And then there were four.
While the 2018 Bowl season is fun to watch on a cold winter’s day, the real story is, of course, the College Football Playoff. After much deliberation and a quick look at the resume, Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma will have a chance to head to San Francisco in January for a chance to be crowned the best of the best in the land.
The Cotton Bowl will look on paper to be a much more even matchup, but the Orange Bowl might be the more enjoyable game of the evening. With both teams featuring high tempo offenses that can score plenty, Alabama and Oklahoma should battle it out in a shootout for a chance to make it to the final round out west. The real story however when scouting comes to the form of Alabama’s defense. With plenty of quality players throughout the lineup, the Crimson Tide’s defense is filled with plenty of prospects the Chargers would love to add in April’s draft.
Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray might headline the Sooners offense, but it also features a plethora of receivers and offensive linemen ready to contribute during their rookie NFL season. Overall, the Orange Bowl is filled with future NFL talent on both sides of the ball that fans can’t wait to sink their teeth into.
We’ve covered three weeks of College Football bowl games, and hopefully, you’ve enjoyed our scouting process. One problem, however, we’ve only featured one player on every roster. That’s not the case today as the Orange Bowl has a ton of potential future Bolts waiting to make their case. Once again Jake Hefner comes out strong to help with another addition of Blooming Bolts. He’ll be taking on the Sooners while yours truly covers his alma mater out in Tuscaloosa.
Just giving warning now so that you know who to call out in the comments section.
WR Marquise Brown
Receiver is surely not the biggest need for The Chargers going into the offseason, but Tyrell Williams is no lock to return to the Bolts next year, and the team can always use another offensive playmaker for Philip Rivers. Brown is one of the best deep threats in the county as he has recorded 132 receptions for 2,413 yards and 17 touchdowns. His speed and lateral quickness are some of his best assets as he explodes off his breaks and beats defenders downfield in one-on-one coverage.
“Hollywood” was effective in a variety of different formations, as an outside receiver, playing in the slot or in motion. His best work comes as a vertical threat because few defenders have been able to compete with his speed. At 5 10’, 186 pounds, Brown does not possess the frame and strength to contend for passes against bigger defensive backs. He has also had a few too many drops when contesting catches. Brown suffered an ankle injury during the final game of the regular season, though the latest reports say that he expects to play in The Orange Bowl despite his questionable status.
OT Cody Ford
With the departure of Joe Barksdale earlier this season and Sam Tevi struggling at times at the right tackle spot, The Chargers will need to address their needs along the offensive line. Brown made a seamless transition from guard to tackle in the offseason which turned out to be an excellent move for the Sooners. At 6-foot-4, 338 pounds, Ford possesses exceptional athleticism for his size. His agility and quickness allow him to seal the edge in the run game.
Ford is dominant at the point of attack using his length and technique to create space. He is extremely physical and plays to the finish on every snap. Ford still needs some refinement in certain areas but is ahead of the game in so many aspects for a player that only has one starting season under his belt. His versatility will be very appealing to NFL teams and could warrant consideration for him to come off the board in round one of the draft.
OG Ben Powers
Another fixture of Oklahoma offensive line, Powers Started 12 games in 2018, ten at left guard and two at right guard. He has decent measurable for his position at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, but could use a little more size to his frame. His best work is shown in pass protection as he can hold his own against on-coming rushers. Powers is technically savvy when pulling, as he uses his hands well to create space. However, he needs some improvement in the run game as he occasionally missed blocks and struggled a bit against better pass rushing competition of the BIG 12.
He is not as athletic as his teammates along the offensive line, but he is tough and durable. In time, Powers will need to make improvements to be more consistent at the next level. But has all the makings of an eventual starting guard in the NFL.
OT Bobby Evans
Arguably the Sooners best offensive lineman, Evans moved from right tackle to left tackle for the 2018 season. At 6-foot-5, 301 pounds, Evans has great experience as a three-year starter. He has all the makings of a starting NFL tackle, displaying good length and athleticism. Playing with power and a nasty streak, Evans explodes to the second level and provides excellent downfield blocking on screens. Displaying high football IQ, Evans makes adjustments before the snap and maintains his technique throughout the play. Showing great skills in pass protection, he controls opponents at the point of attack with his power.
Evans has received high marks from several draft analyst, and though he may not be the top tackle for his 2019 draft class, he is undoubtedly one of the best at his position. For The Chargers, Evans could be an excellent replacement at right tackle with the potential to eventually move to left tackle when Russell Okung moves on from the team.
OG Dru Samia
A four-year starter for the Sooners, Samia started his career at tackle before moving to guard. At 6-foot-5, 303 pounds, Samia displays nice athleticism for his frame and plays with a physical mentality. Exploding off the snap with proper technique, Samia gets downfield quickly when he pulls on screens. Not a mauler in the run game, but couples his nasty physical play with good form and hand placement. Samia displays good work in pass protection anchoring his position as the low man and gaining leverage on his opponents.
He doesn’t possess the best lateral movement and will need to add a bit more size to his frame as he is one of the smaller guards in the draft class. Samia’s performance against Alabama will be necessary to watch in determining how capable he will be in handling NFL caliber rushers at the next level.
DL Raekwon Davis
The Chargers defensive line might be switching some things up with contracts coming to a close. Brandon Mebane is heading towards free agency at the age of 34, and it’s not a guarantee that the team will pick up Corey Liuget’s contract after suffering a season-ending knee injury. The defensive line class in the 2019 draft is loaded with talent that Los Angeles could address on either day 1 or 2 for their future. Not matter what round the Bolts add one, fans should expect another defensive tackle to come off the board and head to the AFC West in April.
Quinnen Williams is an excellent player that Los Angeles would love to add if he declares. The biggest issue is that he’s likely a top 10 draft selection, eliminating any chance for the Bolts to snag him. His running mates on the line, however, should easily be in play in both the first and second round. Davis is a pure defensive tackle that could play in either a one or two gap system. Incredible power in his upper body, Davis is a nightmare up the middle due to his size and hand usage. His pursuit to the ball is impressive while his closing speed makes him a consistent tackler behind the line of scrimmage. A decent pass rusher, the junior prospect collected ten career sacks throughout three seasons, including an 8.5 sack season one season ago.
Davis would be a nice addition as a first round pick and could be a solid pass rush option up the middle to create a talented defensive line for the Bolts long-term.
DL Isaiah Buggs
How sold are the Bolts on their defensive line as of now? Justin Jones has flashed at times to be a solid contributor to their unit. The big question is, does Los Angeles consider him to be a starter? If not, they’ll likely re-sign at least one of their three free agent defenders moving forward. Following that, they’ll add more depth for the future.
Should Los Angeles miss out on Davis, Buggs is a great option on day 2. While based as a defensive end in the Crimson Tide’s 3-4 defense, the senior would shift inside to a three-tech in Gus Bradley’s 4-3 defense. Great hand usage, Buggs eliminates the separation between him and the pass protector on a daily basis. Keeping his outside clean, Buggs wins plenty of one on one battles to help stuff running backs behind the line of scrimmage. Developing as a pass rusher, Buggs has shown the ability to bring down quarterbacks who remain in the pocket for a majority of a snap.
A move inside might best suit the defender as his burst is slower than both Williams and Davis. Overall, however, Buggs is another defensive lineman from the Tuscaloosa pipeline that can help transform any defense.
LB Mack Wilson
Los Angeles will have to make several critical decisions this offseason about their linebacker room moving forward. Denzel Perryman will be coming off a season-ending injury while Jatavis Brown will be entering the final year of his contract. Kyle Emmanuel is at best a special teams player, and Kyzir White flashed promise at the WILL backer position. If the Bolts elect to move on from Perryman, the MIKE linebacker role should be one of the most significant needs in the draft.
Wilson is a bit of a project after a somewhat down junior season, and according to reports, he might return for another year. If he does declare, however, his upside projects him to be one of the top linebacker prospects in the class. A high motor and consistent tackler, Wilson is seen making plays nearly every drive against the run up the middle. A quick reaction time, the middle linebacker has great range and an excellent first step to beat blockers and force his way into a backfield to make a key stop. His strength will allow him to get off blocks quickly and his tackling skills could merit multiple 100+ tackle seasons.
Wilson is easily a raw player but has plenty of traits that will merit a first round grade. With his zone coverage skills and run support flashing strong, Tom Telesco should have #30 circled Saturday night when facing off against a mobile quarterback like Murray.
FS Deionte Thompson
Let’s address the big elephant in the room. Safety isn’t the biggest need, but it apparently is going to be one in the future. Adrian Phillips has played well against the run in a dime formation but doesn’t possess the speed to play as a zone high safety. Derwin James is going to be an All-Pro player and should be the strong safety option for the next decade. Strong safety only, however. As for Jaheel Addae, oh boy. The free safety has struggled in man coverage and been too inconsistent tackling in the open field. If Los Angeles can fix several other needs in free agency, safety could move up as a bigger need.
In recent history, safeties have fallen in the draft. While Jamal Adams went sixth overall, he was one of the top players on the board in 2017 and should have gone sooner. For a better perspective, look at James who fell to Los Angeles at 17th last draft. While probably having to trade up a few spots, Thompson would be a great option to pair with James as the team’s coverage safety. A rangy defender, Thompson isn’t shy to laying down the hammer in coverage and making open field tackles. In coverage, Thompson maintains leverage over the top of defenders and is always in play to jump a route and score.
Thompson fairs better as a free safety at the next level. Pairing James and the junior defender up could make them one of the deadliest units in football for many years to come.
EDGE Christian Miller
Here’s the thing about the NFL that most people don’t realize. If teams can focus on building their trenches and pass rush, it’s nearly impossible to stop them. Bosa and Ingram are solid players, but their depth behind could use some help. Issac Rochell has shown promise the season with five total sacks, but outside of him, there’s little promise moving forward.
Fallen to the curse of injuries, Miller has been limited as an overall player. Still, what tape is on him is quite impressive in the sense of a pass rusher. The JACK backer does a phenomenal job attacking the outside shoulder and using his hands to break free of blocks. Overall, he’s likely a day three player but could be a useful pass rusher for Bradley’s defense. A big evening against the dual-threat Murray could solidify him as an option for Los Angeles come the final day of the draft.