December 31, 2002
‘Tis Still The (Bowl) Season
by Warren DeLuca
Here’s a viewer’s guide to the top prospects in the New Year’s Day and after bowls, with a bit of a Texans slant.
Wednesday, January 1
Cotton Bowl: Texas vs. Louisiana State (10:00 a.m., Fox) Texas OG Derrick Dockery is huge and could also play right tackle if he improves his footwork. DE Corey Redding finished the regular season on a tear but may not have a home in a 3-4 defense. Junior CB Nathan Vasher has rare quickness and speed and is also a dangerous punt returner. LSU MLB Bradie James plays hard and should test out well at the combine, but he hasn’t had the kind of year that many expected.
Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida (10:00 a.m., ESPN)
Florida WR Taylor Jacobs is fast and runs precise routes. Massive junior OT Max Starks has steadily improved after moving from the right to the left side this season, but he’s still valued more for potential than production at this point.
Gator Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Notre Dame (11:30 a.m., NBC) Despite being on the short side, Notre Dame junior Jeff Faine is the top center prospect and may also be able to play guard.
Capital One Bowl: Penn State vs. Auburn (Noon, ABC)
Penn State RB Larry Johnson has had an extremely productive season, but some question whether he has the acceleration to the hole to be a top NFL runner. Between the star receivers around the Big Ten and the big names on his own team, WR Bryant Johnson (no relation to Larry) tends to get lost in the shuffle. He’s big and has soft hands. DT Jimmy Kennedy has emerged as a dominating force in 2002 after a disappointing junior year. DE Michael Haynes is relentless but has not had to face many double teams thanks to Kennedy and is probably best suited for a 4-3 scheme. Auburn junior OLB Karlos Dansby makes plays all over the field and does things that few linebackers are physically able to do.
Rose Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Washington State (4:00 p.m., ABC) Oklahoma junior DE Jimmy Wilkerson is a disruptive edge rusher who projects to a 3-4 OLB. Junior CB Derrick Strait is a pure cover man with great ball skills. CB Andre Woolfolk‘s stock rocketed up the charts in his first full season on defense, but he was burned repeatedly by Rashaun Woods late in the year. Washington State CB Marcus Trufant has acquitted himself well in the pass-happy Pac 10.
Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Florida State (7:30 p.m., ABC)
Georgia OT George Foster is an impressive athlete for a big man, but needs to turn his intensity up a notch. OLB Boss Bailey, Champ’s younger brother, is a sideline-to-sideline athlete who misses too many tackles despite being a big hitter. Florida State’s smart, tough OT Brett Williams will probably end up on the right side in the NFL.
Thursday, January 2
Orange Bowl: Iowa vs. Southern Cal (7:00 p.m., ABC)
USC QB Carson Palmer will challenge Byron Leftwich for the top overall spot. SS Troy Polamalu is a big hitter with good range, although he lacks man cover skills. Iowa’s Eric Steinbach, a converted tight end, should get a look at left tackle in the NFL.
Friday, January 3
Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Miami (7:00 p.m., ABC)
Aggressive Ohio State SS Mike Doss plays the ball very well but is not a physically imposing safety and gets himself in trouble by trying to do too much. Miami sophomore RB Willis McGahee‘s combination of power, speed, and balance make him a true gamebreaker. Junior WR Andre Johnson will drop the occasional ball due to lapses in concentration, but he has the size and speed that the NFL covets. DT William Joseph entered the season as the top overall defensive line prospect, but he did not have a standout 2002 season. Sophomore DT Vincent Wilfork is a widebody with quickness who has drawn some comparisons to former ‘Cane Warren Sapp. DE Jerome McDougle has a great first step but would likely have to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4.
Larry Johnson Return to Houston Pro Football