Next year will be the introduction of a four-team college football playoff, but for the time being (and for the readers of this column in particular), focus is on the NFL draft, especially now that the Green Bay Packers are eliminated from the playoffs as well.
In putting together our own third-annual "CFWP" All-Bowl team, I've selected only seniors and those underclassmen who have already declared for the NFL Draft to help give the reader an opportunity to become familiar with the players who will be draft-eligible this spring.
Our all-bowl team is also based on a 3-4 defense the Packers run, and players are projected how they'd fit into such a system.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M––In a back-and-forth battle with Duke in the Peach Bowl*, it was Manziel that ultimately came up victorious, operating an offense that could not be stopped. Manziel completed 30 of 38 passes for 382 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions, also running for 73 yards and a touchdown on the ground on his way to leading the Aggies to 52 points. He may not have the strongest arm, but the way Manziel reads defenses and finds the open receiver is superb.
Running Back Adam Muema, San Diego State––Muema may not have been one of the more well-known running back prospects before the Potato Bowl against Buffalo, but maybe he will be after he ran for 229 yards on 28 carries to go along with three touchdowns. That's a defense with Khalil Mack on it. As a junior, Muema has declared for the NFL Draft.
Running Back Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona––Unlike Muema, Carey is on everyone's radar and may perhaps be the No. 1 overall running back prospect in this year's draft class. He didn't disappoint in the Independence Bowl* against Boston College, rushing for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.
Fullback Chad Abram, Florida State––A traditional blocking fullback, Abram made the most of made the most of his few touches, taking his lone reception 11 yards on a swing pass for a touchdown to help the Seminoles win the national championship over Auburn.
Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins, Clemson––Watkins put on a clinic against Ohio State, setting both school and Orange Bowl single-game records with 16 receptions for 227 yards, two of them going for touchdowns, perhaps establishing himself as the No. 1 overall wide receiver in this year's draft class. Junior entry.
Wide Receiver Bruce Ellington, South Carolina––Wisconsin came into the Citrus Bowl* with the reputation for having a pretty good defense. Ellington shredded it to the tune of 140 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions. His performance was capped off by a nine-yard touhdown pass to quarterback Connor Shaw on a trick play. Just 5-9, Ellington figures to make an impact from the slot in the NFL. Another junior entry.
Tight End Gator Hoskins, Marshall––More H-back than tight end, whatever his classification, Hoskins continued to show his knack for finding the end zone with two touchdowns on six receptions covering a team-high 104 yards in a Military Bowl win over Maryland. Including the bowl game, his season total touchdowns reached 15.
Tackle Zack Martin, Notre Dame––Arguably the best player on the field in the Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers, Martin made the case that he could possibly be a left tackle at the next level. Some have him pegged at guard or right tackle. Martin helped the Fighting Irish put up 494 yards of total offense and didn't give up a sack.
Tackle Xavier Su'a Filo, UCLA––Another left tackle projected to guard in the NFL, Su'a Filo helped the Bruins rack up 447 yards and average 6.8 yards per play against a Virginia Tech defense that ranks No. 4 in the nation. Filo declared for the draft as a junior.
Guard Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State––Jackson helped the Bulldogs offense steamroll Rice for 553 yards and 7.0 yards per play. For perspective, 7.0 yards per play would rank No. 5 in the nation over the course of an entire season. Mississippi State averaged 5.7, which ranked No. 45.
Guard Jordan McCray, Central Florida––Baylor came into the Fiesta Bowl as a 16.5-point favorite. McCray helped hold the Baylor defense without a sack as UCF put up 556 yards of offense (7.4 yards per play) and the Golden Knights pulled off the upset.
Center Gabe Ikard Oklahoma––Ikard helped Oklahoma upset 15.5-point favorite Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma beat writer Guerin Emig described Ikard's impact on the game-winning drive as follows: "With the score 38-31 and nearly six minutes still remaining, Knight faced third-and-9 from his own 13. He flipped a screen to Brennan Clay. Ikard got out in front of his running back and chipped the one Crimson Tide defender in position to make the stop. Clay spun and lunged for the first down. The Sooners went on to chew up another 39 yards and, more important, five minutes of clock."
Defensive Lineman Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame––Of Tuitt's four tackles in the Pinstripe Bowl, 1.5 were sacks, which added up for a loss of 14 yards. Tuitt is another junior entry into the NFL draft and a prototype five-technique end.
Defensive Lineman Timmy Jernigan, Florida State––Known for his quickness, Jernigan showed how stout he can be in the national championship game against Auburn, shutting down the Auburn run game up the gut. He's not a traditional nose tackle, but Jernigan showed he play a two-gap style of defense and be effective, making nine tackles, one for loss against the Tigers.
Defensive Lineman Kony Ealy––The 6-5, 275 lbs. performed well as a five-technique end in Missouri's win over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl, making six tackles, two sacks and breaking up a pass. Ealy declared for the NFL draft as a junior.
Outside Linebacker Marcus Smith, Louisville––A defensive end at Louisville, Smith would play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Of his two sacks in the Tangerine Bowl* win over Miami, one was a strip-sack that resulted in a turnover. The Hurricanes lost 20 yards on Smith's two sacks. He also broke up a pass.
Outside Linebacker Kareem Martin, North Carolina––Martin is on the bigger side for defensive ends that would transition to outside linebacker at 265 lbs., but his playmaking ability in the Queen City Bowl* against Cincinnati suggested he could. Martin made four tackles, 1.5 for a loss and was credited for half a sack in which he combined with a teammate to bring down Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris in the end zone for a safety.
Inside Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA––Zumwalt made a team-leading 10 tackles as well as grabbed an interception and returned it 43 yards to set up a UCLA touchdown against Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl. But his most impressive moment might have been the slobber-knocker hit he put on 257 lb. quarterback Logan Thomas to knock him out of the game.
Inside Linebacker Jake Doughty, Utah State––Doughty made eight tackles, 1.5 for a loss Utah State's win over Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl. His biggest impact came in helping to shut down Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch, including forcing a fumble that led to a Utah State field goal.
Cornerback Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State––It's hard to argue with a player that scored two touchdowns on the defensive side of the football, recovering two fumbles in Oregon State's Hawaii Bowl win over Boise State. Reynolds also made 10 tackles and broke up a pass.
Cornerback Andre Hal, Vanderbilit––Hal made a team-leading nine tackles, broke up three passes and intercepted one, returning it 29 yards in Vandy's Birmingham Bowl* win over Houston, helping to limit the Cougars to just 22 yards the entire first half.
Safety Craig Loston, LSU––Loston may have had the best game of his career in his last game as a Tiger, making a team-high six tackles, three for a loss and intercepted a fourth-quarter pass that helped seal LSU's win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
Safety Jerry "Boo Boo" Gates, Bowling Green––Although it came in a losing effort against Pittsburgh in the Motor City Bowl*, Gates made eight tackles, 1.5 for a loss, half a sack and returned a kickoff for a touchdown, doing his best to keep Bowling Green competitive.
Kicker Carey Spear, Vanderbilt––There weren't many notable performances to choose from among draft-eligible kickers, but Spear was perfect in the Birmingham Bowl*, kicking 24 and 35 yard field goals, converting all four extra points and had three touchbacks on eight kickoffs, averaging 61.9 yards.
Punter Steven Clark, Auburn––Auburn lost to Florida State in the national championship despite Clark's best efforts, pinning five of his six punts inside the 20. He averaged 43.2 yards and had a long of 58.
On this Saturday, the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl, the newest addition to the college all-star game landscape, takes place on the campus of The Citadel in Charleston South Carolina.
With a few college all-star games bowing out since last season, such as the Texas vs. the Nation game, Raycom All-Star Classic and the Casino del Sol All-Star Game, the Medal of Honor Bowl has emerged as probably the fourth-tier all-star game behind the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
There isn't a ton of elite talent in South Carolina this week, but there's enough to interest nearly 100 reported scouts in attendance.
The all-star game circuit really starts heating up next week with the Shrine Game and NFLPA Bowl taking place Saturday Jan. 18 and the Senior Bowl the following week.
*I refuse to use silly corporate-sponsored names for the bowls, instead choosing to use their original or conceptual names.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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