There are times when the only value in my world for many of these earlier Bowls with .500 teams in action is that it gives me an opportunity (tongue in cheek) to look at a few prospects that fit the category of ‘good players in bad/mediocre programs’. So let’s separate a little fly-shit out of the pepper, shall we.
MICHAEL DICKSON #13 P TEXAS 6’2/210 JR. This looks to be a very good year for NFL teams needing to pick up a Kicker or Punter for their roster. And the good news is, that generally speaking, if a team hits on a real-deal KICKER/PUNTER they have solved the position need for a decade or more. DICKSON has already declared for the 2018 NFL Draft, like many of his Texas teammates. In fact, he declared before their Bowl contest with Missouri, but chose to play in the game instead of sitting it out, like some of his teammates. IMO, it was a great move because, for my money, he was the MVP of the game for the winning Longhorns. Special Teams is a seriously underrated part of upper level football to many fans, but it’s impact was clearly asserted by DICKSON, whose Punting skills kept MIZZOU bottled up with bad field position pretty much all day, contributing greatly to a Texas upset victory. DICKSON punted 11 times in the contest, which should tell you the Texas O was not exactly marching up and down the field of play. Not once did the ball reach the end zone for a touchback. 4 of the 11 were downed inside the MIZZOU 5 yard line. 8 of the 11 punts pinned MIZZOU at, or inside, their 10-yard line. Two more were downed inside the 20-yard line, making 10 Missouri possessions start inside the 20-yard line. It was a fantastic display of directional punting and solid hang times. This guy should get some serious consideration as a Top 100 draftee. By the way lest you think he’s just a finesse kicker, I will advise you that he had long punts of 58 & 55 yards, both of which are included in those 10 punts inside the 20 yard line. This was a Punting exhibition for the ages.
LOWELL LOTULELEI #93 DT UTAH 6’2/317. Let’s start by mentioning the blood lines of Lowell, who is the younger brother of STAR, who was a First Round Draftee by the Panthers a few years ago. LOWELL does not have the mobility or quickness of Star, but he has that wide base many Polynesian lineman often possess, at the risk of stereotyping. I see him as a solid base for either a 3-4 Nose slot, or a 4-3 DT position. He has the contact strength and wide base of a Sumo Wrestler, and can slide off to pursue or penetrate. He rose to the occasion and showed the best of what he can do against West Virginia, where he was credited with 4 tackles, 3 of them solo, and 2.5 TFL, with 1.5 of them being sacks. He is that big bodied interior DL with some athletic mobility in a short area. He also displays strong hands to shock and move around OL trying to block him. He looks to me like a guy who will anchor a DL in a deep rotational situation. Mark him down as an early Day 3 prospect for April. He’s not a huge impact player, but he gets the job done inside, and will help shut down running games on a weekly basis.
JOSEPH NOTEBOOM #68 OT T.C.U. 6’5/310. The 2017 NFL Draft was not a banner year for teams to find themselves starting OT talent. The 2018 Draft is looking more bountiful on that count. And NOTEBOOM, who has improved every year since he’s been a Horned Frog, is part of that bountiful harvest. He has started every game he’s played since his Sophomore season. He’s a long, lean player who has surprisingly agile feet and long arms to control defenders. He did a great job of handling multiple defenders in the enjoyably entertaining Alamo Bowl against Stanford. I luv how he anchors in pass-pro and mirrors pass rushers. He has long arms which he extends well, with good overall balance. Looks to be a natural knee bender. He’s also very aware of what’s going on around him, and will switch his blocking attention to ‘free-rushing’ defenders who penetrate in his area. He also finds extra blocks to execute when his QB moves to extend plays. I saw him downfield making second/third level blocks to extend running plays for his Backs. A quick thanks to Mr. Chad for an alerting tweet of praise during the game with Stanford, causing me to watch NOTEBOOM more carefully. I was seriously impressed by a guy that I could see sneaking into Round 3. He is currently scheduled to be at the Shrine Game in a couple of weeks.
BRANDON PARKER #70 OT N. CAROLINA A&T 6’7/310. This big fella looks like a man playing with kids most of the time. I saw him last weekend in the Bowl game against Grambling. He has a long frame and appears to be in very good shape. He looked to me like LeBron James in pads. He moved very well, showing good agility with good body lean. He certainly has the feet to slide and mirror in pass-pro, and can pull all the way across the formation on sweeps. He doesn’t bury people in the run game, but screens defenders off well. He was criticized by an announcer on a goal line play for not clearing out his man, leaving the runner short of a TD. But when they showed video replay, he clearly completed his block, only to have the runner lose his footing and fall short of the goal line. PARKER looked smooth and solid to me. He is currently listed as accepting an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Now I am very anxious to see him practice and play against Big Boy competition. He certainly looks to have Top 100 Draftee talent, though I’m not convinced he will be ready to start as a Rookie.
AUSTIN RAMESH #20 FB WISCONSIN 6’1/250. Mark my words, the value of a guy like RAMESH is on the uptick. As more teams in the NFL continue to struggle with running effectively in short yardage situations, especially down around the goal line, more coaches are going to realize a true, old-fashioned FB is a better blocking option than putting a 300 lb. DL in the backfield to clear a hole for the RB. RAMESH showed the value of a true FB for the Badgers throughout his career, but never more so than in their “away-game” victory over Miami in the Orange Bowl. RAMESH cut down Hurricane defenders all night long with his hard charging blocking. But he also showed what he could do with the ball on 3rd and short. RAMESH carried the ball 3 times on 3rd and short yardage, and converted for the first down on all 3 carries. He also made a catch of a dump down throw to the outside, and hurdled a Miami defender in the 2nd Quarter. For the game, he caught 3 passes for 27 yards. RAMESH is also an excellent Special Teams player. He does a little bit of everything to contribute to his team’s success, and has a selfless personality. He should be drafted on Day 3, perhaps by another team that sees the light, and realizes a good all-around FB on your roster can contribute in multiple ways to success. Last I knew he was scheduled to take part in the NFLPA Game.
DEADRIN SENAT #10 DT SOUTH FLORIDA (USF) 6’1/310. It is indeed rare when you find a DT, who basically is playing in the Nose, who is a game changer with his ability to totally disrupt things in the opponent’s backfield & pocket. The best example I could ever give someone, would be to tell them to go find some old film of Mr. Warren Sapp, either in college or the pros. Now relax, I am not going to tell you SENAT is the next coming of SAPP, but I will say that for teams lacking such a force inside, then SENAT should be on their radar NOW! Reverse your Bowl memory and go back to the Birmingham Bowl, just before Christmas. It pitted USF against Texas Tech. SENAT was a one man wrecking crew with constant penetration behind his opponent’s OL. His stats for the day don’t even tell the whole story of his dominance at the line of scrimmage, but they should give you an idea of his ability. He was credited with 5 tackles, 4 of them solo, with 3 TFL, which were all sacks. He was double team blocked after the first quarter, which slowed down his stat sheet, but did not stop him from collapsing the pocket and chasing the QB and RB to places they did not want to go. Multiple times when I watched USF last season, it was clear that their DC didn’t have to call very many blitzes to shake things up. SENAT already had folks on the run. He’s stout with active hand use, and displays a non-stop motor. He should be a Top 100 prospect.
ITO SMITH #25 RB SOUTHERN MISS 5’9/195. Let me introduce you to another jack-of-all trades RB, who is short, but not too small. That 5’9/195 pound body of his would roughly translate to 205-210 lbs. if he was 6 feet tall. SMITH has top notch quickness, and I believe that he will post a good 40-time at the Combine. He has been a productive all-around weapon for the Southern Miss program for the past 4 seasons. Southern Miss had a tough Bowl Game matchup with Florida State, but ITO did his best to help keep his team in the game. He rushed 16 times for 92 yards, which comes out to almost 6 ypc. He also caught 4 balls for another 26 yards, and had 4 kick-off returns for 72 yards. He runs hard and will bounce off tacklers with good balance and vision. I see him being a very productive change-of-pace RB option for a team with a power runner in the No. 1 RB slot. His ability to produce in the Return Game, where he returns Punts as well as Kick-offs, is also a valuable role in helping a team’s field position. He rushed for over 1,413 yards and 13 TD’s during the 2017 season, which was his third straight 1,000-yard rushing effort, and he also tallied another 27 rushing TD’s heading into 2017. I would also note that he never caught less than 40 balls in his final 3 seasons in college. The Mobile, AL native is currently listed as a participant in the Senior Bowl at month’s end. There is a slight chance that he’s a Top 100 draftee, but I think it more likely that about Round 4 the interest in him climbs considerably.
MIKE WHITE #14 QB WESTERN KENTUCKY 6’4/225. WHITE started his career at USF but moved on when he realized that running QB QUINTON FLOWERS was a better fit for (then) Head Coach Willie Taggart’s offensive scheme. It looks to have been a wise decision on two counts. FLOWERS indeed cemented the starting job in Tampa, and WKY, with it’s wide open passing attack, really suited WHITE’s talents. He’s almost the blue print on size for the NFL, and has just enough mobility to be able to move well in the pocket and extend plays with his legs, even though he’s not much of a running threat. He’s a student of the game and gets it in the meeting room, according to his coaches. And it looks like he’s in control when in the huddle and/or at the line of scrimmage. He’s not a rocket armed thrower, but can get the ball downfield, and throws a catchable ball. He hit over 67% of his throws in 2016, and was on target again in 2017, despite losing his top receiver, TAYWON TAYLOR, to the NFL TITANS. In the Cure Bowl against Ga State, WHITE passed for 26/39- 67%- 351 yards- 2 TD- 1 INT, before he was pulled to keep the core under control. He is far from being in with the “top ” QB prospects for the coming Draft, but I would expect him to have a shot early on Draft Saturday.
KALIB WOODS #4 WR FLORIDA ATLANTIC 6’3/195. Expectations were for WOODS to have a banner senior season under the souped up new offense of LANE KIFFIN and Kendal Briles, but he missed a lot of playing time with injuries until getting back on the field late in the season. He was the team’s leading returning receiver with 68 catches for almost 1,100-yards in 2016. He was back in form for the Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday night, Dec 19th. He missed some time in the game because of a double hit, after a very nice catch mid game, but came back to finish the evening on the field. He finished with 6 receptions for 208 yards and a TD, including a 43-yarder. During his limited action regular season, he caught 24 balls for a whopping 619 yards. That’s an average of 25.79 ypc, for you math impaired. He has excellent vertical jumping ability and very reliable hands. He looks to have good potential as a Red Zone weapon for some NFL team. He won’t likely get drafted until the 3rd Day, but could be a nice bargain for some team looking for a new guy to stretch opponents secondaries, and loosen things for underneath routes.
KENNY YOUNG #42 IB UCLA 6’1/240. In general, one of the main criticisms of the UCLA football program is a lack of tough, hard hitting players. Overall, I would agree with that general statement, but not in the case of YOUNG. He’s a savvy, high energy guy who locates the ball well, runs to it quickly, and delivers solid tackles to ball carriers. He moves faster out on the field in pads than I would guess that he times in shorts. He has good power to play through (would be) blockers from TE and RB slots, and he more than holds his own in pass coverage assignments on short throws. YOUNG has a nose for the football, and had huge tackling numbers for the Bruins. In 2016, he had 90 tackles, and in 2017, he had 109 tackles to his credit. As part of that number, he certainly contributed greatly in a hard fought Bowl effort against Kansas State. YOUNG was credited with 9 tackles for the game, all of them solo. They also included 1 TFL. He’s very active in pass coverage, and can provide some solid coverage in the middle of the field. He is currently scheduled to appear in the Shrine Game, where I expect that he will acquit himself well. We are looking at a mid-Round draftee, say Round 5.
That’s a look at Group 1 from my Bowl Game notebook. I’ll be back early next week to look at some more prospects who caught my eye while they were Bowling.