The quarterbacks in this year’s Sun Bowl will be the focus of many NFL personnel men. Virginia Tech’s Senior Bowl-bound quarterback has one last shot to help his draft value while UCLA’s redshirt sophomore signal-caller must decide if he’s ready to make the jump to the pros after the game. However, there is plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball for both teams as well. Don’t be shocked if these defenses become the storyline in this matchup
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA, (#11), 6’4, 255
Barr should hear his name called within the first 10 picks of the draft regardless of his play on Tuesday, but it never hurts to perform well against an unfamiliar opponent. His combination of length and explosiveness could be problematic for an average Hokie line if they fail to shift their protection. By now, it’s no secret how dangerous he is as an edge rusher but pay attention to his ability in coverage and his anchor when they run at him. He’s not a finished product in these areas but there’s a lot to be said about his progress there after only 2 years playing the position.
(RS Soph) Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA, (#17), 6’3, 230
After an impressive redshirt freshman season, rumors had Hundley declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft. With arguably the highest upside of any quarterback in this year’s draft, Hundley is likely to be a first round pick in May despite some inconsistencies in his play. He’s the prototype physically and athletically but he’s still learning how to diagnose defenses after a high school career in the Wing-T. His accuracy also tends to run hot and cold on intermediate to deep throws, however, he generally shows sound velocity control and touch when needed. With that said, his strength and athleticism to extend plays are what make him special and he flashes the ability to pick apart defenses with his eyes and arm. But film doesn’t show a pro-ready quarterback so he could benefit from another year of development in college or from an NFL bench.
(JR) Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA, (#56), 6’3, 304
The team captain was voted as the best offensive lineman in the Pac 12 by his opposition and he is expected to declare for the draft after bowl season. Su’a-Filo served a 2-year LDS mission after a Freshman All America campaign and returned to UCLA as one of the best linemen in the country. He is outstanding on the move and plays with a mean streak. While he’s not a true road grader, Su’a-Filo can consistently get push off the line and excels at sustaining balance to work to the second level. He’ll add to an already top-heavy offensive guard class.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech, (#3), 6’6, 260
Thomas hasn't had the type of rebound year many hoped, as he still has reached the Top 10, Cam Newton-like expectations that were set for him as a sophomore. However, Thomas likely hasn't fallen in the minds of scouts as much as the media as blasted him. Thomas is a special talent in terms of size, arm strength, and running threat, and has a high off-field IQ and character. The Virginia Tech offense hasn't done much to develop him over the past three years, but he'll get the chance to show off his upside and development at the Senior Bowl, where he could certainly rise similar to EJ Manuel. In this game, it's important to focus on not turning the ball over and not feeling rushed as pressure attacks him.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech, (#17), 6’0, 195
Fuller is expected to give it a go after having sports hernia surgery in November. When watching the Hokies’ defense, one of the first things that jumps out is Fuller’s instinctual play. He is a do-it-all football player who even lined up as an extra linebacker against Georgia Tech. Fuller is well-coached and trusts his technique. He played in a lot of off technique and could do a better job of timing his turn-and-run but he’s got above average make up speed and outstanding ball awareness to bail him out. Fuller also excels as a blitzer which could limit Hundley’s ability to extend plays.
James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech, (#99), 6’4, 255
The Senior Bowl invitee made Bruce Feldman’s preseason “Freak List” which spotlights college football’s most physically gifted athletes. His athleticism is obvious and he works his hands well to shed but he’s not truly dynamic in any one area. Gayle is an OLB/DE hybrid who plays assignment football. He maximizes his play speed with sharp read and react ability as well.
Other Prospects to Watch
Derrick Hopkins, DT, Virginia Tech, (#98), 6’0, 312 (Shrine Game Invite)
Shaq Evans, WR, UCLA, (#1), 6’1, 210 (Senior Bowl Invite)
Cassius Marsh, DE, UCLA, (#99), 6’4, 270 (Shrine Game Invite)
Jordan Zumwalt, ILB, UCLA, (#35), 6’4, 230 (Shrine Game Invite)