Scouting Notes: 2014 Fiesta Bowl (Baylor vs. UCF)

The spotlight was on UCF quarterback Blake Bortles in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas — USA Today Sports)

BBD Staff Writer: Joseph Curtis

The last year of the BCS was the first for Baylor (11-2) and Central Florida (12-1), who each played in their first and only BCS bowl when they met in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day. Despite a string on three consecutive offensive drives, UCF led Baylor, 28-20, at halftime behind two rushing touchdowns by running back Storm Johnson and two passing touchdowns from Blake Bortles to Rannell Hall. Johnson added another rushing touchdown, while Bortles added both a passing and rushing touchdown in the second half, leading UCF to a win, 52-42.

Johnson and Bortles have both declared for the 2014 NFL draft as juniors and are considered potential early-round selections. Baylor, on the other hand, had several draft prospects on its offense and a quality safety in senior Ahmad Dixon. Bortles could be picked by the Houston Texans—whom you can bet on to win the AFC South next year with the help of

Blake Bortles, QB, UCF, Jr.

-Good speed in open field, short strider

-Threw deep dime right after an offside penalty, nullified by penalty

-Stands tall in pocket, has good footwork in his drop and beautiful touch downfield

-Displayed good vision as a runner, cut in and utilized lead blocker

-Threw off back foot under pressure with a three-quarter release

-Kept eyes downfield scrambling, squared up and lofted pass off receiver’s hands

-Ill-advised throw on screen tipped by defender

-Made a poor read out of option to hand off as defensive end crashed down

-Overthrew open deep receiver off his back foot with a clean pocket

-Good placement to fit a throw through window but needed more velocity

-Nice deep pass but defender won battle for interception on jump ball; Bortles had open receivers underneath

-Forced pass into coverage under pressure off his back foot and at a low angle, pass tipped and intercepted

-Stepped up in pocket to avoid rush, threw across body and behind receiver

-Good zip on back-foot throw to short out

-Lots of velocity to sneak a throw through a small window

-Stepped up as he scanned field, changed arm angle to fit pass through line

-Great anticipation and touch on touchdown throw to back pylon

-Kept feet clean running, good vision

-Fought through arm tackles while keeping eyes downfield as a runner

Overview: With lots of draft hype heading into bowl season, Bortles was put in the spotlight in the Fiesta Bowl. For the most part, he answered the call.

The trait that stood out most about him was his poise and confidence in the pocket. He consistently stood tall, kept his eyes downfield even when scrambling and was able to step up and make throws with rushers in his face.

Despite throwing two interceptions on consecutive throws, he also threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns, set a personal high with 93 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown, and led his team to an upset victory.

He showed off a strong arm and good accuracy. He needs to work on his anticipation and play with more consistent footwork. He showed surprising athleticism and good vision.

Bortles is a potential top-10 selection who could even compete to be the first quarterback off the board.

Storm Johnson, RB, UCF, Jr.

-Cuts through holes, runs low with some agility

-Patient run, got behind blocks then cut around defenders for yards, falls forward

-Put head down and fought through contact to score 11-yard touchdown

-Protected ball running through middle, stayed behind pads for 2-yard rushing touchdown

-Slid by linebacker on outlet swing, did not catch pass that hit his hands

-Carried ball away from body, strung outside and fumbled

-Patient runner getting to hole then bursts through

-Overextended as a blocker and did not bring feet with him

-One-cut and downhill runner with long strides

-Extended and caught leading pass in flat

-Got low and slowed down blitzing linebacker on a pass block

-Opened hole downfield with fake left, cut right through hole for a 40-yard rushing touchdown, his third of the night

UCF running back Storm Johnson is headed to the NFL after a three-touchdown performance in the Fiesta Bowl. (Photo: Matt Kartozian — USA Today Sports)

Overview: Amassing 124 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, Johnson carried the Knights to a Fiesta Bowl victory.

A one-cut downhill runner with good patience, he is strong between the tackles and takes the yards he is given, but is also willing to fight for extra yards.

He does not have much agility or breakaway speed, but he accelerates quickly and has some burst to get to the second level.

His biggest issue is his tendency to carry the ball away from his body too often, which was the case when he lost a fumble in the second quarter.

Johnson is an intriguing prospect whose stock could be quite volatile. He projects as a likely mid-to-late round pick: his strength and north-south running style might help his stock, but his lack of playmaking ability and fumbling issues could cause his stock to drop.

E.J. Dunston, DT, UCF

-Slow, stands tall, not a lateral mover

-Fought through block, got hand up on pass

-Bent at waist, fought off block and helped make a tackle

-Rode a block, extended arms and filled a gap

-Instantly recognized a wide receiver screen and pursued it outside

-Steered lineman outside, shedded block and jumped in to fill hole for tackle

Overview: Dunston got off to a slow start in this game but played fairly well down the stretch. Early in the game, he played slow and high off the snap and seemed overmatched against Baylor guard Cyril Richardson. He looked to calm down over the course of the game, playing more stout and working more with his hands.

Dunston consistently held his ground and was even able to shed blocks later in the game and clog holes. While Dunston does not look like a difference-maker as either a pass-rusher or run-stopper, he could compete for a roster spot and provide quality depth at defensive tackle.

See page 2 for notes on Baylor’s top prospects.

Continue to Page: 1 2

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Ahmad Dixon, Baylor, Blake Bortles, Bowl Games, Cyril Richardson, E.J. Dunston, Fiesta Bowl, Glasco Martin, Lache Seastrunk, Scouting Notes, Storm Johnson, Tevin Reese, UCF

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