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Bowl games provide a look at what top prospects have to offer

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Jerome Miron / US Presswire
Robert Griffin's performance in the Alamo Bowl could tell scouts a lot about his NFL potential.


 

With the college bowl season well under way, scouts have been tuning in closely to get one final look at the stars of tomorrow.

Although bowl game performances should be kept in perspective due to the extended layoff after the regular season, watching top players square off in very competitive battles can provide priceless information to evaluators.

There is an intriguing slate of games on tap the next few days. Let's take a look at some of the top prospects involved in these contests.

*Denotes non-senior status.

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Alamo Bowl: Baylor vs. Washington

(Dec. 29, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Robert Griffin III*, Baylor, QB: No player in college football has generated as much buzz as Griffin during the final half of the season. With his extraordinary athleticism and arm, he's drawn comparisons to former No. 1 pick Michael Vick, but his overall game is far more polished than Vick's when he came out of school. With another game to prove he is a deadly playmaker from the pocket, Griffin could cement his status as an intriguing prospect, should he elect to enter the NFL draft.

Chris Polk*, Washington, RB: Polk is one of college football's best kept secrets and is squarely on the radar of scouts looking for a potential workhorse in the backfield. His hard-nosed running style is an ideal fit in "one-cut" zone-based systems, and he possesses the receiving skills to thrive as a weapon in the passing game. Given an opportunity to display his overall skills in a potential shoot-out, Polk could garner plenty of attention with a big performance.

Others to watch: Kendall Wright, Baylor, WR; Alameda Ta'amu, Washington, DT.

Insight Bowl: Iowa vs. Oklahoma

(Dec. 30, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Landry Jones*, Oklahoma, QB: Jones' stock has taken a bit of a hit due to his late-season struggles, but he could certainly reverse his fortunes with an impressive game against the Hawkeyes. He has all of the physical tools that scouts covet in franchise quarterbacks, but his questionable decisions give them pause when determining his readiness for the next level. Against a vulnerable Iowa defense, Jones needs to be spectacular to regenerate the buzz about his pro potential.

Riley Reiff*, Iowa, OT: Already viewed as one of the top offensive tackles in college football after a stellar junior season, Reiff gets an opportunity to showcase his outstanding skills as a run blocker against Oklahoma's athletic defensive line. In addition, how he performs in isolated matchups against DE Frank Alexander will give scouts another glimpse of his pass-blocking potential as a pro.

Others to watch: Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma, OLB; Frank Alexander, Oklahoma, DE; Travis Lewis, Oklahoma, OLB; Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma, CB

Outback Bowl: Michigan State vs. Georgia

(Jan. 2, 1 p.m ET, ABC)

Jerel Worthy, Michigan State, DT: Worthy is one of the most disruptive interior defenders in college football. He faces a daunting challenge against a Georgia offensive line that features a pair of top-rated prospects in center Ben Jones and guard Cordy Glenn. If Worthy is able to dominate against players certain to play on Sundays, scouts will have a better feel for his pro potential should he enter the draft following the season.

Jarvis Jones*, Georgia, OLB: Jones blossomed into one of the SEC's top pass rushers in his first season at Georgia following his transfer from USC. His speed and burst is problematic for edge players; he should get plenty of opportunities to come after quarterback Kirk Cousins, considering the Spartans' pro-style approach. If Jones can dominate in a bowl game against a quality opponent, scouts will certainly view him as an intriguing future prospect.

Others to watch: Kirk Cousins, Michigan State, QB; B.J. Cunningham, Michigan State, WR; Orson Charles, Georgia, TE; Ben Jones, Georgia, C; Cordy Glenn, Georgia, G.

Capital One Bowl: Nebraska vs. South Carolina

(Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska, CB: Dennard entered the season as one of the top cover corners in college football, and can solidify his status with a stellar showing against Alshon Jeffery*, the Gamecocks' No.1 receiver. Dennard is significantly smaller than Jeffery, so his play in this contest will provide scouts with a better idea of how he'd stack up against NFL receivers.

Melvin Ingram, South Carolina, DE/OLB: One of the most versatile defenders in college football gets another opportunity to showcase his extraordinary athleticism and rush skills. How well he sets the edge against Nebraska's spread option will tell scouts if he can play as an edge defender as a pro.

Others to watch: Lavonte David, Nebraska, LB; Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, CB; Alshon Jeffery*, South Carolina, WR.

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Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon

(Jan. 2, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Montee Ball*, Wisconsin, RB: Ball will put the finishing touches on one of the most prolific single-season performances by a running back in college football. He has scored 38 touchdowns while amassing over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. In spite of those numbers, scouts still worry about his ability to thrive at the next level, due to his straight-line running style and perceived lack of top-end speed. If he can produce a few big runs against one of the fastest defenses in the country, Ball can answer some of the questions about his game.

LaMichael James*, Oregon, RB: James has been one of the most electrifying playmakers in the country during his three-year stint at Oregon, but questions about his size and durability have tempered enthusiasm about his pro prospects. Another spectacular performance against an elite opponent would make a strong statement about his future.

Others to watch: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, QB; Nick Toon, Wisconsin, WR: Peter Konz, Wisconsin, C; Josh Kaddu, Oregon, OLB; David Paulson, Oregon, TE.

Fiesta Bowl: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State

(Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Andrew Luck*, Stanford, QB: All eyes will be on the highly touted Luck. The opportunistic ways of the Cowboys' defense will test his ability to protect the football and make sound decisions. More importantly, Luck will get another opportunity to show scouts his ability to make his teammates better.

Justin Blackmon*, Oklahoma State, WR: Blackmon was widely viewed as a viable challenger to A.J. Green and Julio Jones a season ago, and has done nothing to diminish his standing as one of the top receiving prospects in college football. He has all of the tools scouts covet in a No. 1 receiver (size, athleticism and ball skills), which allows him to dominate opponents on a weekly basis despite facing a steady diet of double coverage. Given the chance to feast on the Cardinal's overmatched secondary, Blackmon could lock down his spot as the best wideout in college.

Others to watch: Coby Fleener, Stanford, TE; Jonathan Martin*, Stanford, OT; David DeCastro*, Stanford, OG; Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State, QB; Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State, S; Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State, OT.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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