2013 Holiday Bowl Prospect Preview: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech

Alden Darby will try to prove himself Monday as worthy of a selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. (Photo: Matt Kartozian — USA Today Sports)

Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech, Sr. (6’, 205 lbs)

Like many other Red Raiders receivers, Ward has had a very productive career with 31 career touchdowns and 252 career receptions. Ward, who has had three consecutive 80-catch seasons, thrives within Texas Tech’s spread offense as a typical possession-type receiver.

Ward comes down with contested passes and adjusts well to the football. He has good body control and a knack for making spectacular catches. He is best working outside the numbers and in the red zone.

Ward does not create much separation as he is limited athletically. He will also have to overcome a lack of height to take his style of play to the next level.

He looks like a depth player and special teamer, but is a prospect to monitor closely during the draft season. With a strong showing at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, Ward might convince to take a closer look at his film.

Alden Darby, S, Arizona State, Sr. (5’11’’, 195 lbs)

Darby, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2013, has been a solid two-year starter and four-year contributor for the Sun Devils. He will face the difficult task of defending Amaro in the Holiday Bowl.

Darby is most successful in pass coverage. He has good instincts when defending the pass and has shown good ball skills and awareness with 10 career interceptions. When passes are attempted in front of him, Darby has shown the ability to break on the ball and make tackles.

Darby is a good short-area/red zone player who matches up well in one-on-ones when he doesn’t have much ground to cover. He’s a guy you want to match up with receivers when a fade route to the end zone is a possibility.

Darby has good straight-line speed and projects well as a gunner on punt and kickoff coverage teams.

Darby could play with more aggression. He seems too content playing safety in the truest sense of the word by being the last line of defense, consistently allowing plays to happen in front of him. With a solid defensive front seven, the Sun Devils don’t ask their safeties to play up near the line of scrimmage much, but it is apparent how uncomfortable Darby playing close to the line. Darby also needs to improve on his pursuit angles, and is too upright and lacks fluidity in his backpedal.

The Holiday Bowl and East-West Shrine Game will be huge stages for Darby to solidify and improve his draft stock, which looks to be in the late rounds of the 2014 draft.

Kerry Hyder is the top prospect to watch on Texas Tech’s defense in the Holiday Bowl. (Photo: Michael C. Johnson — USA Today Sports)

Kerry Hyder, DT, Texas Tech, Sr. (6’2’’, 280 lbs)

Hyder has been a productive player for the Red Raiders, starting Texas Tech’s last 37 consecutive games. He has 11 career sacks, 34 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles, and was a second-team All-Big 12 selection this season.

With his frame and ability to extend his arms and anchor, Hyder projects as 3-4 defensive end who can play two gaps or kick inside in even fronts. Hyder has active hands and is a good penetrator who also maintains run fits well. He is strong and physical and the point of attack and has flashed the ability to split double teams.

While Hyder is quick off the ball, he doesn’t offer much upside as an edge rusher at the next level. He has a decent swim move but doesn’t win with consistency off the edge. He is more effective penetrating and winning with quickness as an interior rusher.

Hyder looks like a mid-to-late round prospect.

Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State, Sr. (6’, 207 lbs)

Arizona State coach Todd Graham said Marion Grice is “doubtful at best” to play in the Holiday Bowl according to Doug Haller of azcentral.com, but if he manages to get in the game Monday, he is Arizona State’s top offensive prospect to watch.

Grice has played well for the Sun Devils since transferring to Arizona State from junior college in 2012. Grice is a versatile back who can contribute as a receiver and returner and has averaged 5.7 yards per carry in two FBS seasons.

Grice is a one-cut, decisive runner who has been used primarily in a zone blocking scheme. He displays good patience to allow holes to develop and then accelerate upfield. He is a disciplined runner who sticks with play designs.

With 91 receptions over the past two seasons, Grice’s best trait is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He is a reliable safety valve who has great hands. At times, Grice has also made contested catches down the field. His receiving ability should be a calling card for him in the NFL.

Grice has a great understanding of pass protection and sensing where pressure will come from a defense. That said, he needs to be more physical when pass protecting. He is willing but often lazy when pass blocking.

Grice doesn’t offer much in terms of breaking tackles or making people miss to gain yards after contact. He does not have great physical ability, but is very consistent in the things he does well.

Grice projects to be a third-down back in the mold of former New England Patriots running back Kevin Faulk.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Alden Darby, Arizona State, Bowl Games, Chris Young, Eric Ward, Game Previews, Holiday Bowl, Jace Amaro, Kerry Hyder, Marion Grice, Prospect Previews, Texas Tech, Will Sutton

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