Arizona State vs. Texas Tech: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Holiday Bowl

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIDecember 30, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 16:  Jace Amaro #22 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates a touchdown against the Baylor Bears at AT&T Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The 2014 Holiday Bowl pits No. 16 Arizona State against Texas Tech on Monday, Dec. 30, but it really won't be much of a competition.

The 10-3 Sun Devils should have no problem disposing of the 7-5 Red Raiders. ASU's No. 9-ranked offense will have a field day against a Red Raiders defense that checks in at No. 90 in the nation. Most of the bowl games feature quality matchups, but this one will certainly miss the mark.

Regardless, there are plenty of top NFL prospects featured in the Holiday Bowl that will be looking to make a good impression in their last on-field audition prior to the NFL draft in May.

Sure, pro days and the NFL Scouting Combine await them in the future, but production in games is ultimately what teams should be judging before making their selections. Look out for the following prospects to leave their marks on the game.


Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 16:  Running back Marion Grice #1 of the Arizona State Sun Devils runs for a first down against the Oregon State Beavers during the third quarter of their college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Tempe, Arizo
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Marion Grice was the epitome of a dual-threat weapon for Arizona State this season, as the senior running back showed his versatility by posting solid numbers both on the ground and in the air.

He just missed out on a 1,000-yard rushing season, totaling 996 yards on 191 carries, 14 of which resulted in touchdowns.

In the passing game, he and quarterback Taylor Kelly established great chemistry and took advantage of defenses through checkdowns and plays in the middle of the field. Grice had 50 catches for 438 yards and six touchdowns.

He rarely carried more than 20 times per game this season, but in the four games he did, his lowest rushing total was 84 yards against Wisconsin. While that number may seem low, he made up for it by finding the end zone four times. Always active in the passing game, Grice failed to top 100 total yards just three times this year.

In the late second or early third round, Grice can be a quality pick for teams in need of running back help.


Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Nov 16, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA;  Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro (22) sits on the field during the game against the Baylor Bears at AT&T Stadium. Baylor beat Texas Tech 63-34. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end Jace Amaro was unbelievable this season for the Red Raiders. He hauled in 98 passes for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns, with 36 catches, 445 yards and three touchdowns coming against teams in the AP rankings.

The NFL today loves big-play tight ends. Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis and Jordan Cameron are some of the top playmakers for their respective teams, and it's their potential in the vertical passing game that makes them such big threats to opposing defenses.

Chris Steuber of praises Amaro's natural talents:

Whether he's in the slot or on the perimeter, Amara has the ability to exploit a defense with his natural receiving skills and vision. If Amaro decides to cash in on his breakout season, he could land in the first round...

Late in the first round would be the perfect spot for Amaro. The New England Patriots are a natural fit considering their love of the two-tight-end set, but there are various teams that will likely be enamored with this player's ability to stretch the field from the tight end position.

With a big game in the Holiday Bowl, Amaro might even find himself within the top 20 on draft day.


Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

Dec 7, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils defensive tackle Will Sutton against the Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium. Stanford defeated Arizona State 38-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Need help in the trenches? Then look no further than defensive tackle Will Sutton. The 6'1", 288-pound tackle is a candidate to go sometime in the second round because of his explosiveness on the defensive line.

Sutton is deceptively quick for such a compact player, and his relatively shorter size allows him to get through gaps in the offensive line that bigger defenders would have difficulties penetrating. 

He posted 44 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and one interception on the season as a result. Brandon Chatmon of points out just why those numbers are down from last season, however:

He's returned, added the weight and kept most of his quick first step, but teams have keyed in on him more than they did last season—which is why his numbers are down.

Sutton has the quickness to play defensive end if he sheds some weight, but that's not to say he can't be a successful DT in the NFL.

As a second-round value selection, NFL teams would be smart to pick up the ASU product.