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December 28th bowl game draft prospects for 49ers fans to watch

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We highlight and profile the 2018 NFL draft-eligible prospects in Thursday’s Military Bowl, Camping World Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

We are getting closer and closer to the College Football Playoff! Today’s slate of bowl games features four matchups starting in the early afternoon and stretching late into the evening featuring eight power five programs. Let’s get to it!

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman

Teams: Navy (6-6) vs Virginia (6-6)
Kickoff: 10:30 a.m. (PT)
Where: Annapolis, Maryland - John F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium
Watch: ESPN

Our first game on today’s slate features the Virginia Cavaliers of the ACC facing off against the Navy Midshipmen of the American Athletic Conference. Both teams come into this game with minimum qualifications for bowl eligibility at 6-6. The game will be played at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.

Interesting Note

This will be Virginia’s first bowl appearance since 2011. As for Navy, they will be participating in postseason football for the ninth time in the last ten years.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

How They Got Here

Much improvement has been made in Blacksburg under second year head coach Bronco Mendenhall. While a 6-6 record will not win you a conference championship, for Virginia it did win them confidence that the program has not experienced in quite some time. The reward…A trip to a bowl game and chance to finish the season with a winning record, hardware, and momentum heading into 2018. As for Navy (6-6), it was a step backwards for a program that lost it’s biggest game of the year to Army in a snowy affair in Philadelphia. The Midshipmen will look to end their season on a high note as well.

NCAA Football: Army at Navy Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction

I am expecting a tight game between these two squads. Certainly can swing either way. However, I like Navy’s run game and the triple option which can be tricky to plan for and stop.

The Pick: Navy

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Top Prospects To Watch

Micah Kiser - LB - Virginia - 6’2” - 240 lbs. (3rd-4th Round)
Kurt Benkert - QB - Virginia - 6’4” - 215 lbs. (5th-6th Round)
Micah Thomas - LB - Navy - 6’1” - 240 lbs. (7th-UDFA)
D.J. Palmore - OLB - Navy - 6’3” - 236 lbs. (7th-UDFA)
Andrew Brown - DT - Virginia - 6’4” - 284 lbs. (3rd-4th Round)
Quin Blanding - Safety - Virginia - 6’2” - 209 lbs. (2nd-3rd Round)

Player Spotlight

Micah Kiser - LB - Virginia - #53

NCAA Football: Virginia at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The senior has had yet another productive season for the Cavaliers. In 2017 he recored 132 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks. Altogether in his collegiate career he has 397 total tackles, 33.5 tackles for a loss, and 19 sacks. I can say he has been by far the brightest spot in what has been an underwhelming Virginia football program these last few years. At 6’2”, 240 pounds I really like his size for the NFL, and he physically checks off all the boxes. He is better against the run, however his speed and lateral movement have improved dramatically over the course of his career. Has the range and ability to cover tight ends against the pass. There is still room for growth and improvement, however Kiser has the ability to be a three down linebacker at the next level. He should hear his name called on day two of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Quin Blanding - Safety - Virginia - #3

NCAA Football: Duke at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

We will stay with the Virginia defensive unit and turn towards the secondary. Our focus shifts to another senior who has received All-ACC team honors four straight seasons in Blacksburg. This season the senior tallied 121 tackles with 4 interceptions, and two passes broken up. When this season started Blanding was a fringe day two selection, and since then his arrow continues to point up. He is now a fringe day one prospect. There’s some concern with pass coverage. We will see if he can continue to polish his skills and abilities as he translates to the next level. Right now, I have him going on day two of the draft.

Camping World Bowl

Teams: #22 Virginia Tech (9-3) vs #19 Oklahoma State (9-3)
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m.
Where: Orlando, Florida - Camping World Stadium
Watch: ESPN

In the late afternoon we will turn our attention towards the Camping World Bowl featuring the #22 Virginia Tech Hokies of the ACC against the #19 Oklahoma State Cowboys of the Big 12 Conference. The game will be played at Camping World Stadium in sunny Orlando, Florida.

Interesting Note

This will be the first bowl game this season featuring two ranked teams in the College Football Playoff Rankings.

Why You Should Watch

James Washington…Fred Biletnikoff Award Winner for best wide receiver in the country for 2017.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

How They Got Here

Virginia Tech (9-3) had a strong start to the season, and was a contender in the ACC Coastal Division. However after a few stumbles, the division was lost to eventual ACC runner-up Miami. Oklahoma State had a similar fate, (9-3) trying to power it’s way to the national stage with it’s high-powered offense.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction

I always believe experience plays a big role in big games. I am going to side with the Mason Rudolph-James Washington connection. The chemistry has been strong all season long, and I expect one last game filled with fireworks courtesy of these two future NFL players.

The Pick: Oklahoma State

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Top Prospects To Watch

Tremaine Edmunds - LB - Virginia Tech - 6’5” - 255 lbs. (3rd-4th)
Adonis Alexander - CB - Virginia Tech - 6’3” - 197 lbs. (5th-6th)
Wyatt Teller - OG - Virginia Tech - 6’5” - 315 lbs. (4th-5th)
Brandon Facyson - CB - Virginia Tech - 6’2” - 197 lbs. (6th-7th)
Mason Rudolph - QB - Oklahoma State - 6’5” - 230 lbs. (1st)
James Washington - WR - Oklahoma State - 6’0” - 200 lbs. (1st)

Player Spotlight

James Washington - WR - Oklahoma State - #28

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Colorado Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Fred Biletnikoff Award winner had four fantastic seasons for the Cowboys recording 4,346 yards and 38 touchdowns. It is clear watching his tape that Washington has a strong connection and chemistry with quarterback and teammate Mason Rudolph. Washington is known for his blazing speed, and his ability to run deep routes, stretch the field, and take the top off of a defense. My concern with Washington is that I don’t believe he has a well-defined route tree as other receivers in the nation. His size is also a concern, but so was Odell Beckham Jr. when he came out of LSU. It looks like he turned out just fine with the New York Giants. The talent is there though, and while he isn’t a red zone threat, Washington can be lethal in the right offensive system at the next level. I’m sure Kyle Shanahan could get quite creative with Washington in his offense.

Tremaine Edmunds - LB - Virginia Tech - #49

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Hokies linebacker and defensive leader recorded 101 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, and 5.5 sacks this season. The junior has now been a starter for the last two seasons and it is yet to be determined if he will be declaring for the draft. He has the height and size evaluators seek at the position. He makes his presence known on the field, and has demonstrated strong instincts for where the play is going to happen. If Edmunds declares he is a day two selection.

Valero Alamo Bowl

Teams: #13 Stanford vs #15 TCU
Kickoff: 6:00 p.m.
Where: San Antonio, Texas - Alamodome
Watch: ESPN

As we head into the evening we will return to the lone star state for the Valero Alamo Bowl featuring the #13 Stanford Cardinal of the PAC 12 Conference and the #15 TCU Horned Frogs of the Big 12 Conference. The game will be in San Antonio, Texas inside the Alamodome. This will be the second of three bowls games today featuring two teams ranked in the College Football Playoff Rankings.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Championship-Southern California vs Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Why You Should Watch

The Stanford Offensive Line! A lot of exciting draft prospects playing in this game! Prospects at positions the 49ers should be addressing this offseason include the offensive line, wide receiver, pass rush, and running back.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Championship-Texas Christian vs Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

How They Got Here

Stanford (9-3) got off to a rocky 1-2 start before putting together a nice run that clinched them the PAC 12 North division and punched a ticket to the PAC 12 title game. They would be defeated 31-28 in a thriller against the USC Trojans. At one point this season TCU (10-3) was inside the Top 4 and perhaps destined to be heading to the playoff. Then they ran into the Iowa State Cyclones. The Horned Frogs ended on a frustrating note, losing again to the playoff bound Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12 Conference Title Game.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction

Initially, I was going to side with the Cardinal here. It seems like head coach David Shaw always has his team prepared for postseason football, and he will this time. However, I believe TCU will pull out a hard-earned win, and try to remove the bitter taste of the regular season out of their mouths. Gary Patterson will have his club ready and eager for this game against a fellow conference runner-up opponent.

The Pick: TCU

NCAA Football: California at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Top Prospects To Watch

Bryce Love - RB - Stanford - 5’10” - 196 lbs. (1st-2nd)
David Bright - OT/G - Stanford - 6’5” - 295 lbs. (5th-6th)
Casey Tucker - OT - Stanford - 6’6” - 300 lbs. (5th-6th)
Jesse Burkett - Center - Stanford - 6’4” - 307 lbs (4th-5th)
John Diaries - WR - TCU - 6’0” - 214 lbs. (5th-6th)
Joseph Noteboom - OT - TCU - 6’5” - 322 lbs. (3rd-4th)
Matt Boesen - DE - TCU - 6’3” - 240 lbs. (4th-5th)

Player Spotlight

Bryce Love - RB - Stanford - #20

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Heisman Trophy finalist put his name on the map this season as a replacement to former teammate Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers. This season Love recorded 1,848 yards, 8.6 yards per carry (average), and 16 touchdowns. Love isn’t the biggest back in this draft but he is one of the flashiest, and has the speed to elude even the fastest defenders. Many times this season Love was bursting through open holes, and his patience and vision off the line of scrimmage is second to none. Reminds me of Dion Lewis of the New England Patriots with his ability to be flexible and making hard cuts, throwing defenders off-balance. Love is one of the more exciting prospects to watch this draft season.

Matt Boesen - DE - TCU - #9

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Was an All-Big 12 first-team selection this season and was one of the best pass rushers in the country. Boesen recorded 57 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, and 11.5 sacks. He was lethal along the line of scrimmage with teammate and TCU transfer Ben Banogu. The duo wrecked havoc in opposing team’s backfields. Boesen’s arrow is pointing up and someone 49ers fans should keep a close eye on. I am looking forward to the matchup between Boesen and Banogu against the Stanford offensive line all night long. Should be fun to watch!

NCAA Football: UCLA at Stanford Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, keep a close eye on…The entire Stanford Offensive Line!

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Teams: #16 Michigan State vs #18 Washington State
Kickoff: 6:00 p.m.
Where: San Diego, California - SDCCU Stadium
Watch: Fox Sports 1

Kicking off at the same time as the Alamo Bowl is the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl featuring the #16 Michigan State Spartans of the BIG 10 Conference against the #18 Washington State Cougars of the PAC 12 Conference. The Game will be played at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, California.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Why You Should Watch

Another game featuring prospects at positions of interest for 49ers fans. This includes running back, tackles, and guards.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

How They Got Here

It was certainly a rebound season for head coach Mark Dantonio and his Spartans of Michigan State (9-3). While they defeated division rivals Michigan and Penn State, they lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes, and fell short of representing the East in the BIG 10 Title Game. On the surface, it was a great season for Washington State (9-3). However there were some losses that were tough to swallow for head coach Mike Leach and his Cougars. They too fell short of playing in the PAC 12 Title Game.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction

Washington State’s season ended last season with a loss in this very game and venue to to the Minnesota Gophers. Unfortunately for the Cougars I believe history will repeat itself. Yes, the offense is dangerous with quarterback Luke Falk, however I like the Spartan’s defense. Falk has trouble protecting the football at times. That will be the difference in this game.

The Pick: Michigan State

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Top Prospects To Watch

Luke Falk - QB - Washington State - 6’4” - 223 lbs. (3rd-4th)
Andre Dillard - OT - Washington State - 6’5” - 300 lbs. (2nd-3rd)
Cody O’ Connell - Guard - Washington State 6’9” - 354 lbs. (7th)
Cole Madison - OT - Washington State - 6’5” - 314 lbs. (5th-6th)
Brian Allen - Center - Michigan State - 6’1” - 304 lbs. (7th-UDFA)
L.J. Scott - RB - Michigan State - 6’1” - 230 lbs. (2nd-3rd)
Demetrius Cooper - DT - Michigan State - 6’4” - 249 lbs. (6th-7th)

Player Spotlight

Andre Dillard - OT - Washington State - # 60

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest risers for offensive linemen in this upcoming draft. Dillard’s arrow continues to point upwards. On tape he creates a lot of push against defenders, sending them backwards, away from the line of scrimmage. He has great size for the position that should translate well at the next level. Rarely seems off-balanced or flat footed, and has quick feet and agility to defend pass rushers, and create holes for the running game. The benefit of playing in an air-raid offense is the amount of pass protection required, and watching his tape, Dillard will have the opportunity to potentially be a left tackle in the NFL. The arrow continues to post upwards, and Dillard could go as early as the second round in April. We will see if he declares for the draft as a redshirt sophomore.

L.J. Scott - RB - Michigan State - # 3

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

One of my favorite running backs to study this season. It is fair to say that Scott has gone a bit under the radar in a crowded running back class. This season Scott recorded 785 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. In addition, he had 18 receptions for 120 yards and 1 touchdown. Scott is a dual-threat offensive playmaker. He is a bruising, downhill back, who has surprising speed for his size. There is some concern about his weight. Scouts and evaluators would like to see him loose some weight to gain more speed and athleticism…something that served another Michigan State back well. His name is Le’Veon Bell. Keep a close eye on Scott throughout the draft process as a potential day two selection.