At one time or another, each of these two teams found themselves ranked inside the top 15 and in a position to make a run at a BCS bowl game. For Arizona State, they got their rematch versus Stanford in the Pac-12 title game but were blown out again. Still, the Sun Devils played on of the most difficult schedules in college football and defeated the likes of Wisconsin, Washington, UCLA and USC.
As for Texas Tech, no team started hotter in 2013 and no team fell faster –under Kliff Kingsbury, the Red Raiders won their 7 games, only to drop their final 5 consecutively. Upon further review, it’s important to note that only 1 of Tech’s 7 wins came against ranked opponents, while 3 of their 5 losses came versus ranked opponents. Regardless of record or standing in their respective conferences, both of these teams boast multiple NFL prospects that you should keep an eye on for the National University Holiday Bowl.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State, #90
Adding weight over the offseason didn’t help Sutton in his senior season, as he still remains a one gapping interior disruptor at the NFL level. His body type in terms of length will cause some teams to back away, but Sutton remains a plus pass rusher inside and anchors better than most give him credit for. Against Texas Tech, expect Sutton to have his way and wreak havoc.
Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State, #1
When I evaluate Grice on tape, his versatility as a route runner and ball carrier should remind scouts of Demarco Murray’s days at Oklahoma. Built similarly with a one-cut mindset, Grice could warrant top 100 looks in the upcoming draft, but a lingering left leg injury could keep him out of his final game as a senior. Grice impresses the most with patient footwork in the hole and elusiveness in space, however he does need room to build up to top speed and will need time to develop physically at the next level.
(JR) Carl Bradford, DE, Arizona State, #52
Bradford is a high impact player for the Sun Devils as a standup pass rusher. Active all over the field from pursuit plays to setting the edge to rushing the passer, Bradford looks like an excellent 3-4 OLB for NFL teams. As for some slight concerns, he’s not an elite or rare athlete and as such will have to improve his instincts in coverage.
(JR) Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech, #25
Jace Amaro is your prototypical tight end weapon in the NFL today, as a long, large and explosive athlete. Amaro releases with exceptional quickness for his size, makes a concerted effort to press the leverage of his covering defender, and showcases soft hands to secure the catch. He’ll need time to develop into a true in-line tight end and must improve his ball security after the catch; however, Amaro looks every bit the part of a first round prospect.
Kerry Hyder Jr., DT, Texas Tech, #91
Actively utilized on twists and stunts upfront, Hyder is a disruptive player for Tech but has been forced to play out of position due to injuries at the nose tackle spot. Although he possesses good first step quicks and hand use as an interior rusher, inconsistent pad level leads to long durations of inactivity.
Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech, #18
The back shoulder king for Texas Tech, Eric Ward wins with physicality downfield in positioning for the football and adjusts naturally to off-target throws. Ward presents some after the catch running skills, but he generally struggles to create separation and almost always has a defender in the lurch.
Other Players to Watch
Chris Coyle, TE, Arizona State, #87
Alden Darby, S, Arizona State, #4
Osahon, Irabor, CB, Arizona State, #24
Rashad Fortenberry, OT, Texas Tech, #71
Dartwan Bush, DE, Texas Tech, #54
Will Smith, ILB, Texas Tech, #7