Speed. Speed. And more speed. Oregon's high-tempo offense proved to be too much for Kansas State Thursday night in the Fiesta Bowl as the Ducks defeated the Wildcats, 35-17. This performance had it all, everything from a game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown to the rare one-point safety.
Regardless if this was Chip Kelly's final game at the helm of the Ducks, he showed why several NFL teams are currently wooing him for their open head coaching vacancies. But several NFL prospects also stood out, both good and bad.
PROSPECTS WHO HELPED THEMSELVES:
DE Meshak Williams, Kansas State – The Wildcats 2012 leader in sacks had another impactful performance in this one. Although he has tweener size (6-3, 245), he uses leverage and toughness to battle his way to the pocket with the intensity and motor to finish. Williams showed his length limitations, but after a strong senior season, his NFL Draft arrow is pointing north.
MLB Kiko Alonso, Oregon – He'll need to answer questions about the character issues, but Alonso is a prospect scouts are intrigued by and he showed why in the Fiesta Bowl. Whether dropping in coverage or attacking the line of scrimmage, he brought the same aggressive nature on each play, flashing speed and a fearless attitude.
RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon – It took 30 carries, but Barner registered his eighth 100-yard rushing performance of 2012 against a Wildcat defense that ranked 17th in the nation in rush defense. He used his vision and quick feet and chip away at Kansas State, finishing with 143 rush yards and just a few yards short of breaking the school record for all-purpose yardage in a career.
FB Braden Wilson, Kansas State – Regardless if it's the pros or college, the fullback position seems to be an afterthought for most offenses. But not for Kansas State and not for Wilson who proved his value on several occasions against Oregon, throwing his body around with a violent attitude. As a player who doesn't receive a lot of touches, he will be lucky to be drafted, but Wilson might be the best blocking fullback in this class.
WR Chris Harper, Kansas State – The Kansas State offense relies on the run game for most of their damage, but when Klein did throw it Thursday night, he was often looking for Harper, his top target. An Oregon-transfer, Harper has a little bit of bad weight on him (6-1, 235), but he uses his physicality to out-muscle defensive backs, finishing the Fiesta Bowl with a game-high eight catches for 71 yards. Harper is an underrated mid-round receiver prospect.
LB Michael Clay, Oregon – Although undersized (5-11, 220), Clay was all over the field in the Fiesta Bowl and earned the Defensive Player of the Game honors. He displayed his versatility as a blitzer, blowing plays up in the backfield and rarely missing a tackle. While his game has some holes, NFL teams will view Clay as a prospect who might be able to make a living on special teams.
PROSPECTS WHO HAD A MIXED BAG:
QB Collin Klein, Kansas State – Through mid-November, Klein appeared to be the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, but the final three games of his college career were disappointing, including two losses (Baylor, Oregon). Against the Ducks, he looked tentative throwing passes 10+ yards downfield and had little success running the ball, averaging just 2.3 yards per carry. Klein still has a chance to be a late round draft pick, but the tape from this game won't help.
MLB Arthur Brown, Kansas State – Although he finished strong, it's fair to expect more from a player who might be a first round pick in April. He played fast and aggressive for all four quarters, but often got lost in a crowd and had trouble sifting his way through the trash to bring down the ballcarrier. Brown also misdiagnosed several plays in coverage, something that is very uncharacteristic of the talented linebacker.
DE Dion Jordan, Oregon – When he was on the field, Jordan looked like his usual future-first-rounder self, but he was forced to the sidelines on several occasions, presumably because of a lingering shoulder injury that has limited him much of the season. With his lanky frame, durability will be a question mark moving to the next level and one of the few negatives against the athletic pass rusher.