The Las Vegas Bowl was the final and best stage for San Diego State seniors to showcase their skills in front of 3.7 million TV viewers. The Aztecs faced a media-favorite and early Cotton Bowl pick in University of Houston, who opened up the first quarter with a 10-0 run. The Aztecs responded with 34 unanswered points for the win. It was a great venue for so many talented seniors who often go unnoticed playing west coast football when much of the country is headed to bed.
While analysts determine the rank of the NCAA’s best talent, some of San Diego State’s top seniors stood out in the Vegas Bowl -- most notably Nico Siragusa and Donnel Pumphrey -- as well as Damontae Kazee and Calvin Munson. Their stats tell a story of solid productivity. Still, the match against Houston let the Aztecs simply do what they do against a formidable, respectable opponent, while many analysts observed.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports recently highlighted this season’s bowl games, and the difference makers in each one. For the Vegas Bowl, there were two players noted. Here’s what was said about Donnel and Nico.
1. Donnel Pumphrey, Running Back - Projected draft position: Round 4-5
Though often compared to former San Diego State stars Ronnie Hillman and even the great Marshall Faulk, as his size implies, Pumphrey is a different breed of back. In fact, with his narrow waist, hips and legs, the 5-foot-8, 180 pounder looks more like a slot receiver (and a thin one, at that) than a back capable of withstanding NFL punishment.
Pumphrey is an absolutely electric runner, using explosive 90-degree cuts to either direction to elude and legitimate breakaway speed. Despite his frame, Pumphrey is a decisive and surprisingly physical runner, who attacks inside creases and isn't just reliant on outside runs.
With higher rated underclassmen like LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey already announcing their intentions to enter the draft early, Pumphrey is likely destined for Day 3 of the draft. He could prove a steal there, however, projecting best as a change-of-pace back.
2. Nico Siragusa, Offensive Lineman - Projected draft position: Round 4
Scouts watching the Las Vegas Bowl could "double down" with standout San Diego State guard Nico Siragusa, currently 7th at the position on NFLDraftScout.com's board.
Siragusa is quick off the ball, but was challenged by Houston phenomenal freshman Ed Oliver, who if eligible would qualify for a first-round selection in the 2017 draft. With all due respect to the victorious Aztecs, Oliver was the best player on the field, frequently disrupting the interior with his initial quickness and power. Oliver recorded five tackles Saturday, including 3.5 for loss.
In addition to Siragusa and Pumphrey, Damontae Kazee and Calvin Munson are also top ranked San Diego State prospects, currently estimated to be fourth-to-sixth round draft picks.
Top ranked Aztecs
Offensive lineman Nico Siragusa; Rank: 105, Round: 3-4
RB Donnel Pumphrey; Rank: 125, Round: 4
DB Damontae Kazee; Rank: 149, Round: 4-5
LB Calvin Munson; Rank: 185, Round 5-6
San Diego State seniors Daniel Brunskill, Alex Barrett, and Kyle Kelly are also listed by CBS Sports NFL as potential draft picks.