The 100th Rose Bowl is one of the more anticipated bowls of the season as two of the most physical teams in the country take the field Wednesday afternoon. Stanford had legitimate national championship hopes until Utah threw a wrench in those plans and Michigan State has been a riser all season before finishing as the B1G champion. This game is loaded with NFL-ready prospects with blue-collar attitudes on both sides of the ball and several underclassmen with big decisions to make.
(JR) David Yankey, OG, Stanford, (#54), 6’5, 311
Yankey is expected to declare and he should be one of the top 2 or 3 guards chosen in the draft. He prides himself on playing assignment football with experience at offensive tackle as well. He is an average athlete but maximizes his ability using efficient footwork and playing with a nasty demeanor. He has been NFL-ready since last year and he’s the staple of the country’s best offensive line unit.
Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford, (#11), 6’3, 245
A Senior Bowl invitee, it wouldn’t be surprising if Skov is graded as the top inside linebacker in the draft for several NFL teams. After suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2011, he seemed to be playing at about 80% last year raising questions about his ability to completely recover. He’s put those questions to rest after an outstanding senior season. The leader of Stanford’s fantastic defense, Skov plays with great intensity and he’s a better athlete than given credit for. He is a highly instinctual run defender and no one is better at blitzing the interior gaps in this draft.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State, (#31), 5’11, 190
The Thorpe Award winner and consensus All American is well-decorated as well as one of the premier cornerback prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft. Dennard figures to play a key role in locking up Stanford’s primary receiving target in Ty Montgomery, a legitimate NFL prospect in his own right. He’s twitched-up with great aggressiveness when ball is in the air. Dennard is also one of the tougher corners in the draft who likes the physical part of the game. He lacks length, but NFL teams will love his ability to match up against bigger receivers with his physical style and hand use to mirror opponents through their route. He’s likely one of the first corners drafted and will play in the Senior Bowl as well.
Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford, (#93), 6’6, 260
The Pac 12 leader in sacks (14) and tackles for loss (21.5) has helped his draft stock with consistent disruption game in and game out in 2013. He is a powerful edge rusher who does an outstanding job of using his length to minimize contact in his frame. He isn’t a flashy athlete but he excels at converting speed into power, which is dangerous given his already massive size. He also has experience with his hand in the dirt but he can be stiff uncoiling from that position which limits his explosion. Murphy also dropped into coverage more often this year and he’s shown better than expected instincts in this area. He’ll have a chance to show off his skills in the Senior Bowl.
Other Prospects to Watch
Max Bullough, ILB, Michigan State, (#40), 6’3, 245 (suspended for game)
Denicos Allen, OLB, Michigan State, (#28), 5’11, 215
Isaiah Louis, S, Michigan State, (#9), 5’10, 200
(JR) Jordan Richards, S, Stanford, (#8), 5’11, 208
Ryan Hewitt, FB, Stanford, (#85), 6’4, 245 (Senior Bowl)
Ben Gardner, DT, Stanford, (#49), 6’4, 275 (injured)
(JR) Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford, (#29), 6’2, 205
Josh Mauro, DT, Stanford, (#90), 6’6, 280 (Shrine Game)
Kevin Danser, OG, Stanford, (#76), 6’6, 301