The holiday season gets underway with two games on Friday
College bowl season gets back underway on Friday afternoon. Who should Jets fans keep an eye on this weekend? Jet X investigates a prospect from each team.
Bahamas Bowl (Friday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
An intriguing Day 3 option at safety would be #MTSU S Reed Blankenship. Dude has some RANGE man, he plays this double post combo beautifully.
Carries the slot post and nearly makes an interception on the outside skinny post.
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) February 6, 2021
Middle Tennessee: S Reed Blankenship
The reclamation of the safety spot in the post-Jamal Adams era is set to continue this offseason. If this cursed campaign has proved anything, it’s that the Jets need some help in the secondary, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Marcus Maye.
Blankenship, MTSU’s all-time leading tackler, could become an attractive Saturday option as a speedy, physical defender who would embrace Robert Saleh’s famous “all gas, no brake” philosophy.
#Toldeo LG Vitaliy Gurman has a versatile skillset that could be valuable at next level. Played 6 games in 2020 at tackle, now transitioning to guard.
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) September 14, 2021
Toledo: OL Vitaliy Gurman
With the Mekhi Becton malady threatening to reach season-long proportions, the Jets may look to expand on their blocking depth. Gurman has proven to be a versatile option that has paved the way for the Rockets’ strong run game. He most often lines up at the left tackle role that Becton normally occupies but has also been valuable in interior roles.
Cure Bowl (Friday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
The more I watch #CoastalCarolina, the more I like TE Isaiah Likely. He’s been a reliable target all season for QB Grayson McCall, just a junior as well.
Averaging over 20 yards a catch, he’s someone I can’t wait to study for next years class.pic.twitter.com/UQrYkTiabi
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) December 27, 2020
Coastal Carolina: TE Isaiah Likely
Even if you haven’t kept up to date on Chanticleer football this season, you’ve likely (pun intended) seen the 6’4, 245-pound tight end pop up on your social media timeline.
But, on a serious note, Likely has developed himself into an athletic scoring option through 25 touchdown grabs over the last four seasons (one of which was a 99-yard run to glory in a four-score day against Arkansas State in October).
Likely might have to improve his blocking abilities but there are few mid-major prospects this capable of contributing immediately. The Jets’ issues at tight end make scouting Likely a no-brainer.
Northern Illinois LT Marques Cox 🥞 alert! pic.twitter.com/7LAKPX9y1V
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 11, 2021
Northern Illinois: OT Marques Cox
Another blindside stud who could serve as an intriguing day three project, Cox’s strong footwork and ability to contribute off the edge could work well in an offense that’s looking to utilize not only the talents of Zach Wilson but those of Michael Carter as well. With Cox as an anchor, NIU’s rushing attack finished second in the MAC this season.
Boca Raton Bowl (Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Deangelo Malone with the biggest play of the night! And breaks WKU’s FBS sack record in the process pic.twitter.com/bugXPRNUHz
— Barstool Western (@BarstoolWestern) November 14, 2020
Western Kentucky: DE DeAngelo Malone
Shcoking news here, but when the Jets’ pass rush has worked, good things have happened. New York is 3-2 this season when earning at least three sacks.
Malone has taken care of that department and then some, as he’s not only WKU’s all-time leader in quarterback takedowns (33) but is also second in Conference USA history with 58 tackles for a loss (passing current Jet and Marshall alum Vinny Curry).
The 6th sack of the season from #SunBeltFB Defensive Player of the Year D'Marco Jackson!
— App State Football (@AppState_FB) December 4, 2021
Appalachian State: LB D’Marco Jackson
Most of the hype around Boca Raton has surrounded WKU’s offense, namely QB Bailey Zappe. A tall task thus awaits the Mountaineers’ defense, which shared top unit duties with Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt this season.
The Jets could take a look at the experienced names in the ASU secondary (i.e. CB Steven Jones or S Ryan Huff), but the star defensive attraction is Jackson, the Sun Belt’s new Defensive Player of the Year. If Jackson can complement his downhill attack with improved coverage, the Jets could find a diamond in the rough hidden in Boone.
Celebration Bowl (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ABC)
— Eric Galko (@EricGalko) September 14, 2021
South Carolina State: CB Decobie Durant
A converted quarterback, Durant has made up for his relatively small size (5’10, 175 lbs.) with a strong athleticism and downhill ability (which makes his run defense an invaluable weapon). Though his MEAC games are often designated for the streaming apps, Durant provided a strong showcase during the Bulldogs’ opening game against Clemson, where he earned two interceptions.
Jackson State James Houston Pick Six! ☎️ pic.twitter.com/MlHHjXUMz1
— Light On Sports (@LightOnSports) December 4, 2021
Jackson State: EDGE James Houston
Deion Sanders’ coaching endeavor has mostly centered around JSU’s revamped offense headlined by QB Shedeur Sanders. But Houston, a transfer from Florida, has headlined the Tigers’ defense and has made a strong NFL case for himself to the tune of 20.5 tackles for a loss, including 14.5 sacks. His efforts were rewarded with the SWAC’s Newcomer of the Year Award.
New Mexico Bowl (Saturday, 2:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
JACOB COWING WILDIN’ OUT TONIGHT pic.twitter.com/XZLJ2CajjJ
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) August 29, 2021
UTEP: WR Jacob Cowing
It’s possible that Cowing is a prospect more worthy of the 2023 draft. The 5’11, 170-lb. junior could potentially up his stock by sticking in El Paso for another season.
But there’s no denying the speedy impact he could have as a day three draft entrant. Cowing has earned at least 150 yards in five games this season and helped the Miners end a seven-year bowl drought.
My favorite part of #FresnoState WR Jalen Cropper’s game is the acceleration and elusiveness with the ball in his hands. Such a smooth operator who can move in the open field. pic.twitter.com/LPX3ihvf9s
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) November 25, 2021
Fresno State: WR Jalen Cropper
Cropper was able to continue his strong connection with touted QB Jake Haener, who opted to stick around in The Valley after briefly entering the transfer portal. Cropper has reached Bulldog heights last reached by current NFL playmaker Davante Adams and has received late second-round grades from Bleacher Report.
His athleticism has helped him shoot up the draft boards and, with the Jets blessed with extra capital in the middle stages, Cropper could become an intriguing playmaker in green, especially if the team opts to move on from Denzel Mims.
Independence Bowl (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Gerrit Prince of @UAB_FB has continued to impress with his run-after-catch ability.
Runs routes at outstanding play speed and transitions to a runner fluidly with field vision, creativity, and contact balance 🐉🔥🐉
— Eric Galko (@EricGalko) December 8, 2021
UAB: TE Gerrit Prince
Another guy named Gerrit making an impact on New York sports? It’s almost as unlikely as Prince’s college football story, involving a rise from community college to become one of the Blazers’ most impactful contributors.
Prince has emerged as a reliable goal-line prescience, hauling in a dozen touchdowns over the last two seasons. The Jets brought in Tyler Kroft to potentially fulfill that role this year but injuries have prevented him from making a true impact.
James Empey on Zach's TD run 😍 pic.twitter.com/AxihbrJ4qa
— Jeff Hansen (@rakoto10) September 15, 2019
BYU: C James Empey
Do the Jets dare return to the fountain of “youth”? Empey has dealt with injury woes and enters as a 25-year-old prospect but uniting Zach Wilson with his collegiate center could be an interesting idea that pays big dividends.
Empey probably could’ve been an early day three pick had he declared for the 2021 selections but opted to come back for another year.
LendingTree Bowl (Saturday. 5:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Anyone hungry? We've got a turnover!
Alvinoski LaFleur picks off Drew Plitt after a previous DPI to set up EMU in great position deep in BSU territory! pic.twitter.com/uYHjMHLdcN
— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) November 12, 2020
Eastern Michigan: S Alvinoski LeFleur
LeFleur garnered SEC attention after gaining star status on the JUCO circuit. He headlined an EMU defense that finished seventh in the nation in red zone touchdown rate. He’ll likely need a strong, athletic showing at Indianapolis’ Combine to solidify his draft stock, but he has displayed good ability in both coverage and tackling.
— Liberty Football (@LibertyFootball) September 26, 2020
Liberty: EDGE Durell Johnson
Though Johnson, another JUCO stud turned FBS contributor, isn’t the most athletic pass rusher – nor is his size ideal (235 lbs.) – his athletic abilities make him a strong backfield invader. Injuries have limited him to seven games after he tallied eight sacks in 2020, so he might need a good game on Mobile to impress the NFL scouts in attendance.
LA Bowl (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
HOLY ROCKET!! 🚀
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 19, 2021
Utah State: WR Deven Thompkins
Whatever offensive success the Jets have had has partly stemmed from the slot position, namely through the efforts of Jameson Crowder and Braxton Berrios. With both up for free agency this spring, the Jets could keep an eye on Thompkins, whose smaller frame (5’8, 155 lbs.) likely has him destined for slot duties if/when the NFL comes calling.
Nice cover 3 creeper pressure by Oregon State on this one. Keep an eye on Oregon State LB 34 Avery Roberts. He transferred from Nebraska and had 84 tackles with two sacks last season during his first season at Oregon State. Here's one of those sacks from last season pic.twitter.com/Ce1XlsJRJX
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) July 7, 2020
Oregon State: ILB Avery Roberts
A transfer from Nebraska, Roberts established himself as one of the Pac-12’s top tacklers over the last two seasons (leading the conference in the stat each time). While his coverage needs some help, his ability to stop the run has proven invaluable.
If the Jets choose to move on from current interior man C.J. Mosley, Roberts could help partially fill the gap as a day three project.
New Orleans Bowl (Saturday, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
❌ Take down.
— Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns® Football (@RaginCajunsFB) October 25, 2021
Louisiana: LB Chauncey Manac
With head coach Billy Napier having begun his new endeavor at Florida, the Cajuns will look to rely on some veteran leadership for a de facto home game against Marshall.
Manac has had an interesting career that began at Georgia. He went through a JUCO phase and ended up third in Sun Belt sacks this year with 10.5, allowing him to play his way into mock draft discussions. Manac has earned high praise for his ability to work in congested areas through his play down low.
It’s unfortunate that the Jets can’t keep an eye on right tackle and All-American nominee Max Mitchell, who will miss the game with a hand injury.
Steven Gilmore interception👀
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) September 19, 2020
Marshall: CB Steven Gilmore
Gilmore’s another junior prospect (afforded an extra season due to COVID-19-related eligibility rules) who would likely be better off waiting until 2023. The cornerback market is a little too deep to make an impact and he’s another one that has to stave off concerns about his size (169 lbs., though his 6’2 length could work in his favor next year).
But there’s no doubt Gilmore has accomplished plenty in his career with the Thundering Herd and his efforts were rewarded with second-team Conference USA honors this year.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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