Bowl Game Prospect Viewing Guide: Dollar General and Hawaii Bowls

Joe Malfa with a viewing guide for Dollar General and Hawaii Bowls

‘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 two small schools battle for an irrelevant trophy 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.

Dollar General Bowl

Matchup: Buffalo vs. Troy

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Network: ESPN

Buffalo’s prospects:

1) WR Anthony Johnson (6-foot-2, 215 pounds)

2018 Stats: 10 games, 52 catches, 944 yards, 11 TDs

Career: 22 games, 128 catches, 2300 yards, 25 TDs

The 1st-team All-MAC receiver may be the best pass catcher you haven’t yet heard about, but that’s why I’m here. Johnson, the JUCO transfer out of Iowa Western Community College, burst onto the scene in 2017 with 76 catches for 1356 yards and 14 TDs. He needs to work on his route running a bit, but he has the quickness to separate from defenders and the ability to make catches in traffic. He can play inside or outside, is a strong blocker, and has a knack for making big plays down field. This bowl game will match him up with a corner who will come off the board in the first couple of rounds as well, making for a great test to end Johnson’s collegiate career.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round pick

2) QB Tyree Jackson (6-foot-7, 245 pounds)

2018 Stats: 205/372, 2857 yards, 27 TDs, 11 INTs; 48 carries, 165 yards, 7 TDs

Career: 513/920, 6725 yards, 48 TDs, 23 INTs; 194 carries, 761 yards, 16 TDs

Jackson is a tough prospect to forecast at the moment. First of all, he has a big decision to make regarding whether or not he even wants to turn pro after this game, and I am not sure which course of action makes more sense for him. On one hand, it is a weak QB class so maybe a strong showing at the Combine, his pro day, and in meetings with teams could vault him into the back of the 2nd or top of the 3rd. On the other hand, his game needs refining and one more successful year at Buffalo could make him a lock to go in the first two rounds next year. I think he will lean towards another year at Buffalo, but in case he doesn’t you will get a good look at him against a stout Troy defense.

Jackson has the physical traits, the arm strength, and the athleticism, but he may need a year to marinate in the NFL like Patrick Mahomes. No, I am not saying Jackson is that caliber prospect, but he needs to work on the same things Mahomes did regarding reading defenses and making the right decisions. The MAC Offensive Player of the Year certainly looks to have a bright NFL future ahead of him. He needs time to develop, but he has what it takes to become a starter with his floor being a solid backup.

Projection: 3rd-4th round pick

3) LB Khalil Hodge (6-foot-1, 235 pounds)

2018 Stats: 13 games, 139 tackles, 2 sacks, FF, INT

Career: 37 games, 414 tackles, 7 sacks, 3 FF, 3 INT

Do a double-take if you have to, it’s fine. That does indeed say 414 tackles. Hodge is a bit undersized and he doesn’t have the flashy speed of fellow undersized linebacker Roquan Smith. Pair the measureables with fact that he plays at a school that does not garner much national attention, and you understand why he is a projected mid-round pick despite his production. He is a tremendous tackler and does a really good job of quickly diagnosing runs to blow them up in the backfield. Despite his size, he fights through traffic and sheds blockers well. He needs to work on his coverage skills, but I see a mid-round steal who can rack up 100+ tackles per season.

Projection: 3rd-4th round pick

Troy’s prospect:

CB Blace Brown (5-foot-10, 200 pounds)

2018 Stats: 44 tackles, 5 pass breakups, INT

Career: 111 tackles, 11 pass breakups, 12 INTs

After grabbing six INTs in 2016 and another five in 2017, opposing teams decided to limit the amount of times they looked Brown’s way. He has turned into a shutdown corner for Troy, capable of taking away one side of the field. Brown has had his best games against Troy’s top competition, including LSU, Clemson, Boise State, and Nebraska. It is going to be a lot of fun watching Brown do battle with Johnson in this game. This game plus a strong draft season could vault Brown from a borderline 2nd-3rd round pick into the top of the 2nd or back of the 1st. He is going to be a problem for opposing offenses at the next level.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round pick

Other names to watch: S Cedarious Rookard (7th round/undrafted free agent), WR Damion Willis (7th round/undrafted free agent)

Hawaii Bowl

Matchup: Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech

Time: 10:30 p.m.

Network: ESPN

Hawaii’s prospects: LB Jahlani Tavai may go between the 2nd and 4th round, but he is expected to be out with a shoulder injury. No other prospects.

Louisiana Tech’s prospect:

EDGE Jaylon Ferguson (6-foot-4, 270 pounds)

2018 Stats: 12 games, 60 tackles, 15 sacks, 23.5 TFLs, 2 FFs

Career Stats: 48 games, 182 tackles, 42.5 sacks, 65 TFLs, 7 FFs

If last year’s draft was the year of the QB, this is the year of the EDGE and Ferguson is among the best who will come off the board in the first two rounds. He has the length, speed, and strength to consistently be a threat around the edge in the NFL. His talent is complemented by a great motor. His measureables and production speak for themselves. This is not a prospect to overthink just because he didn’t go to a powerhouse of a school.

Projection: 1st-2nd round pick

Other names to watch: G O’Shea Douglas (6th round/undrafted free agent), WR Teddy Veal (6th round/undrafted free agent)