NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl

The 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl has the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers going up against the Georgia State Panthers. Neither program produces a lot of NFL talent, but they do produce some players who are worthy of NFL consideration. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl:

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers:

Mike White, QB

White took over for a legend at quarterback in Brandon Doughty. He has started the last two seasons and has put up a lot of good numbers. In the pass happy offense that the Hilltoppers run, White has been able to show off his skills time and time again. He has over 10,000 career passing yards and a completion percentage the last two seasons that is over 65%.

Not only does White have a lot of good stats, but he also has the build of an NFL quarterback at 6’4″ tall and 225 pounds. He has a strong arm and is able to stretch defenses down the field with it. White may not be one of the first quarterbacks off the board in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he will likely get selected and have a chance to make an NFL team.

Projected draft range: 5th round-7th round

Chris Johnson, DT

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl

Chris Johnson (Photo by upressonline.com)

In his two seasons at Western Kentucky, Johnson has 85 total tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. His production declined this year, but Johnson will still be considered by NFL executives because of his stellar 2016 season. In that season he had four sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Johnson is 6’1″ 285 pounds and would fill in well on a 4-3 scheme in the NFL. With the production decline, Johnson needs to have a big game in the Cure Bowl.

Projected draft range: 7th round-undrafted free agent

Nacarius Fant, WR

Fant has steadily increased his production over his time at WKU. This season he has 634 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Being that this season was his best, he still has a lot to prove to NFL scouts. Doing well in the Cure Bowl would go a long way to help his draft stock.

He is only 5’9″ and 185 pounds so he will have to play in the slot if he wants to make an NFL team. With his quickness, playing the slot shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Projected draft range: undrafted free agent

Georgia State Panthers:

Penny Hart, WR

NFL Draft Prospects in the AutoNation Cure Bowl

Penny Hart (Photo by ajc.com)

Hart is just a junior, but with an increased number of underclassmen coming out, he may just jump to the next level. He is an ultra-talented receiver that missed most of last season with an injury. In the two seasons that he has been healthy, he has accrued over 1,000 yards each year. He has 17 total touchdowns and if he decides to come back for another year, he will surely break a lot of records.

Like Fant, Hart is a smaller receiver that will have to play the slot in the NFL. He is 5’8″ tall and 180 pounds. Hart has a lot of production and experience that will help sell him to NFL scouts. He will get drafted whether he decides to enter his name into the draft this year or next.

Projected draft range: 5th round-7th round

Bryan Williams, S

Williams has two years of solid production at Georgia State. This season was particularly impressive with his 57 tackles, four interceptions and two passes defended.

One thing Williams has going for him is his size. He is 6’3″ and 212 pounds making him in the mold of the bigger safeties in the NFL, like Kam Chancellor. He will need to get a camp tryout and prove what he can do in the NFL.

Projected draft range: undrafted free agent

 

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2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl preview

Two six win teams will meet up in the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl. Georgia State and Western Kentucky will square off at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The winner gets to finish above .500. Here is how the teams stack up:

Western Kentucky HIlltoppers (6-6)

2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl Preview

Mike White (Photo by wkusports.com)

Western Kentucky has been a solid program for years now and have reached their fourth straight bowl game. This team though, isn’t as good as some of the teams in previous years. They have six wins, but failed to beat a team that finished above .500 on the season.

The calling card of this team is the passing game. Mike White has 3,826 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has helped the Hilltoppers rank ninth in the country in passing yards per game, averaging 333.7. White has thrown for over 10,000 yards in his career and can air it out with the best of them. They have seven receivers with over 200 yards receiving, but Nacarius Fant leads all receivers with 634 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, they haven’t been able to get anything going on the ground this season. As a team they have fewer than 800 yards on the season. There are players who have almost triple that amount on their own. Part of this is by design, as WKU likes to pass a lot, but the running backs aren’t making the most of their opportunities when they do get carries.

The Hilltoppers have a below average scoring defense that allows 26.8 points per game. While they are an average run defending team, they are actually better at stopping the pass. Joel Iyiegbuniwe will lead the defense from his linebacker position. He helps stop the run and will need to have a big game for Western Kentucky to win.

Georgia State Panthers (6-5)

2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl preview

Penny Hart (Photo by georgiastatesports.com)

Georgia State had a game cancelled against Memphis, but they were still able to get to six wins and bowl eligibility. The Panthers were not able to beat a team that was bowl eligible this season, but will take their chances in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.

Senior Conner Manning has been a two year starter and has raised his level of efficiency at the quarterback position this season. He has 2,870 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Manning is a pocket passer, that does a good job of hitting his favorite target, Penny Hart. Hart is a premier talent that has 1,098 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

The passing offense is good, but the rushing offense is bad, much like Western Kentucky. They rank 117th in the country in rushing yards per game. Glenn Smith is the leading rusher with 522 yards on the ground. The running game won’t be a big factor in this game.

The defense is above average and allows 25.5 points per game. Georgia State is better at defending the run than the pass, which will likely be an issue in this game. Four year starter Chandon Sullivan can have a big impact on the game from his corner position. He is the program’s all time leader in interceptions and if he can get one or two more in this game, the Panthers can win.

Prediction

Mike White and the Hilltopper offense are going to be tough to stop. White will light up the Georgia State defense, while the Western Kentucky defense will do just enough to win the game.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 42 Georgia State 31

 

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2016 AutoNation Cure Bowl Preview

Central Florida won’t have to leave their city for this bowl game in Orlando, Florida, while Arkansas State will have to travel a bit further.

Central Florida Knights

The Knights did not win one football game last season, but have rebounded very well this season to make a bowl game under new head coach Scott Frost. This may be more of a factor of scheduling rather than actual improvement due to the fact that they didn’t beat an FBS team who finished above 4-8 on the season. They did beat South Carolina State, who is good traditionally at the FCS level, but that is the only decent win out of their six.

Incumbent quarterback Justin Holman battled injury this season, which led to freshman McKenzie Milton taking over as starting quarterback. He wasn’t very good, but finished with 1,808 passing yards and nine touchdowns. With seven interceptions, his struggles have been pretty apparent.

The running game hasn’t been that great either for the Knights. Jawon Hamilton rushed for 481 yards on 3.7 yards per carry, while Dontravious Wilson rushed for 463 yards on 3.9 yards per carry. That won’t move the chains very often. Their freshman speedster, Adrian Killins, has been the most effective runner when he gets the ball, with 7.2 yards per carry. He doesn’t get many carries, but will need to be featured more in this game to help pick up yardage.

Tre’Quan Smith is the receiver who stands out above the rest. His 54 receptions, 808 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns lead the team. If Milton gets anything done through the air, Smith will be the one most responsible for it.

UCF’s offense is inconsistent at best, but the defense is just average allowing 24.1 points per game. The run defense is average with the pass defense being a little bit better.

Shaquem Griffin (Photo courtesy: newdayreview.com)

Shaquem Griffin (Photo courtesy: newdayreview.com)

The reason UCF has been successful this season is their pass rush. They have 36 sacks, which is 15th best in the country. Linebacker Shaquem Griffin has a third of the teams’ sacks with 12. The most impressive thing about Griffin? He only has one hand and plays the position better than most people with two hands. He is also the key to the Knight’s chances in this bowl game.

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Arkansas State lost all of their non-conference games before going 7-1 in conference play. Their most impressive wins is against Troy, who had an impressive season at 9-3, and South Alabama who went .500 on the year.

The Red Wolves’ offense hasn’t been great, averaging 27 points per game, which is in the middle of the pack for the FBS. Justice Hansen took the reigns of the offense from Pittsburgh transfer Chad Voytick, Hansen was solid with a two to one touchdown to interception ratio and 2,514 yards. He has heated up as of late, with only two interceptions in November and December. Protecting the football will be his main priority in this game, as once he stopped throwing so many interceptions, his team started to go on a winning streak.

Warren Wand finished with just 867 yards on the season, but did not get as many carries as he should have. There was only one game where he got more than 20 carries, which is one of the two games he rushed for over 100 yards. If he gets enough carries he can be a game-changer in the Cure Bowl.

The ball is spread around to a lot of receivers, which means there isn’t one key guy the Knights can focus on. Arkansas State has six different receivers with over 200 yards. The pass attack isn’t dynamic, but can keep opponents on their heels with the amount of targets they have.

Chris Odom (Photo courtesy: astateredwolves.com)

Chris Odom (Photo courtesy: astateredwolves.com)

Arkansas State’s defense has been horrendous this season. They allow 38.7 points per game, which is tenth most points allowed in the FBS. They don’t give up that many yards per game, but don’t get teams in bad field position that often either.

Chris Odom is also one of the best pass rushers in the country with 11 sacks on the season. The Red Wolves will give up points, but Odom can help limit the amount by getting to the quarterback.

Prediction

Both teams picked up a lot of wins against bad teams to get to this point. The UCF offense isn’t good, but anyone can score on the Red Wolves. Griffin will have a big game for the Knights and help give them good field position to score enough points to win the game.

UCF Knights 29 Arkansas State 24

 

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