American vs. National
Saturday, January 18, 6 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
GAME NOTES: NFL Draft-eligible players will put their talents on display at the StubHub Center on Saturday afternoon in the 3rd-annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Patrolling the sideline for the American squad is Denny Green, who made his mark in the NFL as the head coach of the Vikings and the Cardinals. Returning as head coach of the National squad is the legendary Dick Vermeil, who won the Rose Bowl as coach of UCLA in 1975 before enjoying an illustrious NFL career with the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs, winning a Super Bowl with St. Louis. Vermeil led the National team to victories in the 2012 (20-14) and 2013 (34-0) editions of this game.
Headlining the American offense is Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who, despite missing four games in the middle of the season with a shoulder injury, finished with 2,429 yards (on 62.1 percent completions) with 19 touchdowns to just six interceptions, while adding impressive rushing totals as well (510 yards, four TDS). Kenny Guiton also has a lot to prove. The Ohio State signal caller was stuck behind Braxton Miller on the depth chart but was brilliant in limited action early in the season (.688 completions, 749 yards, 14 TDs, two INTs). Also lining up under center for American will be UNLV's Caleb Herring (2,718 passing yards, 346 rushing yards, 29 total TDs, five INTs) and Sean Schroeder from Hawaii (2,960 yards, 28 TDs, 14 INTs).
American is only carrying two tailbacks -- Oklahoma's Roy Finch (347 yards) and Franklyn Quiteh (2,195 yards, 29 TDs), the Division II Player of the Year out of Bloomsburg. Fullbacks Kiero Small (Arkansas) and Chad Young (San Diego State) will also get to show their skills.
At receiver, Texas Tech's Eric Ward (83 receptions, 947 yards, eight TDs), Hawaii's Chris Gant (59 receptions, 973 yards, nine TDs) and Buffalo's Alex Neutz (61 receptions, 1,024 yards, 12 TDs) will all try to build upon impressive seasons. Small-school pass catchers Greg Hardin (North Dakota), Gerald Ford (Valdosta State), Tony Washington (Appalachian State) and Corey Washington (Newberry) will also be given a big stage to play on, while Brian Wozniak (Wisconsin) and Terrence Miller (Arizona) will represent the tight end position.
Anchoring the American defense is a pair of SEC linebackers in Kentucky's Avery Williamson (102 tackles) and Missouri's Andrew Wilson (113 tackles, 6.5 TFL). The squad also has impressive talent along the defensive line with Kasim Edebali (Boston College), Nate Askew (Texas A&M) and Seali'i Epenesa (UCLA) as well as in the defensive backfield with Ciante Evans (Nebraska) Demetrius Wright (USC) and CJ Barnett (Ohio State).
On the National side, Connor Shaw is expected to lead the charge at quarterback after posting an outstanding senior season at South Carolina, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 2,447 yards, rushing for 558 yards and combining for 30 touchdowns while throwing just a single interception. Cincinnati QB Brendon Kay (.663 completions, 3,302 yards, 22 TDs, 12 INTs) will also get his chance to prove himself, as will Kolton Browning (ULM) and Dustin Vaughan (West Texas A&M).
Trey Watts out of Tulsa is arguably the most talented running back in this event, having displayed excellence both as a rusher (1,329 yards, 11 TDs) and a receiver (46 receptions, 395 yards, TD). James Sims (1,110 yards, seven TDs) was one of the only weapons on a lackluster Kansas team, and Anthony Wilkerson (353 yards, two TDs) was solid in limited reps for Stanford.
Isaiah Burse (99 receptions, 1,026 yards, six TDs) benefitted greatly from his future-NFL quarterback Derek Carr at Fresno State and is out to prove he's a high-quality playmaker. On the contrary, Albert Wilson out of Georgia State had very little talent surrounding him yet still finished with 71 receptions for 1,117 yards and eight touchdowns. Rounding out the receiving talent is Kadron Boone (LSU), Je'Ron Hamm (ULM), Darryl Surgent (Louisiana), Eric Thomas (Troy) and Martin Bayless Jr. (Central Methodist).
Defensively, Jimmy Legree is a high-impact defensive back out of South Carolina, as he racked up 55 tackles, 5.5 TFL and three interceptions this season. Oklahoma State linebacker Shaun Lewis (58 tackles, 7.5 TFL), Mississippi State linebacker Deonte Skinner (64 tackles), Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill (66 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks) and Southern Miss defensive lineman Khyri Thornton (39 tackles, 6.5 TFL) are expected to be standouts for the unit as well.
Whether it be a proven producer, a player with great talent but limited by injuries over his career, an overachiever from a small program, or even a guy who didn't get his fair share of playing time on a elite team, every player in this game has something to show in order to improve their stock come NFL Draft time in May. Figure on event veteran Vermeil to continue his reign with the National squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: National 38, American 35
01/17 13:51:52 ET