The first weekend of College Football Bowl games never feature many NFL prospects, but here are the players that stood out to me on last Saturday’s slate of bowl games:
Mackendy Cheridor, edge rusher (Georgia State)
Absolutely took over the AutoNation Cure Bowl from a defensive standpoint. Besides his two sacks and two tackles-for-loss, he forced a fumble in the first half and his pressure on a flea flicker led to an interception in the second half. All of this was despite playing with a cast on his hand. I haven’t heard much about the senior pass rusher, probably because he’s been injured for much of the season, but after this monster game he’s someone I’ll need to find more tape for.
Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker (Boise State)
A player I highlighted in my preview article, Vander Esch played up to his sterling reputation as the enforcer of the Boise State defense. Kept clean from blockers by his defensive linemen, the 6’4”, 240 pound linebacker was freed to lead his team with 10 solo tackles and also had a sack, three tackles-for-loss, and a forced fumble. A forceful tackler against the run, he was deceptively quick in coverage against Oregon tight ends and running backs. If he ends up declaring for the draft, which isn’t a sure thing, he’ll be an early round pick.
Cedrick Wilson, wide receiver (Boise State)
Wilson was the Las Vegas Bowl MVP for Boise after catching 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown. Boise State used him as a matchup weapon the entire game. He ran routes from the slot and split out wide, he ran the ball on reverses and even threw an incomplete pass. Wilson displayed some better catching technique, which was something he appeared to lack during the regular season. An East-West Shrine game invitee, Wilson needs to continue to improve if he wants to be a second-day draft pick.
Deon Yelder, tight end (Western Kentucky)
Another East-West Shrine game invitee, Yelder didn’t have a great performance as a blocker, but was deadly in the receiving game. WKU quarterback Mike White looked to him early and often as Yelder proved himself adept at finding the holes in Georgia State’s zone coverage. Finishing with five catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns, he was WKU’s most consistent offensive player.