The college bowl season has gotten started and plenty of players are facing the best competition that they've seen all season. For some 2013 NFL Draft prospects, the bowl matchup will give NFL scouts their best view yet at the skills and readiness of prospects. Here is a run down of the top pairings to watch from a draft perspective in the later bowl games.
Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14
The BCS National Championship Game featured a lot of talent for the NFL. Here is a run-down of the early to mid-round prospects on each team and their current round estimation for the 2013 NFL Draft.
ILB Manti Te'o (1)
TE Tyler Eifert (1)
C Braxton Cave (4-6)
S Zeke Motta (4-6)
C Barrett Jones (1-2)
G Chance Warmack (1)
RT D.J. Fluker (2-3)
RB Eddie Lacy (2-3)
TE Michael Williams (4-6)
DT Jesse Williams (1-2)
ILB Nico Johnson (3-4)
CB DeMarcus Milliner (1)
S Robert Lester (2-3)
The best draft matchup to watch came in the trenches with Alabama's superb offensive line going against one of the best front sevens in college football. The Crimson Tide's line had the tough task of blocking defensive tackle Louis Nix and defensive end Stephon Tuitt along with inside linebacker Manti Te'o. Nix and Tuitt are potential first-rounders in 2014.
Early in the game, Alabama's line got rolling with Lacy following behind. That led to the Crimson Tide covering 82 yards on its first five plays. Lacy set the tone for the night by running between Jones and Warmack to go straight up the Notre Dame defense for a 20-yard touchdown. Te'o was a second late adjusting to the run, which allowed Lacy to run by him for the score.
Lacy rumbled down the field on the next drive to set up a short touchdown pass to Michael Williams. Te'o bit on a play action and Williams was wide open.
The Alabama offensive line was simply dominating the point of attack. Warmack had two good blocks on the drive against Te'o at the second level to spring his back. Te'o was unable to shed Warmack as the powerful guard did a masterful job of sustaining his blocks.
Nix bull rushed through Jones on the next drive to get a tackle for a loss. Throughout the rest of the first half, Jones and Nix had some good battles. Each player had his share of wins.
Te'o had a horrible missed tackle just before halftime in the backfield on a 3rd-and-3 carry. He fired into the backfield, but Yeldon shook out of the Te'o's tackl. Lacy finished the drive by catching a short dump-off pass to run into the end zone from 10 yards out. He spun out of two tackles to cross the goal line.
Jones, Warmack and Fluker were winning at the point of attack throughout the second half to open holes for Lacy. They also had great pass protection for A.J. McCarron. Lacy finished the night with 140 yards on 20 carries with a score. He was very impressive as he ran with power, quickness and elusiveness. Lacy, Jones, Warmack and Fluker all helped their stocks with this performance. Warmack was especially dominant. All four should go in the first or second round next April.
This game was a disaster for Te'o. He had numerous missed tackles and seemed to really struggle with the Crimson Tide's speed. Te'o took some bad angles and had plays that he was unable to wrap up the power back Lacy. Notre Dame and Te'o had the ball bounce their way a lot in 2012, but the luck of the Irish ran out against Alabama. Te'o should remain a first-rounder, but this tape will hurt his chances of going in the top 20.
The player who could be selected first from either team next April is Milliner. Currently he is the top corner for the 2013 class. Early on, Notre Dame twice challenged Milliner with deep passes to Eifert. Milliner forced Eifert out of bounds on the first attempt and the second time, Eifert made a great catch over Milliner's head. He had tight coverage on each play. Eifert had a short catch later in the first quarter that nearly became a nightmare. Right after his knee hit the ground, the ball popped out and Alabama recovered the fumble. The replay official shortly corrected the mistake to rule Eifert down.
Milliner had a nice pass breakup just before halftime. A great throw beat him early in the third quarter for a nice completion, but he finished the drive well. Milliner had perfect man coverage along the sideline on a deep go route. He slapped away the pass and it was intercepted by a teammate.
Milliner had blanket coverage all night and wasn't allowing separation despite routinely being tested by the Fighting Irish. He helped his cause to be a high first-rounder.
Eifert had a nice third-quarter play to break a tackle and pick up an extra 10 yards. He finished with 61 yards on six receptions and this tape shouldn't impact him significantly.
A few other prospects are worth mentioning. Jesse Williams had a good night for Alabama. He helped set up a tackle for a loss by C.J. Mosley by opening a lane for the running back. The next play saw Williams pressure Golson out of the pocket. Williams helped himself.
Tight end Michael Williams was excellent as a blocker and played a huge role in the Crimson Tide's ground success. Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta was awful and constantly abused by Alabama on the ground and through the air. This performance will hurt his chances of getting drafted in the mid-rounds.
Texas A&M 41, Oklahoma 13
Two former Big XII rivals squared off in this Cotton Bowl, and the Aggies' draft prospects showed why Texas A&M is one of the best teams in college football. The player who could be selected first overall next April is Aggies left tackle Luke Joeckel. He capped off a great season with another dominant performance.
Joeckel was winning his blocks versus the Sooners' defensive linemen throughout this contest. He made it look easy in pass protection, stonewalling every bull rush and mirroring every speed rush. In the ground game, Joeckel pushed linemen aside and showed outstanding quickness to hit blocks on the second level of the defense. He also repeatedlt allowed quarterback Johnny Manziel to take an obscene amount of time to throw passes. The freshman signal-caller had plenty of time to hold onto the ball and scramble around. Joeckel was superb.
This performance is just another tape of dominance to add to the stack. Joeckel looks like a lock to be a top-five pick if he enters the 2013 NFL Draft and is a serious contender to go first overall.
Joeckel isn't the only Texas A&M player who should be selected quickly on draft night. Defensive end Damontre Moore was one of the best defensive linemen in the nation in 2012 and one of its most consistent pass-rushers. He led the Aggies defense in tackles; a massively impressive feat for a defensive end.
One of the best potential draft matchups in this contest was Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson taking on Moore. However the majority of the game saw Moore lining up over the right tackle. Moore was called for being offsides during the first quarter, but it was questionable as he looked to have timed the snap perfectly. The junior's great get off allowed him to get a tackle for a loss that was wiped out.
A few plays later, Moore almost made an ankle tackle for a loss, but just missed the receiver on an end around. Moore planted quarterback Landry Jones late in the first quarter after coming on a stunt. He closed in a hurry, but the Sooners signal-caller got the ball off to avoid the sack. Moore stuffed a run at the line of scrimmage on a second-and-goal during the same drive.
Moore had a phenomenal second-quarter play when he bull rushed the right tackle straight back before shedding him to rip down the running back for a loss of four yards. Moore had another tackle for no gain on a second-and-goal just before halftime. He came close to a sack on the next play after flying to the inside of the right tackle.
Moore came close to a sack in the third quarter, but the right tackle got away with a hold as he tugged on Moore to pull him away from Jones. Throughout the game, Moore was getting held constantly and wasn't getting it called by the officials. He had a strong performance overall, recording five tackles, a tackle for a loss and some pass pressure.
Moore is a well-developed player given that he is only 20 years old. That being said, he has more work to do. One thing that will help Moore is to obsessively run the hula-hoops drill. This will help him to get better at sinking his hips and shoulders to get pointed to the quarterback coming around the edge. That is a common area for improvement for tall defensive ends and Moore (6-4, 250) looks like he has the agility to do it. His stock won't be hurt or helped by this game.
Lane Johnson had a good night at left tackle and did a rather good job of pass protection for Jones. Johnson generally won his blocks in the ground game, too. This final outing should help the senior when scouts grade him. He could be an early-round pick next April.
Another good draft matchup saw Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson taking on Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope. Jefferson is planning on entering the 2013 NFL Draft, and both of them could be second-day picks.
Swope got wide open running down the field early, but the ball was overthrown for an incompletion. He converted a third-and-11 with a 16-yard reception a few plays later though. Jefferson came over to make a nice open-field tackle to stop the senior wide out.
Early in the third quarter, Swope made a couple of nice receptions. One was a gain of about 30 yards with an over-the-shoulder catch along the sideline. He then put the game away late in the third quarter with a 33-yard touchdown catch. Swope ran a quick slant and broke a tackle to break free for the score. He finished with eight receptions for 104 yards. Swope looks like a dangerous slot receiver for the NFL who could make teams regret passing on him.
Jefferson overpursued in the second quarter which let Johnny Manziel dodge him. The run went for 45 yards and Jefferson could've saved 40 yards if he had made the tackle. It was a tough play to make, but one that the junior would want to make.
Still, Jefferseon saved a touchdown a short time later with a tackle at the 5-yard line. He was limping with an ankle sprain after the play - on which he showed nice range to the sideline. Jefferson had some nice tackles on Manziel in the second half. He finished with six tackles while playing on the high ankle sprain. Jefferson's stock shouldn't be impacted up or down in this performance.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones had a mixed collegiate career, and this performance was indicative of his trend of not elevating his play against good opponents. He played the ball well in the first quarter by making good decisions and moving the chains with some precision passes. Jones was having success working the ball to Kenny Stills. Jones was confused by some second-quarter coverage and threw an interception. It was an astute play by the Aggies defense that saw a corner flash man coverage before falling back into zone.
Jones threw a perfect strike just before halftime to the back shoulder in the end zone, but Stills dropped the potential touchdown. Jones made a nice play a few downs later as he avoided a sack by Moore and rolled out to throw a strike into the back of the end zone for a score.
Jones threw the ball accurately during the final two quarters, but couldn't maintain possession of the ball or put up points for the Sooners. Texas A&M's offense was dominant and Jones wasn't getting much help. He finished 35-of-48 for 278 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Jones could crack the third round next April.
Stills could also be a third-rounder. He had 67 yards on seven receptions in his final collegiate game. The junior has decided to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Stills isn't big and is more quick than fast. He may be best as a slot receiver.
The final two prospects worth mentioning are Sooners fullback Trey Millard and Aggies outside linebacker Sean Porter. Millard ran for 11 yards on his first carry. He then made a tough catch later on the drive to covert a 3rd-and-4. Millard totaled 28 yards on four carries with another good run called back by holding. He could be a nice value as a mid-round pick.
Porter had a nice goal-line tackle to stop Blake Bell short of the end zone. Porter had a nice interior blitz during the fourth-quarter on which he chased down Jones. Porter showed good strength to pull down the Oklahoma quarterback with one arm. Porter looks best as a 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL. He could be a sleeper mid-round pick with starting potential.
Oregon 35, Kansas State 17
There were three good linebacker prospects in the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon outside linebacker/defensive end Dion Jordan is the highest rated among them and looks like a future first-round pick. Ducks' inside linebacker Kiko Alonso has had an excellent senior season and also is a potential draft pick next April. Kansas State senior Arthur Brown was one of the best linebackers in the Big XII and should be taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Oregon duo had the challenge of taking on Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Jordan showed his athleticism on the second play of the game when he ran the ball for a 2-point conversion. Jordan then made his presence felt on defense in the second quarter when he fired around the left tackle unblocked to blow up Klein in the backfield on a 1st-and-goal.
Aside from those plays, Jordan was pretty quiet against the Wildcats. His stock shouldn't be hurt or helped by his final collegiate performance.
Alsonso played very well in the Fiesta Bowl. He made a superb play early on on a 4th-and-short when he fired into the guard and center to knock them back. That stuffed Collin Klein short of first-down yardage. In the third quarter, Alonso destroyed a stretch run by getting into the backfield to take down the back for a tackle for a loss.
Alonso was making an impact all evening in defending Klein on the ground and Kansas State's other running backs. Alonso was tough at the point of attack and did a good job of reading his keys to be in position to make tackles. This tape should help his bid to be a mid-rounder next April.
Kansas State's Brown has had back-to-back good seasons. He had the challenge of taking on one of the best backs in college football in Kenjon Barner in this contest. The small, speedy back is a potential mid-round pick next April.
Brown had a nice stuff on a run by Barner during the first quarter. Brown couldn't make a tackle on De'Anthony Thomas a few plays later though. Brown started to grab Thomas at the 5-yard line, but the ball-carrier shook free to keep charging ahead and fall over the goal line.
Brown and the Wildcats did a good job of keeping Barner in check throughout the first half. The speedy back was wide open running down the field in the second quarter, but lost a perfectly thrown pass in the lights. He didn't extend his hands to make an easy catch and would have been off to the races for a long touchdown. Barner then made up for it by catching a swing pass on the run and sprinting 24 yards into the end zone. He had only 23 yards on seven carries during the first half.
Barner got going after halftime and Kansas State's defense started losing gap integrity, including Brown. Brown took a bad angle in the third quarter which helped open up a big lane for a 32-yard Oregon run.
Barner started ripping off yards in chunks late in the fourth quarter. He finished his runs well and showed a more physical nature to his game than he has in other contests this year. Barner concluded with 143 yards on 31 carries. This tape could help him, while Brown won't receive any boost from his performance against the Ducks.
Louisville 33, Florida 23
There were a number of quality NFL prospects playing in their final collegiate game in the Sugar Bowl. The highest rated among them was Florida junior safety Matt Elam.
All night long, Elam was flying around the field and dishing out devastating hits on Louisville offensive players. He was a head-hunter and looking to punish any player who got in his way.
Elam rocked a receiver with a massive hit in the first quarter. He was late picking up a receiver during the second quarter and was beaten for a 15-yard gain on a third down. Elam didn't wrap up the back later on a run play, but he hit the ball-carrier so hard that he fell right on his backside short of the line of scrimmage.
Elam flew up to the line of scrimmage in the third quarter and tackled a wide receiver for no gain on a screen pass. He then popped the helmet off a running back on the next play. Elam ran around the corner later in the fourth quarter to hit the running back in the backfield and start a tackle for a loss. Elam got a sack on the next possession via a safety blitz after Bridgewater stepped up in the pocket.
Overall, Elam played well and really stood out. His speed to cover a lot of ground and his hitting ability are magnificent. Elam showed that he is ready to play on Sundays and looks like a worthy first-round pick next April.
Teammate Sharrif Floyd is also going to declare. He was one of the best defensive tackles in the SEC in 2012 and is extremely disruptive at the point of attack. Floyd put that on display against Louisville as he was consistently getting great penetration into the backfield.
Floyd had a tackle for a loss in the second quarter. He exploded down the pocket in the third quarter to sack Bridgewater. The signal-caler avoided Floyd for an instant before the quick tackle chased him down from behind. That led to the Cardinals having to kick a long field goal that they missed.
Floyd was able to help block a third-quarter field goal as he got a piece of the ball with a teammate. He produced a good tape for NFL evaluators with his final collegiate game.
Floyd is extremely quick off the ball and has the power to shed blocks. While he doesn't get a lot of sacks, he is a good pass-rusher with the way he pushes the inside. Floyd also has experience playing end in a 3-4 as well as tackle in a 4-3. The junior has never had big production in his three seasons at Florida. He looks more appropriate to be selected in the second round.
One player trying to contain Floyd was Louisville senior center Mario Benavides. He had a quality outing against Florida being beaten on some plays but still having his share of wins. Benavides contributed to some nice runs in the second half and good pass protection for Teddy Bridgewater. Benavides had a great seal block in the third quarter that opened up a lane for his back to run for about 20 yards.
This tape should help Benavides to be a mid-round pick next April. The big issue for him is weight. He played better in the 280s as a senior than he did in the 300s as a junior, but weighing in the 280s is extremely undersized for a pro center. If NFL teams believe that Benavides' frame is topped out, that could cause him to fall deep into the third day.
Gators senior running back Mike Gillislee had a breakout season when he finally received the opportunity to start. Gillislee backed up Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps his first three year. Gillislee was one of the top runners in the SEC in 2012 and carried the Gators offense.
It was a disappointing final game for Gillislee. He had an uncharacteristic dropped pass early in the first quarter and was never able to get in a running groove. The Cardinals jumped out to a quick lead and continued to tack on points, so Florida was unable to establish the ground game with Gillislee. He had a nice 17-yard run late in the fourth quarter and finished with 48 yards on nine carries. Gillislee looks like a nice value pick on the second day.
There were a few other draft prospects worth mentioning in this bowl. One of them, Gators junior tight end Jordan Reed had only one catch for seven yards. He is a good athletic receiver, but needs to improve his blocking. The rumor-mill has Reed entering the 2013 NFL Draft, but he should return for his senior season to get better before going pro. Reed is not ready for the NFL.
Florida senior Xavier Nixon had a mixed day, which has been the story of his collegiate career. He had a number of good blocks in the run and pass games but also some ugly mistakes. Nixon was beaten for a sack on a critical 2-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter. He looks like a mid-round developmental tackle with upside.
Gators senior linebacker Jonathan Bostic had a good pass rush ruined by going helmet-to-helmet on Bridgewater and drawing a penalty. Bostic had a decent performance and looks like a candidate for Day 3 of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Florida junior defensive end Dominique Easley was excellent from start to finish. He had a big impact with tackles for a loss and good pass rushes. Easley showed great awareness by batting a pass up in the air to set up a teammate for an easy interception.
Easley came on strong late in 2012, but really should return for his senior year before going pro. Right now, he looks like a mid-round pick, but a big senior season could make him an early-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 10
Many fans complained about this matchup in the Orange Bowl and from an NFL draft perspective, it wasn't fruitful. Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and quarterback E.J. Manuel did not see good tests to help in the evaluation process for the next level.
Werner is the highest rated of the trio and could be a top-10 pick next April if he enters the 2013 NFL draft. The junior had a quiet Orange Bowl performance in which he got a couple of pass pressures, but Northern Illinois sent double-teams his direction. Florida State also was playing Werner in contain a fair amount because of the mobility of Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch.
Werner set up a tackle for a loss in the second quarter when he showed great awareness by reading a screen pass and being there to snuff out the back immediately after the catch was made. Werner was very strong at the point of attack and wasn't getting moved off the line of scrimmage. He defended the run well and occupied a lot of attention from Northern Illinois. This tape shouldn't hurt or help his draft stock.
Rhodes had a more eventful night. Early on, he got away with a hold on a receiver on a 3rd-and-goal. Rhodes jammed the wide out at the line and maintained contact throughout the route, including when the receiver was five yards past the line of scrimmage. That is going to get called for holding in the NFL more often than not.
Rhodes had decent coverage on a few other throws on the next possession. One was a go route down the sideline on which hewas running with the receiver. The second was on a quick out and the the wide out dropped the pass.
Rhodes was flagged for a pass interference in the second quarter he started to shove and grab at the receiver in his go route. Rhodes really needs to get coached up on not taking false steps so he doesn't have to resort to contact. Changing that will have a big impact on his effectiveness, or lack thereof, in the NFL.
Rhodes went down with an injury midway through the third quarter, but he wasn't out of the game very long. After coming back, Rhodes had perfect coverage on a speed receiver running a go route down the field. The junior also recovered a fumble midway through the second half to help Florida State pull away.
Rhodes (6-2, 217) is overly physical at times and that caused his pass-interference penalty. He also may be a little stiff and slow to be a man-cover corner at the next level. Rhodes would be better off going to a defense that mixes in zone and man coverage. He has decided to skip his senior season and looks like a second-day pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Manuel had a good night, but he wasn't really challenged. There was a huge mismatch between the Seminoles' skill-position players and offensive line against the Huskies' defense. Manuel took what that defense gave him and made good decisions overall. He completed 26-of-38 passes for 291 yards with a touchdown. Manuel also ran for 26 yards on six carries with a score. He looks like a mid-round pick next April.
Stanford 20, Wisconsin 14
This Rose Bowl featured a number of physical draft prospects. The Cardinal is a hard-nosed team led by a power running game and a tough front seven. The Badgers are a similar team and each squad has a few pro candidates.
The Stanford offense was playing well early on led by senior running back Stepfan Taylor and junior tight end Zach Ertz. Taylor started out the game well as he was gaining good yardage. The senior was running tough and picking up yards after contact.
Ertz was making his presence felt in the ground game with some good blocking. He ran deep down the middle of the field during the first quarter and made a leaping 43-yard catch inside the Wisconsin 5-yard line. The next play saw Taylor power into the end zone.
In the second half, Wisconsin did a much better job of defending against those two, but Taylor continued to help control the ball. He had a few good runs and Ertz made a big catch for a first down to set up the Cardinal for a game-clinching field goal.
Taylor had a number of carries with good second and third efforts to pick up tough yards. He churned out some hard yards and totaled 88 yards on 20 carries with three receptions for 17 yards. Ertz had three receptions for 61 yards.
Taylor looks like a second-day pick next April. If Ertz enters the 2013 NFL Draft, he would be in the running to be the first tight end selected. He looks like a late first-round or early second-round pick.
Stanford features two future NFL linebackers in Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov. They both did a good job of defending Badgers senior running back Montee Ball.
Skov made a really nice play in the second quarter. He took a block from Frederick on a screen pass and shed the lineman to make the tackle short of a first down on a third0down play. Thomas had a nice pass rush up the middle in the third quarter to lay a good hit on the quarterback just after the ball was released.
Ball got his game going with a nice 24-yard run up the middle of the Cardinal defense. He had a 10-yard touchdown run called back at the start of the second quarter due to a holding penalty on Wagner. On the next possession, Ball used a nice jump cut to get through the hole and charge into the end zone with an 11-yard scoring run.
Ball found little running room after halftime as the Stanford defense was controlling the line of scrimmage. He ran for 100 yards and a score on 24 carries in his final collegiate contest. Aside from Ball's one carry for 24 yards, he really had 76 yards on 23 attempts. Ball looks like a third- or fourth-round pick. He needs to perform well at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
Wisconsin senior left tackle Ricky Wagner and junior center Travis Frederick each had their share of wins and losses. Wagner performed better in pass protection, while Frederick was more successful in the ground game. Both look like second-day picks next April - if Frederick declares.
South Carolina 33, Michigan 28
The Outback Bowl featured the best draft matchup of any of the college bowl games with Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan taking on South Carolina superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The sophomore Clowney is perhaps the best pass-rusher in college football and a near lock to be a top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
If Lewan could shut down Clowney, Lewan's draft stock could skyrocket high into the first round for the 2013 or 2014 NFL Draft. The junior had a strong year, but he never saw an elite pass-rusher during the regular season and had a very easy schedule.
Lewan also had some disappointing moments against Alabama and Ohio State. The 6-foot-8, 309-pounder has length on his side, but he hadn't seen a rusher with Clowney's speed in 2012. Lewan's draft stock would plummet if he was dominated by Clowney, so Lewan had a lot on the line in this bowl matchup.
The first play from scrimmage saw Clowney fire by Lewan and a running back to get some pressure. Lewan recovered to have a nice block on Clowney a little bit later, but got away with a bit of a hold with a hand up in Clowney's helmet. Lewan was flagged for a facemack shortly later. To end that possession, Clowney had a nice bull rush going on Lewan before the guard gave Clowney a shove.
Lewan later got enough of a block on Clowney to let his quarterback escape around the left side on a roll out for a short touchdown toss. Clowney fired upfield by Lewan to disrupt a run. Clowney knocked him to the ground on a rush, but Lewan held on long enough to slow down the dynamic sophomore.
Clowney had a tremendous bull rush just before halftime that pushed Lewan into the backfield. Lewan held onto Clowney to prevent him from making the sack, and the refs flagged Lewan for the obvious hold.
Clowney beat Lewan on speed rushes on consecutive downs during the third quarter. The Gamecocks standout didn't get a tackle or sack, but he disrupted the plays. A running back's chip on Clowney shook him up briefly. Lewan was injured a few mintues later and limped off the field. He missed the rest of the possession before coming back on the field.
Lewan had some good blocks on Clowney on the ensuing drive. Clowney made a huge impact play in the fourth quarter with a massive hit and forced fumble on a running back in the backfield. Clowney recovered the fumble. Lewan was assigned to run by Clowney to hit a block at the second level on that play, so Lewan can't be blamed for that horrible play design or usage against an end like Clowney.
Clowney whipped Lewan with speed and a swim move on the next posession to make a tackle for a loss. Lewan and two other teammates actually had to triple-team Clowney on the final play of the game.
Overall, Lewan held his own against Clowney. It wasn't a flawless performance, but nobody can expect that against a phenom like Clowney. This tape should help Lewan's draft stock and solidify him as a top-20 pick.
Lewan doesn't seem to gain anything by going back to school next year. Clowney's high-impact plays confirm his ranking as the top prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Two junior wide receivers had great days to help themselves. South Carolina's Ace Saunders dominated the Michigan defense and special teams. He returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown and caught nine passes for 92 yards.
Saunders also had a 31-yard touchdown and a four-yard touchdown catch. He converted a a fourth down late in the contest during the Gamecocks' game-winning drive with a tough catch on a quick slant. Saunders (5-8, 175) should return for his senior season.
Michigan's Jeremy Gallon (5-8, 187) was phenomenal. He caught nine passes for 145 yards and two scores. Gallon showed great speed and quickness in and out of his breaks. The junior should also return for 2013, but this tape will help him when he comes out.
Oklahoma State 58, Purdue 14
This looked like it could be an interesting draft matchup between Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short against a good Oklahoma State offense led by running back Joseph Randle, but the game got out of hand so quickly that both players were pretty much irrelevant.
Short was quiet in the early going, but he broke out with a sack in the second quarter. Short rocked the guard off balance with a hard hit. He slapped the guard's hands off of him and whipped down the quarterback.
Short later showed a nice effort by running downfield to make a tackle. He defended the run pretty well and at times got upfield for some pass pressure, but the sack was Short's only impact play.
The NFL is always looking for interior pass-rushers and Short has that skill set. The senior totaled seven sacks this year. He had 6.5 sacks in 2011 and six sacks as a sophomore. Short has been consistently good for Purdue and looks like a pick in the back half of the first round.
Randle didn't stand out with an impressive game. He didn't look bad either as he totaled 65 yards on 17 carries. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound back is considering entering the 2013 NFL Draft.
There is a wide variety of opinions on Randle. Some pundits believe he is a mid-rounder while others think he could go in the second or third round. Randle may be better off returning for his senior season to improve his stock before going pro.
@MAGICQ7 Agreed. They could use literally anything else but an RB. I can see them going Thomas or Allen to build a crazy front 4. Might even pull the trigger on Hooker or Mike Williams if they are there.