Scouting The Texas Bowl
By Bill Lund
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.
Minnesota methodically made improvements in Jerry Kill’s first three seasons, despite Kill taking a back seat to treat his health issues this year. Syracuse had an up-and-down ACC debut season under first year coach Scott Schafer, needing a win in its final game against Boston College to become bowl eligible.
Both teams feature good talent for NFL scouts to evaluate, with Ra’Shede Hageman headlining this group of prospects in the Texas Bowl.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT
Hageman helped the Gophers to their second bowl game under Kill. His combination of length, explosiveness and raw power is rare. He show great hands and escapability and plays with good pad level when engaged. Hageman could be a 3-technique in a four-man scheme or play as an end in a three-man front. His performance in the bowl along with a great Combine/pro day may push Hagemen into a top 5 selection.
Thieren Cockran, DE
Cokran is a rising star for the Gophers. Though he is draft eligible, he is not likely to consider the draft. But scouts will be watching. Cockran has established himself as a threat off the edge displaying a good first step and the athletic ability to beat offensive tackles in space. He will need to bulk up and hone his pass-rush skills, but his athletic ability is elite and that is always the one thing scouts demand in a top-rated pass rusher.
Brock Vereen, S
Vereen has been a consistent and productive player for the Gophers. He began his career as a corner before being moved to safety in 2012. Vereen is physical with good speed and instincts. He has been versatile enough to be moved back to corner again in 2013, after injuries depleted the depth for the Gophers. Most likely a safety at the next level, Vereen has good feet but lacks the fluidity in the hips most top end DBs possess. Vereen hasn’t received a lot of hype because of his team-first attitude, but he will rise up draft boards as scouts evaluate his overall abilities.
Ed Olson, OT
Olson is a large man (6-foot-7, 309) and an aggressive player who plays with a demeanor coach’s love. He has been a starter for the Gophers since his freshman year, but hasn’t been able to play a full season during his tenure at Minnesota. In 2013, he did not make his first start until Game #8 against Nebraska. He has the size and length scouts love, as well as good feet. When healthy, he performed well against the best in the Big Ten. Olson will display good tools, but his draftability will be determined by how scouts feel about his injury history.
David Cobb, RB
Cobb is the first back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since 2006, though he didn’t become a full-time starter until halfway through the season. A back with a combination of size (5-11, 225) and speed with the ability to break off explosive runs, Cobb is draft eligible but most likely returns with the opportunity to carry the Gophers to new heights.
Zac Epping, C
Epping was a player I loved coming out of high school when we were recruiting him at Buffalo. Many schools, including UB, backed off because of his lack of height (6-2). Epping may have the most talent in spite of his height, showing good movement and punch at the snap. An aggressive and cerebral player, his ability to play both guard and center will make him attractive to NFL scouts.
Jay Bromley, DT
Largely under the radar until this season, Bromley has become a disruptive force on the interior of the Syracuse defensive line. Bromley has a quick first step and the athleticism to make life difficult for offensive linemen. Bromley has learned to use his hands more effectively and those improvements have helped him get to the quarterback nine times in 2013. Bromley has come on late and his consistency will be evaluated thoroughly, but his play this year may push him into the early rounds of the draft.
Marquis Spruill, LB
Spruill is an intense and productive backer for the Orange, who plays with a tremendous motor. Spruill is a versatile player, being utilized all over the field whether in coverage or as a blitzer. Spruill reportedly has been clocked at 4.52 in the 40-yard dash and has a 37-inch vertical leap, which are numbers that will always make scouts take a deeper look.
Sean Hickey, OT
Hickey has eligibility remaining, but given his skill set, it would not be a surprise if Hickey declares for the NFL draft. Hickey is an athletic tackle prospect who has played both sides of the line for the Orange. Hickey has a good initial kick and feet to stay in front of rushers. He is a bit light by NFL standards (287 pounds), and needs to develop more power and strength. An extra year would be beneficial, but the going rate for quality tackles in the NFL may be too much to bypass.