BBD Staff Writer: Eric Samulski
Michigan (7-5) is coming off a last-minute loss to archrival Ohio State on a failed two-point conversion attempt as it heads into the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Saturday, 10:15 p.m., ESPN). It was the best the Wolverine offense looked all season but was yet another loss in a long and disappointing season. Similarly, Kansas State (7-5) struggled through an up and down season after losing some key players to the NFL draft, and will be back in Tempe, Arizona for its second straight appearance in this bowl game.
Despite disappointing seasons for both teams, Saturday will be a chance for them to head into the offseason on a high note.
If Kansas State can push the Michigan offensive line back, as opponents have against the Wolverines all season to the tune of 108 tackles for loss (most allowed in the FBS), the Wildcats could put pressure on freshman quarterback Shane Morris, who is being forced into action after Devin Gardner broke his foot. But if Michigan is able to get its playmakers like Jeremy Gallon, Devin Funchess and Fitzgerald Toussaint into space, it could take the pressure off its line and its young quarterback and really open the game up.
Taylor Lewan, LT, Michigan, Sr. (6’7″, 315 lbs)
The highest rated player on either side of the ball for either team, many scouts will be keeping an eye on Lewan on Saturday night.
A brawling offensive lineman with a mean streak, Lewan might have been a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, but he decided to come back to school for one more year. Lewan has continued to impress this season, despite the struggles on the rest of Michigan’s offensive line.
Lewan has solid blocking technique and decent athleticism, but he gets by mostly on physicality and brute force, an asset that can also lead to costly penalties. He has quick feet and enough lateral agility to play left tackle at the next level, provided he can clean up his technique and keep it consistent when he begins to play angry.
With Morris’ left-handed delivery, Lewan will no longer be protecting the blind side Saturday. If Kansas State chooses to move its key pass-rushers over the right tackle, it will give Lewan a chance to really demonstrate his physicality.
Ty Zimmerman, FS, Kansas State, Sr. (6’1″, 204 lbs)
A projected Day 2 draft pick, Zimmerman is a two-time consecutive first-team all-Big 12 selection. A well-rounded player who does many things well but nothing great, Zimmerman was third in the conference in tackles per game by a safety this season while he also had six interceptions.
Zimmerman is a smart player who always seems to be in the right spot, is a solid tackler and can put himself in position to make plays on the defensive side of the ball.
Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan, Sr. (5’8″, 184 lbs)
A likely Day 3 draft pick, Jeremy Gallon will leave Michigan with an impressive record as a sheer playmaker. Despite his diminutive stature, Gallon was Michigan’s leading receiver this year with 1,284 yards, nine touchdowns and an average of 16.1 yards per catch. While many of his big plays come from his run after the catch ability and open field elusiveness, Gallon also has the speed to beat corners deep and has incredible strength when going up for a jump ball.
His ability to win when the ball is reminiscent of Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, another smaller receiver who uses his body exceptionally well to make plays. Gallon might not have a corner to truly challenge him in this game, but if he is able to help the Wolverines in multiple facets, he can prove he has the versatility to stick at the next level.
Michael Schofield, RT, Michigan, Sr. (6’7″, 304 lbs)
A solid athlete who never quite took the leap Michigan expect him to, Schofield has played all over the line for the Wolverines, which could add to his value. If he is going to get drafted, however, he needs to show off his surprising quickness in the bowl game and postseason workouts. He does not have the athleticism to play left tackle, but he has the size and feet to become a solid right tackle if he can become more consistent.
Cornelius Lucas, LT, Kansas State, Sr. (6’9″, 328 lbs)
A gigantic specimen who has seen time at both guard and left tackle for the Wildcats, Lucas has long arms that he uses to envelope defenders. He is a powerful blocker who has shown skill in opening up holes for the Kansas State rushing offense. He is more athletic than most people his size, but profiles best as a right tackle. If he can become a more effective knee bender and play below defensive linemen more effectively, he might be a late-round player to watch.
Quinton Washington, DT, Michigan, Sr. (6’4″, 301 lbs)
Another Michigan player who has not quite panned out, Washington is intriguing because of his size and the fact that he’s played both defensive tackle and offensive guard while at Michigan. He has a quick first step, good hands to keep offensive linemen off-balance and some games where he has shown flashes of being a disruptive presence. That said, those games rarely appeared and Washington will have to prove that his massive talent is still ripe for next-level development.
Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan, Sr. (5’10″, 200 lbs)
Toussaint has not looked like the same rusher as a senior after breaking his tibia last season. The former track star has not shown the explosiveness that made him a potent part of the 2012 Wolverines offense. That said, “Fitz” is a tougher than expected inside runner. He is likely to go undrafted, but with the number of undrafted running backs making an impact in the NFL, that does not mean he will not regain his lost luster.
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Bowl Previews, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Cornelius Lucas, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Game Previews, Jeremy Gallon, Kansas State, Michael Schofield, Michigan, Prospect Previews, Quinton Washington, Taylor Lewan, Ty Zimmerman