College Football: Bowl Week 4 Preview

Posted Jan 1, 2013

Florida State DE Bjoern Werner figures to be a first round pick in this year's draft. (Photo courtesy of AP Images)

By Matt Feminis
Special to

Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan at Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL), Tuesday 12 p.m. ESPN

OT Taylor Lewan*, Michigan — In one of the premier individual matchups of the bowl season, Lewan faces the unenviable task of containing Gamecocks phenomenal sophomore DE Jadaveon Clowney, a rare talent who could be selected first overall in 2014. Lewan (6-8, 309) isn’t the elite pass protector Texas A&M OLT Luke Joeckel is, but he calls to mind comparisons to Jake Long, a Michigan product and 2008 top overall pick who was similarly sized, also wore jersey No. 77 and took home Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors. Lewan has a desirable combination of physical traits supplemented by toughness and a nasty disposition. He’s able to subdue pass rushers or open running lanes, and he’s a very good foot athlete with balance and coordination to eliminate linebackers, pull and trap and lead plays on the edge. Lewan could be best-suited on the right side, but offers versatility to play either side and has Pro Bowl potential. He’s a first-round talent capable of instantly upgrading an NFL offensive line.

S D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina — Big, physical, athletic and intense, Swearinger seeks to leave his stamp on games, or ballcarriers, more specifically. He plays with abandon and an edge, as his style teeters on undisciplined, as evidenced by a suspension this season for a helmet-to-hit helmet hit against a defenseless UAB player. Against Arkansas, he incurred three 15-yard penalties.  However, he flies downhill in run support and shows surprising pass defense skills, displaying a starter-caliber mixture of versatile athletic ability and striking tackling ability. He hasn’t showed elite-level playmaking ability or consistency, but has a skill set for today’s NFL game and his upside is better than recent safeties’ which were drafted on Day Two.

Rose Bowl presented by Vizio: Wisconsin vs. Stanford at Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA), Tuesday 4 p.m. ESPN

RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford — Last season, Taylor ran out of the vast backfield shadow cast by Andrew Luck, but the 5-11, 215-pound senior has posted three seasons of 1,100 yards, including 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns on 302 carries in 2012. Taylor isn’t exceptionally powerful or elusive, but he’s quick-footed in confined spaces and shows the ability to stick his foot in the dirt and get upfield. Additionally, he comes from a pro-style offense and is a willing, physical blocker. His rounded game and sterling intangibles make for a relatively comfortable projection and he should become a solid back in the pros. Taylor, who will enter the NFL with over 900 career touches, saw his yards per carry average drop from 5.5 in 2011 to 4.8 in 2012.

Discover Orange Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Florida State at Sun Life Stadium (Miami, FL), Tuesday 7:30 p.m. ESPN

DE Bjoern Werner*, Florida State — The Seminoles entered the season with three future NFL pass rushers, but with Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine succumbing to injuries, only Werner will play in the Orange Bowl. The 6-4, 255-pound German has commanded the spotlight with his play the last two seasons. In 26 games, he’s registered 29 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, 15 batted passes and two forced fumbles. Werner’s ability to pressurize the edge will be highly sought after, as he explodes off the edge, attacks with leverage, bends the corner and chases relentlessly. Additionally, Werner plays with awareness and has a non-stop motor, characteristics which will endear him to NFL decision makers. A 22-year-old junior who is already married, Werner is a first-round talent who projects as an impact pass rusher.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Kansas State at U. of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, AZ), Thursday 7:30 p.m. ESPN

OLB/DE Dion Jordan, Oregon — Jordan's sack production isn't special (12 1/2 the last two seasons), but it only takes watching a few plays to realize he's dripping with potential. Listed at 6-7, 243 pounds, Jordan has a lean, athletic, projectable frame with room to pack on bulk. More importantly, he has rare length and an even rarer ability to get off the ball, bend and run. Jordan, who plays from a two- and three-point stance, has surprising agility, frightening closing speed and explosive tackling ability. He's not a finished product, but he's a first-round talent with potential to develop into a devastating hybrid pass rusher capable of turning up the heat standing up or with his hand in the dirt. Converted from tight end to defensive end in 2010 and is plenty athletic for the team which drafts him to keep that versatility in its back pocket.

OL Kyle Long, Oregon —The son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and the brother of Rams DE Chris Long, Kyle’s journey hasn’t been as smooth as you’d expect of a genetically gifted big man with NFL bloodlines. A two-sport All-American as a Virginia prep, Kyle, who was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 2008 MLB draft, began his college career as a pitcher at Florida State. However, as a freshman, he neglected classes and was arrested for DWI in January 2009. He got his life in order and returned to football at Saddleback Junior College (Calif.), where he played defensive end in 2010 and offensive line in 2011. Long, who was recently denied another year of eligibility, doesn’t even have a full season as a starter at the Division I level under his belt, but his physical ability and upside are obvious. At 6-7, 311 pounds, Long has terrific size, initial quickness, athleticism and bend to coach up — in the Long household, he’s considered the most naturally gifted. He’s scheme- and position-versatile and is an ascending talent seeking to punctuate his relatively limited game tape with a dominant performance in his final college game.