I was going to write up some Bowl Game projections… and then I took a good look at the initial group of games. Pretty pathetic contests in general, especially when you consider that many of the top players, who are Draft eligible, are going to skip their teams’ games to prepare for the NFL Draft process. That process begins with agent selection, Performance Camp enrollment, and Star Games, all starting now and rolling through the first week in February.
So… without starting the process of beating a dead horse ad infinitum (I hope) let’s consider players who have already made written commitments to the games. All the while, keeping in mind that injuries, both real and feigned, can cause, some of the player names to change the closer we get to the actual games.
King of the mountain is still Jim Nagy, and the folks who work with/for him in Mobile at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. The acceptances to this game have ground to a trickle, but that is mainly because well over 110 players have already committed to a game that will have about 125-130 total players involved when the dust settles.
It would seem as though the toughest sell here this year is finding 6 solid QB prospects to fill out the rosters. As of this writing only 3 of 6 QB spots have names filled in beside them. They are; JAKE HAENER/Fresno St, TYSON BAGENT/Shepherd, CLAYTON TUNE/Houston. Folks I an anxious to see small-school BAGENT in person. I also want to scrutinize a healthy HAENER. TUNE is on my better than many think list. But I do not think any of them are going until Day 3 of the Draft.
The biggest name still being bandied about is Alabama’s BRYCE YOUNG. And yes, he is eligible for the game. He has only played 2 seasons, of the minimum 3, but he was red-shirted as a freshman, which counts if he wishes it to. Mr. NAGY has to tread lightly here, because YOUNG is still under the wings of ‘St. Nick’ SABAN. And Nagy does not want to tread on the tail of the man who feeds big time talent to his game every year, and attracts fan interest in college football rabid, Alabama. WILL LEVIS/Kentucky is a hassle free Senior, but his star has dimmed after a mediocre 2022 season at Kentucky. You may still see his name in quite a few First Round Mock Drafts on the internet, but not mine. To me he’s a Late Round 3, early Round 4 talent and won’t carry a lot of clout as a big name Senior Bowl QB.
You can rest assured that NAGY has a plan and is working the process right now. For my money, other than waiting for BRYCE YOUNG to possibly commit, even if only for the practice week, but not game participation, a couple of names I would just as soon like to see in the fold would be JAREN HALL/BYU & BO NIX/Oregon. Sadly, Tennessee’s HENDON HOOKER, who has been a great feel good story for the Vols under Head Coach JOSH HEUPEL, has no chance to participate while he slowly works through the rehab process for his injured knee.
Just a few of the names of guys who had strong 2022 seasons and have NFL aspirations, might be CAM RISING/Utah, TANNER MORDECAI/SMU and a long shot, but late riser in MAX DUGGAN/TCU.
Another development that complicates the Star Game personnel process involves the changing of the SHRINE BOWL venue from the week before the Senior Bowl to the same week as the Senior Bowl with everything being held there, in Vegas, 2 days prior to everything at the Senior Bowl. In other words, as part of Pro Bowl Week (a farce to yours truly) the Shrine plays on Thursday night Feb 2nd, 2 days before the Saturday Senior Bowl. Thanks a lot, once again, NFL. I will confess to personal bitterness to the Pro Bowl power play by the NFL. I used to attend the Shrine Bowl practices and game the third week in January, a mere 65 mile drive from my Florida home, and then drive 500 miles across the Florida Panhandle the Monday after, for Senior Bowl week. So don’t mind bitter old me on this one.
Let me give you my “unofficial” head count from the current Senior Bowl roster, for potential First Round players;
KEION WHITE/GA Tech DE Player who added weight without losing speed and developed into a top level Edge Rusher, who can also set the edge.
TYREE WILSON/Texas Tech# DE/ER #Out of game/leg injury. His injury will have a bearing on his Draft positioning, but he is clearly an elite prospect racing just a notch below CARTER/ANDERSON.
ISAIAH FOSKEY/Notre Dame ER/DE/OB Versatile defender who leaves Notre Dame as their all-time leading Sacker. If he aces the Combine, he could be top 15.
O’CYRUS TORRENCE/Florida OG Followed HC Napier to Gainesville from Lafayette. Moved inside to OG and dominated SEC defenders in run game. Is above average in pass-pro as well.
JAELYN DUNCAN/Maryland OT Big guy has led an improving OL since entering college. May be a bit challenged by speedy edge-rushers, which might precipitate a move to RT, but he’s the real deal.
DALTON KINCAID/Utah TE Shared time at TE at Utah until teammate KUITHE went down for the year. Ever since, he has been the teams leading receiver, and yes, he can block as well. Will play inline, but also in the slot. And the sure hands are elite. That versatility may move him into Round One.
RASHEE RICE/SMU WR Has dominated tough AAC the past two seasons. Reminds me of NFL’s HOPKINS. Has too many drops, but concentration is more the issue than hands. Wins most of the 50/50 throws that come his way.
TREY PALMER/Nebraska WR/RS After sharing time in the crowded LSU receivers room, he torched Big Ten defenses with explosive speed and open field elusiveness. He should at least run in the low 4.3?-seconds for the 40 at the Combine. He has decent size at 6’1/190, and will stretch the field even against NFL Safeties.
Now here are another dozen who should show enough to earn Day Two Draft status between their work in Mobile, and the Combine.
J.L. SKINNER SS/LB Boise St
DEVON WITHERSPOON CB Illinois
J’AYIR BROWN S Penn State
ZACH HARRISON DE/E Ohio State
SIAKI IKA DT Baylor
ANDRE CARTER E/OB Army
DAYIAN HENLEY LB Washington State
CODY MAUCH OL North Dakota State
CHASE BROWN RB Illinois
ANDREI IOSIVAS WR Princeton
XAVIER HUTCHINSON WR Iowa State
REJZOHN WRIGHT CB Oregon State
It will be a bit of a crap shoot as to who they might be, but given the overall talent (as usual) for Mobile at this venue, I would also predict that another 10-12 players from this roster will also join NFL teams by the end of Round 3 next Spring.
Head man over at the SHRINE BOWL venue, Eric Galko, has been rapidly filling out his roster in the past couple of weeks. My last acceptances printout from their website has 80 names on it. I will go a little bit more into depth on their roster in this spot next week. I might add that the Shrine roster is a bit light on QB acceptances as well as the Senior Bowl with only 3 of 6 spots filled. Ironically, CLAYTON TUNE/Houston appears to have accepted invites to both games. But that is very unlikely to really happen these days, now that the games are played only 2 days apart, as opposed to a week apart up until the move to Vegas to partner with the NFL’s Pro Bowl festivities by the Shriners.
Just as a quick observation, I would say that right now my top rated prospect for the Shrine Bowl might be ZAY FLOWERS/WR/RS/Boston College. Let’s call that a “tease” for further discussion next week.
P.S. My kudos to Editor COLIN LINDSAY who continues to provide you with Bowl Game previews over at the website home page. With all the players opting out of these games (except for the Final Four) most of them look like fancy “spring practice” games these days to me. By the way, talk about inflation. How about these Bowls still charging inflated ticket prices at the very time that the quality of their product decreases in most cases.
P.S.S. Nice work by LP for keeping up with the details of tracking Bowl Game acceptances, as well as Declared Underclassmen for the 2023 Draft. His work can mainly be found on the drop down menu under the 2023 Draft heading.