While there is only one bowl game on the slate for tonight, this should be much more interesting than the common fan might think. From players with bloodlines to current NFL coaches and other pro legends to former highly-touted high school prospects making an impact on their second/third teams, there are plenty of storylines in this one.
Here are the prospects you should be monitoring on today’s bowl game slate.
New Orleans Bowl: South Alabama vs Western Kentucky
The Caesars Superdome plays host to two former Sun Belt league-mates who have only competed against one another once before. This came back in 2013 when Jaguars’ cornerback Tyrell Pearson had two interceptions in the fourth quarter to set up a 31-24 victory over the Hilltoppers in the Sun Belt opener.
South Alabama, led by a trio of offensive weapons and a stout defense, has orchestrated five straight victories and looks to continue their momentum going up against a dynamic Hilltoppers’ offense. Western Kentucky comes to New Orleans riding its own streak, winning three of its last four games, including a 32-31 overtime thriller against Florida Atlantic their last time out. The Hilltoppers have made a bowl game in nine of the last 11 years, including a 59-38 dismantling of a ten-win Appalachian State team in last year’s Boca Raton Bowl.
South Alabama Jaguars (10-2)
- Quarterback Carter Bradley: You might have known the 6’3” 216-pounder was the son of the current defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, Gus Bradley. But did you know he was named a finalist in the Elite 11 Competition in 2017, alongside Baylor’s Gerry Bohanon, Tennessee’s Joe Milton, and Arizona State’s Emory Jones? He’s a much more prestigious quarterback than your typical Sun Belt passer. Bradley, who spent four seasons with Toledo before arriving in Mobile, Alabama, was a top-25 quarterback prospect in his class and has been fairly accurate throughout his first season of extended action, recording an adjusted completion percentage of over 75 percent. The Jacksonville, Florida native has proven to be particularly effective down the stretch, throwing at least three touchdown passes in each of the last three games.
- Running Back La’Damian Webb: The Jaguars have a strong stable of running backs who will see action, headlined by the First Team All-Sun Belt honoree. Webb, a former Florida State Seminole, found the end zone 13 times on the ground this season and joined Tra Minter as the only other back in program history to run for over 1,000 yards. The 5’7” 208-pounder has been slowed as of late, averaging 3.5 yards per carry over the past two weeks. Yet, we know the Opelika, Alabama native can take over games, as he ran for over 120 yards against UCLA and almost 250 yards and four touchdowns against Georgia Southern a few weeks ago. Webb has already announced he will return to Mobile next season and should be one of the best offensive players in the Sun Belt next season.
- Wide Receiver Jalen Wayne: Bradley isn’t the only Jaguar with ties to the Indianapolis Colts, as Wayne is the nephew of former receiver Reggie Wayne. The 6’2” 207-pounder has led the way for South Alabama in the receiving game, recording 56 receptions for 793 yards and nine touchdowns, a school record. Wayne has seen at least seven targets in each of the last four games and has found the endzone in three of them. South Alabama has had a receiver drafted in each of the past two years, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Spanish Fort High School product joins Kawaan Baker and Jalen Tolbert as the next up.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-5)
- Quarterback Austin Reed: Coming to Bowling Green, Kentucky after winning a Division II National Championship at West Florida created exceptionally-high expectations for the 6’2” 230-pounder. Reed delivered, throwing for over 4,200 yards, second only to Michael Penix Jr. and the explosive Washington offense. It will be a fun dynamic to watch. Although South Alabama isn’t a household name, their defense does not allow a ton of yards, ranking in the top 15th among FBS teams in yards allowed per game. In Reed’s last game against Florida Atlantic, he threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns, so I’m intrigued to see which side holds up. The St. Augustine High School product briefly entered the transfer portal before deciding to remain with the Hilltoppers for one more season.
- Running Back Davion Ervin-Poindexter: Kye Robichaux is probably the most interesting running back in the room from a draft or devy prospect standpoint, but his status remains foggy for the bowl game after missing the last two games. Ervin-Poindexter is another Power Five transfer, spending three seasons at Indiana before joining Western Kentucky. The 5’11” 200-pounder is coming off his best game of the season, as he registered 107 yards on a 6.3 yards per carry average against Florida Atlantic. I don’t see any running back performing particularly well, as they match up against a stingy Jaguar defense that gives up less than 90 yards on the ground.
- Wide Receiver Malachi Corley: With the Hilltoppers’ duo of tight ends entering the portal and wide receiver Daewood Davis declaring for the draft, I could see the 5’11” 210-pounder having a monster day in terms of volume against the Jaguars. Having seen 31 targets over the last two games, the Orange City, Florida native should see a high target share in this one. After reeling in 73 catches last year as a redshirt freshman, Corley set career highs in receptions (90), yards (1,168), and touchdowns (9). The Campbellsville High School product is explosive and dangerous in the quick game, putting up over 900 yards after the catch, which breaks down to just over ten yards after the catch per reception. Like the other two aforementioned Hilltoppers, Corley is coming off his best games of the season, catching eight passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns against the Owls.