The 2021 college football season is over, but post-season bowls will be occurring over the next few weeks. Mountain West alums are taking part in the Tropical Bowl, the Hula Bowl, the NFLPA Collegiate 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 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, 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, seven players from the Mountain West are participating in the Tropical Bowl. Below we will provide a brief description of each player and illustrate what kind of showing they need to improve their draft stock. Also, if you want to learn more about the purpose and history of the Tropical Bowl, as well as the person behind it all, check out our interview with Michael Quartey from a few years ago.
Tropical Bowl Schedule:
Thursday, January 13
- Pick Up Equipment
- Players Report & Registration & Team Meetings
- Player Measurements
- After dinner, scouts and players can have direct contact for meetings
Friday, January 14
- Tropical Bowl Combine: Scouts Invited (Tropical Bowl Game Players Do not participate)
- Scouts can contact Players directly for Private Meetings
Saturday, January 15 (times are eastern)
- 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Pre Game Warm Up/Walk Thru
- 4:00 pm: 2022 Spiral Tropical Bowl Game Kickoff at Camping World Stadium
LS Daniel Cantrell (Boise State)
Provided by Zach
Cantrell was a reliable long snapper during his time at Boise State. One of his biggest strengths was reliability, he did not make a lot of mistakes. He was also a frequent carrier of “the hammer,” because he was known for making big tackles down the field. Long snappers don’t get drafted, but he can show that he is capable of making big plays on special teams and hope for a camp invite.
LB Anthony Kocklankis (Colorado State)
Provided by Lute Moss
After 2 productive years at Murray State, Kocklankis decided to finish his career at Colorado State. Only compiling stats in 5 of CSU’s 12 games, it’s hard to get a full evaluation of the linebacker, but at 6’1” 230 pounds, Kocklankis has the prototypical size you want to see from that inside linebacker position. The man was a tackle machine at Murray State, compiling 190 tackles with 13.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. In his lone year at CSU, he only had 19 tackles. I imagine the Bowl invite was more about past production and prototypical size than anything else, but it’s a great opportunity for Anthony Kocklankis to prove he belongs in the conversation of being an NFL player. He’ll certainly have a chance to prove it with the week of practices with NFL coaching, and eventually getting a chance to perform on game day.
DL Ryan Boehm (Fresno State)
Provided by Matt R
Boehm transferred to Fresno State from Cal Poly, and played more as a rotational defender than a mainstay along the line. While at Cal Poly, he earned their Most Valuable Lineman award. During the 2021 season, he totaled 23 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks on the line. He will be participating in the Tropical Bowl in Orlando hoping to make a big impression on the NFL scouts.
WR Keric Wheatfall (Fresno State)
Provided by Matt R
Alongside Boehm at the Tropical Bowl will be speedy receiver Keric Wheatfall. The 2019 JuCo transfer made quick impressions during his first year as the 3rd ranking receiver on the team. During the last two years with Jake Haener under center, Wheatfall has shown to be the dynamic deep threat of the team, totalling over 1,000 yards in the last two seasons. Set his career high with 115 receiving yards against UNLV, and scored 4 times in the season. He has the potential to shine as a 3rd receiver for a team needing a speedy deep threat.
DB Colby Burton (Hawaii)
Provided by Jeremy
A star at McNeese State, Burton transferred to Hawaii. Most of Burton’s noteworthy accolades occurred while playing at McNeese, but he did play against San Jose State, and started against Utah State, San Diego State, and Wyoming. His best game came against Utah State, where he finished with 6 tackles. At 5’10” 185 lbs, Burton will need to stand out amongst his peers in this game to latch onto an NFL roster this upcoming summer.
OL Gene Pryor (Hawaii)
Provided by Jeremy
Pryor was a consistently reliable wall for Hawaii these last three seasons. At 6’3” 310 lbs, he profiles as a guard at the next level, although did play tackle for the Warriors too. As with any offensive linemen, Pryor will want to stand out in a good way in this game: as an asset in the running game, and not being the reason for any sacks of the quarterback. Pryor should get a chance to prove himself in an NFL camp this upcoming summer.
DB Eugene Ford (Hawaii)
Provided by Jeremy
Ford made an impact for the Warriors his entire career, immediately playing as a freshman, playing in every game and starting in six. Ford was a consistent force at safety in 2018 and 2019, but tore his ACL in 2020. Needing to heal fast and return in only 9 months time, Ford achieved that and performed well for the Warriors in 2021. At 6’2” 210 lbs, he can be a real thumper in the back end of the secondary. A few big hits and not giving up big passing plays will help his draft stock in this game.
LB Cash Gilliam (Utah State)
Provided by Graham
Gillam was a part of a talented linebacker core for Utah State that included Justin Rice, AJ Vongphachanh, and Kevin Meitzenheimer. He stands at 6’0” 200 lbs and was a key part to the group. He contributed 64 total tackles in 2021 (39 solo, 25 assist) and had a sack, a fumble recovery, and an interception. In the Los Angeles bowl against Oregon State, he made seven solo tackles which proved to be important as Utah State held Oregon State to 13 points. During the 2020 season, Gillam recorded 20 total tackles (seven solo, 13 assist), and had a sack. In 2019, his first year with the Aggies after transferring from the junior college ranks, Gillam had 15 total tackles (eight solo, seven assist), and had a forced fumble. He showed great improvement this season and though he may not be a high draft pick, there’s a chance that he does find his way to an NFL team, even if he goes the undrafted route.
Note: The weaknesses or questions describing 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.