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NFL Draft Preview: Bowl Season (Part 1)

An eye on college football.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 14 UTEP at UTSA Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We are on the cusp of Bowl Season in college football. 44 postseason games are on the horizon, including the college football playoffs. With all of these college teams playing, you just know there will be NFL prospects on the field. This will be a multi-part series looking at every bowl game and the prospect to watch on each team for their match up. Even with some players sitting out to prepare for the NFL Draft, there are still future pro players on the field worth keeping an eye on.

Bahamas Bowl, December 17th, 12 PM ET on ESPN

Reed Blankenship, Safety, MTSU: MTSU has an NFL player in their secondary and that is the school’s all-time tackler Reed Blankenship. The fifth year senior is an aggressive, athletic safety with great size for the position.

Jamal Hines, Edge, Toledo: Jamal Hines has been a playmaker for the Toledo defense this year. The junior defender has 10 sacks on the season which he has gotten with great burst, bend and a high motor. Hines is undersized, but makes up for it with a smart, physical playing style.

Cure Bowl, December 17th, 6 PM ET on ESPN2

Clint Ratkovich, Running Back, Northern Illinois: NIU is a young football team, but their senior running back has been a crucial part of their rushing attack. The Huskies love to run the ball by committee, but have gone to Ratkovich in short yardage situations and down in the red zone. The senior back leads the team in touchdowns with 12 despite only carrying the ball 98 times. Expect the 220 pounder to get some carries in key moments in this game.

Isaiah Likely, Tight End, Coastal Carolina: Isaiah Likely is the first “premier” NFL draft prospect who will show up in bowl season. Likely is one of the best tight ends in the country and could be a top 75 pick in the upcoming draft. The athletic mismatch will be all over the field for the Chanticleers and will make an impact in his last game with the team.

Boca Raton Bowl, December 18th, 11 AM ET on ESPN

Bailey Zappe, Quarterback, WKU: Besides having one of the best names in college football, Bailey Zappe is leading the nation with 56 touchdown passes and over 5,500 passing yards. The former Houston Baptist quarterback has been a revelation in the WKU passing offense and, considering the pace he’s moving at, could threaten 6,000 passing yards in this game.

Steven Jones Junior, Cornerback, Appalachian State: Facing off against WKU’s passing game is a tall task, but Steven Jones is the playmaker App State needs to slow them down. Jones had five interceptions this year and generally locks down whoever he lines up against. WKU is a huge challenge for the senior defender, but one worth watching.

Celebration Bowl, December 18th, 12 PM ET on ABC

Decobie Durant, Cornerback, South Carolina State: The Celebration Bowl is a premier game between two of the best HBCU teams in the country. With lots of NFL talent on the field, Decobie Durant might be the best of the bunch. The newly awarded MEAC Defensive Player of the Year is a true ball hawk and will want to show out in this highly televised game.

James Houston, Edge, Jackson State: James Houston was a rotational player at the University of Florida before he transferred to star for Jackson State. In his only season with the Tigers, Houston put up stellar numbers and was one of the most disruptive pass rushers in the country. SC State is not exactly an offensive powerhouse, so James Houston might get four quarters to really put on a show.

New Mexico Bowl, December 18th, 2:15 PM ET on ESPN

Praise Amaewhule, Edge, UTEP: A fourth year player, Praise Amaewhule stands out as an athletic presence on a talented UTEP defensive line. Fresno State is a good offensive team and Amaewhule will need a great game to keep the Miners in the game while showing his best on national television.

Jake Haener, Quarterback, Fresno State: There was a brief moment where it seemed Jake Haener might leave the Bulldogs to head back north to rejoin the Washington Huskies. Haener then withdrew from the transfer portal and returned to practice with Fresno State. The senior passer enjoyed a breakout year as he helped lead Fresno State to a nine win season. Haener might have returned for one more game, but he has to have the NFL on the mind after the year he just had.

Independence Bowl, December 18th, 3:30 PM ET on ABC

Trea Shropshire, Wide Receiver, UAB: The Blazers are a young football team, but Trea Shropshire stands out among their draft eligible players. The 6’2” receiver has been a deep threat for as long as he has played for UAB, averaging over 27 yards a reception this year and over 25 yards per catch for his career. Quietly he is one of the most explosive players in the country and could put on a show against BYU to push him towards the NFL.

Tyler Allgeier, Running Back, BYU: Tyler Allgeier has been a machine for the cougars the last two years. The 220 pound back has rushed for over 2,500 yards and 33 touchdowns since 2020 and will be well on his way to bring his bruising running style to the NFL. Allgeier will be depended on against UAB to carry BYU to their 11th win of the season.