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2019 Tropical Bowl Preview

Take a look at the MWC players participating this weekend.

NCAA Football: Air Force at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 college football season is over, but over the next few weeks, post-season bowls will be occurring. Mountain West alums are taking part in the Tropical Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game, and the Senior Bowl. This post will focus on the Tropical Bowl.

These events are used primarily as camps with a game at the end. Invited players get officially measured and weighed upon checking in. Then, there are a few days of practices with NFL coaches. The practice time for players is really at the heart of these events.

This is due to the number of time players and coaches can spend together observing play and honing their craft collaboratively. It gives the players a chance to be looked at by coaches who know the NFL game. What better way to know where and how to improve than to hear it from the source. Receiving this feedback can give the players an edge as they head into their training for the NFL combine or their respective Pro-day.

Finally, and somewhat related, this gives players a chance to stand out. If a player was overshadowed on his team by other talented individuals, wasn’t featured in his offense, or in the case of those in this article, playing in a Group of 5 conference, they have the opportunity to open the eyes of the coaches with their play and jump onto the radar before draft time. While the combine and pro-days are also good opportunities for this, the more chances of coaches seeing one play and compete, the better position they put themselves in.

Eight players from the Mountain West are participating in the Tropicana Bowl this year, with four on each of the teams. Below we will provide a brief description of each player and what kind of showing they need to improve their draft stock.

(Note: The weaknesses or questions described about each player below aren’t necessarily the views of the contributors or site, but rather what could be questions or concerns NFL scouts or talent-elevators or the media have about them, which are still worth discussing as they can have ramifications.)

Tropical Bowl Schedule:

January 11th

  • Players report and check-in, getting official measurements
  • Practice

January 12:

  • Team meetings
  • Practice
  • Scouts and players can have direct contact for meetings

January 13th

  • 10:00 AM (Eastern Time) Kickoff at Daytona Beach Stadium

The Players:

Note: The weaknesses or questions described about each player below aren’t necessarily the views of the contributors or site, but rather what could be questions or concerns NFL scouts or talent-elevators or the media have about them, which are still worth discussing as they can have ramifications.

National Team (Blue)

WR Sean Modster (Boise State)

(Contribution by Zach Ballard)

Modster was the leading receiver for the Broncos in 2018. He had a relatively quiet career but emerged as an elite target for Rypien. Modster spent the majority of his Broncos career playing second or third fiddle behind elite receivers like Thomas Sperbeck and Cedrick Wilson. Modster finished his senior campaign with 68 receptions for 978 yards. Modster has had some issues with drops in the past, and his size will be hard to overcome.

Modster will look to get the attention of scouts. Getting drafted is likely out of the cards, but he might be able to land a tryout with an NFL team. If Modster can’t find a spot on an NFL roster, the CFL might be a good spot for a receiver with his size and talent.

LB Bryson Bridges (San Jose State)

At 6’2”, 265 Ibs., Bridges’ four years as a Spartan culminated with a personal best 70 tackles his senior year, which was among the best D-linemen in the conference, considering the other all-conference linemen were from powerhouse MW schools. Bridges also earned second-team All-Mountain West honors.

Bridges and his best friend, DL Boogie Owens, are actually comparable regarding their size, physical style, performance, and the intangibles. His quiet intensity and tenacity made opposing offenses have to locate his presence. Bridges strengths would have to be pursuit ability, athleticism, and assassin-like aggression.

Bridges’ was held in high regards among the team, coaches and, faculty, as well as opposing coaches for his leadership abilities and maturity. Well-spoken and thoughtful, Bridges should be able to interview well to show there’s a lot more upstairs. In terms of NFL potential, Bridges (and Owens) played well together, and in the right scheme and coaching, there’s certainly a ton more untapped performance to be had.

DT Boogie Roberts (San Jose State)

(Contribution by Vic Aquino)

At 6’2”, 290 Ibs., Roberts’ has straight-ahead, bull-rushing power, who’s also quick and shifty with surprising lateral range. Roberts’ shown consistency throughout his college career and was probably the most endearing Spartan and a crowd favorite. As one of Spartan head coach Brent Brennan’s key leaders, Roberts had 47 tackles, 8 for losses and was involved in three fumble recoveries during his senior year. But most unnoticed was all the dirty work he proudly did within the defensive scheme. His athleticism and motor are also non-stop.

“I know I’m a good, strong athlete,” said Roberts. “I can get after it as a pass rusher, but I want to be known for my football IQ. That’s big for me.”

However, Roberts has much to prove over the weekend. Like most MWC players, he will need to show the same level of production going up against a higher level of competition if he wants to be taken seriously as an NFL prospect. Also, he will need to demonstrate to the scouts and coaches present that he can fit into an NFL scheme. Hovering around 295 pounds, will he be the off-tackle in a 4-3 scheme or the nose-tackle in a 3-4 formation? If it’s the latter, can he pack on some weight while still maintaining his athleticism and prowess for getting to the quarterback?

OL Nathan Jacobson (UNLV)

Jacobson is a versatile offensive lineman who mainly played right tackle for the Rebels over his career. Standing at 6’5 and 280 pounds, he is a bit on the lighter side by NFL offensive linemen standards. He began starting during the final two games of his freshman season and never let go of the starting right tackle job again.

Nathan’s best traits look to be his durability and consistency at the right tackle position, as well as being credited for his help in the run game over the years. If he can display those same traits at the bowl and show talent evaluators that he can add some weight to his frame while not losing anything, then he can perhaps work his way into a 6th or 7th round high floor type of pick.

American Team (White)

LB Ronley Lakalaka (SDSU)

Lakalaka will be one of the more intriguing Mountain West NFL draft prospects this year. He was arguably the key defender in the Aztecs vaunted 3-3-5 defense the past few seasons. Without a doubt, the production in college was eye-popping. He tallied over 200 tackles in his career and led the team in tackles during his junior campaign.

Though a bit undersized, Lakalaka has the profile of a WILL linebacker at the next level. At this event, he must wow coaches and scouts with his skills and production in ways that make them forget about his size. If he can play how he’s capable, that shouldn’t be an issue for Ronley.

DE Anthony Luke (SDSU)

Luke had solid, although not dominant, statistics for the Aztecs during his two-year tenure there. He was a consistent presence at defensive end, starting all 13 games for them during the 2018 season. His 42 total tackles coming from a defensive lineman are a substantial number and more importantly, 8 of them were for a loss. That last stat shows that Luke can be a disrupter, and beat his blocks on a regular basis.

Anthony Luke likely has an uphill battle going into this week. He fits the physical measurements for an NFL defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. However, he wasn’t a stand out on his team and hasn’t gotten much conference attention. If he can impresses coaches during practices with his technique and consistent play, then he could see his stock rise.

OT Benjamin Knox (Colorado State)

(Contribution by Tyler Franks)

Ben Knox started all 12 games for the Rams in 2018 and played in 11 (starting in 7) in 2017. Knox transferred from Independence Community College in Kansas. The 320-pounder played offensive tackle for the Rams for two years and contributed to a 2017 offense that ranked 11 in the country in yards per game and averaged only 1 sack per game. In 2018 he was a leader on an offensive line that was mostly under construction (and reconstruction) throughout the season.

Knox certainly has the size to be able to play in the NFL, but he will need to show that he has the athleticism to deal with edge rushers, and/or the ability to play multiple positions on the line to increase his stock as a multi-use lineman. If he can show those abilities, NFL scouts will take note.

K Wyatt Bryan (Colorado State)

(Contribution by Tyler Franks)

Wyatt Bryan is Colorado State’s all-time field goal leader with 53. Throughout most of his career, Bryan has been considered a model of consistency for the Rams. Though in 2018, some unexpected consistency problems popped up occasionally. Despite this, Bryan was one of the Rams top scorers throughout his career and is the all-time leading scorer for Colorado State with 337 points.

If Wyatt Bryan can show consistency in his kicking game, and the ability to hit the long kicks, Bryan has the chance to impress NFL scouts. His longest field goal came in 2018 against the Arkansas Razorbacks, which helped propel the Rams to victory.

Your Turn: What do you think each of these players needs to do show this weekend? Which do you see as legitimate draft prospects at this time? Let us know in the comment section.