With the eastern portion of the country hunkering down for warmth in their homes, the west coast was hosting a football game outdoors for the entire nation to enjoy. The 2016 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, one of the first NFL scouting events of the spring months, was on display in Los Angeles, as great former professional coaches Mike Martz and Mike Holmgren led the two squads facing off.
Each year, this contest has grown in popularity, as 2016 marked just the fifth season of the game being played, but the attendance is steadily growing, as is the list of impressive players. This year, star-crossed TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin headlined the list, with others like USC defensive tackle Antwaun Woods and Southern Miss wide receiver Michael Thomas also participating.
The Cincinnati Bengals tapped a number of prospects who participated last year, many of whom stayed on their Practice Squad and/or saw regular season time. Defensive backs Erick Dargan and Troy Hill, wide receivers Mario Alford and Jake Kumerow, defensive tackles DeShawn Williams and Kalafitoni Pole and running back Terrell Watson all spent time with Cincinnati last year.
As to be expected with teams thrown together with just a week's worth of practice, the game featured quite a few field goals. So much in fact, the game's MVP was kicker Andrew Bagett of Missouri, who kicked six field goals for the National team. It was the deciding factor in the contest with the National squad beating the American squad 18-17.
In Boykin's first game action since being suspended right before the team's Alamo Bowl game against Oregon, he completed just one of three passes for six yards and an interception. Boykin did show off his athleticism in other ways though, running twice for 15 yards, including a highlight-reel 11-yard scramble away from pressure.
In what could have been tabbed as a game of NFL lineage, relatives of league mainstays were making plays often on Saturday night. Stephen Rivers, the younger brother of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, made a name for himself as the top passer of the evening. The signal-caller out of Northwestern State finished 11-of-17 for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Players Who Impressed:
Jaydon Mickens, Washington, WR: Going into the game, I didn't know much about Mickens, who finished last season with 692 receiving yards and two touchdowns for the Huskies. He's one of those talented players who needs these type of events because of perceived size limitations, as he stands at 5'11", 170 pounds. He made a number of nice plays on Saturday, finishing with three catches for 49 yards and the game's only touchdown. His NFL future seems to be as a slot receiver, but he worked the field well in a number of ways.
Kyle Peko, Oregon State, DT: Like his older cousin, Domata, Peko was very active on the defensive line for the American squad. His versatility in playing both end and tackle in college has definitely boosted his stock after having just one year of NCAA tape due to being a transfer. He lived up to my billing of being one of the top players to watch this week.
Travis Wilson, Utah, QB: Though they lost, the American squad had some very impressive quarterback play. We already spoke of Rivers' solid evening and Wilson started the game off on a good note as well. He finished 7-of-10 for 66 yards and another 13 on the ground. He led the American squad to a field goal on their opening drive.
Jatavis Brown, Akron, LB: Another undersized player for his position got a chance to shine on Saturday. On about three occasions, Brown absolutely blew up screens and/or passes in the flat with great instincts. He'll be knocked for only being 212 pounds, but he can fly around the field, as evidenced by his slew of tackles.
Travis Greene, Bowling Green, RB: Another one of the guys I pegged to watch this weekend impressed as the leading rusher of the game. A number of good plays of his were called back by holding penalties, but he still had 54 rushing yards and another nine-yard catch. The National team really relied on his icing of the game late, as evidenced by his 14 carries--seven more than any other running back in the game. I see an NFL third down back in the mold of Bernard Scott here.