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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Best teams from the group of five conferences in 2017

A lot of talk has been placed on the teams from the big conferences, Notre Dame and BYU, but there is a lot more to college football than just that. As we approach the beginning of the season, it is a perfect time to review what teams can make a push for the group of five spot in the New Year’s Six Bowl Game.

USF Bulls

Best group of five teams

Quinton Flowers (photo by zimbio.com)

The Bulls are the easiest team to list here. They are a preseason top 25 team and have a chance to run the table and make some noise while doing so. Charlie Strong didn’t pan out at Texas, but was a good hire for the Bulls and has experience coaching in BCS Bowls.

Returning for the Bulls is Quinton Flowers, who had the offense humming last season. He is a dark horse contender for the Heisman Trophy, but will need to have a statistically astronomical season to win it while playing in the AAC. He is a college football star who will have six other returning starters on offense to help.

On defense Auggie Sanchez leads the way. He has a lot of experience and is ready to become one of the best USF players ever with a good senior season. Seven other starters return from a unit that needs to up their game this season.

The schedule sets up well for USF to run the table. They have tough games against Houston, Temple and UCF, all of which they should be favored in. They will be in contention for a New Year’s Six Bowl.

Houston Cougars

Best group of five teams

Ed Oliver (Photo by chron.com)

Tom Herman is now at Texas, but Major Applewhite has a lot of good players returning. Houston has about as good of a shot as any to knock off USF in the AAC. They won nine games last season and return 17 starters.

The entire offensive line returns and should improve this season. Duke Catalon is the returning starter at running back and is a great weapon. He can run in between the tackles as well as catch passes out of the backfield. Most AAC teams won’t be able to keep him in check.

Kyle Allen is a former top recruit that went to Texas A&M, but decided to transfer to Houston. He has a lot of talent and will have a lot of receivers to utilize. Steven Dunbar and Linell Bonner both return at the receiver position, which should help them cope with the loss of Chance Allen, who transferred to Oregon.

The defense was the 30th best scoring defense in the country, but especially thrived against the run. The best player on the defense is Ed Oliver, who totaled five sacks and 22 tackles for loss last season. Only two former starters need to be replaced on this year’s team, making them look like a unit that will improve.

The loss of Herman is tough, but Houston can still play with everyone on their schedule. Their tough games will be against: Arizona, Texas Tech, Temple, Memphis, South Florida and Navy. While they may not run the table, the Cougars will still be a very solid group of five team.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Best Group of five teams

Mike White (Photo by wbko.com)

The Hilltoppers have been one of the most consistent group of five conference teams in the country. Last year they finished the season with eleven wins and a victory over Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl. Mike Sanford will be in his first year as head coach, but was widely recognized as a good hire.

Mike White returns for his second season as the starting quarterback. He was the main reason WKU was able to have the best scoring offense in the country last season, averaging 45.5 points per game. The problem with the offense may lie in the skill position players. Only Nacarius Fant at wide receiver returns and he had fewer than 500 receiving yards last season. The good news is that three of five starters on the offensive line are back.

The defense was above average, and that’s all it really needs to be with the high-powered offense the Hilltoppers have. They were the second best team against the rush last season in college football and will be aided by the returns of Derik Overstreet and Chris Johnson on the defensive line.

Their schedule is pretty manageable this season, with notable battles only coming at Illinois, Louisiana Tech, at Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee. WKU is a sure thing to light up the scoreboard and get to ten wins again this season.

Toledo Rockets

Best group of five teams

Logan Woodside (Photo by wxyz.com)

Toledo won nine games last season and return a great quarterback. Jason Candle’s squad has a good chance to win almost all of the games on their schedule.

Logan Woodside is one of the best quarterbacks in college football outside of the power five conferences. He has completed 65.6% of his passes for over 6,000 yards in his career thus far. He is even on NFL teams’ radars. Cody Thompson returns as his favorite receiver with 1,269 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

Terry Swanson didn’t start last season, but still rushed for 583 yards on only 116 attempts. Only two offensive linemen return this year which could pose a problem to their high hopes this season.

With a great offense, the defense played well too last season.They allowed just 25.7 points a game, which is good enough to win them most games. Ja’Waun Woodley leads the defense from his linebacker position and had 79 tackles last season. With six other starters returning, the defense should improve.

Toledo could very easily get to double digit wins. Games that they have to watch out for are: at Miami (FL), at Central Michigan, at Ohio and Western Michigan. They are better than every team other than Miami and just have to prove it.

Appalachian State Mountaineers

Best Group of five teams

Jalin Moore (Photo by shelbystar.com)

If any team knows how to transition from FCS to FBS, it’s Appalachian State. They have become a power in the Sun Belt Conference and finished last season with 10 wins. They beat Toledo in the Camellia Bowl to cap off their season. Scott Satterfield has 12 returning starters to rely on this season.

Taylor Lamb is an experienced player who is great at managing the Mountaineer offense. Shaedon Meadors returns as the leading receiver with 716 yards and two touchdowns.

Three offensive linemen are back and should help create a solid unit. Running back Jalin Moore had a fantastic season last year with 1,402 yards and 10 touchdowns. The running game is crucial to the Mountaineers’ success.

Six starters return on defense, which was the the ninth best scoring defense in the country last season. Linebacker Eric Boggs is a great player who might get a shot at an NFL roster. He is the best player on defense and had 98 tackles last season. The unit should be good again this season.

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NFL Draft Prospects To Watch In The Boca Raton Bowl

The Boca Raton Bowl features the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the Memphis Tigers on December 20 at 7:00 p.m. This game will feature a few prospects that will get consideration from the NFL, but may not get drafted. Here are the top prospects in this game:

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

 

Forrest Lamp, OT/OG

 

 

Projected Draft Range: Third round-fifth round

Lamp has been a great offensive tackle for Western Kentucky and has even held up against great defenses, such as Alabama and LSU. His height, of six feet four inches tall, could be an issue at the next level, as he may not be able to get his arms extended against tall defensive ends. If it is an issue he can also play guard. He will need to add some strength either way, but has a lot of good tape for NFL scouts to look at.

 

Taywan Taylor, WR

 

 

Projected Draft Range: Undrafted free agent

Taywan Taylor (Photo courtesy: courier-journal.com)

Taywan Taylor (Photo courtesy: courier-journal.com)

 

It is hard to find more productive receivers than a guy like Taylor. He has around 4,000 career receiving yards and 40 touchdowns in his career. He has decent size at six feet one inch tall and 195 pounds, but will probably need to add some weight to perform at the NFL level. As with all receivers, he has to demonstrate speed to improve his draft stock. A lot points will be scored in this game, so Taylor will be able to show off his skills.

 

Keith Brown, LB

 

 

Projected Draft Range: Undrafted free agent

Brown is a tackle machine for the Hilltoppers. The Louisville transfer had 122 total tackles in his only year at Western Kentucky. He showed his capability to blitz with six sacks, which will add to his value. Against Middle Tennessee State he had an interception with a 52 yard return, displaying his speed and athleticism. He has the size to make it at the NFL level, standing at six feet one inch tall and 240 pounds.

Memphis Tigers

Jake Elliot, K

 

Projected Draft Range: Fifth round-undrafted free agent

Jake Elliot (Photo courtesy: USA today)

Jake Elliot (Photo courtesy: USA today)

Elliot is one of the best kickers in this draft class and could be one of the few who are selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. He has hit 20 of 24 field goals this year, including two longer than 50 yards. In addition to field goals he has been perfect on extra points this season, going 54 of 54.

 

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