Though we still miss the Poulan WeedEater Bowl and the less-than-stellar matchups that came with it, at least by the casual college football fan's standards, there are many players participating in the perceived no-name bowls between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve scouts will be watching closely to gauge future pro potential. Here's a sampling:
Hawaii Bowl (Hawaii vs. Tulsa)
|Greg Salas is a possession receiver who will garner some attention from NFL scouts. (AP)|
• Hawaii WR Kealoha Pilares (5-10, 205, 4.56): The next Davone Bess works the middle of the field with short-area quickness but not great speed. His production this season has already piqued scouts' interest: 88 catches for 1,306 yards and 15 touchdowns.
• Hawaii SS Mana Silva (6-1, 212, 4.64): A hard-hitting safety who not only makes receivers pay for prancing over the middle, but also can scorch quarterbacks for making poor throws -- he has 14 interceptions over the past two years.
• Tulsa WR Damaris Johnson (5-8, 172, 4.39): This junior is one of the top all-purpose players in the country, leading the team in receiving with 53-771-3, as well as averaging 12.5 yards per punt return and 27.4 per kick return (having returned one of each for touchdowns.)
• Tulsa FB/TE Charles Clay (6-3, 235, 4.67): Four-year contributor who acts as a short-yardage back and receiver out of the backfield (187-2,056-28 career).
• Florida International WR T.Y. Hilton (5-10, 183, 4.44): This year's Jernell Jernigan won the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year award because he's a danger to score on every touch (56-816-4 receiving, 27.5-yard kickoff-return average).
• Florida International CB Anthony Gaitor (5-10, 178, 4.53): Toledo will see plenty of this slight defensive back's cover skills (11 career INTs) and ability around the line in run support and blitzes (8.5 TFL, three sacks).
• Toledo C Kevin Kowalski (6-3, 299, 5.19): A sturdy and tough lineman lacking elite athleticism, but willing to mix it up with defensive tackles and negate "Mike" linebackers at the second level.
• Toledo CB Desmond Marrow (6-2, 204, 4.53): Injuries have held back his career, but his NFL size will intrigue some scouts if he plays well against Hilton.
• Georgia Tech RB Anthony Allen (6-0, 230, 4.58): Allen turned his game up late in the year, rushing for over 320 yards the last two weeks, but scouts have had the powerful inside runner on their radars since his freshman year at Louisville.
• Georgia Tech ILB Brad Jefferson (6-1, 244, 4.76): The team's leading tackler (78, 7.5 TFL) could hustle his way to 20 stops against the Air Force option.
• Air Force CB/KR CB Reggie Rembert (5-8, 185, 4.46): What Rembert lacks in size, he makes up for with ball skills (nine career INTs) and aggressiveness in run support.
• West Virginia CB Brandon Hogan (5-10, 190, 4.43): Hogan has had some off-field issues, but has starter-quality toughness and ball skills in a zone system and combines with junior Keith Tandy (six INTs) to make a formidable duo.
• West Virginia RB Noel Devine (5-8, 180, 4.34): He hasn't broken big runs this season due to a foot injury, but has elite speed and change-of-direction ability when healthy.
• West Virginia WR/KR Jock Sanders (5-7, 180, 4.43): Jock isn't much of a downfield threat (averages 10.4 yards/catch), but his value as a slot WR and returner makes him a draftable player.
• West Virginia DT Chris Neild (6-2, 302, 5.24): He's not the biggest nose tackle prospect on the board, but no one works harder to absorb blocks. Teams like the Steelers would love to have him in their rotation.
• North Carolina State ILB Nate Irving (6-1, 232, 4.68): One of the best stories of the 2010 season, he came back from a serious car accident in the summer of 2009 to rack up 20.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 5 pass breakups.
• North Carolina State WR Owen Spencer (6-2, 185, 4.56): The team's leading receiver is a big-play threat: 57 receptions, 868 yards, 15.2 yards/catch, four touchdowns.
• Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn (6-3, 286, 4.79): His stats are a bit down this year (seven TFL, 3.5 sacks this season vs. 20-11.5 in 2009), but he plays his best in bowl games and uses his hands as well as any lineman in the country.
• Iowa DT/DE Christian Ballard (6-4, 298, 4.86): A size/speed prospect who will do well at the combine, Ballard's lack of production (four TFL, two sacks this year) and inability to drop his hips to make tackles worry scouts.
• Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi (6-4, 230, 4.80): Stanzi has fair size and arm strength, and also reduced his interception total from 15 to 4 this year, but must prove he has NFL field vision and poise to be a top 100 prospect.
• Iowa TE Allen Reisner (6-2, 248, 4.89): With Derrell Johnson-Koulianos suspended on drug charges, future NFL FB/H-back Reisner and Jr. WR Marvin McNutt become Stanzi's main targets.
• Missouri C Tim Barnes (6-4, 300, 5.14): Solid three-year starter in the pivot would impress scouts by keeping a tough Iowa defensive line from reaching junior QB Blaine Gabbert.
• Missouri DE/OLB Aldon Smith (6-5, 258, 4.69): Injury kept out the lean, explosive pass rusher early this season, but the redshirt sophomore still earned first-team All-Big 12 accolades with 44 tackles, 9 TFL, 5.5 sacks in nine games.
• Maryland WR Torrey Smith (6-1, 205, 4.37): A junior with nice speed and elusiveness after the catch (65-1,045-12), scouts project him as a top 50 pick but hope he'll be more productive than Darrius Heyward-Bey at the next level.
• Maryland RB Da'Rel Scott (5-11, 205, 4.42): When healthy, Scott can be very explosive. NFL teams will like his chances once he has the benefit of consistent quarterback and offensive line play.
• East Carolina WR Dwayne Harris (5-10, 205, 4.54): A versatile slot receiver (93-1,055-10) who relies on tough running to succeed, rather than elite speed. His return ability is another plus (three kickoff return TDs in 2009).
|Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson could be the next Karlos Dansby. (US Presswire)|
• Baylor DT Phil Taylor (6-4, 340, 5.26): Penn State transfer has put past behind him and is flashing the lateral movement and strength of a top 50 talent.
• Illinois ILB Martez Wilson (6-4, 250, 4.59): This Karlos Dansby clone has always had the athleticism, but the junior is now starting to make plays (105 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks).
• Illinois RB Mikel LeShoure (6-0, 230, 4.53): Put up 330 yards against Northwestern with a superior burst once past the line of scrimmage; the junior reminds scouts of last year's late first-round pick, Ryan Mathews.
• Oklahoma State Justin Blackmon (6-1, 208, 4.54): OSU's newest star had 100 receiving yards and at least one TD catch from junior QB Brandon Weeden in every game he played this season (102-1,665-18.)
• Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter (5-8, 200, 4.48): He's not nearly as explosive as former Cowboy Barry Sanders, but he is looking like his strong, low center-of-gravity 2008 self (1,516 yards, 16 touchdowns).
• Oklahoma State CB Andrew McGee (6-0, 190, 4.54): JUCO transfer who has five interceptions this season but must use his physicality and length to cover Arizona junior WR Juron Criner.
• Arizona DE/OLB Brooks Reed (6-3, 262, 4.73): A poor man's Clay Matthews III, Reed will use his hustle and pass rush skills (6.5 sacks) as a 3-4 linebacker at the next level.
• Arizona DE Ricky Elmore (6-5, 260, 4.83): Ranked seventh in the country with 11 sacks (after being credited with 10.5 in 2009), Elmore's combination of size and effort gives him a chance to play a long time in the NFL.
Armed Forces Bowl (Army vs. Southern Methodist)
• SMU WR Aldrick Robinson (5-10, 178, 4.42): This year's version of 2010 third-round pick Emmanuel Sanders, Robinson's slight build and quickness helped the Mustangs move the ball (60-1,225-13).
• Army DE/OLB Josh McNary (6-0, 235, 4.75): An explosive player on the edge whether at DE or OLB, McNary ranks 16th in the FBS with 9.5 sacks after putting up 22.5 TFL and 12.5 sacks in 2009.
Pinstripe Bowl (Kansas State vs. Syracuse)
• Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas (6-2, 228, 4.63): The success of bigger backs like Peyton Hillis and Brandon Jacobs might push Thomas (1,495 rush yds, 16 TDs) up boards.
• Syracuse RB Delone Carter (5-9, 215, 4.52): Owns the solid, compact build NFL teams like and flashed a burst through the line while earning his second straight 1,000 yard-season.
• Syracuse C Ryan Bartholomew (6-1, 298, 4.95): His mobility and relatively small stature hide one of the strongest players in college football.
• Syracuse OLB Doug Hogue (6-2, 226, 4.59): The former running back uses his athleticism to chase down ball carriers all over the field (87 tackles, 9.5 TFL.)
Music City Bowl (North Carolina vs. Tennessee)
• North Carolina LB Quan Sturdivant (6-2, 230, 4.63): Even without the injured Bruce Carter (knee surgery), the versatile Sturdivant, junior Zach Brown and sophomore Kevin Reddick make up one of the better linebacker corps in the country.
• North Carolina FS Deunta Williams (6-1, 215, 4.53): Physical player in the secondary who combines with SS Da'Norris Searcy to form a strong duo.
• North Carolina DT Quinton Coples (6-6, 272, 4.82): Compiled 8.5 sacks while teaming with sophomore DE Donte Paige-Moss and junior DT Tydreke Powell to make people forget about the suspended DT Marvin Austin.
• North Carolina QB T.J. Yates (6-3, 220, 4.84): Saved his best for his last season (3,184 yards, 18 TDs/8 INTs) and helped keep the team together through the early suspensions.
• Tennessee WR Denarius Moore (6-1, 195, 4.49): Moore used his size and speed to have a breakout season, matching his career total in touchdowns (nine) and almost doing the same in receiving yardage (916 vs. 1,023)
• Tennessee TE Luke Stocker (6-5, 253, 4.78): Looks like former Volunteer Jason Witten, could be a similar player with work in the weight room and in an offense that takes advantage of his receiving skills.
Holiday Bowl (Nebraska vs. Washington)
• Washington QB Jake Locker (6-3, 230, 4.53): Athlete playing quarterback could earn scouts' respect by redeeming himself against the BlackShirts. He went 4-for-20 for 71 yards and two INTs vs. Nebraska in September.
• Washington OLB Mason Foster (6-2, 242, 4.73): Chase-tackler who ranks second in the country with 12.5 stops a game. He could improve his grade by shedding blocks from Nebraska's tough offensive linemen to stop the run.
• Washington SS Nate Williams (6-0, 215, 4.59): Tough in-the-box safety (100 tackles) earned an invite to the East-West Shrine Game.
• Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara (6-0, 205, 4.49): Scouts like his size and speed, as well as his hand-eye coordination (13 pass breakups this season). However, he must play better against UW junior WR Jermaine Kearse than he did against Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon to keep his high grade.
• Nebraska RB Roy Helu (6-0, 220, 4.51): Sturdy back racked up 1,211 yards and 11 TDs in 2010, exploding out from the blocks of seniors OGs Keith Williams and Ricky Henry.
• Nebraska TE Mike McNeill (6-4, 235, 4.70): Underutilized in Nebraska's run-first offense, McNeill often lines up out wide and seems to be a perfect fit in a scheme like they run in Indianapolis.
• Nebraska WR Niles Paul (6-1, 220, 4.50): Paul has had a rough year with off-field issues and drops in inopportune situations, but he could help himself in this game as a receiver and returner (11.4 yards per punt return, 25.2 per kick return).
• Nebraska K Alex Henery (6-2, 175, 4.87): The senior class' top kicker went 18 of 19 on field goal attempts, including 10 of 11 from 40 or more yards away. He's also a fair, albeit inconsistent, punter (43.9-yard average, 26 inside the 20 yard line).