making throws all over the field. Never afraid to take shots down field or in tight windows (ideal prospect for the vertical passing game), Rudolph shows good ball placement, great arm-strength (really improved from the year prior) nice air under the ball, and delivers a very catchable ball with nice velocity and touch. Capable of reading the entire field, Rudolph does a good job going through his progressions with solid decision making. Has a long throwing motion and a tendency to hold on to the ball too much hesitating or slow processing (hitch in his giddyup), but also has shown the skills to get the ball out quickly with precision. Displays decent mechanics, but has a tendency to throw high (using more arm than firmly planting completing the optimal follow through). A bit stiff in the pocket, but has active feet and maneuvers well inside climbing and sliding for a clean launch with some sneaky athleticism and speed (4.77 40) to scramble when needed. Shows the ability to square up and throw on the run with decent accuracy and zip.
With Colin Kaepernick likely voiding his contract at the end of the season and no other quarterbacks under contract going into 2017, Rudolph has the opportunity to step in and take control of the 49ers offense. Although he's an ideal fit for teams with a vertical passing game (hello Arizona Cardinals), Rudolph has shown the ability to be quick and accurate on short to intermediate throws, and is one of the better vertical passers in this years' draft class - the value of Torrey Smith will soar.
**UPDATE: QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington are returning for their senior year.
Other Cowboys to keep an eye on: *WR James Washington, No. 28 - (2nd-3rd); CB Ashton Lampkin, No. 6 - (4th); TE Blake Jarwin, No. 47 - (5th); OT Victor Salako, No. 77 - (6th); FS Jordan Sterns, No. 13 - (6th); RB Chris Carson, No. 32 - (7th-UDFA); and OLB Jordan Burton, No. 20 - (7th-UDFA).
Colorado's draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on:
CB Chidobe Awuzie, No. 4, 6'0" - 205 lbs., 4.56 40 - (3rd)
CB Chidobe Awuzie is a physical and strong corner with impressive flexibility, balance, fluid hips, quick feet, agility, change of direction skills, and explosion. A lockdown corner, Awuzie displays his physicalness and patience excelling in press-man coverage riding the receiver downfield staying at the hip pocket. Awuzie also displays excellent awareness (makes a lot of plays with his eyes), speed, and football intelligence impressively skilled in off and zone coverages, where he shows quick read and reaction skills, burst with impressive closing speed, great ball skills, and a fierce and reliable tackler hitting with explosion. A former high school basketball and track athlete, Awuzie displays tremendous athleticism, the desired grit and eagerness in run support, and blitzes with purpose playing with intensity. He is also a special teams stalwart bringing desired value at the next level.
The 49ers have found themselves a gem with Rashard Robinson at corner and if they continue to utilize Jimmie Ward on the boundary along with newcomer Will Redmond in the slot, the future of the position looks promising. Depth at the position looks good, but you can never have enough good corners in the league and Awuzie is a special physical talent that will make the corner group stronger.
Other Buffaloes to keep an eye on: QB Sefo Liufau, No. 13 - (6th); DT Josh Tupou, No. 58 - (6th); ILB Kenneth Olugbode, No. 31 - (6th); SS Tedric Thompson, No. 9 - (6th); CB Ahkello Witherspoon, No. 23 - (7th); C Alex Kelley, No. 74 - (7th-UDFA); and OLB Jimmie Gilbert, No. 98 - (7th-UDFA).