BBD Contributor: Ryan Glaze
Christmas Eve’s Hawaii Bowl (8 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN) between the Oregon State Beavers (6-6) and the Boise State Broncos (8-4) pits two blue-collar programs that pride themselves on player development against one another.
While both West Coast programs have fought through challenging 2013 seasons, the Hawaii Bowl will showcase a number of intriguing prospects from each team on both sides of the ball.
Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State, Jr. (6’3″, 245 lbs)
Easily the most disruptive presence on Boise State’s defense, redshirt junior defensive end Demarcus Lawrence looks like he’ll be a pass rushing force at the next level. Though he projects as hand-in-the-dirt 4-3 defensive end, Lawrence looks long and athletic enough to transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense as well.
Lawrence has followed up a terrific sophomore season with an even better junior season, posting 67-tackles and leading his team with 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss season. His pass-rushing skills have NFL scouts intrigued. Combining terrific athleticism with a great burst, good leverage and hand-fighting skills and solid pursuit speed, Lawrence is a consistent presence in offensive backfields. Despite being a bit undersized, he also shows a good bull rush and the versatility to line up all along the defensive front.
Though he has yet to formally announce his intention to leave school early, it is considered to be a possibility. Based on talent alone, Lawrence likely projects as a second- or third-round pick. That said, he will have to answer some difficult questions in the interview process after being suspended for disciplinary reasons on three separate occasions in his two years in Boise.
To avoid being labeled as a pass-rushing specialist, Lawrence will have to add at least 10-15 pounds and improve his ability as a run defender at the next level. Should he choose to leave early, the Hawaii Bowl will be an opportunity for Lawrence to showcase himself against a higher level of competition than he faced in the Mountain West Conference.
Charles Leno Jr., OT, Boise State, Sr. (6’4″, 295 lbs)
Boise State left tackle Charles Leno Jr. is an intriguing prospect, especially with the read option and zone blocking schemes becoming more en vogue in the NFL. The Hawaii Bowl will mark Leno’s 39th consecutive start for the Broncos, a three-year career that has seen the team’s 2012 Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman play both guard and tackle positions along the offensive line.
Though the Mountain West doesn’t boast elite college talent, Leno has been the key to Boise State’s balanced offense, which is ranked 25th nationally in total offense. That said, Leno has flat out dominated his competition at times. A bit undersized to be an immediate contributor, Leno displays good athleticism, a solid punch, good balance and most impressively, phenomenal footwork.
Because the 2013 All-Mountain West First Team standout lacks prototypical size, Leno projects as a mid-to-late round project at either tackle position. His positional versatility, longevity and solid skills make him an intriguing, high-upside prospect.
Much like Lawrence, the Hawaii Bowl will give Leno a terrific opportunity to show off his abilities. Lining up against Oregon State’s talented defensive ends, Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton, will be Leno’s biggest challenge to date. A good showing in the Hawaii Bowl would be a great launch to Leno’s pro campaign.
Matt Miller, WR, Boise State, Jr. (6’3″, 222 lbs)
Though unlikely to declare for the 2014 NFL draft, Boise State wideout Matt Miller is the Broncos’ most talented receiving prospect. After exploding onto the scene as a freshman, Miller has now posted three solid seasons as Boise State’s go-to receiver with 25 touchdowns, 205 receptions and nearly 2,400 yards.
Miller won’t ever be a burner, but he makes up for his lack of speed with his length, strong hands,and a knack for getting open and making plays. Though his lack of elite speed, explosion and athleticism could cause Miller to be projected as a late-round prospect with a low ceiling, he is a terrific route runner who could be a quick contributor out of the slot.
Though he possesses a great frame, Miller actually has room to add weight at 222 pounds. As he learns to leverage strength with his terrific length, he could be able to carve out a niche as a red-zone threat in the future.
Miller’s matchup in the Hawaii Bowl will be an interesting one. Oregon State will likely ask its most talented and veteran cornerback, Rashaad Reynolds, to shadow Miller all evening. Reynolds is an NFL-caliber corner in his own right, so a solid showing in the Hawaii Bowl could help Miller convince NFL scouts that he has what it takes to succeed at the next level.
See page 2 to read about Oregon State’s top prospects.
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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Boise State, Bowl Games, Brandin Cooks, Charles Leno Jr., Demarcus Lawrence, Hawaii Bowl, Matt Miller, Oregon State, Prospect Previews, Rashaad Reynolds, Scott Crichton, Sean Mannion