NFLPA Collegiate Bowl: Recap and Scouting Notes

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NFLPA Collegiate Bowl MVP Nick Tiano

Arkansas State receivers showed out in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl as the National team secured a 30-20 win over the American team at the Rose Bowl Jan. 18.

Breakout

American WR Omar Bayless’ three-yard catch from quarterback Brian Lewerke over a National defender which gave his team an early 7-0 lead. That’s all the work the receiver needed to catch attention on this sunny Saturday in Pasadena since he showed out all week. 

“I did what I could,” Bayless said after showing his movement and hands despite his team’s loss and limited stats. “Everybody got to have fun.”

In the second, his Arkansas St. teammate Kirk Merritt caught a 48-yard touchdown from Chattanooga QB Nick Tiano for the National team’s second touchdown, making the game 17-7.

Moccasin Leads Way

Tiano out of Chattanooga won MVP for the game. He led the team with 6-of-8 passing for 111 yards and one touchdown. He would finish 8 for 10 with 135 yards and no picks.

“For us to get the chance to come out here in front of the scouts, the couches and all these people to show what we can do and have the experience to play on the same field against guys who played in Power-5 conferences.” the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl MVP told the media. “It’s a huge opportunity for us small school players.”

Gracious

Tiano added that he was incredibly thankful for the experience and coaching he received in Pasadena as it ‘totally blew his expectations.’ He know plans to get back to train for his March Pro Day.

“We are fighting that knock through this whole process, ‘you didn’t play any competition.'” Tiano said when asked about what this opportunity meant to him as a small school prospect.

Ultimately, the National squad in red led throughout after Taino’s touchdown. They even missed an opportunity to make the lead bigger when Matt Ammendola missed a 55-yard field goal for the Nationals before the half. Amendola was good from 45-yards in but missed an extra point in the second quarter too.

Late Surge

Otherwise, Team America in black tried to make a rally with a score on the opening kick thanks to a touchdown from Lafayette Running Back Raymond Calais. That cut the lead to 23-14. 

The American team could have carried even more momentum after a big catch from Rashod Berry for 40 yards but he fumbled at the 14-yard line and the National team recovered. BYU DB Dayan Ghanwoloku made the strong strong strip with 3:53 minutes left in the second securing the 17-7 lead.  

Momentum Shift

National linebacker Marcel Spears Jr from Iowa St. also forced a turnover with a nice interception and return to the nine yard line with 1:29 left in the second that also killed a rally. 

Otherwise, running backs from both teams flashed throughout. Scott Phillips finished with rushing yards including a nifty 22-yard run that set up Jason Huntley cutback, 11-yard touchdown off a spin move for the Nationals that gave the Nationals lead 30-14 lead with 9:17 left in the third. 

Scoring Burst

Brain Herrien from Georgia scored from 9 yards to give his team a 23-7 lead with two left in the second.

Artavis Pierce ran it from two yards out for the National team’s first touchdown with two minutes left in the first quarter.

On the American squad, Johnathan Ward carried the bulk of the carries with 6 attempts for 19 yards. Calais also finished with two catches and five yards. 

Also for the American team, QB Nathan Rourke rushed for 20 yards on two carries and finished 8 of 15 for 126 passing yards but threw an interception.

Lewis on the Nationals win and the Week of NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Practices

National team head coach Marvin Lewis said he missed the coaching role being out of the NFL as an adviser at ASU last year. He did fill in as a coach for a week when they were down a week before the Sun Devils bowl game.

“The biggest thing is to give these guys opportunities for these players to show their ability on the practice field,” National head coach Marvin Lewis said after his team’s win over the American team and a week of practice. “…As well as learn the plan and be able to come out here and execute it like they did today.”

Lewis said he ‘basically’ followed the same plan he has in year’s past when he coached the NFL Senior Bowl. He said it was a great opportunity to give back to the players as well as the coaches, many of whom he coached as players.

“That coaching staff I had, had over 200 years of coaching experience,” Lewis said about all the resources the prospects gained as they move through the NFL Draft process after this week’s practices and game.

The former Bengals head coach also credited his quarterback’s play throughout his press conference.

“He and Reid both took advantage of only having two quarterback,” Lewis said complimenting his quarterback’s abilities in an All-Star setting where players must grow together quickly.

As for coach Lewis’ advice for players moving forward:

“Do Anything to stay there, once you’re there.”

More Scouting and Stat Notes

National DB Kobe Williams from ASU made a couple of pass break ups to earn himself some consideration as a late steal.

Weber State DE Jonah Williams from the American team was disruptive most of the game. He has size and traits for the next level.

San Diego QB Reid Sinnett showed some elusiveness and threw a deep strike to TE Charles Worner from UGA for the National team. Sinnett thew for 93 yards on 9-of-16 passing attempts.

Big Plays

Chauncy Haney forced a fumble that Cole Christiansen scooped up for a good return in the third. Christiansen had two fumble recoveries for the day for the American team.

NC State DE Deonte Holden had two sacks for the National Squad.

WR Chris Rowland from Tennessee State did himself no favors by muffing two punts for the Nationals Team.

Albany WR Juwan Green made a big 39-yard sideline catch but also dropped a pass. He has some speed and deep ball ability that might get him some notice.

Cal Poly WR JJ Koski showed some of his shiftiness with his one catch and 20 yards receiving.

DT Josh Avery showed some nice speed in pursuit in flashes.

Tennessee WR Marquez Callaway, Nationals, also showed his speed and agility in and out of breaks.

TCU RB Sewo Oionilua also made three catches showing his versatility but he also fumbled twice for the Nationals.

Darnell Mooney showed some good speed to hit the edge on a reverse for the American team in the first half. He led the game in receptions with six.

American Kicker JJ Moison went 2 of 2 for the day.

Berry fumbled was actually tied for the game’s lead in receiving yards with 54.

Summary

Both offensive line groups as a whole had some moments showing mobility on pulling plays and pass blocking. The offensive lines of both teams were stressing fundamental head placement and feet speed to several prospects before. However, they also need refinement with their anchor, hands and head placement. Lewis said his guys did a better job with their pads down in the second half.

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