This first edition of Devy Watch takes a look at the early bowl games – games taking place before Christmas. The fun starts Saturday, December 17th with five games between 10 unranked teams. Just because the competition won’t be the best that we will see over the next month doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t watch. Bowl season is our last chance to see some players and even better, a chance to get a glimpse at the guys next in line to replace our favorite college players. We won’t look at every bowl game here, but if you are in need of a complete bowl schedule, I’ve got you covered.
Las Vegas Bowl: Houston vs San Diego State – Dec 17 at 3:30 pm EST on ABC
The easy one here is San Diego State’s star running back Donnel Pumphrey. The senior comes into the bowl game with 6,290 rushing yards over his career. He needs 108 yards to break Ron Dayne’s rushing record. Pumphrey has the speed, agility, and vision to separate him from other backs. However, at 5’9″ and 180 pounds, he’s not built like a bell cow back but that’s exactly what he is. He hasn’t missed a game at the college level. He has 1,148 career touches coming into this game versus Houston. Even at his diminutive size, his durability and production can’t be ignored.
There is another running back in this game that I like and that is Houston’s sophomore Duke Catalon. Greg Ward leads the team in carries this season but as he departs, someone else will have to carry the load. I think that will be Catalon. He has the desirable size for a running back. He looks light on his feet, but try telling that to defenders that he’s trucked. He has a good combination of speed and power and he’s shown that he can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Ed Oliver, Houston’s defensive tackle, is probably the best freshman at any position in the country. He was top two in nearly every statistical category for first-year defensive linemen. He finished the regular season with 61 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 9 pass deflections. He finished 8th in the nation with 19.5 tackles for loss…again, as a defensive tackle. To give you a comparison, these numbers are similar to if not better than those that Ndamukong Suh posted in his senior year. Oliver will be the biggest obstacle in Pumphrey’s path to becoming college football’s all-time leading rusher Saturday.
Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State vs Toledo – Dec 17 at 5:30 pm EST on ESPN
Appalachian State has an impressive backfield combo in Marcus Cox and Jalin Moore. Cox, one of the team’s senior leaders, went over 1,400 yards rushing in both 2014 and 2015. He fell short of 1,000 yards this year due to missing four games in the middle of the season with a leg injury. If you remember opening night, you’ll remember Cox, a little spark plug type of back, carving up Tennessee’s defense before they could use injuries as an excuse for not being able to tackle. Even though Cox didn’t eclipse 1,000 yards this season, he was easily on that pace, averaging over 100 yards in the games he started.
The future of the Mountaineers’ backfield is in good hands with sophomore RB Jalin Moore. When Cox was unavailable, Moore excelled. He ran for 257, 149, 106 and 114 yards in the four games during Cox’s absence. Since Cox returned from injury, this duo each rushed for at least 110 yards in every game except one – a loss to Troy.
While you might not know too much about App State’s running game, Toledo has a running back that everyone has heard of. Toledo goes as Kareem Hunt goes. Hunt put his name out there with a stellar sophomore campaign, but injuries and a suspension during his junior year kept him in school for another year. This season, Hunt is closer to his 2014 self than 2015. He began the 2016 season 1,380 yards short of setting a new school rushing record. Currently, he’s sitting at 1,355 so that record will fall fairly early Saturday. When projecting Hunt to the next level, you’ll notice that he has good size and traits that make him a solid prospect, but nothing that makes him elite.
Boca Raton Bowl: Memphis vs Western Kentucky – Dec 20 at 7 pm EST on ESPN
This season, Anthony Miller joined Isaac Bruce as the only two Tigers’ wide receivers to post a 1,000-yard season. The junior has already broken school records for catches and yards in a season, and with two touchdowns Saturday, he would break the school’s 66-year old record for touchdown receptions in a season. Miller, a walk-on, was a track star at a local Memphis high school. He isn’t widely known outside of the American Athletic Conference, but with one more year to improve his game, I think his name is one that devy owners should jot down.
Miller might not be the best wide receiver in this bowl game. Western Kentucky has a go-to guy of their own. Taywan Taylor, a 6’1″ senior, has received comparisons to John Brown by some – minus the never-ending hamstring issues. Mel Kiper currently has Taylor as a third round talent in the upcoming NFL draft. Entering this bowl game, Taylor has hauled in 89 balls for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns. If his 220 receptions over the past three seasons didn’t give it away, he has soft, reliable hands and he’s so good at tracking the football.
Poinsettia Bowl: BYU vs Wyoming – Dec 21 at 9 pm EST on ESPN
Wyoming QB Josh Allen wasn’t a highly recruited prospect coming out of high school. It’s not that he wasn’t talented enough. Schools just didn’t recruit his hometown similar to the way schools didn’t recruit Carson Wentz’s hometown. Allen, a redshirt sophomore, has turned around Wyoming’s football program this year. Standing 6’5″ and weighing 222 pounds, Allen has prototypical size, he can make all of the NFL throws and he possesses the ability to make defenders look silly with his legs. He has plenty of room to improve and his head coach, Craig Bohl, expects him to be one of the nation’s best quarterbacks by the time his college career is over.
Idaho Potato Bowl: Idaho vs Colorado State – Dec 22 at 7 pm EST on ESPN
In his first year at Colorado State, Michael Gallup was given the unenviable task of replacing Rashard Higgins. Although not an easy undertaking, he’s filled in quite nicely, at least from a statistical standpoint. Coming out of Butler County Community College, he started slow, found some consistency around the midpoint of the season and has been an absolute nightmare for Mountain West defensive backs over the past month. Going into his bowl game, he has four straight 100-yard games and he’s scored at least one touchdown in 7 straight outings. Gallup is just a junior, as is his QB, Nick Stevens. They could both return for their senior seasons and build on what they’ve accomplished this season.
Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs Middle Tennessee State – Dec 24 at 8 pm EST on ESPN
Back in September, I profiled MTSU’s do-everything playmaker Richie James. He’s been one of my favorite players to watch for over a year now because he is one of the most versatile players in the nation. Three weeks ago in a weird game against FAU where MTSU was down 2 quarterbacks, he showed that versatility by completing 5/6 passes for 76 yards, carrying the ball 22 times for 207 yards and catching 4 passes for 120 yards. Last year, as a redshirt freshman, he finished second nationally with 108 receptions and tenth in yards with 1,346. He also led the team with 12 yards per carry. He followed up that breakout season with even better numbers. He enters the Hawaii Bowl with 97 catches, 1,463 yards, and 11 touchdown catches. James is just 5’9″ tall and weighs only 180 pounds so he might not have the size to make it at the NFL level, but he is as dynamic as they come. He’ll be fun to watch Christmas Eve and at MTSU for at least one more season.