Bowl Game Week Three is near completion with only the Texas Bowl remaining for me to watch. Between myself and Shane P Hallam, we have watched every bowl game so far. I am going to give you one standout draft-eligible player from the nine games I have watched in the third and final week of bowls.
BOWL GAME WEEK THREE STANDOUTS
FIRST RESPONDER BOWL
Junior QB Malik Cunningham is a fun, dual-threat quarterback. He probably needs to add a little bulk but Cunningham is fast and elusive in the open field. Against Air Force, he was 13/21 passing for 207 yards and a score. Cunningham added another 63 yards rushing and a TD. As of now, there has been no word on whether he will enter the draft or not. If he does, I believe Cunningham will be selected early on day two.
AIR FORCE FALCONS
It is hard to make an impact as a wide receiver in an offense that is 95% running. Senior WR Brandon Lewis was impressive against Louisville. He made several big plays down the field and broke the ankles of one Cardinals DB. He finished the bowl game with five catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis is listed a 5’9” and 175-pounds. I will probably have a draftable grade on him after the process shakes out.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Makai Polk had a highly productive season for the Bulldogs. He went over 100 catches on the year during the bowl game. Polk caught seven balls for 57 yards. He is a big target but is elusive. Polk declared for the draft and will probably be selected early on day three.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
Red Raiders senior TE Travis Koontz is a well-built prospect. He has solid hands and is an okay route runner. Koontz caught two passes against Miss State for 41 yards. He will play in the Hula Bowl in a couple of weeks.
Junior safety Nick Cross made the play of the game when he shot into the Hokies backfield like a cruise missile and separated the VT QB from the ball. Cross is an athletic player. He finished the game with three tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble.
VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES
All of the draftable prospects for Virginia Tech bailed on the game. LB Dax Hollifield should find his way onto a 90-man roster. He recorded four solo tackles against Maryland.
DUKE’S MAYO BOWL
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Junior RB Kevin Harris finally looks like he is returning to his 2020 form. He obliterated the Tar Heels’ defense with 182 yards on the ground on 31 carries and one TD. Harris declared for the draft. Unfortunately for Harris, in a loaded class of RBs, he may find himself lost in the shuffle.
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
I could talk about Sam Howell and his last game. However, when a player passes Lawrence Taylor and Julius Peppers to be a school’s sack leader, then you have to mention him. Senior edge rusher Tomon Fox notched one sack against South Carolina to take the top billing in UNC history. Alas, Fox isn’t a top-five prospect like his predecessors in Chapel Hill. He still has a shot to be drafted in April.
LAS VEGAS BOWL
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS
Arizona State was another school that had several opt-outs. Their top-rated prospect that played was likely LB Merlin Robertson. Robertson came into the season as a potential top-100 player but his play in 2021 has not lived up until that billing. He can still be a good LB at the next level. Against Wisconsin, Robertson recorded seven tackles.
Speaking of LBs, one prospect who is rising up boards is the Badgers junior Leo Chenal. Against the Sun Devils, Chenal made several plays with his nine tackles and one sack. Chenal declared for the draft on Monday.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS
CMU got promoted from the Arizona Bowl and took advantage with a win. Undersized edge rusher Troy Hairston had 1.5 sacks against Wazzu. He will have a hard time making it in the NFL with a 5’11” 245-pound frame as anything other than a situational pass rusher.
WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
The only player for Washington State that played in the Sun Bowl of note was junior edge rusher, Brennan Jackson. Jackson had five tackles and one TFL. I highly doubt he enters the 2022 draft.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Alabama relied on their running game, for the most part, to blow out Cincinnati. They fed senior RB Brian Robinson. Robinson carried the ball 25 times for 198 yards. He is probably going to go, at best, on the late portion of day two. Robinson will play in the Senior Bowl in February.
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner gave up absolutely nothing against the Tide through the air. He finished his career by never allowing a passing TD against him. You could make an argument that Gardner was CB1 in this class.
Former walk-on LB Grant Morgan is going to make an NFL roster next season. Morgan has consistently made plays for Arkansas. Against Penn State, he recorded five tackles.
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS
Future Senior Bowler Jesse Luketa is a versatile talent. He can rush off of the edge or make plays sideline-to-sideline. Luketa recorded nine tackles and one TFL against the Hogs.
It appears Iowa has another athletic TE prospect ready to make an impact. Junior Sam LaPorta showed off that athleticism with seven catches for 122 yards and a score against Kentucky. If LaPorta declares he could make a play to be a Top-100 player.
I am late for the Wan’Dale Robinson party. The former Nebraska player is a detailed route runner, has tremendous hands, and is a nuisance in the open field. Robinson decimated the Iowa defense. He caught ten balls for 170 yards. Robinson will be drafted early on day two.