Scouting The Russell Athletic Bowl
By Ken Scudero
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.
The Russell Athletic Bowl will feature more than a handful of draftable NFL prospects, but most of the attention will be focused on the quarterbacks. One passer in the game is a sure top-5 draft pick, and the other has a lot to prove. Draft prospects from Louisville and Miami will have a chance to prove their value in what should be an offense-heavy game.
Bridgewater is the most accurate passer in the nation, he has the most advanced footwork and throwing mechanics, and he is also one of the best decision-makers. He will be selected with one of the first picks; it simply depends on if the Houston Texans are done with Matt Schaub or if the Jacksonville Jaguars are finished with the Blaine Gabbert project. Bridgewater will step into an NFL offense on the first week of next season and prove why he is the best QB prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Preston Brown, ILB
Brown was a second team All-American Athletic Conference selection this season. He is a big linebacker who plays mostly outside but is more than capable of playing middle in a 4-3 scheme. He averaged 7.4 tackles per game, which was good for 11th in the conference. Brown is a strong tackler and should be selected in the mid rounds.
DeVante Parker, WR
Parker has applied for an evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee and has said that if he doesn't get a first-round grade, he will be returning to Louisville next season. He was named first team All-American Athletic Conference for this season in which he caught 46 balls for 743 yards and 11 TDs. Parker is fast with good size and great athleticism, but he is not worth a first-round pick. Still, I think he would hurt himself by returning to school since we don't even know who will be throwing to him next year, with Bridgewater more than likely declaring for the draft.
Hakeem Smith, SS
Smith was yet another Louisville player named first team all-conference. He is a big safety who tackles hard and makes plays on the ball. He's broken up an impressive 21 passes in his career and is one of the top 10 best safeties available in the draft.
Seantrel Henderson, OT
Henderson is one of the biggest specimens you'll see on a football field, listed at 6-foot-8, 345 pounds. He is a third-team All-ACC selection and has played in 42 games in four seasons at Miami. He may be too big when going up against faster defensive linemen who can spin around him. He will need work at the NFL level, but offensive line coaches will be ecstatic to work with him because they know that if his size can be utilized, he can be a special lineman.
Allen Hurns, WR
Hurns was named All-ACC Second Team for a senior season in which he caught 60 balls for 1,138 yards and 6 TDs. He runs sloppy routes and will need to improve on that in the NFL, but he is a talented receiver. He's very quick, has good hands and is 6-foot-3. Hurns is a raw talent who can be plugged in as a fourth receiver but with some work, could be a more prominent offensive weapon. Look for him to go in the later rounds.
Stephen Morris, QB
Here is our other quarterback in the game. Morris has an awesome arm, good mechanics and, at times, he looks like a future NFL star. Then, there are times where Morris looks lost out there on the field, like he doesn't know where to throw or where to even look. He has all the tools to be a good NFL quarterback, but he is definitely a project. I think he drops to the fourth round only because he didn't look NFL-ready this season.
Denzel Perryman, LB
Perryman is a first-team All-ACC linebacker who has yet to declare for the NFL Draft. But if he does, he has a lot of value in the third round. He's a classic middle linebacker prototype with superb tackling and play recognition. He is the leader of the Hurricanes defense, and those leadership skills will carry right over into the NFL.
Pat O'Donnell, P
O'Donnell is yet another Miami player named first-team All-ACC. He is one of the best punters in the country, ranking third nationally at 47.3 yards per punt. O'Donnell has a great chance to be selected on the last day of the draft.