The 2023 college football season is over, but post-season bowls will be occurring over the next few weeks. Mountain West alumni are taking part in the Tropical Bowl, the Hula Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game, and (possibly) the Senior Bowl. This post will focus on the Hula 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, played 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, four players from the Mountain West are 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.
Note: The Hula Bowl did not post the official roster as of Thursday evening, so some players may be on the roster but not featured here. We relied on player or team accounts to announce their participation. They will be featured in the stock report following the game.
Hula Bowl Schedule:
January 13, 2024
- 12:00 pm (Eastern time) CBS Sports Network
RB George Holani (Boise State)
Provided by Aiden
One of the best running backs to don a Bronco uniform, Holani is finally off to bigger and better things, starting with the 2024 Hula Bowl. The 5-11 St. John Bosco alum has shown throughout the entirety of his career that he possesses a high level of shiftiness and great vision when it comes to running lanes eventually opening up. Injuries took a toll on Holani during his time in Boise, but when he is at 100%, he can be a great “changeup” running back. During 2023, he complimented Ashton Jeanty very well when they were both on the field together. At the next level, Holani has the ability to do the same. In Hawaii, he needs to showcase that he is a reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield and can hold his own when blocking in order to improve his stock as April inches closer.
LB Levelle Bailey (Fresno State)
Provided by Matt
The captain and leader of the Fresno State defense, Levelle Bailey made game-sealing plays in 3 games for the Bulldogs this year against Purdue, Eastern Washington, and UNLV. He may not be the flashiest player on the field, but he is a shining example of, “as Bailey goes, the defense goes”. He has played better in passing protection than as a run-stopper, so that certainly could be something that he will need to improve on in Hula Bowl practices if he wants to get on draft radars
DB Carlton Johnson (Fresno State)
Provided by Matt
After starting his Fresno State career as a rotational player in 2022, he moved into the starting lineup for 2023 and doubled his number of tackles while adding 4 interceptions. His game against Arizona St was the high point of his season with 3 turnovers forced against the Sun Devils. While he may miss some plays because he’s going for the turnover, he steps up in the biggest moments and makes the play the defense needs.
DT Hale Motu’apuaka (Utah State)
Provided by Graham
Defensive tackle Hale Motu’apuaka will be participating in the Hula Bowl in Orlando, Florida, and will be the 13th Aggie to play in this all-star bowl, first since Gerald Bright in 2019. Other recent Utah State players that have played in the Hula bowl include Donald Penn in 2006 and Ben Holbrook in 2000. The first ever Utah State player to make it to the Hula Bowl was Merlin Olsen in 1962 followed by Jim Mcnaughton in 1964. Motu’apuaka stands at 6-foot-1, 290 pounds and eanared honorable mention all-Mountain West honors this season. In 2021, Motu’apuaka made 26 total tackles and had 2.5 sacks. Motu’apuaka made five sacks in the 2022 season and had 35 total tackles. In 2023 Motu’apuaka made 33 tackles and had five sacks on the season. Hale Motu’apuaka has shown in skillset in getting pressure and sacks, especially during the 2022 season. Motu’apuaka finishes 57 career games played in and he made 39 starts, posting 114 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and 22 tackles per loss with the Aggies.
OL Frank Crum (Wyoming)
Provided by Mike
Crum has been a staple on the Cowboy’s offensive line for the majority of his career. He was basically a four-year starter on the team, anchoring one of the best units in the Mountain West. He has experience playing both tackle spots, so he could be coveted by NFL teams in the later rounds for a role as a backup swing-tackle. This weekend, it will be important for Frank to show off his versatility, and sound technique as he already has outstanding size for the position. Look for him to open some eyes and raise his draft stock following the game this weekend.
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.