‘Tis the season for over 40 college bowl games sponsored by some very obscure companies to celebrate the mediocrity of 6-6 teams. Surely there is an angry old man somewhere waving his fist screaming about how “everyone gets a trophy” and “the Millennials are ruining everything.” At TOJ, we love bowl season. Maybe not for the games because watching Western Kentucky against Georgia State is not very appealing, but it gives us a chance to watch some teams that we did not get a chance to watch this season and evaluate some prospects who may not have been regularly exposed to us.
Birmingham BowlMatchup: USF vs. Texas Tech
Time: 12:00 p.m.
USF’s prospects:1) QB/WR Quinton Flowers
2017 stats: 53.4% completion percentage, 2,600 yards, 21 TDs, 6 INTs; 182 carries, 972 yards, 10 TDs
Career stats: 53.9% completion percentage, 7,819 yards, 67 TDs, 23 INTs; 584 carries, 3,566 yards, 40 TDs
All of the talk about Lamar Jackson making a switch to wide receiver is asinine, but the switch might make a bit more sense for Flowers. He is going to participate in the East-West Shrine game as a quarterback, but the chances of him making it as a quarterback in the NFL are slim to none. He measures at 6-feet, 215-pounds but does not have the talent of a Baker Mayfield to make up for the lack of size. Flowers struggles mightily as a passer, but he has a knack for making plays with his feet. We have recently seen the likes of Denard Robinson, Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller make the switch — Flowers could be next if a team takes a chance on him in the 7th round or as an undrafted free agent. In any regard, enjoy watching him make some electric plays in a USF uniform one final time. This game should be a shootout.2) RB D’Ernest Johnson
2017 stats: 177 carries, 745 yards, 7 TDs; 10 catches, 128 yards, 2 TDs; 8 kick returns, 155 yards; 8 punt returns, 55 yards
Career stats: 405 carries, 1,745 yards, 16 TDs; 72 catches, 884 yards, 12 TDs; 45 kick returns, 1,106 yards; 27 punt returns, 288 yards, 1 TD
Johnson possesses a good mix of speed, agility and some sneaky power within that 5-foot-10, 210-pound frame. He is USF’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards, but that consistency will not likely project to the next level. What I do know is that some team will take Johnson near the end of the draft and give him a chance to carve out a role on special teams given his experience as a return man.
3) DT Deadrin Senat
2017 stats: 61 tackles, 3 sacks
The defensive tackle position has become an afterthought as edge rushers have drawn all the attention in this pass-happy league, but it is still an important position and a team will be happy to fill it with Senat. Nothing about him really jumps off the page, but he has the strength and motor to be a steady interior lineman in the NFL. He projects as a 6th or 7th round pick, but a good week at the East-West Shrine game followed by a strong combine could push him up into the 5th. Regardless of where he is drafted, Senat will produce in the NFL.
Texas Tech’s prospect:
- QB Nic Shimonek
2017 stats: 68.2% completion percentage, 3,547 yards, 30 TDs, 8 INTs
Shimonek had to wait his turn behind Patrick Mahomes, but he made the most of his opportunity to start as a senior. Playing against Big 12 defenses in Kliff Kingsbury’s quarterback friendly offense helped, but the talent is there. He is very raw and will not be considered for a starting role for in the foreseeable future, but a team may take a shot at him in the 6th or 7th round hoping to mold him into a serviceable backup. As I mentioned earlier, this game could be a shootout — enjoy watching Flowers and Shimonek go back and forth all afternoon.
Armed Forces Bowl
Matchup: Army vs. San Diego State
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Army’s Prospects: N/A
San Diego State’s prospect:
- RB Rashaad Penny
2017 stats: 275 carries, 2,027 yards, 19 TDs; 18 catches, 142 yards, 2 TDs; 15 kick returns, 459 yards, 2 TDs; 2 punt returns, 70 yards, 1 TD
Career stats: 473 carries, 3,422 yards, 34 TDs; 41 catches, 466 yards, 6 TDs; 79 kick returns, 2,387 yards, 7 TDs; 2 punt returns, 70 yards, 1 TD
Here is my early candidate to be 2018’s Kareem Hunt. Penny showed flashes of brilliance last season as he rushed for over 1,000 yards and averaged 7.4 yards per carry despite playing second fiddle to Donnel Pumphrey. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back burst onto the scene in 2017. He topped 2,000 yards and duplicated his 7.4 yards per carry mark, but he is not garnering the amount of attention I believe he deserves. He, like Hunt, will be overlooked and drafted in the middle of day two before ultimately making an immediate impact in the NFL. I have to watch Penny a lot more before I lock in this comparison, but Hunt may coincidentally be his closest NFL parallel. They have similar running styles and are exactly the same size. Aside from Penny’s abilities as a running back, he is an elite prospect as a kick returner. He averaged 30.2 yards per return and found the end zone seven times in his collegiate career. I will eventually publish my “Best Case Scenario” mock draft for the Jets — Penny is the leader in the clubhouse for that 3rd round pick.