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2021 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Preview

6 Mountain West players grace the list.

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl - Washington v Boise State Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

The 2021 college football season is over, but post-season bowls will be occurring over the next few weeks. The five all-star games Mountain West players traditionally take part in are the Tropical Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game (although the game won’t be played), the Hula Bowl, the Collegiate Bowl, and the Senior Bowl. This post will focus on the Collegiate 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 practice with NFL coaches. The practice time for players is really at the heart of these events.

This is due to the time players and coaches can spend together 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 understand 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.

This year, there are four players from the Mountain West is participating in the Hula Bowl. Below we will provide a brief description of each player and illustrate what kind of showing they need to improve their draft stock.

NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Schedule:

The game is cancelled, and all players listed on the roster are honorary.

The Players:

OL Parker Ferguson (Air Force)

Ferguson will be highlighted in the Hula Bowl.

TE John Bates (Boise State)

Provided by Zach

Bates has the perfect build of an NFL tight end. His biggest question will be his durability. He has been injured multiple times over the past few seasons. It kept him from having that breakthrough season that he seemed capable of on multiple occasions. Bates is a solid blocker who is more than capable of picking up blitzing defensive ends. Bates has improved as a pass-catcher and became an important target for Hank Bachmeier. His numbers seemed to decline when Bachmeier was injured or out for COVID reasons. If there was any player on this past year’s team that I would expect to get drafted this year, it would be Bates. I expect an NFL team to take a shot on him. Bates will need to put up solid numbers in the bench press and will likely need to improve his speed some before his pro day (if it happens.)

DB Avery Williams (Boise State)

Provided by Zach

Avery Williams is one of the most electric players to ever wear the blue and orange. The former walk-on quickly became a fan favorite when he took his first punt return back for a touchdown against Troy in 2017. Williams is one of the best return men in NCAA history, and it has likely caught the attention of numerous NFL scouts. Williams is awfully small to be an NFL cornerback and has been somewhat inconsistent at that position. If Avery Williams is on an NFL team next year, it will be because of his invaluable contributions to special teams. Will a team take a chance on him in the late rounds? Maybe, but his 40 time will have to be pretty special for this to happen.

WR Rico Bussey (Hawaii)

Ferguson will be highlighted in the Hula Bowl.

DB Dwayne Johnson Jr (San Diego State)

Johnson broke-out in 2019 and has been one of the top corners in the conference ever since. He wasn’t fantastic at forcing turnovers, but he piled up on the tackles and passed defended. As long as his measurables are good, he should be in a good position on the draft boards. He will need to show skills his coverage abilities are up to NFL standards since he won’t have the interception numbers to back it up. It shouldn’t be an issue; he just needs to demonstrate it to the right people going forward.

DB Tariq Thompson (San Diego State)

Thompson will be highlighted in the Hula Bowl.