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2017 SDCCU Holiday Bowl Preview: Washington State vs. Michigan State

Despite identical 9-3 records, two teams with different offensive styles will square off in this year's Holiday Bowl.

Michigan State and Washington State will meet on Dec. 28 in San Diego. Luke Falk, a 6-foot-4, 223-lb. senior quarterback, leads the charge for the Cougars. Junior running back L.J. Scott is the workhorse running back for Michigan State.

The Spartans come into the game on a two-game win streak and seemed to have righted the ship after a 3-9 season a year ago.

The Cougars were blown out in the Apple Cup but started the season 6-0, including a key win against USC.

Players to watch

Washington State

Luke Falk QB-Senior

Falk is the best player on the Cougars and possibly the best player in the conference. Mike Leach's air raid attack will try and spread out the Spartans and push the ball down the field. Falk's top two receivers from the regular season -Tavares Martin Jr. and Isaiah Johnson- Mack- have both left the team, which means Falk will have to find production elsewhere.

Renard Bell WR-Freshman

Renard Bell will be asked to pick up the production left by Martin Jr. and Johnson-Mack.  Bell, a freshman, worked the slot during the season and could cause trouble for the Spartans, who on occasion give up chunk yardage in the passing game. Bell's three catches for 101 yards were the difference in an early season win against the Trojans and in the Holiday Bowl, he could have the same impact.

Michigan State

Josiah Scott CB-Freshman

When Luke Falk struggles, it's because he tries to force the ball into tight coverage. Falk threw three interceptions against Washington and will have to beware of MSU's outstanding freshman cornerback. Scott's 11 starts this year were the most by a true freshman in the Mark Dantonio-era.  Dantonio, a former secondary coach, doesn't usually give playing time to younger corners unless he sees something special and Scott is something special.

L.J. Scott RB-Junior

L.J. Scott had an up-and-down season but out of the running back trio MSU employs, Scott is the most lethal.  Scott is the most NFL- ready prospect on the offensive side of the ball and finished the season with 788 rushing yards.  As long as Scott, who struggles with fumbles, can keep the ball off the ground he figures to have a strong game against a small Cougars defensive line. Look for MSU offensive coordinator Dave Warner to run the ball early and often in an attempt to keep the ball out of Falk's hands.

Prediction

Michigan State 28 Washington State 23

---Troy Jefferson, DN Staff Reports

Bowl prospect radar: Wake Forest TE Cam Serigne

Wake Forest has never had a tight end to produce as much as the black and gold’s number 85, Cam Serigne. The Ashburn, Virginia native has 165 career catches to go along with 20 touchdowns. DraftNasty National Correspondent and former Demon Deacon De’Angelo Bryant gives a sneak peek of the pass-catching tight end in DraftNasty’s Bowl Prospect Radar.

Positioning

Serigne is the prime example of a detached or non-traditional tight end because of the various formations he lines up in Coach Warren Ruggiero’s offensive sets. While he will show up as an in-line tight end on pro sets, you will mainly find him as an h-back, split in doubles (stacked or regular), or in trips formation (tight bunch or regular). Not to be mistaken, his alignment is not smoke screen for opponents, as his 35 catches this season has proven he has to be accounted for in the field.

Pass Catching

One of his best assets is catching the football. You rarely see him making body catches and he has shown he can extend to make the grabs that are out of his body frame. His hand/eye coordination is as good as they come in this year’s draft class.

Route Running

The 6’3, 240-plus pound tight end is pretty nifty as a route runner and understands how to work in space. He is involved largely in the Demon Deacons RPO game, which requires him to read and replace on the run, based on the safety or linebackers reactions to the run.

Blocking

Blocking is a cause of concern. Although the willingness and effort is evitable, his lack of strength keeps him from steadily maintaining his blocks. However, he is an adequate blocker on the perimeter.

Synopsis

Serigne may not be among the top tight ends in this draft class, but could be a late round addition to a team with a high passing percentage in the NFL. He could find his role being much like how the nine-year veteran Jacob Tamme.

Miami (Fla.) CB Dee Delaney: Quick Peek

Current Miami (Fla.) cornerback Dee Delaney has contributed just one interception to the Hurricanes now infamous 'turnover chain' in 2017. The former Citadel Bulldog and 2015 Walter Camp All-American, however, does not lack ball skills.  DraftNasty national correspondent and NexStep President De'Angelo Bryant gives a quick peek into the 6'1, 193-pound corner's game in our 2018 NFL Draft preview.

BALL SKILLS

Before making the move to the FBS level, Delaney was regarded as one of the most instinctive ballhawks at the FCS level.  In three seasons at the The Citadel, he posted 13 interceptions and 32 pass break-ups.  Never were these skills more on display than in the fourth quarter of the Hurricanes' 31-6 victory over Duke in late September.  In the fourth quarter alone, Delaney broke up one pass and nearly intercepted another.   He then went up to high-point an ill-advised pass from Florida State cornerback James Blackman to receive the turnover chain for the first and only time this season.

SIZE

Delaney's length aids him in either Cover 2 or press-man.  Versus Western Carolina in 2016, he often delivered a punch to put himself in a positive leverage position.  While his motor-press technique is inconsistent, he can be effective when he stays on top of wide receivers.

RUN SUPPORT

He consistently set the edge against South Carolina in 2015 versus stretch or toss sweep concepts.  As the game began to tighten late in the fourth quarter, he threw his body around in run support.  Conversely, his activity versus Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2016 was a bit hit-or-miss.  Aside from being average in crack-and-replace, Delaney stuck to stalk blocks too long on the perimeter.

RECOVERY SPEED

One of the things that has been noticeable has been an inability to stay on top of wide receivers consistently.  Although he can dance at the line of scrimmage with wideouts, he sometimes will get stuck transitioning to open-and-run.  Delaney did not always stay on top of UTC's C.J. Board in 2016 and former South Carolina WR and current Los Angeles Rams WR/KR Pharoh Cooper challenged him down the field (see above) in 2015.

SYNOPSIS

Delaney's transition to the FBS level in 2017 has yielded mixed results.  Despite having already proven capable of playing versus SEC-level competition prior to arriving at Miami (Fla.),  a right lower leg injury has forced him to miss four games as a senior.   A legitimate postseason All-Star candidate, the two-time FCS All-American will need a strong close to the season to stay on the radar for NFL scouts.

 

DraftNasty’s Week 1, in-game report: Kentucky vs. Southern Miss, 9-2-17

We go inside the game of a few prospects who stood out in Kentucky's hard-fought 24-17 victory over the Golden Eagles this past Saturday.

Kentucky Wildcats

93 Matt Panton 6'5 233 P-Senior

The Australian-bred punter had an outstanding day for the Wildcats.  The fact that he averaged 42 yards per punt on nine kicks tells just part of the story.  In what proved to be a battle of field position throughout the afternoon, the rugby-style punter often pinned the Golden Eagles deep in their own territory.  One of his pooch punts was downed at the one-yard line after a funny bounce and he had another pooch punt that he got off in a respectable 1.22 catch-and-kick time.  While he lacked hang time (3.91) on yet another punt that was fair caught at the 15-yard line, he did generate 57 yards in distance on the kick.  Despite prototypical NFL-size for a punter,  the biggest question mark remains how he would fare kicking from a traditional style.

41 Josh Allen 6'5 230 OLB-Junior

Stats: 5 tackles, QB sack, 3 TFLs, FF

Allen did a fine job of working through traffic to slant inside (from a 2-pt LOLB spot) when the team ran zone blitzes from the wide side of the field.  From this same OLB spot, he ran down screens and quick swing passes that worked away from him with positive lateral pursuit angles.  When the team attempted to block him with H-back Julian Allen, he used his hands to snatch-and-pull him while maintaining his force as the quarterback flushed his way.  Despite somewhat of an angular frame, he translated speed-to-power to nearly post a safety running through Golden Eagles OT Paul Gainer, Jr. from the ROLB spot in the fourth quarter.  Allen's ability to slip OTs was evident from either side, and he posted a quarterback sack and forced fumble in the first half.  He was equally effective slipping offensive guards when aligned head-up over them.  The junior's versatility shined when they used him to walk out over the slot as he changed directions to break with fluidity versus screen passes.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles

32 Xavier Thigpen 6'5 240 OLB-Senior

Coming into the game, we knew Thigpen would line up all over the place in DC Tony Pecoraro's multiple schemes.   Once again, he was often featured in a stand-up OLB position in the team's amoeba defenses on third down.  He flattened effectively to thwart a Kentucky inside run on a 3rd and 6 attempt, displaying adequate flexibility.  On this play, Pecoraro had all 11 players standing up prior to the snap.  His versatility also showed up when re-mapping his course to stop a potential big kickoff return in kickoff coverage.  With his hand in the dirt as a LDE, he still needs work constricting his courses to prevent getting pushed by the pocket.  He was at least satisfactory plugging the puller versus power schemes.  His leggy nature was a bit evident when attempting to defeat cross-blocks from H-backs on split zone run concepts.

19 Curtis Mikell 5'8 170 CB-Senior

The diminutive Mikell has always overcome his size with zeal and fire.  Additionally, he's adept at climbing the ball to fend-off potential catch opportunities down the field for bigger opponents.  In this game, he used his bail technique to keep vision on the quarterback before going up to deflect a post pattern away from the Wildcats 6'3, 214-pound sophomore WR Tavin Richardson.  His vision came up big when mid-pointing a seam route from the outside-in to nearly pick off another pass when in three-deep zone.  He also showed the ability to turn-and-run on a go route when in off-man coverage   versus one of Kentucky's faster wideouts in Isaiah Epps.  His tackling stood out when defending smoke screens to the Kentucky wide receivers.