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Ten non-Power Five candidates for 2016 Senior Bowl


The 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl is over, which means, of course, that it is time to look ahead to the 2016 version of the game.

Here is a league-by-league look at seniors-to-be who very well could be in Mobile, Ala., next year for the Senior Bowl. We limited it to 10 players per league for each of the Power Fiver conferences and listed 10 players total for the non-Power Five leagues.

Here's a look at 10 players from outside of the Power Five leagues (listed in alphabetical order).

Middle Tennessee SS Kevin Byard

The buzz: Byard (5-11, 217) lacks elite speed, but is highly instinctual -- and highly productive. After redshirting as a true freshman in 2011, he has started every game since, and heads into his senior season with 246 tackles, 15 interceptions (including four returned for TDs, and a school-record 327 return yards) and five forced fumbles in his career. The NCAA career record for interception returns for TDs is five. Byard also has returned one punt in his career -- and took it back 76 yards for a TD.

Notre Dame DL Sheldon Day

The buzz: Day (6-2, 285) missed two games this season with a minor knee injury but returned for the Music City Bowl win over LSU. He has played both end and tackle for the Irish, who used a base 4-3 set in 2014, when Day saw most of his time at tackle; they used a 3-4 in 2013 and Day played mostly end. He has 16.5 tackles for loss in his career and is stout at the point of attack. His versatility and run-stopping ability are big selling points. He has lackluster sack totals (3.5 in his career), but coach Brian Kelly has said Day -- who has been clocked as fast as the mid-4.8s in the 40 -- can get after the passer. Day was a consensus national top-100 prospect in the 2011 recruiting class and hasn't redshirted. He was a key reserve as a true freshman and will end his career as a three-year starter.

Utah State LB Kyler Fackrell

The buzz: Fackrell (6-5, 245) suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season-opening loss to Tennessee. If he is 100 percent in the fall, he will be a guy scouts will keep a close eye on. He is strong (he can power-clean 310 pounds despite his height), athletic (he was a quarterback and wide receiver in high school in Mesa, Ariz., as well as being a linebacker) and quick (he has been clocked as fast as 4.64 seconds in the 40-yard dash). Fackrell has a big upside as a pass rusher; he has good quickness off the edge but also has flashed an effective bull rush. He is solid against the run and effective in pass coverage, with four interceptions and four pass breakups in his career.

Temple C Kyle Friend

The buzz: Friend (6-2, 305) has started from the moment he stepped foot on campus. He was a high school wrestler in Pennsylvania and understands leverage, and he does a nice job getting his hands on opposing defensive linemen. It helps that he is as strong as an ox: He did 40 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press during summer workouts. Friend also has been clocked at 4.95 seconds in the 40. He played every offensive snap for the Owls in 2013. He also has started at guard during his career.

Notre Dame G/C Nick Martin

The buzz: You might have heard of his brother -- Dallas Cowboys rookie G Zack Martin, a former Irish star who was selected All-Pro this season as a rookie. Nick (6-4, 295) isn't quite as good, but he still will be one of the best interior linemen in the nation next season. He has started at both center and guard and also has been a reserve tackle for the Irish, and that versatility obviously will be a big plus going forward (his brother was a left tackle for the Irish but moved inside for Dallas). Nick Martin began the 2014 season as Notre Dame's starting center, but injuries forced a move to guard in late September and he remained there.

College stars show off their skills in preparation for the 2015 Senior Bowl in Mobile.

East Carolina OT Ike Harris

BYU LB Bronson Kaufusi

The buzz: Kaufisi (6-7, 265) started at defensive end as a sophomore and had four sacks and seven tackles for loss. He was moved to outside linebacker this season to replace second-round pick Kyle Van Noy. He struggled some with the transition, though he did lead BYU with seven sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. He still is learning the nuances of the position, but his size and pass-rush ability sure are enticing.

Massachusetts WR Tajae Sharpe

Boise State FS Darian Thompson

The buzz: Thompson (6-2, 208), who will be a three-year starter, is both a ballhawk (seven picks in 2014, and 14 in his career) and good in run support (71 tackles this season, including five tackles for loss). His interception total in 2014 was tied for third in the nation. He flashed in the Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona with 10 tackles against the Wildcats' high-powered spread offense. Thompson, who was a part-time starter as a redshirt freshman in 2011, has good size and could move to strong safety at the next level.

Wyoming DE Eddie Yarbrough

The buzz: Yarbrough (6-3, 251) is a 'tweener who will intrigue scouts because of his production. He had 63 tackles this season and has 152 in the past two seasons to go with 10.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. He is a two-time first-team All-Mountain West selection. He runs well (he has been clocked in the 4.7s seconds in the 40) and likely will have to move to linebacker at the next level. His pass-rush ability will be closely monitored in 2015.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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