Scouting The BBVA Compass And GoDaddy.com Bowls
As part of Football.com's coverage of all 35 bowl games, we will provide a draft prospect-primer, so you know whom to watch during every postseason game.
For the life of me, I can't figure out why these two bowls exist. It's like interrupting the flow of a five-course dinner to serve up a fistful of Fritos before the entree.
Someone must be making money off these post-BCS, pre-BCS Championship games, otherwise they'd have gone the way of the Bacardi Bowl, the Oil Bowl and the Tobacco Bowl (wait -- surely there's a demand for a Vice Bowl Series . . . )
Still, they play, we watch. Aside from Vanderbilt, which has more recognizable Commodores this year than Lionel Ritchie's band ever did, there's not a ton to watch for.
BBVA COMPASS BOWL
Jordan Matthews, WR
I am unabashed in admitting how much I think of Matthews. He hasn't been involved in as many sensational plays as Mike Evans, but Matthews is the best big receiver in the draft. He's 6-foot-3, 206 pounds, with hands and body control reminiscent of Larry Fitzgerald. No, I am not suggesting Matthews is the next Larry Fitzgerald. But he is a top-10 talent, and he'd be the first receiver off the board, ahead of Sammy Watkins, if he were faster and a bit more elusive after the catch. Matthews is the all-time leading receiver in SEC history, and while that list isn't exactly a Who's Who of All-Pro Receivers (where have you gone, Craig Yeast?), it's important to note that Matthews hasn't exactly had Jay Cutler as his quarterback. All of Evans' catches were delivered by Johnny Manziel, a Heisman winner one year and finalist the next; Matthews was the reason Austyn Carta-Samuels completed 68 percent of his pass attempts (107 of his 193 completions were to Matthews). Again, it's his speed that will limit his eventual production in the NFL. But he could be a No. 1 receiver, a guy who moves the chains and wins battles in the red zone. I can't help but think how good he'd look in a Lions uniform.
Kenny Ladler, FS
In a down year for safeties, few have improved their stock this season as much as Ladler. Always a reliable tackler (he's led the team in consecutive years: 90 in 2012, 87 and counting in 2013), he's become much more of a playmaker. Ladler came into his senior season with four career INTs and two forced fumbles; this year, he has five of each. His size (6-1, 205) and closing speed make him a candidate to play either safety position, and his tackling prowess gives him a versatility most other safeties in this year's crop are lacking.
Andre Hal, CB
Hal passed his two biggest tests of the season, holding the two biggest receivers he faced -- Donte Moncrief of Ole Miss and Mike Evans of Texas A&M -- below their average days. Evans did had two touchdowns, burning Hal on a go pattern. But Hal showed he could capably handle the big assignment. He's not going to be a lockdown corner at the next level. But can fit in either a man or zone scheme, and has the athleticism to hold his own against most non-elite wideouts.
Richie Leone, P
The Cougars hadn't had a player honored by the FWAA as a member of its All-America team since 1997. That makes Leone's second-team designation postively historic. And he certainly enjoyed one of the best seasons of any punter in the country. He's a four-year starter and a three-year Ray Guy Award semifinalist, who averaged 43.1 yards per punt this year. He had 14 punts longer than 50 yards, four longer than 60. And the inability for opponents to return his punts helped Houston rank third in net punting yards (an esoteric stat to most fans, but critical in the eyes of coaches looking to flip the field). A punter or two get drafted every year, and there's no reason to think that Leone won't be one of the select few.
Ryan Carrethers, DT
Linebacker Qshaun Lee was the first ASU player in a decade to record back-to-back seasons of 100+ tackles. That speaks to his tackling technique, yes, but it probably helps to have a 6-2, 330-pound nose tackle occupying the attention of pairs of offensive linemen on every play. That's a big part of an interior lineman's job, and Carrethers has that down. But Carrethers is far more active than nose tackles traditionally are asked to be. He was fourth among all defensive linemen with 87 tackles this season, and turned in an unfathomable 16-tackle day against UL-Lafayette. That's three games' worth for Louis Nix III, the best nose tackle available in this year's draft. Carrethers has feasted on the interior linemen of the Sun Belt; it will be interesting to see if he lands an invitation to either the East-West Shrine Game or the Senior Bowl, and how his strength and surprising quickness stack up against a higher caliber of blockers.
Keith Wenning, QB
If Alex Trebek were to pose this as a "Jeopardy" answer -- The only FBS quarterback to pass for at least 299 yards in 10 games this season -- would you know the right question? Who is Keith Wenning, indeed?
Well, he's a 6-3, 220-pound quarterback who, despite being overshadowed for two seasons by Jordan Lynch, is the best QB prospect in the MAC. He's a classic dropback passer, who comes from a no-huddle, pro-style offense. A guy who has started 46 games, thrown for 11,187 yards and 91 touchdowns, whose interceptions have dropped each of his four seasons as his attempts have gone up. He's learning not to force his throws downfield, to read through to second and third options. And he's mobile enough when forced to run.
Who is Keith Wenning? He's not the next Ben Roethlisberger. But in a year when so many teams will be looking to add quarterback depth, he's a guy with a shot. Which makes him worth watching for at least this one Sunday.