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NFL Draft Preview: Bowl Season (Part 2)

An eye on college football.

Old Dominion v Liberty Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

This will be a multi-part series looking at every bowl game and the NFL Draft prospect to watch on each team from every matchup. Even with some players sitting out to prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft, there are still future pro players on the field worth keeping an eye on. Previously in this series: PART 1.

All listed times are EST

Independence Bowl, December 18th, 5:45 PM on ESPN

Malik Willis, Quarterback, Liberty: Who else? Malik Willis has been an electric quarterback for the Flames for two seasons now. His big arm and game changing running ability has catapulted him into the top quarterback conversation. While EMU is hardly the toughest opponent he’s faced this season, Malik Willis has a chance to end his college career on a high note.

Russell Vaden IV, Defensive Back, EMU: Russell Vaden IV is easy to spot on a football field. The 6’2” defender is built more like a linebacker, but has led the EMU secondary as their top turnover artist. Vaden is only a junior, so he might not be ready to enter the NFL. Even so, he has the build that a lot of coaches would covet in a defensive backfield.

LendingTree Bowl, December 18th, 7:30 PM on ABC

Justin Rice, Linebacker, Utah State: Utah State’s 10 wins are owed in part to strong defensive play. Logan Rice is a senior linebacker who leads the Aggies defense in tackles and interceptions. He is not just a statistical leader, he is very much the glue that holds the defense together. This is a great chance for Rice to get some national hype considering how little Utah State is in a prime time spot.

Avery Roberts, Linebacker, Oregon State: Avey Roberts has been a tackle machine for the Beavers this season. The fifth year player and former Nebraska Cornhusker plays with great speed and aggression. Utah State can run and pass the ball well, so expect Roberts to be tested all game.

LA Bowl, December 18th, 9:15 on ESPN

Steven Gilmore, Cornerback, Marshall: Stephon Gilmore has got a younger brother and, unsurprisingly, he is a hell of a cornerback. The 6’2” defender is a physical, athletic presence in the Marshall secondary. Louisiana’s offense is one of the best units in college football and will be a great test for Gilmore on a national stage.

Chauncey Manac, Edge, Louisiana: Chauncey Manac has had a breakout season for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Manac leads the team in sacks with 10.5 and is third in the Sun Belt conference. The twitchy, high motor pass rusher finished his college career with a great season and now he has one more game to show people he is a defender to pay attention to in this draft.

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