Prospect Preview: Sheraton Hawaii Holiday Bowl

SMU LB Ja’Gared Davis is one of the SMU defenders to keep your eye on tonight! (Photo: US Presswire)

BBD Writer Eric Samulski

There will be some intriguing prospects on both sides of the ball when Southern Methodist squares off against Fresno State on December 24th. In their first year in the Mountain West, Fresno State rode Junior star quarterback Derek Carr to an impressive 9-3 record. They’re a well-balanced team that has won by an average of 26 points per game. Carr to freshman Davante Adams has become a deadly combination and Robbie Rouse has been instrumental as a running threat and receiver out of the backfield. That could change if Margus Hunt and the SMU defense are able to disrupt Carr’s timing. The Mustangs have a veteran quarterback of their own in Garrett Gilbert. He hasn’t flashed big stats this year, but he played for Texas in the National Championship game years back when Colt McCoy got hurt. That big game experience could pay off here if the SMU defense can keep the game close.

Fresno State

Phillip Thomas 6’1” 215 pounds FS #16 Senior

Looking at the NCAA leaders in defensive stats, you’re bound to see Thomas’ name all over the place. He led the nation with eight interceptions and nine total take-aways. He also led the nation with three interceptions returned for touchdowns, was seventh overall with four forced fumbles, and had twelve tackles for a loss. Plain and simple, the kid is a playmaker. At 6’1” 215 pounds, Thomas has very good size for a safety. The problem is that he might not have the ideal foot-speed or overall athleticism. He’s able to make plays in the MWC, but when competition steps up a level, he may find himself a step too slow. He’s also a bit too small to convert to OLB. However, in the later rounds, there are worse things you can do than draft a player who knows where he is on the field and has a nose for the ball. Thomas could provide great secondary depth for the Bills and may even become a special teams

Derek Carr 6’3” 210 pounds QB #4 Junior

Carr has stated that he’s coming back to Fresno State for his junior year, but keep a close eye on him in this game. He has good size, a strong arm, and with 36 TDs to five interceptions, he’s shown remarkable accuracy. He doesn’t have the mobility that many NFL teams are looking for now, but he has the leadership ability to become a solid NFL starter.
ace because of his ability to force fumbles.

Robbie Rouse 5’7” 190 pounds RB #8 Senior
Isaiah Burse 5’11″, 180 pounds, WR #1 Junior
Andrew Wentworth 6’5″, 300 pounds, OT #72 Junior
Travis Brown 6’1” 236 pounds ILB #9 Senior
CB LJ Jones, 5’10″, 180 pounds, CB #6 Junior

SMU

Margus Hunt 6’8” 280 pounds DE #92 Senior

Based on sheer athletic ability, Hunt was tabbed as a potential first round pick coming into the season. At 6’8” 280 pounds, with an 82” wingspan, and sub 4.7 speed, scouts were drooling over the player that Hunt could become. Unfortunately, from a technique perspective, he never jumped like most thought. He still doesn’t use his hands well to disengage from blockers and with only three years for football experience, there are still moments where he appears lost on the field in terms of his gap responsibility. However, he still managed to notch six sacks, 8.5 tackles for a loss, and tied the NCAA record for career blocked field goals, with nine. A former Junior World Champion in the shot put and discus, Hunt is a salivating combination of size, speed, and strength. At 26 years old, a team needs to decide if he’s worth spending an early round pick on the chance that he’s able to learn the game and put all those tools together into one dominant football player.

Ja’Gared Davis 6’1” 235 pounds OLB #56 Senior

At 6’1” 235 pounds, Davis is on the small side for OLBs, which is not a quality that Nix seems to like. However, he’s another player who shows good instincts and a nose for the ball. He doesn’t have impressive sideline-to-sideline speed, but he can recognize plays quickly and takes good routes to the ballcarrier, not wasting steps. He’s shown some natural explosion as a pass rusher off the edge and while inconsistent in coverage, has been able to drop back enough in his career to suggest that it’s a skill he can continue to improve on. Due to his lack of size and speed, Davis is the type of player that will drop to the third day and could provide some solid value.

Garrett Gilbert 6’3″ 214 pounds QB #11 Junior
Zach Line 6’1” 230 pounds FB #48 Senior
Darius Johnson 5’10” 175 pounds WR #3 Senior
Taylor Reed 5’11″, 240 pounds ILB #44 Senior
Randall Joyner 5’10″ 228 pounds ILB #5 Junior
Kenneth Acker 6’0″ 195 pounds CB #21 Junior
Jay Scott 6’1″, 210 pounds SAF #8 Junior

For my part, I think the Bulldogs simply have too much talent on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Fresno State 31, SMU 17

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